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  • Writer's pictureChris Morett

Avoid DEI-sappointment: Organizational Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as Culture Transformation

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

In the wake of the George Floyd murder, many organizations launched or redoubled efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. They deployed approaches including heartfelt and sweeping statements, policies and programs, and adding personnel or even entire offices—some of them with a C-level leader. Budgetary commitments were made.

Now that these efforts have had some runway, how have they fared? Initial signs point to mixed results. Some, if not many, efforts have encountered implementation difficulties, lost momentum, or simply fallen short of initial aspirations. These stumbles are not surprising.

Change related to diversity, equity, and inclusion is complex not only in practice but sometimes in principle. Individuals can have honest differences about specific DEI goals or how to design an organization’s approach. Even when there is consensus on principle, it is not easy to shape behavior that is diffuse, hard-to-detect, and, or subconscious.

No one claims undoing centuries of bad practices is easy. But the path to change can be illuminated by prioritizing goals and specifying methods—and establishing efforts to elevate DEI as a cultural pillar of the organization.

Organizational Change: Lessons Learned

At Great Mondays, we don’t claim to be DEI experts—we are on our own journey to learn how we can improve our perspectives and operations. However, we do know a thing or two about helping foment culture change. Here are some actionable lessons we believe can be applied to efforts to improve the climate of an organization—diversity, equity, and inclusion, included.

  • The importance of collectively establishing an organization’s purpose and core values.

  • Assigning the purpose and core values a foundational role in the organization’s culture. This is not another change management project; it’s about evolving your organizational DNA.

  • Specific behaviors that align with purpose and values must also be identified and promoted intentionally, visibly, and repeatedly. There are no shortcuts, especially not in mid-sized and large organizations.

  • Sustainable culture has to be seeded during the formulation of the organization’s shared purpose and values and the identification of associated behaviors. How will behaviors be encouraged, both formally and informally, by leadership and by the crowd?

  • Organizations need specific answers to these questions and a plan to act on those answers. All divisions and units should be involved in this formative work.

One final note:

Teams whose insights and ideas are solicited, whose contributions are empowered, and whose behavior is held accountable will create change. In this case, they will push their organization and society towards fulfilling the moral imperative—not to mention the human capital bonanza – of greater diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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