S2 E98 — Why Your Company Simply Won’t Make It Out of Puberty

If you consider the lifespan of an organization that has any sort of history — say over two generations or 40 years — you can see which tribes come in and out of favor. You’ll witness it as it evolves and leaps forward in predictable stages from infancy start-up through growth to maturity and decline and from simple to complex over time.

“5’’ Steve Carrell, 57; Steve Martin, 74; Steve Wozniak, 69: You will remember things differently than the other people around you. Write down your impressions to preserve the details because, later, you’ll be glad for these notes.” Leo

Hi and welcome to Sunday’s Episode 98 in Season 2 of  “My Pandemic Year Natural Experiment” on this 16th day of August in the summer of 2020.  

“The Tau of Steves: What You Don’t Know Could Fill a Book”

Table of Contents

Season One and Two are a two-year examination of how bits of wisdom changed during the “normal” pre-pandemic and then in this unfolding pandemic year.

Previously in Season Two, the Pandemic Year

S2 E97Frame Blindness and Decision Traps; S2 E96Two Kindred Spirits Drawn to Mature Complications; S2 E95The Founder’s Curse Unleashed by the Edifice Complex

Related from Season One, the Normal Year

S1 E98Why Can’t I Leave 26 Orphans for a Well Deserved Vacation? ; S1 E97 My Top 19 Reasons for Failing; S1 E96Old Rabbits Die Hard; S1 E95No Back to Work Days or Hump Days Allowed


This is a continuation of “Volume Two Manuscript — WorkFit” a work-in-progress.

In previous episodes we described Start Up, Emerging Growth, Rapid Growth, Sustained Growth and Maturity stages.  But, each with the emphasis on how a specific stage provides another better fit opportunity for one or more of 16 Talent Profiles.

In our last episode I described a mini case study of what it was like behind the scenes working at a mature company that was a century old. Now, a second, but in a different industry.

Multinational Food and Consumer Goods Corporation

A Swiss multinational food and drink processing conglomerate founded in mid-1800s, headquartered Switzerland, grew to the largest publicly held food company in the world.

My former boss and now client, a 110 Analytical Specialist,  brought me in to create a curriculum for his client a 109 Internal Change Agent (more on that in upcoming episodes) who headed up their internal University at their USA Headquarters Glendale division. Broadly, he wanted us to help him inject strategic learning capabilities into their leadership talent pool.

He wanted to expand their executive management’s perspective to include what could happen over their company’s lifespan moving forward. In organization learning circles research had’t really focused on companies which had been in business for over a century.

In fact, the lifespan of huge, solid companies is only 40 years. 

Not all organizations even make it that far. The infant mortality rate is a decade. Arie De Geus says 40% of all newly created companies don’t last that long . Regardless of size, the average in Japan and Europe is 12.5 years.

So, our client became immediately attracted to us —my former boss and I had direct experience with the challenges unique to 100+ year old mature companies.

For instance, by functioning in the same mature stage for years and decades, current leaders (112 Loyal Survivalists) hadn’t experienced any other way of operating.

To combat that in his company, he wanted us to research and develop a curriculum during a two-year engagement based upon the latest models and best practices for:

    • Inspiring a Shared Vision, 
    • Thinking Strategically, 
    • Leading Change, 
    • Building Alignment,  
    • Pursuing Excellence and 
    • Sharing Best Practices.

Mature organizations require four kinds of talented people – 112 Loyal Survivalists, 111 Agile Tiger Teams, 109  Internal Change Agents and 110 Analytical Specialists — who thrive in high affiliation and slower paced cultures. 

Four Talent Profiles Attracted to Sustaining-Associates Organizations

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

You’ll find some filling roles in Human Resources as a Chief People Officer, Business Partners and Corporate Trainers.  Others in Financial Analysis.  Still others in Brand Management or in Inventory Control, Supply Chain and Procurement.

They manage the system of people, technologies, processes, and organizational structures to sustain the innovation they’ve already mastered years ago.

But, two “tribes” usually manage the political agenda to the exclusion of others. They are the talent clusters whose members represent the 20% who produce 80% of the results. And we know the mix of the two tribes changes at each growth transition. In any growth period there is a certain amount of resistance to new ways from the status-quo advocates.

In mature companies more Systematic-Professional talent profiles produce 80% of the results — 114 Brand-as-Experts and 116 Institutional Traditionalists. And, you’ll find fewer Paradoxy-Morons or Emerging-Entrepreneurs still employed.

Two Systematic-Professionals Attracted to Maturity Growth Stage

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

Ironically, our engagement formed out of a chance encounter in Monterey, California at a conference promoting 114 Brand-as-Experts, the sort you’d find in major universities or think tanks.

My former boss had been engaged in a business divorce from one of those experts in which his role was to convert purely just-in-case education into more targeted and practical training workshops.

Over drinks in the bar between conference seminars, our new client for our 2-year engagement bemoaned how presenters seemed just too academic for his needs, although they seemed to be in high demand.

Years later,  in January 2017,  after our 2-year engagement, the multinational corporation announced that it was relocating its US headquarters from Glendale, California to Virginia.


If you consider the lifespan of an organization that has any sort of history — say over two generations or 40 years — you can see which tribes come in and out of favor. You’ll witness it as it evolves and leaps forward in predictable stages from infancy start-up through growth to maturity and decline and from simple to complex over time.

The resulting divisional structure eventually outlasts its usefulness when it triggers the “Control Crisis” that Systematic-Professionals help bridge by tightening and centralizing operations in a complicated matrix structure featuring data-driven methods and systems. 

180 – Degree Shift in Success by Stage

Growth Stage Key Success Factor Leading to a Crisis New Success Key
Start Up Loosen Leadership Tighten
Emerging Tighten Functional Loosen
Rapid Loosen Autonomy Tighten
Sustained Tighten Repetition Loosen


Loosen Control Tighten

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

As more functional departments proliferate the Paradoxy-Morons disappear, not fitting into cultures built to reward affiliation and mastery. 

And, the days of the maverick, do-what-ever-it-takes team loyalty — highly rewarded for fire-fighting heroics become numbered. 

Where to Find the Best Fit

Talent Profile Growth Stage Organization Type
101 Breakpoint Inventors Start Up Paradoxy-Morons
103 Commercial Innovators Start Up Paradoxy-Morons
105 Marketing Athletes Start Up Emerging-Entrepreneurs
107 Resilient Product Teams Emerging Growth Emerging-Entrepreneurs
108 Core Business Group Emerging Growth Emerging-Entrepreneurs
111 Agile Tiger Teams Rapid Growth Sustaining-Associates
112 Loyal Survivalists Rapid Growth Sustaining-Associates
110 Analytical Specialists Sustained Growth Sustaining-Associates
114 Brand-as-Experts Maturity Systematic-Professionals
116 Institutional Traditionalists Maturity Systematic-Professionals

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

At this stage of development most of the focus by the organization is on inside operations and not enough on customers – their care and feeding. It’s as if the customers – frequently in large numbers – are taken for granted. And that sets up yet another opportunity to bonk.

Mature organizations have vested interests in the way things were. While not overtly describing themselves as status quo advocates, many long-time Sustaining-Associates and Systematic-Professionals resist disruptive changes required to “jump paths” out of a declining trajectory.

If the organization continues to extend what they’ve always done, they fall victim to what Joel Barker calls paradigm blindness. An over-extended strength becomes a fatal flaw. The organization can’t see what is necessary to pull out of its decline. And the longer it takes for leaders of the organization to recognize that they are on the path to disaster, the more disruptive the solution becomes.

It’s a classic pattern. 


“3”  Steve Zahn, 51:Good fortune follows socially astute moves, such as including everyone, making introductions and lobbing the conversational ball in excellent, interesting and positive directions.” Scorpio

Before the pandemic I was all over this advice.  Now, not so much.  Will this pandemic end?  Will we return to normal?

Random ones that make me want change my sign.

Today’s Holiday Birthday:  

Your superpower is your incredible imagination. Direct it to create relationships you want, pursue far-flung interests and pull together scenes that others wouldn’t have thought possible. Team this amazing sense of vision with great faith and it will be as though you have harnessed the winds of fortune to do your bidding.

“5’’ Steve Carrell, 57; Steve Martin, 74; Steve Wozniak, 69: You will remember things differently than the other people around you. Write down your impressions to preserve the details because, later, you’ll be glad for these notes.” Leo

Some of you know I’ve progressed from letters, to steno notebooks and 3X5 cards to Hypercard to do just that.  The problem I found was two-fold. The first taking the time to write everything down and second, later finding the kernel of wisdom I could use.

“4”  Steve Greene, 34; Steve Guttenberg, 61:The key to success is three-pronged: know what you want; make a plan; stick with it. This sounds simple, but if it really were, everyone would be doing it all of the time.” Virgo

Why am I following the Tau of Steves as interpreted from the Holiday Tau if I wasn’t searching for a magical shortcut?

“3”  Steve Nash, 45:It’s not every day that you come across an endeavor that can capture and hold your full attention. Once you give yourself over to it, there is no going back.” Aquarius

Boy, in some ways I wish the reverse is true.  For in the beginning of every endeavor that speaks to you, you’re filled with passion.  But, in the middle the drudgeries stack up.  Can you tell that’s exactly where I am with “Volume Two Manuscript — WorkFit”?

What’s Going On

Literally Bottled and Set Adrift from KnowWhere Atoll 

    • @knowlabs followers of one or more of my 35 digital magazines organically grew from 4733 to 4807.




    • Saw the movie, didn’t realize that one of my favorite authors, Michael Connelly — his detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch book series and Amazon Prime series — also wrote, “The Lincoln Lawyer” which I just finished. Gotta tell you I can’t not see his lead character (Mickey Haller, Bosch’s half brother) as anyone else but Matthew McConaughey. 

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Inspired by: Holiday Mathis – Creators Syndicate


The Knowledge Path | Know Laboratories | Knowledge Banking | Knowledge ATMs | Western Skies and Island Currents | Best West Road Trip