The deliberate approach to organisational development

The science of workplace sociology is fascinating. With a committed focus to promote development of employees, for a very long time, organisations have believed in ‘rolling out the training programmes and getting people to sign an attendance sheet’ as the most accepted and preferred way to develop their employees. But how exactly does an organisation know if the workforce is actually developing? As a manager or an employee, do we need to be more focused on the actual ‘developmental value’ of a training?

While deliberating on this question (which only surfaced during a discussion on application of systems engineering by organisations for reasons other than engineering), we began talking about something called a ‘Deliberately Developing Organisation’ or a DDO, an idea that rooted from the brains of some Harward boffins very recently and making some loud waves in the silicon valley circles.

DDO stands for Deliberately Developing Organisation’ and a term used to describe organisations that promote a culture where employees can develop and pay attention to their personal growth as part of their daily work environment.- HBR - Making Business Personal

Is this just another acronym thats going to take the fancy of the management teams trying to find another ledge to cling onto while looking for a new meaning of their role within the organisation? Well, while reading through this very interesting interview on Forbes leadership blog with Dr. Kegan, I am now convinced thats its not just a new acronym or a fad.

It is almost invisible for others to see how people really are, particularly when the only interaction with them is ‘work’ related. Employees tend to portray themselves better than they really are. They mask their real feelings, real fears and real weaknesses, put a bias on their thoughts and wear a corporate mask that believes in an often mixed ethos. A ethos which is not exactly corporate nor personal. And this is the situation that DDOs try to tackle.

A DDO believes in developing people as individuals. As a first step, the DDO accepts people as individuals. It promotes being an individual, with individual capabilities, limitations, likes and dislikes. People are encouraged to be open about their views and speak of their likes and dislikes and their real constraints, social or personal or professional.

It occurred to us that this approach is very similar to what us integrators do to integrate a system. We learn about the function and performance of the individual components, we acknowledge their limitations and we put them together in such a way that the resulting ‘system’ provides the intended functions and performance.

Implementing an organisational development strategy based on the DDO approach is certainly not a simple or easy task, but can offer its rewards if done correctly. Albeit though an initial ‘pressure cooker’ roll out period where stress due to the ‘revelation phase’ shocks, this develops a very clear vision of how employees really are, and their strengths and their weaknesses.

DDOs promote a more focused employee engagement. And most importantly, it allows management to see what really matters to its employees. While taking conscious decisions on the subjects that matter to the business, organisations can now engage more openly with employees and understand how they relate to or affect the consequences.

On a more protracted and operational side, this is crucial to developing a strategy for whats now called as a ‘second salary’ in employment. This is certainly not a new concept as it is globally accepted that though the salary play a role in whether an offer for employment is accepted or not, the time that an employee is retained for is dominated by factors other than the salary, often referred as a ‘second salary’. For some organisations this could come in in the form of a more engaging and captivating work environment that offers a great balance between work and personal life. For some rather unfortunate organisations, this could mean than an appalling network and lack of wifi has neutralised almost all the goodwill

At AVION, we like this idea where nobody has to wear a pretence every day to do an everyday job.


B.Eng, MSc, CEng, MIMechE

Vijay is a Principal Systems Engineering Consultant. He is an expert systems integrator with wealth of experience in system architecture, requirements management, validation and verification. He has delivered complex and safety critical projects in the Aerospace and Railways industries. He has developed skills through extensive hands on work in manufacturing, design, analysis and test roles and really liked for his amicable personality and can do attitude.

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