Cutting Edge Research in Organizational Transformation

This doctoral research is about a new way to measure transformation of organizational culture based on a type of complexity called vertical complexity. I evaluated all the ways it had been measured over the past 50 years, invented a new method to assess organizations, and tested my assessment with a formal validation study. This approach integrated the wisdom two related disciplines--vertical adult development and organizational development--in a field I call vertical OD. Largest vertical OD study to date - 500,000-person organization, n=2,536 Most comprehensive review of vertical OD assessments conducted so far New typology to organize vertical OD assessments by their relative strengths & weaknesses New definition of vertical OD - based on vertical complexity New model of vertical OD - based on group-related tension First time a pattern matching assessment was used in a fixed choice survey First time developmental intuition was sidestepped in a face-valid survey First time complex

Dissertation: Assessing the Vertical Development of Organizations

Abstract: Organizational development (OD) is increasingly being applied well beyond organizations to solve more complex, global-scale problems. But it is at a disadvantage, since mainstream OD has rejected a type of complexity these challenges contain called vertical complexity. Vertically complex problems, especially intractable ones, tend to remain unsolved by scaling existing solutions. They require new, transformative approaches that depart qualitatively from what has worked elsewhere. The adult development (AD) field specializes in helping people solve more vertically complex problems, but not how to solve them together to tackle challenges at scale. The field of vertical OD integrates AD and OD sensibilities to address complex, global-scale problems, but it is hamstrung by a major measurement problem. Despite 50 years of theorizing, there is still no suitable method to assess the vertical development of a team, organization, or collective of any size. This dissertation was an at

A Pilot Study to Assess Vertical OD Using Dynamic Systems

Abstract: This paper summarizes the results of a pilot study that is part of a larger dissertation project to explore the research question  how might an organization assess its own stage of vertical development reliably and efficiently?  The project is an experimental attempt to assess the vertical development of organizations using a new kind of survey to achieve the dual goals of scalability and reliability. A separate  dissertation overview  summarizes the research problem and methodological design that this pilot uses. The pilot was conducted in two phases. The objective of phase 1 was to enhance survey clarity through live user testing with participants. It was very successful and generated many enhancements to the survey’s instructions. The objective of phase 2 was to conduct the first empirical test of the assumptions that underpin this experimental approach. This objective was also achieved and generated substantial enhancements to this new method for assessing organizations,

Creating Scalable Leadership Development at a Large Company

I wrote the final chapter of the book Maturing Leadership: How Adult Development Impacts Leadership edited by Jonathan Reams. Targeted for readers of leadership science, the book contains many of the latest theories on leadership and adult development. My chapter was a tangible example of how these leading theories can be applied in a demanding business environment to enhance leaders’ effectiveness at scale. The chapter describes the executive development programs I designed for a very large organization with more than 500,000 employees. It includes an overview of program mechanics, effectiveness metrics, design principles, and lessons learned. This kind of program has since been expanded to non-executive audiences and was eventually approved for rollout to all people leaders in the organization at all levels--about 50,000 people. Note: the programs in this book chapter used design principles from 2016. The new approach, called Scalable Leadership Development , was built in 2023

Collective Transformation

Abstract: A review of the transformative learning literature was conducted that explicitly focused on the transformation of collectives.  The importance of collective transformation is detailed along with its distinction from individually-focused transformation.  Key facilitation practices as well as the use of technology for enabling collective transformation is also summarized. Read this paper

Impasse-able: Helping Groups Get Unstuck

Abstract: All groups experience conflict.  It is a natural byproduct of bringing human beings together because of the diverse array of perspectives that characterize humanity.  Two types of conflict are defined, routine and chronic, followed by an exploration of chronic conflict as having the greatest potential for generating transformative outcomes.  It is shown how typical approaches to resolving group conflict only serve to entrench and immobilize the group.  A process for breaking this cycle is offered, consisting of four disciplines drawn from the literature on group dynamics and collective transformation. Read this paper

To Change Culture, Start with Beliefs or Behaviors? A Multidisciplinary Answer

Abstract: Do organizations think themselves into a new way of acting, or act themselves into a new way of thinking? Conflicting opinions in the literature have made it difficult for leaders and organizational change consultants to know whether to start by changing beliefs or behaviors. A multidisciplinary review of 100 references on belief, behavior, and organizational change (table 1) was conducted in an attempt to discover commonalities and reconcile differences on this longstanding dilemma. Confusion can be attributed to imprecise terminology and incomplete modeling. To help narrow the scope of this issue, emphasis is placed on the type of organizational change that involves culture change. More precise terms are proposed along with a new schematic of the “organizational braking system” to help leaders and change agents understand the counterintuitive ways they can accelerate culture change. Read this paper