The Arc of Success

When a business is born, it begins with an idea for a product or service the founders believe will be of value. From that point forward, the business, if it survives, will embark on the Arc of success, a series of five stages of organizational development.

  1. Success, which leads to…
  2. Growth, which leads to…
  3. Complexity, which leads to…
  4. Controls, which leads to…
  5. Loss of flexibility

The first cycle through the Arc is the cycle of youth where the process of developing expertise and maturity begins. If the idea is good and the entrepreneur has the right combination of luck, knowledge, and expertise, the business will traverse the Arc and the entrepreneur will complete his mission. That’s when the organization moves into the second cycle of the Arc, adolescence.

When a business transitions from youth to adolescence, two disruptive changes happen. First, transition to a more formal, less entrepreneurial culture. Second, transition of leadership. After those two changes occur and the organization begin to stabilize, it’s time to cycle through the Arc once again.

The third cycle of the Arc is adulthood when the business and its leadership have the ability to figure out how to solve the problems they haven’t faced even though they don’t have all the answers yet. This is the cycle when staff engagement becomes critical.

In coming installments, I’ll share many more details about the Arc and how to survive the pitfalls of success.



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