U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

The .gov means it’s official. Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.

The site is secure. The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

  • Publications
  • Account settings

Preview improvements coming to the PMC website in October 2024. Learn More or Try it out now .

  • Advanced Search
  • Journal List
  • Springer Nature - PMC COVID-19 Collection

Logo of phenaturepg

Organizational life cycle models: a design perspective

Luigi mosca.

1 Centre for Systems Engineering and Innovation, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London, SW7 2BB, London, UK

Martina Gianecchini

2 Department of Economics and Management “Marco Fanno”, University of Padova, Via del Santo 33, 35123 Padua, Italy

Diego Campagnolo

3 Department of Economics and Management “Marco Fanno”, University of Padova and ICRIOS Bocconi University, Via del Santo 33, 35123 Padua, Italy

New competitive and environmental challenges have fostered renewed attention towards organizational design. This scenario calls for a significant return to organizational design studies that embrace a holistic approach, especially those focusing on the simultaneous interaction of multiple design elements. Organizational life cycle (OLC) models provide a fitting response to this call. In this paper, we review the organizational design characteristics of five seminal OLC models. We show that according to these OLC models, growth in size—which is described as unavoidable—generates business issues that firms are forced to solve by adopting only one possible organizational configuration, here following a deterministic organizational approach. We challenge this approach and propose conceiving of OLC as an evolutionary process, which calls for a variety of equifinal organizational solutions. We conclude by proposing future research avenues.


Early management scholars have recognized the importance of organizational design (e.g., March and Simon 1958 ; Burns and Stalker 1961 ; Lawrence and Lorsch 1967 ; Thompson 1967 ). Nevertheless, over the past several decades, the same literature has demonstrated a reduced interest in new research related to organization design. According to Greenwood and Miller ( 2010 ), this reduced interest is because of a shift in the level of analysis from the organization to the field, population and community; to the complex nature of today’s organizations demanding detailed, qualitative and time-consuming studies that do not align with actual publication pressures; and to an increasing interest in understanding the single dimensions of the organization (e.g., coordination mechanisms) rather than their interactions in the whole organizational configuration (Miller et al. 2009 ).

At the same time, new challenges have fostered renewed attention to organization design, such as globalization, outsourcing and capability development (Miller et al. 2009 ; Gulati et al. 2012 ; Van de Ven et al. 2013 ); indeed, Burton et al. ( 2020 , p. 1) argue that ‘the field of organization design is undergoing a renaissance’. In this modern context, firms require fitting organizational designs (Galbraith 1999 ; Miller 2003 ) to renew their existing capabilities (Teece et al. 1997 ; Zollo and Winter 2002 ).

This scenario calls for a significant return to organization design studies that embrace a holistic approach (Meyer et al. 1993 ; Snow et al. 2005 ), focusing on the simultaneous interactions of multiple organizational design elements. Organizational life cycle (OLC) models provide a fitting response to this call.

OLC models consider a firm’s life to be a sequence of different developmental stages. Developed between the 1960s and 1990s, the most relevant OLC models shared the organism life cycle analogy proposed by Gardner ( 1965 ). Indeed, like people and plants, organizations ‘have a green and supple youth, a time of flourishing strength, and a gnarled old age’ (Gardner 1965 , p. 20). A central tenet of life cycle theory is that organizations move through a series of phases. Hanks et al. ( 1993 , p. 7) defined a life cycle phase as ‘a unique configuration of variables related to organization context or structure’. Therefore, the OLC includes a sequence of events that describe how things change over time (Van De Ven 1992 ), a hierarchical progression that is not easily reversed and a composite of a broad range of organizational activities and structures (Quinn and Cameron 1983 ). In short, OLC models simplify a myriad of facts associated with transformational change, reducing the complexity to a uniform, appealing, predictable and deterministic pattern (Stubbart and Smalley 1999 ).

Researchers have tested the empirical validity of these models (e.g., Dodge and Robbins 1992 ; Lester et al. 2003 ; Primc et al. 2020 ), and they have also applied these models as guiding frameworks for studying the development of specific managerial practices (e.g., human resources management, corporate governance), reaching only partially conclusive findings (see, e.g., Jawahar and McLaughlin 2001 ; Kallunki and Silvola 2008 ; Wang and Singh 2014 ). Despite these contributions, an organizational design inquiry into such models is still missing.

Therefore, building on the five primary elements of good theory (i.e., why, when, who, what and how) suggested by Whetten ( 1989 ), we (1) review five seminal OLC models—Lippitt and Schmidt ( 1967 ), Greiner ( 1972 ), Adizes ( 1979 ), Galbraith ( 1982 ) and Churchill and Lewis ( 1983 )—proposing an in-depth analysis of their organizational design characteristics, and we (2) discuss the relevance of the OLC perspective for describing the evolution of the firms in the actual business environment. By reviewing the seminal OLC models through Whetten’s five primary elements of good theory, we not only extend Levie and Lichtenstein’s ( 2010 ) analysis, which was limited to three theoretical elements (what, how and why), but we also add to previous reviews on OLC models (e.g., Phelps et al. 2007 ; Muhos et al. 2010 ; Muhos 2015 ; Tam and Gray 2016 ; Jirásek and Bílek 2018 ), which have neglected to analyze the organizational design characteristics inherently associated with each stage of the models (namely vertical and horizontal differentiation, coordination mechanisms, centralization and decentralization, standardization and mutual adjustment).

Overall, our analysis demonstrates that the OLC models propose a deterministic trajectory of organizational development showing limited explanatory power when confronted with the challenges of the actual business environment. Therefore, we propose of conceiving of the OLC as a process in which the ‘engine’ is the changes associated with the variety and uncertainty of the environment: addressing those changes, companies evolve independently from their size following unpredictable paths with a variety of equifinal organizational configurations.

The remainder of the current paper is organized as follows: the next two sections describe the research methodology and illustrate the selected OLC models. Then, we present an analysis of the organizational design characteristics of the models through the five primary elements of good theory. Finally, we discuss the limitations and ongoing relevance of the OLC perspective in the actual business environment.

Research methodology

Our literature review focuses on the OLC models published in management journals and considers three steps. First, to provide a revised and up-to-date overview of the OLC models, we searched the ‘ISI Web of Knowledge’ database (time span: 2000–2020 and Social Sciences Citation Index) using the following keywords: ‘review life cycle of organization’ and ‘review organizational stages and growth’. This search produced six review articles: Phelps et al. ( 2007 ), Levie and Lichtenstein ( 2010 ), Muhos et al. ( 2010 ), Muhos ( 2015 ), Tam and Gray ( 2016 ) and Jirásek and Bílek ( 2018 ).

Second, using the snowball approach, we analyzed the OLC models presented in the six reviews. Then, we selected the OLC models meeting the following three criteria: (1) the model should be novel and not based on previous models; (2) the model should present and discuss how organizational design characteristics change in firms’ life cycles and (3) the model should be an original intellectual source and not only an empirical test. As a result, we excluded the papers that adopted OLC models to study managerial problems not related to organizational design, including, for instance, Koberg and colleagues ( 1996 ) and Kallunki and Silvola ( 2008 ), both of which use Greiner’s model to study, respectively, the organizational innovation and the use of activity-based costing in firms’ life cycles. Through this analysis, we selected five models: Lippitt and Schmidt ( 1967 ), Greiner ( 1972 ), Adizes ( 1979 ), Galbraith ( 1982 ) and Churchill and Lewis ( 1983 ).

Third, both of the literature reviews used during the first step of analysis considered articles and contributions published between 1960 and 2006. Therefore, we ran a search in the ‘ISI Web of Knowledge’ database, selecting the time span of 2006–2020. To search for other OLC models, we chose the same keywords adopted by previous reviews: life cycle growth, stages theory of growth, stages of organizational growth and organizational life cycle model. We then applied the three criteria for selecting new models but without success; we did not discover any other model. Therefore, we continued our analysis based on the five previously mentioned models.

Organizational life cycle: a description of the most relevant theoretical models

To provide an overview of the five models, we briefly describe each one. Then, through the information-gathering questions, we focus on their organizational design characteristics.

Lippitt and Schmidt ( 1967 ) model

Focusing on the private sector, Lippitt and Schmidt ( 1967 ) developed one of the earliest OLC models. They suggest that firms progress through three stages of development, facing six major ‘managerial concerns’ to progress from one stage to the next. At birth, critical concerns include the creation of the system and achieving a survival threshold. During youth, the main concerns are stability and reputation. During maturity , achieving uniqueness and responding to diverse societal needs become major concerns. Management must solve the crises in a way that creates a sound base for dealing with future crises. When an issue is solved, firms progress to the following stage. Failures occur when managers fail to recognize the significant crises arising in the organizational life cycle. According to the authors, most companies retain, often by preference, simple organizational structures, uncomplicated product programs and ordinary ambitions.

Greiner ( 1972 ) model

Greiner ( 1972 ) assumes that a firm’s life unfolds through a sequence of five stages of evolution and revolution . A stage of evolution is a period of growth where no major upheaval occurs in organizational practices. In contrast, a revolution is a period of substantial turmoil in an organization’s life. The resolution of each revolutionary period provides the go-ahead to move onto the next stage. Greiner ( 1972 ) describes the growth stages based on five parameters: management focus, organizational structure, top management style, control system and management reward emphasis. The growth stages include the following: (1) creativity-led growth is broken off by a crisis of leadership; (2) direction-led growth is broken off by a crisis of autonomy; (3) delegation-led growth is broken off by a crisis of control; (4) coordination-led growth is broken off by a crisis of bureaucracy or a red-tape crisis; and (5) collaboration-led growth is broken off by a crisis of lack of internal solutions for growth. Evolutionary periods range from 4 to 8 years depending on the industry: in fast-growing industries, the periods may be shorter, while in mature industries, the periods may be longer.

Adizes ( 1979 ) model

Adizes’ ( 1979 ) model suggests that firms move through stages because of changes in emphases on four activities: producing results (P), acting entrepreneurially (E), administering formal rules and procedures (A) and integrating individuals into the organization (I). As the organization passes from one phase to the next, it emphasizes different roles, and the resulting role combinations produce varying organizational behavior. Organizational decline occurs primarily because of an overemphasis on bureaucracy, rules and procedures. The model suggests that organizations develop through 10 stages: courtship, infant, go-go, adolescent, prime, mature, aristocratic, early bureaucracy, bureaucracy and death. Progression across stages occurs mainly by overcoming the growth problems of successive stages. Organizations begin with an emphasis on entrepreneurial activity that later becomes coupled with an emphasis on producing results.

Galbraith ( 1982 ) model

The model developed by Galbraith ( 1982 ) intends to capture the predictable dynamics of a new organization’s stage-wise development; the basic idea is that firms move through predictable stages, but according to the author, managers do not think in a stage-wise manner, despite the predictability of these stages. His model focuses on start-up ventures. These companies develop a business idea that consists of a market to be served, products to be sold, the basis for dominating the niche and the resources and resource combinations needed to achieve dominance. Galbraith’s ( 1982 ) model involves five stages: proof-of-principle prototype, model shop, start-up volume production, natural growth and strategic maneuvering. To pass from one stage to another, the firms have to increase in size. Moreover, growth is guided by the product market and related to the product life cycle.

Churchill and Lewis ( 1983 ) model

Churchill and Lewis ( 1983 ) used a combination of empirical research and a review of previous theoretical works to develop a new OLC model. Their theoretical development derives from the identification of three weaknesses in previous models. First, previous models assume that a company must grow and pass through all the stages of development or die during their attempt to do so. Second, a company is unable to capture the important early stages in a company’s origin and growth. Third, they define company size mainly in terms of annual sales (although some mention the number of employees) while ignoring other factors, such as value added, number of locations, complexity of product line and rate of change in products or production technology. As a consequence, the model proposes five stages: conception/existence, survival, profitability and stabilization/growth, take-off and maturity. Each stage is characterized by an index of size, diversity and complexity, as described by five management factors: managerial style, organizational structure, extent of formal systems, major strategic goals and the owner’s involvement in the business. The model focuses on small enterprises. To grow and increase in size and profitability, firms must adapt to the environment.

An analysis of the main features of the OLC models

To analyze and compare the main features of the selected OLC models, we discuss all five elements (i.e., why, when, who, what and how) proposed by Whetten ( 1989 ) as the primary elements of good theory. The ‘what’ question provides the factors that must be considered in explaining the phenomena under study. The ‘how’ of a theory demonstrates the relationships between the identified factors. The ‘why’ element explains the selection of factors and the proposed causal relationships. The ‘who and when’ questions validate theory with empirical data while setting limits on its uses and applications.

Adapting these insights to our analysis, we develop the following five questions:

  • Why: why do firms move from one stage of development to the next (i.e., analysis of the internal and external pressures to change)?
  • When: what is the duration of each stage, and what are the variables used in defining the organizational evolution within each stage?
  • Who: who are the actors managing the organizational development?
  • What: what are the organizational design features that characterize the firm during each stage?
  • How: how do firms move from one stage to the next?

Because the present article focuses on the organizational design aspects characterizing the different stages of development, we thoroughly discuss the relevant ‘what’ questions in a specific section of the article. In the following paragraphs, we analyze the other four elements (Table ​ (Table1 1 ).

Description of the five OLC models

Why: the pressures to change

Internal and/or external factors explain why companies change their organizational structure and move from one stage to the following one. Internal factors include strategic and managerial decisions, while external factors include market and competitive pressures.

Lippitt and Schmidt ( 1967 ) and Churchill and Lewis ( 1983 ) consider both the external and internal pressures in motivating organizational evolution. These factors affect different phases of the organizational life cycle: initially, firms confront external pressures to affirm themselves and survive in the competitive market. Then, they face internal issues related to the organizational structure and management of human resources. According to Greiner ( 1972 ), the transitions across stages are mainly determined by internal factors: the ‘revolution’ moments are indeed determined by changes in firm strategy, managerial objectives and/or issues in organizational structure.

A different perspective has been adopted by Adizes ( 1979 ) and Galbraith ( 1982 ), both of whom consider only external pressures. According to Adizes, firms have to adapt to their external environment to grow: for instance, during the first stages of the OLC, organizations can survive in the market by increasing their sales and, therefore, responding to customers’ needs. Similarly, Galbraith focuses on market share as a means of sustaining firm growth and profitability.

When: the length of the stages

The second question concerns the ‘unit of measure’ adopted by the OLC models to describe the length of each stage. The models do not explicitly indicate a time length for the stages, and in some cases, they associate the duration of the stage with the size of the firm.

Though they do not indicate a number of years for each stage, Lippitt and Schmidt ( 1967 ), Greiner ( 1972 ) and Adizes ( 1979 ) refer to the relevance of the time in their models. According to Lippitt and Schmidt, time is relevant because organizational issues may become significant crises if they are not resolved within a reasonable time frame. According to Greiner’s model, as time flows, new and different organizational problems emerge: the combination of age and size exacerbates the problem, activating a revolution period. Adizes suggests that during each life cycle stage, a typical pattern of entrepreneurial and management behavior emerges; therefore, time is relevant in predicting companies’ activities.

Whereas previous models consider the flow of time as the most relevant factor in explaining the OLC model structure, Galbraith ( 1982 ) and Churchill and Lewis ( 1983 ) focus on the organization’s size. As a consequence, size, not age, indicates the company’s life cycle stage. In particular, Galbraith claims that firm growth is driven by the growth of the market, and then, each phase depends on external resources. When managers find the right way to govern and exploit external resources, the firm moves to the next stage. Churchill and Lewis ( 1983 ) relate firm growth to profitability: when the latter is satisfactory, the firm moves from one stage to the next.

Who: the actors leading the organizational development

Concerning the actors who lead the organization’s development along its life cycle, all five models generically indicate that management is primarily responsible, namely the executives and/or founders. In particular, managerial responsibilities include recognizing the organizational issues when they emerge, solving problems and determining the appropriate configuration of organizational design elements to move from one stage to the next.

The five models fail to explain how a management team either supports or substitutes for the firm’s founder, but they predict when this process occurs. For example, Lippitt and Schmidt ( 1967 ) assert that firms have entrepreneurs and a management team in the first stage. Together, they make key decisions for their organizations, such as how much risk to take. Greiner ( 1972 ) predicts that a business manager will be hired in the second stage; thus, in the first stage, only the founder(s) manages the firms. Adizes ( 1979 ), Galbraith ( 1982 ) and Churchill and Lewis ( 1983 ) claim that a management team appears in the third stage to support the founder in managing new departments and information and control systems. In essence, the five models do not focus on how a management team flanks the firm’s founder; however, they predict that the latter is not able to manage the growth of the firm alone.

How: the process of development

The process that sustains the development of the organization along its life cycle varies significantly in the five models. The OLC models by Lippitt and Schmidt ( 1967 ) and Adizes ( 1979 ) identify the predictability of ‘crises’ as the key elements activating the process of organizational development. According to Lippitt and Schmidt, managers have to constantly monitor the market to identify ‘potential problems’ (such as market uncertainties and creditor demands). Adizes asserts that long-range planning is necessary to anticipate and manage future endeavors, markets and technologies. Therefore, firms can move to the next stage only if managers make decisions at the right time and with the right intensity.

The ‘revolution periods’ described by Greiner ( 1972 ) are phases of considerable organizational turmoil (e.g., demand from middle managers for greater autonomy and the need for new, motivated employees). In this model, the nature of the solutions implemented by managers determines whether firms will move forward to the next stage.

The OLC models proposed by Galbraith ( 1982 ) and Churchill and Lewis ( 1983 ) consider organizational growth (in size) as the driving mechanism for development. The former claims that managers should define the right combination of all resources (such as people, rewards and structure) to manage growth in each stage. The latter affirms that firms acquire resources to move to the following stage when they increase their market penetration, economic success and profitability.

The ‘what’ of the OLC models: organizational design characteristics

The what question concerns firms’ organizational design characteristics in different stages of their life cycles. All the models agree in suggesting that in the early stage of development, companies lack organizational structure. When the firm is created, owners manage the business, and they are simultaneously entrepreneurs and managers (Adizes 1979 ). The business owner (Greiner 1972 ; Churchill and Lewis 1983 ) deals with issues in business ideas and product development (Lippitt and Schmidt 1967 ; Galbraith 1982 ). Delegation is low, and the company is not structured. As a result, organizational issues will emerge as the company, after surviving the start-up phase, tries to move to a further stage of development.

Table ​ Table2 2 summarizes the results of our analysis concerning some relevant organizational design parameters in each phase of a firm life cycle: vertical differentiation, horizontal differentiation, coordination mechanisms, centralization and decentralization and standardization and mutual adjustment.

Organizational characteristics of the OLC models

Vertical differentiation

Vertical differentiation involves the installation of a chain of command among employees and managers. Thus, it relates to the number of supervision levels (Hall et al. 1967 ; Meyer 1968 ). Vertical differentiation is analyzed at different levels of detail, meaning that some models explicitly address this issue while others ‘implicitly’ refer to an increased number of hierarchical levels as companies evolve. Concerning the latter perspective, Lippitt and Schmidt ( 1967 ) predict that during the shift from the first to second stage, the organization becomes taller. By contrast, the last stage requires a flat organizational structure. However, the authors do not provide a detailed description of how these changes occur. Similarly, Adizes ( 1979 ) discusses relevant issues regarding the development of hierarchy (i.e., decentralization of power), but he does not define how the organizational structure develops over time.

On the contrary, the other three models clearly describe changes in the vertical structure. In particular, Galbraith ( 1982 ) argues that vertical differentiation is initially related to issues of coordination and the supervision of new employees hired in the second and third stages: the owner should add levels between him- or herself and new entrants to manage the increased span of control. Then, in the last two stages, the owner hands over decision-making power to product managers who can deal with the matter of diversity (new products and functions). Similarly, Churchill and Lewis ( 1983 ) claim that the development of the hierarchical structure relates to the necessity for more supervisors as the firm size increases: when an organization becomes larger, an effective delegation process and greater number of managers allow the company to preserve its ability to make innovative decisions. In contrast, Greiner ( 1972 ) declares that the number of supervisors increases up to the fourth stage but decreases in the fifth stage.

Ultimately, the three models that describe the development of vertical differentiation assert that the organizational hierarchy becomes taller over firms’ life cycles. Only Greiner ( 1972 ) predicts an initial rise in organizational hierarchy followed by a decrease in the last stage.

Horizontal differentiation

Horizontal differentiation is explored in detail by all five analyzed models. In general terms, the models agree on depicting a trajectory of organizational development that is initially based on a functional criterion of horizontal differentiation followed by a divisional one. In particular, activities are grouped together by common functions from the bottom to the top of the organization in terms of functional structure. Each functional activity, such as accounting, engineering, human resources and manufacturing, is grouped into a specific department (Taylor 1947 ). The divisional structure instead occurs when departments are grouped together based on organizational outputs. The divisional structure is sometimes organized by product line(s) or profit centers (Anand and Daft 2007 ).

According to this trajectory of development, Lippitt and Schmidt ( 1967 ) explain that firms first adopt a functional structure, with a key function represented by the research and development department. Then, when firms enter the maturity phase, a divisional structure—specialization in products or services—is adopted. Similarly, Adizes ( 1979 ) claims that developing firms need a directive board to plan the organization structure in advance. First, a functional structure is adopted; then, to serve new products and markets, the organization moves towards a divisional structure in its markets, products or profit centers. Such an organizational form stimulates and develops the entrepreneurial personality of the managers. If the divisional structure is not well adopted, the company fails.

The other three OLC models support steps of organizational development other than what is found in the divisional structure. Combining the two horizontal differentiation criteria, these three OLC models suggest that companies first adopt a line-and-staff and then a matrix structure. The line-and-staff organization combines the line units, namely all the activities directly related to organizational goals (either functions or divisions), with staff departments that support and advise the line departments (Fayol 1949 ). The matrix combines a vertical structure with an equally strong horizontal overlay. Although the vertical structure provides traditional control within functional departments, the horizontal overlay provides coordination across departments to achieve profit goals. This structure has lines of formal authority along two dimensions, such as functional and product or product and region (Mee 1964 ; Galbraith 1971 ).

Greiner ( 1972 ) asserts that as firms grow, a functional structure is introduced to separate manufacturing from marketing activities. Then, as firms become larger, the increased delegation goes hand in hand with adopting either a divisional or line-and-staff structure. The divisional structure focuses on market territories, while the line-and-staff structure combines product units with staff departments. Finally, in the last stage, Greiner ( 1972 ) suggests implementing a matrix structure to assemble teams for addressing specific problems and solve possible conflicts between the line-and-staff.

Similarly, Galbraith ( 1982 ) affirms that developing firms should use a functional structure to coordinate new specialized product workers when they are hired. Then, more organizational units (functions) are added to manage the increased production volume. If firms assume a product differentiation strategy, they satisfy the need to combine functional teams and product managers by ‘integrating departments’. In the last stage, firms can adopt either a divisional structure (creating profit centers around regions, products or markets) or a matrix structure to solve the issues related to diversification and vertical integration.

Finally, Churchill and Lewis ( 1983 ) suggest that firms require a functional structure to manage their financial, marketing and production activities. Then, firms should be organized in either sales or production groups (divisional structure) to face issues related to the maintenance of managerial effectiveness in a rapidly growing organization. When firms become larger, they require a line-and-staff structure to remain flexible and improve the managers’ entrepreneurial spirit.

To sum up, the authors claim that when firms grow and employee numbers increase, the owners cannot manage everything alone; they need to set up a differentiated organizational structure. The first suggested arrangement is a functional structure. Then, they propose a similar organizational development through divisional, line-and-staff and matrix structures.

Coordination mechanisms

March and Simon ( 1958 ) claim that coordination mechanics relate to a division of work that causes interdependence among organizational units. According to the OLC models, the need for coordination mechanisms emerges together with changes in the horizontal differentiation criteria. To manage such issues, the authors suggest different mechanisms.

Lippitt and Schmidt ( 1967 ) propose managing increasing complexity because of the addition of new departments with systematic plans and long-range planning. Furthermore, the authors promote the adoption of upward communication systems that can share information between departments.

Greiner ( 1972 ) and Churchill and Lewis propose different mechanisms to address specific issues: budgets should support coordination when functions are created; profit responsibility is introduced to coordinate and stimulate employees who belong to different divisions; teams and task groups must satisfy the need for cross-functional integration; and strategic planning and standard cost systems should reduce inefficiencies generated by the increasing size.

Galbraith ( 1982 ) asserts that having a hierarchy can improve coordination and control when new departments are added. He claims that general management (e.g., multifunctional managers) can solve conflicts among functional units. When firms increase their number of products, cross-functional teams are required. Finally, if firms pursue growth through diversification by regions, products or markets, managers should combine the use of profit centers and corporate culture to coordinate employees.

Adizes ( 1979 ) divides the life cycle of firms into two main periods: before and after maturity (the sixth stage). According to the author, up to maturity, employees are guided by an internal agent (expert individuals working for the organization) and are oriented by the organizational culture. After the maturity stage, firms need an external agent of change (outside consultants who are temporarily employed by the organization) to lead and coordinate workers.

In summary, the authors affirm that firms should set up both the organizational structure and coordination mechanisms at the same time. The analysis shows that there is a lack of agreement regarding which coordination mechanism best fits each type of organizational structure.

Centralization and decentralization

Centralization and decentralization define the distribution of power and level of participation in strategic decisions within an organization (Hage 1980 ). For various reasons, issues of centralization and decentralization emerge during the life cycle of firms.

Whereas Adizes ( 1979 ), Churchill and Lewis ( 1983 ) and Lippitt and Schmidt ( 1967 ) explain that decentralization is adopted to motivate employees to follow their own initiatives and attract creative workers when the size of a firm increases, Galbraith ( 1982 ) suggests increasing decentralization to support product diversification, hence assigning managers the responsibility of new products.

Different from the other models, Greiner’s model ( 1972 ) claims that growing firms should decentralize to satisfy the demand for greater autonomy from middle managers; however, when firms reach their largest size, namely in the last two stages, centralization becomes necessary again to regain control and achieve greater coordination over firms.

In brief, the authors affirm that the process of decentralization is directly linked to the growth of the firms: bigger firms need more delegation. According to the authors, decentralization allows firms to achieve diverse benefits, such as increased worker motivation and greater work flexibility. Only Greiner ( 1972 ) holds an opposing view: he claims that centralized management is the best choice to resolve issues that appear with large firms.

Standardization and mutual adjustment

All the authors consider the degree of formalization of the operational processes and separate between standardization and mutual adjustment, which are at the opposite extremes of a continuum. Standardization is a way of using rules and norms to standardize workers’ behavior, while mutual adjustment is the process through which employees use their judgement rather than standardized rules to address problems, guide decision-making and promote coordination. Lippitt and Schmidt ( 1967 ) suggest implementing and then updating administrative policies in the second stage. Adizes ( 1979 ) claims that in the maturity (sixth) stage, a well-managed bureaucracy is essential for firm survival. Galbraith ( 1982 ) and Churchill and Lewis ( 1983 ) recommend adopting formal rules in the third stage to have a better control system and improve efficiency in strategic planning.

In contrast, Greiner ( 1972 ) maintains that when firms reach the fifth stage, they emphasize greater spontaneity in their management action. Therefore, as in the first stage, employees’ social control and self-discipline take over for the formal control that was used up to the previous stage.

Overall, the five models predict that small firms do not need to standardize job activities in the early stages of their life cycle. When the number of workers, departments and functions increases, firms should standardize procedures and routines. Greiner ( 1972 ) does not completely agree with this point; indeed, he maintains that the last stage of firms is based on manager flexibility and spontaneity.

OLC models: empirical validation

In this section, we explore whether and how the selected five OLC models have been empirically validated. To do so, we searched the ‘ISI Web of Knowledge’ database and manually reviewed all the empirical studies that cited such models.

Overall, it emerges that organizational scholars have mostly utilized the OLC models to leverage their theoretical assumptions (e.g., firms grow over time) in a variety of domains (family businesses, circular economy) and industries (e.g., service, engineering, building, healthcare, media, chemicals, finance) or to explore specific managerial practices (e.g., human resources management, corporate governance) (Dodge and Robbins 1992 ; Jawahar and McLaughlin 2001 ; Lester et al. 2003 ; Kallunki and Silvola 2008 ; Brettel et al. 2010 ; Wang and Singh 2014 ; Primc et al. 2020 ).

More limited are the studies have tested their predictions about a firm’s stages of development (Phelps et al. 2007 ; Levie and Lichtenstein 2010 ; Muhos 2015 ). In particular, we found three studies (i.e., Tushman et al. 1986 ; Eggers et al. 1994 ; Sukova 2020 ) aimed to conduct an empirical validation of only two of the OLC models analyzed in the present study, namely Churchill and Lewis ( 1983 ) and Greiner ( 1972 ).

The study by Eggers et al. ( 1994 ) tests Churchill and Lewis’ ( 1983 ) model through the exploration of the development of a sample of small firms that were randomly selected for geographical location and industry. The authors find substantial support for the model. However, even if most of the firms follow predictable stages of development and adopt similar organizational forms in different stages of their life cycle, considerable variability still remains.

More recently, Sukova ( 2020 ) conducts an empirical validation of Greiner’s ( 1972 ) model by studying six large automotive firms based in the Czech Republic. The author finds empirical validation for Greiner’s ( 1972 ) model by showing that large firms increase vertical differentiation and centralization in the third and fourth stages of firms’ lives. Previously, Greiner’s ( 1972 ) model inspired the study by Tushman et al. ( 1986 ) on a large sample of firms of different sizes (both small and large firms), operating in different industries and located in different countries. The authors, however, do not find empirical evidence for this model, showing that there are no general patterns in the sequence of frame-breaking changes and growth stages.

The limited empirical support for the predictions of the OLC models casts doubts about their suitability in describing companies’ development. As a consequence, in the following section, we discuss their relevance to the actual business environment.

OLC models: present and future

The results of the literature review demonstrate that OLC models advance how growth in size—which is considered unavoidable—is linear and sequential and generates business issues that the firm is forced to solve by adopting a predetermined sequence of organizational configuration (Quinn and Cameron 1983 ; Stubbart and Smalley 1999 ; Rutherford et al. 2003 ). In particular, as companies become larger and older, they move from a simple/entrepreneurial structure to a functional and then a divisional structure. The reference to such organizational models is (most likely) intentionally loose and vague: for instance, Churchill and Lewis ( 1983 ) refer to a ‘line and staff’ organization as the last stage of organizational development. Providing a limited amount of details about the actual structures adopted by companies in the different stages, the authors of the OLC models open further avenues of research about the organizational complexity hidden behind those simplified and generic labels. In addition, it is worth noting that all the models considered in our analysis were published by American scholars to describe their national business context, which between the late 1960s to the early 1980s was characterized by a positive cycle and steady economic growth (Hodrick and Prescott 1997 ). Today’s business environment is instead characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (Whiteman 1998 ; Bennett and Lemoine 2014 ). The international economy is highly interconnected, and sudden and unpredictable shocks may upset the markets where companies are competing, challenging their possibility of growing or even surviving. In such situations, firms must quickly frame the cause of the crisis, identify the most appropriate organizational structure and adjust accordingly while preserving the evolutionary capabilities for the next stage.

In this new setting, growth in size cannot be taken for granted. First, companies can remain stable in their size while growing in their other relevant business dimensions, such as relationships and capabilities (Furlan and Grandinetti 2011 ; Nason and Wiklund 2018 ). Second, during their life cycles, companies are more likely to sustain phases of growth that could be followed by phases of rightsizing (associated with shocks and crisis management) instead of continuous growth. Therefore, we sustain that the OLC of a company is better conceived as an evolutionary process instead of a sequence of growth (in size) stages: companies characterized by structural inertia (Hannan and Freeman 1984 ) and, therefore, inherently resistant to changes proceed in their life cycle continuously adapting—sometimes successfully and sometimes not—to relevant internal and external changes. Because these changes are scarcely predictable, they are likely to affect companies to a different degree, reducing the explanatory power of universal prescriptive OLC models.

Notwithstanding these limitations, we believe that the OLC perspective might preserve its validity if further developed along the trajectory of an enhanced understanding of the interdependences across the why, when, who, how and what. As a consequence, we discuss the OLC perspective that addresses Whetten’s five questions in the actual business environment. In particular, in the remaining part of this section, we explore what could be the organizational design consequences (the ‘what’) of the current why, when, who and how of a firm’s evolutionary process. Establishing the appropriate levels of vertical and horizontal differentiation, identifying effective coordination mechanisms and deciding the level of centralization and formalization are challenges that are constantly renewed over the evolution of the firm and that hardly find a unique (deterministic) answer.

As for the answer to ‘why’ firms evolve, traditional OLC models suggest that both external (e.g., market share, customer needs) and internal (e.g., strategic objectives, human resources management issues) factors trigger organizational development. These forces are still relevant in the actual business environment; however, when the OLC models were developed, business volatility and uncertainty were lower, while nowadays, markets appear less predictable. Therefore, strategic and operating planning activities aimed at sustaining firms’ growth may suffer from a lack of effectiveness if they cannot adapt to changing conditions. To be ready to react to such reduced predictability, firms need to find a right balance between standardization and mutual adjustment, most likely favoring the latter. For instance, one of the consequences related to an unforeseen and unpredictable event such as COVID-19 is the diffusion of remote working: estimates from Eurofound ( 2020 ) suggest that close to 40% of those currently working in the European Union began to telework full time as a result of the pandemic. Some big companies all over the world (e.g., Facebook) are evaluating the adoption of remote working as the standard way to organize employees. Many firms were ill-prepared to manage this change because remote working used to be marginal: in 2019, 5.4% of employed people in the European Union usually worked from home, and that percentage has been constant throughout the last decade. Hence, standardized procedures may be of limited effectiveness to sustain an organizational development that must face the growing and emerging demands related to remote working (Tietze and Musson 2005 ). On the contrary, organizations may lean on mutual adjustments to redesign workplaces and redefine time schedules according to the workers’ needs.

As the question about ‘when’ is concerned, our literature review demonstrated that OLC models suggest that transitions from one stage to the next are related to a combination of ageing and growing: as companies become older and larger, new management issues emerge, and they are forced to proceed along their natural evolutionary pattern. Even if the duration of the stages and their relationship with the organization’s chronological age are debated (Bailey and Grochau 1993 ; Rutherford et al. 2003 ), all the models implicitly adopt a linear perspective about growth in size. In today’s business environment, the lifespan of firms is shorter, and firms’ growth may be exponential. A recent study by McKinsey ( 2019 ) found that the average lifespan of companies listed in the Standard and Poor’s 500 was 90 years in 1935, 61 years in 1958, 35 years in 1970, and today less than 18 years. Young firms are more profitable compared with the older ones: companies in the Standard and Poor’s Global 1200 that were founded within the past 30 years generated four times as much shareholder value as longer-standing companies. However, such growth is not a guarantee of survival in their actual form because the same McKinsey ( 2019 ) report estimates that in 2027, 75% of the companies currently quoted on the Standard and Poor’s 500 will have disappeared because they will be bought-out, be merged or go bankrupt. In this competitive context, companies are required to be agile to successfully manage uncertainties (Sull 2009 ) and to be resilient to react to crises and adversities (Linnenluecke 2017 ; Gubitta and Campagnolo 2020 ). Organizational agility can be defined as ‘the capacity of an organization to efficiently and effectively redeploy/redirect its resources to value creating and value protecting (and capturing) higher-yield activities as internal and external circumstances warrant’ (Teece et al. 2016 , p. 17). Similarly, organizational resilience refers to the ‘maintenance of positive adjustment under challenging conditions’ (Sutcliffe and Vogus 2003 , p. 95) and is usually articulated as bouncing back from adversity (Williams et al. 2017 ) and as having the ability to ‘anticipate, avoid, and adjust to shocks in their environment’ (Ortiz-De-Mandojana and Bansal 2016 , p. 1615). Companies can foster their agility and resilience, balancing the number of hierarchical levels and degree of centralization of decision-making processes. Indeed, flat and decentralized structures ‘where employees are given significant autonomy in how to carry out their work or which projects to undertake’ (Billinger and Workiewicz 2019 , p. 17), such as collaborative organizational forms (Kolbjørnsrud 2018 ) are more agile and resilient than vertical and centralized structures. A trend toward a flat organization has been reported by several scholars (Cunha et al. 2011 ; Foss and Dobrajska 2015 ; Lee and Edmondson 2017 ; Burton et al. 2020 ). This evidence notwithstanding, other scholars (Sanner and Bunderson 2018 ) contend that in the case of team-based organizations, hierarchy is essential for helping a team engage in and get the most out of its efforts to learn and innovate. Burton et al. ( 2017 ) claim that even novel organizations—see, for instance, the case of GitHub—redesign their structure to introduce traditional hierarchical characteristics, thus showing that in novel (growing) organizations, the hierarchy preserves its role. These opposite views are the consequence of the contested nature of the hierarchy in today’s competitive setting, calling for a better understanding of how vertical differentiation and decision-making processes are executed. A recent contribution of Romme ( 2019 ), while providing a systemic perspective on the argument, defines organizational hierarchy ‘as a sequence, or ladder, of accountability levels’ (p. 8). As a ladder of accountability levels, hierarchy can be seen both as a chain of command, that is, as a ladder of decision-making authority levels (in line with the mainstream view of top-down organizational structures) and as individuals taking responsibility for higher-level tasks, that is, as a ladder of self-organized responsibility levels [in line with the recent trend of flat, bottom-up organizational structures, such as a holacracy (Robertson 2016 )]. The difference between the two approaches resides in the distinction between authority and responsibility . Although authority deals with the ‘power to decide’ and is externally assigned, responsibility deals with ‘getting the job done’ and is somehow internally driven because it derives from an intrinsic obligation that individuals feel. Responsibility ladders are emergent in nature, thus showing a better fit with dynamic environments that require continuous evolution. Conversely, authority ladders are planned, thus adjusting better to stable environments that call for control and predictability. As a consequence, the presence of both ladders of accountability would be synergistic because they simultaneously promote adaptation and control. According to the analysis of mainstream OLC models, we can assert that ladders of responsibility are typical of new ventures or small and medium enterprises (SMEs) at the beginning of their life cycle, whereas a ladder of authority emerges as organizations grow and is likely common in established (large) organizations. In our view and in line with the new competitive setting that we described above, ladders of authority and of responsibility must coexist simultaneously rather than sequentially. As organizations grow, they should develop a top-down chain of command (ladder of authority) without stifling existing bottom-up ladders of responsibility. Although such coexistence can be challenging, it is a responsibility of the ladder of authority to develop simple guidelines and practices for the management of their interplay (Romme 2019 ).

The third question in Whetten’s model refers to ‘who’. All the OLC models converge in identifying the managers (and the owners) as the main actors in determining company development. We contend that in the contemporary business environment, particularly from the development of the stakeholder theory (Freeman et al. 2010 ), this view offers a limited perspective of the multitude of interacting actors who can affect the strategic objectives of the firms and, as a consequence, their growth and survival. For example, discussing stakeholder identification, Crane and Ruebottom ( 2011 ) propose a matrix counting over 60 possible actors. To understand how the companies’ growth and survival may be affected by new categories of stakeholders, we present some examples. In February 2018, with the rise of the #metoo movement, Guess cofounder Paul Marciano was accused of sexual harassment by a former model, and hours after the allegation (communicated via Twitter), the company’s shares dropped almost 18%. Again, according to a survey reported by the World Economic Forum ( 2020 ), companies increased their awareness of sustainability and energy issues because of the worldwide strikes inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. The multiplication of relevant stakeholders is reflected, among others, in the CEO’s average span of control, which, over the past two decades, has doubled, rising from about five in the mid-1980s to almost 10 in the mid-2000s (Neilson and Wulf 2012 ). As suggested by the authors, the increase in the chief executive’s direct reports is not surprising because companies today are vastly more complex, globally dispersed and strictly scrutinized than those of previous generations. Therefore, to manage such a vast array of actors potentially influencing their development, companies need to properly manage their horizontal differentiation. Following the well-known Ashby law of requisite variety (Ashby 1961 ), to thrive in a complex environment where a number of potentially contrasting but interdependent objectives arise, an organization must respond by increasing its level of internal complexity accordingly, that is, by creating new organizational units dedicated to a portion of the task environment and simultaneously increasing the level of integration among them.

Finally, addressing Whetten’s ‘how’ question, we showed that companies described in the traditional OLC models progress in their evolutionary process, solving crises and changing their internal organization. In particular, as in every stage of the model, the survival of the company is threatened by internal and external tensions, companies adopt different coordination mechanisms to maintain company manageability and prevent disruptive effects. Those mechanisms are aimed at solving the contrasting needs of larger and older companies. Considering company growth mainly as organic, the OLC models have failed to consider external strategies of growth, including mergers and acquisitions, strategic alliances or network forms. In all these circumstances, a firm sustains its growth by leveraging the combination of its own firm-specific capabilities with complementary knowledge of third-party sources. These modes of growth have become common over the years because of increasing competition, global dispersion of knowledge and the need for rapid new product development processes. For example, a recent survey in Europe on the trends in open innovation, corporate entrepreneurship and start-ups suggests that 97% of the innovation leaders interviewed will adopt co-development practices, and 90% will invest in start-ups (Mind the Bridge-Nesta 2019 ). The adoption of such practices shows the needs for using relevant coordination mechanisms because the outcome of external opportunities of growth is contingent on both the initial recognition (i.e., access to the resources and capabilities held by external sources) and its subsequent exploitation within the firm once resources have crossed organizational boundaries (Burton and Obel 1998 ; Jansen et al. 2005 ; Foss et al. 2011 , 2013 ).

The OLC models provide a holistic approach toward firms’ organizational development over its life cycle. The fascinating power of their seminal idea which equates the growth of the company with the development of a person or plant, their comprehensive view on both the internal characteristics and the external conditions of a company, their focus on the simultaneous interactions of multiple elements, and their longitudinal perspective which is much needed since the speed of change and development is ever increasing and the research phenomena are far from static, represent the main reasons for their permanence in management studies (e.g., Kallunki and Silvola 2008 ; Wang and Singh 2014 ).

However, our analysis of their empirical validation and of their explanatory power in the actual business environment suggests several arguments against the continued use of OLC models in understanding organizations. Blurring industry boundaries, diminishing geographical barriers and pervasive new technologies make the distinction among stages seamless, while organizations can even leap-frog stages that they would have traditionally gone through. In addition, growth processes are endogenous and cannot be fully separated from the stages that the OLC models are supposed to explain. Finally, traditional OLC models underestimate the possible resistances associated with the change management process between one step and the other (Kotter 2012 ). Differently, firms face a variety of contrasting needs that make demands on their organizational structure. For instance, a company deals simultaneously with the need to maintain control and adaptation, efficiency and effectiveness, predictability of behaviors and innovation, agility and learning all while facing market volatility and continuing its development. Hence, organizational solutions must combine the choices usually considered in a trade-off, including, for example, the presence of self-managed teams and a line of authority, the adoption of formal practices and mutually evolving procedures or multiple horizontal differentiation logics.

Notwithstanding these limitations, we maintain the validity of the OLC perspective in today’s world but anchored on different assumptions. First, whereas original OLC models adopted growth in size as the engine of organizational evolution, new OLC models should move the focus to the environment to anticipate the need for organizational adaptation. Ageing companies should not be worried about their size to establish their level of organizational maturity, but instead, their development should be measured by their adaptations to the changing environmental conditions independently of growth. In particular, we advance the idea that the OLC models could be depicted as a sequence of organizational changes that represent life cycle turning points originating from different organizational alternatives. These alternatives represent temporary states of stability (i.e., what the original OLC models would call a ‘stage’) in the life cycle of a company: persistent change would increase the risks of role ambiguity and conflicts (Rivkin and Siggelkow 2003 ), hence threatening the survival of the company (Hannan and Freeman 1984 ). As a consequence, analyzing companies’ development according to an OLC perspective, we expect to recognize a sequence of temporary states of organizational stability (i.e., stages), but their duration and sequence cannot be generalized across different companies. Second, whereas the original OLC models proposed model organizational evolution according to a predetermined sequence of structural configurations, new OLC models should acknowledge that companies are characterized by a continuous search for a dynamic fit between environmental conditions and strategic and organizational choices (Soda and Furnari 2012 ), hence reducing the predictability of the resulting organizational features (Terziovski 2010 ; Brahm and Tarziján 2016 ). The outcome is not universal, but several organizational solutions are possible through an original combination of basic design elements (Sinha and Van de Ven 2005 ; Van de Ven et al. 2013 ). These solutions are equifinal , that is, they reach similar performance by means of different design options for a given environmental situation (Drazin and Van de Ven 1985 ; Gresov and Drazin 1997 ). Equifinality holds the idea that ‘a system can reach the same final state from different initial conditions and by a variety of different paths’ (Katz and Kahn 1978 , p. 30). Our revision of OLC models suggests that organizational configurations are equifinal instead of universal either because organizational dimensions depend on one another or because organizational configurations must solve contrasting needs. Therefore, analyzing companies’ development according to an OLC perspective, we expect to not find similar sequences of organizational configurations and— ceteris paribus in terms of environmental situations—to find different (and equally effective) organizational structures.

Conclusions, limitations and further research

In the current study, we aimed to build on the five primary elements of good theory (i.e., why, when, who, what and how) suggested by Whetten ( 1989 ) to analyze the organizational design characteristics of five seminal OLC models. We sustain that the OLC models propose a deterministic trajectory of organizational development that shows limited explanatory power when confronted with the challenges of today’s business environment. Conversely, we suggest conceiving OLC as a process where the ‘engine’ are the changes associated with the variety and uncertainty of the environment. Our argument is that OLC models preserve their raison d'être but on a different basis: organizations evolve somehow independently from their size following unpredictable paths that show a variety of equifinal configurations.

The present study has limitations that pave the way for future research opportunities. First, our analysis focuses on five theory-based OLC models because we purposely decided to consider only original OLC models based on intellectual sources that discuss how organizational design characteristics change in a firm’s life cycle. Future research may extend our review to include other OLC models dedicated to specific categories of firms, for example, entrepreneurial firms, new ventures or nonprofit organizations.

Second, we suggest what the organizational design consequences of a firm’s evolutionary process in today’s business environment could be. We hope that our arguments will stimulate future empirical validation. Specifically, empirical studies might want to test whether organizations adopt equifinal configurations at similar ages or under similar contingencies in similar industry settings, with the same strategies or under similar formal and informal institutions. Furthermore, organizational scholars may longitudinally explore equifinal organizational configurations and test to what extent such configurations are exogenously determined by the features of the environment in which they operate or endogenously conditioned by a path-dependent trajectory in which the evolutionary process is conditioned by past organizational configurations. A longitudinal study could also explore the transition from one change to another and the associated resistances. These research questions could be addressed by exploring novel research methodologies such as a qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) (Ragin 2009 ; Soda and Furnari 2012 ), experimentation and simulation (Davis et al. 2007 ; Burton and Obel 2011 , 2018 ).


We wish to acknowledge the feedback and suggestions received on earlier versions of this work from Børge Obel, Santi Furnari, Paolo Aversa, Paolo Gubitta, Antonio Nicolò and two anonymous reviewers. All mistakes are our own.

Authors’ contributions

The three authors contributed equally to the article. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Open Access funding provided by Università degli Studi di Padova. Research funded by MIUR and University of Padova.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

The original article has been updated to include acknowledgements section.

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Change history

A Correction to this paper has been published: 10.1007/s41469-021-00094-3

Contributor Information

Luigi Mosca, Email: [email protected] .

Martina Gianecchini, Email: [email protected] .

Diego Campagnolo, Email: [email protected] .

  • Adizes I. Organizational passages: diagnosing and treating life cycle problems in organizations. Organ Dyn. 1979; 8 (1):3–24. doi: 10.1016/0090-2616(79)90001-9. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Anand N, Daft RL. What is the right organization design? Organ Dyn. 2007; 36 (4):329–344. doi: 10.1016/j.orgdyn.2007.06.001. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Ashby WR. An introduction to cybernetics. London: Chapman and Hall Ltd; 1961. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Bailey D, Grochau KE. Aligning leadership needs to the organizational stage of development—applying management theory to nonprofit organizations. Adm Soc Work. 1993; 17 (1):23–45. doi: 10.1300/J147v17n01_03. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Bennett N, Lemoine J (2014) What VUCA really means for you. Harv Bus Rev 92(1/2)
  • Billinger S, Workiewicz M. Fading hierarchies and the emergence of new forms of organization. J Org Des. 2019; 8 (1):17–23. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Brahm F, Tarziján J. Toward an integrated theory of the firm: The interplay between internal organization and vertical integration. Strateg Manag J. 2016; 37 (12):2481–2502. doi: 10.1002/smj.2446. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Brettel M, Engelen A, Voll L. Letting go to grow—empirical findings on a hearsay. J Small Bus Manag. 2010; 48 (4):552–579. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-627X.2010.00308.x. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Burns T, Stalker GM. The management of innovation. London: Tavistock; 1961. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Burton RM, Obel B. Computational modeling for what-is, what-might-be, and what-should-be studies—and triangulation. Organ Sci. 2011; 22 (5):1195–1202. doi: 10.1287/orsc.1100.0635. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Burton RM, Obel B. The science of organizational design: fit between structure and coordination. J Org Des. 2018; 7 (1):1–13. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Burton R, Obel B, et al. Strategic organizational diagnosis and design: developing theory for application. New York: Springer; 1998. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Burton RM, Håkonsson DD, Nickerson J, Puranam P, Workiewicz M, Zenger T. GitHub: exploring the space between boss-less and hierarchical forms of organizing. J Org Des. 2017; 6 (1):1–19. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Burton R, Håkonsson DD, Larsen ER, Obel B. New trends in organization design. J Org Des. 2020; 9 (1):1–2. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Churchill NC, Lewis VL. The five stages of small business growth. Harv Bus Rev. 1983; 61 (3):30–50. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Crane A, Ruebottom T. Stakeholder theory and social identity: rethinking stakeholder identification. J Bus Ethics. 2011; 102 (1):77–87. doi: 10.1007/s10551-011-1191-4. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Cunha MP, Rego A, Clegg S. Beyond addiction: hierarchy and other ways of getting strategy done. Eur Manag J. 2011; 29 (6):491–503. doi: 10.1016/j.emj.2011.06.002. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Davis JP, Eisenhardt KM, Bingham CB. Developing theory through simulation methods. Acad Manag Rev. 2007; 32 (2):480–499. doi: 10.5465/amr.2007.24351453. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Dodge HR, Robbins JE. An empirical investigation of the organizational life cycle. J Small Bus Manag. 1992; 30 (1):27–37. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Drazin R, Van de Ven AH. Alternative forms of fit in contingency theory. Adm Sci Q. 1985; 30 :514–539. doi: 10.2307/2392695. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Eggers JH, Leahy KT, Churchill NC, et al. States of small business growth revisited. In: Bygrave W, et al., editors. Frontiers of entrepreneurial research. Wellesley: Babson College; 1994. pp. 131–144. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Eurofound . Living, working and COVID-19, COVID-19 series. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union; 2020. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Fayol H. General and industrial management. London: Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons LTD; 1949. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Foss NJ, Dobrajska M. Valve's way: wayward, visionary, or voguish? J Org Des. 2015; 4 (2):12–15. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Foss NJ, Laursen K, Pedersen T. Linking customer interaction and innovation: the mediating role of new organizational practices. Organ Sci. 2011; 22 (4):980–999. doi: 10.1287/orsc.1100.0584. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Foss NJ, Lyngsie J, Zahra SA. The role of external knowledge sources and organizational design in the process of opportunity exploitation. Strateg Manag J. 2013; 34 :1453–1471. doi: 10.1002/smj.2135. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Freeman RE, Harrison JS, Wicks AC, Parmar BL, De Colle S. Stakeholder theory: the state of the art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2010. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Furlan A, Grandinetti R. Size, relationships and capabilities: a new approach to the growth of the firm. Hum Syst Manag. 2011; 30 (4):195–213. doi: 10.3233/HSM-2011-0749. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Galbraith J. Matrix organization design. How to combine functional and project forms. Bus Horiz. 1971; 14 (1):29–40. doi: 10.1016/0007-6813(71)90037-1. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Galbraith J. The stage of growth. J Bus Strategy. 1982; 3 (1):70–79. doi: 10.1108/eb038958. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Galbraith J. Designing the global corporation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; 1999. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Gardner JW (1965) How to prevent organizational dry rot. Harper’s Magazine, 20–26
  • Greenwood R, Miller D. Tackling design anew: getting back to the heart of organizational theory. Acad Manag Perspect. 2010; 24 (4):78–88. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Greiner L. Evolution and revolution as organization grow. Harv Bus Rev. 1972; 50 :37–46. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Gresov C, Drazin R. Equifinality: functional equivalence in organization design. Acad Manag Rev. 1997; 22 (2):403–428. doi: 10.2307/259328. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Gubitta P, Campagnolo D. Resilience, job and organization in the Covid-19 pandemic. Ec Soc Reg. 2020; 2 :13–20. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Gulati R, Puranam P, Tushman M. Meta-organization design: rethinking design in interorganizational and community contexts. Strateg Manag J. 2012; 33 (6):571–586. doi: 10.1002/smj.1975. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Hage J. Theories of organizations: form, process, and transformation. Hoboken: Wiley; 1980. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Hall RH, Johnson NJ, Haas JE. Organizational size, complexity, and formalization. Am Sociol Rev. 1967; 32 :903–912. doi: 10.2307/2092844. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Hanks SH, Watson CJ, Jansen E, Chandler GN. Tightening the life-cycle construct: a taxonomic study of growth stage configurations in high-technology organisations. Entrep Theory Pract. 1993; 18 (2):5–29. doi: 10.1177/104225879401800201. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Hannan MT, Freeman J. Structural inertia and organizational change. Am Sociol Rev. 1984; 49 (2):149–164. doi: 10.2307/2095567. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Hodrick RJ, Prescott EC. Postwar US business cycles: an empirical investigation. J Money Credit Bank. 1997; 29 (1):1–16. doi: 10.2307/2953682. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Jansen JJP, van den Bosch FAJ, Volberda HW. Managing potential and realized absorptive capacity: how do organizational antecedents matter? Acad Manag J. 2005; 48 (6):999–1015. doi: 10.5465/amj.2005.19573106. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Jawahar IM, McLaughlin GL. Toward a descriptive stakeholder theory: an organizational life cycle approach. Acad Manag Rev. 2001; 26 (3):397–414. doi: 10.2307/259184. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Jirásek M, Bílek J. The organizational life cycle: review and future agenda. Qual Innov Prosper. 2018; 22 (3):01–18. doi: 10.12776/qip.v22i3.1177. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Kallunki JP, Silvola H. the effect of organizational life cycle stage on the use of activity-based costing. Manag Account Res. 2008; 19 (1):62–79. doi: 10.1016/j.mar.2007.08.002. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Katz D, Kahn RL (1978) The social psychology of organizations (Vol. 2, p. 528). New York, Wiley
  • Koberg CS, Uhlenbruck N, Sarason Y. Facilitators of organizational innovation: the role of life-cycle stage. J Bus Ventur. 1996; 11 :133–149. doi: 10.1016/0883-9026(95)00107-7. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Kolbjørnsrud V. Collaborative organizational forms: on communities, crowds, and new hybrids. J Org Des. 2018; 7 (1):11–22. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Kotter JP. Leading change. Boston: Harvard Business Press; 2012. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Lawrence PR, Lorsch JW. Organization and environment. Boston: Harvard University Press; 1967. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Lee MY, Edmondson AC. Self-managing organizations: exploring the limits of less-hierarchical organizing. Res Organ Behav. 2017; 37 :35–58. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Lester DL, Parnell JA, Carraher S. Organizational life cycle: a five-stage empirical scale. Int J Organ Anal. 2003; 11 (4):339–354. doi: 10.1108/eb028979. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Levie J, Lichtenstein BB. A terminal assessment of stages theory: introducing a dynamic states approach to entrepreneurship. Entrep Theory Pract. 2010; 34 (2):317–350. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6520.2010.00377.x. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Linnenluecke MK. Resilience in business and management research: a review of influential publications and a research agenda. Int J Manag Rev. 2017; 19 (1):4–30. doi: 10.1111/ijmr.12076. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Lippitt GL, Schmidt WH. Crises in a developing organization. Harv Bus Rev. 1967; 45 :102–112. [ Google Scholar ]
  • March JG, Simon HA. Organizations. New York: Wiley; 1958. [ Google Scholar ]
  • McKinsey . Traditional company, new businesses: the pairing that can ensure an incumbent’s survival. New York: McKinsey & Company; 2019. pp. 1–11. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Mee JF. Ideational items: matrix organization. Bus Horiz. 1964; 7 (2):70–72. doi: 10.1016/0007-6813(64)90038-2. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Meyer MW. Automation and bureaucratic structure. Am J Sociol. 1968; 74 :256–264. doi: 10.1086/224639. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Meyer AD, Tsui AS, Hinings CR. Configurational approaches to organizational analysis. Acad Manag J. 1993; 36 (6):1175–1195. doi: 10.2307/256809. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Miller D. An asymmetry-based view of advantage. Strateg Manag J. 2003; 24 :961–976. doi: 10.1002/smj.316. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Miller D, Greenwood R, Prakash R. What happened to organization theory. J Manag Inq. 2009; 18 :273–279. doi: 10.1177/1056492609344672. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Mind the Bridge-Nesta (2019) Open innovation outlook
  • Muhos M. Review of business growth models: methodology and the assumption of determinism. Int J Manag Enterp Dev. 2015; 14 (4):288–306. doi: 10.1504/IJMED.2015.073810. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Muhos M, Kess P, Phusavat K, Sanpanich S. Business growth models: review of past 60 years. Int J Manag Enterp Dev. 2010; 8 (3):296–315. doi: 10.1504/IJMED.2010.034865. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Nason RS, Wiklund J. An assessment of resource-based theorizing on firm growth and suggestions for the future. J Manag. 2018; 44 (1):32–60. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Neilson GL, Wulf J (2012) How many direct reports?. Harv Bus Rev 90(4)
  • Ortiz-De-Mandojana N, Bansal P. The long-term benefits of organizational resilience through sustainable business practices. Strateg Manag J. 2016; 37 (8):1615–1631. doi: 10.1002/smj.2410. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Phelps R, Adams R, Bessant J. Life cycles of growing organizations: a review with implications for knowledge and learning. Int J Manag Rev. 2007; 9 :1–30. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2370.2007.00200.x. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Primc K, Kalar B, Slabe-Erker R, Dominko M, Ogorevc M. Circular economy configuration indicators in organizational life cycle theory. Ecol Indic. 2020; 116 :106532. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2020.106532. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Quinn RE, Cameron K. Organizational life cycles and shifting criteria of effectiveness. Manag Sci. 1983; 29 :33–51. doi: 10.1287/mnsc.29.1.33. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Ragin CC (2009) Qualitative comparative analysis using fuzzy sets (fsQCA). In: Configurational comparative methods: qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) and related techniques. Thousand Oaks, Sage, pp 87–121
  • Rivkin JW, Siggelkow N. Balancing search and stability: interdependencies among elements of organizational design. Manag Sci. 2003; 49 (3):290–311. doi: 10.1287/mnsc. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Robertson BJ. Holacracy: the revolutionary management system that abolishes hierarchy. UK: Penguin; 2016. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Romme AGL. Climbing up and down the hierarchy of accountability: implications for organization design. J Org Des. 2019; 8 (1):1–14. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Rutherford MW, Buller PF, McMullen PR. Human resource management problems over the life cycle of small to medium-sized firms. Hum Resour Manag. 2003; 42 (4):321–335. doi: 10.1002/hrm.10093. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Sanner B, Bunderson J. The truth about hierarchy. MIT Sloan Manag Rev. 2018; 59 (2):49–52. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Sinha KK, Van de Ven AH. Designing work within and between organizations. Organ Sci. 2005; 16 :389–408. doi: 10.1287/orsc.1050.0130. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Snow CC, Miles RE, Miles G. A configurational approach to the integration of strategy and organization research. Strateg Organ. 2005; 3 (4):431–439. doi: 10.1177/1476127005057965. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Soda G, Furnari S. Exploring the topology of the plausible: fs/QCA counterfactual analysis and the plausible fit of unobserved organizational configurations. Strateg Organ. 2012; 10 (3):285–296. doi: 10.1177/1476127012452826. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Stubbart CI, Smalley RD. The deceptive allure of stage models of strategic processes. J Manag Inq. 1999; 8 (3):273–286. doi: 10.1177/105649269983005. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Sukova L. Greiner’s model and its application in automotive companies in the Czech Republic. Acta Inform Prag. 2020; 9 (1):18–29. doi: 10.18267/j.aip.129. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Sull D. How to thrive in turbulent markets. Harv Bus Rev. 2009; 87 (2):78–88. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Sutcliffe KM, Vogus TJ. Organizing for resilience. In: Cameron K, Dutton JE, Quinn RE, editors. Positive organizational scholarship. Berrett-Koehler: San Francisco; 2003. pp. 94–110. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Tam S, Gray DE. What can we learn from the organizational life cycle theory? A conceptualization for the practice of workplace learning. J Manag Res. 2016; 8 (2):18–29. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Taylor FW (1947) Testimony before the Special House Committee. In: Scientific management. New York, Harper and Brothers, pp 5–287
  • Teece D, Pisano G, Shuen A. Dynamic capabilities and strategic management. Strateg Manag J. 1997; 18 :509–533. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0266(199708)18:7<509::AID-SMJ882>3.0.CO;2-Z. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Teece D, Peteraf M, Leih S. Dynamic capabilities and organizational agility: risk, uncertainty, and strategy in the innovation economy. Calif Manag Rev. 2016; 58 (4):13–35. doi: 10.1525/cmr.2016.58.4.13. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Terziovski M. Innovation practice and its performance implications in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the manufacturing sector: a resource-based view. Strateg Manag J. 2010; 31 (8):892–902. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Thompson JD. Organizations in action. New York: McGraw-Hill; 1967. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Tietze S, Musson G. Recasting the home-work relationship: a case of mutual adjustment? Organ Stud. 2005; 26 (9):1331–1352. doi: 10.1177/0170840605054619. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Tushman ML, Newman WH, Romanelli E. Convergence and upheaval: managing the unsteady pace of organizational evolution. Calif Manag Rev. 1986; 29 (1):29–44. doi: 10.2307/41165225. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Van de Ven AH. Suggestions for studying strategy process: a research note. Strateg Manag J. 1992; 13 :169–188. doi: 10.1002/smj.4250131013. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Van de Ven AH, Ganco M, Hinings CR. Returning to the frontier of contingency theory of organizational and institutional designs. Acad Manag Ann. 2013; 7 (1):393–440. doi: 10.5465/19416520.2013.774981. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Wang G, Singh P. The evolution of CEO compensation over the organizational life cycle: a contingency explanation. Hum Resour Manag Rev. 2014; 24 (2):144–159. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Whetten D. What constitutes a theoretical contribution? Acad Manag Rev. 1989; 14 :490–495. doi: 10.2307/258554. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Whiteman WE. Training and educating army officers for the 21st century: implications for the United States military academy. Carlisle Barracks: Army War Coll; 1998. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Williams TA, Gruber DA, Sutcliffe KM, Shepherd DA, Zhao EY. Organizational response to adversity: fusing crisis management and resilience research streams. Acad Manag Ann. 2017; 11 (2):733. doi: 10.5465/annals.2015.0134. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • World Economic Forum (2020) The Greta effect? Why businesses are more committed to climate action in 2020. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/02/greta-effect-business-climate-action . Accessed 09 Nov 2020
  • Zollo M, Winter SG. Deliberate learning and the evolution of dynamic capabilities. Organ Sci. 2002; 13 (3):339–351. doi: 10.1287/orsc.13.3.339.2780. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]

Essay on Organizational Behavior

Organizational behavior is the study of how individuals act within groups and how these behaviors impact the organization. Organizational behavior improves business operations such as job performance, increased innovation, high job satisfaction, and encouraging leadership. Organizational performance is considerably related to the employees’ attitudes. Understanding the various aspects of organizational behavior makes it easy for employers to access the feelings, attitudes, and motivation towards their job (Osland et al.,2015). The study introduces people to the concepts and theories about human behavior, which helps replace held notions. Organizational behavior is both a challenge and opportunity to employers due to the study’s focus on reducing absenteeism, increased job satisfaction, and productivity (Osland et al.,2015). The study also guides managers in providing better working conditions, ethical practice, and maximum respect in the workplace.

Every employee is unique, depending on the knowledge and experience they have about the job. Organizational behavior helps leaders to comprehend the motivational tools needed to help their employees reach their full potential (Osland et al.,2015). Leaders must evaluate the organizational structure that acts in the best interests of their employees. For example, recent years have seen corporations such as Google adopt flatter structures that allow employees to operate independently, thus encouraging them to exchange knowledge and acquire more control in decision making.

Performance and Office Characteristics

Behaviors affect employee’s performance. Multiple research pieces provide that employees with positive attitudes are creative and have low-stress levels at work—however, behaviors such as rudeness and gossip lower performance, productivity, and job satisfaction (Pinder, 2014). Organizations with many employees with negative attitudes have conflicts due to miscommunications that reduce overall working morale. The organization and setting of working offices can be a source of good or poor organizational behavior. An open office increases employee’s calmness with crowded offices, causing anxiety and exposure to diseases, breathing problems, among other issues. However, it is unwise to over-densify office spaces because small stations of work make collaboration difficult (Pinder, 2014). Employees take pride in working in successful companies with excellent organizational cultures and have many growth opportunities. A manager’s ability to recognize ways to improve workplace behaviors helps resolve pre-existing problems between workers and promote a healthy working environment.

Organizational behavior does not rely on analysis and conclusions made out of emotions and gut feeling but rather a manager’s ability to collect information concerning an issue in a methodical manner under controlled conditions (Mahek, 2019). The study involves using information and interpreting the findings to analyze the behavior of groups or individuals as desired. Companies exist to fulfill the needs of communities, and for them to survive in today’s competitive world, they must be growth-oriented. Respect for quality, high productivity, and zero errors in these companies ensure their growth merged with great focus on the teams and individuals that run the companies.

Characteristics of Organizational Behavior and Real-Life Application

The study involves rational rather than emotional thinking about individuals. The main aim of organizational behavior lies in explaining, predicting, and understanding human behavior in companies. The study is goal and action-oriented. Also, the study seeks to provide a balance in the technical and human values in the workplace (Mahek, 2019). Organizational behavior achieves productivity by maintaining and constructing worker’s growth, satisfaction, and dignity rather than sacrificing these values. Organizational behavior is an art and science since the study of human behavior leans heavily on science. For instance, modern studies of organizational behavior are critical, experimental, and interpretive, which makes it a revealing science in the search for meaning and knowledge (Mahek, 2019). The study also mixes behavioral sciences such as sociology and psychology, among others. The study has evolved with modern organizational behavior utilizing people’s culture and current events to gain facts and use available paradigms.

Organizational behavior is an important study in real life because it helps one understand their behavior and others (Mahek, 2019). For example, students can use organizational behavior to promote teamwork in school, improve communication, and ultimately promoting a peaceful learning environment. Organizational behavior has helped me understand my views of ethics both in school and in the community. I have always had a problem adapting to new environments and interacting with new people because of my inability to learn behaviors, making it hectic to make friends and express myself while in such places. Having learned about organizational behavior, its characteristics, and the remarkable results the study has on communication, productivity, and attitudes, I now know that I would have handled the situations differently. After the course, new environments and people are no longer a problem since I can effectively utilize the various organizational behavior theories to approach people while understanding their views on some issues, attitudes, and behaviors.

Leadership in Organizational Behavior

In today’s world of business, influential leaders are essential for binding the authority around them. Leadership has countless pitfalls that leaders must learn to avoid since leaders’ mistakes have grave consequences on the societies they lead, businesses, and administrations. Big companies need leadership that harmonizes thousands of people’s energies into a mutual goal, with startup enterprises requiring inspirational leaders that share similar values with their employees (Boekhorst, 2015). Therefore, leadership is a social influence process that aims to increase other people’s efforts in search of a common goal. Different kinds of leadership have different results ranging from effective to chaotic ones. Leaders must assess their personality, strengths, and weaknesses before becoming leaders. A leader in the workplace must connect with the employees and ultimately engage with them to gain their support, cooperation, and respect.

Characteristics and Abilities of Effective Leaders

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence refers to an individual’s ability to identify their emotions and understand what they are communicating to them. Emotional intelligence also involves a person’s perception of those around you, which creates harmony and respect (Boekhorst, 2015). A leader that does not understand how they feel cannot manage their relationship with others since it is hard for them to relate to their feelings. Emotional intelligence in a leader comprises self-knowledge (awareness), motivation, social skill, empathy, and self-regulation. Each of these facets determines how well a leader gets rounded, thus enabling him/her to excel in the business world.


Self-awareness is one of the most important qualities of a leader and trumps all. Every leader, manager, and entrepreneur purposing to make it in business must possess this quality. A leader who has self-awareness knows what motivates them and their decision-making process. When a leader understands their motivation, they can channel the same to the employees to acquire high productivity and harmony (Rao, 2020). Research provides that the energy a leader channels to his/her employees reflects who they are, meaning that a leader who instigates strength to his/her followers Is a strong person who knows their strengths and weaknesses. A self-aware leader is alert to their inner signals, which helps them recognize their feelings and their effects on their job performance. The moral compass helps in decision making, thus deducing the most practical course of action (Rao, 2020). A self-aware leader can see the bigger picture and is genuine about it, giving them the vision to lead and the ability to distinguish between their strengths and weaknesses.


Self-regulation refers to the ability to manage one’s emotions in an unrestrained environment. Self-regulation helps leaders to escape the bondage of one’s impulses. Leaders who possess this quality lean toward thoughtfulness and reflection, accepted change and indecision, honesty, and the ability to fight instincts. Self-regulation helps leaders to maintain a positive outlook on life (Rao, 2020). A leader must be able to cool themselves down when upset and cheer themselves up when down. A self-regulated leader is flexible and adapts to various styles or work with their employees and take charge of all situations no matter how challenging. The quality allows one to be an independent actor without needing other people to pull them out of greasy situations or provide the path towards their goals.

A leader cannot be an effective one if they cannot motivate other people. In the workplace, leaders must set goals to ensure a change in their companies and encourage them to follow the same direction (Rao, 2020). Employees mostly do what they have been instructed to do, and without a motivational leader, most would get lost. Successful leaders can motivate people even if it is one of the hardest things to do since people motivate themselves. The secret to being a leader that motivates his/her employees lies in valuing these people than oneself.

Empathy is the strength to relate with and comprehend the needs and views of other people. Empathic leaders can recognize other people’s feelings even when they are not obvious. Empathy sharpens a person’s communication skills in that it guides them on not saying the wrong things when another person is suffering on the inside (Rao, 2020). An empathic leader builds a feeling of importance and belonging to their employees by showing them that their leader cares and is not a heartless detached robot.

Social Skill

The quality refers to a person’s ability to tune into other people’s emotions and comprehend what they think about certain things. This ability helps a leader with team playing, collaboration, and negotiation skills. Active listening and excellent communication skills are important to this quality. Lack of social skills in a leader may result in companies’ collapse due to lack of representation from a coherent external environment (Rao, 2020). The modern world involves leaders assuming that they need to tweet more and send thousands of emails to have social skills, but one needs to be comfortable connecting with other people in person and on social channels.

Leadership Theories

Leadership theories are thoughts that explain why and how certain individuals become leaders. The theories focus on the leader’s characteristics in each school of thought. The theories are:

Great Man Theory

The theory vies leadership as an individual’s heroic act. The theory provides that something special exists about an individual’s combination of abilities and personality traits that sets them up as great leaders, thus distinguishing them from others (Amanchukwu et al., 2015). The theory clings to the fact that leaders are born and not made. Companies tend to focus on persons that possess the ability to inspire others toward a common zeal.

Behavioral Theory

The behavioral theory focuses on the way leaders behave in the workplace. For instance, do leaders just provide rules and expect other people to follow them without question, or do they involve others in the decision-making process (Amanchukwu et al., 2015)? The theory believes leaders can be made from their behaviors and not born as the Great Man Theory holds. Depending on a leader’s behavior, they can become autocratic, democratic, or Laissez-faire leaders.

Situational Theory

The theory focuses on the situational variables without terming one person’s leadership style as better than the others (Amanchukwu et al., 2015). The theory states that different situations call for different leadership styles and the maturity level of the followers.

Transformational Theory

The theory focuses on the relationship between leaders and their followers, emphasizing charismatic and inspirational leaders. The theory focuses on leaders who aim to change their follower’s performance on various tasks (Amanchukwu et al., 2015). Leaders in this theory get motivated by their ability to show their followers that specific tasks are vital and should be highly involved in performing them.

Trait Theory

The theory assumes that leaders are born possessing certain leadership traits, which makes them more suitable for leadership roles than others who lack the natural characteristics (Amanchukwu et al., 2015). The theory upholds the qualities of responsibility, intelligence, accountability, and creativity that make them prosper in leadership.

In conclusion, organizational behavior is a study that focuses on the effect of individual and group behavior in the workplace. The science helps leaders access their employees’ attitudes, feelings, and motivation switches and guide them on their next steps. Through organizational behavior, companies can develop ways to reduce conflicts, improve productivity, build teamwork and create conducive working environments in the workplace. Leadership is a vital concept of organizational behavior and aims at defining the roles, traits, and theories of leadership suitable for different organizational structures and cultures.

Amanchukwu, R. N., Stanley, G. J., & Ololube, N. P. (2015). A review of leadership theories, principles and styles and their relevance to educational management.  Management ,  5 (1), 6-14.

Boekhorst, J. A. (2015). The role of authentic leadership in fostering workplace inclusion: A social information processing perspective.  Human Resource Management ,  54 (2), 241-264.

Mahek, S. (2019, September 28).  Organisational behaviour: Meaning, scope, nature, models & importance . Economics Discussion.  https://www.economicsdiscussion.net/management/organisational-behaviour/31869

Osland, J., Devine, K., & Turner, M. (2015). Organizational behavior.  Wiley Encyclopedia of Management , 1-5.

Pinder, C. C. (2014).  Work motivation in organizational behavior . psychology press.

Rao, S. (2020, March 23).  The mini-guide to effective leadership in the workplace . A Blog About Payroll, Small Business and More | Wagepoint.  https://blog.wagepoint.com/all-content/the-mini-guide-to-effective-leadership-in-the-workplace

Cite this page

Similar essay samples.

  • Essay on Banco De La Nacion
  • Essay on Building a Third Runway at Heathrow Airport
  • What are the main forms of sampling and when would they be used? How w...
  • Essay on Racism and Its Impacts on Government Employment Opportunities
  • Critically explore the care context in which social work operates, dem...
  • Essay on the Adaptation of the Harry Potter Books Into Movies: Differe...

organizational life essay

What is “Organisational Life” and Why is it Important to Understand?

The disconnect between our jobs and what constitutes organisational life frequently comes up as a subject in management development, leadership development and executive coaching. organisational life is what happens at our place of work where we interact with groups, and is distinct from what takes place in other groups we are part of..

Groups can have a profound effect on the way a person behaves, and self-awareness that allows you to notice the way in which you are affected by a group can be an empowering discovery. Psychologist Bruce Tuckman’s (1965) model of group behaviour: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, is an excellent example of applied group and organisational psychology and has been immensely useful to those setting up new teams or small groups. He saw three stages of group development before the group could reach the performing stage, by which time dislikes of other group members, boundary testing, and psychological safety issues had been resolved – all aspects of what human beings go through when they join an ‘organisation.’

Will Schutz (1925-2002) created the FIRO Psychometric, which examines our fundamental group needs and is based on evolutionary psychology. Our need to be part of a group or organisation meant survival against animals and other tribes. Survival meant we needed to be included by a tribe. We needed a place within it, and the best way to secure a place was either to be very good at something the tribe needed or to be in charge of it.

And finally, as human beings we need love and affection in varying degrees. According to Schutz, regardless of our sophistication, these fundamental needs remain and we seek to have them met. In organisational life we often see conflicts that are hard to understand, and often ascribe reasons for them, taking sides based on our interpretation of visible behaviour. More often than not, conflict is the product of one person’s interpretation of another person’s behaviour rather than the truth.

Organisational life is simple really – it’s us! When we are at work, we continually make sense and meaning of what is going on around us. For many people this can become a preoccupation and gets in the way of the sole reason for being in the organisation – which is to get on with the task. Social psychologists are concerned with how people operate within group settings and how behaviour can be affected within a group. Does the way you behave change when you are in the presence of a group? How do you feel when you have to explain an idea of yours to one person at work compared to how you might feel if you had an audience of seven others?

First, we join an organisation to perform tasks that enable it to achieve its outcomes. Whilst work can satisfy some of our social needs, these organisational outcomes are the reason for its existence and its success depends on the competence of its workforce. As simplistic as this sounds, this is the sole reason we have jobs. What is less simple is the way organisational life affects us and can get in the way of what is a simple premise.

One of our first experiences of organisational life outside of our family, is school. Most people can remember school experiences which relate directly to some of the same issues that adults in organisations experience and how we handle group situations may be the way in which we handled them then. Few of us can be truly independent. We have to rely upon others and their cooperation, how we gain acceptance, approval, and maintain our self-concept are all part of group life.

Organisational life requires that we get along with people to maximize collaboration and harness the power of the group that makes it greater than the sum of its parts, and it is this creation of a social reality that is at once the most challenging and most rewarding aspect of organisational life. Organisational life is about small group and team communication. It is about how we find a place and gain acceptance within a group, manage our judgments of others and our self-criticism. At work we allow our rules about how people should act decide whether we approve of them or not, we allow our defense mechanisms to protect us from justified or unjustified criticism and we switch on our safety radars that tell us whether or not someone is well intended towards us.

Organisational life is simple really, it’s about tasks to achieve outcomes. The other stuff gets in the way. Politics is another reality of organisational life and involves handling our emotions at work. Our emotions are involved in how we respond to praise and what we perceive as threats, how we need guidance and accept criticism, how fragile our self-image is and how robust our self-worth is.

According to Schein (2010) “The process of stratification in human systems is typically not as blatant as the dominance-establishing rituals of animal societies, but is functionally equivalent in that it concerns the evolution of workable rules for managing aggression and mastery needs. Human societies develop pecking orders just as chickens do, but both the process and the outcome are, of course far more complex and varied.” Political games are a manifestation of some individuals’ insecurities where a belief that dominance leads to safety produces Machiavellian behaviour rather than hard work and completion of tasks. Smoke screens and displacement activities played by some people within organisations to secure their place in a pecking order causes a great deal of anguish for many people when all they want to do is get on with the job,  to complete the task, to achieve the organisation’s outcome.

Organisational life depends on those at the top not only being concerned with organisational outcomes, but also with establishing how things should be run. Most organisations begin with founders who establish how things will be run and establish rules about how authority will be determined and aggressive behaviour is to be managed. Successful organisations are self-aware and have leaders who recognise that organisational life has a life of its own and needs to be managed so that everyone can get on with the task at hand and achieve their outcomes. And, of course, the success of organisations today rests upon their ability to work collaboratively in all aspects.

Written by Denis Sartain , a facilitator at IMNZ and director of International Coaching Development UK and a visiting Executive Fellow at Henley Business School, University of Reading UK.


Bion, W.R. (1968) Experiences in Groups and Other Papers (Social Science Paperbacks). Tavistock Pubns., Bon, G.L. (2017) The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind. Start Publishing LLC, Charan, R., Drotter, S. & Noel, J. (2010) The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company (J-B US nonFranchise Leadership). 353. Ellis, A., Doyle, K.A. & Lange, A. (2016) How to Keep People From Pushing Your Buttons. CITADEL, French, R. & Simpson, P. (2014) Attention, Cooperation, Purpose: An Approach to Working in Groups Using Insights from Wilfred Bion. Karnac Books, Lewin, K. (1997) Resolving Social Conflicts / Field Theory in Social Science. American Psychological Association, McKenna, E. (2012) Business Psychology and Organizational Behaviour. Psychology Press, Nohria, N. & Khurana, R. (2010) Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice: A Harvard Business School Centennial. Harvard Business School Press, Sartain, D. & Katsarou, M. (2011) Under Pressure. Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) Pte Ltd, Schein, E.H. (2010) Organizational Culture and Leadership (The Jossey–Bass Business & Management Series). John Wiley & Sons, Schutz, W.C. (1960) Firo: A Three-Dimensiona Theory Of Interpersonal Behavior. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Schutz, W. (1994) The Human Element. Jossey Bass, Tuckman, B.W. (1972) Conducting Educational Research. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P.

Recent Articles

Leading through Change

Leading through Change

Dec 13, 2023

In the whirlwind of today's ever-evolving world, change is like that uninvited guest who insists on staying. Whether it's trying to keep up with new technologies, riding the rollercoaster of market shifts, or managing unforeseen crises, one thing is clear: effective...

What are micro-credentials and why should you care?

What are micro-credentials and why should you care?

Nov 7, 2023

‘Micro-credential’ is fast becoming an ubiquitous buzzword not only in the education industry but in corporate and government sectors as well. To some it’s being sold as the saviour to every capability problem ever created, to others it’s seen as just more of the same...

Quiet Quitting: A Symptom We Should Address, Not Demonise

Quiet Quitting: A Symptom We Should Address, Not Demonise

Oct 17, 2023

In recent months, the term “quiet quitting” has entered the cultural lexicon, striking fear into the hearts of managers and leaders everywhere. On the surface, the concept seems straightforward: employees doing only the bare minimum required of them, disengaging from...

The dynamics of the life cycle theory and organizational culture: a systematic literature review

  • Published: 30 December 2023
  • Volume 4 , article number  17 , ( 2024 )

Cite this article

  • Iris Maria Oliveira de Sousa 1 ,
  • Fabíola Kaczam 2 ,
  • Luciano Luiz Dalazen 3 ,
  • Wenner Glaucio Lopes Lucena 1 ,
  • Wesley Vieira da Silva 4 &
  • Claudimar Pereira da Veiga   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-4960-5954 5 , 6  

130 Accesses

Explore all metrics

The Organizational Life Cycle (OLC) and the Organizational Culture (OC) are two important aspects that determine the ability of an organization to remain operational in a dynamic and competitive market over time. Despite the significance of this topic to the literature on organizations, no review has yet provided a holistic mapping of the relationship between them. To bridge this theoretical gap, this article studies the panorama of the scientific production involving OLC and OC. To achieve this goal, we provide a systematic literature review of studies over a period of 60 years. The results point to a greater amount of work dealing with the underpinnings of Institutional Theory, structural changes, and precepts, strategies, and values established by the organizational culture. In addition, in the last 5 years, the investigations focusing mainly on institutional and strategic factors for the organization can be seen in light of culture and organizational climate. It was possible to identify that there is a tendency for discussions linked to strategy and innovation. Overall, this article provides an essential understanding of the OLC and OC relationship, shedding light on the current state of research and future opportunities in this area.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price includes VAT (Russian Federation)

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Rent this article via DeepDyve

Institutional subscriptions

organizational life essay

Source: Authors own creation

organizational life essay

Similar content being viewed by others

organizational life essay

Change Management: From Theory to Practice

Jeffrey Phillips & James D. Klein

organizational life essay

Organizational resilience: a capability-based conceptualization

Stephanie Duchek

organizational life essay

The contribution of organizational culture, structure, and leadership factors in the digital transformation of SMEs: a mixed-methods approach

Bernardo Henrique Leso, Marcelo Nogueira Cortimiglia & Antonio Ghezzi

Availability of data and materials

Data are available upon reasonable request.

Adizes I (1990) The life cycles of organizations: how and why companies grow and die and what to do about it. Pioneer

Aria M, Cuccurullo C (2017) bibliometrix: an R-tool for comprehensive science mapping analysis. J Informet 11(4):959–975. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joi.2017.08.007

Article   Google Scholar  

Batista TN (2019) Global Management Accounting Principles: Relation to the lifecycle stages of publicly traded companies listed on B3. UFPB—Universidade Federal da Paraíba

Beckman CM, Burton MD (2008) Founding the future: path dependence in the evolution of top management teams from founding to IPO. Organ Sci 19(1):3–24. https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.1070.0311

Belak J (2016) Management and governance: organizational culture in relation to enterprise life cycle. Kybernetes 45(4):680–698. https://doi.org/10.1108/K-04-2014-0082

Belak J, Mulej M (2009) Enterprise ethical climate changes over life cycle stages. Kybernetes 38(7–8):1377–1398. https://doi.org/10.1108/03684920910977032

Beuren I, Pereira A (2013) Analysis of articles that relate organizational life cycle with management controls. RAI J Adm Innov 10(2):123–143

Google Scholar  

Beuren IM, Rengel S, Hein N (2012) Organizational life cycle based on the model of Lester, Parnell and Carraher (2003) and on the fuzzy logic: classification of companies in an industrial segment in Santa Catarina. J Adm 47(2):197–216. https://doi.org/10.5700/rausp1034

Bhaduri RM (2019) Leveraging culture and leadership in crisis management. Eur J Training Dev 43(5–6):554–569. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJTD-10-2018-0109

Boling JR, Pieper TM, Covin JG (2016) CEO tenure and entrepreneurial orientation within family and nonfamily firms. Entrep Theory Pract 40(4):891–913. https://doi.org/10.1111/etap.12150

Borinelli M (1998) Identifying the life cycle of small businesses through accounting statements. Federal University of Santa Catarina

Bornmann L, Marx W (2012) HistCite analysis of papers constituting the h index research front. Journal of Informatics 6(2):285–288

Camargo B, Fair A (2013) IRAMUTEQ: free software for textual data analysis. Themes in Psychology 21(2):513–518

Cameron KS, Quinn RE (1999) Diagnosing and changing organizational culture: based on the competing values framework. Addison-Wesley

Cameron K, Quinn R (2011) Diagnosing and changing organizational culture (Issue 3). Jossey-Bass

Casey P, Landgraf G (2015) Literature reviews: how to put it all together. Avni, A., Burley, P., Casey, P., Cherney, J., Christiansen, L., Daly, JS, ... and Yu, H. Literature Searches and Literature Reviews for Transportation Research Projects. How to Search, Where to Sear

Chatman JA, Flynn FJ (2006) Full-cycle micro-organizational behavior research. Organ Sci 16(4):434–447. https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.1050.0136

Chen Y, Zhang W, Yan X et al (2020) The life-cycle influence mechanism of the determinants of financing performance: an empirical study of a Chinese crowdfunding platform. Rev Manag Sci 14(1):287–309. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11846-018-0295-y

Chrisman J, Chua J, Kellermanns F (2009) Priorities, resource stocks, and performance in family and non-family firms. Entrep Theory Pract 33(3):739–760

Christensen CR, Scott BR (1964) Summary of course activities. IMEDE, Lausanne. In: Scott, B.R. 1971. Stages of Corporate Development—Part 1. Case Note n. 9-371-294

Daneshmandnia A (2019) The influence of organizational culture on information governance effectiveness. Rec Manag J 29(1–2):18–41. https://doi.org/10.1108/RMJ-09-2018-0033

Deal TE, Kennedy AA (1982) Corporate cultures. Addison-Wesley

Dimitrov D (2015) Leadership in a humane organization. Eur J Training Dev 39(2):122–142. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJTD-07-2014-0051

Fisher G, Kotha S, Lahiri A (2016) Changing with the times: an integrated view of identity, legitimacy, and new venture life cycles. Acad Manag Rev 41(3):383–409

Frezatti F, Moreira L (2019) Magazine universe accounting. Revista Universo Contábil 53(9):1689–1699. https://doi.org/10.4270/ruc.2019104

Galle W, De Temmerman N, De Meyer R (2017) Integrating scenarios into life cycle assessment: understanding the value and financial feasibility of a demountable building. Buildings 7(4):64. https://doi.org/10.3390/buildings7030064

García-Ramos R, Díaz-Díaz B, García-Olalla M (2017) Independent directors, large shareholders and firm performance: the generational stage of family businesses and the socioemotional wealth approach. Rev Manag Sci 11:119–156. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11846-015-0182-8

Gotsch ML, Schögel M (2021) Addressing the privacy paradox on the organizational level: review and future directions. Manag Rev Quart. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11301-021-00239-4

Greiner L (1972) Evolution and revolution as organizations grow. Harward Bus Rev 50(4):37–46

Gu X, Blackmore K (2017) Towards a broader understanding of journal impact: measuring relationships between journal characteristics and scholarly impact. Int J Soc Behav Educ Econ Bus Ind Eng 11(10):2230–2235

Hamann PM (2017) Towards a contingency theory of corporate planning: a systematic literature review. Manag Rev Quart 67:227–289. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11301-017-0132-4

Hannan MT, Freeman J (1984) Structural inertia and organizational change. Am Sociol Rev 49(2):149–164. https://doi.org/10.2307/2095567

Hartmann B, Reuter C, Strauss E (2023) Controlling big data? Unfolding the organisational quest for IT-enabled competitive advantage. Scand J Manag 39(3):101282. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scaman.2023.101282

Hatch MJ (1993) The dynamics of organizational culture. Acad Manag Rev 18(4):657–693

Hernández-Linares R, Kellermanns FW, López-Fernández MC (2018) A note on the relationships between learning, market, and entrepreneurial orientations in family and nonfamily firms. J Fam Bus Strategy 9(3):192–204. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfbs.2018.08.001

Hofstede G (1980) Culture’s Consequences. Sage

Kimberly J, Miles R (1980) The Organizational life cycle: issues in the creation, transformation, and decline of organizations. Jossey-Bass

Klann RC, Klann PA, Postai KR, Ribeiro MJ (2012) Relationship between the organizational life cycle and planning in metallurgical companies in the city of Brusque-SC. Revista De Contabilidade e Organizações. https://doi.org/10.11606/rco.v6i16.52670

Kotter J, Heskett J (1992) Corporate culture and performance. The Free Press

Lester D, Parnell J, Carraher S (2003) Organizational life cycle: the five stage empirical scale. Int J Org Anal 11(4):339–354

Lippett G, Schmidt W (1967) Crises in a developing organization. Harv Bus Rev 45(6):102–112

Lucas E, Garcia-Zorita J, Sanz-Casado E (2013) Historical evolution of research in informatics: a Spanish point of view. Liinc in Review 9(1):255–270

Lumpkin G, Dess GG (2001) Linking two dimensions of entrepreneurial orientation to firm performance. J Bus Ventur 16(5):429–451. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0883-9026(00)00048-3

Madu B (2011) Organization culture as driver of competitive advantage. J Acad Bus Ethics 5:1–9

Manda BMK, Bosch H, Karanam S, Beers H, Bosman H, Rietveld E, Worrell E, Patel MK (2016) Value creation with life cycle assessment: an approach to contextualize the application of life cycle assessment in chemical companies to create sustainable value. J Clean Prod 126:337–351. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.03.020

Martin WF, Brabender M (2024) Origin of Life, Theories of. In Reference Module in Life Sciences. Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-822562-2.00338-8

Martinsuo M (2020) The management of values in project business: adjusting beliefs to transform project practices and outcomes. Proj Manag J 51(4):389–399. https://doi.org/10.1177/8756972820927890

Meyer A (2002) Comparison of similarity coefficients used in cluster analysis with data from dominant molecular markers. Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture

Miller D, Friesen PH (1984) A longitudinal study of the corporate life cycle. Manag Sci J 30(10):1161–1183

Mintzberg H (1989) Mintzberg on management: inside our strange world of organizations. The Free Press

Napoleone A, Pozzetti A, Macchi M (2018) A framework to manage reconfigurability in manufacturing. Int J Prod Res 56(11):3815–3837. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207543.2018.143728

Neubauer F, Lank A (1998) The family business: its governance for sustainability. Macmillan

Book   Google Scholar  

Newman M (2005) A measure of betweenness centrality based on random walks. Social Netw 27(1):39–45

Oluwatayo AA, Amole D, Uwakonye O (2016) Organisational life cycle, business orientation and performances of architectural firms in Nigeria. Construct Econ Build 16(1):50–63

Pettigrew A (1979) On studying organizational cultures. Adm Sci Q 24:570–581

Porter ML, Bean JP (2004) Organizational lifecycle in a school of nursing. West J Nurs Res 26(4):444–460. https://doi.org/10.1177/0193945904263282

Pudovkin AI, Garfield E (2004) Rank-normalized impact factor: a way to compare journal performance across subject categories. Proc Am Soc Inf Sci Technol 41:507–515

Quinn RE, Cameron K (1983) Organizational life cycles and shifting criteria of effectiveness: some preliminary evidence. Manage Sci 29(1):33–51. https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.29.1.33

Racelis D (2010) Relationship between employee perceptions of corporate ethics and organizational culture: an exploratory study. Asia Pac Manag Rev 15(2):251–260

Rhenman E (1973) Organization theory for long-range planning. WILEY

Roša Rosha A, Lace N (2018) The open innovation model of coaching interaction in organisations for sustainable performance within the life cycle. Sustainability 10(10):3516. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10103516

Roscoe S, Subramanian N, Prifti R, Wu L (2020) Stakeholder engagement in a sustainable sales and operations planning process. Bus Strateg Environ 29(8):3526–3541. https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.2594

Schein EH (1984) Coming to a new awareness of organizational culture. Sloan Manag Rev 25(2):3–16

Schein EH (1985) Organizational culture and leadership: a dynamic view. Jossey-Bass

Schein E (1992) Organizational culture and leadership, 2nd edn. Jossey-Bass

Shamir B, Howell JM (1999) Organizational and contextual influences on the emergence and effectiveness of charismatic leadership. Leadersh Quart 10(2):257–283

Shao Z, Feng Y, Hu Q (2016) Effectiveness of top management support in enterprise systems success: a contingency perspective of fit between leadership style and system life-cycle. Eur J Inf Syst 25(2):131–153. https://doi.org/10.1057/ejis.2015.6

Stanley LJ, Hernández-Linares R, López-Fernández MC, Kellermanns FW (2019) A typology of family firms: an investigation of entrepreneurial orientation and performance. Fam Bus Rev 32(2):174–194. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894486519838120

Su S, Baird K, Schoch H (2017) Management control systems: the role of interactive and diagnostic approaches to using controls from an organizational life cycle perspective. J Account Org Change. https://doi.org/10.1108/jaoc.2010.31506baa.003

Tichy N (1980) Problem cycles in organizations and the management of change. In: Kimberly J, Miles R (eds) The organizational life cycle. Jossey-Bass, pp 164–183

Tipu SAA (2021) Organizational change for environmental, social, and financial sustainability: a systematic literature review. Rev Manag Sci. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11846-021-00494-5

Tranfield D, Denyer D, Smart P (2003) Towards a methodology for developing evidence-informed management knowledge by means of systematic review* introduction: the need for an evidence- informed approach. Br J Manag 14(1):207–222

Triguero-Sánchez R, Peña-Vinces J, Matos Ferreira JJ (2022) The effect of collectivism-based organisational culture on employee commitment in public organisations. Socioecon Plann Sci 83:101335. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.seps.2022.101335

van Eck NJ, Waltman L (2014) Visualizing Bibliometric Networks. In Measuring Scholarly Impact, 285–320. Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-10377-8_13

Walter AT (2021) Organizational agility: ill-defined and somewhat confusing? A systematic literature review and conceptualization. Manag Rev Quart 71:343–391. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11301-020-00186-6

Wee BV, Banister D (2016) How to write a literature review paper? Transp Rev 36(2):278–288. https://doi.org/10.1080/01441647.2015.1065456

Xia D, Zhang M, Yu Q, Tu Y (2019) Developing a framework to identify barriers of Green technology adoption for enterprises. Resour Conserv Recycl 143:99–110. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2018.12.022

Zheng W, Qing Qu, Yang B (2009) Toward a theory of organizational cultural evolution. Hum Resour Dev Rev 8(2):151–173. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534484309333619

Zucke R (1987) Institutional theories of organization. Ann Rev Sociol 13:443–464

Download references


The authors wish to express their gratitude to the Editor and Anonymous Reviewers for their constructive input and kind feedback.

This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Author information

Authors and affiliations.

Federal University of Paraíba, Cidade Universitária, João Pessoa, PB, 58051-900, Brazil

Iris Maria Oliveira de Sousa & Wenner Glaucio Lopes Lucena

Postgraduate Program in Administration, Federal University of Santa Maria, Building 74C, 2nd Floor, Room 4208, Santa Maria, 97105-900, Brazil

Fabíola Kaczam

Pontifical Catholic Universidade of Parana, Imaculada Conceição 1155, Curitiba, PR, 80215-901, Brazil

Luciano Luiz Dalazen

Faculty of Economics, Administration and Accounting, Federal University of Alagoas, Av. Lourival Melo Mota, S/N Tabuleiro Do Martins, Maceió, 57072-900, Brazil

Wesley Vieira da Silva

Fundação Dom Cabral, Av. Princesa Diana, 760 Alphaville, Lagoa Dos Ingleses, Nova Lima, MG, 34018-006, Brazil

Claudimar Pereira da Veiga

School of Management, Federal University of Parana, Av. Prefeito Lothário Meissner, 632, Curitiba, 80210-170, Brazil

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar


IMOS conceived the work, reviewed the literature, drafted, and edited the manuscript. FK, LLZ, WGLL, WVS, and CPdaV reviewed the literature and edited the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Claudimar Pereira da Veiga .

Ethics declarations

Competing interests.

The authors declare that they have no had interests or personal relationships that could influence this research.

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Not applicable.

Consent for publication

Rights and permissions.

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

de Sousa, I.M.O., Kaczam, F., Dalazen, L.L. et al. The dynamics of the life cycle theory and organizational culture: a systematic literature review. SN Bus Econ 4 , 17 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s43546-023-00612-3

Download citation

Received : 02 October 2022

Accepted : 08 December 2023

Published : 30 December 2023

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/s43546-023-00612-3

Share this article

Anyone you share the following link with will be able to read this content:

Sorry, a shareable link is not currently available for this article.

Provided by the Springer Nature SharedIt content-sharing initiative

  • Organizational life cycle
  • Organizational culture
  • Systematic literature review
  • Find a journal
  • Publish with us
  • Track your research


  • The Magazine
  • Newsletters
  • Managing Yourself
  • Managing Teams
  • Work-life Balance
  • The Big Idea
  • Data & Visuals
  • Reading Lists
  • Case Selections
  • HBR Learning
  • Topic Feeds
  • Account Settings
  • Email Preferences

Research Roundup: How the Pandemic Changed Management

  • Mark C. Bolino,
  • Jacob M. Whitney,
  • Sarah E. Henry

organizational life essay

Lessons from 69 articles published in top management and applied psychology journals.

Researchers recently reviewed 69 articles focused on the management implications of the Covid-19 pandemic that were published between March 2020 and July 2023 in top journals in management and applied psychology. The review highlights the numerous ways in which employees, teams, leaders, organizations, and societies were impacted and offers lessons for managing through future pandemics or other events of mass disruption.

The recent pandemic disrupted life as we know it, including for employees and organizations around the world. To understand such changes, we recently reviewed 69 articles focused on the management implications of the Covid-19 pandemic. These papers were published between March 2020 and July 2023 in top journals in management and applied psychology.

  • Mark C. Bolino is the David L. Boren Professor and the Michael F. Price Chair in International Business at the University of Oklahoma’s Price College of Business. His research focuses on understanding how an organization can inspire its employees to go the extra mile without compromising their personal well-being.
  • JW Jacob M. Whitney is a doctoral candidate in management at the University of Oklahoma’s Price College of Business and an incoming assistant professor at Kennesaw State University. His research interests include leadership, teams, and organizational citizenship behavior.
  • SH Sarah E. Henry is a doctoral candidate in management at the University of Oklahoma’s Price College of Business and an incoming assistant professor at the University of South Florida. Her research interests include organizational citizenship behaviors, workplace interpersonal dynamics, and international management.

Partner Center

Logo for M Libraries Publishing

Want to create or adapt books like this? Learn more about how Pressbooks supports open publishing practices.

9.3 Organizing Your Writing

Learning objectives.

  • Understand how and why organizational techniques help writers and readers stay focused.
  • Assess how and when to use chronological order to organize an essay.
  • Recognize how and when to use order of importance to organize an essay.
  • Determine how and when to use spatial order to organize an essay.

The method of organization you choose for your essay is just as important as its content. Without a clear organizational pattern, your reader could become confused and lose interest. The way you structure your essay helps your readers draw connections between the body and the thesis, and the structure also keeps you focused as you plan and write the essay. Choosing your organizational pattern before you outline ensures that each body paragraph works to support and develop your thesis.

This section covers three ways to organize body paragraphs:

  • Chronological order
  • Order of importance
  • Spatial order

When you begin to draft your essay, your ideas may seem to flow from your mind in a seemingly random manner. Your readers, who bring to the table different backgrounds, viewpoints, and ideas, need you to clearly organize these ideas in order to help process and accept them.

A solid organizational pattern gives your ideas a path that you can follow as you develop your draft. Knowing how you will organize your paragraphs allows you to better express and analyze your thoughts. Planning the structure of your essay before you choose supporting evidence helps you conduct more effective and targeted research.

Chronological Order

In Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” , you learned that chronological arrangement has the following purposes:

  • To explain the history of an event or a topic
  • To tell a story or relate an experience
  • To explain how to do or to make something
  • To explain the steps in a process

Chronological order is mostly used in expository writing , which is a form of writing that narrates, describes, informs, or explains a process. When using chronological order, arrange the events in the order that they actually happened, or will happen if you are giving instructions. This method requires you to use words such as first , second , then , after that , later , and finally . These transition words guide you and your reader through the paper as you expand your thesis.

For example, if you are writing an essay about the history of the airline industry, you would begin with its conception and detail the essential timeline events up until present day. You would follow the chain of events using words such as first , then , next , and so on.

Writing at Work

At some point in your career you may have to file a complaint with your human resources department. Using chronological order is a useful tool in describing the events that led up to your filing the grievance. You would logically lay out the events in the order that they occurred using the key transition words. The more logical your complaint, the more likely you will be well received and helped.

Choose an accomplishment you have achieved in your life. The important moment could be in sports, schooling, or extracurricular activities. On your own sheet of paper, list the steps you took to reach your goal. Try to be as specific as possible with the steps you took. Pay attention to using transition words to focus your writing.

Keep in mind that chronological order is most appropriate for the following purposes:

  • Writing essays containing heavy research
  • Writing essays with the aim of listing, explaining, or narrating
  • Writing essays that analyze literary works such as poems, plays, or books

When using chronological order, your introduction should indicate the information you will cover and in what order, and the introduction should also establish the relevance of the information. Your body paragraphs should then provide clear divisions or steps in chronology. You can divide your paragraphs by time (such as decades, wars, or other historical events) or by the same structure of the work you are examining (such as a line-by-line explication of a poem).

On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph that describes a process you are familiar with and can do well. Assume that your reader is unfamiliar with the procedure. Remember to use the chronological key words, such as first , second , then , and finally .

Order of Importance

Recall from Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” that order of importance is best used for the following purposes:

  • Persuading and convincing
  • Ranking items by their importance, benefit, or significance
  • Illustrating a situation, problem, or solution

Most essays move from the least to the most important point, and the paragraphs are arranged in an effort to build the essay’s strength. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to begin with your most important supporting point, such as in an essay that contains a thesis that is highly debatable. When writing a persuasive essay, it is best to begin with the most important point because it immediately captivates your readers and compels them to continue reading.

For example, if you were supporting your thesis that homework is detrimental to the education of high school students, you would want to present your most convincing argument first, and then move on to the less important points for your case.

Some key transitional words you should use with this method of organization are most importantly , almost as importantly , just as importantly , and finally .

During your career, you may be required to work on a team that devises a strategy for a specific goal of your company, such as increasing profits. When planning your strategy you should organize your steps in order of importance. This demonstrates the ability to prioritize and plan. Using the order of importance technique also shows that you can create a resolution with logical steps for accomplishing a common goal.

On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph that discusses a passion of yours. Your passion could be music, a particular sport, filmmaking, and so on. Your paragraph should be built upon the reasons why you feel so strongly. Briefly discuss your reasons in the order of least to greatest importance.

Spatial Order

As stated in Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” , spatial order is best used for the following purposes:

  • Helping readers visualize something as you want them to see it
  • Evoking a scene using the senses (sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound)
  • Writing a descriptive essay

Spatial order means that you explain or describe objects as they are arranged around you in your space, for example in a bedroom. As the writer, you create a picture for your reader, and their perspective is the viewpoint from which you describe what is around you.

The view must move in an orderly, logical progression, giving the reader clear directional signals to follow from place to place. The key to using this method is to choose a specific starting point and then guide the reader to follow your eye as it moves in an orderly trajectory from your starting point.

Pay attention to the following student’s description of her bedroom and how she guides the reader through the viewing process, foot by foot.

Attached to my bedroom wall is a small wooden rack dangling with red and turquoise necklaces that shimmer as you enter. Just to the right of the rack is my window, framed by billowy white curtains. The peace of such an image is a stark contrast to my desk, which sits to the right of the window, layered in textbooks, crumpled papers, coffee cups, and an overflowing ashtray. Turning my head to the right, I see a set of two bare windows that frame the trees outside the glass like a 3D painting. Below the windows is an oak chest from which blankets and scarves are protruding. Against the wall opposite the billowy curtains is an antique dresser, on top of which sits a jewelry box and a few picture frames. A tall mirror attached to the dresser takes up most of the wall, which is the color of lavender.

The paragraph incorporates two objectives you have learned in this chapter: using an implied topic sentence and applying spatial order. Often in a descriptive essay, the two work together.

The following are possible transition words to include when using spatial order:

  • Just to the left or just to the right
  • On the left or on the right
  • Across from
  • A little further down
  • To the south, to the east, and so on
  • A few yards away
  • Turning left or turning right

On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph using spatial order that describes your commute to work, school, or another location you visit often.


Please share with a classmate and compare your answers.

Key Takeaways

  • The way you organize your body paragraphs ensures you and your readers stay focused on and draw connections to, your thesis statement.
  • A strong organizational pattern allows you to articulate, analyze, and clarify your thoughts.
  • Planning the organizational structure for your essay before you begin to search for supporting evidence helps you conduct more effective and directed research.
  • Chronological order is most commonly used in expository writing. It is useful for explaining the history of your subject, for telling a story, or for explaining a process.
  • Order of importance is most appropriate in a persuasion paper as well as for essays in which you rank things, people, or events by their significance.
  • Spatial order describes things as they are arranged in space and is best for helping readers visualize something as you want them to see it; it creates a dominant impression.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Skip to content. | Skip to navigation


  • About Hunter
  • One Stop for Students
  • Make a Gift
  • Access the Student Guide
  • Apply to Become a Peer Tutor
  • Access the Faculty Guide
  • Request a Classroom Visit
  • Refer a Student to the Center
  • Request a Classroom Workshop
  • The Writing Process
  • The Documented Essay/Research Paper
  • Writing for English Courses
  • Writing Across the Curriculum
  • Grammar and Mechanics
  • Business and Professional Writing
  • | Workshops
  • Research Information and Resources
  • Evaluating Information Sources
  • Writing Tools and References
  • Reading Room
  • Literary Resources
  • ESL Resources for Students
  • ESL Resources for Faculty
  • Teaching and Learning
  • | Contact Us

Many types of writing follow some version of the basic shape described above. This shape is most obvious in the form of the traditional five-paragraph essay: a model for college writing in which the writer argues his or her viewpoint (thesis) on a topic and uses three reasons or subtopics to support that position. In the five-paragraph model, as illustrated below, the introductory paragraph mentions the three main points or subtopics, and each body paragraph begins with a topic sentence dealing with one of those main points.


Remember, this is a very simplistic model. It presents a basic idea of essay organization and may certainly be helpful in learning to structure an argument, but it should not be followed religiously as an ideal form.

Document Actions

  • Public Safety
  • Website Feedback
  • Privacy Policy
  • CUNY Tobacco Policy
  • Skip to main content
  • Keyboard shortcuts for audio player

Author Interviews

A conversation with the author of 'there's always this year'.

NPR's Scott Detrow speaks to Hanif Abdurraqib about the new book There's Always This Year . It's a mix of memoir, essays, and poems, looking at the role basketball played in Abdurraqib's life.


The new book "There's Always This Year" opens with an invitation. Here's a quote - "if you please imagine with me, you are putting your hand into my open palm, and I am resting one free hand atop yours. And I am saying to you that I would like to commiserate here and now about our enemies. We know our enemies by how foolishly they trample upon what we know as affection, how quickly they find another language for what they cannot translate as love." And what follows from that is a lyrical book about basketball but also about geography, luck, fate and many other things, too. It's also about how the career arc of basketball great LeBron James is woven through the life of the book's author, Hanif Abdurraqib, who joins us now. Welcome back to the show.

HANIF ABDURRAQIB: Thank you for having me again, Scott. It's really wonderful to be here.

DETROW: You know, I love this book so much, but I'm not entirely sure how to describe it. It's part memoir, part meditation, part poetry collection, part essay collection. How do you think about this book?

ABDURRAQIB: You know, it's funny. I've been running into that too early on in the process and now - still, when I'm asked to kind of give an elevator pitch. And I think really, if I'm being honest, that feels like an achievement to me because so much of...


ABDURRAQIB: ...My intent with the book was working against a singular aboutness (ph) or positioning the book as something that could be operating against neat description because I think I was trying to tie together multiple ideas, sure, through the single - singular and single lens of basketball. But I kind of wanted to make basketball almost a - just a canvas atop which I was laying a lot of other concerns, be it mortality or place or fatherhood and sonhood (ph) in my case. I think mostly it's a book about mortality. It's a book about the passage of time and attempting to be honest with myself about the realities of time's passing.

DETROW: Yeah, it seems to me like it could also be a book about geography, about being shaped by the place you grew up in and that moment where you choose to stay or leave, or maybe leave and come back. And I was hoping you could read a passage that that deals directly with that for us.

ABDURRAQIB: Of course. Yeah. This is from the third quarter or the third act of the of the book.

(Reading) It bears mentioning that I come from a place people leave. Yes, when LeBron left, the reactions made enough sense to me, I suppose. But there was a part of me that felt entirely unsurprised. People leave this place. There are Midwestern states that are far less discernible on a blank map, sure. Even with an understanding of direction, I am known to mess up the order of the Dakotas. I've been known to point at a great many square-like landscapes while weakly mumbling Nebraska. And so I get it. We don't have it too bad. People at least claim to know that Ohio is shaped like a heart - a jagged heart, a heart with sharp edges, a heart as a weapon. That's why so many people make their way elsewhere.

DETROW: What does Ohio, and specifically, what does Columbus mean to you and who you are?

ABDURRAQIB: I think at this stage in my life, it's the one constant that keeps me tethered to a version of myself that is most recognizable. You know, you don't choose place. Place is something that happens to you. Place is maybe the second choice that is made for you after the choice of who your parents are. But if you have the means and ability, there are those of us who at some point in our lives get to choose a place back. And I think choosing that place back doesn't happen once. I mean, it happens several times. It's like any other relationship. You are choosing to love a place or a person as they are, and then checking in with if you are capable of continuing to love that place or person as they evolve, sometimes as they evolve without you or sometimes as you evolve without them. And so it's a real - a math problem that is always unfolding, someone asking the question of - what have I left behind in my growth, or what has left me behind in a growth that I don't recognize?

So, you know, Columbus doesn't look the way - just from an architectural standpoint - does not look the way it looked when I was young. It doesn't even look the way it looked when I moved back in 2017. And I have to kind of keep asking myself what I can live with. Now that, for me, often means that I turn more inward to the people. And I began to think of the people I love as their own architecture, a much more reliable and much more sturdy architecture than the architecture that is constantly under the siege of gentrification. And that has been grounding for me. It's been grounding for me to say, OK, I can't trust that this building will stay. I can't trust that this basketball court will stay. I can't trust that this mural or any of it will stay. But what I do know is that for now, in a corner of the city or in many corners of the city, there are people who know me in a very specific way, and we have a language that is only ours. And through that language, we render each other as full cities unto ourselves.

DETROW: Yeah. Can you tell me how you thought about basketball more broadly, and LeBron James specifically, weaving in and out of these big questions you're asking? - because in the first - I guess the second and third quarter, really, of the book - and I should say, you organize the book like a basketball game in quarters. You know, you're being really - you're writing these evocative, sad scenes of how, like you said, your life was not unfolding the way you wanted it in a variety of ways. And it's almost like LeBron James is kind of floating through as a specter on the TV screen in the background, keeping you company in a moment where it seems to me like you really needed company. Like, how did you think about your relationship with basketball and the broader moments and the broader thoughts in those moments?

ABDURRAQIB: Oh, man, that's not only such a good question, but that's actually - that's such a good image of LeBron James on the TV in the background because it was that. In a way, it was that in a very plainly material, realistic, literal sense because when I was, say, unhoused - right? - I...

ABDURRAQIB: ...Would kind of - you know, sometimes at night you kind of just wander. You find a place, and you walk through downtown. And I remember very clearly walking through downtown Columbus and just hearing the Cavs games blaring out of open doors to bars or restaurants and things like that, and not having - you know, I couldn't go in there because I had no money to buy anything, and I would eventually get thrown out of those places.

So, you know, I think playing and watching basketball - you know, even though this book is not, like, a heavy, in-depth basketball biography or a basketball memoir, I did spend a lot of time watching old - gosh, so much of the research for this book was me watching clips from the early - mid-2000s of...

ABDURRAQIB: ...LeBron James playing basketball because my headspace while living through that was entirely different. It's like you said, like LeBron was on a screen in the background of a life that was unsatisfying to me. So they were almost, like, being watched through static. And now when I watch them, the static clears, and they're a little bit more pleasureful (ph). And that was really joyful.

DETROW: LeBron James, of course, left the Cavs for a while. He took his talents to South Beach, went to the Miami Heat. You write - and I was a little surprised - that you have a really special place in your heart for, as you call them, the LeBronless (ph) years and the way that you...


DETROW: ...Interacted with the team. What do you think that says? And why do you think you felt that way and feel that way about the LeBronless Cavs?

ABDURRAQIB: I - you know, I'm trying to think of a softer word than awful. But you know what? They were awful.

DETROW: (Laughter).

ABDURRAQIB: I mean they were (laughter) - but that did not stop them from playing this kind of strange level of hard, at times, because I think it hit a point, particularly in the late season, where it was clear they were giving in and tanking. But some of those guys were, like, old professionals. There's, like, an older Baron Davis on that team. You know, some of these guys, like, did not want to be embarrassed. And...

ABDURRAQIB: ...That, to me, was miraculous to watch where - because they're still professionals. They're still NBA players. And to know that these guys were playing on a team that just could not win games - they just didn't have the talent - but they individually did not want to - at least did not want to give up the appearance that they weren't fighting, there's something beautiful and romantic about that to me.

DETROW: It makes a lot of sense why you end the book around 2016 when the Cavs triumph and bring the championship to Cleveland. But when it comes to the passage of time - and I'll say I'm the exact same age as you, and we're both about the same age as LeBron. When it comes to the passage of time, how do you present-day feel about LeBron James watching the graying LeBron James who's paying so much attention to his lower back? - because I don't have anywhere near the intense relationship with him that you do. But, I mean, I remember reading that Sports Illustrated when it came out. I remember watching him in high school on ESPN, and I feel like going on this - my entire adult life journey with him. And I feel like weirdly protective of LeBron James now, right? Like, you be careful with him.


DETROW: And I'm wondering how you think about him today and what that leads your brain to, given this long, long, long relationship you have with him.

ABDURRAQIB: I find myself mostly anxious now about LeBron James, even though he is still - I think he's still playing at a high level. I mean, I - you know, I think that's not a controversial statement. But I - while he is still playing at a high level, I do - I'm like everyone else. So I'm kind of aware that it does seem like parts of him - or at least he's paying a bit more attention to the aches that just come with aging, right?

ABDURRAQIB: I have great empathy and sympathy for an athlete who's dedicated their life to a sport, who is maybe even aware that their skills are not what they once were, but still are playing because that's just what they've done. And they are...

ABDURRAQIB: ...In some cases, maybe still in pursuit of one more ring or one more legacy-building exploit that they can attach to their career before moving on to whatever is next. And so I don't know. And I don't think LeBron is at risk of a sharp and brutal decline, but I do worry a bit about him playing past his prime, only because I've never seen him be anything but miraculous on the court. And to witness that, I think, would be devastating in some ways.

And selfishly, I think it would signal some things to me personally about the limits of my own miracle making, not as a basketball player, of course, but as - you know, because a big conceit of the book is LeBron and I are similar in age, and we have - you know, around the same age and all this. And I think a deep flaw is that I've perhaps attached a part of his kind of miraculous playing beyond what people thought to my own idea about what miracle is as you age.

And so, you know, to be witness to a decline, a sharp decline would be fascinating and strange and a bit disorienting. But I hope it doesn't get there. You know, I hope - I would like to see him get one more ring. I don't know when it's going to come or how it's going to come, but I would like to see him get one more. I really would. My dream, selfishly, is that it happens again in Cleveland. He'll come back here and team up with, you know, some good young players and get one more ring for Cleveland because I think Cavs fans, you know, deserve that to the degree that anyone deserves anything in sports. That would be a great storybook ending.

DETROW: The last thing I want to ask about are these vignettes and poems that dot the book in praise of legendary Ohio aviators. Can you tell me what you were trying to do there? And then I'd love to end with you reading a few of them for me.

ABDURRAQIB: Yeah. I'm so glad you asked about that. I haven't gotten to talk about that as much, and that - those were the first things I wrote for the book. I wrote 30 of them...

DETROW: Really?

ABDURRAQIB: ...I think. And of course, they all didn't make it. But that was kind of an exercise, like a brain exercise. And I was trying to play with this idea of starting out with folks who were literally aviators. So it begins with John Glenn and Lonnie Carmen, and then working further and further away from aviation in a literal sense, much like the book is working further and further away from, say, basketball in this concrete sense - because ascension in my mind isn't just moving upward, it is expansion, too. It is, I think, any directional movement away from where your position is. And so I got to be kind of flexible with ideas of ascent and growth and moving upward.

DETROW: And the last aviator you did this for was you. And I'm hoping you can read what you wrote about yourself to end this.

ABDURRAQIB: Oh, gosh. OK, yeah. This is Hanif Abdurraqib, Columbus, Ohio, 1983 to present. (Reading) Never dies in his dreams. In his dreams, he is infinite, has wings, feathers that block the sun. And yet in the real living world, the kid has seen every apocalypse before it arrives, has been the architect of a few bad ones. Still wants to be alive most days. Been resurrected so many damn times, no one is surprised by the magic trick anymore.

DETROW: That's Hanif Abdurraqib, author of the new book "There's Always This Year: On Basketball And Ascension." Thank you so much.

ABDURRAQIB: Thank you, Scott. I really appreciate it.


Copyright © 2024 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

  • Share full article

A black and white illustration of overlapping triangles.

Opinion Guest Essay

The Great Rupture in American Jewish Life

Credit... Daniel Benneworth-Gray

Supported by

By Peter Beinart

Mr. Beinart is the editor at large of Jewish Currents and a journalist and writer who has written extensively on the Middle East, Jewish life and American foreign policy.

  • March 22, 2024

F or the last decade or so, an ideological tremor has been unsettling American Jewish life. Since Oct. 7, it has become an earthquake. It concerns the relationship between liberalism and Zionism, two creeds that for more than half a century have defined American Jewish identity. In the years to come, American Jews will face growing pressure to choose between them.

They will face that pressure because Israel’s war in Gaza has supercharged a transformation on the American left. Solidarity with Palestinians is becoming as essential to leftist politics as support for abortion rights or opposition to fossil fuels. And as happened during the Vietnam War and the struggle against South African apartheid, leftist fervor is reshaping the liberal mainstream. In December, the United Automobile Workers demanded a cease-fire and formed a divestment working group to consider the union’s “economic ties to the conflict.” In January, the National L.G.B.T.Q. Task Force called for a cease-fire as well. In February, the leadership of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the nation’s oldest Black Protestant denomination, called on the United States to halt aid to the Jewish state. Across blue America, many liberals who once supported Israel or avoided the subject are making the Palestinian cause their own.

This transformation remains in its early stages. In many prominent liberal institutions — most significantly, the Democratic Party — supporters of Israel remain not only welcome but also dominant. But the leaders of those institutions no longer represent much of their base. The Democratic majority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, acknowledged this divide in a speech on Israel on the Senate floor last week. He reiterated his longstanding commitment to the Jewish state, though not its prime minister. But he also conceded, in the speech’s most remarkable line, that he “can understand the idealism that inspires so many young people in particular to support a one-state solution” — a solution that does not involve a Jewish state. Those are the words of a politician who understands that his party is undergoing profound change.

The American Jews most committed to Zionism, the ones who run establishment institutions, understand that liberal America is becoming less ideologically hospitable. And they are responding by forging common cause with the American right. It’s no surprise that the Anti-Defamation League, which only a few years ago harshly criticized Donald Trump’s immigration policies, recently honored his son-in-law and former senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

Mr. Trump himself recognizes the emerging political split. “Any Jewish person that votes for Democrats hates their religion,” he said in an interview published on Monday. “They hate everything about Israel, and they should be ashamed of themselves because Israel will be destroyed.” It’s typical Trumpian indecency and hyperbole, but it’s rooted in a political reality. For American Jews who want to preserve their country’s unconditional support for Israel for another generation, there is only one reliable political partner: a Republican Party that views standing for Palestinian rights as part of the “woke” agenda.

The American Jews who are making a different choice — jettisoning Zionism because they can’t reconcile it with the liberal principle of equality under the law — garner less attention because they remain further from power. But their numbers are larger than many recognize, especially among millennials and Gen Z. And they face their own dilemmas. They are joining a Palestine solidarity movement that is growing larger, but also more radical, in response to Israel’s destruction of Gaza. That growing radicalism has produced a paradox: A movement that welcomes more and more American Jews finds it harder to explain where Israeli Jews fit into its vision of Palestinian liberation.

The emerging rupture between American liberalism and American Zionism constitutes the greatest transformation in American Jewish politics in half a century. It will redefine American Jewish life for decades to come.

A photograph of a group of people in front of the Capitol building. One woman holds a sign that says “Jews say: Ceasefire Now.” Another person holds a sign that says “No to war, no to apartheid.”

“A merican Jews,” writes Marc Dollinger in his book “Quest for Inclusion: Jews and Liberalism in Modern America,” have long depicted themselves as “guardians of liberal America.” Since they came to the United States in large numbers around the turn of the 20th century, Jews have been wildly overrepresented in movements for civil, women’s, labor and gay rights. Since the 1930s, despite their rising prosperity, they have voted overwhelmingly for Democrats. For generations of American Jews, the icons of American liberalism — Eleanor Roosevelt, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Gloria Steinem — have been secular saints.

The American Jewish love affair with Zionism dates from the early 20th century as well. But it came to dominate communal life only after Israel’s dramatic victory in the 1967 war exhilarated American Jews eager for an antidote to Jewish powerlessness during the Holocaust. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which was nearly bankrupt on the eve of the 1967 war, had become American Jewry’s most powerful institution by the 1980s. American Jews, wrote Albert Vorspan, a leader of Reform Judaism, in 1988, “have made of Israel an icon — a surrogate faith, surrogate synagogue, surrogate God.”

Given the depth of these twin commitments, it’s no surprise that American Jews have long sought to fuse them by describing Zionism as a liberal cause. It has always been a strange pairing. American liberals generally consider themselves advocates of equal citizenship irrespective of ethnicity, religion and race. Zionism — or at the least the version that has guided Israel since its founding — requires Jewish dominance. From 1948 to 1966, Israel held most of its Palestinian citizens under military law; since 1967 it has ruled millions of Palestinians who hold no citizenship at all. Even so, American Jews could until recently assert their Zionism without having their liberal credentials challenged.

The primary reason was the absence from American public discourse of Palestinians, the people whose testimony would cast those credentials into greatest doubt. In 1984, the Palestinian American literary critic Edward Said argued that in the West, Palestinians lack “permission to narrate” their own experience. For decades after he wrote those words, they remained true. A study by the University of Arizona’s Maha Nassar found that of the opinion articles about Palestinians published in The New York Times and The Washington Post between 2000 and 2009, Palestinians themselves wrote roughly 1 percent.

But in recent years, Palestinian voices, while still embattled and even censored , have begun to carry. Palestinians have turned to social media to combat their exclusion from the press. In an era of youth-led activism, they have joined intersectional movements forged by parallel experiences of discrimination and injustice. Meanwhile, Israel — under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu for most of the past two decades — has lurched to the right, producing politicians so openly racist that their behavior cannot be defended in liberal terms.

Many Palestine solidarity activists identify as leftists, not liberals. But like the activists of the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter movements, they have helped change liberal opinion with their radical critiques. In 2002, according to Gallup , Democrats sympathized with Israel over the Palestinians by a margin of 34 points. By early 2023, they favored the Palestinians by 11 points. And because opinion about Israel cleaves along generational lines, that pro-Palestinian skew is much greater among the young. According to a Quinnipiac University poll in November, Democrats under the age of 35 sympathize more with Palestinians than with Israelis by 58 points.

Given this generational gulf, universities offer a preview of the way many liberals — or “progressives,” a term that straddles liberalism and leftism and enjoys more currency among young Americans — may view Zionism in the years to come. Supporting Palestine has become a core feature of progressive politics on many campuses. At Columbia, for example, 94 campus organizations — including the Vietnamese Students Association, the Reproductive Justice Collective and Poetry Slam, Columbia’s “only recreational spoken word club” — announced in November that they “see Palestine as the vanguard for our collective liberation.” As a result, Zionist Jewish students find themselves at odds with most of their politically active peers.

Accompanying this shift, on campus and beyond, has been a rise in Israel-related antisemitism. It follows a pattern in American history. From the hostility toward German Americans during World War I to violence against American Muslims after Sept. 11 and assaults on Asian Americans during the Covid pandemic, Americans have a long and ugly tradition of expressing their hostility toward foreign governments or movements by targeting compatriots who share a religion, ethnicity or nationality with those overseas adversaries. Today, tragically, some Americans who loathe Israel are taking it out on American Jews. (Palestinian Americans, who have endured multiple violent hate crimes since Oct. 7, are experiencing their own version of this phenomenon.) The spike in antisemitism since Oct. 7 follows a pattern. Five years ago, the political scientist Ayal Feinberg, using data from 2001 and 2014, found that reported antisemitic incidents in the United States spike when the Israeli military conducts a substantial military operation.

Attributing the growing discomfort of pro-Israel Jewish students entirely to antisemitism, however, misses something fundamental. Unlike establishment Jewish organizations, Jewish students often distinguish between bigotry and ideological antagonism. In a 2022 study , the political scientist Eitan Hersh found that more than 50 percent of Jewish college students felt “they pay a social cost for supporting the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.” And yet, in general, Dr. Hersh reported, “the students do not fear antisemitism.”

Surveys since Oct. 7 find something similar. Asked in November in a Hillel International poll to describe the climate on campus since the start of the war, 20 percent of Jewish students answered “unsafe” and 23 percent answered “scary.” By contrast, 45 percent answered “uncomfortable” and 53 percent answered “tense.” A survey that same month by the Jewish Electorate Institute found that only 37 percent of American Jewish voters ages 18 to 35 consider campus antisemitism a “very serious problem,” compared with nearly 80 percent of American Jewish voters over the age of 35.

While some young pro-Israel American Jews experience antisemitism, they more frequently report ideological exclusion. As Zionism becomes associated with the political right, their experiences on progressive campuses are coming to resemble the experiences of young Republicans. The difference is that unlike young Republicans, most young American Zionists were raised to believe that theirs was a liberal creed. When their parents attended college, that assertion was rarely challenged. On the same campuses where their parents felt at home, Jewish students who view Zionism as central to their identity now often feel like outsiders.

In 1979, Mr. Said observed that in the West, “to be a Palestinian is in political terms to be an outlaw.” In much of America — including Washington — that remains true. But within progressive institutions one can glimpse the beginning of a historic inversion. Often, it’s now the Zionists who feel like outlaws.

G iven the organized American Jewish community’s professed devotion to liberal principles, which include free speech, one might imagine that Jewish institutions would greet this ideological shift by urging pro-Israel students to tolerate and even learn from their pro-Palestinian peers. Such a stance would flow naturally from the statements establishment Jewish groups have made in the past. A few years ago, the Anti-Defamation League declared that “our country’s universities serve as laboratories for the exchange of differing viewpoints and beliefs. Offensive, hateful speech is protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment.”

But as pro-Palestinian sentiment has grown in progressive America, pro-Israel Jewish leaders have apparently made an exception for anti-Zionism. While still claiming to support free speech on campus, the ADL last October asked college presidents to investigate local chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine to determine whether they violated university regulations or state or federal laws, a demand that the American Civil Liberties Union warned could “chill speech” and “betray the spirit of free inquiry.” After the University of Pennsylvania hosted a Palestinian literature festival last fall, Marc Rowan, chair of the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York and chair of the board of advisers of Penn’s Wharton business school, condemned the university’s president for giving the festival Penn’s “imprimatur.” In December, he encouraged trustees to alter university policies in ways that Penn’s branch of the American Association of University Professors warn ed could “silence and punish speech with which trustees disagree.”

In this effort to limit pro-Palestinian speech, establishment Jewish leaders are finding their strongest allies on the authoritarian right. Pro-Trump Republicans have their own censorship agenda: They want to stop schools and universities from emphasizing America’s history of racial and other oppression. Calling that pedagogy antisemitic makes it easier to ban or defund. At a much discussed congressional hearing in December featuring the presidents of Harvard, Penn and M.I.T., the Republican representative Virginia Foxx noted that Harvard teaches courses like “Race and Racism in the Making of the United States as a Global Power” and hosts seminars such as “Scientific Racism and Anti-Racism: History and Recent Perspectives” before declaring that “Harvard also, not coincidentally but causally, was ground zero for antisemitism following Oct. 7.”

Ms. Foxx’s view is typical. While some Democrats also equate anti-Zionism and antisemitism, the politicians and business leaders most eager to suppress pro-Palestinian speech are conservatives who link such speech to the diversity, equity and inclusion agenda they despise. Elise Stefanik, a Trump acolyte who has accused Harvard of “caving to the woke left,” became the star of that congressional hearing by demanding that Harvard’s president , Claudine Gay, punish students who chant slogans like “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” (Ms. Gay was subsequently forced to resign following charges of plagiarism.) Elon Musk, who in November said that the phrase “from the river to the sea” was banned from his social media platform X (formerly Twitter), the following month declared , “D.E.I. must die.” The first governor to ban Students for Justice in Palestine chapters at his state’s public universities was Florida’s Ron DeSantis, who has also signed legislation that limits what those universities can teach about race and gender.

This alignment between the American Jewish organizational establishment and the Trumpist right is not limited to universities. If the ADL has aligned with Republicans who want to silence “woke” activists on campus, AIPAC has joined forces with Republicans who want to disenfranchise “woke” voters. In the 2022 midterm elections, AIPAC endorsed at least 109 Republicans who opposed certifying the 2020 election. For an organization single-mindedly focused on sustaining unconditional U.S. support for Israel, that constituted a rational decision. Since Republican members of Congress don’t have to mollify pro-Palestinian voters, they’re AIPAC’s most dependable allies. And if many of those Republicans used specious claims of Black voter fraud to oppose the democratic transfer of power in 2020 — and may do so again — that’s a price AIPAC seems to be prepared to pay.

F or the many American Jews who still consider themselves both progressives and Zionists, this growing alliance between leading Zionist institutions and a Trumpist Republican Party is uncomfortable. But in the short term, they have an answer: politicians like President Biden, whose views about both Israel and American democracy roughly reflect their own. In his speech last week, Mr. Schumer called these liberal Zionists American Jewry’s “silent majority.”

For the moment he may be right. In the years to come, however, as generational currents pull the Democratic Party in a more pro-Palestinian direction and push America’s pro-Israel establishment to the right, liberal Zionists will likely find it harder to reconcile their two faiths. Young American Jews offer a glimpse into that future, in which a sizable wing of American Jewry decides that to hold fast to its progressive principles it must jettison Zionism and embrace equal citizenship in Israel and Palestine, as well as in the United States.

For an American Jewish establishment that equates anti-Zionism with antisemitism, these anti-Zionist Jews are inconvenient. Sometimes, pro-Israel Jewish organizations pretend they don’t exist. In November, after Columbia suspended two anti-Zionist campus groups, the ADL thanked university leaders for acting “to protect Jewish students” — even though one of the suspended groups was Jewish Voice for Peace. At other times, pro-Israel leaders describe anti-Zionist Jews as a negligible fringe. If American Jews are divided over the war in Gaza, Andrés Spokoiny, the president and chief executive of the Jewish Funders Network, an organization for Jewish philanthropists, declared in December, “the split is 98 percent/2 percent.”

Among older American Jews, this assertion of a Zionist consensus contains some truth. But among younger American Jews, it’s false. In 2021, even before Israel’s current far-right government took power, the Jewish Electorate Institute found that 38 percent of American Jewish voters under the age of 40 viewed Israel as an apartheid state, compared with 47 percent who said it’s not. In November, it revealed that 49 percent of American Jewish voters ages 18 to 35 opposed Mr. Biden’s request for additional military aid to Israel. On many campuses, Jewish students are at the forefront of protests for a cease-fire and divestment from Israel. They don’t speak for all — and maybe not even most — of their Jewish peers. But they represent far more than 2 percent.

These progressive Jews are, as the U.S. editor of The London Review of Books, Adam Shatz, noted to me, a double minority. Their anti-Zionism makes them a minority among American Jews, while their Jewishness makes them a minority in the Palestine solidarity movement. Fifteen years ago, when the liberal Zionist group J Street was intent on being the “ blocking back ” for President Barack Obama’s push for a two-state solution, some liberal Jews imagined themselves leading the push to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Today, the prospect of partition has diminished, and Palestinians increasingly set the terms of activist criticism of Israel. That discourse, which is peppered with terms like “apartheid” and “decolonization," is generally hostile to a Jewish state within any borders.

There’s nothing antisemitic about envisioning a future in which Palestinians and Jews coexist on the basis of legal equality rather than Jewish supremacy. But in pro-Palestine activist circles in the United States, coexistence has receded as a theme. In 1999, Mr. Said argued for “a binational Israeli-Palestinian state” that offered “self-determination for both peoples.” In his 2007 book, “One Country,” Ali Abunimah, a co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, an influential source of pro-Palestine news and opinion, imagined one state whose name reflected the identities of both major communities that inhabit it. The terms “‘Israel’ and ‘Palestine’ are dear to those who use them and they should not be abandoned,” he argued. “The country could be called Yisrael-Falastin in Hebrew and Filastin-Isra’il in Arabic.”

In recent years, however, as Israel has moved to the right, pro-Palestinian discourse in the United States has hardened. The phrase “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which dates from the 1960s but has gained new prominence since Oct. 7, does not acknowledge Palestine and Israel’s binational character. To many American Jews, in fact, the phrase suggests a Palestine free of Jews. It sounds expulsionist, if not genocidal. It’s an ironic charge, given that it is Israel that today controls the land between the river and the sea, whose leaders openly advocate the mass exodus of Palestinians and that the International Court of Justice says could plausibly be committing genocide in Gaza.

Palestinian scholars like Maha Nassar and Ahmad Khalidi argue that “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” does not imply the subjugation of Jews. It instead reflects the longstanding Palestinian belief that Palestine should have become an independent country when released from European colonial control, a vision that does not preclude Jews from living freely alongside their Muslim and Christian neighbors. The Jewish groups closest to the Palestine solidarity movement agree: Jewish Voice for Peace’s Los Angeles chapter has argued that the slogan is no more anti-Jewish than the phrase “Black lives matter” is anti-white. And if the Palestine solidarity movement in the United States calls for the genocide of Jews, it’s hard to explain why so many Jews have joined its ranks. Rabbi Alissa Wise, an organizer of Rabbis for Cease-Fire, estimates that other than Palestinians, no other group has been as prominent in the protests against the war as Jews.

Still, imagining a “free Palestine” from the river to the sea requires imagining that Israeli Jews will become Palestinians, which erases their collective identity. That’s a departure from the more inclusive vision that Mr. Said and Mr. Abunimah outlined years ago. It’s harder for Palestinian activists to offer that more inclusive vision when they are watching Israel bomb and starve Gaza. But the rise of Hamas makes it even more essential.

Jews who identify with the Palestinian struggle may find it difficult to offer this critique. Many have defected from the Zionist milieu in which they were raised. Having made that painful transition, which can rupture relations with friends and family, they may be disinclined to question their new ideological home. It’s frightening to risk alienating one community when you’ve already alienated another. Questioning the Palestine solidarity movement also violates the notion, prevalent in some quarters of the American left, that members of an oppressor group should not second-guess representatives of the oppressed.

But these identity hierarchies suppress critical thought. Palestinians aren’t a monolith, and progressive Jews aren’t merely allies. They are members of a small and long-persecuted people who have not only the right but also the obligation to care about Jews in Israel, and to push the Palestine solidarity movement to more explicitly include them in its vision of liberation, in the spirit of the Freedom Charter adopted during apartheid by the African National Congress and its allies, which declared in its second sentence that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, Black and white.”

For many American Jews, it is painful to watch their children’s or grandchildren’s generation question Zionism. It is infuriating to watch students at liberal institutions with which they once felt aligned treat Zionism as a racist creed. It is tempting to attribute all this to antisemitism, even if that requires defining many young American Jews as antisemites themselves.

But the American Jews who insist that Zionism and liberalism remain compatible should ask themselves why Israel now attracts the fervent support of Representative Stefanik but repels the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the United Automobile Workers. Why it enjoys the admiration of Elon Musk and Viktor Orban but is labeled a perpetrator of apartheid by Human Rights Watch and likened to the Jim Crow South by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Why it is more likely to retain unconditional American support if Mr. Trump succeeds in turning the United States into a white Christian supremacist state than if he fails.

For many decades, American Jews have built our political identity on a contradiction: Pursue equal citizenship here; defend group supremacy there. Now here and there are converging. In the years to come, we will have to choose.

Peter Beinart ( @PeterBeinart ) is a professor of journalism and political science at the Newmark School of Journalism at the City University of New York. He is also the editor at large of Jewish Currents and writes The Beinart Notebook , a weekly newsletter.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

Follow the New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Instagram , TikTok , WhatsApp , X and Threads .


Things you buy through our links may earn Vox Media a commission

  • The Case for Marrying an Older Man

A woman’s life is all work and little rest. An age gap relationship can help.

organizational life essay

In the summer, in the south of France, my husband and I like to play, rather badly, the lottery. We take long, scorching walks to the village — gratuitous beauty, gratuitous heat — kicking up dust and languid debates over how we’d spend such an influx. I purchase scratch-offs, jackpot tickets, scraping the former with euro coins in restaurants too fine for that. I never cash them in, nor do I check the winning numbers. For I already won something like the lotto, with its gifts and its curses, when he married me.

He is ten years older than I am. I chose him on purpose, not by chance. As far as life decisions go, on balance, I recommend it.

When I was 20 and a junior at Harvard College, a series of great ironies began to mock me. I could study all I wanted, prove myself as exceptional as I liked, and still my fiercest advantage remained so universal it deflated my other plans. My youth. The newness of my face and body. Compellingly effortless; cruelly fleeting. I shared it with the average, idle young woman shrugging down the street. The thought, when it descended on me, jolted my perspective, the way a falling leaf can make you look up: I could diligently craft an ideal existence, over years and years of sleepless nights and industry. Or I could just marry it early.

So naturally I began to lug a heavy suitcase of books each Saturday to the Harvard Business School to work on my Nabokov paper. In one cavernous, well-appointed room sat approximately 50 of the planet’s most suitable bachelors. I had high breasts, most of my eggs, plausible deniability when it came to purity, a flush ponytail, a pep in my step that had yet to run out. Apologies to Progress, but older men still desired those things.

I could not understand why my female classmates did not join me, given their intelligence. Each time I reconsidered the project, it struck me as more reasonable. Why ignore our youth when it amounted to a superpower? Why assume the burdens of womanhood, its too-quick-to-vanish upper hand, but not its brief benefits at least? Perhaps it came easier to avoid the topic wholesale than to accept that women really do have a tragically short window of power, and reason enough to take advantage of that fact while they can. As for me, I liked history, Victorian novels, knew of imminent female pitfalls from all the books I’d read: vampiric boyfriends; labor, at the office and in the hospital, expected simultaneously; a decline in status as we aged, like a looming eclipse. I’d have disliked being called calculating, but I had, like all women, a calculator in my head. I thought it silly to ignore its answers when they pointed to an unfairness for which we really ought to have been preparing.

I was competitive by nature, an English-literature student with all the corresponding major ambitions and minor prospects (Great American novel; email job). A little Bovarist , frantic for new places and ideas; to travel here, to travel there, to be in the room where things happened. I resented the callow boys in my class, who lusted after a particular, socially sanctioned type on campus: thin and sexless, emotionally detached and socially connected, the opposite of me. Restless one Saturday night, I slipped on a red dress and snuck into a graduate-school event, coiling an HDMI cord around my wrist as proof of some technical duty. I danced. I drank for free, until one of the organizers asked me to leave. I called and climbed into an Uber. Then I promptly climbed out of it. For there he was, emerging from the revolving doors. Brown eyes, curved lips, immaculate jacket. I went to him, asked him for a cigarette. A date, days later. A second one, where I discovered he was a person, potentially my favorite kind: funny, clear-eyed, brilliant, on intimate terms with the universe.

I used to love men like men love women — that is, not very well, and with a hunger driven only by my own inadequacies. Not him. In those early days, I spoke fondly of my family, stocked the fridge with his favorite pasta, folded his clothes more neatly than I ever have since. I wrote his mother a thank-you note for hosting me in his native France, something befitting a daughter-in-law. It worked; I meant it. After graduation and my fellowship at Oxford, I stayed in Europe for his career and married him at 23.

Of course I just fell in love. Romances have a setting; I had only intervened to place myself well. Mainly, I spotted the precise trouble of being a woman ahead of time, tried to surf it instead of letting it drown me on principle. I had grown bored of discussions of fair and unfair, equal or unequal , and preferred instead to consider a thing called ease.

The reception of a particular age-gap relationship depends on its obviousness. The greater and more visible the difference in years and status between a man and a woman, the more it strikes others as transactional. Transactional thinking in relationships is both as American as it gets and the least kosher subject in the American romantic lexicon. When a 50-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman walk down the street, the questions form themselves inside of you; they make you feel cynical and obscene: How good of a deal is that? Which party is getting the better one? Would I take it? He is older. Income rises with age, so we assume he has money, at least relative to her; at minimum, more connections and experience. She has supple skin. Energy. Sex. Maybe she gets a Birkin. Maybe he gets a baby long after his prime. The sight of their entwined hands throws a lucid light on the calculations each of us makes, in love, to varying degrees of denial. You could get married in the most romantic place in the world, like I did, and you would still have to sign a contract.

Twenty and 30 is not like 30 and 40; some freshness to my features back then, some clumsiness in my bearing, warped our decade, in the eyes of others, to an uncrossable gulf. Perhaps this explains the anger we felt directed at us at the start of our relationship. People seemed to take us very, very personally. I recall a hellish car ride with a friend of his who began to castigate me in the backseat, in tones so low that only I could hear him. He told me, You wanted a rich boyfriend. You chased and snuck into parties . He spared me the insult of gold digger, but he drew, with other words, the outline for it. Most offended were the single older women, my husband’s classmates. They discussed me in the bathroom at parties when I was in the stall. What does he see in her? What do they talk about? They were concerned about me. They wielded their concern like a bludgeon. They paraphrased without meaning to my favorite line from Nabokov’s Lolita : “You took advantage of my disadvantage,” suspecting me of some weakness he in turn mined. It did not disturb them, so much, to consider that all relationships were trades. The trouble was the trade I’d made struck them as a bad one.

The truth is you can fall in love with someone for all sorts of reasons, tiny transactions, pluses and minuses, whose sum is your affection for each other, your loyalty, your commitment. The way someone picks up your favorite croissant. Their habit of listening hard. What they do for you on your anniversary and your reciprocal gesture, wrapped thoughtfully. The serenity they inspire; your happiness, enlivening it. When someone says they feel unappreciated, what they really mean is you’re in debt to them.

When I think of same-age, same-stage relationships, what I tend to picture is a woman who is doing too much for too little.

I’m 27 now, and most women my age have “partners.” These days, girls become partners quite young. A partner is supposed to be a modern answer to the oppression of marriage, the terrible feeling of someone looming over you, head of a household to which you can only ever be the neck. Necks are vulnerable. The problem with a partner, however, is if you’re equal in all things, you compromise in all things. And men are too skilled at taking .

There is a boy out there who knows how to floss because my friend taught him. Now he kisses college girls with fresh breath. A boy married to my friend who doesn’t know how to pack his own suitcase. She “likes to do it for him.” A million boys who know how to touch a woman, who go to therapy because they were pushed, who learned fidelity, boundaries, decency, manners, to use a top sheet and act humanely beneath it, to call their mothers, match colors, bring flowers to a funeral and inhale, exhale in the face of rage, because some girl, some girl we know, some girl they probably don’t speak to and will never, ever credit, took the time to teach him. All while she was working, raising herself, clawing up the cliff-face of adulthood. Hauling him at her own expense.

I find a post on Reddit where five thousand men try to define “ a woman’s touch .” They describe raised flower beds, blankets, photographs of their loved ones, not hers, sprouting on the mantel overnight. Candles, coasters, side tables. Someone remembering to take lint out of the dryer. To give compliments. I wonder what these women are getting back. I imagine them like Cinderella’s mice, scurrying around, their sole proof of life their contributions to a more central character. On occasion I meet a nice couple, who grew up together. They know each other with a fraternalism tender and alien to me.  But I think of all my friends who failed at this, were failed at this, and I think, No, absolutely not, too risky . Riskier, sometimes, than an age gap.

My younger brother is in his early 20s, handsome, successful, but in many ways: an endearing disaster. By his age, I had long since wisened up. He leaves his clothes in the dryer, takes out a single shirt, steams it for three minutes. His towel on the floor, for someone else to retrieve. His lovely, same-age girlfriend is aching to fix these tendencies, among others. She is capable beyond words. Statistically, they will not end up together. He moved into his first place recently, and she, the girlfriend, supplied him with a long, detailed list of things he needed for his apartment: sheets, towels, hangers, a colander, which made me laugh. She picked out his couch. I will bet you anything she will fix his laundry habits, and if so, they will impress the next girl. If they break up, she will never see that couch again, and he will forget its story. I tell her when I visit because I like her, though I get in trouble for it: You shouldn’t do so much for him, not for someone who is not stuck with you, not for any boy, not even for my wonderful brother.

Too much work had left my husband, by 30, jaded and uninspired. He’d burned out — but I could reenchant things. I danced at restaurants when they played a song I liked. I turned grocery shopping into an adventure, pleased by what I provided. Ambitious, hungry, he needed someone smart enough to sustain his interest, but flexible enough in her habits to build them around his hours. I could. I do: read myself occupied, make myself free, materialize beside him when he calls for me. In exchange, I left a lucrative but deadening spreadsheet job to write full-time, without having to live like a writer. I learned to cook, a little, and decorate, somewhat poorly. Mostly I get to read, to walk central London and Miami and think in delicious circles, to work hard, when necessary, for free, and write stories for far less than minimum wage when I tally all the hours I take to write them.

At 20, I had felt daunted by the project of becoming my ideal self, couldn’t imagine doing it in tandem with someone, two raw lumps of clay trying to mold one another and only sullying things worse. I’d go on dates with boys my age and leave with the impression they were telling me not about themselves but some person who didn’t exist yet and on whom I was meant to bet regardless. My husband struck me instead as so finished, formed. Analyzable for compatibility. He bore the traces of other women who’d improved him, small but crucial basics like use a coaster ; listen, don’t give advice. Young egos mellow into patience and generosity.

My husband isn’t my partner. He’s my mentor, my lover, and, only in certain contexts, my friend. I’ll never forget it, how he showed me around our first place like he was introducing me to myself: This is the wine you’ll drink, where you’ll keep your clothes, we vacation here, this is the other language we’ll speak, you’ll learn it, and I did. Adulthood seemed a series of exhausting obligations. But his logistics ran so smoothly that he simply tacked mine on. I moved into his flat, onto his level, drag and drop, cleaner thrice a week, bills automatic. By opting out of partnership in my 20s, I granted myself a kind of compartmentalized, liberating selfishness none of my friends have managed. I am the work in progress, the party we worry about, a surprising dominance. When I searched for my first job, at 21, we combined our efforts, for my sake. He had wisdom to impart, contacts with whom he arranged coffees; we spent an afternoon, laughing, drawing up earnest lists of my pros and cons (highly sociable; sloppy math). Meanwhile, I took calls from a dear friend who had a boyfriend her age. Both savagely ambitious, hyperclose and entwined in each other’s projects. If each was a start-up , the other was the first hire, an intense dedication I found riveting. Yet every time she called me, I hung up with the distinct feeling that too much was happening at the same time: both learning to please a boss; to forge more adult relationships with their families; to pay bills and taxes and hang prints on the wall. Neither had any advice to give and certainly no stability. I pictured a three-legged race, two people tied together and hobbling toward every milestone.

I don’t fool myself. My marriage has its cons. There are only so many times one can say “thank you” — for splendid scenes, fine dinners — before the phrase starts to grate. I live in an apartment whose rent he pays and that shapes the freedom with which I can ever be angry with him. He doesn’t have to hold it over my head. It just floats there, complicating usual shorthands to explain dissatisfaction like, You aren’t being supportive lately . It’s a Frenchism to say, “Take a decision,” and from time to time I joke: from whom? Occasionally I find myself in some fabulous country at some fabulous party and I think what a long way I have traveled, like a lucky cloud, and it is frightening to think of oneself as vapor.

Mostly I worry that if he ever betrayed me and I had to move on, I would survive, but would find in my humor, preferences, the way I make coffee or the bed nothing that he did not teach, change, mold, recompose, stamp with his initials, the way Renaissance painters hid in their paintings their faces among a crowd. I wonder if when they looked at their paintings, they saw their own faces first. But this is the wrong question, if our aim is happiness. Like the other question on which I’m expected to dwell: Who is in charge, the man who drives or the woman who put him there so she could enjoy herself? I sit in the car, in the painting it would have taken me a corporate job and 20 years to paint alone, and my concern over who has the upper hand becomes as distant as the horizon, the one he and I made so wide for me.

To be a woman is to race against the clock, in several ways, until there is nothing left to be but run ragged.

We try to put it off, but it will hit us at some point: that we live in a world in which our power has a different shape from that of men, a different distribution of advantage, ours a funnel and theirs an expanding cone. A woman at 20 rarely has to earn her welcome; a boy at 20 will be turned away at the door. A woman at 30 may find a younger woman has taken her seat; a man at 30 will have invited her. I think back to the women in the bathroom, my husband’s classmates. What was my relationship if not an inconvertible sign of this unfairness? What was I doing, in marrying older, if not endorsing it? I had taken advantage of their disadvantage. I had preempted my own. After all, principled women are meant to defy unfairness, to show some integrity or denial, not plan around it, like I had. These were driven women, successful, beautiful, capable. I merely possessed the one thing they had already lost. In getting ahead of the problem, had I pushed them down? If I hadn’t, would it really have made any difference?

When we decided we wanted to be equal to men, we got on men’s time. We worked when they worked, retired when they retired, had to squeeze pregnancy, children, menopause somewhere impossibly in the margins. I have a friend, in her late 20s, who wears a mood ring; these days it is often red, flickering in the air like a siren when she explains her predicament to me. She has raised her fair share of same-age boyfriends. She has put her head down, worked laboriously alongside them, too. At last she is beginning to reap the dividends, earning the income to finally enjoy herself. But it is now, exactly at this precipice of freedom and pleasure, that a time problem comes closing in. If she would like to have children before 35, she must begin her next profession, motherhood, rather soon, compromising inevitably her original one. The same-age partner, equally unsettled in his career, will take only the minimum time off, she guesses, or else pay some cost which will come back to bite her. Everything unfailingly does. If she freezes her eggs to buy time, the decision and its logistics will burden her singly — and perhaps it will not work. Overlay the years a woman is supposed to establish herself in her career and her fertility window and it’s a perfect, miserable circle. By midlife women report feeling invisible, undervalued; it is a telling cliché, that after all this, some husbands leave for a younger girl. So when is her time, exactly? For leisure, ease, liberty? There is no brand of feminism which achieved female rest. If women’s problem in the ’50s was a paralyzing malaise, now it is that they are too active, too capable, never permitted a vacation they didn’t plan. It’s not that our efforts to have it all were fated for failure. They simply weren’t imaginative enough.

For me, my relationship, with its age gap, has alleviated this rush , permitted me to massage the clock, shift its hands to my benefit. Very soon, we will decide to have children, and I don’t panic over last gasps of fun, because I took so many big breaths of it early: on the holidays of someone who had worked a decade longer than I had, in beautiful places when I was young and beautiful, a symmetry I recommend. If such a thing as maternal energy exists, mine was never depleted. I spent the last nearly seven years supported more than I support and I am still not as old as my husband was when he met me. When I have a child, I will expect more help from him than I would if he were younger, for what does professional tenure earn you if not the right to set more limits on work demands — or, if not, to secure some child care, at the very least? When I return to work after maternal upheaval, he will aid me, as he’s always had, with his ability to put himself aside, as younger men are rarely able.

Above all, the great gift of my marriage is flexibility. A chance to live my life before I become responsible for someone else’s — a lover’s, or a child’s. A chance to write. A chance at a destiny that doesn’t adhere rigidly to the routines and timelines of men, but lends itself instead to roomy accommodation, to the very fluidity Betty Friedan dreamed of in 1963 in The Feminine Mystique , but we’ve largely forgotten: some career or style of life that “permits year-to-year variation — a full-time paid job in one community, part-time in another, exercise of the professional skill in serious volunteer work or a period of study during pregnancy or early motherhood when a full-time job is not feasible.” Some things are just not feasible in our current structures. Somewhere along the way we stopped admitting that, and all we did was make women feel like personal failures. I dream of new structures, a world in which women have entry-level jobs in their 30s; alternate avenues for promotion; corporate ladders with balconies on which they can stand still, have a smoke, take a break, make a baby, enjoy themselves, before they keep climbing. Perhaps men long for this in their own way. Actually I am sure of that.

Once, when we first fell in love, I put my head in his lap on a long car ride; I remember his hands on my face, the sun, the twisting turns of a mountain road, surprising and not surprising us like our romance, and his voice, telling me that it was his biggest regret that I was so young, he feared he would lose me. Last week, we looked back at old photos and agreed we’d given each other our respective best years. Sometimes real equality is not so obvious, sometimes it takes turns, sometimes it takes almost a decade to reveal itself.

More From This Series

  • Can You Still Sell Out in This Economy?
  • 7 Stories of Dramatic Career Pivots
  • My Mother’s Death Blew Up My Life. Opening a Book and Wine Store Helped My Grief
  • newsletter pick
  • first person
  • relationships
  • the good life

The Cut Shop

Most viewed stories.

  • Madame Clairevoyant: Horoscopes for the Week of March 31–April 6
  • This Mercury Retrograde in Aries Will Be Peak Chaos
  • What We Know About the Mommy Vlogger Accused of Child Abuse
  • When Your Kid Is the Classroom Problem Child

Editor’s Picks

organizational life essay

Most Popular

What is your email.

This email will be used to sign into all New York sites. By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy and to receive email correspondence from us.

Sign In To Continue Reading

Create your free account.

Password must be at least 8 characters and contain:

  • Lower case letters (a-z)
  • Upper case letters (A-Z)
  • Numbers (0-9)
  • Special Characters (!@#$%^&*)

As part of your account, you’ll receive occasional updates and offers from New York , which you can opt out of anytime.

We've detected unusual activity from your computer network

To continue, please click the box below to let us know you're not a robot.

Why did this happen?

Please make sure your browser supports JavaScript and cookies and that you are not blocking them from loading. For more information you can review our Terms of Service and Cookie Policy .

For inquiries related to this message please contact our support team and provide the reference ID below.


  1. Reflective Essay

    organizational life essay

  2. Jazan School’s Organizational Change Project Essay

    organizational life essay

  3. Organizational life cycle A Complete Guide

    organizational life essay

  4. Organizational Structure Essay

    organizational life essay

  5. Organizational Behavior and Management Essay

    organizational life essay

  6. Organizational chart Essay Example

    organizational life essay


  1. Features of Coaching

  2. Organizational Needs, Values, and Culture in Healthcare

  3. Operant Conditioning and Reinforcement Scheduling

  4. Checklist as a Performance Appraisal Instrument

  5. Amazing Life Hacks Organize Your Headboard Storage

  6. Write an essay on organizational culture and organizational enhancement


  1. Real-Life Examples of Organizational Behavior: Essay

    By using real-life examples and outlining issues and concepts espoused in the field of organizational behavior, the essay plays an instrumental role in elevating the understanding that marketing scholars have in organizational behavior.

  2. PDF Essays in Organizational Behavior

    streams from various disciplines including organizational behavior, behavioral decision re-search, and cognitive and a↵ective psychology. I then employ multiple methods, including laboratory experiments involving psychophysiology as well as field research. Three essays compose this dissertation. My first essay examines the role of emotion-

  3. Organizational Life Cycle: Definition, Models, and Stages

    The organizational life cycle is a theoretical model based on the changes organizations experience as they grow and mature. Just as living organizations grow and decline in predictable patterns, so do organizations. Modern sources generally recognize Mason Haire's 1959 Modern Organizational Theory as the first study using a biological model ...

  4. Stability and Change as Simultaneous Experiences in Organizational Life

    EDITORIAL TEAM ESSAY STABILITY AND CHANGE AS SIMULTANEOUS EXPERIENCES IN ORGANIZATIONAL LIFE CARRIE R. LEANA University of Pittsburgh BRUCE BARRY Vanderbilt University Organizations and individual employees increasingly are pursuing change in how work is organized, how it is managed, and in who is carrying it out. At the same time,

  5. Organizational Life Cycles and Leadership Styles Essay

    An organizational life cycle is the idea that orgs are born, they grow older, and then they die. Daft says things like organizational structure, leadership style, and administrative systems follow a predictable pattern throughout the stages of this life cycle. There are four phases of an organizational life cycle.

  6. The Role of Personality in Organizational Life: Issues and Evidence

    Abstract. This article is a selective review of important issues, themes, and topics regarding the effects of personality on organizational behavior. Recent literature on the impact of personality on job attitudes and affective states at work is reviewed. Two traits, positive affectivity and negative affectivity, are presented as the key ...

  7. Constructing Organizational Life: How Social-Symbolic Work Shapes

    This book explores that broader phenomenon: we propose a perspective that integrates diverse streams of research to examine how people purposefully work to construct organizational life. We refer to these efforts as social‐symbolic work and introduce three forms - self work, organization work, and institutional work - that are ...

  8. Organizational Life: The Nature of Work

    Abstract. In this, and the following chapter, we are concerned with the overarching and broadly-defined concept of organizational life, and focus on two core themes. In the present chapter we examine work organization, labour process and management control, and employee experiences and perceptions in relation to these, and explore the contrasts ...

  9. PDF Essays on Workplace Practices in Different Institutional Settings

    This dissertation consists of three essays investigating how organizational policies operate within different institutional contexts and in the face of migration, demographic shifts, and ... These friendships made my graduate school life colorful and meaningful. I thank Sloan PhD program coordinators Hillary Ross, Davin Schnappauf, and Sarah ...

  10. Organizational life cycle models: a design perspective

    This scenario calls for a significant return to organizational design studies that embrace a holistic approach, especially those focusing on the simultaneous interaction of multiple design elements. Organizational life cycle (OLC) models provide a fitting response to this call. In this paper, we review the organizational design characteristics ...

  11. Essay on Organizational Behavior

    Number of words: 2319. Organizational behavior is the study of how individuals act within groups and how these behaviors impact the organization. Organizational behavior improves business operations such as job performance, increased innovation, high job satisfaction, and encouraging leadership. Organizational performance is considerably ...

  12. Organizational Culture Essay

    Change triggers emotions as employees experience the processes and outcomes of change, including cultural change. An organization's effective culture, which shapes the way emotions are experienced and expressed, plays a particularly important part during changes to the culture or to any other significant aspect of organizational life.

  13. What is "Organisational Life" and Why is it Important to ...

    Organisational life is about small group and team communication. It is about how we find a place and gain acceptance within a group, manage our judgments of others and our self-criticism. At work we allow our rules about how people should act decide whether we approve of them or not, we allow our defense mechanisms to protect us from justified ...

  14. The dynamics of the life cycle theory and organizational culture: a

    The Organizational Life Cycle (OLC) and the Organizational Culture (OC) are two important aspects that determine the ability of an organization to remain operational in a dynamic and competitive market over time. Despite the significance of this topic to the literature on organizations, no review has yet provided a holistic mapping of the relationship between them. To bridge this theoretical ...

  15. Research Roundup: How the Pandemic Changed Management

    The recent pandemic disrupted life as we know it, including for employees and organizations around the world. To understand such changes, we recently reviewed 69 articles focused on the management ...

  16. Riskwork: Essays on the Organizational Life of Risk Management

    This collection of essays deals with the situated management of risk in a wide variety of organizational settings—aviation, mental health, railway project management, energy, toy manufacture, financial services, chemicals regulation, and NGOs. Each chapter connects the analysis of risk studies with critical themes in organization studies more ...

  17. Organizational Life Cycle Essay

    Organizational Life Cycle Essay. Organizations go through different life cycles similar to those of people. For example, people go through infancy, child-hood and early-teenage phases, which are characterized by rapid growth over a short period of time. Similarly, Organizations go through start-up, growth, maturity, decline, renewal and death.

  18. Organizational Life Cycle

    Organizational Life Cycle. Organizations go through different life cycles similar to those of people. For example, people go through infancy, child-hood and early-teenage phases, which are characterized by rapid growth over a short period of time. Similarly, Organizations go through start-up, growth, maturity, decline, renewal and death.

  19. 9.3 Organizing Your Writing

    Exercise 3. On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph that discusses a passion of yours. Your passion could be music, a particular sport, filmmaking, and so on. Your paragraph should be built upon the reasons why you feel so strongly. Briefly discuss your reasons in the order of least to greatest importance.

  20. Organizing an Essay

    Organizing an Essay. Organizing ideas and information clearly and logically in an essay, so that readers will understand and be able to follow the writer's thinking, is an essential stage of the writing process, but one that often proves to be more difficult than it sounds. When people write, ideas tend to come out in whatever order they occur ...

  21. Opinion

    In a life skills class, we learned how to get our G.E.D.s. My college dreams began to seem like delusions. Then one afternoon a staff member handed me a library copy of "Barron's Guide to the ...

  22. A conversation with the author of 'There's always this year'

    NPR's Scott Detrow speaks to Hanif Abdurraqib about the new book There's Always This Year. It's a mix of memoir, essays, and poems, looking at the role basketball played in Abdurraqib's life.

  23. Opinion

    Mr. Beinart is the editor at large of Jewish Currents and a journalist and writer who has written extensively on the Middle East, Jewish life and American foreign policy. March 22, 2024

  24. Age Gap Relationships: The Case for Marrying an Older Man

    The reception of a particular age-gap relationship depends on its obviousness. The greater and more visible the difference in years and status between a man and a woman, the more it strikes others as transactional. Transactional thinking in relationships is both as American as it gets and the least kosher subject in the American romantic lexicon.

  25. Supreme Court Scoffs at Flimsy Abortion Pill Argument

    Noah Feldman is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. A professor of law at Harvard University, he is author, most recently, of "To Be a Jew Today: A New Guide to God, Israel, and the Jewish People ...