Lean Thinking Aligns with Deliberately Developmental Organizations

This week’s post is a guest post from Theresa Coleman-Kaiser, Assistant Vice President for Administration and campus Lean Facilitator.

I recently read the blog post referenced below that introduced me to Deliberately Developmental Organizations (DDO’s).  Defined by Kegan, et al. (2014), DDO’s shape their culture through dedication to the “conviction that the organization can prosper only if its culture is designed from the ground up to enable ongoing development for all of its people”

The concept that work provides “as essential context for personal growth” (Kegan, et al., 2014) with the flipside being that personal growth or continuous development and improvement are essential to an organization’s success, reminded me of the foundational lean principle of respect for people and the sometimes forgotten eighth form of waste – knowledge waste.

Respect for people is often depicted in both the foundation of the Lean House and as one of the supporting columns, and can be simply described as putting people before products and services.  A DDO demonstrates this culture of respect for people by integrating the work of improving yourself as an essential function of all jobs.  It is visible through an infrastructure involving your own deep and forced reflection (hansei kai), one-on-one sessions with others who can guide your improvement work, and through meetings designed to identify your blind spots and then identify root cause so that appropriate countermeasures can be put in place.  It’s all designed to disallow you from being able to “unwittingly limit your own effectiveness at work.”  (Kegan, et al., 2014)

(Carroll, R., n.d., Box Theory)

In the 8 wastes of lean, Knowledge waste is alternately described as unused creativity, under-utilized people, not engaging all, non-utilized talents, and untapped human potential.  DDO’s are committed to developing employees so that their potential can be developed and fully tapped to benefit both the individual and the organization.  Whether accomplished through formal training or through a reflective, iterative process, the result is a happier and more productive employee.  In fact, DDO’s recognize that creating a no-blame culture where inadequacies are continuously and systematically reviewed as part of the work is in itself a waste-elimination effort since employees don’t have to spend time and energy “covering their weaknesses and inadequacies” and “managing others’ good impression of them.” (Kegan, et al., 2014)

DDO’s approach individual inadequacies as potential assets that have not yet been fully developed.  By putting people first, the respect and commitment shown by prioritizing development and dealing with it in a transparent manner helps to eliminate wasted knowledge and wasted time covering up shortcomings.  Is your organization on its way to becoming a DDO or do you need to shift some mental models and behavioral practices to get there?


Carroll, R. (n.d.). Lean thinking for small business – Add value!  The Systems Thinker Blog.  Box Theory.  BoxTheoryGold.com [web log].  (Accessed February 18, 2014).  Retrieved from: http://www.boxtheorygold.com/blog/bid/62547/rcarroll@BoxTheoryGold.com

Kegan, R., Lahey, L., and Fleming, A., (2014, January 22).  Does your company make you a better person?  HBR Blog Network.  Harvard Business Review.  Retrieved from:  http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/01/does-your-company-make-you-a-better-person/

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