Author(s): Greiner LE
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Abstract The influence of history on an organization is a powerful but often overlooked force. Managers, in their haste to build companies, frequently fail to ask such critical developmental questions as, Where has our organization been? Where is it now? and What do the answers to these questions mean for where it is going? Instead, when confronted with problems, managers fix their gaze outward on the environment and toward the future, as if more precise market projections will provide the organization with a new identity. In this HBR Classic, Larry Greiner identifies a series of developmental phases that companies tend to pass through as they grow. He distinguishes the phases by their dominant themes: creativity, direction, delegation, coordination, and collaboration. Each phase begins with a period of evolution, steady growth, and stability, and ends with a revolutionary period of organizational turmoil and change. The critical task for management in each revolutionary period is to find a new set of organizational practices that will become the basis for managing the next period of evolutionary growth. Those new practices eventually outlast their usefulness and lead to another period of revolution. Managers therefore experience the irony of seeing a major solution in one period become a major problem in a later period. Originally published in 1972, the article's argument and insights remain relevant to managers today. Accompanying the original article is a commentary by the author updating his earlier observations.
This article was published in Harv Bus Rev
and referenced in Journal of Entrepreneurship & Organization Management