The LIFE CYCLE of ORGanizations

Focus on Capacity for Learning and Innovation


                   "THE GOOD STUFF"

                                              HAPPEN ?

Among new start-up orgs (case #1) we find simple structure and high levels of entrepreneurial spirit - willingness to try radical new ideas.

Later, if successful they get much larger and more bureaucratic. 

BUT bureaucracy restricts innovation. (case #2)  A core challenge !


Q: How can mature ORGs retain or regain that entrepreneurial spirit while they still need to manage the large scale of their operations?

It maybe possible thru the disciplines of the Learning Organization and the structure of Adhocracy. (case #3)


            but can they change when necessary to meet new threats & opportunities, i.e. to survive?



Early  Phase  Orgs.
Mature  Phase  Organizations


case #2


Stuck in original business focus

E.g. cruise ship & parent company, many firms


case #3



Capable of new strategic focus

Organizational Learning

Both/And challenges.

Ambidextrous Mngtmt.


"Silicon Valley         (Calif.) Model"

            case #4

New entrepreneurial businesses hit huge success very FAST.

Serial innovators.


e.g. Google, Tesla, FB,   Apple, W.L.Gore, 3M



at large scale

The SHIP can represent only ONE TYPE of ORG -

the Mature Bureaucratic Org.

   But NOT Start-Ups 

 and NOT Adhocracy types.

SOME START-UP firms/ORGs. become MATURE  (large and successful) with BUREAUCRATIC form but losing flexibility and entrepreneurial spirit. (case #2).
They may enjoy great success -- so long as their industry is not disrupted.

OTHER ORGs become MATURE while keeping some entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to shift direction (case #3).
They use ADHOCRACY management.
This is an Un-bureaucratic, flexible structure. 
Much use of project teams, networks and self-management by teams and informal leaders, all within the shared strategy. Much sharing of information and broad participation in learning and planning. Authority is decentralized; micromanagement is out..(See Mintzberg - Ref.)

In Adhocracy employees have much more discretion within their guidelines. They are accountable for results; and free to improve on "the old way". For feedback and support they look to peers before supervisors. Managers "direct" employees less and support them more. They may practice/deepen ORG. LEARNING, coaching and supporting employees. They should ensure there is adequate infrastructure to support decision-making at all levels. Strategy is emergent, while vision and values are stable. Managers are "patching" opportunities that they or employees discover and managing conflict situations that they think need intervention. (see Brown & Eisenhardt - ref.)
Adhocracy (structure) and Org. 
Learning (process) go well together.

Click for table that contrasts BUREAUCRACY & ADHOCRACY on another

The "Silicon Valley Model" (case #4) is based on studies of a dozen super-successful, highly entrepreneurial firms (e.g. Google) which are serial innovators, recently founded, many with roots in Silicon Valley, California. They demonstrate DYNAMIC CAPABILITY (Learning, Agility and Innovation) at the highest level. (see Steiber & Alange - Ref.)

The Silicon Valley Model  by A.Steiber & S. Alange. pub. Springer, 2016.

Mintzberg on Management by Henri Mintzberg, NY: Free Press, 1989. Chapter, 11.
Competing on the Edge by Shona L. Brown & Kathleen M. Eisenhardt,  Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press,1998.

The Silicon Valley model includes Adhocracy but we cannot tell if these organizations pay any attention to cultivating the disciplines of the Learning Org.

Speed is heavily emphasized in the SV model.

Can dialog and reflection be nurtured and practiced in such high speed cultures?

If so, how?  If not, how are they replaced?