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The Orming Model – Exercise | Deliberate Practice

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From the Post: The Orming Model and the properties of change

In the past when working with leaders on how to manage change I would introduce them to the Orming model for the simple reason that it’s fairly simple. Change is complicated enough why add to it? It is a good tool to do a temperature check to understand where your team is at and how they are responding to the current situation. 

The deliberate practice I would give to the leaders would for the next three weeks watch their team’s behaviors and determine what stage they believe their team is in and why and be specific with their observations, no guessing.

Here is what I would hear.

  • Customer service teams – Leaders would almost always say their teams were constantly in the forming stage because people were constantly leaving teams for various reasons and the leaders would be constantly involved in hiring and training. Team dynamics were always changing.
  • Analytical and leadership teams – Most of the leaders would say their teams were in the norming or performing stage because the teams stayed together for a longer period of time resulting in developing good work environments and relationships. 
  • Internal support teams – Teams like IT, facilities, and administrative to name a few would see their teams in different stages because of the nature of the work the teams did.

One day, the manager of the internal audit and compliance team shared where he saw his team. He felt his team was in the norming stage because they have been together for a while and seemed to work well together. He then said during a team meeting he presented the Orming model to his team, discussed with them all the characteristics of each stage including the issues and challenges, and asked the team what they thought.

To his surprise, the team came to the agreement that they saw themselves in the storming stage. The manager said, in his head, what don’t I know? He asked the team to elaborate on what they saw. After listening to them be began to understand where they were coming from and what was causing the challenges.

He said two things were learned in that meeting. 

  1. He thought he was helping the team by being a hands-off manager. The team identified several areas where they needed him to be more involved and supportive.
  2. The team agreed this exercise was very helpful because looking at the stages they could see where they were as a team and what behaviors were causing problems and wanted to work on using better behaviors to improve themselves and the team.

Your turn

Use the Orming model to observe your team. From your perspective, at what stage do you think your team is in? Then get your team together, and make sure the space is safe for them to be honest and transparent. Present the model to them and ask them what they think and what they need from you.

This is an opportunity to get a different view of your team. It is an opportunity for them to share their observations with you. You will need to practice active listening, and prepare yourself to hear something you might not like. This is not a personal attack, even though it might feel like it, you will be learning something about yourself and a chance to model effective leadership behavior by accepting feedback graciously.   

Forming Stage
In the forming stage, group members come together to define the team. Understand the purpose of the team, and individuals’ roles and responsibilities, and express excitement, anxiety, and uncertainties. People can be quiet and withdrawn trying to understand where they fit in. Staff is trying to get a sense of the leader and their style.
Issues and Challenges – Staff may test the leader’s authority, and the leader’s ability to build trust and respect. The leader’s ability to create inclusion, open communication, and collaboration is key.
Leadership approach – Empathy is crucial. Understand that everyone is trying to figure out where they fit especially if they are new to the team. Open communication and active listening are important.
Storming Stage
In the storming stage, members begin to realize the amount of work that is required of them and can panic. They may begin to see the disparity between their hopes and the reality of the work. They will struggle to establish a work-life balance. Many teams can temporarily derail at this stage. 
Issues and Challenges – Power, control, and conflict struggles will occur as team members may have feelings of ineffectiveness and confusion. They may second guess their ability. Frustrations will emerge because of the amount of work and the perception of everyone doing or not doing their share of work. Situations may appear unfair.
Leadership approach – Stay focused on clarity of roles and expectations. Continue with open communication and active listening. Focus on honesty and the intent to understand what others see, empathy is still important. This stage can use a firm but fair leadership approach.
Norming Stage
In the norming stage, people are getting used to working with one another. You will see cooperation and collaboration instead of competition. There will be more acceptance of each other, and comfort in giving and receiving feedback. The team will need to feel empowered to do their work. 
Issues and Challenges – There still might be some challenges over shared responsibilities, continual support in building the team’s confidence in reaching goals, and continuing working to support trust and respect for each other. 
Leadership approach – Pulling back on the hands-on approach to more of an approach of trusting the team members to know what to do, empowering them, and supporting them. You are working as a coach leader, keeping an eye on them, giving them assistance where and when needed, and giving them the space to challenge themselves and each other. 
Performing Stage
In the performing stage, people are comfortable with each other, they can be their authentic selves without repercussions, judgments are suspended, and everyone is working from the same page. Team performance is growing and is focused on team success.
Issues and Challenges – Continued support from leadership including increased empowerment for the staff. Keeping focused on the team and department goals and results. Maintaining the momentum for future team growth and opportunities for the staff. 
Leadership approach – Being transformational, focusing on the people side of leadership. Giving credit where credit is due, rewards the team for their work. Don’t take credit for the team’s work unless you want to destroy the trust. Be on the lookout or develop team members who are ready to step up. Support them in their personal and professional development.   

The four properties of change

When looking at change there is a simple way to look at the effect of change, especially with the health of your team. The lifespan of a change event is nothing more than a way to describe how long and how disruptive the change might be. 

  1. The significance of the change – The significance of the change could be seen as how much of the organization is being affected. The change could be a process that affects a few people on your team to an outside regulatory change that affects an entire department or the whole organization.  
  2. The scale of the change – The scale of the change attempts to understand how much of the organization’s resources (e. g. human, financial, and facilities) will be affected by the change. A small process change could affect a few staff members and may result in some training time. A larger departmental change could involve IT, finance, leadership support, and time.
  3. The lifespan of the change – How long will the effects of the change last? A small process change may take two hours of training and a week to test. Where a departmental change could last for six months resulting from multiple training, process, and system overhauls. 
  4. The size of the change – The best way to look at the size of the change is to think about how far from normal the change will require one to deviate. If the process change affects a couple of people and will take a week or two to integrate into the existing overall process, the change could be considered small. If the change requires an entire department to retool how they do their daily work, that change is huge.

Change can be scary and very disruptive. Take the time to talk to your team about what’s going on and help them to understand how a change of any kind will affect them and how to work through the challenge.

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