An excellent example of such a company is Wal*Mart. Despite its age (65 years old) and size ($408 billion in revenue and 2.1 million employees), it continues to grow year after year. The way management has guided this company through its early development stages without turning it into a bureaucratic dying enterprise is a brilliant study in corporate leadership.
One of the reasons why Wal*Mart has succeeded is because everyone in leadership positions has understood their role through the various lifecycles. Here are some points to consider:
- Determine your company’s stage of development--there are some very good books on the subject, including one by my good friend, Dr. Ichak Adizes, entitled Corporate Lifecycles. Learn to pinpoint where your company is on the bell shaped curve.
- Adapt your management style—to meet the needs for the stage of development your company is in. For example, in the growing years, success stems from taking risks (embrace it), emphasis is on function not form (be patient), cash is poor (don’t panic).
- Breathe life into the lifecycle—which means having the confidence in yourself to step aside, if the company’s lifecycle does not match your skill sets. An example would be an entrepreneurial company which has matured to become a publicly traded company, and thus require the skill sets of a “professional leader” vs. a “founder”.
Here is the good news. Unlike humans, if your organization has gone past its Prime, through proper leadership and careful nurturing it can reverse course.