This week, McKinsey & Company resurrected their first major report on the subject of diversity in organisations – Diversity Matters, that first report was based primarily on the idea that it is a moral imperative in western civilisation to embrace the diversity of people in all their varieties. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) organisational policies were, the report claimed, a measure of 21st century maturity within an organisation. Many organisations have embraced DEI as an aspect of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or because their underpinning values stressed it. This latter point is particularly true of many not-for-profit groups.
This week though, McKinsey sought to add a more capitalistic perspective to the importance of DEI, that of productivity and profit (McKinsey Classics February 2020):
The moral case for workforce diversity was clear, but we found that it makes business sense too: top-quartile companies for racial and ethnic diversity were 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians.
McKinsey claim that further competitive advantage is probably conferred with other enhancements like, diversity in background, age, sexual orientation, and work experience.
So why is it that many organisations in all sectors of industry, business government and community struggle to implement DEI programs?
At Systemic Development Associates, we have found that organisations that struggle to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusive policies and programs are trapped into a historical and culturally embedded mindset that, while other perspectives may be interesting, only “our kind” can achieve the standards and quality aspired to. For the enterprises caught in this mindset, there is rarely any internal challenging of the pervading worldview. For many there is little or no appreciation of how they could operate if they had to manage alternative understandings of their clients, products, services and emerging trends.
Rather than just condemning such organisations as moribund, it is important that the ways of first changing an entrenched mindset and then accommodating and benefiting from diversity are made available as widely as possible. Managing DEI does not just emerge out of the day-to-day experiences of an organisation (although it is there all around us all the time), the process is a learned one.
Starting with members of the organisation adding the competency of holistic (often called Systemic) thinking to the currently dominant reductionist (often called scientific) thinking, the organisation quickly builds a capacity to consider new operational options. These options appear as the many systems we are a part of and the creative potential in their embedded relationships become apparent from the alternative way of thinking.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion practices then need to be developed that enable the ideas that arise when multiple perspectives are available to be collected without bias and made sense of against the single criteria of achieving the organisation’s purpose. One of the reasons why studies by McKinsey and many other researchers show organisational improvement from embracing DEI is the new richness of options that become available to the decision makers.
Techniques such as Conversation Mapping, Storytelling and Speed Stating cause minimum disruption to an organisation while engaging every available perspective while addressing complex issues. Techniques to emerge new insights and test their veracity such as 3 Horizons and Coherence Mapping build team morale, motivation for innovation and changes that reflect the changing environment in which the organisation functions and seeks to excel in.
SDA’s online and inhouse courses and workshops make this pathway easily accessible to all organisations. Adding effective diversity, equity and inclusion practices to your organisation will enable significant improvements in attaining your purpose.