What is A Cog’s Ladder? The Cog’s ladder In A Nutshell

Cog’s ladder is a model of group development. The ladder was created in 1972 by Procter & Gamble employee George Charrier to help management at the company understand how teams worked to make them more efficient. Cog’s ladder is a model of group formation and behavior that is used to help businesses understand how a team can work to achieve its goals.

Understanding Cog’s ladder

Cog’s ladder is used by team leaders to provide direction and order in groups of people often characterized by personality clashes, disruptive behavior, and nervous individuals who are reluctant to contribute. It is important to note that Charrier’s approach does not eliminate these negative aspects entirely. Instead, leaders use the ladder to help their teams reach the most productive state as quickly as possible.

The model is quite similar to Bruce Tuckman’s 1965 team development model, which posits that as a team becomes more mature and competent, relationships form between individual team members, and the leader alters their management style to suit.

The five phases of Cog’s ladder

Charrier found five phases described a group as it transitioned from the initial meeting to a high-performance team. 

The five phases are as follows:

1 – The polite phase 

When the team comes together for the first time, most individuals will be anxious and hesitant to reveal personal information about themselves. 

Some do this because they are nervous, seek approval, or understand the importance of not making a bad first impression. Some prefer to sit back, as it were, and evaluate the personalities of others to predict future team dynamics.

2 – The “Why are we here?” phase 

In the second phase, formal introductions and acquaintances are made and the team leader clarifies what is expected of the group and how it will be achieved. 

Roles and responsibilities are assigned and cliques may form as people with similar interests or skills coalesce. Communication becomes more natural as individuals become more comfortable with one another.

3 – The power phase

The third phase describes the inevitable power struggles that will develop in the group. Dominant personalities may compete for authority and influence as criticism, tension, resistance, and refutation becomes more common.

The team leader must let this occur with only limited intervention as it is a crucial phase in the team’s hierarchical development. Assertive individuals in the group will describe how they think the goal can be achieved, with non-assertive individuals then deciding who to support.

4 – The cooperation phase

Once a natural hierarchy has been established, increased cooperation between individuals builds momentum as each understands their role in helping the team reach its objectives. As a result, the focus shifts away from the individual and toward group cohesiveness. 

Criticism becomes more constructive and a friendlier atmosphere develops as team members see others as their comrades. When conflict does arise, the group works to find a solution that is in the common interest.

5 – The esprit phase

In the esprit phase, cliques that were formed in the second phase disappear as the group solidifies its collective identity. Strong informal relationships develop between individuals, with mutual feelings of trust, respect, and appreciation.

With all individuals making a concerted and unified effort, significant process toward the goal is made. Since this phase is associated with the highest level of team development, there is typically less reliance on instruction and task delegation from the team leader. Instead, the leader should focus on maintaining efficiency to ensure the work is completed on time and budget without sacrificing quality.

Key takeaways:

  • Cog’s ladder is a model of group formation and behavior that is used to help businesses understand how teams can work to achieve their goals. The ladder was created in 1972 by Procter & Gamble employee George Charrier.
  • Cog’s ladder provides direction and order in groups of people that are often characterized by personality clashes, disruptive behavior, and nervous individuals who are passive and avoid contribution. The ladder does not seek to eliminate these aspects. Rather, it is intended to help team leaders guide subordinates to an efficient state as quickly as possible.
  • Charrier explained Cog’s ladder in terms of five phases: the polite phase, the “Why are we here?” phase, the power phase, the cooperation phase, and the esprit phase.

Other Frameworks

Andy Grove, helped Intel become among the most valuable companies by 1997. In his years at Intel, he conceived a management and goal-setting system, called OKR, standing for “objectives and key results.” Venture capitalist and early investor in Google, John Doerr, systematized in the book “Measure What Matters.”
First proposed by accounting academic Robert Kaplan, the balanced scorecard is a management system that allows an organization to focus on big-picture strategic goals. The four perspectives of the balanced scorecard include financial, customer, business process, and organizational capacity. From there, according to the balanced scorecard, it’s possible to have a holistic view of the business.
The theory was developed by psychologist Edwin Locke who also has a background in motivation and leadership research. Locke’s goal-setting theory of motivation provides a framework for setting effective and motivating goals. Locke was able to demonstrate that goal setting was linked to performance.
A SMART goal is any goal with a carefully planned, concise, and trackable objective. To be such a goal needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Bringing structure and trackability to goal setting increases the chances goals will be achieved, and it helps align the organization around those goals.
Businesses use backcasting to plan for a desired future by determining the steps required to achieve that future. Backcasting is the opposite of forecasting, where a business sets future goals and works toward them by maintaining the status quo.
Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset, and it empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles, by leveraging on fast-paced experimentation.

Related Strategy Concepts: Go-To-Market StrategyMarketing StrategyBusiness ModelsTech Business ModelsJobs-To-Be DoneDesign ThinkingLean Startup CanvasValue ChainValue Proposition CanvasBalanced ScorecardBusiness Model CanvasSWOT AnalysisGrowth HackingBundlingUnbundlingBootstrappingVenture CapitalPorter’s Five ForcesPorter’s Generic StrategiesPorter’s Five ForcesPESTEL AnalysisSWOTPorter’s Diamond ModelAnsoffTechnology Adoption CurveTOWSSOARBalanced ScorecardOKRAgile MethodologyValue PropositionVTDF FrameworkBCG MatrixGE McKinsey MatrixKotter’s 8-Step Change Model.

Main Guides:

Scroll to Top