An Everyone Culture: A book review by Bob Morris

Everyone CultureAn Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization
Robert Keegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey
Harvard Business Review Press (March 2016)

How to establish a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive

Recent research studies (at least those with which I am familiar) have identified what is most important to employees at all levels and in all areas and, revealingly, the results are almost the same when customers are surveyed. Feeling appreciated is among those ranked highest ranked.

Moreover, employees’ responses also suggest that most organizations continue to face three major challenges insofar as high-potential workers are concerned: how to attract and hire them, how to develop their skills, and then how to retain them.

Keeping that in mind, now consider what Robert Keegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey share in the Introduction: “From the start of our research team’s investigation of the three DDOs [deliberately developmental organizations] at the heart of the book, we were struck by three things. First, all of them are doing what the science of human development recommends, and they are doing so in ingenious and effective ways (although only of there organizations explicitly studied the science). They seemed to have an intuitive, practical grasp of how to accelerate people’s development.

“Second, these organizations are taking their concepts to scale so that everyone in the organization — workers, managers, and leaders alike — has the opportunity to develop…Finally, all three companies [Bridgewater Associates, Next Jump, and Decurion] intentionally and continuously nourish a culture that pouters business and individual development — and the way each one supports the other — front and center for everyone, every day. Delivered via their homegrown, robust, daily practices, their cultures constitute breakthroughs in the design of people development and business strategy.”

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Kegan and Lahey’s coverage:

o An Everyone Culture, and, A Twenty-First-Century Design for Development (Pages 3-6)
o The Next Jump Story (14-25)
o Bridgewater Associates: Getting to Root Causes (41-54)
o The Meaning of Development (57-58)
o The Trajectory of Adult Development (58-62)
o Three Plateaus in Adult Mental Complexity (62-71)
o Shifts in the Demands of Followers and Leaders (73-77)
o What We Mean by Development in a DDO (77-83)
o A Scientific Approach (83-84)
o A Conceptual Tour of the DDO: Edge, Home, and Groove (85-122)
o Bridgewater: Tools for Getting in Synch (126-135)
o Next Jump: “Character is a Muscle” (135-142)
o Decurion: “Ten Times More Capable Than You Think” (142-149)
o Five Qualities of Practicing a DDO (149-151)
o The Pan-Development Culture (152-154)
o Holding On, Letting Go, Sticking Around — All Stages (154-158)
o Putting It All into Practice (158-161)
o A Surprise Conclusion (197-200)
o Uncovering Your Biggest Blind Spot (201-232)
o Frazier & Deeter (244-255)

As Kegan and Lahey correctly point out, the work settings at Bridgewater Associates, Next Jump, and Decurion “are built for human development. They support people in overcoming their limitations as part of contributing to the profitability of the business. It’s just as true that DDOs seek profitability so that they can stay in business to help people overcome their limitations and grow.” It is important to add that these three companies were not and are not among Kegan and Lahey clients. Theirs was a research rather than service relationship.

However different they may be in most respects, ALL of the companies annually ranked as those best to work for have what Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey characterize has “an everyone culture,” one whose organization is deliberately development. However, that is not to say that companies such as Google (Alphabet), ACUITY Insurance, The Boston Consulting Group, Wegmans Food Markets, Quicken Loans, Robert W. Baird, Kimley-Horn and Associates, SAS Institute, Camden Property Trust CPT, and Edward Jones are – or could be — be the best company to work for everyone. In this context it is best to keep Margaret Mead’s insight in mind: “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” The same is true of the best companies to work for.

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