In this two part blog series, we will answer the question - Why would I care about managing organizational change when my organization won’t undergo change initiatives? This week, we will explain the background of why companies change and introduce the Greiner model. Next week, we will explain how the Greiner model applies to organizational growth in six phases.

When I first started my career as a Change Management consultant, I was asked many questions. And though I liked to think I had an answer for everything right in my pocket, one question I received early on threw me for a loop:

Why would I care about managing change when my organization won’t undergo change initiatives?

After fumbling with my response a time or two, I stepped back and thought about the question. In hindsight the answer should have been a no-brainer.

All Organizations Undergo Change

The pressure for a company to change doesn’t just come about when a new technology replaces their product, or when a competitor tries to provide more affordable services. Among these other factors, pressure to change is a function of an organization’s growth.

With growth comes the need for new operating models, new layers of hierarchy, and vastly different ways of conducting business. This phenomenon was described by Larry Greiner, Professor at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, in his foundational article “Evolution and Revolution as Organizations Grow” in Harvard Business Review.

Larry’s research illustrates that organizational growth occurs in stages, and each stage ends in a “crisis.” Each “crisis” is a point where any organization, regardless of industry or scale, will need to change in order to continue operating successfully. These stages are illustrated in the “Greiner Curve” below:

The slope of the Greiner curve can change dramatically by industry and which phase of growth the industry is in. A steeper curve means the organization expands in a shorter amount of time, encountering the need to change more quickly in order to transition between growth phases. A shallower curve entails just the opposite; longer periods of time between phases as the company grows at a slower rate.

For example, an organization in a high-growth-phase industry, such as a small technology start-up, could find itself running into a crisis of growth in periods of time shorter than a year. A counterexample is an organization in a mature industry, such as an automotive manufacturer, which might encounter these crises on a 4+ year basis.

In next week’s blog, we will share how the Grenier model applies to organizational growth in six phases. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, please contact us.

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