“Building an inclusive organisation is not just about the balanced scorecard data we track to measure progress…it is as much about our attitude and behaviours and having a sense of empathy for different experiences.” – Gwen Houston, Global Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Microsoft
This question is often asked alongside the following questions: “What is the business case for diversity”? “How does it directly impact the bottom-line?” The business case for diversity has now been well established and there is so much evidence out there in terms of case studies, research papers, and published data on organisational metrics, so much so that when I am confronted with this question, an alternative question instinctively pops up in my mind which itself questions the very presuppositions of the question being asked: “Where is the ‘will’ or ‘readiness’ in your organisation to get the run started?”, I hear the voice in my head ask.
By ‘organisational will’ or ‘readiness’, I refer to the desire of an organisation to actually want to maximise the best of ‘people differences’ as part of a talent strategy linked to key business outcomes. This baseline understanding only arises out of an internalised appreciation of the ‘business case’ viewed from a broader context of creating a competitive advantage. It suggests a mental shift from seeing diversity as a ‘positive action’ and/or equality driven initiative aimed primarily at balancing workforce databases, to be actually about organisational performance driven directly by the effective and inclusive management of people.
Effective people management cuts across all organisational levels. Understanding how diversity can be measured therefore, must first and foremost begin with understanding the ‘complexity’ of ‘what’ is to be measured?? Measuring diversity is not simply about taking a look at observable ‘workforce representation’ datasets – that is a pretty basic measurement. It is rather, as Ed Hubbard, an OD Consultant suggests, about developing strategic tools for effectively measuring the following 4 key inter-connected layers – in tandem: Continue reading
“Culture to an organisation is what personality is to an individual”
Organisational culture can appear to be one of those ‘fluffy’ terms we hear spoken about in the workplace, but which tends not be given as much ‘air time’ as ‘Business Development’, ‘Sales’, and ‘Financial Planning’, etc. I often hear business professionals say, ” I really need to focus on the ‘bread and butter’ at the moment, all that other ‘culture stuff’ frankly can wait”
A bit like a dog, dizzied by running around in circles chasing its tail, we can at times tend to ignore that which really matters and which has long term consequences, in favour of chasing the immediate and short-lived. Organisational culture is like the rails upon which a train runs. Though ensuring the comfort of passengers is of immediate importance, of even greater importance is the regular maintenance of the rails to ensure the safe and continuous running of the train. Indeed, where there exists a slight relaxing in the focus on the safety of the rails themselves, the consequences can be catastrophic for passengers – as we already know from unfortunate experiences.
These are economically challenging times: Europe is in a deep financial crisis – and the impact on organisations in the UK particularly, in terms of redundancies and reduced staff investment, is widely acknowledged. It is of course a natural human reaction of leadership to consistently focus, sometimes unknowingly, on the ‘hard’ bottom-line organisational functions which directly influence how the Profit and Loss Corporate balance sheet ‘looks and feels‘. But “what about the people”, I ask?? It is equally important to remember during these times that just like the train that needs a safe track to run on, so too do organisations totally depend on their people to ensure they emerge from through these challenging times – unscathed. Continue reading
“Can a Leopard change its spots”? Jeremiah 13:23
I think it is fair to say that in my professional career thus far, there is one single term that tends to cause the most ‘discomfort’ and ‘uneasiness’ when raised for discussion: the term ‘diversity’. Indeed, when at client meetings and engagements I have introduced myself as a ‘diversity and talent management consultant’, I often notice the sharp intake of breathe that tends to follow – as the first part of my job title (note not the second part) is taken in and digested. And this experience appears not to just be mine. It was only last week a business partner suggested that he might consider changing the name of his business, removing the word ‘diversity’ as according to him, it might constitute the reasons for the reduced client engagement currently being experienced.
Isn’t it paradoxical that that which is at the very essence of who we are as human beings, is at one and the same time, that which gives us the most ‘discomfort’ and ‘uneasiness’??! My Mother once said to me: “You will only find out what true love is Jude when you have a child and become a parent. That is when you’ll realise that true love is also intense pain”.
So, what is it about ‘diversity’ that rubs us up the wrong way such that some advocate for the term to be changed? Is it the statements below which are often provided as key reasons? Continue reading
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