Developing a design team

The team that developed in the Forming stage will formally become a design team in the Storming stage. The purpose of this team is to design a school and governance model. This team is distinct from the school leadership team that will eventually go on to run the school in the Norming stage.

As you formalize your design team, you might consider including people who are not teachers, such as students, parents, learning program experts, and community members.

Design team roles and facilitators

Questions your team should consider include:

  • What roles are needed? Possible team roles include facilitator, school proposal coordinator, and politics navigator.
  • What knowledge and skills should people have in order to be successful in those roles?
  • How will your team communicate?
  • What is your start-up schedule?
  • What’s the line between facilitation and micromanagement? As team members begin to take on their roles, how will your team establish the difference?

After your team outlines the roles it needs for the Storming stage, you should consider which members are right for each role. You might allow different individuals to try out the same role and evaluate their effectiveness. Throughout this stage, your team will gain keen insight into individual members’ strengths and vulnerabilities.

The knowledge and skills needed to design your school may be different from those that team members will need to launch and run it. All members of the design team should be made aware from the start that participation, and even leadership, in the Storming stage does not necessarily ensure a position on the school leadership team that will launch the school in the Norming stage.

Selecting team facilitators and leaders

At the beginning of the Storming stage, team facilitators or leaders might be those who were dominant in the Forming stage. However, as the Storming stage progresses, start-up team facilitators should be formally selected by team members. Teams should consider what qualities are needed in a start-up leader(s) and decide on the leader selection process together.

Remember, the criteria for selecting a leader(s) to facilitate the school’s design may be different from the criteria used to select a leader(s) once the school is running. Teams should take care not to simply select the dominant leader from the Forming stage or allow the dominant leader to assume a leadership role without careful consideration. If no one on the team matches the established criteria, consider slowing down until you find the right leader(s).

Confrontation

Confrontation—the process of evaluating and questioning others’ ideas while tolerating them doing the same to you—is an important part of team development during the Storming stage. This process will make your team’s shared purpose clearer. Common challenges teams face during this stage include tension, arguments, power struggles, and cliques.

These challenges are natural. However, if confrontations are too combative or unproductive, your team might lose motivation and break up altogether. Some teams do not survive the Storming stage.

As unpleasant as it may be, it’s important for teams to learn how to move through confrontation in a positive way before students, families, and new team members arrive at the school. If your team chooses to avoid confrontation during this stage and members delay learning how to confront one another until later, you risk putting the school in grave danger of failure during its first years of operation.

Author tip

Revisit the Forming stage step building a team to help you form and develop a strong design team.

Resources

Book and video.

Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler share strategies for engaging in important conversations in ways that support organizational success.

Book and video.

Patrick Lencioni shares a leadership model and strategies that teams can use to overcome hurdles and build strong, action-oriented teams.

Book.

Steven Vannoy and Craig Ross provide everyday tools for leaders who want to eliminate toxicity in the workplace and create a wellness culture that supports productivity and success.

Book.

Tom Rath and Barry Conchie share research and strategies for building effective, strengths-based leadership teams.

Presentation.

For his presentation at the Innovative Quality Schools conference in Minnesota, teacher-powered school teachers asked Edward J. Dirkswager to present about what makes working in a teacher-powered school "worth it." These presentation remarks will be helpful for teachers who are reflecting on that question while deciding to be a part of the design team as well as the team that will eventually run the school.