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3.1 How To Identify Your Organization’s DEI Goals/Objectives

Align DEI Goals with the Organization’s Objectives

Most organizations that profess a commitment to DEI lack a plan for achieving it. Or, if they do have a framework, it is ineffective because it is not organic, strategic, or cohesive. Too many fail to treat DEI as integral to the organization, instead establishing separate departments and DEI goals. 

The first step in creating an effective DEI strategic visioning framework is to identify the organization’s existing goals and objectives. To become part of its DNA, DEI principles must be woven into the fabric of the organization; they cannot exist in a silo.  

A common mistake that derails DEI initiatives is the creation of a standalone DEI strategic plan. The failure to align DEI practices with the organization’s goals is the single greatest reason why DEI initiatives flounder, never reaching their real potential.  As illustrated by this diagram of an effective DEI strategic visioning framework, it is a DEI Leader’s responsibility to establish a framework that is sustainable by aligning DEI principles to the organization’s existing goals and objectives. 

A diagram of a diagram of a mission purpose

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DEI Strategic Visioning Framework

A DEI Leader does not need to develop a mission, vision, core values, or the like, nor should they. DEI initiatives are much better received if they are presented within a context that reveals an appreciation of the organization’s operating realities. Sound ideas can be unfairly criticized or ignored altogether because they fail to take into account an important aspect of the organization’s brand or operations. 

The process of identifying an organization’s DEI goals and objectives starts  with the organization’s own “constitution” — the words it uses to define itself internally and to others.

As we’ve written elsewhere about what it takes to be an effective DEI leader, organizational intelligence is an essential skill of a DEI Leader. It is a predicate for evolving an organization so that it chooses to integrate DEI best practices into its operation, not because it was forced to. This is accomplished using the organization’s own language, exploring and expanding its perceptions so it may understand how the organization’s own words encompass key DEI concepts.

DEI and the Organization’s “Constitution”

The process of identifying an organization’s DEI goals and objectives starts with the organization’s own “constitution,” which is comprised of the words it uses to define itself internally and to others. How does the organization want to be seen? How does it present itself to its employees, customers, and the community? These aspirational statements take the form of vision or mission statements,  core values, and public pronouncements of the organization’s culture and objectives, revealing what is important to the organization.

Selection of its DEI goals and objectives is also informed by the organization’s strategic or business plan. It may be formal. It may be piecemeal. It may only be concepts shared by a few senior managers, but every organization needs a plan to operate. A DEI Leader must have access to that plan to design the initiatives to support it.

An organization may not always utilize DEI terminology in its constitution and other self-defining materials, but because all organizations are comprised of and serve people, DEI is intrinsic to their very existence. It falls to the DEI Leader to translate the organization’s own  language into DEI-related concepts. 

Regardless of whether its constitution includes terms like “respect,” “diversity,” or similar words rooted in the principles of DEI, an organization can only fully reach its goals and objectives when it uses a DEI lens to give life to its aspirations. An illustration based upon an actual business case is useful.

FamilyMeals, Inc. is a fictional regional restaurant chain that describes itself as “a family business that serves families.” Founded in 1957, its marketing materials portray what it sees as the “traditional” families of that era. Sales are in decline, and its efforts to expand by entering new markets have failed to meet expectations.

A DEI Leader recognizes that if FamilyMeals wants to keep its “family” tagline, it needs to see its markets through a DEI lens to understand that the families of today and tomorrow do not look like the 1950’s ads and images they are displaying. After the company updates its marketing message to be more inclusive, portraying the diversity of families found throughout its region, sales steadily increase.

All organizations are comprised of and serve people; DEI is intrinsic to their very existence. It falls to the DEI Leader to translate the organization’s own language into DEI-related concepts.

FamilyMeals’ management was receptive to modifications to its messaging because it felt like it was able to remain true to its brand of serving families. By helping the organization evolve its perception of what family means, its bottom line improved.

In some instances, the connection between the organization’s existing self-portrait and DEI is obvious. The organization may have a separate diversity statement and core values around diversity and inclusion. If not, there are more subtle paths. A company that declares, “We hire only the best,” for example, needs to attract and retain “the best” individuals, who are found across the many Dimensions of Diversity.

When an organization does include DEI language in its constitution or business plan and/or has created an internal DEI position it has tacitly declared that DEI is important,  no matter where it may be on the DEI journey. Management has given permission to drive DEI principles throughout the organization.

Connect the DEI Dots

Crafting and executing an organization’s DEI initiatives begins with an analysis of its constitution’s relationship to DEI. This is the foundation of a DEI Leader’s organizational intelligence. It provides the authority to lead the organization and hold it accountable to its own stated aspirations and objectives as opposed to being forced to change.  

After identifying what is important to the organization, it is up to the DEI Leader to connect the dots so that management (and, ultimately, the rest of the organization) understands why uniting DEI principles with organizational goals is the lynchpin to sustained success. It is absolutely essential to explain how each DEI initiative is linked to the organization’s own declarations of what is important.
DEI Leaders seek first to understand where the organization is. They recognize that the organization’s current worldview probably includes definitions of success without regard to the principles of DEI. However, a DEI Leader is prepared to make the case for evolving that worldview and demonstrate the organization’s own words and aspirations require that DEI practices be embraced and implemented.

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