Successful businesses today recruit individuals, especially at a senior management level, who can think both outside the box and apply an analytical toolkit to problem-solving. While specific industry expertise is helpful, it is not a requisite for success. More important than this is the ability to recognise predictable behaviour and anticipate inevitable problems.
With every complex problem, frameworks must be developed to understand the challenges faced. I have been involved in business for many years across a number of sectors, studied corporate governance, and been to a fair few lectures in my time. I have been exposed to a plethora of management theories aiming to help leaders run their organisations more effectively. Some are more ‘attention-grabbing’ than others. I was however referred by a colleague to attend a lecture by Dr Ichak Adizes, a former tenured professor at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), an author of over 20 books, and business consultant who argues that organisations should be viewed as similar to living organisms in that they both have a lifecycle. I was instantly taken by the idea that much like a growing adult, companies go through nine distinct lifecycle stages – with predictable problems and typical behaviours to be managed at each particular stage.
One such stage in Dr Adizes’ identified ‘Corporate Lifecycle’ is that of ‘Adolescence’. This is where companies must find a life apart from that provided by its founder, and where the ‘Adolescent company teeters on the brink of both success and disaster’. To lead successful companies, founders must learn to delegate and attract top talent. For a company to survive, as described in Dr Adizes’ ‘Four Roles in Management’ theory, it is key that there is someone who can play an ‘Integrating’ role within the company. The ‘Integrator’ can help develop a wider team in order for the organisation to survive in the long term. Without an ‘Integrator’, Dr Adizes suggests that companies can break down at the ‘Adolescence’ stage due to their inability to function without the constant presence of their founder.
Dr Adizes also describes four distinct management roles: ‘Produce, Administer, Entrepreneur and Integrate’ (PAEI). Without someone to perform these four essential roles, companies falter in the long term due to the lack of a well-rounded senior management team. In a perfect world, a manager would confidently execute across all four of the PAEI management functions. In reality, it is very rare to find an individual that possesses all four and to a sufficiently high standard. A good manager will be able to perform at least two of these roles expediently while having a working understanding of the other two.
Dr Adizes also speaks of a business’ ‘Aristocracy’ stage. This is when companies are ‘cash-rich and have strong financial statements’ yet are on the path to decline because they are suspicious of change and focus on past achievements rather than a future vision. For an organisation to survive, individuals of varying characteristics must be included in the management team. In this instance, to survive companies must ensure that they have an ‘Entrepreneur’ within the organisation to adapt to the inevitable change inherent within the Corporate Lifecycle.
The Adizes Institute, founded in his name, offers consultancy services to world leaders and major corporations, with offices in 15 countries currently and plans to open an Azerbaijani office in the pipeline. His unique approach to problem-solving can be applied, successfully, to any business irrespective of sector. In an increasingly competitive world, for organisations to sustain business shocks it is imperative that they hire the right talent and consistently innovate. The current focus on emerging and digital technologies by business owners and management students is a step in the right direction. However, for organisations to flourish and sustain growth, agility and a focus on developing leaders who appreciate the more human aspects of business is crucial.
Unlike many theories, Dr Adizes’ work is readily applicable to any organisation. The Corporate Lifecycle theory has been rewarding for me personally in many companies I have been involved with, irrespective of size and age. It has allowed me to better anticipate and solve problems that all companies face. The PAEI model has also equipped me with an eye for what to look out for when assessing key talent and recruiting across an organisation, especially at a senior management level. This methodology affords hiring managers with a framework with which to assess candidates. Using these methodologies, I have been able to better identify the areas in which a company’s senior leadership might need reinforcement – something that was not so easily identifiable prior to my understanding of this valuable work.
Dr Adizes’ methodology and introduction to organisational therapy are explained in his award-winning book ‘Mastering Change’. Copies are available in Azerbaijani via the TEAS Press publishing house, as well as in Russian and English via the Libraff chain of bookstores found throughout Azerbaijan. For the leaders of tomorrow, Dr Adizes’ ‘Corporate Lifecycle’ and ‘Four Roles of Management’ theories are essential reading.
To read more on the Corporate Lifecycle Model:
To read more on the Four Roles of Management: