Using Sports Movies to Teach Management Concepts

The almost perfectly rhymed phrase above refers to a model of the dynamics of group formation, proposed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965.

I heard about it today in a presentation by one of our management faculty at a seminar targeted to freshmen business students in the honors program. The program offers students the opportunity to learn more about the type of research faculty in the business school are conducting, and to then possibly get involved in a research project with those faculty.

This particular faculty member talked about her research that looks at what makes for effective teams, and as part of her presentation, she described Tuckman’s theory. Here is a brief outline of the stages:

Forming: The team meets and learns about the opportunities and challenges, and then agrees on goals and begins to tackle the tasks. Team members tend to behave quite independently. Members attempt to become oriented to the tasks as well as to one another.

Storming: the group starts to sort itself out and gain each others’ trust. This stage often starts when they voice their opinions, a conflict may arise between team members as power and status are assigned. Normally tension, struggle, and sometimes arguments occur. Tolerance of each team member and their differences should be emphasized; without tolerance and patience, the team will fail.

Norming: Resolved disagreements and personality clashes result in greater intimacy, and a spirit of co-operation emerges. This happens when the team is aware of competition and they share a common goal.

Performing: With group norms and roles established, group members focus on achieving common goals, often reaching an unexpectedly high level of success.

Adjourning: (this was added as a stage in 1977): involves completing the task and breaking up the team.

The professor used Disney sports movies like Miracle, Remember the Titans, and The Mighty Ducks to reinforce her points. She described one scene from the movie Miracle where the coach asked each team member, most of whom played for different colleges, to introduce themselves and who they played for.

Here is part of that scene; it should be noted that prior to this scene, a fight had broken out among two of the players, college rivals. At this point, I would say the team is progressing through the forming and storming stages.

The coach kept having the players go through skating drills until they were exhausted, and then have them do more. It finally comes to an end when one of the players finally realizes who they play for. Here is the scene; at this point, it seems to me they have reached the norming stage.

And we all know what happened when they reached the performing stage:

I know I was getting excited listening to the faculty member describe her research, and how the results of it could help leaders create more effective teams. I hope the students felt the same way.

*image from Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships

12 thoughts on “Using Sports Movies to Teach Management Concepts

    1. I think most students seem to think their management courses aren’t as important as their finance and marketing courses, but once they start working they realize how important management concepts are. I don’t know what Bobby Orr looks like too well, but I’ll take your word for it.

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  1. These stages of team development seem right on to me. As much as I enjoy sports, so many sports movies are cheesy. I have never seen Miracle, but I should check it out. One of the other movies that the professor used, Remember the Titans, is an exceptional film. The Miracle on Ice is still one of my all-time favorite sports memories.

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    1. sports movies do get a bit cheesy, but sometimes that’s what I’m in the mood for. Remember the Titans is a classic..

      and I never get tired of watching the last few seconds of that hockey game…

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  2. Great post, Q! As a hockey fan I loved this movie, but like Pete, I also think “Remember the Titans” is special too. It has its own scene where the coach, played by Denzel Washington, takes them on a long and exhausting midnight run that ends on the battlefields of Gettysburg. There he gives them a speech that inspires them to see past there residual racial conflicts. Another great movie that represents this ideation of building a team is “Marshall”. If you haven’t seen these three movies, you should!

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  3. That last video displayed a message saying it was blocked by the International Olympic Committee. Who’d you piss off?

    I think that flow chart was once used by a committee that was trying to design a horse. They ended up with a camel. But hey, camels are good also.

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  4. Although cliche who doesn’t like a good sports movie! I can watch something about a sport I don’t know, understand or even care about and they get me interested. I can see how Tuckman’s theory fits into a lot of the storylines.

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