Keeping the momentum for D&I over the years or even after a decade presents a widespread challenge. Adapting the positioning of D&I to a changed business context and re-inventing core messages are established success strategies in this situation.
It was a common situation that we found at first sight: A lot of ground work had been completed on D&I, a portfolio of good practices was in place and a generic governance model described roles & responsibilities, including a few KPIs. Nevertheless, there was a lack of energy, let alone enthusiasm, in the organisation. The company did not want to change some of the tools that were well-established, but still wanted to generate new momentum and increase buy-in and engagement from key stakeholders.
Asking the right people meaningful questions and listen carefully
The traditional approach to revamping your strategy could be a SWOT analysis by expert stakeholders based on KPIs and evaluation results. While we recommended to set up a concise inventory of ‘as is’ information, we proposed to conduct interviews with selected key stakeholders on a one-on-one basis. In a first step, the selection included a few Executive Board members, a few second level (still very senior) leaders, and a number of key multipliers or opinion leaders. In a separate group, subject matter experts who were involved in D&I were included. According to the different perspectives covered, questionnaires were set up accordingly. For senior leaders, these focused mainly on the strategic fit and business value – both experienced or perceived as well as expected or prospected. The discussion guidelines provided space to bring in external insight or examples to influence leaders at the same time as capturing their input. For subject matter experts, the questionnaire focused on reactions from the organisation and the effectiveness of mechanisms that were applied.
Decoding information and consolidate messages
Almost twenty leaders shared their observations and ideas, and stated their expectations regarding the way forward. In a complex, and sometimes diverging set of information, it was vital to understand which elements can help to reposition D&I in a way that builds upon past success, is aligned with existing fundamentals and at the same time describes a new approach that is seen progressive, promising and adding value. At the same time, the new positioning should reflect current priorities at the company but also remain relevant for at least a few years. The evaluation of all interviews revealed a few recurring themes that was used to describe a new approach to D&I with a strong identity. It was geared at emphasising both, the character of embedding D&I in existing practices and in the culture, and giving D&I a stronger explicit profile at the same time. Both is facilitated, for example, by showcasing some of the good practices that were generated during the first strategy cycles. The new approach was then used to change and improve some of the existing D&I programmes (e.g. mentoring) and tools to reflect the new positioning. In addition, the governance model – including KPIs – was revamped as a consequence of the new positioning.
Unite stakeholders behind new approach and assign new roles
With concrete recommendations and a few options for different ways forward, the interview partners were informed about the outcomes of the strategy review. It was essential that the stakeholders could clearly see where their input was built in – or why not. The focus clearly lied on the changes in the concept and hence the attributes of the new paradigm. Needless to say that the support of Executive Board Members was paramount and that the key stakeholders had to be brought on board. Also, the senior leaders had to agree to assume roles in deploying the new concept and to make sure in in their business areas or geographies, accountability was going to be assumed. The fact that a new leadership framework was introduced did help a lot to create both synergies and understanding.