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Management maturity is the same process that humans go through to mature.
The first is dependence. This is also known as the ‘you’ stage, when the child looks to others in order to find safety, well-being, and pleasure. The child is considered to be in need of care if someone withholds. Children thrive when others care.
The second is independence. This is the ‘I’ stage, which is when the child becomes an adult. If everything is going well, the young adult should be able to take responsibility, make sound decisions and develop self-reliance.
Interdependence is the third. This is also known as the “we” phase. It is when an independent adult expands their circle of concern to include more people.
Interdependence refers to the recognition that people and the social system in which they live are dependent on each other. We cannot function on our own, we need the support of others and social cohesion to thrive.
For a group or social system of people to survive, they need us to contribute. Only individuals can choose to be independent.
This view of independence shows that it is not an end in itself, but rather a temporary phase that is a transition between dependence and interdependence. It is a dysfunctional and arrested form of independence to stay too long.
Independents are self-centered ‘I’s and egoic drives for selfish fulfillment. This is a great achievement. However, we should encourage further development rather than treating it as a goal.
It is uncomfortable to celebrate the sixty-year-old who sings “I didit my way”. We all know that maturity is more than just looking after the first.
Management maturity is no different. As we learn our craft, we become dependent on others to provide the knowledge, processes, and standards that we need to follow. Once we have gained some independence, we can make decisions, be accountable, and be – at minimum – effective.
This would be level 2 of our 1-5 management maturity scale. We rely on the skills and expertise of key people. This is a great achievement, as competence is rare. However, it is important to recognize that failure is a common occurrence.
Without much thought or concern for culture or attitudes of senior managers, most organisations can reach level 2. Interdependence is crucial to maintain and reach higher levels.
Level 3 is where interdependent processes are created that allow the work of different people to be integrated into consistent, streamlined processes.
Level 4 managers are responsible for optimizing the system as a whole rather than individual efforts.
The organisation at level 5 works with its strategic partners to optimize how customers experience their service.
We must recognize that independence is a temporary state and that we should appreciate those who cultivate and encourage interdependence and cooperation. This is how organisations can grow and become more effective.