How Does A Team Form? Watch 12 Angry Men.

How Does A Team Form? Watch 12 Angry Men.

How Does A Team Form? Watch 12 Angry Men.



Have you ever been a member of a cross-functional team or project? The members are usually from different areas of the company, and they represent their function or team. They are on the team because they bring expertise or are a resource to the group. In addition to the goal of this team, the members also have other obligations and responsibilities. So how do they become a team?

Teams go through four stages as identified in a model developed by Bruce Tuckman. The stages are:

Forming – Superficial, Polite, Individually oriented

Storming – Tension, Control Issues, Conflict arises

Norming – Cohesion begins, Processes established, Feedback

Performing – Commitment to the team goal, Managing conflict, making decisions

As part of a Team Coaching program I am attending, it was suggested to watch the movie, 12 Angry Men. Originally released in 1957, the movie chronicles a jury trying to decide whether a teenager killed his father. Many of the elements of the story mirrored the dynamics of how a team forms.

The majority of the movie is shot in the jury room on a hot and humid summer day in New York City. The jury is composed of 12 men and within a few minutes you already know the motivation of some of the jurors. One juror has tickets to a baseball game. He wants to get the decision over with so that he can attend the game. One juror is utilizing the interactions to network with the others.

The foreman of the jury is like a manager on a team. He starts immediately getting everyone organized. He is ripping up paper to use as ballots so they can vote. The foreman suggests that everyone sit according to their juror number. This is the Forming stage.

Almost immediately they take a vote because many of the jurors believe that it is an easy case to decide. The teenager is guilty. They go around the table and verbally share their vote. Everyone is voting guilty until they get to Juror 8 played by Henry Fonda. He votes not guilty. All the other jurors voted guilty.

Then the jurors enter the Storming stage. The other jurors immediately begin to challenge Juror 8 about his vote. He has doubts about the teenager’s guilt. He says “It’s possible” the teenager is not guilty. When you think about a team, this is similar to when someone introduces a radical idea or seemingly impossible goal. Juror 8’s mantra throughout the movie is “It’s possible”.

Some of the perspectives of the other jurors are reflected in how they have processed the information presented in the trial. You can see how their life experience is shaping the way they think about the evidence. Juror 4 very methodically lays out the facts of why he believes the teenager is guilty. Juror 3 is convinced the teenager is guilty because of where he grew up in the poor and rough part of town where fights are common. Other judgments surface based on prejudices and judgments that some of the jurors have which are framing their point of view.

It isn’t easy. Most of the jurors still believe the teenager is guilty. However, Juror 8 has inserted an idea “What if it’s possible, he is not guilty”? You can start to feel the shift in a few of the jurors. Nobody has changed their mind yet, but a few are willing to hear what Juror 8 has to say. Juror 8 has become the unofficial leader of the jury (team). He is leading from the middle.

As the jurors discuss the evidence and try to prove their theory of guilt or innocence, more voices are heard, and different perspectives are presented. Some of the jurors’ expertise is utilized to analyze the evidence. The foreman starts to use paper ballots for voting. The jurors begin to demand a set of guidelines for interacting with each other such as be respectful, allow everyone their chance to present their point of view. The “team” has moved into the Norming stage.

As the jurors continue to discuss and argue the merits of the evidence, Juror 8 is the focal point of the group. He has introduced the idea that it’s possible that the teenager is not guilty. Having an idea/goal to rally around helps the jurors to measure all evidence against that goal.

As the jurors move to the Performing Stage, you feel the constructive interaction towards a common purpose – to analyze the evidence and remove all doubt about the guilt or innocence of the teenager. The jurors begin to recognize the underlying perspectives and prejudices that each man brings to the discussion.

They move away from paper ballots and take ownership of their point of view by verbally sharing their decision. They look at the evidence with a new point of view. And eventually they reach a unanimous decision. They performed their purpose as jurors and moved from a disparate group of individuals to a “team” united in their decision.

What did they decide? To find that out, I suggest you watch the movie so that you see how the jurors became a team. I highly recommend it.

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Welcome to the Listening to the Leader in You Blog

Super-leaders arm themselves with insight. This blog is where you’ll find concepts, ideas, resources and more for honing your full set of leadership capabilities. 
Lynn Schaber, MCC
For the past 20 years, I’ve been privileged to partner with individuals intent on cracking the code to leadership beyond the ordinary.