Forming Storming Norming Performing

Tuesday was the Columbus Social Media Cafe at OCLC in Dublin. This growing collaboration among WOSU, COSI, Internet bloggers, tech folks, friends, neighbors and citizens is becoming a group headed for good things for Columbus. My colleagues in the group are doing a good job of summarizing the upcoming work of the group, and its filtration into events like ComFest, PodCamp Ohio, Startup Weekend, etc. I would like to briefly offer observations of the group’s dynamic and what I see as its potential.

I’m going to drag out that master’s degree in communication and dust off a group dynamic called Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. The theory is that these are the stages of a group coming together. I think the first couple of CSMC meet-ups were the stage of Forming — gaining an identity and long -term buy-in from key players. There was a brief storming, maybe, at about the time I entered the group. That meet-up was more contentious, had low attendance, and seemed to operate as a struggle to answer, “What are we doing here?” Storming is good, by the way, according to the theory. It’s a way for the group to shake itself into place, so to speak.

Norming — the process of developing group rules and ways of doing things — is next. It’s followed by performing, an easy-to-understand concept. I think that the CSMC is in both of these stages, mostly norming. We’re talking names, maybe a mission, branding. We’ve identified a way to talk collectively online through a Google Group. We’re developing a group calendar.

I see glimpses of performing. Andrew‘s work with the ComFest Folks is great! This will result in (hopefully) CSMC members providing training onsite at the event, as well as involvement in the community that will surely net more participation and create more networks. Our interest in Startup Weekend and PodCamp will most likely increase the group’s effectiveness and develop a wider circle.

I also believe that the participation of very progressive and talented thinkers from OCLC, from the site is adding new life and creating new energy within the CSMC.

As I am watching this coalescence occur, I have just a couple of thoughts to consider:

1. Our original question contained the thought of “making Columbus better”. I think this is key to the role of the group and I hope we continue to keep it front-and-center, and avoid becoming a group that simply exists to engage in cool digital stuff. (I don’t think we’re doing that now at all; I only foresee it as a potential pitfall).

2. I believe that inherent in making Columbus better is making ourselves better — each constituent, each organization, each shareholder in the group. An example of this is the volunteerism of a couple of the group’s members, who answered phones during WOSU’s recent pledge drive. Each time our group, or its individual members, tries to help improve another member’s situation, the group as a whole benefits, as does the community.

That said, I have one idea to share and welcome discussion about: As we develop CSMC meetings in various neighborhoods around Columbus, can we possibly add a component of contributing to that neighborhood in some way. Could we, for example, commit to offering a workshop on internet homework help or photo editing and sharing if we met in the Franklinton library branch (even if we offer the workshop on a different day than our meeting)? Might we help the director of an agency create a blog if we met in that agency’s facilities? These are just ideas off the top of my head and I’m positive the group would come up with better ones. I am hoping, however, that the idea of improving any place, organization or neighborhood we touch is what really stands out.

I welcome any and all discussion. My disclaimer: the ideas offered here are my own, and don’t represent the CSMC, WOSU or any other entity. Just little old me!

Here is a link for the Forming Storming Norming Performing theory



  1. Andrew said,

    May 2, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Well actually you do represent the CSMC, we all do, and that’s a wonderful thing!

    I really like your idea of leaving something positive behind wherever we go and I think we should look at it as a part of sustaining and outreach. I’m not sure what that should always look like but I think it’s something we should puzzle out.

    I love your breakdown of the group progression and now that I see what you’re talking about I’m mentally applying it to some of my other startup groups and seeing a real correlation. Thanks!

  2. May 27, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful post. Tonight was my first meeting with CSMC and your overview of the process is really helpful to my hunger for the big picture.

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