Are more mature stages of culture better?

perspectives Jun 29, 2017

Have you ever noticed the wonder with which people look at a newborn baby? While it cannot walk, talk or reason, we don’t hold it as a better or worse human being than a 25-year-old. So why are we so obsessed at labelling cultures and stages of adult development as better or worse?

In our work, we support organisations to grow through cultural stages of development. We have found one of the fatal traps is to take a judgmental frame of ‘better’ or ‘worse’ to a particular stage of maturity. As soon as this occurs, there is a danger of disowning the current climate or focusing on the new climate without building the necessary foundations to fully grow into it. It can play out like the young teenager who desperately wants to be an adult, acting out in all kinds of high risk, awkward and desperate ways.

Different stages of human life. Abstract conceptual image

When the current stage of cultural maturity is ignored or derided, we have seen destruction wreaked. In some instances, external consultants or “can do people” are brought in to shake up the place and paint a picture of the future. Too often, the new guard righteously rattles its sabre of progress and many of the entrenched people are labelled as change resistant or as Luddites. The new guard mantra is “get on board” and points to the existing people as the reason why the new guard’s recommendations barely dent the surface of the organisational culture.

We are not suggesting that the new guard is ill-intended. While it is essential to recognise the current climate, it is also essential to hold a vision of what culture is required to enable the aspirational future to emerge. What we are suggesting is that there are dangers in focusing just on the future without taking into account the present climate. When this happens we don’t properly consider the pathway for change or adequately assess the inhibitors to change or the strengths of the current culture. The approach an organisation takes to change can often be its most significant inhibitor to adapting and evolving.

If current change methodologies don’t adequately address the current pace of change, how well will they work in the future? The challenge we all face as we rapidly approach the 2020s is that the amount of disruption of industries and social structures on a global scale is unprecedented. We say with the greatest certainty that if we were writing this article in a decade’s time, we would look back on the 2010s and lament how things have changed so rapidly since then.

In order to support organisations to adapt through these unprecedented times, Adaptive Cultures applies a six-step methodology. The methodology described below doesn’t necessarily follow in a linear fashion from step 1 to 6; many times the learnings an organisation identifies along their journey require stepping back and refining or recalibrating. The six steps that need to be considered are:

  1. Build awareness – identify the burning platform, the clear mandate for change
  2. Identify aspirational culture – identify what kind of culture would be necessary to enable the desired future and deliver the organisation’s strategy
  3. Identify the current stage of development – identify the current cultural pride points and inhibitors and the current stage of cultural maturity
  4. Identify the pathway for change – Develop a pathway from current culture to aspirational culture; build on strengths and let go of things that no longer serve the organisation
  5. Build new capacities – identify and build the capacities necessary for the journey; celebrate progress with great tenacity in order to build peoples’ awareness and commitment
  6. Integration – embed these capacities into the fabric of the organisation until they become the ‘new way of doing things’.






Supporting your organisations to adapt and evolve and embrace these six steps requires patience, resilience, frankness, compassion and optimism. It also requires humility. In our next blog, we explore the pathway individual change champions need to traverse in order to enable their organisation’s evolution.

Download our whitepaper to find out more about the stages of maturity: Download Whitepaper

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