I grew up in the tropics where we had two seasons: Rainy and Dry.

Now I live in Washington, DC, which purportedly experiences four seasons, not two.

Yeah, right.

The reality? Half the year it’s too hot and the other half it’s too cold, with precious buffer between the two. Okay, to be fair, I’ll concede we do enjoy about three weeks of Autumn (breathtaking) and nine days of Spring. If we’re lucky.

Though I haven’t experienced the Spring and Fall of DC tourist lore,  I still love our summer; hot, long and humid though it is. Who doesn’t love summer? Summer is golden. Seemingly endless.  Full of promise.

When I think about the seasons, I can’t help but think about the organizational life cycle, which mimics the seasons of our own lives.

Spring: Expectancy, exuberant  ideas, exploration, entrepreneurial spirit, creativity.

Summer: Phenomenal growth; energy, excitement and passion as ideas take root and bear fruit.

Fall: Maturity. Autumn color. Bureaucracy.  Noticeable decline; the need to take stock and change course or suffer irreparable  loss.

Winter: Spiraling down to an inevitable end, unless the organization aggressively reinvents itself.

For me, the organizational life cycle hits home in a personal way because I often interact with colleagues from competing organizations that are obviously aging. I observe employees at these mature [Fall/Winter] companies struggling on a daily basis for their very survival. I watch them fighting by relentlessly pruning, cutting back, saving costs, contracting, playing it safe, minimizing risk.

I watch their sailors on the bridge desperately cranking the ship’s wheel, fighting for every degree of change–and often losing–seemingly oblivious to the water pouring in over the sides, threatening to swamp them at any moment.

And I  wonder: in response to threat, is contraction a sufficient response to prevent imminent demise?

Are ‘cutting back’ and  ‘playing it safe’ valid strategies to ensure not just survival but robust recovery?

Or should we throw out all that antiquated caution and act more like we did in our organization’s youth, when we impetuously threw all caution to the wind and cast ourselves into the innocent passion of  Spring and Summer?

photo by Krista Francis




If you liked that post, then try these…

Why it Pays to be Civil at Work by Krista Ogburn Francis on November 22nd, 2010

Five Craziest Things in my Desk by Krista Ogburn Francis on November 5th, 2010

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