The Nonsense of the Maturity Level

Please 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.


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