Organizations are like people, they have ups and downs. They have a beginning and an end (even as they transition or morph into something else). And somewhere in the middle or in numerous little points along the way, the organization/person experiences questioning, doubts, reevaluation or mere generally speaking, “the blues.”
The Wall Street Journal, 2-3 February 2008, has an editorial that describes “a massive American-British study of some two million souls throughout 80 counties confirming, empirically, that middle age immiserates us all without regard to income, culture, gender, marital status, or previous experience.”
The study demonstrates the “mood swing of life” with a “U-curve, in which mental stability and happiness bottoms out in our 40s and into our 50s. We then get more cheerful as we round the curve into the final stretch.”
What happens in mid-life crisis?
“Mid-life is a time when the mirage of life’s perfectibility and symmetry, as envisioned in one’s youth, come back to trouble you like a conscience…one might call it a last chance at happiness, or of “getting it right…the last opportunity to shape your fate before you have to accept it; a phase when you are suddenly taunted by the lives unlived.”
Not only people, but organizations go through mid-life crisis:
The stock market swoon of company’s stocks (representing their market values) is one gauge of their oft meteoric rise and death-defying falls. Just some recent examples of companies in the news today: Technology titans, Microsoft with an intraday low of $0.80 in 1986 and a high of $53.97 in 1999, and Yahoo $0.65 in 1996 and $125.031 in 2000, and both are slightly above or below $30 today. Another example, Starbucks has been off nearly 50% in the past year.
The rise and fall of enterprises is a reflection of their even changing environment. Life is not status quo. We are all tested, all the time. It is how we respond to those tests that determine where we go next.
How do we respond?
Some people respond to mid-life crisis by changing themselves, their jobs, careers, and even partners (some opt for the flashy red convertible sport car deluxe!). People are trying to remake themselves—for better or worse. Organizations do the same thing; they seek transformation, reengineering, and strategic change, and hence they undertake initiatives like Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, The Baldridge Award, Kaizen, and other varied change management endeavors (even enterprise architecture to an extent). We as people and organizations look in the mirror and realize that we cannot continue as we are if we are to survive and thrive to fight another day.