“Now Hiring: Part-time workers for full-time pay.” An offer like that sounds too good to be true. In An Everyone Culture, authors Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey state that part-time/full-time reality exists within most organizations. Great amounts of human resources get wasted by employees hiding their weaknesses and managing their images, playing office politics, sapping their potential and limiting the company’s full potential. This management book, backed by extensive research, proposes that the best way for an organization to realize maximum flourishing rests in the continuous personal development of every employee throughout the company. Kegan and Lahey detail a new model for developing people, not just for the sake of organization but their own sake as well. They state, “this book is as much about realizing organizational potential as it is about realizing human potential.” By developing a culture that provides safety and the demand to come out of hiding, the corporation and the people in it all benefit. The authors cast a vision for their premise when they write, “Imagine making the organization itself…the incubator of capability.”
The book contains three sections. After introducing the model, the first part familiarizes the reader to three examples of “deliberately developmental organizations” (DDO). The second part explains the theory and the research to support it. The third, and longest part, gives practical steps toward creating a DDO within any organization. The authors acknowledge that becoming a DDO proves to be no easy task because of the comprehensive nature of the task.
Early on in the book, the authors contrast the answer given last century to the question “What is the most powerful way to develop the capabilities of people at work?” Older answers include external inputs, sporadic focus on development, and add-ons to what someone is doing. An everyone culture of development places the strategy of growth within the context of every work and life, giving daily inputs that lead toward growth personally and professionally. Another challenge to older thinking regarding the growth of the human mind in adulthood, Kegan and Lahey theorize that adults can continue to develop cognitively in periods of identifiable growth marked by increased mental complexity, followed by plateaus. The first plateau, the Socialized Mind, gets shaped by personal environments, resulting in a self that expresses within the context of relationships, beliefs, or both. The second plateau, the Self-Authoring Mind, employs filters for incoming information and categorizes it according to specific values. The third and highest plateau, the Self-Transforming Mind, also contains a filter to prioritize information and includes a personal freedom from the filter to benefit in personal growth, live with certain contradictions and make directional decisions for themselves and others. The accompanying research shows that less than ten percent of people achieve the highest level of mental complexity. A great deal of potential lies yet unrealized in many people.
The allure of this book for me comes from my desire to create and sustain a leadership culture within our local church that produces new leaders regularly. If I could ask the authors a question, it would be, “how transferrable is your model to a volunteer-intensive organization like the local church?” An environment where people spend forty or more hours working together in a given week differs from an environment where people spend an hour or two, once or twice a week. With the dynamics portrayed in the case studies in the chapter titled “Meet the DDOs,” a church would need a narrow gap between the clergy and the laity and a willingness for laypeople to be part of roles sometimes reserved for the clergy. In the examples given of DDO companies, people get into each other’s “business” and personal space. That level of transparency would not fit some church cultures I have known. In addition, a church would also need to create a clear definition of what is meant by development and leadership within its context. Is the goal to raise up future clergy, lay leaders, or more spiritual maturity by parishioners in the workplace due to intentional development?
I appreciate the focus on a holistic, systemic approach toward development portrayed in the book. My experience in the Christian world, mostly through conferences and pop-culture books, matches the description given by the authors, namely, quick-fix suggestions that added one piece onto an already crowded slate of options. “Do you want to develop people? Start this kind of small group, attend this event, put people through our program.” My biggest takeaway from the book centers on the principle that development will not be an event but a strategy that reaches into every aspect of the organization. In other words, development is not a goal but what you do as a part of who you are. The authors were right to state the challenge of becoming a DDO. I believe we can also know that what worked in the last generation of the church will not work as well in the next. A digital and post-pandemic world changed everything. Related to the new dynamics, a second question I would ask would be, “how does the DDO model work in organizations where some or most people work from home and not in the same space?” There are many new challenges in this age of disruption, but the goals of ministry remains the same, including the development of people. May we see this new day as an opportunity to steward well who and what God entrusted to us.
 Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2016), 2.
 Ibid., 5.
 Ibid., 4.
 Ibid., 62.