The Investment Model of Development (or the Stupidity of Being Short-Sighted in Long-term Relations)

It never seems like the right time to stop the current action in favor of development.

Development makes things worse before they get better.

So, it doesn’t seem immediately practical to bet on development when using a “thing-based” short-term timing (clocks and calendars).

This orientation of clocks and calendar timing leads to companies where “productivity” is measured in “output” by “(calendar) quarters”. Taking time to work a relational or developmental issue with a person regarding an area of power (or lack of power) from this view seems to negatively impact “productivity” and hence is best put off to another “time” where there is more room for it.

This other “time” never comes. If things are going well, it seems that development isn’t necessary. If things aren’t going well, there seems to be no time for development in the urgent matter of working to increase productivity. (This is what the voice of stupidity says.) It is apparently never a good time for development. If development of one’s self and one’s people isn’t set as a specific measurable goal in a specific timing, it doesn’t “count” and hence isn’t relevant or a priority given the urgency of daily activities.

Just as the “unfolding view” of grammar gives a different picture of the world, people, and activity, so does an “unfolding view” of time and development.

From that view, development is always called for. It is an investment in power, freedom, and fit. If always brought to bear at a pace that can be maintained, there will be fruits of past plantings being harvested while seeds are being planted in a new area for future harvests.

Said another way, development is not a cost (in time), it’s an investment in time and the results are counted over a longer time horizon and attributed to the earlier investment.

Continuous development makes room for new levels of power by preparing the ground for it before its need becomes an emergency.

Development takes time. The worst timing in which to attempt it is in an “emergency” when time is apparently “short”. The best time for development is when time is “long”, and hence it isn’t urgent by circumstances, but urgent by intention (the desire to develop one’s full capabilities steadily through time).

To return to the “unfolding grammar” for a moment, development and operations are not separate there. One can develop while producing, and produce while developing. It is a larger kind of activity in which what is happening and what isn’t are both taken into account against a background of listening for a new level of power and competence being called for. There ought to be a term, like “developerations” in which one leads and manages for both development and operations simultaneously and would not settle for only one or the other. Operations without development is wasteful and stagnant. Development without operations is often misguided and unrealistic. The two together are powerful while building power.

There are ways to show the importance of development as a primary and connected value – in life and in work.

First the negative version: There are companies who have had people working for them for twenty to thirty years and yet they have no one ready to replace their aging CEO (or one leaving for a better offer). There ought to be a bench of candidates from which to choose given the long view where twenty to thirty years of development of the perspectives, competencies and skills of a CEO have been cultivated. By the time a CEO says they are just about done, there isn’t sufficient developmental timing in which to produce another one. (This generally in “thing-based” timing leads to looking outside the company to hire someone who is already a CEO, pay them for already being developed, and hope beyond hope that they will be a good fit for this company’s culture and history, while writing off their initial mistakes given a lack of understanding the culture as inevitable.)

In addition, twenty to thirty years of haphazard learning by experience (trial and error, hopefully with correction) is extremely wasteful. While it lets people feel like they are “all right” and only struggling with the circumstances, it wastes opportunity upon opportunity to grow their power, freedom and fit through something larger than reacting to circumstances.

The positive view is that of “development as an investment”. Let’s say the current orientation and understanding of one’s life, job, circumstances and capabilities has been lived in for some time. In all likelihood, 95% of the power available in that view is already in hand. Continuing to work there only allows for another 5% increase of power, freedom or fit.

Opening a new developmental environment – a new and more challenging knowing of oneself, others, life, time and circumstances—in the short-term might make one feel clumsier and less already knowledgeable, however in the first 5% of coming to inhabit that space, there can be more power generated than in the 95% competence in the last developmental space. And there is 95% more power available to be developed in the new space over time.

Starting the development of new power may not pay off immediately when someone is new to it, but the long-term leverage provides multiples of that available by continuing to mine the last 5% of the lesser room for development.

Our lives and our work are more productive and fulfilling from an ongoing investment perspective than from a series of trying to maximize the short-term timing now.

Development is an investment that reliably pays off over time, in multiples of what is learned by trial and error. It would be wise to organize around that.

So, where is the Chief Development Officer – of your organization and of your life?



About Ken Anbender

Kenneth Anbender Ph.D. has spent the last 50 years working with more than a hundred thousand people directly on the principles and methods that support the fulfillment of a human life -- in community and at work. He has developed a body of work that is licensable called The Contegrity Approach.
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