The Performance Curve and the Four Development Stages of an Organization

Valentina Roman

8 minutes read

The Performance Curve and the Four Development Stages of an Organization

The strategy used by organizations in order to attain performance is no longer what it was a couple of years ago. 

Hierarchy makes way for partnership and collaboration, blame is replaced by honest evaluations and learning, external motivations are replaced by self-motivation, protective boundaries disappear as teams are being built, change is no longer feared but -embraced, making the manager happy becomes making the client happy. Excessive secrecy and censorship are replaced by honesty and openness, a stressful job becomes a challenging job and the momentary reaction to appease a conflict in the short term makes way for strategic, long term thinking – notes Sir John Whitmore in his book Coaching for Performance – where he addresses the concept of organizational performance curve.

I think that at least during these last two years of the pandemic, we have been thinking more and more about the value each of us brings to the company we work for, about the principles that guide us and about how to do our daily tasks  more efficiently. Despite the fact that studies have shown that those who most influence the organizational culture are represented by the management class , the way each individual thinks within an organization translates into distinct characteristics correlated to a certain level of performance.

Here is how Sir John Whitmore describes the four stages of organizational development:

1. The Impulsive stage

–          Way of thinking: “I’ll take the chance” 

–          Characterized by a lack of system and structure, chaotic leadership, and lack of consistency.

–          Short term thinking

–          Performance level: low

–          Motivation: survival

–          The organization is unpredictable, the teams react to situations as they occur.

2. The Dependent stage

–          Way of thinking: “I follow the rules and I do as I’m told”

–          Characterized by hierarchies, with leaders who give orders and control.

–          Lack of trust

–          Level of performance: low to medium

–          Motivation: the need to belong

–          Employees focus on the processes and on finishing the tasks, with great aversion towards risk

3. The Independent stage

–          Way of thinking: “I have very good results”

–          Characterized by systems which support individual goals, with leaders focused on their own objectives

–          Level of performance: medium to high

–          Motivation: esteem

–          Employees are looking to make an impact through their actions, with a high level of ownership for their results and a mentality focused on winning.

4. The Interdependent stage

–          Way of thinking: “Together we can truly succeed”

–          Characterized by self-governing teams, with leaders who inspire and offer support.

–          Level of performance: high.

–          Motivation: self-actualization

–          A culture aimed towards coaching, with authentic communication and constant feedback. People interact with each other in order to understand different points of view, showing care and focusing on collaboration.

Take a couple of minutes to reflect on the way most people think within your organization, on what is your collective culture and in what way it creates the conditions for performance. Try to answer the following questions: 

  • What is the culture of the organization you are a part of?
  • What is the culture of the organization you would like to be a part of?
  • How do you contribute to the development of the organizational culture through your attitude and your work ethic?

When looking for a new job, be very careful about the type of leader and organization you choose but also don’t place the entire responsibility for performance on the management. Think about what you can bring that can increase the performance of the team you are a part of, look for solutions and together with your team you can have a real impact on accelerating the performance curve towards the next level.

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Written by Valentina Roman


I am a digital project manager with a 360° perspective, passionate about understanding what makes projects truly successful and why. I’ve worn every hat in the communication domain: from PR to marketing, from content writing to e-commerce growth strategies, from managing volunteers to business development, from CSR campaigns to product development and AI technologies.

In my spare time, I am writing for Pluria about my experience in managing diverse teams while directly reporting to high-profile senior managers. Take your moment to read my articles as I hope you will find them useful and inspiring!

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