Organizations are like children?

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I want to share a few management articles (below) with you today. Most of you probably know that I have grandchildren, and they are, of course, all way above average—but one of them commenced to walk when he was seven months old, and he started to run soon thereafter.

Need I say his discernment was not as fully developed as his physical being? The emergency room personnel knew him by name. We worried like crazy but after looking it up found that evidently there are these small percentages of children, etc., etc., and that it’s best not to worry. If he tends to throw himself off (I kid you not) the top of very high climbing structures, just try to adjust so that he won’t do permanent damage.

He is now seven years old, and lately he has been afraid to walk into rooms by himself and flies off the handle at any whisper of a slight to his dignity. My daughter and I were beginning to worry; but then, when she was at the library, she happened to see a book on seven year olds—and there he was, fully described.

Once again, there was no need to worry. My daughter read him some parts of the book, and he was delighted to discover that his mom knew he was just fine.

My point is, many organizations, like children, go through very ordinary stages that tend to alarm us—we personalize them and believe that what we are looking at is some form of perversity that must be stopped.

But, no. The trick is to get a sense of what the organization is responding to (and sometimes over or under responding to) and work with rather than against those forces to keep the organization advancing in a fully informed way.

That is why, in the same way that it is useful to read literature on child development, it is also beneficial to read articles about how organizations grow and develop—though the literature is in some transition, because the structures and forms of organizations are changing in response to the shift from the industrial to the digital age.

In any case, I want to share our lead article with you today because it has to do with the topic of distributed leadership, which is at the very heart of these new organizational designs.

And here is a classic by Paul Light from our archives, about organizational life cycles.