Leader: #BalanceForBetter

On Friday 8 March 2019, it will be International Women’s Day, and the theme is #BalanceForBetter



Achieving balance is not as easy as it sounds. It requires change and change is difficult for many to embrace. Challenging normalised behaviours, embedded processes, perceptions and conventional thinking requires organisations and institutions to embark on a programme of change and transformation. When an organisation decides to implement Diversity and Inclusion (DI), it is effectively saying it is committed to a change and transformation programme with a success criteria that results in notably different behaviours, perceptions, processes and procedures. Only when the success criteria of the DI change and transformation programme have been met, and the benefits realised, can an organisation say that they are diverse and inclusive. Until then, stakeholders can only say they are working towards it. 

A DI change and transformation programme takes time; it is not an overnight success. Commitment must be long-term, and stakeholders need to remain enthused and motivated to push on until the end of the programme. It is easy to forget that short-term successes are temporary, and it is hard to resist the temptation to rely on short-term successes as indicators of accomplishment. 

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In my professional life, I am an agent of change and transformation. I manage many programmes of change and transformation. All the programmes I manage involve implementing new technology, which forces change on people in the way they work and behave, as well as transform processes and procedures. Having done this type of work for nearly twenty years, I have observed how people respond to change and transformation, and it is rarely positively. I have often noted how offended and defensive individuals become trying to resist the change, particulary when they feel forced to embrace the transformation.

In my view, embedding DI in an organisation is no different from embedding new technology in an organisation and, with that in mind, it would make sense to establish a DI programme of change and transformation in the same way as setting up a programme for new technology. As with any programme of change and transformation, it would require sufficient funding and resources to support a programme, and a commitment to a delivery date to complete the programme with sub-workstreams within the programme that focus on communications, technology, data, people and processes, because they are all interlinked and inter-related. Without funding and resources in place, a programme of change and transformation will be critically flawed. It will struggle to complete and become a waste of time and energy. This will cause resentment amongst those who are expected to embed the DI change initiative. Organisations wanting to achieve balance by embedding DI are  more likely to be successful if they follow a structured programme management methodology.

Reflecting on the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day #BalanceForBetter has made me understand the importance of a diversity champion role for The OR Society. The ORS Diversity Champion is a change agent striving to achieve balance through a set of transformative strategic initiatives. Any good change and transformation programme manager would be ideally skilled and experienced to step into the role of the ORS Diversity Champion. They would be able to transfer their existing skills to help the society’s board and general council remain engaged and committed to the ORS Diversity and Inclusion strategic initiatives, as well challenge established processes and unspoken conventions to enable change and transformation to be introduced. Being an agent of change requires strength and perserverance in the face of resistence, and it is the knowledge that future generations will reflect on and celebrate the change and transformation, especially those who fought hard to implement them, that will make the role worthwhile. I stood in the recent elections for president because I wanted #BalanceForBetter. I stood for election, in the face of adversity, because I want The OR Society always to have elections for their high profile roles with nominated candidates pulled from a diverse and inclusive pool of interested members. I want every nominated candidate to have the full support and encouragement of the board and general council members, in the interest of embedding diversity and inclusion and remaining true to their pledge and commitment to continually embed diversity and inclusion.

That is my legacy, as the first ORS Diversity Champion, demanding #BalanceForBetter. As I hand over the baton to the next ORS Diversity Champion, I also urge them to push on with the necessary DI change and transformation programme, so they too can leave a notable legacy that contributes to a #BalanceForBetter world.