Introduction - Life-cycle Approach


Most products/services, organisations, etc follow a similar development pattern (as illustrated in the diagram below) of a beginning (1), a period of slow growth or decline (2), a period of rapid growth (3), a mature phase (4) and an ending (5).

organisational development change management

Resources (time, money, energy, etc)

For example, a product/service is launched (1), sells slowly (2), becomes accepted and sales rise rapidly (3), market matures, ie market becomes saturated; product/service is copycatted by competitors; product/service is commoditised (4) and the market changes, ie replacement product needed (5). One way to handle this is by

"...looking at trends on the horizon and using your temporary monopoly to build the brand, make a profit, and then quickly move onto the next generation..."

Oren Harari has quoted by Brad Hatch, 2007b

For example, iPod

"...Apple refused to mirror the opposition, continuously rewriting the rules of music with its popular music player. Copycats looked on and then set out to copy it, but Apple cannibalizes its established market again and again. While everyone takes aim at its products, Apple jumps the curve and keeps on evolving......Apple's new mobile phone with iPod functionality went a step further recently - making a separate music player largely redundant..."

Oren Harari has quoted by Brad Hatch, 2007b

For an organisation, the sequence is start up (1), growth (2), control (3), maturity (4) and shake out or decline (5).

Many start-ups, like in the fashion industry, have fallen over as they
"...make not very clever decisions about what they're doing.....they become too big too fast, do too many things, get in over their heads financially, they haven't paid their tax, they get bigger premises, more're almost setting yourself up for disaster. If you picked the colours wrong one season and it doesn't sell it's like playing Russian roulette.  It can be that fickle.  Two seasons and you're down.  Nobody can forecast what's going to sell next season. It really is that fragile, that you can be gone all of a sudden..."
Alex Perry as quoted by Nic Walker, 2016

Need to be careful of the bandwagon that social media rules cash registers. Designer Alex Perry hired 4 bloggers and then checked with his staff to determine if social media was moving dresses. He could not trace any sales back to the bloggers!!!!!

Off-shore production and logistics in the fashion industry is not cheap but it is essential to remain competitive with European high fashion and low-priced chain stores. Need to handle the perception that manufacturing offshore, like in China and India, is substandard; yet these countries have been beading beautifully and making beautiful silk of thousands of years.

The different stages of the S-curve require different mindsets, competencies and expertise. At the start of the S-curve is the position of re-vitalising, discovery and inventiveness (called pioneering colonisers) is required; the middle part of the S-curve requires correct investment, exploitation the economies of scale, production of suitable good/services for the market-place, control of the channels of distribution, etc (called consolidators); and when nearing the peak of the S-curve, it is time to re-invent with adequate resources available. On the downward side of the S-curve, the urgency to re-invent is very strong as all resources, especially time, are in short supply.

Another way to look at this is in the development of a new venture. Initially resources (especially people) are paramount. As the business develops, processes and values increase in importance and become embedded in the culture; unfortunately once the culture is well established with its processes and values, this can become a hindrance or disability to change, ie

"...established organisations typically face the opportunity to create new growth business - the consequent requirement is to utilize different resources, processes, and values - at a time when mainstream business is very healthy..."

Clayton Christensen et al, 2003

Ideally, you need to change before the S-curve peaks. This is when you have enough resources (money, time, energy, etc) to handle the development of something new or different. On the other hand, there is where you are most successful and do not see the need to change, ie we have the formula for success, so leave us alone!!!! Yet the corporate graveyard is full of organisations which thought they had the correct formula for success!!!!!!

"...All companies have a date at which they come to the end of their useful life......the tricky part is agreeing on that expiry date..."

Ron Brierley as quoted by Yvonne Dongeon, 2011

Usually success breeds complacency. We try to hang onto past successes and to stay in our "zone of comfort", and very few of us are willing to challenge the assumptions of success and/or use "creative tension" or "mental arm wrestling" to move in different directions. In this mindset, we are less likely to acknowledge changing trends and to find new ways of doing things, especially if they threaten our current and past success and/or zone of comfort. Remember:

"...Seeds of destruction are set at the pinnacle of success..."

Patrick Dawson, 2005

"...There is a pervasive trend in business today, described by many as the tyranny of success, in which successful organisations face considerable difficulty in maintaining their strength - an innovative edge - in the face of changing markets, technologies, and consumer demand. It is a worldwide dilemma......very factors that lead to a firm's success can also play a significant role in its demise. The leadership, vision, strategic focus, valued competencies, structures, policies, rewards, and corporate culture that were also critical in building the company's growth and competitive advantage can become its Achilles heel as technological and market conditions change over time..."

MIT Sloan School of Management, 2008

Some examples of this include

"...IBM failed to foresee the PC revolution and saw its share price plunge by 77% at a time when Dow was quadrupling in value. Xerox failed to see the market for small copiers and handed that market to Canon. Sears got trounced by WalMart. And Barnes & Noble got caught napping by upstart"

Andrew Parris, 2006

When an organisation is most successful is its most dangerous time. Most organisations then will make the wrong decision about their future as it will be based on past or current success, and not future trends. This is sometimes called the creative-destruction argument as all products, services, markets and even specific solutions to social problems eventually become obsolete. Yet this does not mean all organisations and societies become obsolete and irrelevant.


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