If It Ain’t Broke, Maybe You Should Break it!

Let’s begin with a little exercise in imagination. Picture yourself as a child, completely reliant on adults for your survival. As an infant, you couldn’t communicate through words, yet you were a master at getting what you needed. Your go-to strategy was crying, and it worked like a charm. The adults understood your message, and you received food, attention, and even a nap. The louder you cried, the better your chances!

Now fast forward to your adolescent years. You still have the same basic needs, but crying every time you require something would be pretty embarrassing, wouldn’t it? Instead, you’ve learned to express your needs through conversation and active listening with your parents. Communication becomes key to obtaining what you want and require in life.

Now, imagine yourself as a fully grown, middle-aged adult. Do you still depend on your parents to provide for you? Probably (hopefully) not.

Hopefully, the lesson here is clear: what worked for you in one stage of life may not work in another. In other words, what got you to where you are today won’t necessarily get you to where you want to be in the future.

This same principle applies to businesses. Just as individuals progress through predictable life stages, businesses also go through their own lifecycle stages. Dr. Ichak Adizes, a renowned business consultant, outlines these stages in his book, “Managing Corporate Lifecycles.” The stages include Courtship, Infancy, Go-Go, Adolescence, Prime, Stability, Aristocracy, Recrimination, Bureaucracy, and Death.

As a business owner, it’s crucial to grasp the concept of “business life cycles.” Many entrepreneurs I work with fail to realize that as their businesses evolve through these stages, their management style and structure must also adapt accordingly. The result is usually frustration and stagnation.

Let’s look at an example: during the Go-Go stage, characterized by high growth.  In this stage, business owners need to be proactive, doing whatever it takes to propel their businesses forward. On the other hand, in the Prime or Stability stage, where the business is established, stable, and profitable, a different leadership style is required for successful management. Business owners must recognize the stage their business is currently in and adjust their leadership and management accordingly.

Dr. Adizes writes, “Whenever an organization transitions from one lifecycle stage to the next, difficulties arise. In order to adopt new patterns of behavior, organizations must abandon their old patterns.” I frequently encounter leaders in organizations who hinder their own progress by persisting with outdated approaches. Unbeknownst to them, they become bottlenecks, impeding their organization’s growth.

Different stages of a business may also require that different personalities to take the lead. While the initial stages demand strong entrepreneurial leaders to carry the business forward, later stages necessitate stepping back and allowing others to assume key positions. The best leaders don’t feel threatened by this.  They embrace it.

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