Dec. 1, 2019

An Everyone Culture by Robert Kegan & Lisa Lahey: How to Work And Learn Better, Together

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About the Authors

Dr. Robert Kegan is the Meehan Professor of Adult Learning and Professional Development at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. The recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards, his thirty years of research and writing on adult development have contributed to the recognition that ongoing psychological development after adolescence is at once possible and necessary to meet the demands of modern life. His seminal books, The Evolving Self and In Over Our Heads, have been published in several languages throughout the world. 

Dr. Lisa Lahey leads the Personal Mastery component of a path-breaking new doctoral program at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, designed to produce the public-sector equivalent of the “turnaround specialist.” A developmental psychologist and educator, and coauthor of Change Leadership, she led the research team that created the
developmental diagnostic, now used around the world, for assessing adult meaning-systems.


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About the book

In most organizations nearly everyone is doing a second job no one is paying them for—namely, covering their weaknesses, trying to look their best, and managing other people’s impressions of them. There may be no greater waste of a company’s resources.
The ultimate cost: neither the organization nor its people are able to realize their full potential.

What if a company did everything in its power to create a culture in which everyone—not just select “high potentials”—could overcome their own internal barriers to change and use errors and vulnerabilities as prime opportunities for personal and company growth?

Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey (and their collaborators) have found and studied such companies—Deliberately Developmental Organizations. A DDO is organized around the simple but radical conviction that organizations will best prosper when they are more deeply aligned with people’s strongest motive, which is to grow. This means going beyond
consigning “people development” to high-potential programs, executive coaching, or once-a-year off-sites. It means fashioning an organizational culture in which support of people’s development is woven into the daily fabric of working life and the company’s regular operations, daily routines, and conversations.

An Everyone Culture dives deep into the worlds of three leading companies that embody this breakthrough approach. It reveals the design principles, concrete practices, and underlying science at the heart of DDOs—from their disciplined approach to giving feedback, to how they use meetings, to the distinctive way that managers and leaders define their roles. The authors then show readers how to build this developmental culture in their own

This book demonstrates a whole new way of being at work. It suggests that the culture you create is your strategy—and that the key to success is developing everyone.



Find out more about Kegan and Lahey’s work here:


BIG IDEA 1 (7:59) – Be deliberately developmental.

In most organisations, people are working two jobs – one is covering their backs / looking good and the one is doing their job. This is why there is a huge opportunity cost in most organizations because people are too busy covering their backs instead of doing their jobs to their full potential.

The book is based on the theory that adults can change with the right focus and environment. One of the underlying principles of a deliberately developmental organisation is everyone builds a culture and it is everyone’s role is to embody and strengthen that culture.  

The culture then becomes your strategy because if you design your culture around what your business is there to do, the best work is done. Culture comes first and everyone is constantly learning; not just the ‘special’ high potential people who are put on the annual programs.

The book talks about three DDOs and how they bring this to life; Bridgewater, Next Jump and Decurion.

BIG IDEA 2 (10:56) – Deliberate design.

There is an intense focus on shared design of work processes in all of these organisations. There was a comment on the book that these companies spent a ‘lavish’ amount of time on designing their processes in order to make sure that they supported the objective of a learning organisation and an ecosystem that worked.

When you look at your own organisations, many of them will not support a deliberately developmental framework. It will not support learning for everyone because the ecosystem will not allow it and most of the problems in organisations are systemic – how people are rewarded, hired or trained and developed their career. 

If you look at the deliberately developmental organisations they are completely designed to support ongoing development, daily interaction, reflection and growth. A great quote in the book says – ‘If people are to develop, they require the right process both for doing excellent work and their own growth’.

The three DDOs in the book embody this – they have designed their daily practices and rituals around growth and development.  From Bridgewater and their baseball card system where everyone is rated by everyone else against certain characteristics to Next Jump who have daily reflection catch ups between talking partners to debrief their performance to the competency board at Decurion which displays everyone’s development areas for everyone to see and give feedback on.

Due to the ‘extreme’ exposure of everyone’s development areas in the open for all to see and provide feedback on, community is vital and leadership is crucial.

A DDO approach is hard to apply in just one team because at some point you will have to interact with other teams that do not support that. However, as a leader, there are things that you can instigate, even into a broken system. 

BIG IDEA 3 (17:39) – It’s not fluffy.

“It’s hard, there’s scratches and bruises”.  These are just a couple of the quotes from people who have worked in the DDOs in the book.  It’s fairly confronting. Many people might think it’s ‘soft’ to focus on people’s growth but it’s hard to find CEOs and leaders who would be brave enough to take on a deliberately developmental organisation approach. Because it’s not fluffy, not soft but true growth, true learning and a relentless focus on continuous improvement. 

Music By:  Strangers in Disguise – Instrumental Version Song by Anthony Lazaro


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