By Pamela Arnold and Terri W. Kruzan

In part I of this article, we discussed the importance of understanding the impact of your organization’s culture on diversity management work. We compared it to powering up your GPS before starting on a long road trip—enabling you to be strategic and make plans in advance to work through organization culture roadblocks and to capitalize on shortcuts to accelerate progress.

Over the last 28 years, The American Institute for Managing Diversity, Inc. (AIMD) and its affiliated researchers have seen many evolutions in organizational culture occurring in all types of organizations—public, private, and nonprofit. Some of these evolutions are impacting the progress of effective diversity management.

One is the gradual but consistent emergence of a stronger performance/execution focus within organizations. Another is the increasing influence of building and maintaining personal relationships as the preferred way to get work done and achieve individual success. We see signs that the emergence of the performance/execution focus can accelerate diversity management progress, while at the same time the increasing influence of personal relationships is continuing to derail many efforts.

Building and Maintaining Personal Relationships

Let’s delve more deeply into the personal relationships culture driver. It is nothing new—‘knowing the right people’ as a tool for developing business and personal promotional opportunities has been around for a long time. The difference today is that the structure of many organizations is requiring increased collaboration across functions, units, and geographical locations. To be successful in this new world, individuals have increased their dependence on networking and building relationships just to get their jobs done.

This new way of working is inadvertently also increasing the use of informal promotion and development systems based on ‘knowing the right people’—because it is easier, faster, and congruent with how operational work gets done. While at the same time, it decreases organizational culture support for implementing more formal promotion and development systems, based on clear job objectives, competencies and performance.

From a diversity management perspective, if you can identify your organization as a ‘relationship-based’ culture, you will know in advance that formal development and promotional systems/practices will need to be carefully tended and strategically reinforced.

High Performance/Execution Focus

At the same time, the stronger high performance/execution focus emerging within many organizations can be utilized as a support for diversity management work. If an organization is more than just talking about valuing performance—and if it is operationally efficient at goal setting and holding people accountable for executing against these goals, developing clear and measurable diversity management goals can accelerate progress.

It is important to emphasize that this high performance/execution focus is in reality only emerging in most organizations. There are not many true meritocracies—and work still needs to be done to verify that the how of achieving goals is just as important as the what. But performance/execution-focused cultures are more able to hold the organization itself and its people accountable for results.