Often, diversity is simply defined as a social issue. When most people hear the word “diversity” they immediately think of affirmative action, the Equal Opportunities Commission or gender equality. We hear others talk about diversity and we think to ourselves, “These are important issues. Someone ought to look after them. Companies should be more diverse.” While all of this may be true, and while very real social problems may exist, these things have very little to do with diversity management.
Before I start, let me acknowledge that I will probably offend a lot of people with this article. That’s because a lot of people have used diversity as a means to promote or further their personal or group agenda. I don’t mean to distract from those agendas. Others have deliberately excluded themselves from the conversation assuming “it” is not for them. I don’t want to assign any meaning or motive to that decision. I merely want to offer a perspective based on years of involvement as a practitioner in the field. The original intent of the movement called diversity management was to create an environment that allows all people to maximize their contribution.
“No organization, team, or individual mission has ever failed for lack of a good strategy. They fail for lack of execution.”
Moving people from knowing to doing is a critical and tough task. As facilitators, it is our role to not only bring a group to consensus about their desired future, but to to do it in a way that allows them to paint their own vivid picture of the new, desired reality they want to create. That picture should be so clear that they could each describe it in a few words and with a passion and an excitement that only comes from owning the plan.
Diversity refers to the broad mix of people currently or soon to be a part of your organization. It exists whenever you encounter anyone who has a view of the world, or “paradigm,” different from your own.
Managing Diversity is a deliberate effort to create a work environment that allows these differences to contribute equally to the common goals of the organization.