as ‘a unique configuration of variables related to organization context or structure’. Contextual dimensions considered include enterprise size and age, growth rate, and focal tasks or challenges faced.
Structural dimensions include structural form, formalisation, centralisation, vertical differentiation, and number of organisational levels.
Hanks et al. (1993) note that, at a superficial level, there are many commonalities between the life-cycle models they review. Nonetheless, commenting on wide differences in the specifics of prior life-cycle models (particularly inclusion of from 3 to 10 stages), Hanks et al. (1993, pp. 11-12) observe that:
In recent years, a few empirical studies of the organization life cycle have emerged, providing important contributions to life-cycle theory (Kazanjian, 1988; Kazanjian & Drazin, 1990; Miller & Friesen, 1984a; [Smith et al., 1985]). However, most of these studies have defined growth stages a priori, using existing conceptualizations. The lack of specificity and empirical rigour in these typologies may account for unexpected intrastage variance found in some analyses. . . . It may be possible to address some of these difficulties by deriving taxonomic rather than typological models . . .
Hanks et al. (1993) see the strength of a taxonomic approach to identifying and specifying stages in an enterprise life-cycle model as deriving from use of multivariate analysis of empirical data to reveal common patterns and relationships in the data. They acknowledge only Smith et al. (1985) as having previously employed a taxonomic approach to developing an enterprise life-cycle model, but note that that research had a very small sample size and various other weaknesses.
Mainly using exploratory cluster analysis of cross-sectional data supplied via mailed questionnaire by 133 manufacturing SMEs from ‘high technology’ industries in the United States, Hanks et al. (1993) derive a life-cycle model with four development stages and two disengagement (or arrested development) stages, as represented in Figure 1 on the next page. Hanks et al. (1993) further describe the various development configurations or stages in their taxonomic life-cycle model as follows:
Start-up – young, small enterprises with simple organisational structures and a mean of 2.20 organisational levels. The organisation is highly centralised and quite informal. There is little functional specialisation, with a mean of 1.50 specialised functions. Product development