When thinking about what you
want from your next job, there are a number of important things to put
on your wish list. Among them may be factors such as:
One, perhaps less obvious factor, is at what point is the firm at in its “lifecycle”. Dr Ichak Adizes,
of the Adizes Institute, proposes the idea that all corporations run
through a predictable lifecycle, from Conception to “Prime”. If
management fail to keep the organisation in prime, it will decline
through three stages of decay, finally to death.
- The sector / sub-sector of the firm
- Its mission
- The scope of the role, and
- And opportunities for professional growth
Adizes not only
identifies each of the distinct stages of this lifecycle, but also
offers us the idea that at each stage, there are problems which are
entirely predictable. These problems he defines as Normal, Abnormal and Pathological.
this article, we would like to set out the stages of a Adizes’
Corporate Lifecycle, and his definitions of the three types of problems.
This will help you recognise where the company you are/were at is at,
and will in turn, help inform you in your choices of where you would
like to be.
Before we go through the stages, let’s talk about the definitions of problems.
defines Normal Problems as transitional in nature, as the
organisational moves from one stage to another, and as such, are
unavoidable but can be dealt with.
Abnormal Problems arise when
an organisation fails to solve Normal Problems. Energy is wasted and
progress to the next stage towards Prime is slowed. Problems of ageing,
i.e. moving away from Prime towards Death, are viewed as being abnormal
because they can be averted with appropriate treatment.
Pathological Problems arise when the Abnormal Problems remain
unaddressed for too long and the survival of the enterprise is
The first stage of organisational development
according to Adizes is Courtship. The entrepreneur has an idea and the
commitment to serve as perceived need, which will be appreciated by
potential clients in the market.
Infancy is the second stage and
the focus is production, sales and cash, with perhaps some beta testing
before going into mass production. Mistakes are made and lack of cash
flow can potentially kill the business, but if this stage is survived,
the next stage is the Wild Years.
Here, despite growth and an easing in cash flow, the organisation lacks structure, systems and can spin out of control - Go, Go, Bust.
next stage is Adolescence, at which the original entrepreneurs may give
way to a professional management team who will infuse the enterprise
with controls, systems and management with authority.
is to get to Prime, which is the optimal condition of the lifecycle.
This is a balance between self-control and flexibility. If there is a
lack of control or innovation, it is possible for the firm to slip into
ageing, decay and death. Examples such as Comet, Woolworths and
Blockbuster are only too common.
By the same token, it is
possible with new management, investment and innovation to rescue
companies which would have died some time ago. So for example, Jaguar
Land Rover was rescued by the Indian firm Tata Motors in 2008.
you are considering a move, think about where the company is in its
lifecycle and whether this a place that you want to be. Some people are
going to enjoy the ride at some point from Conception into Prime, whilst
others have a personality best suited to being in a company already in
its Prime. Others may consider that the challenge and excitement of
turning a declining company back into Prime as being what really excites
them. There are no right and wrong answers, but it is important to know
where the business is at and what can bring the best out of you.
leads me to ask one last question: If it’s the case that corporations
have a lifecycle, then is it possible that industries and sectors also