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Stages of a Corporate Lifecycle

August 1, 1994
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Growing companies come in all shapes, sizes and ages. Some have even been described as elephants, gazelles and mice. But regardless of their size and speed, a growing company must inevitably struggle with the interrelationship between flexibility and controllability. It must also confront each stage of growth as a welcome change. Below are some signs of a corporate lifecycle that were described in Corporate Lifecycles by Ichak Adizes, founder and director of Los Angeles-based Adizes Institute, an international management-consulting firm.

  • When organizations are young, they're flexible, but not always controllable. As they age, they become more controllable, but less flexible
  • What causes growing and aging is neither size nor time. A company can be 100 years old and flexible. It can be 10 years old and bureaucratic
  • At each stage of the lifecycle, there are problems. You must learn to differentiate between normal problems, which emerge at a particular stage, and abnormal problems, which can lead to the demise of the company
  • Success comes from the inside out. You have to solve the problems on the inside so you can deal with the ones on the outside
  • The purpose of management is to provide for balanced growth or rejuvenation, bring the organization to prime and keep it there
  • Aging is a process that does not have to occur. An organization can remain in prime, if it can continuously rejuvenate itself.

Personnel Journal, August 1994, Vol.73, No. 8, p. 73.

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