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ichak adizes - corporate life cycle model

dr ichak adizes ten stages of corporate life cycle

Dr Ichak Adizes is a renowned business guru and theorist, and founder of the Adizes Institute, now the home of the Adizes organisational development methodology and its related services. Adizes' simple ten-stage corporate life cycle model is an elegant way to learn and understand the typical life-cycle stages that many businesses pass through, from conception to cessation, and is an example of the fine work and thinking of the Adizes Institute and its founder, which extend considerably beyond this model.

There is no pre-set timescale for this corporate life-cycle, and many organisations do not fit this model. However the life-cycle stages that Ichak Adizes describes in his model provide a useful basis for understanding a fundamental perspective of organisational change, and the principle that organisational ageing, with all that this implies, is inevitable.

One of the main challenges for mature corporations is therefore to seek reinvention through new business development, before it's too late, often through acquisition of other businesses in infancy stage, or by developing new 'infant' business divisions within the parent corporation.

The model also provides a basis for useful team training activities - see for example the Life-Cycle Exercise, for teaching people about organisational development stages, which is helpful for selling, management and understanding organisational cultures and systems.



adizes' ten stages of corporate life-cycle

The single-word Adizes descriptions are actually quite self-explanatory for many people's understanding, which is part of the model's appeal and elegance. Below this first list I've extended the model with some brief interpretation and descriptive examples of each stage.

  1. courtship
  2. infancy
  3. go-go
  4. adolescence
  5. prime
  6. stability
  7. aristocracy
  8. recrimination
  9. bureaucracy
  10. death



Terms explanations and examples:

  1. courtship (the initial development or creation of the proposition/model/business/formation/etc)
  2. infancy (after launch - start of active trading)
  3. go-go (frantic energetic early growth and sometimes chaos)
  4. adolescence (still developing but more established and defined)
  5. prime (the business or organisation at its fittest, healthiest and most competitive, popular and profitable)
  6. stability (still effective, popular, can still be very profitable, but beginning to lose leading edge - vulnerability creeping in maybe)
  7. aristocracy (strong by virtue of market presence and consolidated accumulated successes, but slow and unexciting, definitely losing market share to competitors and new technologies, trends, etc)
  8. recrimination (doubts, problems, threats and internal issues overshadow the original purposes)
  9. bureaucracy (inward-focused administration, cumbersome, seeking exit or divestment, many operating and marketing challenges)
  10. death (closure, sell-off, bankruptcy, bought for asset value or customer-base only)



ichak adizes

Ichak Adizes PhD describes himself as "one of the world’s leading experts on improving the performance of business and government by making fundamental changes without the chaos and destructive conflict that plague many efforts". He is also a lecturer and author of several books. Notably, 'Corporate Lifecycles: How Organizations Grow and Die and What to Do About It' (1988) is regarded by some as a classic in management theory. A revised edition was published under the title Managing Corporate Lifecycles in 1999. Adizes’ other books include the Pursuit of Prime (1996), Mastering Change: The Power of Mutual Trust and Respect in Personal Life, Family, Business and Society (1992), How to Solve the Mismanagement Crisis (1979), and Self-Management (1975). Adizes has a Ph.D. and M.B.A. from Columbia University and a B.A. from Hebrew University. His website profile also states that he works in English, Spanish, Hebrew, Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian, and that he understands Bulgarian and Portuguese. Adizes is a very clever fellow indeed.

Adizes approach is a "proprietary, structured, pragmatic system for accelerating organisational change" which was developed by Adizes, and has been applied by the Licensees of his Institute since 1975. So it's not just a philosophy - the Adizes ten phases is a business and methodology in its own right. Seemingly, when practicing the 'methodology', Adizes' associates implement one or more of the 11 phases summarized below. These phases are "a systematic approach designed to help a client accelerate their development from one Lifecycle phase to the next on their path to 'Prime'.



the 11 phases of the adizes methodology

  1. Organisational Diagnosis (by the organisation's own management team)
  2. Team Building (addressing the priorities from phase 1)
  3. Change Management (introducing new processes and systems to improve organisational responsiveness and adaptability).
  4. Vision/Mission/Values (developing strategic priorities and plan)
  5. Structural Realignment (to better support the new strategy)
  6. Management Information Systems (reviewed and developed to ensure they meet new requirements, with a strong emphasis on accountability)
  7. Adizes 'Technology Transfer' (enabling and licensing the organisation to cascade the Adizes methods down to each level, providing for self-sustaining progression)
  8. Peak Performance 'Stretching' (optimising performance)
  9. Strategic Resource Allocation (to evaluate the long-term direction and viability of each organisational unit and identify new directions for replacing discontinued activities)
  10. Systemic 'Cybernetic' Structure (to enable continuous adaptability by formalising the change management system of phase 3, and integrate it with the structures of phases 4 and 5)
  11. Synergistic Rewards Systems (ensuring rewards and compensation are relevant and appropriate to the new business shape and strategy)



The Adizes Institute is a change management organisation that offers its services around the world through a network of accredited practitioners. For a fuller explanation of the Adizes methodology and the activities of the Adizes institute see the Adizes Institute website.




For an additional and useful perspective on human development see Erik Erikson's Psychosocial Theory.

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© Ichak Adizes original ten stages corporate life-cycle concept; Alan Chapman review, code, design 2000-2009