What is “It,” Anyway?

Before I start, let me acknowledge that I will probably offend a lot of people with this article. That’s because a lot of people have used diversity as a means to promote or further their personal or group agenda. I don’t mean to distract from those agendas. Others have deliberately excluded themselves from the conversation assuming “it” is not for them. I don’t want to assign any meaning or motive to that decision. I merely want to offer a perspective based on years of involvement as a practitioner in the field. The original intent of the movement called diversity management was to create an environment that allows all people to maximize their contribution.

When people ask me what I do, I am quick to let them know, I don’t do diversity work. Instead, I work in the field of diversity management. What’s the difference, you may ask? Well, in order to do diversity work, you would have to believe that there is work to be done on diversity. I DON’T! My experience is that we are all swimming in a sea of diversity every day. Why do we want to change that? Let it be. We live in a world where ever-increasing diversity is a fact of life. I don’t bother to work on facts of life. That would be like saying, you know, it seems that everywhere you go, people are constrained by the need to breathe air. We need to do something about that. I suspect that you, like I, think that is an absurd notion. Yet, by working on diversity we are essentially saying, you know, everywhere I go, people look, act, and think differently. We need to fix that.

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So, I choose to assume that diversity exists. I choose to recognize and acknowledge diversity as a fact of life. That allows me to focus on what I believe is the real issue-diversity management. I help my clients get 100% from 100% of their people, 100% of the time by equipping them to implement diversity management as an organizational strategy.

Years ago, someone observed that we live in a world where the only constant is change. The only certainty is uncertainty. The only sure thing is that nothing is for sure. Next thing you know, there was an army of people who called themselves change agents and change experts. They described change. They dissected it. They analyzed it. They asked “who moved my cheese?” Then one day, some naïve outsider said, no matter how much we study change, it keeps changing. Perhaps change is not the issue. Perhaps we should focus more on change management. Since change is a fact of life, let’s just recognize and acknowledge that fact and develop ways to get results in the midst of a sea of change. Thus was born a discipline called change management. Change management and diversity management have a lot in common. They both require us to “face the facts”. They both invite us to take action with those facts in mind.

I have said repeatedly over the past few years that any professional speaker, consultant, facilitator, executive, pastor, or leader who does not have basic competence and advanced comfort with diversity is fast approaching irrelevance. It should be the objective of the all diversity practitioners to make sure that anyone who is wise enough to seek can find good counsel and good learning about diversity. It is also important that we help shift perspectives about the field.

There is a Ziggy cartoon in which Ziggy is standing in front of a vending machine that says, “never mind what it is, just deposit 50¢.” I’m afraid we have followed that advice when it comes to diversity. We make decisions about “it” without knowing what “it” is.