As we discussed in our previous post, while numerous companies are diving into DEI work, few are achieving the results they need.  And while that can often be attributed to the first three reasons we outlined around not starting with executive mindsets and letting fear of failure and fear of unintended consequences lead the way, we know there are many other reasons DEI fails to produce material change.


4. Burying DEI in the Organization

There was a time where it was “good enough” to have someone who with DEI in their job description.  Often, this role was combined with another job and sat in HR.  Responsibilities might have included policies, community outreach, and maybe leading sensitivity training.  We know now that the role must be much more than that, and yet, it often still sits buried in the business, sitting somewhere in HR, often reporting into a VP who reports into a CHRO who reports into the CEO.  The challenge here is that maybe it’s better than not having a role at all?  Maybe?  We now have huge expectations placed on this jobholder when it comes to propelling the organization forward in its DEI journey.  Yet, the role sits buried in the organization, in a place where execution should be expected, but where we would not typically expect an enterprise-level strategy and we certainly shouldn’t expect the level of CSuite influence that may be required to change executive mindsets.


5. Starting with Diversity

Well-intentioned organizations see Diversity as a big goal and often look to change representation in leadership and deeper in the organization.  Let’s be clear, that could be the perfect goal.  And yet, it’s rarely the place to start and is often one of the reasons DEI fails.  Imagine a garden where the conditions are just not right.  You don’t get enough sun, water never seems to come in the right amounts at the right time, and the soil just does not have the right nutrients to grow much at all.   You can continue to run out and get more and more of the same seeds.  Even if you bring in plants that are a bit more mature, but they will still struggle.  Your seedlings will continue to wilt, and it would be foolish to continue to plant them.   But this is exactly what we see happening in organizations that start with trying to hire diversity into their company.   We believe DEI starts with “I.”  Building inclusive leaders who can create an inclusive environment is the only way your organization will succeed with diversity in the long term.


6. Action without a cohesive strategy

Speaking of long term… we find a shocking number of organizations that have quickly jumped to action as an outcome of the events of 2020.  Perhaps some of them had Diversity and Inclusion on their to-do list previously, but the heightened awareness and national conversation likely led them to ramp up their activities in the past year.  We hear of countless organizations that have people who are really passionate about creating change. They sit in all parts of the organization and more often than not, from a place of good intention, they are running out doing the things they think will help.  While this level of passion and involvement is great, unharnessed it can create chaos, and in fact, work against the results your organization wants to achieve. We see this even more in organizations where DEI is buried in the organization (see #4).  It can be a nearly impossible task to pull together everything that is happening in the organization and have it all march toward the same outcome, especially when the outcome is unclear.  Without an enterprise strategy, organizations cannot be aligned on their goal or what progress might look like along the way.  Their activities cannot ladder-up to achieving that goal and any progress they might make can only be attributed to chance.  Organizations without a goal, set to their business context, and with a strategy to achieve it are still at the starting blocks while their competitors are already in the race.


Stay tuned for our next posts on Reasons DEI fails.

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