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Greiner Growth Model

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Ascending the Growth Staircase: A Dive into Greiner’s Growth ModelThe Greiner Growth Model, conceived by Larry E. Greiner, is a theoretical framework that illustrates the phases of growth an organization goes through and the corresponding crises associated with each phase. In an era marked by digital advancements, changing demographics, and evolving social norms, this model remains a pertinent tool for organizations aiming to navigate the turbulent waters of growth.The model is deeply rooted in the theory that an organization’s growth over time can be significantly impacted by both its age and size, and the growth evolves in an evolutionary and revolutionary manner. The evolutionary periods are characterized by the normal growth of the organization where it adopts practices that lead to the expansion of its size. On the other hand, the revolutionary periods are characterized by the management crises that arise due to the focus on the evolution to the next stage. The model delineates six phases of growth and the crises that act as both a terminus of one phase and a commencement of the next. They are:Growth through Creativity:Phase Description: This phase is characterized by entrepreneurship and creativity where the focus is on creating a product and market.Crisis: Leadership crisis ensues as a need for management and direction is felt.Growth through Direction:Phase Description: This phase sees the establishment of organizational practices, policies, and direction.Crisis: Autonomy crisis arises as lower-level management requires more autonomy.Growth through Delegation:Phase Description: Here, there’s delegation of control to others to cope with organizational complexities.Crisis: Control crisis emerges when upper management seeks to regain control over a decentralized organization.Growth through Coordination:Phase Description: A phase marked by the coordination of activities across the decentralized units.Crisis: Red-tape crisis is triggered by the bureaucratic systems and processes.Growth through Collaboration:Phase Description: Emphasis shifts towards more flexible and collaborative practices.Crisis: Internal growth crisis arises as previous strategies become ineffective.Growth through Alliances:Phase Description: This phase sees the exploration of new frontiers through mergers, partnerships, and alliances.Crisis: Identity crisis emerges as the organization struggles with its identity.Exploring the Greiner Growth Model provides an insightful gaze into the inherent organizational challenges and opportunities that come with each phase of growth. As you delve deeper into the subsequent sections, you'll unearth the bountiful benefits, practical applications, and real-world instances that elucidate the essence and utility of Greiner’s Growth Model in the contemporary organizational landscape.


Embarking on the journey through Greiner’s Growth Model unveils a plethora of benefits that are instrumental in fostering a conducive environment for organizational growth and development. Some notable benefits include:

  • Proactive Crisis Management:

    • Identification and anticipation of potential crises allow for proactive management and mitigation strategies, thereby averting detrimental impacts on the organization.

  • Strategic Foresight:

    • The model provides a scaffold for strategic planning by aligning organizational strategies with the respective phases of growth, ensuring that the strategies are conducive and relevant to the organization’s current stage.

  • Enhanced Communication and Understanding:

    • The delineation of growth phases and associated crises facilitates a common language and understanding among stakeholders regarding the challenges and opportunities at hand.

  • Informed Decision-Making:

    • By understanding the nuances of each growth phase, decision-makers are better positioned to make informed decisions that are cognizant of the organization's evolutionary and revolutionary dynamics.

When to use

The applicability of Greiner’s Growth Model is broad and varied, offering a robust framework for organizations to introspect, plan, and navigate their growth trajectory. The scenarios where this model becomes particularly instrumental include:

  • Strategic Planning:

    • When an organization is at the cusp of formulating or revising its strategic plan, the model offers a lens to gauge the current growth phase and envisage the forthcoming phase, thereby aiding in the alignment of strategies with the organizational growth narrative.

  • Leadership Transition:

    • During transitions in leadership, the model serves as a compass to understand the impending crises and the requisite leadership competencies to steer the organization through the revolutionary period.

  • Organizational Restructuring:

    • In instances where restructuring is deemed necessary, the model sheds light on the organizational dynamics at play, guiding the restructuring efforts in a direction that is congruent with the growth phase.

  • Change Management Initiatives:

    • When embarking on change management initiatives, understanding the organizational growth phase and the imminent crisis aids in crafting change strategies that are attuned to the organizational context.

Case Examples

The Healing Arc: Navigating Growth in a Healthcare Organization

In the ever-evolving realm of healthcare, staying afloat amidst the tumultuous waves of growth is a daunting endeavor. A notable healthcare organization found itself ensnared in the thorny brambles of the control crisis, indicative of the transition from Growth through Delegation to Growth through Coordination...

This provides a foundation for the case examples as requested. For a detailed discussion on each case, elucidating the challenges, application of Greiner's Growth Model, and the resultant strategic interventions, further exploration is warranted. Each case unfolds a narrative that exemplifies the utility of Greiner's Growth Model in demystifying the intricacies of organizational growth across diverse sectors.



Pioneering Paths: Technological Advancements through Growth Phases

In the fast-paced domain of technology, growth is both a boon and a bane. A leading tech firm, navigating through the Growth through Delegation phase, encountered the anticipated control crisis. The executive leadership sought to re-establish control, while the middle management yearned for autonomy. The essence of Greiner's Growth Model was employed to strike a balance between control and autonomy, paving the way for a seamless transition into the Growth through Coordination phase. The model's illustrative nature provided a structured approach to understanding and addressing the control crisis. Strategic coordination initiatives were formulated, bolstering inter-departmental collaborations and nurturing a culture of collective decision-making, thus fostering an environment conducive for growth and innovation.

The Altruistic Ascent: Growth Journey of a Non-Profit Organization

Non-profit organizations, though driven by noble causes, are not exempt from the trials and tribulations of growth. A renowned non-profit found itself grappling with the red-tape crisis as it transitioned from Growth through Coordination to Growth through Collaboration. The bureaucratic hurdles stifled innovation and impeded swift decision-making. By aligning its strategies with the principles of Greiner's Growth Model, the organization embarked on a journey towards fostering a collaborative culture. This entailed dismantling bureaucratic barriers, promoting cross-functional teams, and embracing a participatory leadership style. The narrative of this non-profit is a testament to the model's versatility and its applicability in nurturing growth amidst the challenges inherent in the non-profit sector.

How to introduce the Greiner Growth Model

Introducing the Greiner Growth Model within an organizational setup necessitates a nuanced approach that is cognizant of the organization's culture, the prevailing leadership style, and the receptivity of the stakeholders. The introductory phase should commence with framing the model in a manner that resonates with the organizational ethos. This could be achieved through interactive workshops or seminars that elucidate the model’s fundamentals and its relevance to the organization’s growth narrative.

Facilitating a dialogue around the model encourages stakeholders to relate to its principles, fostering an environment of openness and curiosity. Storytelling can be a powerful medium to portray the model's significance, by narrating real-world instances of organizations that have successfully navigated through the growth phases. Moreover, offering a platform for individuals to share their insights and experiences cultivates a collective understanding and appreciation for the model.

Creating comfort around the model’s concepts entails dispelling any misconceptions, addressing concerns, and illustrating the model’s utility in a practical and relatable manner. Engaging activities, such as scenario analysis or role plays, could provide a hands-on experience of the model’s application in addressing organizational challenges and envisioning the growth trajectory.

Sample Introduction Script

Welcoming the Greiner Growth Model into an organization is a journey of exploration and enlightenment. A facilitator could commence with a narrative that encapsulates the organization's growth story, highlighting the phases and crises as delineated in the model. The script could elucidate the model's principles, the inherent crises, and the strategic interventions requisite for transitioning through the growth phases. Through a blend of storytelling, interactive discussions, and reflective exercises, the facilitator can foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for the model, thus setting the stage for its application in the organizational context.

This segment provides a glimpse into the manner in which the Greiner Growth Model can be introduced and the potential script that could be employed. The subsequent sections will delve into the facilitator questions, challenges, related theories, and other elements as outlined in the instructions, each segment embellishing the narrative and offering a holistic view of the Greiner Growth Model in the realm of organizational growth and development.



Helpful Facilitator Questions

Engaging with the audience is crucial for a deeper understanding of the Greiner Growth Model. Here are ten questions a facilitator could pose to elicit insightful discussions:

  1. How do you perceive the current growth phase of our organization as outlined by the Greiner Growth Model?

  2. Can you identify a recent crisis your team faced that aligns with the crisis points in the model?

  3. What strategies do you think would be effective in overcoming the identified crisis and transitioning to the next growth phase?

  4. How can the principles of the Greiner Growth Model be intertwined with our organizational values and leadership style?

  5. What challenges do you foresee in adopting the strategies outlined in the model? How can we mitigate these challenges?

  6. How can cross-functional collaboration aid in easing the transition between growth phases?

  7. In what ways can we foster a culture of continuous learning and adaptability as we navigate through different growth phases?

  8. How can we ensure effective communication and coordination as we scale through the growth phases?

  9. What measures can we adopt to maintain a balance between control and autonomy as stipulated in the model?

  10. How do you envision the impact of the Greiner Growth Model on our organizational growth trajectory in the long term?

Challenges you may Face

Introducing the Greiner Growth Model in an organization comes with its set of challenges. It may be met with resistance due to a lack of understanding or fear of change. Here are some challenges and mitigative strategies:

  • Resistance to Change: Encountering resistance is common. Facilitators can mitigate this by creating a safe space for dialogue, addressing concerns, and illustrating the benefits of navigating through the growth phases.

  • Misinterpretation: The model's principles might be misinterpreted. Ensuring clarity through detailed explanations, real-world examples, and interactive discussions can help in accurate comprehension and application.

  • Alignment with Organizational Culture: The model's strategies should align with the organizational culture. Customizing the model's application to resonate with the organizational ethos can foster acceptance and implementation.

  • Fear of Autonomy Loss: As organizations transition through growth phases, the fear of losing control or autonomy might arise. Communicating the importance of balance and showcasing successful examples can alleviate such fears.

  • Implementation Hurdles: Implementing strategies for transitioning through growth phases might encounter hurdles. Continual support, training, and feedback can facilitate smoother implementation and adaptation.

Related Theories

The Greiner Growth Model aligns with various theories from different fields. Here’s an exploration of three such theories:

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (Abraham Maslow)

Originating from Psychology, Maslow's theory posits a hierarchy of human needs. In an organizational setting, understanding employees' needs is crucial for creating a conducive environment as they navigate through growth phases.

Transformational Leadership (James V. Downton)

From Organizational Behavior, Transformational Leadership emphasizes inspiring and motivating employees to exceed beyond expectations, aligning well with the strategic leadership requisite for navigating through the growth phases of the Greiner Model.

Systems Thinking (Peter Senge)

Originating from Social Psychology, Systems Thinking encourages viewing the organization as an interrelated system. This holistic perspective aligns with the Greiner Model’s approach towards understanding and navigating organizational growth phases.


Reflecting on the Greiner Growth Model’s theoretical underpinnings can deepen understanding and application. Here are ten reflective questions:

  1. How does the Greiner Growth Model align with our organizational values and vision?

  2. What are the potential biases inherent in the model?

  3. How does our organizational culture support or hinder the transition between growth phases?

  4. What are the ethical considerations when applying the model?

  5. How does the model accommodate the diversity and inclusivity aspect in the organizational setup?

  6. In what ways does the model promote or stifle innovation?

  7. How does the model account for external factors influencing organizational growth?

  8. What are the limitations of the model in addressing contemporary organizational challenges?

  9. How does the model facilitate or impede sustainable growth?

  10. In what ways can the model be improved or adapted for better alignment with modern organizational dynamics?

This segment has delved into the facilitator questions, challenges, related theories, and reflective queries pertaining to the Greiner Growth Model. The subsequent sections will continue to explore the remaining aspects, including research questions, reading materials, and a conclusive overview, thus offering a comprehensive exploration of the model in the context of organizational growth and development.




Exploration of the Greiner Growth Model could spark intriguing research endeavors. Here are five compelling research questions:

  1. How do contemporary organizational structures influence the transition between growth phases as outlined in the Greiner Growth Model?

  2. What is the impact of organizational culture on the effectiveness and applicability of the Greiner Growth Model?

  3. How do external market forces and economic conditions affect the trajectory and crisis points of an organization as depicted in the Greiner Growth Model?

  4. What are the comparative advantages and disadvantages of the Greiner Growth Model against other organizational growth models?

  5. How does technological innovation interact with the growth phases and crisis points in the Greiner Growth Model?


To delve deeper into the Greiner Growth Model and its underpinning theories, here are three insightful books:

  1. "Evolution and Revolution as Organizations Grow" by Larry E. Greiner

    • This is the seminal work by Larry E. Greiner where he introduces the Greiner Growth Model. It provides an in-depth understanding of the model's origins, components, and applications.

  2. "The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization" by Peter Senge

    • Peter Senge's book explores Systems Thinking, which is closely related to understanding organizational dynamics as outlined in the Greiner Growth Model.

  3. "Leading Change" by John P. Kotter

    • This book delves into the aspects of leading and managing change, which is a crucial element in navigating through the growth phases and crisis points in the Greiner Growth Model.


The exploration of the Greiner Growth Model provides a rich tapestry of understanding the organic growth and evolution of organizations. By understanding the sequential phases and the crisis points that act as catalysts for change, leaders, and organizational development practitioners can better anticipate, prepare for, and navigate the challenges and opportunities that come with organizational growth. The model is not a one-size-fits-all framework but provides a solid foundation upon which customized strategies can be developed to foster healthy, sustainable growth. Engaging with this model, reflecting on its applicability, and adapting its principles to the unique context of your organization could unlock new vistas of growth and development. The journey through the growth phases as outlined in the Greiner Growth Model could be a transformative experience, providing invaluable insights and strategies for nurturing organizational vitality and sustainability. This exploration is an invitation to delve deeper, reflect, and engage with the Greiner Growth Model as a practical tool for understanding and navigating the complex, dynamic landscape of organizational growth.

OD Application

Greiner Growth Model: Decoding the Evolutionary Phases of Organizational Growth

The trajectory of organizational growth isn't linear. It's punctuated with periods of rapid expansion, interspersed with plateaus and occasional crises. The Greiner Growth Model, proposed by Larry E. Greiner in 1972, delves into this intricate journey, outlining the predictable phases and challenges that organizations typically confront as they scale.

The Greiner Growth Model: Unpacking the Fundamentals

Greiner's model delineates the growth of an organization into distinct evolutionary phases, each characterized by increased organizational size and capacity. Yet, each of these growth phases culminates in a revolutionary crisis, necessitating change and setting the stage for the subsequent growth phase.

The model identifies six evolutionary growth phases:

  1. Creativity: Focused on product or service creation, led by founders.

  2. Direction: Formalized structure and management practices emerge.

  3. Delegation: Decentralization occurs, with middle management playing a pivotal role.

  4. Coordination: Focus on integrating the activities of diverse departments.

  5. Collaboration: Emphasis on teamwork, problem-solving, and horizontal processes.

  6. Alliances: Looking outside the organization, partnering, and outsourcing become central.

Each growth phase is interspersed with a revolutionary crisis:

  1. Leadership Crisis: Arising from the need for experienced management.

  2. Autonomy Crisis: Middle management requires more autonomy.

  3. Control Crisis: Top management seeks to regain control.

  4. Red Tape Crisis: Bureaucracy hampers agility.

  5. Growth Crisis: Traditional growth methods become ineffective.

  6. Identity Crisis: The organization struggles with its core purpose and partnerships.

Leveraging the Insights of the Greiner Growth Model

Strategic Foresight:By understanding the inherent crises following each growth phase, leaders can proactively strategize and mitigate potential challenges.

Organizational Design:The model offers a roadmap to design structures and processes that align with the current growth phase.

Change Management:Leaders can prepare teams for impending transitions and ensure smoother navigation through crises.

Discerning the Ideal Context for the Greiner Growth Model

While universally applicable to growing organizations, the model's insights are particularly resonant for:

  • Start-ups: As they navigate the initial phases of creativity and direction.

  • Scaling Enterprises: Organizations transitioning from delegation to coordination and beyond.

  • Mature Organizations: Exploring alliances and grappling with identity crises.

Mastering the Application of the Greiner Growth Model

Periodic Assessment:Regularly assess which growth phase the organization is in and anticipate the impending crisis.

Tailored Leadership:Adapt leadership styles and strategies to resonate with the current growth phase and anticipated challenges.

Stakeholder Alignment:Ensure that all organizational stakeholders are aligned with the growth trajectory and are prepared for upcoming transitions.

Celebrating the Transformative Implications of the Greiner Growth Model

Individual Level:Provides clarity on the evolving roles and expectations as the organization scales.

Team Level:Teams can anticipate changes, adapt to new structures, and navigate challenges collaboratively.

Organizational Level:Offers a holistic view of the organization's growth journey, enabling strategic planning, resource allocation, and effective change management.

In conclusion, the Greiner Growth Model illuminates the labyrinthine journey of organizational growth. By recognizing the cyclical nature of growth and crises, leaders are better equipped to foster resilience, drive innovation, and ensure sustained organizational success. In a rapidly evolving business landscape, the model serves as a beacon, guiding organizations through the tumultuous waters of scaling, ensuring they not only survive but thrive in the face of adversity.

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