May 30, 2006

Organizational growth and learning

Dr. Balaji ruminates

Rarely I have seen organizations being founded or started by people who have passed their prime of youth.
Often, it is young with stars in their eyes start organizations.As they begin to recruit, there is a mix of youth and experience.

Especially in the knowledge industry (KI) the initial years start with a significant bias towards higher age and progressively as they grow (i presume they have the DNA for success and growth), the average (age) of the company starts to shrink.This phenomenon interestingly starts to change after about half a decade to a decade. Initially it is the 30 somethings who are in the leadership seats.The thesis, is the journey of key players in an organization, in their life will cast a shadow on the journey of the organization.

As the organizations become successful, its ability to experiment and invite anyone and everyone who seem to be able to a task shrinks significantly, and starts seeking the behavior of large organizations, which invite people who have worked with large organizations and have someting to bring to the table in terms of managing 'largeness'.

Another phenomenon that takes off is the organic growth of 'senior' people in the organization itself. In the initial few years it is the struggle of an organizatin to invite experienced people from larger and established organizations, the stream of people and the net number of people who remain in the system, inspite of the large attrition that a churn in the industry imposes, increases.And hence the two phenomena influence the organization's policies and trajectory.

Two consequent phenomena kick into reality. One, the 'organic seniors', tend to slow down given their stations in life, and therefore might slow down the organization. And often the principle of 'loyalty' works, and hence block, more often than not, positions, which should have been staffed by competent people, by 'them'. Since 'they' are the senior management, many organizational policies tend to protect 'their' turf.Second, the clamour of the 'organically' grown people, begin to experience their legitimate needs to grow and find appropriate positions.The question for the organization is - are they ready to deal with these two phenomena?

Is this a part of organizational learning? Do organizations prepare for this stage?My experience is that often many organizations go into what i call KJRM - knee-jerk-reaction-management.I need not elucidate about the efficacy of KJRMs. They are KJRMs.A third, associated phenomenon, that happens is the 'burden' of systems. The need to bring in order to an adhoc and anarchic growth, to get to understand the DNA that led to the growth, and the process of emulating larger organizations, which one challenged in the first place any way happen.The question that begs to be answered is - are organizations aware of the change that seem to happen to them? Are they aware of the consequences and implications of such change? Do they develop appropriate mechanisms to engage with them?