Management skills for the growing organization by Stephen Walker of Motivation Matters


I started out to write about the management changes needed when growing a business from micro to small. As I thought about the blog I realised there wasn’t one blog but several – one for each stage of development.

It seems there are three different thought styles of discovery: First the slow process of unpicking a problem one thread at a time yielding a solution which leaves you feeling satisfied at your incredible display of skill. I have made such discoveries. Then the Eureka moment when an inspiration lets you see the solution in a flash, leaving you exhilarated and energised. I have had a few of these moments.

Finally there is breakthrough. You’ve been grappling with a problem for a long time and suddenly everything drops into place. Unlike the Eureka moment this breakthrough leaves you feeling stupid. Why couldn’t I see this before? I’ve had my share of these too.

So now I come to write the prequel to the “Growing the business from micro to small” blog I’m pleased that the six years problem solving is finally over. By writing the prequel first nobody need be aware of my struggle.

Evolution and revolution as organizations grow

In 1972 Larry Greiner placed an article with this title in the Harvard Business Review. He wrote about the different management requirements as the organization grew. In fact he went further and said the different skills needed at each stage, carried the seeds of their own destruction.

As the organization succeeded and grew, the skills that made that possible poisoned the body corporate. Greiner illustrated it excellently in a diagram similar to this.

Each phase has its own needs to create growth but that management style eventually strangles growth.

The Spiral

My experience made me aware that the management and leadership approach has to change as an organization grows. This means the same situation needs a different approach in organizations of differing sizes.

I came to think of this as ascending a spiral staircase. Each circuit shows you the same view just more distant.

The Faraway Tree

In a recent mailing I wrote about Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree. You didn’t know she wrote management texts? I don’t know what her experiences were but the model of reality she invented fits very well.

As the children climb the Faraway Tree they enter different worlds with, if you’ll forgive the non-childlike language, different physics and inhabitants.

Finally, I had these three models in my mind to further develop the concept.


Now I have written the prequel, the foundation for the series of blogs, I am comfortable with what I have to do.

I think I know what is needed at Phase Six; you will have to wait till I get to that blog to see if you agree.

An idea strikes me though. We have discussed Crises of Growth, but what about Crises of Contraction?

Do shrinking organizations follow the same downward spiral they ascended? Or do they come down the Tree entering different worlds from the route up?

One thing is certain. The management and leadership style of contracting organizations needs to change to match the new demands; otherwise renewed growth will prove elusive.

© Motivation Matters 2011


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s