If we take some time to really pay attention, we will see these groups or systems follow four stages, with “chaos” being one stage.

In every arena we work or live, chaos happens. It is uncomfortable, threatening and creates tension. It happens in our workplace, it happens in our volunteer work and it happens in our homes. Some people enjoy the chaos and can even instigate it but the majority of people do not like the feeling of uncertainty and tension that comes with it. It is not always a fun place to be, especially when there is a personal stake in the outcome.

Chaos, when thought of alone, can cause some anxiety but what if we thought of it as only one part of the way groups and families work? If we take some time to really pay attention, we will see these groups or systems follow four stages, with “chaos” being one stage.

The “Gathering” stage begins when you walk in the door of your home or meeting or office. This is where you are greeted, offered something to drink or given messages. You begin to sort through what is going to happen next.

The next step is the “Chaos” stage. This is where you begin to assimilate what needs to be done and wonder the role you have in the system. Others will also wonder about their role. Tensions build because there is uncertainty of the outcome. Thoughts and ideas begin to surface, maybe all at once. People are still unsure of the role they will play. There is some jockeying of position.

Then there is the “Unity” stage. This is when the thoughts and ideas gathered in the chaos stage become clearer. Positions and roles are clearer. The group is working better together, making decisions.

The “Performing” stage is when the group is clear about where they are going, who is in the position of authority and what will happen next.

Understanding these four stages can help any group understand if they are performing well or if they need more work. When a group gets stuck in the chaos, they struggle with seeing a positive end, so they keep doing what they have been doing and there is no forward movement. It is important for someone to take the responsibility to facilitate or ask questions to move the group forward or the group will flounder. Do not avoid this stage because it is so important for ideas and commitments.

There have been times that my family has gone through these four stages several times in one evening with each topic we talked about. We started with dinner, the “how was your day”, then talking about school or work, tension of an event or happening, discussing the outcome, determining what we would do next then moving on to the next topic only to go through the stages start over again. This cyclical process is not at all uncommon. Becoming more aware with intention as the group moves toward a clear understanding of the situation, the stage of “performing” is optimized.

If you pay attention in meetings, each agenda item will take you through the stages. At home, each topic discussed could go through the four stages. The key is to recognize the stages in order to create forward movement and to understand the responsibility each person has to make the forward movement happen.

If you want to learn more about stages of group process, contact Becky, Executive Director of Leadership Butler, at info@leadershipbutlerinc.org