11/30 – An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization

Book Reviews / August-November 2017

Russell Fitzpatrick

Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization. (2016). Harvard Business Review Press.

Everyone CultureAn Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey incorporates decades of personal developmental research into the world of organizational development. Any fan of personal developmental models knows the immense contributions of Kegan to the field, and this book brings personal development into the open, into our organizational lives. Kegan and Lahey remind us that “people development – [is] the single most powerful way…for an organization to unleash the potential of its people” (p. 1). This seemingly common sense idea, that developing people, not careers or procedures or organizational life, is the key to organizational success is surprisingly lacking in today’s organizations.

Russel FitzpatrickKegan and Lahey offer an approach to move the current organizational models for growth into a design that merges personal development with an organizational culture of an on-going daily “developmental journey” (p. 4). After a brief introductory overview, Kegan and Lahey introduce three companies that they consider to be deliberately developmental organizations, or DDOs.  The point here is not to show a hypothetical example of a successful DDO (Kegan and Lahey note they are not paid consultants of these DDOs but rather research partners), but to allow the reader to look this way and that way and observe successful DDOs. To be sure, these companies are successful. Bridgewater, for example, has been reported as the hedge fund that has created more money for its investors than any other in history. The other two DDOs are Decurion, which, among other assets, owns movie theaters and senior living centers across the country, and Next Jump, a high-tech company with one of the lowest turnover rates in their industry – people like to work there. Kegan and Lahey use these DDOs as examples of companies that are “an ideal context for people’s growth, evolution, and flourishing” (p. 55).

After introducing the three example DDOs, Kegan and Lahey embark on an explanation of developmental theory that they see as intertwined within the business culture of a DDO. Kegan and Lahey explain personal development based on a model of mental complexity built from their years of research. Relating the model to business provides levels of development referred to as: the socialized mind, or the “faithful follower”; the self-authoring mind, those that are independent and have their own compass; and the self-transforming mind where a leader leads to learn. The key here, according to Kegan and Lahey, is to bring the development of mental complexity into the culture of the organization. In this manner, personal development, as opposed to career development, allows people to flourish enriched by the organizational culture. Key points to Kegan and Lahey’s growth model are feedback and daily learning.

To develop this idea more fully, Kegan and Lahey explain the conceptual structure of a DDO in terms of the depth, breath and height of the organization’s developmental culture, dimensions they call home, groove and edge, respectively. For the DDO, these dimensions intersect making the organization even more dynamic. Kegan and Lahey expand their three dimensions into twelve features they call discontinuous departures that intersect to create a new organizational environment. While discussing these twelve features, Kegan and Lahey use our understanding of the three exemplar DDOs from our earlier tour. For example, edge dimensions, which addresses a growth mindset (one is reminded of Carol Dweck), can be seen in the Next Jump mantra of “Better Me + Better You = Better Us” (p. 89). This discussion aims to show the personal developmental component of a DDO, which is the key element in Kegan and Lahey’s presentation.

Personal development is generally, well, a personal thing. Creating an organization where personal development is not only allowed to occur but is on display creates a community of development, the DDO. Pertinent to this journal, the leadership of such an organization, where the leader is also publicly developing, requires a unique kind of leader. As Kegan and Lahey note:

The leader needs a passionate interest in the business success of the organization, like any leader, and she needs, first, a passionate interest in supporting people’s unfolding, along with a recognition that this is not a secondary goal but rather is inextricably tied to the goal of business success, and, second, she herself needs to be a full participant in the program” (p. 121). 

To explain more specifically how personal development can be publicly incorporated into an organization, Kegan and Lahey return to their three exemplar DDOs, to explain a few of the practices of those companies. The practices are a bit unexpectedly candid, raw and emotional.   For example, Bridgewater uses a process of continuous feedback that incorporates a new technology into personal development – people record their interactions with fellow employees and managers, or more specifically how they feel about those interactions, on an app called the Dot Collector. The app records the assessments employees make of each other as data points, and then aggregates the data to present a picture of how a person is perceived over time. I have seen other apps being used to promote emotional intelligence (EQ), but such apps are generally used to track your own emotional responses, to increase self-awareness. At Bridgewater, the app is used to rate your responses to others, for the benefit of the others that are being rated. It is this type of no-nonsense personal development made public through continuous feedback that is the hallmark of Kegan and Lahey’s DDO.

After a minor diversion to present the business case for developing a DDO, Kegan and Lahey present a framework of how to get started on developing a DDO, which begins with a commonly used assessment of your current situation and areas where improvement can be made: “what are you doing and not doing” (p. 208). Kegan and Lahey bring all this together in a modified AQAL model. With a nod to Wilber, Kegan and Lahey’s model includes the general framework of Wilber (individual/organization and interior/exterior), however the organization of the Kegan and Lahey approach creates unnecessary confusion with the quadrants. While perhaps more in line with their discussions, many reading the book will be familiar with the Wilber model, and know to look for the UL, or Upper Left Quadrant, the Interior-Individual, where our personal development occurs. But in Kegan and Lahey’s model, the UL is exterior/organizational, leaving the individual development in the lower right quadrant, causing some confusion to those accustomed to reading the quadrants of an AQAL-type model in consistent positions.

An Everyone Culture is a remarkable work, in that self-proclaimed non-business professionals Kegan and Lahey effectively demonstrate how personal growth and consciousness development, together with an app or two, represent the evolution of the human potential movement and can and should be incorporated into organizational development to create a true leading-edge business. Their suggestion that such an approach is a “reorganization of work” (p. 9), as we know it, is not to be taken lightly. As many have noted, we are staring off the edge of a new emergent paradigm of the world, and as we develop and unfold, so too will our interactions with each other, and with our organizational communities.

About the Author

Russell Fitzpatrick, MPS, is an Executive Vice President at The VERTEX Companies, Inc. He has degrees from Tufts University and Pennsylvania State University, and is currently pursuing a doctorate at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), where he is researching developmental consciousness and leadership.  He can be reached at russfitz@outlook.com

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