Proliferating developmental culture: Workshop by Dana Carman and Heidi Gutekunst.

The check-in which prepares our space included how the war in Gaza and slow momentum of COP28 is a challenging many of us. For example, Heidi in Finland, named the challenges of integrating refugees coming over the Russian border into the relatively small population asking ‘what it is to be a “liberal” at a time of social unraveling globally?’ 

Dana Carman and Heidi Gutekunst then presented their case, video here and URL below on how the transformative work they are up to at a British bank may succeed in proliferating into the whole system.

The challenge of the case revolves around the question of how a culture-developmental approach can become an attractor across an entire organizational system.

Context and inquiry

Dana and Heidi are working to develop a deliberately developmental culture within a British bank. Specifically, they’re extending work started by colleague Joel Janowitz within a UK-based bank, that prioritizes AI data & analytics WITH leadership & compassion.  Their immediate internal client heads up the bank’s data and analytics operation which is a 4,000-person organization. Their work is primarily with the data engineers and data scientists. The bank, with its focus on climate issues, had attracted unconventional/post-conventional staff, but recent changes in CEO and upper leadership bring questions about the future. To date the engineers and scientists, who are unfamiliar with the relational/experiential/developmental way of working  – are appreciating it for their teams and workplace.

Challenge: how does the success so far continue and proliferate into a changing 2024, and beyond?

Creating Deliberately Developmental Culture

Dana and Heidi emphasized the importance of creating an environment where people can have intimate relationships, work through tensions and conflicts, and do real work in an extraordinary way. Heidi spoke of creating “squads” with the support of the internal OD team, so as to enhance the approach to collaboration and decision-making she, Dana and Joel have seeded. They discussed the use of various OD/ART frameworks and practices in their work, with a focus on building systems thinking capacities and navigating polarities. Heidi translates these practices into the group’s own language for better understanding and implementation. Dana discussed the “Breakthrough Project,” a “capstone” cross-functional initiative aimed at achieving something currently impossible within the bank due to bureaucracy.

Inquiry How is this work to continue best (“proliferate”) as we include a next set of project champions?

Group Reflection…Per our workshop norms we re-emphasized the importance of speaking from personal experience; we are not giving advice!

  • Alessandra (more familiar with non profit sector) shared experience with nonprofit work and its emphasis on transparency, collaboration, and shared decision-making.
  • Naia discussed the application of learnings in different contexts, sharing about what Hilary calls a “learning chronicle” created for the Basque Council project. Such a chronicle transforms the challenges of creating research from content that was not being read to offer instead an interactive guide as a solution (e.g., specifically as a short-ish powerpoint with multiple voices).
  • Susanna emphasized the need to identify factors that could facilitate change. Later in the meeting, Carol raised a question about the board’s role in instances where the CEO is dismissed. The group also discussed the impact of strong affection for a dismissed CEO on project momentum.

In reflecting on the input,

Heidi emphasized her sense that “sourcing” is key and so understanding the developmental aspect of their work, including the developmental capacity of those sourcing the work deserves more attention.

Dana shared that their biggest challenge is all the details of the backstory and suggested creating “a living artifact” (along the lines of a learning chronicle) to represent their work to others so the work can be known and proliferate


Per our workshop norms, Hilary prompted all to reflect, additionally, on past sessions and to note what themes are present as we review previous workshops of 2023.  Video here and URL below.

  • Dana shared his enthusiasm for Luea’s session and aspirations for Heidi’s upcoming Ph.D. at Ashridge. He asks how can scholarship more generally create credibility for innovative practice.
  • Heidi noted the phases of engagement, transitioning, and departing as important to parse.
  • Naia welcomes ‘creative tensions’ for progress.
  • Carol emphasized the importance of integrating practical and scholarly aspects, weaving and translating in their work.

Roster for upcoming workshops

The roster for the upcoming presentations: Naia presents on January 30th  Hilary facilitating. This iteration of the workshop completes on February 27th. We expect to continue in 2024 with new and continuing members!

Links to video

  • Video of the case presentation by Dana Carman and Heidi Gutekunst (16 m):
  • Harvest (10 mins):