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The Nonsense of the Maturity Level

24/01/2013

EvaluationsPlease tell us, what is your maturity level, as a person? Are you still at level 1 or 2? Or do you belong to the elite group of people who have achieved level 4, or even 5? And can you please put that number on a badge that you will wear all the time? Because that would make it so much easier for the others to decide if they want to hang out with you.

Oh, you find this ridiculous? Insulting maybe?

Then why are you interested in the maturity levels of organizations?

Organizations are living systems. Assigning one rank (a maturity level) to an entire organization is just as useless, and potentially offensive, as assigning one single rating to me, Jurgen Appelo, for everything that I am, produce, and stand for. It flies in the face of complexity thinking. (OK, I’ll be fair: Some models do indeed offer different numbers, but many consultants and businesses prefer to work with just one rank.) Therefore I don’t believe the way maturity models are used in business is the proper way to address and assess professionalism in organizations. Instead of classifying entire organizations, we should classify only specific activities performed by specific people.

- Jurgen Appelo, Management 3.0, page 220

Looking at myself, I’d guess my “maturity level” in the area of administration and logistics is 3 (out of 5). And for writing it’s probably the same. When it’s about reading it might even be a 4. On the other hand, in the area of interpersonal communication it’s certainly not more than a 2. And I’m not even going to tell you my maturity level regarding account management or personal workouts.

So, what is my maturity level as a self-employed knowledge worker?

Do I take the average of all these numbers?

If we can’t even define one maturity level for a person, then how should we “measure” one for a network of people, an organization, or a business?

Next time a consultant suggests that your company has a maturity level, you can reply that you have just identified one of the consultant’s many different maturity levels. In the area of complexity thinking he scores a solid 1.

Management30-mini 
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This article is written by on in Uncategorized. Jurgen Appelo is at Happy Melly. Connect with Jurgen Appelo on .

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  • Linda

    I think you can compare maturity models to the age of people as a sign of maturity: only very immature persons (young children) use it as a sign of maturity.

  • Alex

    Interesting post but did you not by yourself suggest to use a maturity level perspective for teams to assign them with the right authorization level (management 3.0 p.130 )?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    Good reading!
    Yes, I did. Depending on specific key decision areas/activities. Which is basically also the point of this post.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/claudiocpires Claudiocpires

    Jurgen, I’ve been there and done that. Confess that it was really confusing: most decisive quality points where not “officially” covered by the expected practices of the appraisal model. I quitted this consultant role, but still rely onto process improvement. Regardless of “good and bad”, “saint or evil”, most important is how you adapt, don’t it?!? Searching only for a “number” is still a beginner’s mind…an public evidence that there is too much maturity to reach ahead!

  • http://www.cygnismedia.com/social-media-application/timeline-app-development.html facebook timeline app development

    I agreed with your thoughts and maturity level.

  • Gkn

    Dear Jurgen, it is obvious that a high aggregation of information results in information loss. But this is not the aim of maturity levels. There are many different kinds of maturity models which try to regard an organization from a different angle. If the top management anyway wants the maturity of its organization to be expressed in one number this is not the fault of the model but of its users.