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Managing Diversity Using A Strategic Planned Change Approach

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Managing diversity using a strategic planned change approach

Earnest Friday, Shawnta S. Friday

The Authors

Earnest Friday, Management in the College of Business Administration, Florida International University, Miami, Florida, USA

Shawnta S. Friday, School of Business and Industry at Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA


Many organizations have implemented various types of initiatives within the last few decades in an effort to deal with diversity. A possible missing vinculum (link) between how an organization deals with diversity and its impact on the bottomline is a corporate diversity strategy that is executed using a planned change approach to systemically manage diversity. While many organizations have implemented a corporate diversity strategy, most have not used a "planned change-corporate diversity strategy". The lack of a "planned change-corporate diversity strategy" is quite likely to inhibit managing diversity from becoming systemic to an organization's culture and its way of doing business, thus tending to disallow the potential benefits of diversity to be maximized. Hence, this paper offers a framework for using a "planned change-corporate diversity strategy" to: progress along the "diversity continuum" starting with acknowledging to valuing, and ultimately to managing diversity; and systemically managing diversity using a eight-step "managing diversity process".

Article type: Theoretical with application in practice.

Keywords: Diversity management, Strategic management, Change management.

Content Indicators: Research Implications* Practice Implications*** Originality** Readability***

The Journal of Management Development

Volume 22 Number 10 2003 pp. 863-880

Copyright © MCB University Press ISSN 0262-1711


Over the past few decades, academicians, practitioners and organizational researchers have recognized that diversity is a phenomenon that has a wide array of affects within the workplace, and society in general (Koonce, 2001; Stark, 2001; Williams and O'Reilly, 1997). In this paper, diversity refers to any attribute that happens to be salient to an individual that makes him/her perceive that he/she is different from another individual (Williams and O'Reilly, 1997). Some widely accepted differentiating attributes include racioethnicity (which encompasses race and ethnicity), gender, nationality, religion, functional expertise, and age. Even though racioethnic and gender diversity tend to receive the majority of the attention in the organizational diversity literature (Stark, 2001; Williams and O'Reilly, 1997), this definition allows for the frameworks offered to be applied to any type of organizational diversity salient to members.

Diversity programs have been implemented in many multinational organizations, primarily, in an effort to improve working relationships between white males, whose relative numbers continue to decrease, and demographically different individuals, whose numbers continue to increase in the workplace (Friedman and DiTomaso, 1996). While many multinational organizations have a corporate diversity strategy, most have not implemented it using the suggested planned changed approach posited in this paper. Given the intensifying "war for talent" in today's competitive, global business environment, it is imperative that the execution and evaluation of a corporate diversity strategy use a planned changed approach to not only acknowledge and value diversity, but to also systemically manage and inculcate diversity into an organization's corporate culture. This type of approach can contribute immensely to an organization's ability to use all of its human capital as a strategic means to gain and maintain a competitive advantage in today's dynamic, global marketplace (Richard, 2000).

It has been purported that if diversity can be effectively managed in an organization, some potential benefits to the organization include greater creativity and innovation, and improved decision-making (Cox, 1991). Conversely, if diversity is not managed effectively, some potential major costs to the organization include, at a minimum, breakdowns in communication, interpersonal conflict, and higher turnover (Cox, 1991). While there may not be much empirical evidence to substantiate claims that effectively managed diversity directly leads to bottomline increases (Chatman et al., 1998; Richard, 2000; Stark, 2001), there is real-world evidence (e.g. Coca-Cola, Denny's, Publix, and Texaco settlements) to suggest that not effectively managing gender and racioethnic diversity has been, and can be, detrimental to organizations and their bottomlines. Thus, it is a logical extrapolation that an organization's ability or inability to create a culture in which diversity is systemically acknowledged, valued, and effectively managed is more likely to determine the affects diversity will have on it's bottomline.

Many organizations have implemented various diversity initiatives as a part of their corporate diversity strategy (Koonce, 2001), but most have not used a planned change approach to strategically align their initiatives with their long-term objectives and strategic positioning. It is highly probable that this lack of planned strategic alignment contributes immensely to the purported ineffectiveness of many diversity initiatives (Stark, 2001). Consequently, an organization that seeks to maximize the potential benefits of diversity should devise a "planned change-corporate diversity strategy" prior to implementing diversity initiatives. The purpose of the planned change-corporate diversity strategy is to align the organization's diversity initiatives (designed to manage diversity) with the organization's strategic goals, and ultimately make managing diversity an integral part of the organization's culture. An aligned planned change-corporate diversity strategy will contribute immensely to the long-term effectiveness of diversity initiatives aimed at better managing all of the organization's human resources. This is especially significant for organizations with a highly diversified workforce. With a planned change-corporate diversity strategy,



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