Evolution and Revolution as Organizations Grow

By: Larry E. Greiner I Publisher: Harvard Business Review I Published: 1998 I Resource Added: 2013

In this classic article, the author describes five phases of organizational development: creativity, direction, delegation, coordination and collaboration. Organizations evolve within a phase until they reach a period of revolution, in which upheavals in management practices propel them into the next phase. The author argues that many organizations, in their haste to grow, often overlook such critical developmental questions as, Where has our organization been? Where is it now? and What do the answers to these questions mean for where it is going? As an organization grows, it needs to change its structure accordingly. The ways in which an organization changes its structure depends on its age, size, and other factors, but the author outlines general phases of growth and the structure associated with each level. This article is theoretical and written with a corporate audience in mind, but the leaders of our client nonprofits have found the concepts to be highly applicable. The article is particularly useful for organizations that are scaling quickly.