Case Study of the culture of what the authors describe as Deliberately Developmental Oraganizations (DDO). Companies that believe their businesses will be most successful when built around and aligned to the objective of developing their people.
Uses 3 companies to explore what this looks like and means. Next Jump – an e-commerce company, Decurion and Bridgewater the worlds largest investment fund. All 3 websites are worth checking out to see how the emphasis on this culture is front and centre of what they do.
Next jump belief system; better me + better you = better us
Salary is weighted 50% contribution to revenue 50% contribution to culture.
Developing leaders, feedback culture, based on knowing & acknowledging your ‘backhand’ / what are the weak parts of your game?
Decurion is a group company that runs cinemas, ‘real estate and senior living’
‘Feast on your imperfections, or starve on your ego’. Bryan Ungard Decurion
Very high challenge and support environment that believes that work is meaningful and people are not just a means to an end but an ends in themselves.
Bridgewater associates investment management firm ($150 billion under management)
Do you worry more about how good you are – or about how fast you are learning? Ray Dalio (Founder)
Culture of radical truth and radical transparency
Foundational beliefs – meritocracy
Trust in truth
Ok to make mistakes but unacceptable not to identify, analyse and learn from them
Constantly get in sync. Is it true does it make sense
Get the right people
People are built differently
Manage as someone who is designing and operating a machine to achieve the goal. Constantly compare outcomes to your goals.
Evaluate people accurately not ‘kindly’
Train and test people through experiences
Recognize the power of knowing how to deal with not knowing
Synthesize – understand and join the dots
Pain + reflection (in a highly trustworthy environment) = progress
These companies are not ‘universities’, despite the constant emphasis on learning and development. Personal development & business development integrated and integral.
Development in these organisations = specific, theoretically robust, reliably measurable and business valuable.
Feedback a continuous process in these organisations and is considered incomplete unless it probes beneath the behaviour to the assumptions and mind sets that underlie it. What is the root cause? What is going on inside that may have an effect on what will happen outside?
At Bridgewater mistakes are food for growth- problems and failures are put into an issues log. Pain button app logs, records and shares negative emotional experiences. The on-going and painful experience of sharing one’s imperfections allow for growth. Dalio reckons it takes an 18month adjustment period for people to get used to this level of scrutiny and transparency.
DDOs practice ‘constructive destabilization’ (put people out of their comfort zone) with a view that ‘she will run into plenty of useful trouble’
Mind the gaps; what we do and what we say; what we feel and what we say; what we say at the water cooler & what we say in the meeting. What we know about our principles and how we apply them; how we assess performance at the time and how we later give feedback.
Rank does not have its usual privileges
In most organizations the higher you go the less you are criticized to your face and the more you are deferred to. Rank tends to build and sustain structures that insulate it from challenge, as if seniors had nothing to learn. In these DDO organizations rank is no free pass on real feedback and the requirements to keep learning and growing. Meritocracy of ideas.
Critical importance of leadership to make this culture valuable and effective.
Doing this is hard. ‘As you experience yourself as incomplete or inadequate –but still included and accepted -…these experiences seem to unleash compassion and appreciation that all of us might hope for in our relationships. These characterize the underlying feeling in a DDO.’
‘we admire people for the strengths they show us but we are personally drawn to them for the vulnerabilities they show us.’
Therefore incomplete work in progress – open to learning.
Regular habit of uncovering and overcoming personal limitation. Requires deep trust in the team (psychological safety) and systemic process to manage.
‘Bridgewater supports a person’s most fundamental motive, which is to evolve’ Ray Dalio
‘We use business as a platform to build people of high character.’ Charlie Kim Next Jump
In the groove – creating the culture of practice.
Bridgewater, radical transparency. How transparent are you, how much is camouflage? What are you afraid of?
Bridgewater everyone has a baseball card – essentially an accessible file describing what a person is like. Top of the card section on rely-ons (what your good at have demonstrated capability for) and watch out for, in red area of weakness. This gives focus to development and learning and where the team needs to act as a guardrail and support.
Next Jump studied how things fails and concluded the No1 recurring pattern, was the inability of people to manage their emotions leading to poor decision making. View character as a muscle that needs to be constantly exercised & see a spectrum between overconfidence / arrogance & being too humble / insecure. Often expressed as outbursts from those on the former end of the spectrum and paralysis from the latter. They use wallet cards, talking partners (co-mentors) weekly situational workshops (scalable coaching) see here – http://www.nextjump.com/longpost/situational-workshops/ & monthly 10x meetings where 10 people in front of the entire company talk about their contribution to revenue or culture, they get 5 mins and are then scored 1-4 on a mobile app and given live feedback. Ideal is to look out how your developing and working through adversity and shifting your mindset.
Decurion use touchpoints – ‘line of sight’ opportunities to connect why what and how. Belief is that work is inherently meaningful and these daily conversations are like the daily needlework of development. Pulse check huddles before and after shift – 10mins that include giving and receiving feedback. Competency boards visualize where people are and where they are moving towards – as a public resource tracking learning and development data.
You believe it but is it true? All of these companies see their success as grounded in the way they grow their people. This section of the book critically reviews this to examine causal relationships and how they may be evidenced.
Brigewater – ‘we are successful because of our culture’ CEO Greg Jenson
Constant learning is not the goal but it is the means to the ends of being successful as companies.
People in effect are rewarded for demonstrating what they don’t know and cant yet do. The only unacceptable mistake is failing to acknowledge your mistakes.
Adaptive challenges to a business are rarely solved technically (though this is the usual response of most businesses. Adaptive challenges solved through the quality of people and their collaborations.
Final section of the book is a more hands on guide at the level of the individual to adopting some of the practices described earlier. ‘Immunity to change map’ used to look at your biggest blind spots. Headings:
Improvement goal | Doing not/doing instead | Hidden/competing commitment | Big assumptions
Acts as a roadmap to provide clarity of a situation and how to move forward.