What is the Cog's Ladder?

The Cog’s Ladder is a Tool that helps to understand the Stages a Team goes through before working Efficiently.

  • It was conceived by George O. Charrier in 1972.

 

Its main objective is to help managers and groups maximize the chances of Success in Teamwork.

 

To do so, it defines 5 Stages that every Team must overcome to work in a cohesive way:

  1. The Polite Stage.
  2. The Why We’re here Stage.
  3. The Power Stage.
  4. The Cooperation Stage.
  5. The Esprit Stage.

The Five Stages of Cog's Ladder

1. Polite Stage: Team Members Get to know each other.

  • Formality predominates at this Stage.

 

2. Why we’re here Stage: Team Members Find out Why they are there.

  • And what Role are They expected to play.

 

3. Power Stage: Team Members argue over their Authority.

  • And Who has a more “Accurate” Point of View.

 

4. Cooperation Stage: Team Members begin to work Together constructively.

  • Achieving Common Goals.

 

5. Esprit Stage: Synergies appear and Productivity and Creativity skyrocket.

  • The Team functions as Single Entity.

Cog’s Ladder

 

Let’s see the first example:

Cog's Ladder example: The Air Force

 

We have read that the military forces are well aware of these Stages.

 

Therefore, we have created an example of what may happen when the US Air Force recruits a New Team.

  • If you have served in the army we will be very happy to know your experience.
    • We are only imagining a hypothetical situation.

 

We will imagine that this is a Team made up of experienced soldiers who will develop a special Mission.

  • Yes… We love Mission Impossible and James Bond movies…

 

Polite Stage

In the beginning the Soldiers:

  • Introduce themselves.
  • Share their professional experience; Where they’ve served, etc.
  • Share some funny stories about their previous missions.
  • etc.

At this point, they still don’t see each other as part of the same Team.

 

Why we’re here Stage

As they get to know each other, they begin to discover what the Army expects from each of them.

  • If someone has experience flying airplanes, he/she will probably be the pilot.
  • If someone is experienced in weapons, he/she will probably be the gunner.
  • etc.

Once they know what each of them are experts in, they will guess what the mission is about.

 

Power Stage

As they begin to work together, the problems appear:

  • Someone wants to do things one way and others do not share his vision.
  • Others think they should work much harder.
  • etc.

Consciously or Unconsciously, they are testing their Authority (Power).

 

Cooperation Stage

As soon as they assume that they are now a team, they:

  • Stop being obsessed with their particular visions.
  • Seek the team’s success rather than their own.
  • etc.

They start working as a Team.

 

Esprit Stage

As they get to know each other better and feel integrated into the Team:

  • They begin to take care of the Group.
  • The results obtained as a Team are greatly improved.
  • etc.

They have created Synergies:

  • The results obtained as a Team exceed the results that could be obtained by adding their individual work.

As we often say: We are aware that this all seems obvious and impractical.

In the end … Don’t these stages simply describe what happens in teamwork?

 

Yes, but knowing these Stages you will be able to get the most out of the Teams in which you Work or Manage.

How?

The Importance of Cog's Ladder

You can Steer the conversation into a Constructive Area.

  • An Area that promotes the completion of the respective Stage.
    • For example:
      • By introducing the Members properly.
      • By asking questions about their Skills and Preferences.

 

You can openly Prepare the Team Members for the respective Stage.

  • And guide them throughout the process.
    • For example:
      • Letting them know what you expect of them (or asking it, if you are a Team Member).
      • Establishing the appropriate hierarchies in advance.

 

You can evaluate if there is any Important Issue that should be Solved.

  • Before moving to the Next Stage.
    • For example:
      • Clarify the Decisional Chain.
      • Establish the Role of each Team Member.

 

It allows to evaluate if there is Room for Improvement in a Team.

  • Or if a Team has reached its full potential.
    • For example:
      • If a Team has not fulfilled the 5 Stages successfully, there is room for improvement.
      • If one Stage was avoided, there is also room for improvement.

Now, before looking at more examples, we want to clarify a little thing:

  • The resemblance of this model to the Tuckman Model.

Cog’s Ladder vs Tuckman’s Model

 

If these 2 models seem similar is because they are virtually the same.

  • Tuckman model is prior to Cog’s Ladder.

 

Tuckman’s Model summarizes the 5 Stages of Cog’s Ladder in 4 Steps:

  • Forming: Stage 1 and 2 of Cog’s Ladder:
    • The Team meets and finds out what they are expected to do.
  • Storming: Stage 3 of Cog’s Ladder:
    • Team Members argue about their authority.
  • Norming: Stage 4 of Cog’s Ladder:
    • Team Members start to work as a Team.
  • Performing: Stage 5 of Cog’s Ladder:
    • Team Members start to take care each other, obtaining good results.

 

As you can see, there is no real difference between these two Tools other than the number of Stages they are divided into.

The best way to understand how you can use Cog’s Ladder is by sharing some examples with you:

Cog's Ladder examples

We have created 3 different examples of situations where a group of people has to work as a Team.

 

You will be part of each Team and we’ll assume that you are aware of the Stages of Cog’s Ladder.

  • You plan to use them to get the most out of the team you’re on.

 

Let’s begin:

A Team of Engineers - Cog's Ladder example

 

In this example, we’ll imagine that you are part of a Team of Civil Engineers who are developing a new Bridge for a small town.

 

During the project, you use Cog’s Ladder to improve the way you all work as a Team.

 

How do you use it?

 

Polite Stage

You make sure you all:

  • Introduce yourself properly.
  • Ask questions about  your personal and professional life.
  • Try to establish an early friendship.

In this way, you “lubricate” personal relationships in advance, for what may come in the future.

 

Why we’re Here Stage

To accomplish this Stage successfully, you:

  • Ask for the experience of the different Team members.
  • Try to guess (with everybody else) what is expected of all of you.
  • Suggest who might be the most experienced member of the Team; it’s natural Leader.

This way you prepare everyone for the Power Stage.

 

Power Stage

Once everyone knows “Why they are here”, comes the Power Stage. Now, you:

  • Analyze with your Teammates the experience of each one of them.
  • Establish metrics (years of experience in a field, for example) to determine everyone’s Authority.
  • Try to take decisions based on Objective Criteria.

In this way, everyone will make decisions based on Facts and not Feelings.

 

Cooperation Stage

Now that you all start working as a Team, you:

  • Try to set Goals so everyone knows what the Team is looking for.
  • Introduce Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track progress.
  • Propose “activities” to motivate the Team (a Dinner, having some beers, etc).

In this way you help improving the Performance of the Team and establish personal Bonds.

 

Esprit Stage

Now, you all have created Personal and Professional bonds.

  • And, your Performance as a Team has skyrocketed.

 

What else can you do?

  • Recognize and Celebrate each Achievement.
  • Take care of the existing Professional and Personal bonds.

In this way you will keep the Momentum going.

A Team of Designers - Cog's Ladder example

 

In this example, we’ll imagine that you are the Manager of a Team of Designers.

 

You have recently created this Team, and you want it to Success.

  • As you are aware of Cog’s Ladder Stages, you decide to use them.

 

What do you do as Manager?

 

Polite Stage

In this Stage:

  • You organize an event where everyone introduces himself to the Team.
  • You prepare some questions that everybody must answer in front of the Team.
  • You organize a dinner so Team Members start creating bonds.

 

Why we’re here Stage

After this initial day where People knew each other, you:

  • Explain to the Team what you expect of them as a Group.
  • Explain to each of them what you expect of them as individuals.
  • Clarify the Role they will Play in the Team.

 

Power Stage

For succeeding at this Stage, you:

  • Establish a Clear Decision Hierarchy.
  • Explain everybody Why you adopted this hierarchy.
  • Define the proper Communication Channels that must be employed.

 

Cooperation Stage

Once the group starts working as a Team, you:

  • Set Defined and Measurable Goals to track progress.
  • Set Incentives for the Team.
  • Plan Dinners and Activities to strengthen personal bonds.

 

Esprit Stage

Now that the Team works as a Single Entity, you:

  • Reward their Work and Effort.
  • You set new challenges for them to keep them motivated.

A Teacher in a New Class - Cog's Ladder example

 

In this example, we’ll imagine that you are a Teacher in a New Class.

  • Kids don’t know each other.
    • We’ll assume they are around 12 years old; so they reason a bit.

 

This situation is extremely difficult to handle as children are unpredictable.

This is why you’ll try to use Cog’s Ladder.

 

What do you do?

 

Polite Stage

For this first Stage, you:

  • Tell kids to introduce themselves to the rest of the class.
  • Prepare fun activities for children to get to know each other.
  • You prepare different tables with children who will ask each other questions about their lives.

 

Why we’re here Stage

In this Stage, you:

  • Explain How important education is and Why.
  • Explain that the friendships created in that class can last forever.
  • Share what you expect from the Class.

 

Power Stage

For succeeding at this Stage, you:

  • Create groups of “Dominant” children with other “Calmer” ones.
  • In these groups they ask each other questions about their hobbies, favorite TV-Shows, etc.

In this way, perhaps, some “abusive” children can get to know the “other part of the equation” better.

 

Cooperation Stage

Once the Class starts behaving as a “Team”, you:

  • Set a “global score” for the entire Class.
  • Explain them that they will be judged as a Group.
    • What is good for one is good for the Team

Each day, you’ll rate them from 0 to 10 based on their Behavior and Performance.

 

Esprit Stage

As soon as they begin to Behave and Perform well, you:

  • Reward them with a Movie of their choice.
  • Prepare a group activity that they like.
  • Try to “polish” the bad relationships that may (and surely will) exist.

 

* We realize that this is actually extremely complex.

  • Educating children is a gigantic Challenge.

This is only intended as an example to give you an idea of how Cog’s Ladder can be used.

Summarizing

The Cog’s Ladder is a Tool that helps to understand the Stages a Team goes through before working Efficiently.

  • Its main objective is to help Groups maximize the chances of Success in Teamwork.

 

To do so, it defines 5 Stages that every Team must overcome to work in a cohesive way:

  1. Polite Stage: Team Members Get to know each other.
  2. Why We’re here Stage: Team Members Find out Why they are there.
  3. Power Stage: Team Members argue over their Authority.
  4. Cooperation Stage: Team Members begin to work Together constructively.
  5. Esprit Stage: Synergies appear and Productivity and Creativity skyrocket.

 

Why is Cog’s Ladder an important Tool?

  • You can Steer the conversation into a Constructive Area.
  • You can openly Prepare the Team Members for the respective Stage.
  • You can evaluate if there is any Important Issue that should be Solved.
  • It allows to evaluate if there is Room for Improvement in a Team.

©2021 - consuunt

CONTACT US

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Sending

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?