Friday, March 6, 2009

Welcome Aboard! / Review: Implementing Diversity

Books are still alive and well...


This blog of book reviews and discussion is for those who care about reading and who love the Navy. It is inspired by the Chief of Naval Operations’ Navy Professional Reading Program, launched by Admiral Mike Mullen and continued by Admiral Gary Roughead. It is dedicated to the sailors, civilians and families who serve in, for and with the U.S. Navy. Books selected for review/discussion are from the Reading Program.


Your comments are welcome!


Speaking of which...


In the hopes of promoting diverse views in this blog, I’ve chosen an influential book about diversity for this first posting.



Review by Bill Doughty

One of the first things Marilyn Loden does in her ground-breaking book is identify diverse types of people in an organization. Not by color or gender. Not by age, ethnicity, orientation or religion. Instead, she breaks people into distinct groups: “innovator,” “change agent,” “pragmatist,” “skeptic” and “traditionalist.

Which are you?

Key to implementing diversity, Loden shows, is to understand how you and others in your organization deal with change as one of these types.

“Innovators” and “change agents,” as you’d probably guess, are the sparkplugs and accelerants to change in an organization, but they are in the minority, she says.

“Pragmatists” and “skeptics” can be resistant to change, and “traditionalists” may try to put the brakes on innovation and change. Loden shows that pushback by some groups may be due to misunderstanding…and fear.

“Within every organization people respond to new ideas in distinct and predictable ways, based on differences in individual tolerance of perceived risk,” says Loden.

So, before implementing diversity she says that organizations need to understand the value of the concept.

Loden notes that valuing diversity means respecting and including all people in a flexible, supportive environment.

She says it’s not top-down and reactive but, rather, opportunity-driven and proactive. It’s not a quick-fix but, rather, a comprehensive systematic approach. And, it’s not “one size fits all.” Instead, it’s customized to individuals.

Which is why implementing diversity takes into account the various personality types that exist in any organization and why diversity cannot be implemented most effectively through typical “EEO” or “affirmative action” channels.

According to Loden, implementing diversity comes about through long-term cultural change that is inclusive, not exclusive, with leadership showing how diversity benefits everyone.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (former CNO) Admiral Mike Mullen says, “Having the cultural skills, having the diverse backgrounds in order to literally achieve our mission is really critical. That is why diversity is a strategic imperative…I believe from my heart that diversity strengthens the very fabric of who we are.”

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Gary Roughead recorded a podcast on diversity on Feb. 27, 2009.

"In the military and in the Navy, it's important that we are a diverse organization because we have to represent what I call the face of America. As our population changes and the percentages of majority-minority changes... we we have to reflect that same demographic in our Navy,” Roughead said. “We're stronger because of the different perspectives and ideas that people bring to bear."

Admiral Robert F. Willard, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, called diversity a key leadership issue in one of his Rat-Pac Report podcasts.

Diversity is critical to the future of our Navy. Frankly, it’s critical to our readiness now,” said Willard.

“When we talk about a diverse workforce, we’re talking about a total workforce so it includes those of us in uniform, those of us that are in reserve status, our civilians and our contractors – every race, every ethnicity, and recognition that gender in our Navy is valued and promoted. We must all be able to see ourselves reflected both up/down and across the Navy.”

Such endorsement from top leadership in an organization is critical, according to Loden, who shows that diversity is an inalienable concept with special meaning for all humans.

“Regardless of what core identities we each have, we all want to be happy, respected, and loved. In the workplace, we want to be recognized for who we are and appreciated for what we do. We want to feel comfortable with those with whom we work. We want to believe that our ideas and opinions are valued and that they influence important decisions that affect us and our work. These are basic desires that we all share, the common ground we stand on...”

Loden’s book includes tools such as assessment and implementation checklists. She gives good, pertinent case studies of implementation successes as well as failures.

Common sense alert: As diversity is implemented, don’t ridicule or purposely shut out anyone, including white male employees, who have traditionally been in the majority of the workforce, she advises.

“When people believe they are ignored or excluded from full participation they put less energy and less of themselves into making the process work.” That statement applies to all groups.

A good strategy, says Loden, is making a business case for diversity – showing the economic benefits of valuing diversity.

For the military, that case is made by senior leaders, military and civilian bosses, chiefs, LPOs and individual deckplate Sailors who tie diversity to readiness and credible leadership.

Valuing and implementing diversity, according to Loden, is good for business.

“The benefits to organizations and individuals are closely aligned,” says Loden.

“Because a welcoming and rewarding work environment produces superior human performance, it is in the employer’s best interests,” she writes.

Once organizations are on the road to implementing diversity, Loden maps out how to accelerate change in the last five chapters of the book: “Laying the Groundwork for Change,” “Reaching the Segments,” “The Diversity Curriculum,” “Best Practices Across Organizations,” and “Towards Full Adoption.”

“Implementing Diversity” is an easy read and important for anyone who is confused about what diversity is – and isn't. It’s most important as a how-to guide for implementing the concept and doing it right … for everyone.

Chances are, your command or nearby library has a copy of this book. Need some suggestions for your reading list? Visit the Navy Professional Reading Program’s web site at www.navyreading.navy.mil

1 comment:

ElizabethZ said...

The Navy understands the value in diversity - of ideas, experiences, backgrounds, cultures and more, and has a number of initiatives in place to attract, recruit, develop and retain a diverse Total Force.

Mentoring is key to personal and professional success, balance between life and work is essential, and ensuring the two goes a long way towards achieving and maintaining the diverse talent pool needed to carry out the Navy's mission.

For more information on the Navy Diversity Program visit: http://www.npc.navy.mil/CommandSupport/Diversity/ and for life-work initiatives see the Task Force Life Work site: http://www.npc.navy.mil/CommandSupport/TaskForceLifeWork/