Brexit as group development: Storming to Performing

Whenever a group of people works together on a common goal, the dynamics of the way they interact will go through four stages: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.

Initially the group forms to achieve its shared goals. But as well as the spoken agreements there will always be unspoken assumptions, about the details of what they are going to achieve and why, or how they are going to achieve it. Or there might simply be cultural differences of style.

Sooner or later those assumptions will come to the surface. At least one person will find that reality has turned out differently from what they expected. Then the group will find itself storming as a way to resolve the unspoken issues.

As it resolves the difficulties, the group will find new common ground. It will develop new norms of behaviour.

And then the group can shift to the performing stage, not as a group but as a team.

This happens with teams at work. It happens with football teams when new coaches and managers join. And it is happening with the EU.

The EU is a large group. It spans a continent and it has been around for over 40 years. But with every new individual that joins, the group resets the process and goes back to the beginning. The EU has at least 28 different cultures, 28 sets of unspoken assumptions about relative priorities and the right way to resolve them.

In the context of the pressures raised by the financial crisis and the migration crisis, one way of interpreting Brexit is simply that the EU has reached its ‘storming’ phase. If it can work through these difficulties, ‘performing’ will follow.

(“The Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing model of group development was first proposed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965, who maintained that these phases are all necessary and inevitable in order for the team to grow, to face up to challenges, to tackle problems, to find solutions, to plan work, and to deliver results.”)

Photo By Vic via

Leave a Reply