Tuckman's Model

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Flight of the Phoenix

Flight of the Phoenix is a movie that displays the dynamics of a group in terms of power, decision-making, communication, group roles, group atmosphere and norms, and leadership in the group. The movie’s story line follows a diverse group of oil workers, military men, a doctor, a pilot and a navigator among others that sets out on a rickety plane to cross the Arabian Desert. Not long into the flight the plane is caught between two sand storms and is blow off course. The plane in forced to crash land and a few passenger die. The severity of the situation that the men find themselves in forces them to form a group.

The newly formed group confronts several challenges, tasks and goals immediately after they find themselves stranded in the desert with limited resources. The member’s begin to adopt specific group roles, as well as follow various stages of group development. One theory of group development explains how new groups do not immediately function as highly effective teams until they have gone through various stages of development. These stages are given mnemonic names that are as easy to understand, as they are to remember; the names of the stages are Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.


The decision making process in the forming stage of a group is usually manifest by caution, confusion, courtesy, and commonality. These characteristics may vary throughout the group depending on their intimacy and the influence of the leader.

These characteristics were truly apparent in Flight of the Phoenix. When the airplane crash-landed in the scorching and searing desert confusion erupted, passengers fled for safety. In a confused and puzzled manner, members of this bewildered group huddled under the wing of the mother plane seeking refuge and direction from their grand captain, the pilot Frank Towns. The decisions initially made at this climax rooted the first seeds of the groups’ orientation and eventually forming. Initially they unofficially made Towns their leader. In this early choice many were cautious but willing, most just showed a common courtesy to his position as pilot and followed, while others like the military captain Harris, in a heroic effort, seized his chance to demonstrate differently. Each individual decision made on behalf of the member influence the final effectiveness of the organization.


While stranded in the desert the group underwent a phase in their group dynamics in which confrontation, disagreement, and criticism arose. This is particularly evident in the way they communicated among each other. Furthermore, the expectations of the group members were also questioned when the shift of leadership went from the pilot Towns to an airplane designer named Dorfman. This challenging phase proved to beneficial because it provided greater cohesiveness and brought them closer to their ultimate goal of survival.

A falling out transpired when the military sergeant named Watson was unable to communicate his aversion for the army to his commanding officer, Captain Harris. As Captain Harris was forming an exploration team Watson faked a leg injury to disqualify him from the group. This nonverbal communication alerted every one of Watson’s feelings about being treated as a subordinate. This eventually led to a verbal argument that dichotomized Watson and Captain Harris. This challenge to Captain Harris’ role as the authoritative military man is a common occurrence during the storming phase.

The major confrontation occurred when two individuals struggled for the leadership position. The pilot Towns originally filled the leadership role, and had the duty of the principal organizer and figurehead of the group. Everyone looked to him for direction. He took on the role because of his superior knowledge of aircraft accidents and the group trusted him to provide a way for their rescue. However, the real reason for Towns’ leadership was because he felt...
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