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What is development?

Development is a term that often replaces the word ‘training’ to imply that there is more to be done than simply attend a programme.

‘Training’ is something associated with changes in behaviour rather than a deeper consideration of the implications of values in action.

We can ‘train’ animals, but people, when they learn in a whole person way, develop and we all develop for better or worse.

Oasis approaches its work with a deep understanding of how development occurs; what is involved and what needs to be taken account in supporting the development of others.

The Development Process

The development process can be distinguished from change and growth, with which it is often compared.

Change: indicates that something will be different, but may occur in any direction.

Growth: indicates that something will get bigger.

Development: indicates movement of a significant, qualitative aspect.

For example, a human being progresses, not only in a linear direction, but also goes through a number of life stages (infancy, adolescence etc.). Throughout that process major developmental shifts occur that are based upon the relative success of previous stages. These changes amount to a transformation of the past.

The purpose of development

The individual carries within themselves the impulse to realise their own potential, to contribute to the development of those around them and to make a contribution to the life and quality of the groups to which they become attached.

The elements of development

All processes of change or crisis have within them the potential for development.

Development arises out of the creative tension between the potential of the individual, group or organisation and its attempt to adapt to the circumstances in which it finds itself.

It follows that development is possible in all situations and that the potential for change requires those involved to engage with themselves, those around them and their circumstances.

Also, that to work in this way is essentially an educational activity.

It raises questions of values, purpose, identity and commitment.


Transitions have elements of predictability, phases of activity and thresholds that identify various stages along the route, whether it be the transition into a new position at work, a divorce, or into parenthood.

The possibility of learning and integration are also important features of transitions, providing we understand that they have predictable and understandable phases from which lessons can be extracted.


Development is a process of qualitative change and isn’t necessarily gradual, or incremental. It is not necessarily related to travelling through a predictable transition.

It can be experienced as a jump from one state of being to another. It is characterised by thresholds or frontiers and a strong conviction of a shift that is irrevocable.

It is, however, linked to individual biography, or “life-script” and is a living out of themes or issues at work in individual lives. The same features apply to organisational transformation.

Development then, is not random or unpredictable, however revolutionary it appears to the subjects who are living through such a change. E.g. becoming a parent is a developmental staff – for most of us – just as taking on new responsibilities can be organisationally.


Transformation is a ‘qualitative shift of being’ manifested in external and internal ways.

It is a break with the past. It is the unpredicted shift to an altogether new level of operating. It is a move to a higher order of functioning that incorporates and integrates previous functions and will be manifested in changes in organisation, structure, function and process and whilst identifiable through these differences and modifications, it is actually contained in none of them.

It is beyond singular manifestation and is only apparent as a result of appearing in all of them.

Whilst conversion experiences are obvious examples of a transformative change – not always for the good – there are other changes that take place at momentous points in a person’s life that amount to a transformation.

Perhaps the one most common and most turbulent is the crisis of mid-life (which often comes earlier in our present day period of accelerated change).

Working with Change

All of us have to ‘work with change’ for or against, well or badly; through denial or even through a false acceptance.

Many of us are quite happy to work with changes we work for and desire to bring about.

We are altogether less enamoured when the change is imposed and brought from outside.

Working with change is not something that admits of a single solution: it requires effort and time – both, as we a have already noted, in short supply.

It helps, however, to identify the number of events through which our lives are travelling and to distinguish them as externally imposed or internally inspired.

Detecting Change

The first signal is often one of unease; a suggestion that all is not well, something has gone wrong, or isn’t working.

Sometimes we know where the failure lies, but then it is usually someone else who should take action.

Change and the responsibility for change lies outside of us and we are free to blame or criticise.

Only when we bring the change within our grasp, inside our own boundaries, can we move out of antagonism towards it, or righteous indignation about it.

Only when we begin to ask; ‘What else could there be?’ or ‘I’d like to see…’ do we begin to form a productive relationship with what is happening.

Only by forming a relationship toward what is happening can we begin to exert a useful influence.

It is by developing a fascination, or a loving interest that things begin to ‘speak’ back to us.

Sometimes, when working with change questions, the questions themselves come in search of us.

Repeated reminders of a situation that demands attention appear time and time again, and we know, sooner or later, we will have to put the time aside to respond.

Some such changes stack up, just waiting for a glimpse of daylight to appear before us. They then fly out of the shadows and demand that we put off dealing with them no longer.

There are those changes, too, we barely want to look upon, because they bring us face to face with our ‘shadow’.

We are confronted with the darker side of our selves and have to face up to not being all we would wish to believe is best about ourselves.

The more complex mixture of our motives becomes revealed and we have to face the pain of self-knowledge, acknowledge the hurt or the pain that we have, in part, inflicted.

It is unpleasant and painful to have, at last, to acknowledge all that we have tried to put to one side or deny, but it pursues us until we recognise and work with it, or it helps destroy us.

Our freedom is related to the degree of intimacy we have developed with our own shadow.

Sometimes it is the people coming towards us that bring with them the challenges and the questions we next need to meet.

Then we may have to look beyond the immediate needs of the situation, or what is being expressed and ask, ‘What are they seeking?’ ‘What more do they require of us?’

It may be straightforward and appropriate.

It may not be within our power to offer, but always we will come to understand more about where we are, if we enquire into how it is that they have come to find us and what they are in search of.

The challenge of change is to remain effective, efficient and adaptable.

Establishing realistic targets means having modest, achievable goals.

Change, Development, Transformation: Paradigm Shifts

Transformation incorporates development and includes change.

Development is an extension or unfolding of potential.

Change is movement from one state to another.

Change may be predictable or involuntary.

It may be a relief or a disappointment.

It may bring about positive benefits or regression.

It doesn’t have to go anywhere or lead to any result.

It may therefore be experienced as an interruption and a discontinuity to an ordered way of living.

Development has coherence, pattern.

It is an organic unfolding, a bringing forth of what is latent.

There is progression into a higher order of operating or experiencing.

There may be pain and difficulty attached to the transition but the result of the change is toward higher functioning.

Transformation results in a qualitative shift in state, function and processes involved.

The previous way of operating is not simply replaced but superseded and transcended.

The old functions are not necessarily abandoned but others are introduced that exceed previous limitations.