Organizational Life Cycle
Organizational life can be as unpredictable as the weather, but it is somewhat predictable in stages of development. Like the human life cycle from birth to aging and death, some organizations have a comparable life cycle. Unlike the human life cycle, which moves for everyone through physical stages, the organization cycle is not inevitable. We use this metaphor to help leaders understand what can happen, usually as a result of inappropriate leadership. To grasp the nature of an organizational cycle, imagine climbing a mountain. As you start at the bottom of the mountain, you begin to climb through the "Infant Stage" then you proceed to the "Growth Stage" and then to the "Prime Stage." As you descend on the other side, you find the "Aging Stage" and then "Dying." Leaders who understand this potential sequence of change are in a good position to help the organization avoid deterioration. Describing typical stages and understanding how they develop helps leaders increase in confidence and effectiveness. The Infant Stage.
This stage begins with a dream, vision and opportunity. Almost every church starts with a person, or group of persons, who has a vision. In their mind and spirit they see the potential, visualize plans, and the church is birthed. The infant church is characterized by strong commitment and purpose. Although they may feel uncertain about the future, the attitudes of those involved are positive and supportive. The young church requires much nurture and attention. Members are interdependent, totally involved and willing to work together. Those who don't share the dream and aren't willing to get involved will leave. The infant organization is action-oriented, opportunity-driven, and vision-focused. During the infant stage action is more important than opinions. Promotion and recognition comes to persons who produce. The higher the risk involved in starting the church the greater the commitment required. Conflicts may arise over the need for more administration and better management. Leadership and members alike in the infant organization tend to have excessive commitments and overbooked schedules. As the organization strives to grow, its leaders tend to be extremely attentive and responsive to people's needs and complaints. Leaders and members are personable and caring. Organizational structure at this stage is minimal and informal. Programs and ministries are basic and spontaneous. There are few policies, systems, or procedures, and limited budgets. Management by crisis can become the primary method of operation and this hinders growth. The organization may be highly centralized. There may be no system for recruiting, developing or evaluating volunteers. There are few official titles, no organizational chart, or hierarchy. Changes are easy and quick to make. There is little resistance to suggestions from a founding leader. Decisions are usually unanimous because each member feels a high degree of ownership in the group. There is a strong focus on experimentation with ministries and ideas. The church isn't large enough to do many ministries so it tends to have a short-term, one ministry orientation. This can lead to an event or activity centered ministry which will hinder development of leadership and people-building processes. Morale in the group is high while identity and self-esteem are being developed. The excitement however, is tested by the realities of getting an organization going. The church is vulnerable because a little problem can quickly become a major crisis. The infant stage requires a strong visionary leader who can maintain a high degree of commitment. The leader must maintain control and have significant input into the infant organization. It is normal at this stage that the leader be more hands-on and in control with little or no delegation, but if the work is to survive he must be willing to listen and include people. It is essential that the leader's family be...
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