In the book, “An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization” Robert Kegan and Lisa L. Lahey assert that today’s organizations can become a nurturing place for all employees by tapping into their highest motivation, to learn and grow as individuals. The workplace does not have to be a hostile environment of competitiveness where it is a zero-sum game. Rather, the company should take the developing of their employees just as seriously as they take their products and profits. This type of organization they call a Deliberately Developmental Organization (DDO) and it should be the aim of all organizations to attain the principles contained in this book.
“In short, this book is as much about realizing organizational potential as it is about realizing human potential.” It flows logically that if the employees are motivated to grow and be the best they can be, then that dynamic will trickle upwards and the company will be a better company. The book falls within the business-psychology-management-work place categories and was published this year. It is a timely offering by Kegan and Lahey, especially when we read headlines in business magazines about the disintegration of the workplace in America. This disintegration has been called the, “Great Resignation” due to the changes happening in working culture. Going to work used to be simple: show up at 8:00 or 9:00 am and leave at 5:00 or 6:00 pm. Not so anymore. Remote work because of the Covid pandemic has reshuffled the deck permanently. American workers used to adjust their life around the work but now it is the opposite: people adjust their work to their lives. Individualism has always been a hallmark for Americans and it shows no sign of slowing down. The brilliance of this book is that it is a call to workplace culture, community and finding meaning together. The book acts as a check against the extreme individualism of American workplace culture.
The book uses three good examples of companies that are already putting into practice the principles of a DDO. It is a helpful way to understand what the authors are saying, otherwise the book would be theory and academic. With modern, successful company’s beings described, the reader can see how the author’s insights can be put into practice. Their explanation seen out of the classroom and into the workplace where things tend to get messy. In their examination of these companies they ask, “What is the most powerful way to develop the capabilities of people at work?” (p.4) and then they trace out their answers with each company serving as a test case.
My main criticism of this book is that it tends to become unrealistic in its expectations of the workplace. The workplace is not a family nor is it the ultimate measure of an individual’s self-worth or ego. The authors frequently speak of co-workers as stand-ins for family relationships. Their last chapter is entitled, “Creating Home” and it pours it on thick. Their expectations of all that a workplace could and should be tips towards being unreasonable. A family is to have unconditional love and our relationships within our families will always be there. Brothers will always be brothers even if they don’t get along. A daughter and mother will always be so even if the relationship becomes strained. This is never the case with or our coworkers. The relationship is fundamentally different. There is no unconditional love, you have to perform well in your job or you will lose your job. And people change jobs all the times. Your coworkers one year might be completely different the next. There is a hard distinction to be made and the authors blur the lines because of their great hopes of what a workplace could be. It’s an error in their fundamental approach—but their hopes are admirable.