The Simple Path to Diversity + Management

In 1990, I joined the diversity management movement because I saw in it a practical way to produce sustainable high performance inside organizations.

Observe (you can observe a lot by watching). I saw how important good managers are to team success; and, how critical team success is to firm success.

I wrote MD based largely on my personal experience observing how things get done inside businesses of all sizes. That included my own personal experience with managing teams. (Little did I know at the time that my concept of MD mirrored the management philosophy of A. Maslow and other great thinkers). I immediately saw diversity management as a simple solution to a rising organizational challenge –  ever-increasing diversity of workers.

Dr. Bruce Tulgan warned that we are facing an epidemic of under-management in most organizations. Managers are the key to effective diversity management. Unfortunately, business operatives have become obsessed with the idea of leadership and have diminished the recognition, acknowledgment, and appreciation of the critical role of managers in producing consistent results (this is especially true in the era of knowledge workers).

Diversity management got truncated to diversity as a convenience of language. In the process, many of us lost sight of the real intent of the concept. It is not just diversity (an inevitable fact). It is diversity + management. Thirty years of experience and a steady stream of academic research has confirmed that diversity alone does not produce sustainable high performance.

The value of diversity is almost indisputable. Researchers and observers have shown us how diversity is an essential element of high performance (Page, Surowiecki, Johannsen, Laffley). But as with all things, value has to be mined. It is not enough to simply bring a diverse mix of people together and hope for the best (Hope is not a strategy). It is not enough to help everyone in the mix feel a sense of belonging (inclusion). It is certainly not enough to have your leaders declare that diversity provides a competitive advantage (it doesn’t unless it is managed). Without deliberate and skillful management, the benefit of diversity will never be realized.

Simple wisdom tells us that two heads are better than one. That is true only when the two heads represent different perspectives and each head respects and honors the views of the other. Diversity + management is the discipline that unleashes the value of a diverse mix of people. Remember, it is management, not leadership that produces sustainable high performance.

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