Module 4

Sometimes we assume that people will grow and develop gradually and inexorably, as long as they spend time in our organization and as long as we are giving them instruction.  But people actually grow and develop less like in a gradual incline and more like stair step.  Sometimes people need to more fully grow into a capacity they are working on (across the step), and at other times people need to develop a new way of engaging and leading (up the step).

In the terms of human development, progress across the step is called horizontal decalage and the progress of taking a step up and developing a new and more sufficient capacity is called vertical decalage.  In order to make progress up to a new capacity, people need to make progress across to embrace ideas and skills more sufficiently.

If we intend to develop leadership in someone, or with a team, we will need to work on helping people “get it.”  Sometimes we assume that once we give instruction then we can move on up and give people further input or instruction.  But just because people hear what you say or see what you do doesn’t mean that they will really understand it, own it, value it, or live it.  Alfred North Whitehead once wrote, “Beware of inert ideas, that is, ideas that have not been utilized, tested, or thrown into fresh combinations." 

In other words, for people to develop capacity, they will need to grapple and try and test and think about the key ideas you offer them.  They will need to work with the ideas thoroughly enough to make them their own.  Then, they will not just do what they are told or mimic what they have seen, but they will truly begin to embody the ideas.  The ideas will become a part of them and put them in a position to stretch upward to new capacities. 

We are using a model developed by Benjamin Bloom out of University of Michigan to help us identify the progress along the step.  It’s a way of seeing the markers along the way and across the horizontal step.  These ideas help us to develop strategy, diagnose where people are stuck, and see how to design the next steps of progress. 



Ability to recognize and remember what you are talking about. 


Ability to see the meaning, translate an instruction into own words, identify illustrations, see where it is and isn’t, identify what is significant and important


Ability to put into practice and take to action in a new situation, translate the principles or ideas into real-life situation, try in a variety of contexts and settings


Ability to understand “why” and “why this and not that,” appreciate the underlying values that hold it together, see how each part depends on the other, understand the key assumptions and values that make it work and how it would be different with different values


Ability to put it all together in an original insight, the “a-ha,” the “light bulb” experience, owning it, making it part of the whole approach, way of seeing, ways of engaging, and how you “show up.”


Ability to make a judgment about what needs to change in order to “live it,” willingness to grow and develop, to leave the old behind and step into a new capacity


Need some ideas for application?   Click here.



1.  Apply at least one non-development technique to develop someone you are leading.

2.  Apply the developmental step technique (horizontal decalage) in some leadership situation.

3.  Meet with your triad

4.  Record your stretch step on your canvas.