You are not qualified to lead the D&I Initiative
A call to action for my fellow white executives.
What does an Executive Consultant who is a privileged cisgendered white man know about D&I initiatives.
Short answer - not a damned thing.
And with that, many have chosen to once again avoid the discomfort of dealing with their complicity in the systematic racism that runs through the blood of corporate America.
I am offering an alternative for my fellow white executive men. This is how you can stay in the backseat of these initiatives, but still offer guidance. This is especially true if you do not have any black people in executive positions at your company or at the company you are a consultant to.
I guess to be fair, it is a challenge as much as an alternative. Find your expertise in the structure and help apply that while abdicating the leadership of the content and outcome to the experts.
I am an operations and organizational executive consultant.
I am an expert.
Here is how I would assist.
You must have goals.
It is this very realization that helped me see a real way in which I can help. I can help with the process of change in areas that apply regardless of the change a company is aspiring to.
I will use an Agile transformation as an example since I happen to be an expert in both the mechanics of and the content within an Agile Transformation (feel free to check me on this statement - LinkedIn).
Agile is NOT A PROJECT.
Agile is a mind-shift transformation.
I see very consistent and complete failure when companies treat an Agile transformation like a project. They learn scrum or other “agile rituals” to meet the goal that is written “we will have X teams performing Y rituals by Z date.
These kinds of goals are USELESS as the primary goal of an Agile Transformation. They measure the steps that a group will take, they do not measure the mindset outcome at all.
Agile initiatives must have OKRs or SMART goals or Rocks or whatever your company uses as measures at the very top of whatever hierarchy you have. Finally, the business outcome must become part of your culture.
If you want help creating those goals - that is something I am happy to charge you for and they will be specific and in line with your other business outcomes.
In the end, the creation of the goals for this level of an Agile initiative should be developed with the guidance of the Agile experts who are driving your transformation.
How does that apply to D&I?
D&I is NOT A PROJECT.
D&I is a mind-shift transformation.
Having a goal that is written “we will have X teams that have completed Y training by Z date.
Again, these kinds of goals are USELESS as a top-line goal. They measure the steps that a group will take, they do not measure the mindset.
D&I initiatives must also have OKRs or SMART goals or Rocks or whatever your company uses as measures at the very top of whatever hierarchy you have. Finally, the business outcome must become part of your culture.
Yes, I am saying to look at your 3 - 5 corporate culture value statements that people are hired and fired against and until you can point to the one that demands diversity and inclusiveness, you have not completed your transformation.
Some better initial goals might be:
By FYE 2020 we will have re-stated our corporate values to ensure and include a definitive and explicit Diversity and Inclusion statement.
Second level might be:
By Q42020 100% of our HR staff will be anti-racist practitioners.
If you really want help creating those goals - that is something I am honestly not qualified to help with. The examples I gave are very broad and likely not specific enough for a company to “just adopt”.
In the end, the creation of the goals for this level of a D&I initiative should be developed with the guidance of the D&I experts who are driving your transformation.
You must have experts.
This brings me to the next place of very consistent and complete failure of an Agile transformation. People leading who are not experts.
I have heard all the excuses not to use Agile experts to do a transformation. The easy one is money, but usually not really the primary reason. Most of the time it is a perception of loss of power. Fear is real and the VP or the C level person who is fearful of the fact that there are those who know more is very limiting and will hold entire companies back.
A few folks internally who have “been through the training” and “know the rituals” are not the same as people who have led (and have the failure stories to go with it) transformations.
This is not some “internal side gig” where the current leader of your command and control based PMO “can add this to your quarterly goals”.
It should be easy to see how this also applies to D&I initiatives.
The fear of White people not being in control is at the very heart of this issue and no one should believe it will just go away because the CEO wrote a really good press release in support of BLM.
Just like letting folks who had a couple of trainings or read some good books on Agile, looking to well-meaning, non-experts internally is a bad decision for D&I as well.
As a white person, getting educated is great; I would say it is required even. However, having learned some things through a book or by acting in support an expert does not make.
So just because I have read White Fragility and So You Want to be an Anti-Racist and fly BLM and HRC LOVE flags, while at the same time possessing superior transformation and change management skill does does not make me qualified to lead a D&I initiative.
I am putting this here to drive the point.
Looking to your “goto” consultant may also NOT be the right answer.
Just like the Agile transformation - to be qualified to lead a transformation of any kind, one must have chops not only in leading transformation but be an expert on the content of that transformation.
Being white is a disqualification filter in my opinion.
I am not sure a white person can ever truly understand this content enough to be in the lead spot. I feel sure that people will disagree with this - mostly white people.
I did not post this for your agreement - I posted it to help you improve.
Pay for the expertise.
If you are lucky enough to have internal people who are experts at the content and have the ability to lead a transformation, then pay them!
Again, this is not an “internal side gig” and for D&I attempting to do it like this actually makes things worse.
If you do not have the internal expertise to lead this transformation, then do what all solid companies do in this case. Hire an external consultant who does. Be prepared to pay them just like you would any other consultant group. Consultants are not cheap, and never free. You should set the budget and look for a D&I consultant just like you would any other consultant.
A common topic from experts like Madison Butler and Denise Branch is - PAY for your D&I. Not doing so is to reinforce that something black people uniquely have is not worth anything. That is the opposite of being anti-racist.
So my challenge to my fellow white executive leaders - do not “sit this one out”.
Find a way to help but not in the lead.
This is a time for the unaffected to become outraged.
As Ben Franklin said - “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
I continue to receive input and guidance from my friend and long time colleague Aaron Smith. Without his support and guidance, much of what I have written on this topic would fall flat and certainly short of the mark. Thank you Aaron.