By Leah Smiley
Strategic management is an ongoing process that provides overall direction to an enterprise and enables an organization to achieve its long-term goals. It consists of a range of activities from business planning and decision making, to business unit integration and policy, to communications and evaluation.
Peter Drucker was an influential pioneer and one of my favorite strategic management theorists. He made many important contributions to strategic management, but two are particularly notable. First, Mr. Drucker stressed the importance of objectives. An organization without clear objectives is like a ship without a rudder. Second, Mr. Drucker foresaw the importance of what would soon be called “intellectual capital”. He predicted the rise of what he called the “knowledge worker” and explained the consequences of this for management. He said that knowledge work is non-hierarchical. Work would be carried out in teams with the person most knowledgeable in the task at hand being the temporary leader.
Now, in order for these groups to be successful, innovation, valuing differences in conflict, communication, and team building are all extremely useful. The value of these diversity skills cannot be overestimated, especially in an organization’s efforts to fulfill or exceed its goals. Additionally, in respect to gaining market share (or increasing donations, or enrolling more students), having a business strategy that incorporates diversity allows an organization to take full advantage of global opportunities. This strategy will integrate diversity into all organizational functions including HR, marketing, corporate contributions, procurement, legal, technology, and customer service to name a few.
Sometimes I feel like I’m beating a dead horse, but I can never emphasize enough how important it is to have a formal, written diversity plan. We plan for retirement, we plan for vacation, we plan for our children’s education—but when it comes to an issue as important as diversity, we take the approach that doing a few programs in accordance to a schedule, constitutes our plan. There are no measurable tasks, no expected outcomes, and no efforts to align our activities to organizational goals.
In a former life, I used to be a management consultant and prepared business plans for small business owners. Years later, I can see how those formal plans that I prepared made the difference between success and failure. And that’s what a diversity plan will mean for you as well. As one wise person once said, “the person who fails to plan, plans to fail.” But I say, “don’t fail, do everything within your power to be the best you can possibly be. Create a strategic diversity plan.”