Oct 242010

Look to Culture For Finding Answers On How To Manage Diversity

Carol’s boss wants her to change her management style so she can better manage diversity. “You are too traditional,” he advises her. Here are some key questions both Carol and her boss must consider:

What basic assumptions drive your organization − what makes life tick at your place of business? What fundamental understandings do people quickly learn that help them fit in and work in acceptable ways, and how are these assumptions passed on to employees?

While values and traditions are usually made clear in some ways (through policy manuals, for instance), assumptions that drive the life of a company are quite different.

The idea of “Spaghetti Wednesdays” was carefully explained to me when I once applied for an internship in a large Cincinnati company. To this day, I still believe that anyone admitting they hated spaghetti would not have gotten the job!

Behaviors like rolling up your shirt sleeves for a morning coffee break or staying late at work to show your loyalty or even faithfully eating spaghetti on Spaghetti Day are different from more deep-seated assumptions held by organizations.

Roosevelt Thomas, Jr., considered the father of change management philosophy, suggests to understand culture, think of an organization as a tree. The roots are the actual culture and are invisible or below the surface. “But they give rise to the trunk branches, and leaves − the visible parts of the tree. Nothing can take place in the branches and be sustained naturally unless it is congruent with the roots,” he writes (Thomas, 1997).

I once knew a co-worker who was fired from a multinational pharmaceutical corporation. He didn’t understand why this happened until someone finally took him aside and explained he wore loafers with tassles. Poor guy. His feelings were still hurt, it seeemed, when telling me the story. Of course, there was a deep-seated arrogance in the company based on social class, and the shoes apparently indicated he didn’t fit the culture test.

Unlike my hearing about “Spaghetti Wednesday,” when I applied for the job, “Jim” was expected to “catch on” to what others who succeeded at this company somehow knew.

At another company, where I once did some corporate training, anyone important was wearing a Seico watch and using multiple ways to let it be known (almost flashing it in my face as I walked down the hall). So I decided after the first day on site that purchasing a Seico watch would be a good idea.

What are some underlying assumptions that allow one organization to build and sustain a diversified workplace while another company gets lost in resistance?

One deep assumption for resisting companies could be that “all of this diversity stuff” will simply disappear as politics change. In this circumstance, it is obvious diversity will remain a “fair weather” item until managers realize that managing diversity is critical to the company’s sustained growth and viability.

This needed change of assumptions can happen when there is an underlying reognition that diversity nurtures unique opportunities for the organization − that people who are “different” from the status quo may actually have something new to offer that will help the company reach new markets.

Or that unique people have new and different ideas of value to bring to the organization, perhaps a different way of identifying problems that could add to problem solving success.

Until then, a manager in a traditionally managed organization might go to a conference or read something about diversity management that sounds good, get excited and try to change the current business culture.

But no matter how hard she or he tries, it will be impossible to motivate others to see a diversity project all of the way through. The resistance will eventually halt change until the culture shifts.

As Thomas writes, studying the tree of culture has much to teach us…(it’s all in the roots!)

Join Susan Klopfer in a free online workshop, “Five Diversity Mistakes Companies Make and How To Avoid Them.” Attend and receive a free bonus valued at 0 with no obligations. Visit her home page at http://susanklopfer.com for details. Susan’s newest book, Profit From Diversity: Getting Along With Others, is set for publication November 15, as part of National Education Week.

Doyle’s introduction as the new CEO of Domino’s came on the heels of a major announcement: Domino’s was changing the recipe of its pizza. The movement became known as The Pizza Turnaround, with the “cardboard complaint” one of the most contentious issues. A seasoned marketer, Doyle took to YouTube, admitted mistakes, recognizing and need for change and kicking off one of the edgiest marketing moves in recent years. In this program, you will find out: * The relationship between marketing and leadership * How to build on growth * How to drive and lead an organization through a dramatic cultural shift Full version is FREE to watch at: bit.ly

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