I am attending a roundtable discussion tomorrow on ‘maximising the potential of women in organisations’. It will be attended by stakeholders from within the FTSE 100 and other organisations in the public and voluntary sectors – and for me, is symptomatic of the progress being made by businesses to deal with the gender gap at Board and management levels in UK based organisations.
Indeed, such discussions are not only happening here in the UK. It was only a couple of days ago, a colleague and good friend forwarded me a link to an article which reported on the bold steps the New Zealand Stock Exchange had taken to begin addressing the gender balance through ensuring that publicly listed companies mandatorily reported on gender by 2012, putting in place development programs as well as a range of other initiatives, etc
Now, I am very much in favour of the practical steps and initiatives being taken by governments, international organisations, and senior stakeholders on this important agenda. Indeed, I have designed programs aimed at promoting greater gender diversity myself. But I do, nonetheless, have a niggling question, which some of my readers may also have, and which we have to ask: What about the other equality ‘strands’ or ‘protected characteristics? – those living with disabilities, those from a range of ethnic minority communities, those with a ‘different’ sexual orientation, the socially and economically disadvantaged, the ‘younger’ and ‘older’ talent who find workplace mobility difficult to positively navigate, etc. What’s happening to them? What initiatives are being put in place for them? Is there even the slightest possibility that they feel left out of the ‘inclusivity’ picture here?
Whilst at University, I spent a lot of time studying feminist philosophical and theological arguments Continue reading
“Take it as a given that Spirit is the most critical element of any organisation. With Spirit of the appropriate quantity, quality, and direction, almost anything is possible. Without Spirit, the simplest task becomes a monumental obstacle” – Harrison Owen.
It’s interesting seeing people on a Friday evening at the end of a working week. Everyone appears happy, relaxed, bubbly, and friendly. All have a ready smile on their faces as they exit the workplace and head to the pub for a drink and some good banter! You inevitably find yourself saying of another employee you probably spoke to for the first time:”He’s actually a very nice and interesting guy, why haven’t I spoken to him earlier?”
I bumped into John, a fellow work colleague in the office corridors last week Friday, and we began talking about this very same experience narrated above. I found myself asking the following questions: Why is that we appear to have more Soul outside the workplace and not whilst in it? What is it about the workplace that appears to make us drop our Soul outside it, thus becoming Soul-less whilst in it??
As a result of our conversations, John kindly gave me a chapter of a very interested book to read entitled “Leadership Plain and Simple” by Steve Radcliffe. Indeed, I recommended it to you, it’s a great book. Radcliffe points out, rather simply, that the reason why people do not feel themselves in the workplace; are not proactively committed to each other, and do not demonstrate empathy, is because we tend to use the wrong ‘energy’ source. This prevents us from being ourselves, and ensures we do not take time to recognise others – hence the comment: “He is actually a really nice interesting guy, why haven’t I spoken to him earlier?…”
Radcliffe says that the human person has 4 energies Continue reading
In the papers this week, it has been reported that the US Federal Housing Finance Agency has put the process in place to sue 17 banks over the subprime mortgage crisis – a key element which arguably lead to the global recession, a term we are all now very acquainted with. It made me think about the topic above linked to our recent themed discussions on the connection between diversity and business strategy. We all have our opinions and theories on what actually lead to the global economic crisis, but I think there is something more endemic that ought to be pointed out…
Let’s re-look at the Toyota case discussed in our last posting: On the 11th of February, 2010, the Economist in an article entitled: ‘Toyota – Accelerating into trouble’, reported the woes of Toyota showing the failure of the Japanese Board to spot a mechanical fault with the new Toyota Prius’ run-away acceleration and braking system. The fault lead to customer complaints and law suits that is reported to total approximately $5 billion, with Toyota having to recall approximately 8 million vehicles world wide. The overall market value loss totalled approximately $30 billion according to recent figures. In its overall evaluation of what might have gone wrong with Toyota, the Economist highlighted a cultural issue where leadership was based on “a rigid system of seniority and hierarchy” which prevented “new ideas” to questioning “the way things worked”.
The lessons learnt from the Toyota experience, I think, can be applied to assist understand what ‘suggestively’ facilitated the global economic crisis, the aim being to discover what ‘thought leadership’ actually means within this context. Indeed, what is core to both terms, ‘thought’ and ‘leadership’, and why is it important that to get leadership right?
Looked from an organisational viewpoint, thought is about thinking – creatively, leadership – a people-centred specific skill, is about the ability to provide inspiration, vision and direction – to all staff. The two terms are inextricably linked, one necessarily leading to the other, both facilitating innovation within the workplace resulting in a competitive and profitable business. Continue reading
“Leadership works through people and culture…” – Michael McGrath, inspirational speaker, performance catalyst and change agent
Let’s take a look at a case in question in the story below to help en-flesh the quotation above:
On the 11th of February, 2010, the Economist in an article entitled: ‘Toyota – Accelerating into trouble’, reported the woes of Toyota showing the failure of the Japanese Board to spot a mechanical fault with the new Toyota Prius’ run-away acceleration and braking system. The fault lead to customer complaints and law suits that is reported to total approximately $5 billion, with Toyota having to recall approximately 8 million vehicles world wide. The overall market value loss totalled approximately $30 billion according to suggested figures. In its overall evaluation of what might have gone wrong with Toyota, the Economist highlighted a cultural issue where leadership was based on “a rigid system of seniority and hierarchy” which prevented “new ideas” from questioning “the way things worked”.
In a nutshell, what supposedly went wrong with Toyota was the fact of the existence of a culture where Toyota staff ‘on the ground’ were disconnected from their leadership, such that the over-respectability for leadership, a culture perpetuated by the leadership themselves, prevented the sharing of basic information on the goings-on ‘on the ground’ that would have gone a long way to nipping the arising problems described in the bud had their existed a culture where leadership worked in, with and through its staff. Continue reading
“All human beings are necessarily products of their environment” – Burrhus Fredic Skinner, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University
The above statement by Skinner, though true, implies a limitation: that human beings are limited by what they know. Indeed, what they know, and that which limits them, is derived from the socio-economic, cultural and political interactions they have within their specific environments. But it is also true to say that of all living things on the planet, human beings constitute that species which has the ingrained ability to constantly overcome these apparent limitations – through the effective use of intelligence – and herein lies the key point our topic of discussion attempts to answer:
It is my thinking that at the heart of effective decision-making lies the question of intelligence, that rational ability all human beings use to overcome their natural limitations so as to aspire toward greater levels of intelligibility and hence higher strategic clarity. The process of overcoming Skinnner’s environmental constraints, I suggest, necessarily involves engaging a varied number of ‘intelligencies’ – and by implication their related range of experiences – using these as strategic building blocks during the decision-making process to access higher levels of intelligibility. Continue reading
As a ‘diversity professional’, some may question the reasons for engaging the chosen topic as it may appear to inadvertently question the very profession I have chosen as my area of expertise – which ultimately puts bread and butter on my table every day. Indeed, given reported cuts to the ‘diversity agenda’, diversity training programs, coupled with the fact that a good number of diversity jobs were amongst those cut off the back of restructuring programs in response to prevailing economic conditions, should this be a topic that we address at this time given clear sensitivities??
I think so. Indeed, the demise of diversity managers as explained above, itself serves as the precise reason for taking a step back to reflect on what may have gone wrong with regard the actual value organisations perceive diversity brings, which may have lead to the cutbacks in the diversity profession, and by implication, its initiatives and key services.
But before proceeding, there may be a need to address a key aspect of this question: What is the ‘21st century organisation’? What does it look like and what are its prevailing needs?
The 21st century organisation is symptomatic and characteristic of the following post-modern realities: Continue reading
“By deliberately seeing (new) ways to more effectively reach a broader range of customers, (businesses like)…IBM have seen significant bottom-line results” – David Thomas, Professor of Business Administration, The Harvard Business School.
It may be important to begin with a clarification of terms: What actually does ‘business strategy’ mean? What are its essential components that make it ‘tick’ and remain sustainable? Indeed, how are the ‘components’ intertwined with strategic diversity, thus ensuring the continuity of the ‘ticking process’ leading to business growth and sustainability?
There are a range of suggested ‘components’ put forward by a number of business professionals, entrepreneurs and academics, all of which are arguably key to ensuring sustainability, however I feel that those suggested by Ian Heller, and which I have adapted below, are very pertinent. Heller suggests five components of business strategy – I have added a sixth: Continue reading
Globalisation refers to the process of the transnational circulation of ideas, languages, or of ‘popular culture’ through acculturation (or the assimiliation and association of cultures), driven by economic unification – making the world move into the proverbial ‘global village’.
Diversity is connected to globalisation through the following 4 main 21st century realities or drivers:
- The Phenomena of ‘World Immigration’,
- New Technologies
- The Internet
- The breaking down of geo-political borders between countries
The Phenomena of ‘World Immigration’
In the 1980’s and the early 90’s, most ‘talk’ on immigration tended to focus and convey pictures in our minds of ‘refugees’, ‘asylum seekers’ and those that were ‘economically displaced’ as a result of war, etc.
This thinking has now radically changed: With globalisation now a full reality of the modern world, the migration of people from across all cultures driven by the ‘processes’ of globalisation as they interconnect with the social, political, economic and cultural dimensions of countries across the world, what I call ‘world immigration’ has naturally sprung up and gradually replaced the traditional conceptions of immigration we previously tended to have. Continue reading
I was raised in a family that really loves and enjoys a good, tasty meal! I think that my experience of seeing my Mother cook, the ‘natural’ precision with which she added key ingredients to ensure taste, lead to the passion I have today for food and cooking food. I remember in my very early twenties, and whilst abroad on holiday, which was a good number of years ago (!), I was told by friends and acquaintances from other nationalities that the UK compared to other countries had a very bland and basic palate, and was only known for cooking Fish and Chips, and even that, my acquaintances suggested, we cooked badly! Not something I was happy to hear, though at the time, I must admit, there was some truth in it…
Well, I challenge those friends and acquaintances now to re-examine their thinking: In London alone, there now exists over 70 different cuisines, all serving great food as part of the British identity. In fact, a leading analyst has declared that London in particular has been undergoing a “golden age” with more restaurants launched than ever before in its history. Continue reading
I liken the above topic to the following story:
Two friends, Jack and Jill were on their way home from a party in the early hours of the morning. As they sat in their cab ride home Jack said to Jill, “Remind me to get some milk at ‘The 24hr Shop’ around the corner from home”. Jill replied: “We’re at least 30mins away from home, its 2am, will it be open?” Jack looked at her disbelievingly and responded: “What kind of a question is that Jill? It is called ‘The 24hr Shop’. Of course it will be open!!”
I have often wondered why many organisations remain hesitant at placing Diversity at the very heart of overall business strategy. Indeed, many organisations request a business case for diversity to further justify reasons for ‘engaging’ it as a business area. What this may point to, I suggest, is a gap in understanding. It is not business that creates diversity rather it is the very fact of diversity that creates business. Diversity is the coming together of different individuals from cross socio-cultural backgrounds and the different creative ideas they possess that leads to the development of new and fresh strategies needed to create, and keep businesses afloat so that they remain sustainable and competitive.
It is little wonder then that organizations that do not see the fundamental connection between diversity and overall business strategy commit a fundamental flaw in the logic of business strategy akin to the story above: Just as ‘The 24 hrs Shop’ implies within its title that it ought to be open for 24hrs, so too business practice ought to imply the practice of diversity as fundamental to its very existence. Indeed, a 24 hrs shop that is not in fact open for 24 hrs creates a logical absurdity in our minds regarding the choice of the name of the shop. In the same vein, I argue, businesses that do not have diversity as fundamental to business practice commit a logical absurdity in understanding business creation, development and continued sustainable operational success. Continue reading