Archive for September, 2012

September 20, 2012

Organizational Maturity: A Developmental Look at Likert’s Four Types of Systems

Ever feel like your workplace reminds you of your family!? There’s a reason for that. Leaders and staff subtly create a re-enactment of their family system dynamics, sometimes playing the same roles they did growing up or still play today.

If we look at Likert’s Model as a reflection of a family’s developmental process or maturity then we can look at our own organization and open up to where we can make change.

It is important to realize that we can get stuck in our organizations’ growth and the organization can get stuck in its own growth.

Here I offer four observations about family and organizations based on the four types or stages:



System 1


  • Dogmatic leadership
  • Manipulative use of rewards
  • Top-down communication


System 1 & Stage 1 – The need for structure and authority as well as direction are important factors in a family or organization that is first starting out. The sense of chaos and excitement along with exhaustion can tax group members of families or businesses requiring a firm hand from leadership and management. An example would be a new start up with new staff, new leaders and an exciting new product.
System 2


  • Parental approach management
  • Kind but Authoritative Leader


System 2 & Stage 2 – This stage is the family’s stop at latency when the child is in elementary school and very agreeable with the parents for the most part. Love and peace abound but the child will need to grow and develop, finding themselves and their ideas. As employees and staff develop they will need to be in this stage to create a positive alliance with the leadership. After awhile, their ideas, gifts and talents will need to be expressed if the organization is to grow and mature. An example of this stage would be a new, but successful church where the leaders have heavy influence over what is initiated and focused on.



System 3


  • Management listens to employees, but reserves the right to make decisions
  • Some reliance on intrinsic rewards; most rewards are based on extrinsic (money) rewards


System 3 & Stage 3 – In the teen years more negotiation and interaction are needed as the children become more able to think for themselves. As an organization grows it can tolerate less structure and more communication about ideas and choices while developing its members into effective leaders and managers in their own right.  Values and relationship start to trump rules and policy. Creative solutions begin to emerge. An example would be a bio-tech company realizing that their products can serve the public in more creative ways than they had ever thought.

System 4


  • Leadership based on influence
  • Intrinsic rewards predominate
  • Two-way communication


System 4 & Stage 4 – At this stage as servant-leadership has developed in all group or family members, healthy relationships that work much like friendships abound in the family with adult children. Now service leads to influence and influence leads to true leadership. Values and relationship rule and communication is adult-to-adult, not “One-Up, One-Down”  Even though it grew very fast, Google is probably in this stage with its laid back and creative culture.

Some of the worst conflict in organizations between leaders, managers and staff in any of the possible member-to-member exchanges is because people in the organization are not understanding what stage they are in as individuals or as a group.  It is also important to realize that because of different changes in or outside of an organization, the group can move back and forth between stages to some degree. This 500 foot view can help us assess where we are and work towards maturity as time and experience help us make progress through the stages.


Rensis Likert: Management Systems and Styles. (2011). Retrieved Sept 19, 2012 from