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Building a High Performance Team at ITFC
Written by Jaime_Clapham on Wednesday, 18th Aug 2021 15:00

Change is hard. Building a team is hard. Just reflect on what it’s like within the organisations that you work in, or when you are kicking off a new project. A football club and team are no different.

I want to say a few words on what we are seeing at Town and perhaps some context for the rest of the season after what has been a clear-the-decks type of summer with wholesale change in the ITFC organisation.

Founded by Psychological Researcher Bruce Tuckman in 1965, the Tuckman Model is one of the most influential team development tools ever created and explains the different phases a group must go through to develop and grow as a team. We are seeing this play out in front of us as Town fans at the moment. He’s a brief explanation of each stage:

1. Forming: The new team is formed and is in need of general direction and purpose. Individuals are being introduced to each other. There is a high dependence on the manager to provide direction and to establish a system. The team will start to build trust with each other.

2. Storming: The team is beginning to move towards its goals and experiences a period of uncertainty as team members attempt to establish themselves in relation to others and the manager. Assumptions are tested and challenged, different styles and experiences can cause points of difference in the team. It is common to see frustration and confusion in the team.

3. Norming: The team is establishing a way of working together. Agreement and consensus are present in the team trust between the team are built. Roles and responsibilities are understood. The team’s energy is focused on tasks and decisions. Commitment is strong.

4. Performing: The team has a sense of unity. A shared vision and are able to stand on their own two feet. The manager is there to deal with any significant issues and to provide support. They have a desire to improve further and learn from their experiences.

The four parts of the change journey are not easy. It takes excellent leadership (like Paul Cook, Mark Ashton et al) and commitment to achieve the goals of the team.

How long will it take us to move the team from Forming to Performing? That will be up to the team and how they buy into Cook’s vision and how they are supported through the change by the club and the supporters.

As we move through this period of transition, my view is to enjoy the journey and to embrace every twist and turn along the way. Cook has a bold vision, he wasn’t afraid to come into the club and make the changes we want to see.

The Role of Emotion and Logic in a change journey

Logic is the catalyst for change and we have known that things were bad and needed to change for years (The Lambert/Hurst/McCarthy/Jewell/Keane years!).

We have been stuck in a holding pattern like a plane above Heathrow and after years and years of underinvestment and poor, uninterested leadership, I would argue that we reached rock bottom last year.

As football fans, we embrace emotion and disregard logic at every turn and this is why we love it. But we forget how emotion will overcome our logic in all parts of our life. Just look at the comments section after we lose, or why you decide to buy the newest, fanciest phone!

I worked on a project with a famous team from Merseyside that plays in blue a few seasons ago. The fans' surveys after the games they lost always said the customer service in the ground was worse, the teas and coffees were cold and the pasties were horrible and it was the opposite when they won!

We are fickle, we have high expectations and we are passionate. But, within the context of the change our club is undergoing, we are still early in our change curve. At this time, we need patience, we need passion and we need commitment from the fans to encourage our team through the Storming, to get our club through the disruption, and get us Performing once again.

We are now starting to see the green shoots of recovery and the benefits of our change in our sunny corner of Suffolk. Slowly but surely, the stands are being cleaned, the Cobbold has been redecorated, we have a new superstar sponsor raising our global profile and there’s lots more to add to that list.

Perhaps most importantly, however, the club is again reaching out to the community to build our network across Suffolk. I still remember when Alex Mathie came to my school as a youngster and that was enough to send me on the journey of backing town for the last 25 years.

We have our change. We have a new vision of where we want the club to be. We have great new motivated leadership. We have a completely new team. We have a passionate and engaging CEO, chairman and manager. We even have good owners! We are supported by the best fans in the land!

It’s now time for the rubber to hit the road and for our club to arrive again. We are ready to get behind the latest chapter of our great club and look forward to attacking, entertaining, winning football again at ITFC.

You can read more on team dynamics and development here.

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

SouperJim added 15:35 - Aug 18
What a fantastic and well timed blog!

Marshalls_Mullet added 15:37 - Aug 18
I think that curve suggests why most clubs try to avoid wholesale changes.

Time is not a resource that's widely available in football.

Bluespeed225 added 15:51 - Aug 18
Scarily, my wife told me this is what is happening at ITFC only this morning!

Kropotkin123 added 16:15 - Aug 18
@Bluespeed225... Maybe this is your wife's account?

terryf added 16:27 - Aug 18
Patience is a virtue of which most of us have none, so I guess sitting back and enjoying the journey is probably good advice.

Jaime is right since the Keane era things both on and off the field have been in serious decline.


MerseyBlue added 16:41 - Aug 18
This should be required reading. Excellent blog.

ElephantintheRoom added 17:13 - Aug 18
Personally I think you're on dangerous ground trying to equate the sort of psychobabble that overstaffed offices fall for with a third division football team just taken over by some americans with a pile of debt. I'd argue that there hasn't even been very much change in the make up of the club - the pretend new owners only have as much of the club as the 'now departed Marcus Evans'. The big change is that the debt will have to repaid to the property fund managers if the pretend new owners cant fob some of it off on new 'investors' as they seem to have done with their third rate club in Phoenix. Pulling off the same trick with a club floundering this entire century in another country while twenty or thirty clubs leap ahead of them is a slightly different kettle of fish. And therein lies the big problem with your psychobabble - an office full of shiny-suited people on computers or picking up phones can actually improve their performance by occasionally doing something. The future of Ipswich Town is inextricably linked with what 91 other clubs are up to. I'm intrigued by your naievity. Cook has appeared desperately useless since he arrived. There is an influx of people at every level with no interest in the club - all orchestrated from abroad by people that have never even been here. Their motivation is money , easy money, idealy 'earned' with other peoples' money. Town are now a franchise. The current players, backroom army, man in open neck shirt all have been soewhere else as recently as this summer. It's not change - its a complete about turn, throwing out every baby in the bathwater and nugget in the pan. In many ways its similar to the Hurst era - and the theory behind that was good as well.

chopra777 added 18:38 - Aug 18
A good and true assessment where ITFC is at present. Maybe the playing system of 4-2-3-1 is difficult to learn with the new coaches we have. Most footballers are suited to 4-4-2. Game play can be seen on colourful diagrams but actual games are required. Each team so far this season has been different. Our players have to learn each others skills. Let's see the progress game by game. Automatic promotion is still valid. Judge where we are in October.

Alan_Essex added 21:04 - Aug 18
Elephant you are of course entitled to your opinion, but I’d argue you’re very much in the minority here. Throwing about “psychobabble” and “naievity” doesn’t do it for me. A totally negative and misplaced summary of the work in progress. The shocking management ineptitude and woeful attitude of the players last season begged complete reboot, and thank god we got it…

I’d go further, we still have some management relics and supposed “legends” that will probably move on. The academy players were puffed up kids believing they were better then they really were, a total attitude change was needed. The owners have shown more traction from across the pond then ME ever did in his tenure. It is work in progress and the piece that Jamie blogged is not complicated and an obvious and true assessment of where we are. There’s no rocket science there, it’s common sense and pretty clear.

I believe we will perform, the players will work it out, and the results will come. Most of us expected a bumpy ride, and always expected the negative trolls and idiots to drop out the woodwork quickly. So, we will be there or thereabouts this season, but this IS a new set up, anew team, a work in progress, and WILL succeed… it may not even be this season, but I suspect it will. 3 points on Saturday will just nudge us towards the upward curve Jamie!

Chrisd added 21:50 - Aug 18
A really good read, although time (patience) seems an invaluable commodity that some feel is already being pushed to the limit. Emotion is certainly overriding some logically thinking at the moment.

deliasplums added 22:16 - Aug 18
Elephant - anyone who has built a team from scratch will recognise the model described in this excellent blog. I’ve seen it play out time and time again.

There is much talk of ‘gelling’. What needs to be recognised is that needs to happen on and off the pitch. For these players to become a unit, they need to get to know each other as people and footballers. Don’t forget they are human beings, they’re either commuting, living out of a suitcase or in the process of moving house, sorting schools etc. It will take some time but for me, all the signs are positive - except the results.

BonchosBicycle added 23:23 - Aug 18
Interesting that bad pasties and cold tea made the team play worse. I hope we have catering experts on top of that.

Good read.

luckydiddy added 01:51 - Aug 19
Extremely well written blog.

As forr all the changes and those moaning ... would they prefer to still have Marcus Evans and his levels of investment in the squad through this transfer window?

The truth is .. Marcus Evans seemed to have lost interest. The previous squad was full of players that had been part of the decline of the club over years. They had had their chance .. many of them. With the new ownership a new direction was needed.

Whatever you may think of Paul Cook's treatment of last seasons squad they had to go. They were part of the problem. Too many injury prone players. Too many of the same mistakes match after match. Downes who had never been interested after his transfer request was refused. Chambers and Skuse etc. who had been part of squad after squad finishing each and every season worse than the last and whose ages meant t their best days are long behind them. And a youth set up where as soon as any player showed any glimpse of potential was made to feel as if they were the next Messi(ah) to lead us back to the premier league. They aren't.

When you look at the calibre of players bought this transfer window and compare to the released players and where they have ended up - there really is no contest. On paper at least this new lot SHOULD be far far better. BUT as the blog says its going to take time.

As for Paul Cook; for me last season doesn't really count. Managers know - new owners probably means they are going to be out the door. I believe the squad knew their days were numbered too - not least with the lack of discussions over new contracts etc even under the old regime long before Paul Cook arrived at Portman Road. Paul Lambert was on record as saying how shocked he was with how contracts hadn't been sorted out when he first arrived at the club and how that mustn't be allowed to happen again - yet it did for even more players than usual.

So we need to be patient. It's going to take time. Fantastic if promotion comes this season but it may not. Look back through all the interviews, the fans forum etc with the new owners, Mark Ashton etc. They recognise it may take more than one season that its going to take time.

Absolutely its worrying that we get turned over by Cheltenham, Burton, Newport reserves but its only been 3 games in the league so far. Where each game has included new players in the squad - some of which probably haven't even had much or even any time on the training ground with their new teammates.

The results WILL come with this squad.

As the blog says - just be patient!

Vic added 09:09 - Aug 19
Excellent blog.

It all really depends on whether the manager and management who started the project have the wisdom, ability character and patience to see it through. As things stand I have a certain level of doubt about Cook, but we’ll see. Of Ashton and the others I’m in little doubt that they have what it takes.

I’m guessing that ELephant has never led a team through change. If he had he’d recognize this model and understand that while not universally experienced is drawn from nay applications and has been tried and tested in many, many situations. It’s certainly not Psychobabble!


Realist added 17:02 - Aug 19
"Just reflect on what it’s like within the organisations that you work in, or when you are kicking off a new project."
Yes, I have, and I have never known a manager to start off by abusing his team telling them that they are all useless and he is going to get rid of all of them then expecting them to perform for him until he has replaced them all.
Cook has caused this problem by his own actions and now we get the excuses that they need to "gel" or they need to get to know one another.
Rather than integrate his new players slowly into a core of his better inherited players, he chose the nuclear optionand it has blown up in his face.
I have no respect for a manager who criticizes his team members in the press and the words he used in describing them as Sunday League and that they can all go and he will be demolition man on them just compounded the poor man-management skills of Cook.
He said in his last post-match interview that " with this squad of players we should be doing far better than we have". Well if the players are good, and the club is in good hands perhaps Cook should be looking at himself as the weak link.

123456789 added 00:07 - Aug 20
Fantastic piece ! Can’t wait for Saturday 😊 C.O.Y.B 💙

stormypetrel added 09:27 - Aug 22
I enjoyed the read....and some of the comments even more....supporting your team is an emotional investment, so patience can be difficult to achieve...reading the blog gives a sense of perspective and returns ones feet to the ground...even after yesterday’s draw. The febrile atmosphere around the club is all part of the journey....i’m Just going to embrace it and enjoy it. Oh, and to label a well established and recognised theorem pyscobabble....!....each to their own opinions of did make me smile Elephant!

LegendRay added 12:28 - Aug 23
Thanks for that Jaime. You beat me to it quoting that model that I have seen evidenced many times (def not psychobabble!). Very appropriate for where we are at the moment - bad news is that we're not yet into storming AND the model is cyclical ie when the team changes you go back to the start!! The other learning about teams is that you take huge risks changing more than a third of the team at a time! Cook's slash and burn is high risk; you can't short circuit the human process in building team spirit. A football club is different to a business organisation but the people issues are similar. The talent now thrown together in a rapid procession at Playford Road will have their personality clashes, rivalries, 'leftover' issues from previous clubs, and discontent at the layers of cover preventing first team appearances. Cook's Command and Control style will be needed through the storming, but there are many other leadership styles needed to get to performing!

Let's see where we are on the curve by Christmas, if the owners (and fans) patience lasts that long!

fergalsharkey added 07:50 - Sep 1
Realist - That team Cook inherited was poor throughout and probably worse than he could ever have imagined.
I loved his honesty and and he has backed up his words with actions by axing the rubbish and replacing.
Fans like you are a drain on other supporters , the club and life in general.

Churchman added 23:58 - Sep 3
Elephant describes the content of the blog as psychobabble, I can assure him it is not. Having worked on projects, programmes, change management for half my career, I can tell you that for a fact.

But even if we win the Champions League in five years time, you will post something negative. You do nothing else and there is clearly an awful lot wrong with you. Carrow Road is the place for you. I’m still not convinced you are not one of those.

Back to the blog, it’s excellent.

Realist added 16:41 - Sep 8
fergalsharkey - That team Cook inherited was 7th in L1 when he inherited it, just 1 point of 6th. Cook managed them down to 9th place.
Cook's new team now sit in 21st place in the L1 relegation zone.
What a sad little individual you must be in that you cannot bear somebody to have a different opinion to yourself.
Still, with Cook, things can only get better. Until that happens, it would be best to remain quiet. You could end up looking very silly.


Cadiar added 11:55 - Sep 30
Excellent reading. At least it's coming from someone who knows what he's talking about and not the armchair managers who give their uninformed opinions so often.
I was lucky enough to have see Ipswich from 1962, through the days of McGarry & Robson, knew some of the Cobbolds and have seen the decline of the club over the last 13y3ars or so.
Surely we should all be overjoyed that we have new ambitious owners, new players of far better quality than of recent years, a new manager who I will support even though he wouldn't have been my choice. There is an optomism in the town, not least because the American investors are really trying to bring back the community.
I really wwonder sometimes when I read the post match comments if many of the so called fans actually know a thing about football, perhaps some would like McCarthy back as it looks like he'll be looking for a job soon, we can go back to playing rugby league, ie hoofball. How he ever became a manager is beyond me.
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