12 Measures of a Deliberately Developmental Organization #DDO

Yesterday, I summarized the main gist of the book, An Everyone Culture: Becoming A Deliberatively Developmental Organization. (DDO)

Today, I want to share a 12 Learnings on Learning Listicle from the book. Useful models for reflecting on your own organization’s propensity for reinvention and vitality.

1. Success is measured in cultural impact

“To be loved and respected around here, now you have to give as much attention to your contributions to culture as to revenue.”

We have recently seen the organizational rise of the word and idea, “Culture.” It is not just a useful definition of ‘what goes on round here.’ It has usurped “Strategy” as the driving force of organizational vitality.

Drucker famously said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Never more so than today. We need to bring its power and resonance further into the centre of our workplaces, and nowhere more than amongst our executive level colleagues.

Inside a DDO, every employee is expected to contribute to culture – both embody the culture and to strengthen it by participating continuously and collectively in the redesign of structures and routines.

A possible action item: compensation is 50-50 – tied to performance in revenue (contribution to business) and culture (contribution to a better me/you). If there is a competition between culture and profit, culture always wins.

2. Radical open-mindedness

“To be radically open-minded you need to be so open to the possibility that you might be making a mistake and/or that you have a weakness that you encourage others to tell you so.”

DDO workers place a higher priority on information that may also alert them to the limits of their current design or frame. Others are not left guessing whether to send potentially ‘off mission’ but potentially important communication. They send it because they know such info will be welcomed.

Globalization et al drives new demands on our psychological resources. Consequently we need people with a greater capacity for innovation, self-management, personal responsibility, and self-direction.

3. What ‘continuous improvement’ really means

Organizations talk about ‘continuous improvement’ – they work relentlessly to improve the processes by which work gets done. But are they relentless about continuously improving the people who do the work? Ouch!

4. Challenge everything; embrace complexity

The old leadership idea: develop worthy goals and sensible norms, cultivate alignment and work to keep organizational performance within range specified. This no longer suffices: leaders must run AND reconstitute their organizations (norms, missions, cultures) in an increasingly fast-changing environment.

We need a new mindset – author an organizational view, by all means. Hold it steadfastly, even. But also learn to step outside it, notice its limitations, and author a more comprehensive view. In short, organizations are asking for a quantum shift in individual mental complexity across the board. Each of us must lift our head beyond our role, to see our self as part of a group with collective responsible for the whole, emergent practice. This approach has a development-inducing value.

DDOs continuously stir things up, value disturbances and are designed to preserve them at an optimal level. Whereas, ordinary organizations continuously try to calm things down, instituting repeatable routines; wants threats to certainty, predictability, routine, control and connection to be as few as possible so work can be done without emotional noise and distraction. Good luck with that.

5. Align the organization and the individual


With reference to these 3 dimensions of a DDO, we can ask these DDO leadership Qs:

  • Does your organization help you identify a personal challenge that you can work on in order to grow?
  • Are there others who are aware of the growing edge and who care that you transcend it?
  • Are you given support to overcome your limitations?
  • Do you actively work on transcending this growing edge daily/weekly?
  • When you do increase your capability, is it recognized and celebrated?

6. The value of weakness / near misses

Identify ‘pulls’ where people find themselves in over their heads, just enough to stimulate them to grow. If you are currently performing all your responsibilities at a high level, you’re no longer in the right job. The culture says the best job is the one you don’t yet know how to do.

Indeed, you are rewarded as much for what you can’t yet do and don’t know as what you do and can. DDO principles are rooted in emergence, new capability, evolution at the individual and collective level. Thus, it is OK to make mistakes, but unacceptable not to identify, analyze and learn from them.

7. No tension between profit and development

How do we create time for all ‘this’? Well, in an ordinary organization, we are all doing a second job for which no one is paying us – covering our weaknesses, managing others’ good impressions etc…

If personal development – with all its challenges and dependencies – is put four square in the centre of the organization’s purpose, suddenly we can free up a lot of time to invest in it.

8. Leading to learn is a higher self goal

DDOs move adults along the mental model actualization curve, from Socialized to Self-authoring, to Self-transforming. Here, we lead to learn, and the process embraces a multiframe place to stand, where we are comfortable holding contradictory ideas at the same time.


9. Everyone learns

Ordinary organizations tend to protect their senior members from ongoing challenge. They take each other to task only rarely, for extreme violations of norms. It is as if senior leaders are completely grown, finished products.

DDOs recognize leaders’ tendency to use their power to design and sustain structures that protect the organization from challenge, thereby limiting its ability to exceed itself.

So, instead, a DDO has a devotion to learning and the development of all their people:

  • Guided by growth-focused principles (their edge),
  • Implement closely aligned and complementary set of practices (their groove)
  • In the context of a community (their home)

10. Learning is institutionalized


  • Should we formalize the “where are you going in life?” conversation?
  • Should we set aside time in meetings to discuss improvement efforts; and feedback loops?
  • Is there enough support available to respond to failure and weakness?
  • Do we share enough about what we are trying to learn, and ask for help from teammates in that quest?

11. Learning is public

DDO workers enter into a contract that places as many responsibilities and demands on those engaging with your personal learning as it does on you.

One company orchestrated “the daily case,” a daily review of a multimedia case study of teachable moments in the life of the culture – using workplace artifacts of the presenter.

Another company set about “10x presentations” – a publicly shared opportunity for growth about revenue or culture. Each presentation is rated 1-4 on a mobile app by everyone; additionally, a panel of judges score presentations and gives live feedback.

12. Constant feedback

One DDO cornerstone is feedback – and successful companies are using pulse surveys to gather constant feedback for constant improvement.

Because learning and feedback are such core tenets of the organization, all conversations are both difficult and growing. There is no room for worrying about feelings because everyone is in it together, building An Everyone Culture.

Of course, if you have made it this far down the page, you are probably thinking “All well and good in theory, but impossible in reality.” However, the book has examples of companies that have gone the whole way along the DDO curve. But it ain’t easy. And probably, it shouldn’t be either.

←This Much We Know.→


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