The Early Adopter stage

The definitions aren’t as exact in this stage of organizational development. The first leadership type we list (from left to right) is the infant as defined by Adizes. In the infant-founders’ attention shifts from ideas and possibilities to results. The need to make sales drives this action-oriented, opportunity-driven stage. Nobody pays much attention to paperwork, controls, systems, or procedures. Founders work 16-hour days, six to seven days a week, trying to do everything themselves. Bridges defines this period of leadership style as the venture period because it is fraught with high-stakes gambles and pushes for profits above all else. Adizes defined the go-go stage as a rapid-growth stage. Sales are still king. The founders believe they can do no wrong. Because they see everything as an opportunity, their arrogance leaves their businesses vulnerable to flagrant mistakes. They organize their companies around people rather than functions; capable employees can – and do – wear many hats, but to their staff’s consternation, the founders continue to make every decision. This is a direct correlation to Miller’s barbarian, who is a leader of crisis, and conquest and who commands the corporation on the march of rapid growth.

Moore defines the early adopters as being into new concepts (and technology products) very early into the lifecycle. They want to try something new very quickly, but usually wait until they can figure out how trying something new gives them some personal or professional leverage. These are the true revolutionaries in business and government who want to use the discontinuity of any innovation to make a break with the past and start an entirely new future. They have that rare insight to match an emerging technology to a strategic opportunity, the temperament to translate that insight into a high-visibility project, and the charisma to get the rest of their organization to buy into that project. Their expectation is that by being first to exploit the new capability they can achieve a dramatic and insurmountable competitive advantage over the old order. Remember, they are driven by a dream, and that dream is a wealth-generating goal.

Their wealth-generating goal is to launch their organization forward with a quantum leap thus giving them a high degree of personal recognition and reward. And herein lies the key point: Early adopters are looking for revolutionary breakthroughs, not evolutionary change. These leaders are visionary and authoritative (versus allocative) by nature. They aren’t going to want to ‘get bogged down’ with all that ‘compliance stuff’ as an early adopter CEO friend of ours recently stated. His answer was “call so-and-so” in the organization and “he’ll handle all of that for us, I can’t be bothered with it.”

The Main Thing about the early adopter state

If the leadership can be made to believe that compliance will make them look good, and won’t get in the way of their ‘go-go’ progress, then it will be accepted. Much like the innovators, the early adopters aren’t going to have an aggressive risk mitigating control environment. There will probably be as much risk-taking in this environment as there is in the previous one if only to facilitate speeding up time to market or time to implement new products or services.

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