Robert Kegan has always been one of my favourite authorities on adult learning and development. In Over our Heads was deeply inspiring when I was studying Higher Education at UBC. Kegan’s later collaborations with Lisa Lahey in How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work and Immunity to Change influenced my early thinking on organizational development and change work.
Kegan and Lahey’s new work with several coauthors , An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization, offers in depth cases studies of Next Jump, Decurion, and Bridgewater, three organizations that incorporate professional development and learning as an essential part of their organizational culture and approach to business.
What I valued most about the book is the organizational model and metaphors that Kegan et al. use to explore the dimensions of development: edge, groove, and home. We individually and collectively have a professional edge that is always developing and changing, we get into the groove when we have individual and shared practices that sustain and support the advancement of our personal learning and shared organizational culture.
I am not as persuaded by Kegan et. al’s arguments about adult development and personal psychology as I once was. But I appreciated that the authors acknowledge the psychological bias that informs their work, and they use an integral framework from Ken Wilber to explore the individual, social, psychological, organizational dynamics of culture and change at work. More compelling were the chapters on the many distinct social practices that the three organizations enact to as they use a developmental approach to work and organizational change.
For example, what might be different if everyone at work were assigned to a job that would stretch them personally and professionally? What if organizations embrace personal social learning practices so people don’t have to hide their weaknesses, can address continuous constructive feedback from colleagues, and continuously challenge themselves with increasingly complex tasks? Next Jump, Bridgewater, and Decurion demonstrate that learning and development can be a key competitive advantage.
Organizational development consultants, coaches, and other people leading change processes in organizations will find Kegan et al. a useful summer read.