Intent is the key to results. In business, intent means knowing your business model. It means knowing what the key ingredients of your business are and knowing exactly how you make money. Intentional managers look beyond the short-term quarterly goals. Instead, they take the long view, focusing on their people and what they can do for the company.
I encourage people to use, as a measure of success in all diversity work, the same measures that are used for business in general. A quality product, delivered on time, is always the measure in manufacturing. These are the same measures we look at when we talk about how diversity as a catalytic tool has an impact.
Most people think of diversity management as a fancy term for analyzing and managing the demographic makeup of a company. This is an outdated approach to thinking about diversity. Instead, we need to think about diversity management as a new technology that can help us grow our business.
The same sort of thing is true of diversity. If we treat it like a problem, we will see it as an enormous one. For instance, we know that women, on the whole, are not paid the same as men and that African Americans are not proportionally represented in the higher up positions of large companies. No doubt these are large social issues, but does dealing with them as large societal problems help us run a profitable company? My bet is no.
While I’m not opposed to companies thinking about diversity in this light, its important to recognize that diversity in business is a fact of life. We know for instance, that the customers we have now are more diverse than the ones we had in the past. Likewise we know that the kinds of people we hire today will not be the same as past hires. Finally, we know that, due to the global scale on which today’s business operates, we are dealing with other companies that are made up of people who might be very different from us. With these facts in mind, diversity management has to move beyond treating diversity as strictly a social issue. We need to equip ourselves with the right tools in order to deal with diversity as a fact of life, in a way that allows us to get world class results.
Often, what people in a particular industry do not realize is the extent to which their own thinking has been shaped by the work that they do and the expertise they possess. While it is incredibly important to have a team made up of qualified professionals, unnecessary limits on a team’s thinking can arise if the individual members of the group all share too common a background. This group is what I call “industry lifers”.