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Rethinking Diversity and Inclusion


The work of the Advanced Practitioners Think Tank began with recognition
that there is a lot of confusion and frustration among newer practitioners in
the field. They are unsure what we (and they) should be up to. We also
agreed that this was a good thing because it forces us (experienced soldiers)
to “Rethink” the basics of the field and restate “what” we are about and
“why” we are about it, so that we avoid the trap of focusing on “how” we do

The intent of this work is not to standardize the approach to diversity

management. Instead it is to identify the core beliefs, assumptions, and
principles that should guide and anchor the work. The fast pace of change in
the global landscape makes it imperative to apply some discipline to the
work of diversity management. Otherwise, there will be predictable
divergence and possible dilution of the power of diversity management as a
strategic tool.

This is the challenge we have undertaken. Here are the results so far.

Principles of strategic reviews

1. Breakthrough ideas (or paradigm shifts) always come from
outside the field.
2. Focusing on “how” before defining “what” leads to confusion,
miscommunication, wasted energy and effort.
3. Clearly defining terms and setting clear outcomes is the key to
4. Human tendencies create the biggest barriers to execution. (e.g.
it is not natural for humans to appreciate differences).
5. People (human beings) will exchange discretionary effort and
contribution for respect, honor, recognition and meaning at work

Group Norms
1. Focus on consensus of ideas (themes). The donut, not the hole).
2. Don’t be lazy – do your work.
3. Don’t object simply because you would say it differently.
4. Avoid buzzword bingo.
5. Make sure all voices are heard. (Rule of 2)
6. Let’s not get distracted by unproductive conversations. (ELMO)

Working assumptions
By definition, assumptions may be true or not true; examined or
unexamined. Nonetheless, they represent a basis of current decision
making. Some of the key assumptions we unearthed include:

1. Diversity management and inclusion are are two separate things.

2. Diversity means something different to practitioners than it does
to operations people.
3. Managing our natural reaction and response to diversity is a
never-ending process.
4. Doing what we are doing today is unacceptable. We need a
5. Diversity practitioners actually want to contribute to
organizational goals, objectives, and results. We need to learn
how to do it.
6. Creating an environment where every employee feels respected,
valued, and productive is the level 1 objective of diversity work.
7. Leaders and others are demanding to know the end in mind -
what is it?
8. Diversity and inclusion is a way to cover issues with race,
gender, and other elements of representation (e.g. AA profile).
9. A strategic, results –focused approach to D&I with clearly defined
outcomes has a better chance of gaining traction, being relevant,
and succeeding.

Core Beliefs
1. Diversity is a law of nature, a fact of life – it is inevitable.
2. The diversity (and inclusion) movement must be clearly
differentiated from EEO and AA.
3. Effective diversity management is an essential organizational
capability. Managers must be equipped and held accountable for
managing people effectively which includes creating a safe,
respectful, productive workplace where every employee,
regardless of background, packaging, temperament, or skill set
can prosper.
4. Victory in this field means that everyone has “skin in the game”.
If we don’t all (including white men) get there together, none of
us will ever get there.
5. There are many approaches (how) to diversity and inclusion. We
must be careful not to legitimize one over the other.
6. Each organization must determine its own desired outcomes and
develop a long term plan to achieve it.
7. Both management (people) and leadership are essential to
8. Diversity and inclusion practitioners must be effective leaders.
We must do our personal work to be genuine and authentic. We

must be patient with others and credible as a business partners.
When we put ourselves at risk, it must be for the greater good of
the enterprise.

Working definitions
Now we know what we assume, what we believe, and even what
principles may guide our approach. The real question is “what is it?”
We concluded that these definitions are close to providing a working
vision to guide the conduct of the work.

Diversity is the broad mix of human and organizational differences

and similarities.

Diversity management is a strategy and an ability to get the best

from the mix of employees, customers, suppliers, and other
stakeholders in order to achieve organizational objectives.

Inclusion is the practice of providing a sense of belonging to all individuals

so that they are welcomed, respected, encouraged and valued as an
employee to the point of being confident as they contribute their best work.

The desired outcomes (the value proposition) derive from diversity

management, not just diversity or inclusion. It is not just having a
broad mix of people, or in treating each as a valued member of the
team; it is the deliberate strategy to use that diversity to full
advantage in achieving strong business results and competitive

Resultant principles
1. People deserve dignity (respect, value, encouragement,
confidence) at work and will freely give their best effort when
they have it.
2. Organizations are more likely to win when all employees are fully
engaged and dedicated to the success of the enterprise.
3. There are diversity implications in every aspect of organizational
life. Seek them and you will find them.
4. Managing diversity simply means managing people effectively.

Discussion Points
• Diversity & Inclusion only matters to the extent that it
solves a business problem. We must be in the business of
improved business results.
• Leaders of the diversity and inclusion movement must lead. We
should be the source of clarity, not confusion. We should be sought
after by all segments of organizations, not shunned or avoided. We
should be more than crusaders for diversity rights, we must become
advocates for business success. We should present a clear value
proposition that is irrefutable; and, then we should deliver on that
promise. If not, we are rightfully subject to being marginalized,
tolerated, and eventually dismissed.
• The role of diversity practitioners is therefore that of consultant,
thought leader, strategic partner, trusted advisor, master facilitator,
and results monitor. We should be known for our facility in handling
any human conflicts and in driving deliberately diverse groups to
consensus. We must have the ability to link the power of diversity to
all mission critical business issues.
• After we agree on these “whats”, we can easily move toward a
discussion of “how”. Without clarity on the “whats”, effective hows
will continue to elude us.

Prepared by:
James O. Rodgers CMC, MBA (Facilitator)

1. Al Vivian Basic Diversity
2. Anthony Carter Johnson & Johnson
3. Candy Castleberry UPMC
4. Andrea A Agnew Comcast Cable
5. Brenda A Hardy Wells Fargo
6. Collins, D. Michael FDIC
7. Diana C. Starks; Ed. D Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
8. Kim R Bobby University of Puget Sound
9. Equilla Wainwright Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
10. Jerome Miller Toyota Motor Sales
11. Laurie S. Simpson John Deere
12. Leondias Butcher Medtronic
13. Lynn Garrett Henderson GlaxoSmithKline
14. Marilyn Priestley Novartis
15. McCloskey, Frank J. Georgia Power
16. Pamela Paul Ph. D Academy for Educational Development
17. Rebekah Steele; Research In Motion
18. Robin Greeley; National Geospatial -Intelligence Agency
19. Seth Smiley Highmark
20. Shelton J. Goode Georgia Power
21. Susan A.Stith Peabody Energy
22. Victoria E Jones Apollo Group
23. Yuri E. Brown Epic Consulting Group
24. Deborah Taylor John Deere
25. Nereida Perez National Grid
26. Nancy DiDia Boehringer-Ingelheim

27. Robin Pedrelli VisionSpring, Inc.