Often called Mourning in order to rhyme better with the other team development phases (Tuckman, 1965), Adjourning is a real phase and requires real attention.
I’m currently leaving one team and definitely have the feels because it’s over. We worked well together. We had our ups and downs. Luckily more ups than downs. But regardless, we came through the rough patches stronger and more productive (exactly as Tuckman suggests through the first four phases of forming, storming, norming and performing). Now that it’s over, I am sad. I’m excited for the next thing, but I’m also sad to leave.
If left unaddressed, this feeling of nostalgia, melancholy and gloom may linger and potentially impact future endeavours if I don’t get a sense of closure. This is true for all teams who are ending. If their feelings about the disbanding of the team are not addressed, there can be some long-lasting harmful effects. So, what to do…
6 Tips for addressing the Adjourning Phase:
- Recognise the ending for what it is – an ending
Instead of pretending that the end isn’t really the end. Recognise that it is.
“We won’t be working together (so closely) anymore”.
“This is coming to a close. We will all be moving on”.
“This space, physical or metaphysical, will not be here anymore, even it is about to change”.
- Acknowledge the loss
Don’t just act ‘as if’ – as if the new things coming up are going to automatically fill the void of losing our current familiarity. We will all be moving on (some back, some up and some out, but on never-the-less) and we will all feel the loss.
“It’s going to be weird not seeing you every day”.
“I will miss this meeting room and it’s quirky coffee machine that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t”.
“It will be strange having to come into the office next week and not have you all still sitting nearby”.
- Reflect on and celebrate the good
Actively remember the good times and celebrate them. Review the old plans, the history recorded in reports and the team postings and dialogues in the team forums. Search out the victories. Even search out the heartaches that took a lot to resolve. Recognise that they were resolved. And celebrate how you finally got to that resolution.
“Remember when we had no idea how to contact HQ to get someone to help us with the financial reporting? And how we finally got Sarah enlisted on the team”
“Remember when the UAT testing passed on the first time even though we had three rounds planned. And then we still forced a few super users to come back just to confirm that it really was perfect!”
“Wasn’t it great to be recognised by the CEO as being one of the top five performing teams of the year!”
- Reflect on and learn from the bad (and good)
Even though the members are feeling nostalgic and everything is finally wrapping up, it wasn’t always this easy/good. Review the open and closed risks and issues to see what things could have been done better from good and bad experiences. Conduct a wash up/post implementation review/End project assessment meeting to share lessons to share and pass on about what went well (and future teams should replicate) and what didn’t go so well (and future teams should avoid).
“Having an Away Day towards the beginning of the team formation, allowed the team members to gel and bond. The understanding they gained about each other paid dividends when trying to plan and execute the project effort (especially during the stressful times when tensions were high – there was a deeper understanding and connection that allowed the team to get through it, together)”.
“The next time a customer says that they don’t have time to commit to the project right now and try to relinquish their responsibilities to the team, involve the Sponsor immediately, not just when it starts impacting the project”.
- Say thank you
For all the effort and time that team members dedicated to the teamwork, thank them, specifically.
“Thank you for setting up all those meetings with all those stakeholders. I realise how hard that must have been with trying to organise a specific time and date for so many busy stakeholders”.
“Thank you for stepping in to facilitate the workshops when the consultant called in sick last minute. The team move forward and came to consensus easily because of your professionalism and independence”.
- Say good-bye
Have a party, have a final meeting, have a final skype/conference call. And in this gathering specifically say good-bye. When team members pack up and slip out individually and never say good-bye, the last person standing in an empty team room palpably feels the void. Before they go, let everyone say the words in whatever forum you can do – physically, online, via the ether.
“Good-bye and good luck”
B W Tuckman (1965), ‘Developmental Sequence in Small Groups’, Psychological Bulletin 63.
B W Tuckman and M A C Jensen (1977), ‘Stages of small group development revisited’, Group and Organization Studies, vol.2, no.4, pp.419-27.