Hello, VMF blog followers. Hope you all are enjoying the weather, and looking forward to the long weekend!

The VMF program consists of three eight-month rotations, which are designed to give us the knowledge, skills and experience needed to become leaders in state government. We’re now in the final week of our second rotation (actually, you’ll see this post on our last day), and preparing to move to our third and final rotation.

Over the past eight months, us fellows have become part of our agencies (in my case, SCHEV) following public policy scholar Bruce Tuckman’s four stages of group development. We’ve “formed” with our agencies through beginning our rotation there, “stormed” through making the inevitable mistakes that come inexperience, “normed” through learning and improving from those mistakes, and finally “performed” through making our contributions to our agencies (Tuckman, 1965). Many thanks to our VMF Director Professor Leisha LaRiviere who recently brought this useful framework to our attention.

These rotations are incredibly valuable and insightful experiences; eight months is just the right amount of time to become part of an agency, and go through Tuckman’s process. So eight months is perfect, until it’s gone. And then it’s not nearly enough time.

It’s slightly ironic that the more integrated a team becomes – the better the job the team does – the harder it is to finish. In my case with SCHEV, I was fortunate to really become “staff” at the agency and participate in a variety of projects. Moreover, I had the chance to develop relationships with many coworkers, who were incredibly generous in their time and attention. Over the course of these crazy eight months, I’ve become part of a team.

Tuckman actually amended his initial model to include a fifth stage – adjournment (or “mourning” depending on your source), which is how a team concludes their task(s) and recognizes their efforts. There can also be sadness, with the recognition of the change coming to the team (Tuckman & Jensen, 1977). I find knowing this helpful; not only are my feelings normal, they’re recognized by a major public policy framework!

More importantly, I (and other developing leaders) can choose how to frame this departure. There are two helpful strategies to do so. The first is reflective, and includes expressing gratitude to the team and acknowledging contributions. The second is anticipatory, and includes feeling excitement and curiosity for the opportunities in the future.

So then: first, thank you to all my SCHEVies. It’s been a great eight months, and you all were wonderful to work with. Second: Hello VRS! I’m so excited for what I’ll learn and who I’ll get to meet! Who knows – we may actually be back in an office by the end of this.

Grace Wheaton is a Virginia Management Fellow currently working at the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.


Graffius, S. M. (2018, February 5). Phases of Team Development [Illustration]. Agile Scrum Guide. https://agilescrumguide.com/blog/files/category-team-development.html

Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63(6), 384–399. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/h0022100">https://doi.org/10.1037/h0022100</a>

Tuckman, B. W., &amp; Jensen, M. A. C. (1977). Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited. Group &amp; Organization Studies, 2(4), 419–427. https://doi.org/10.1177/105960117700200404