Change Management MGMT625
LESSON # 16
GREINER'S MODEL OF ORGANISATIONAL EVOLUTION AND REVOLUTION
The model explains why and how organizations are unable to grow, and in a way suggest how
organisations ought to grow? The model is based on certain assumptions about the organization which
are as under:
First assumption is organisations are rigid, bureaucratic, control-centric, and centralised entities.
Second, organisations fail to see that the future success of an organisation lie within their own
organisation, and also fail to assess their evolving states of development. Therefore inability of a
management to understand its organisation development problems can result in organisation becoming
frozen in its present stage of evolution (failure to evolve) regardless of market opportunities.
Here Greiner's proposition is that future of an organisation may be less determined by outside forces
than it is by the organisation history. Therefore to him internal dynamics of organisation structure play a
critical and decisive role in shaping organisation strategy. This view comes closer to the recently
popular management paradigm of Resource Based View of strategy formulation. According to this view
each firm has a unique combination and configuration of its resources which leads to inimitable
The position confronts with Alfred Chandler (famous American author) who gave the concept n strategy
and structure perspective in business management, and who proposed that outside market opportunities
determine a organisation strategy which in turn determines company's structure. So Greiner emphasises
structure over strategy while Chandler focuses strategy over structure. Greiner seems also influenced by
European psychologist for whom individual behaviour is determined primarily by previous events and
experiences. Hence the analogy of individual development coined with organisational development
Before discussing the model, first let us define the two terms: evolution and revolution. Evolution is
used to describe prolonged period of growth where no major upheaval occurs in organisation
practices. The term revolution is used to describe those periods of substantial turmoil in organisational
life. Each evolutionary period creates its own revolution, as organisation progresses through
developmental phases. For instance centralised practices eventually lead to demand for decentralisation.
Moreover the nature of management's solution to each evolutionary period determines whether
organisation will move forward into next stage of evolutionary growth.
According to Greiner, five key dimensions emerge as essential for building a model of organisation
Age of the organisation
Size of the organisation
Stages of Evolution
Stages of Revolution
Growth rate of the industry
Each dimension influences the other overtime; when all five elements begin to interact, a more
comprehensive and dynamic picture of organisational growth emerges.
1. Age of the organisation
It is the foremost and essential dimension of organisation development. It is very clear to us that the same
organisation practices are not maintained throughout a long span of time. Most basic point is management
problems and practices are rooted in time. MBO a decade back had different meanings than today. The
passage of time also contributes to the institutionalisation of managerial attitude. As result employee
behaviour becomes not only more predictable but also more difficult to change when attitudes are
Change Management MGMT625
outdated. For example Parkinson law of expansion which means work tend to expand over time.
2. Size of the organisation
Organisation's problems and solutions to such problems tend to change markedly as the number of
employees and sales volume increases. Thus time is not the only determinant of structure; in fact
organisations that do not grow in size can retain many of the same management issues and practices over
lengthy periods. Very typical problems of increased size are of coordination and of communication,
emergence of new functions, levels in the management hierarchy, and jobs become inter-related.
3. Stage of Evolution
The term seems to describe quieter period in organisation history with modest adjustments necessary for
maintaining growth under the over all same pattern of management. With the increase in size and time a
phenomenon becomes evident which is "prolonged growth". Evolution is equated with continuous and
prolonged growth. According to Greiner, most growing organisations do not expand two years and then
retreat for one year; rather those that survive crises usually enjoy four to eight years of continuous growth
without a major setback or severe internal disruption.
4. Stages of Revolution
Smooth evolution is not inevitable for long. In other words organisation growth cannot be assumed linear.
For example, many case histories of Fortune 500 listed companies reveal that companies had periods of
substantial turbulence spaced between periods of evolution. Turbulent times leading to severe upheaval of
management practices means revolution or period of revolution.
Traditional management practices appropriate for smaller size and earlier times, are brought under
scrutiny by frustrated top managers and disillusioned lower-level managers. Many organisations fail
during such a crisis unable to abandon past practices have to wind-up or compromise to lower levels of
The critical task for management in each revolutionary period is to find a new set of organisation
practices that will become the basis for managing the next period of evolutionary growth. Interestingly,
the new practices sow their own seeds of decay and lead to another revolution.
Therefore management sees something a solution in one time period becomes a major problem later. For
example at individual level, the same situation can be identified as success trap, means success has its
own trap which generates single-variable-mindedness type of thinking in individual.
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