General management

Being constructive about organisational maturity

Photo by xflickrxWhen we want to influence others it makes sense to respect them—then we can more easily find a common ground and respond better. And that respect carries through to the language we use, regardless of whether they are present or not. So it pains me when people casually talk about others not having sufficient “maturity”. Can we find a better phrase?

I last read the phrase in a blog post about continuous delivery (CD), and that prompted this post:

If your team is hesitant to automate and cannot be convinced about the need, you might have to consider if there’s enough maturity in your team to move toward CD.

I can’t help feeling that it’s rather insulting to a team to suggest they aren’t sufficiently “mature”. They may not share the same mindset as me, they may have different priorities. Perhaps they’ve not had the same experiences as you.

I’ve also heard people talk about “organisational maturity” which damns even more people than just a single team. I do understand that some very senior people can behave like children (very few that I’ve met, fortunately) and a culture like that can seep through much of the organisation, but to suggest the organisation as a whole just isn’t sufficiently grown up does more harm than good.

Describing a team or a business as immature (not the word used, but implied) is lazy, and it shows that we are avoiding responsibility. We are avoiding responsibility for understanding the real issue. And there is an implication that the problem will just fix itself over time, without us—we sit back, they need to grow up.

So can we find a better word? Perhaps it depends on the situation. “If [our] team is hesitant to automate and cannot be convinced about the need,” we might have to consider if we should change our approach. We might have to do a bit more listening. We might be trying to solve the wrong problem. Before we condemn a company’s “organisational maturity” perhaps we can capture the problem a bit better. Maybe they have weak financial controls, or they hire without diversity, or they don’t have the right person leading their expansion strategy.

If we can do better than referring a lack of “maturity” we might get closer to achieving the best outcome.

Photo by xflickrx



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