Does the organization go aged? what are the symptoms of the aging organization? How do we avoid exposing our organizations to aging? We usually use the word (Agedness) to describe what people are exposed to as they age, but recently this word has become used to describe the situation which organizations go through. But the main difference in both cases is that the agedness of organizations is not related to age unlike the individual. An organization can suffer from an aging state despite the passage of a few years of its establishment. Also, organizations can last for decades in a strong and renewed state. Essentially, the agedness of organizations is related to the aging of minds that run them.

There are several symptoms that can diagnose aging of your organization, we summarize them as follows:

Slow response to subsequent changes and developments:

This is a fundamental incident of the organizational agedness, as we note the inability of the organization to deal with the developments or to take a long time to prepare its own work plans and put them into practice. This situation can be expressed by describing the organization that it is interested in words and not deeds. Mario Moreira, in his book “The Agile Enterprise” published recently, expressed about that saying that the successful organization should direct most of its potential to detect the important changes as they occur and focus on them, and not invest the available resources in zero-value actions.

Loos of ability to complete initiatives and projects successfully:

when the organization launches a number of initiatives and developmental works with great momentum and extensive media coverage. As time goes on, we notice that the activity maximum extinguishes. Therefore, these works are neglected, leading to their discontinuation or completing them without achieving the goals which were declared at launch.

Lack of clarity of vision:

That is inferred by looking to the organization’s vision, which we find it general and non-specific or not clearly commensurate with the reality of work. This symptom can sometimes be distinguished from the organization’s constant change of vision without logical reasons or causes. It is true that rapid changes, especially changes in technology and communications, require organizations to keep pace with modernization. As Peter Swann and Jas Gill concluded in their book, “Corporate Vision and Rapid Technological Change“, which is based on a practical study. However, the ageing organizations take a different course either by non-causative change or broad formulation of organizational vision.

Over-reliance on the consulting firms and the external consultants:

It is natural for organizations to take advantage of expert houses and consultants in certain cases, especially when the need for knowledge not available internally. However, in the case of organizations affected by ageing, the reliance on external consultants increases significantly and the organization loses the ability to document knowledge provided by such consultants or learn from them. They also do not succeed in managing the consulting services with the required precaution and caution.

Decreased employee satisfaction with the working environment in the organization:

It can take many forms such as increasing the number of being late for work and unexplained absences, scarcity of proposals and developmental ideas submitted by the employees, or the decline of employees’ participation in collective events and activities which the organization organizes.

Proceeding from the above mentioned symptoms, tips can be summarized relating to avoid the arrival of our organizations to aging stage. First, the capacity of strategic planning must be built and the performance in the organization is properly managed, as that would give the organization the ability to create a clear vision. That is observed in a number of successful companies which developed a vision to become the leading global company in the field of chemicals, and an Arab telecommunications company that explained the idea with the word “vitality”. Their vision is to lead the digital future to empower the communities through reshaping the customer lives, accelerating the business growth and enhancing the competitiveness of the country. In addition, sound strategic planning and performance management help the organizations to perceive and respond to the changes in the market or the legislative, economic, social and political environment properly. That will enable the organization to manage performance effectively, allowing monitoring the cases of default when they occur, and addressing the neglect of the implementation of initiatives and projects. It is also important to have a wise management for organizational knowledge, its acquisition, its documentation and its transfer whether the knowledge is explicit or implicit. This is what distinguishes the educated organization from the other organizations. Also, one of the distinct practices in documenting information is what is known “the organizational memory“. This theme enables the documentation of information, retaining and retrieving them if necessary.

We can define the target information in the organizational memory as that information which supports decision making, and is not retained in one place within the organization, but in different administrations and departments depending on the nature of work and competence of each.

Hence, organizations that wish to remain strong should try to focus on the employees by engaging them and taking what is necessary to keep them in a good level of job satisfaction. One of the most effective ways to achieve that is to ensure that the organization and the employees grow together, not to be the development and maturity of the organization at the expense of employees. Otherwise, they will have to look for themselves outside the organization where they work.

It is good that some organizational aging symptoms can be diagnosed and treated using current management tools such as self-assessment, gap analysis, analysis of the external environment, and others. But if we want to have an integrated view of the youth our organization enjoys, we should assess these symptoms together.

Finally, the aging of organizations is not limited to a particular sector, but it can affect any organization in any sector, whether the private sector, the governmental sector, or the semi-governmental sector. Organizational aging can also affect entire governments and countries, which results from the flabbiness of governmental organizations, leading to weak performance of the role assigned to them, which in turn weakens the existence and impact of the country at the global level. The concept of organization aging that has been addressed in this article should not be confused with the product aging, which classifies the final stage in the lifecycle of one of the goods or services provided by the organization, which happens as a result of the changes in the market and supply and demand rates. In any case, attention paid to the symptoms of organizational aging and dealing with them properly is one of the keys to success and sustainability.

* I wrote and published this article in Harvard Business Review Arabic.