In this approach the group members are likely to pass through a number of stages, because of the information-processing needs and the communication issues in the group. These stages can be represented as follows:
This stage is characterised by 'testing' behaviours such as greetings and welcomes. People check out the rules or 'norms' of the group and begin to plan unconsciously what roles they might take on and what the purpose of the group might be. This stage might also be referred to as 'preparation for negotiation'.
This stage involves competition for roles and purpose. This can be difficult to recognise, as it can be hidden or open. At this stage, people might attack others within the group, withdraw, try to create alliances or dominate others. 'Storming' is a time when group members test the rules and boundaries that they identified when 'forming' and prepare for the next stage. It might also be called 'negotiation' or 'conflict' as people come to terms with the needs of others in the group.
The 'norming' stage is one where the rules begin to be accepted. Rules, or norms, are the accepted processes that guide the nature of the relationship. At this stage, the rules 'harden' and people deal with, or contain, conflict. Group members begin to take on responsibility for their roles and accept the group’s collective purpose.
This stage is where, internal issues having been dealt with, the group turns outwards to perform its task or meet its goals.
Mourning is the stage when the group’s internal or external purpose no longer exists. Internally, relationships are accepted and possibly static. Externally, the task may have been completed. Group members will tend to exclude themselves from the relationships and roles that they formerly held. Often there may be a reluctance to face the fact that the group is ending and it may be that one or more members will need to end the group on a positive and celebratory note.