Growth and Maturity

Context is key

When we work with clients to unlock growth and create value by increasing maturity, we begin with an understanding of the organization’s business context. Organizations within the same business context tend to suffer from the same problems. When identifying and addressing gaps in maturity, understanding the business context is key to success.

Context is key

In his bestselling book The First 90 Days, Michael Watkins lays out a framework that describes various business contexts. Its acronym, STARS, makes it easy to remember:


Startups are making their first trip through the Lifecycle. They are inventing, managing, and formalizing most of their structures and processes from scratch. Their people may have operated inside more-mature organizations but have likely never built one. Startups tend to take on the personality traits of their founders. They are often characterized by optimism that verges on delusion. Their penchant for grandiosity means they often lack of awareness of their own incompetence. They imagine that enough funding will solve all their problems if only they can find the right investors.


Turnarounds in serious trouble. They have regressed in maturity, so they are losing customers and losing money. The series of missteps that created this situation began years ago. So the people responsible for the problem have probably moved on. Because its best talent also left long ago, the company usually needs outside help to turn itself around. And if meaningful change doesn’t happen immediately, the organization may cease to exist.

Accelerated Growth

These organizations are feeling the pain of their own success. They have outgrown the structures and processes that got them to where they are. Their pain is a signal that they need to mature before growth stalls and they become a Realignment situation.


Realignment situations are characterized by a decoupling of the organization’s strategy, structure, processes, and people from each other and from the market. When this happens, growth slows, then stalls. Next, unhealthy and immature organizations often react to the growth problem by looking for a person or function to blame. But this approach almost never works and often backfires, sending the organization’s best people running for the exits. In reality the entire organization needs to realign and increase its maturity, starting with its leadership. Otherwise it risks becoming a Turnaround.

Sustaining Success

These situations rarely occur and are transitory in nature. The more mature and resilient the organization, the longer it can remain balanced in Sustaining Success. Quantitatively Managed (Level 4) and Optimizing (Level 5) organizations constantly self-assess and respond to problems early. And when systemic shocks occur, these organizations respond quickly and realign themselves with reality. So they move quickly through Realignment and return to Sustaining Success. Their ability to evolve is part of the reason why investors pay such a high premium for organizations that possess this level of maturity.

Context is key. Our playbooks for assessing and increasing maturity span each of these business contexts. Contact us to learn more.