Rethinking Organizational Training and Development – DDO A Fresh Perspective and Approach
By Jackie Roberge
Many companies struggle with the concept of how much energy, resources and dollars they should invest in training and development versus investing in revenue generation. What if that paradox no longer existed? What if investment in development and profits were one and the same?
That is how DDOs (Deliberately Developmental Organizations) view the situation. There are no trade-offs. Investing in your people’s development brings better results. Another way of expressing this core belief is – grow your people, grow your business.
DDOs are all about creating a culture of continuous growth and development, challenging the status quo with a beginner’s mind, courage and deep inquiry. They see the workplace as a catalyst for both personal and professional growth. They see the potential in each individual to become a better human, increasingly conscious of what needs attention and where we tend to get stuck. They believe in human flourishing and the research shows that a desire to grow, learn and contribute is the most powerful human motivator. When the workplace can support you in becoming not only better in your professional role but also a better person; parent, spouse, friend or community member, that is when engagement skyrockets and people feel really committed to making a difference in their work and life.
Challenging the Old Paradigm
In a DDO, development challenges the old paradigm of isolated events like leadership programs or coaching sessions, periodic training sessions, and training for a select group of high potential employees that are not integrated into daily actions and issues.
It shifts the responsibility for growth and development from a select few to every member of the organization. They create a culture that fosters the development of individuals at all levels. It’s about 100% participation – development for all. This means open, honest feedback can come from the most senior or most junior level of the organization, to any other level.
This happens in a variety of ways depending on the company and how employees work together. Development could include things like daily feedback and learning after meetings, presentations and through ongoing conversations with colleagues , learning logs, fish bowl feedback sessions, talking partners and in-context development work that provides real-time learning opportunities and integration.
An interesting aspect of the DDO approach is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Starting from a clear desire to make development a part of everyday work, creating the culture, structures, systems and rituals necessary to make it happen becomes a very personalized and impactful learning journey. One that can happen organically, taking one conversation at a time and involving people in the unfolding of the process and resulting culture shift.
From Horizontal to Vertical Growth
Historically, organizations have invested in horizontal development such as gaining new skills and acquiring more knowledge to bring about a new competency. For technical skills, this is a necessary foundation. In today’s challenging environment, organizations need much deeper development modalities developing new mindsets, insights, and deliberate growth practices to shift our thinking and behavior in sustainable ways. We call this vertical growth and DDO is necessary to bring about the dialogue to unlearning existing patterns and support the tricky process of developing new ones.
A DDO approach helps us recognize fears, limiting beliefs, and other mental models that keep us stuck in habitual patterns and reactive loops. Seeing and changing these loops is the function of vertical development. Self-awareness is the key to change – it is the ability to look within ourselves honestly and to develop a much greater understanding of the unconscious drivers and values behind our thoughts and behaviours. To get to this new level of consciousness, we need the DDO support structure encouraging people to serve as mirrors for each other, coaches, and learning partners to navigate our natural immunity to change.
Helping the Bottom Line
A strong premise supporting the DDO approach is the notion that the greatest source of wasted resources in ordinary organizations is image management – making sure you look good, say the right thing, participate in meetings just to get exposure to name a few typical behaviours. This focus takes a huge toll on productivity and well-being. Some studies have put the time and energy wasted at over 40%. DDOs invite individuals to assess themselves not in terms of how good they are or look, but in terms of how fast and deep they are learning.
The Culture in DDOs
Imagine working in a company where every day is an opportunity for personal growth, where this is valued and designed in how people work. Imagine the energy and the potential this unlocks. In a DDO, the culture is characterized by trust, curiosity, openness, vulnerability, honesty, courage, acceptance and continuous learning. Vulnerability is encouraged, as it is seen as the gateway to growth and deeper learning. Mistakes are not only allowed but embraced as opportunities for everyone to learn and improve. The only real mistake DDOs identify and do not accept is not sharing and learning from errors, unsuccessful endeavors, challenges or struggles. This includes accepting the messiness of changing how we work, how we show up, often leading to temporary setbacks only to shift gears thereafter, once the learning is captured and new ways of being and doing are unleashed.
Structuring a DDO Approach
In a DDO, development is achieved through three core elements: Edge (challenge), Home (support), and Groove (practices).
- Edge (Challenge): People point out what they see and challenge each other, whether in meetings, feedback sessions, structured development journeys, or other forums. The SBI feedback process (Situation, Behavior, Impact) is a tool used for honest and constructive feedback.
- Home (Support): The intention is not to make individuals look bad but to stimulate growth and learning. The culture is rooted in the belief that a better you leads to a better me, which ultimately results in a better us. DDOs are designed to help individuals identify, explore and overcome their limiting beliefs, unconscious patterns and resistance to change.
- Groove (Practices): This involves creating an environment of continuous feedback and providing a practice ground for growth. Individuals take responsibility for their own development by increasing self-awareness and self-management.
The following equations show that for real growth and change to happen, the practices are essential, otherwise it is just knowledge. Only actions turn knowledge into wisdom and transformation.
- Discomfort + reflection = insights
- Discomfort + reflections + practices = growth
In conclusion, the Deliberately Developmental Organization represents a paradigm shift in how we view personal and professional growth. It’s a culture that thrives on openness, learning, and vulnerability, where mistakes are celebrated as opportunities for growth. In a DDO, the journey of development is continuous, contextual, impactful and everyone is invited to embark on it. A powerful DDO mantra is: “Better me, better you, better us.”
In my next blog post, I will address the questions of Where do we start? and How can we evolve into becoming a true DDO?