What’s a “Mature” Organization?

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    I conducted a workshop two weeks ago in which a participant mentioned that some of the other participants in the room were not from “mature organizations.” He went on to explain that their organizations were still somewhat small.

    I countered that it’s often an illusion to assess the maturity of an organization based on it size. I suggested that maturity depends more on the nature of activities in the organization — that a small or large organization can be immature if, for example, its internal practices are more reactive and crisis-driven than proactive and plan-driven.

    I added, even that depends on the culture of the people in the organization. Some cultures don’t do planning in the typical “linear” approach that we so often talk about. Rather than establishing goals, objectives, responsibilities and deadlines, those cultures might do planning in more of an “organic,” unfolding and dynamic approach.

    One of the most useful, recent perspectives on organizations is that of life cycles. The view is that, just like people, organizations must evolve through life cycles, for example, birth, growth and maturity. Life cycles apply to many systems, including products and teams. If a system does not successfully evolve to the next stage, it can stagnate or even decline.

    I’ve sometimes wondered about the life-cycle theory — if an organization reaches “maturity,” then does it remain there forever, or does it regress to earlier stages whenever there’s a sudden crisis, for example, a major recession? Or, does that organization, by the fact that it’s mature, evolve through the recession in a mature way?

    What do you think is a “mature” organization?

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    For more resources, see the Library topics Consulting and Organizational Development.

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    Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD – Authenticity Consulting, LLC – 800-971-2250
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