You may have never heard of “Deliberately Developmental Organizations.”  I hadn’t, until yesterday, but it’s an idea...

You may have never heard of “Deliberately Developmental Organizations.”  I hadn’t, until yesterday, but it’s an idea…

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You may have never heard of “Deliberately Developmental Organizations.”  I hadn’t, until yesterday, but it’s an idea that’s worth understanding because it appeals to a very basic human desire to be recognized as more than just our job or our particular set of skills – and because I believe it builds a powerful source of competitive advantage for organizations that embrace it.

In this piece, I talk about what a Deliberately Developmental Organization (DDO) is, and about my personal experience running one – well before I’d ever heard of the term. It’s a mix of some good old-fashioned idealism and practical lessons from having run an organization that invests deeply in its people. 

One other key thing to point out is that I ran across the DDO idea from an article in the Harvard Business Review that Eric Speidel shared in our Good Business community. I really do get many of my ideas for articles from my interactions here on Google+. So, thanks. 

#goodbusiness   #soulfulcompany   #deliberatelydevelopmentalorganization


  1. Yes, it’s really encouraging to see this kind of thinking – the human-centric view – getting coverage in the Harvard Business Review too, Mani Scienide. 

    And your comment brings up another point that I didn’t touch on in this piece, but that is quite important. The importance of being willing to shift people’s job responsibilities in line with their passions and aptitudes is absolutely critical. It’s a tricky dance too because you also need to ensure that the needs of the organization are being looked after. It’s one of the reasons it’s important to separate position descriptions from job descriptions. 

  2. Oops, I did not mean to flag this post for spam or abuse.  I thought I clicked on +1, but too late.  Sorry.

  3. Hmmm…I wonder what that will do to it? 

  4. Gideon, I feel like you point(s) are much aligned with my continuing belief (usually not well articulated) that core OD principles offer us a framework for a new conception of managing activities and people.  “Development” needs to move from nice to have soft stuff to a core strategic way of being in organizations.

  5. Thanks, Nollind.  Re: your last paragraph, yeah.  But / and networks and information flows aren’t going away, and it seems to me that the pressure for change is consistent, growing and mainly one-way .. towards that yearning for a more human environment.  The changes we see today to work and organizational dynamics have been a very long time in coming, but the previous model is very deeply embedded.  The only powerful thing that can and does still stand in the way of that evolution is the double-whammy of much more fear on the part of many employees in an era of much more precarious employment in the past, and the expectations about standard of living, money etc. that we have come to know in western societies.  Just think, if it ere common and widespread that people valued time and the development of pursuits other than work as much as they do that third car or second tv, ‘we’ might even be able to reduce everyone’s workload and reduce unemployment in one fell swoop.  Work less, get paid somewhat less, and live a lot more.  But that’s not our society’s current value system.

  6. I really like the point made about being both sad and proud when people move on to new opportunities once they have gained from the investment in their development.

    The idea of an affinity across a network of potential collaborators (and also a network of people who speak well of the business and recommend it as an employer) should not be underestimated.

  7. Gideon Rosenblatt that’s a fantastic piece and very much in keeping with the need to develop stuff in order to benefit the business. The John Lewis Partnership devotes a significant portion of its resources to that extent. 

  8. Darn it, Nollind Whachell, Jon Husband, Vince Lammas, David Amerland and Mani Scienide – I need to run off to a meeting, but I don’t want to lose the momentum of this very interesting thread. I’ll be back at noon Pacific time and will try to pick this back up. Thanks so much for your great thinking here. And David and Mani, thanks again for sharing this. 

  9. OK. I’m back. Nollind Whachell, first, let me say thank you for your kind words. In this piece, I really did try to write from the heart. 

    And wow, there is just so much to jump on here in the various comments. On the question of organizational development, I have a theory that I want to run by you, Jon Husband, Nollind Whachell, David Amerland, Mani Scienide and Vince Lammas. Might we being seeing a bifurcation in the market, where competitive strategy is moving into one of two directions. There is the OD/DDO-centric strategy, and then there is the automation-centric strategy.

    We often associate automation with high volume / low margin businesses, and heavy investments in people with higher margin businesses. But I think that distinction is breaking down. I also think there are examples of firms that have been able to synchronize these two strategies – Zappos being the most talked about. In my view, it is this synergy between these two approaches that will be the ultimate source of competitive advantage. 

    Long-term, I do think that the OD/DDO path will come under increasing pressure from smarter and smarter algorithms, however. 

  10. < < Might we being seeing a bifurcation in the market >> hmmm, well spotted.  I think you may be ‘right”, or at least on to something.

    < < Long-term, I do think that the OD/DDO path will come under increasing pressure from smarter and smarter algorithms, however.  >> double hmmm .. makes me think of this (long) article that I am just in the process of reading.  I think you’ll find it interesting (if you haven’t already read it).   “The Future of Jobs – The Onrushing Wave”  (The Economist) ..

  11. Great article Jon Husband  thanks for the really great share. I think my favourite quotes are 

    “the main bottleneck on innovation is the time it takes society to sort through the many combinations and permutations of new technologies and business models”.

    “developing the business models which make the best use of new technologies will involve trial and error and human flexibility”

    “Cultural norms change slowly. Manufacturing jobs are still often treated as “better”—in some vague, non-pecuniary way—than paper-pushing is. To some 18th-century observers, working in the fields was inherently more noble than making gewgaws.”

    Its clear that technological change has always been messy, difficult, challenging and disruptive in the short term – but has unlocked improvements in standards of living over the long haul.

    Furthermore human’s will always place higher value on what they know and understand well over things that are unclear and uncertain to them.

    I see no reason to suggest these trends that will not continue (though with perhaps faster cycles and increased turbulence) … and  I don’t expect we’ll to be able to predict a course – only provide a coherent narrative in retrospect. 

  12. Gideon Rosenblatt I think we definitely are. at that point where automation-centric (with smart algorithms in place) will be putting pressure on the OD/DDD approach. but for a while we will still see businesses that cannot yet be automated to that degree. 

  13. We are having one of those synchronistic moments, Jon Husband. It was that very article, which I too am in the midst of reading that has me thinking of this point right now. On Thursday, I’m also heading to hear Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee (who are noted at length in that article) speak here in Seattle. 

    And Vince Lammas, you’re hitting on the problem. It’s impossible to predict where this will all end up. We’ll only be able to do it in hindsight with any real accuracy. But, I do think it’s critical that we try to dig in and understand some of the potential scenarios that may play out. That’s why I was so pleased to see The Economist taking this on and asking hard questions that don’t try to hide under that tired old Luddite duck and weave.  

  14. Yes, David Amerland, I do think we are there for an increasing number of job. The Economist piece that Jon Husband points to has a great table ranking which jobs are most and least susceptible. The most susceptible? Telemarketers and accountants and auditors. The least? Recreational therapists and dentists. What?

  15. I saw Andy McAfee present on the new book about a year ago by webcast.  He presented a very disruptive scenario but ultimately hews to the “technology will eventually create more jobs” line, basically.  That’s the part of the Economist article I appreciated most, the questioning of the assumption that things will end up on the positive side of the ledger in terms of impact on employment.

  16. Me too, Jon Husband, me too. Yeah, I read that book too. The first half was really interesting and then they just fall back on this “we have to learn to race with the machines, not against them” line of argument that I just thought was a cop out. Hopefully their new book digs deeper all the way through. 

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