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Organizational Design Uncategorized

Diversity and Inclusion as Competitive Advantage, in 5 Steps

Originally published on LinkedIn

In an article first published in 2004, Harvard Professor David Thomas argued that the real competitive advantage of a diverse workforce is the capacity of its members to learn from each other so that they can develop an expanded range of competencies that can be applied to all aspects of their work. If this is true, then it would stand to reason that striving for both diversity and inclusion would increase a company’s competitive advantage and impact its bottom line.

Here are 5 steps to increase your company’s competitive advantage by leveraging both diversity and inclusion.

Step 1: Differentiate Between Diversity and Inclusion

The first step is to have a detailed discussion at the senior leadership level on the meaningful differences between the concepts of diversity and inclusion. To achieve competitive advantage, the company leadership must make distinctions between the two. Although a company may boast tremendous diversity among its staff, from administrative teams to management, steps need to be taken to ensure inclusion is part of the overall strategy.

Diversity is variety, inclusion is action. Having people from different backgrounds, with different religion, gender, race, and age from one another is diversity. But a team with diversity doesn’t necessarily mean a team with inclusiveness. Inclusion is more than just random variety, is is purposeful, it requires a culture that mindfully validates and facilitates growth and development of everyone, and that includes variety in every cross section of the whole.

A colleague once constructed the perfect metaphor for differentiating between the two: “Diversity is being invited to the party; Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Step 2: Understand How to Create Opportunities

You should work with senior leaders in the organization to consciously address the “inclusion deficit.” Having people that are different is not enough; people in the organization need to be nurtured, opportunities for advancement need to be created, and more focus needs to be directed toward the retention of these individuals.

Without a sincere effort to improve bias or other barriers a minority group might face within the company, things are not likely to improve. Failure to change the status quo leaves employees without opportunities for advancement and leaves the company without a strategic opportunity to increase its competitive advantage.

Step 3: Re-Evaluate Company Practices

A thorough audit of the company’s practices is imperative to identify specific ways to transform the work environment into a truly inclusive space. Is uniqueness being valued? Are employees made to feel like an insider within the organization? Is there a clear channel for their ideas to be presented and considered? And most importantly: does the senior leadership team’s diversity reflect that of the company’s employees?

It serves no purpose to recruit intelligent employees with diverse backgrounds, unless you create an inclusive environment that allows them to reach their full potential and drive innovation.

Step 4: The Value of Inclusion

In order to persuade the leadership to put their time and attention behind this effort, and to approve an executable plan of action, it is crucial to show them that the biggest value in working towards creating a truly inclusive work space is a boost in competitive advantage; inclusiveness also increases the employee retention rate. And finally, by giving all of the team members a voice and real, tangible opportunities for growth, advancement and development, the company effectively becomes an incubator of new ideas and processes.

The Boston Consulting Group and the Technical University of Munich led a study** in which diversity leaders, HR executives and managing directors at 171 European companies from a wide range of industries and sizes were surveyed. The study demonstrated a clear relationship between the diversity of companies’ management teams and the revenues they get from innovative products and services.

Step 5: Communicate and Implement the New Strategy

Finally, both individual and group discussions with managers and key members of the team need to be held, while being especially careful to curate a diverse team of speaker so that everyone’s concerns can be represented, and sincere, fully supported efforts to address them are implemented. This will increase their sense of belongingness to the organization.

These inclusive practices should be clearly communicated to the entire team, as this sends a strong signal to the company’s employees that they have a chance to be successful within the organization. A successful company strategy is one in which everyone understands that diversity is getting invited to the room, inclusion is getting a seat at the table.

In today’s global economy, a dynamic team embodying diversity and inclusion is better at adapting and reading the market, understanding what a non-homogeneous clientele’s needs and wants are, and delivering a solution that will have a high success rate.

*Thomas, David A. “Diversity as Strategy.” Harvard Business Review 82, no. 9 (September 2004).
** Lorenzo, Rocio et al “The Mix That Matters.” Digital BCG (April 2017).

Change Management Digital Transformation Disruption Organizational Design Technology

Top Reads: 7 Self-Assessment Areas for Digital Transformation and AEM Readiness

Are you in the early stages of undertaking transformative change with your organization? Change can be both exciting and intimidating, depending on your level of preparedness. This is true whether you are adopting an all-in-one experience management system like Adobe Experience Manager or even digitizing paper processes. To help with your preparation, we’ve compiled a fantastic collection of articles in the areas we believe are most critical to a successful transformation.


Successfully implementing a large-scale project requires a deep understanding of your ultimate goal and the strategy that will get you there. You must have a clear vision of success, objectives that tie into your overall business objectives, and a realistic understanding of what can be reasonably achieved.

Leadership commitment

No major transformation is a one-person job. Do you know who your key stakeholders are, and are they engaged and committed to the success of the project? Is your project a priority at the highest level of the organization? Do your executives have the skills to lead the company through the change?

Change management

As we’ve said before, change is hard. There’s simply no getting around it. But being realistic about the magnitude of the change and communicating effectively with your team can go long way toward easing the growing pains you are bound to experience.

Organizational alignment

When you think about your organization as a whole, how would you rate its capacity for change? Large-scale projects require an enormous amount of bandwidth, and the attention and coordination of business units across the enterprise. Having the right culture is an important and often overlooked factor.

Business alignment

An effective digital transformation isn’t simply doing things differently; it can fundamentally change the nature of the business itself. When you assess and redesign your business processes, it can call into question some ‘sacred truths’ about your business and operating models, and force you to redefine what it means to deliver value to your customers.

Technology alignment

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of digital transformation is the promise of new capabilities provided by technology. Even skilled IT teams can be pushed to their limit in adopting new tech. It’s important to recognize when outside expertise is needed, and be open to it. CIOs and other tech leaders will need to be both flexible and disciplined to make the project a success.

Risk and security

Nearly any big change comes with some kind of risk. The important thing is being aware of the risks involved and doing what you can to mitigate them. Maintaining the security and integrity of your data has to be a primary concern.

We hope you’ve found the articles above helpful in preparing you for the change you are about to undertake. Ready to assess just how prepared you are?

Download our 21-point readiness assessment here.

Organizational Design

10 Best Business Operations Practices for Startups

This article was originally published on LinkedIn

Starting a business and hiring your first few employees can seem daunting. Without having a solid foundation, your efforts at managing finances, human resources, marketing, office locations, clients and stakeholders, can quickly become overwhelming. This may compromise a business’ chances of success.

However, following these proven strategies that ensure smooth operations’ practices will position your company for success.

1. Define Who You Are

Have a clear, well-construed message to your growing team, your current and potential clients, and to yourself. What makes your product or service unique? What do you offer that your competitors do not? What does your company want to be when it grows up? Answering these questions will help you understand your competitive advantage and will aid you in securing and retaining top talent. People want to work for leaders with vision, and if you can’t sell the business ideas to your potential employees, how are you going to fare with your clients?

2. Build a Strong Foundation

Clearly define all processes and departments, even if you don’t yet have staff to fill all of the roles. The most fundamental departments every startup should have are Administration, Marketing & Sales, Human Resources, and Accounting & Finance. These will become your sustainable foundation, allowing your company to scale up and maintain its manageability. You do not need to wait for a team to build your departments. I once set up these four basic departments with independent protocols and defined guidelines, despite having a team of just one!

3. Pick the Right Players

The biggest asset you will ever have in any startup is your people, so you must choose your team strategically. This is easier said than done, especially as you try to balance hiring enough people to provide the services that will keep your business afloat with onboarding the profit generators and the support staff that manage the actual business. It can be difficult to retain your star players when your company is growing and you don’t yet have much to offer in perks and benefits. Your clear vision of where you want your company to be in the future can inspire your employees to make them want to be a part of something bigger. Together, you can achieve the results you have envisioned.

4. Manage Your Team Expectations

Having determined your vision of the company’s future and established a sustainable foundation, you need to manage your team’s expectations. Doing so is an ongoing project that requires a clear line of internal communication explaining where the company is, where you want it to go, and how everyone’s contributions will help the company get there. Transparency is paramount, lest you risk losing valuable resources if they feel trust has been broken.

5. Keep Records of Everything

Document all of your processes and archive every document, email, memo, and receipt. Since cloud storage is incredibly affordable these days, take full advantage of it and maintain impeccable records. Pay special attention to your bookkeeping; your accountant will thank you later. The better you keep track of your records, the better your business analytics will be.

6. Manage Your Cash Flow Wisely

Bookkeeping should be a priority, both for the sake of record-keeping as well as a gateway for evaluating your company’s health. Watch your business spending and audit often. Although you cannot fully control the stability of your business income stream, you do have a much bigger control on its spending. Of course, an idea that becomes a business must be fueled by passion. Just don’t forget that actually running a business means you will also need a steady positive cash flow.

7. Automate Your Finances

There are plenty of options for every industry and company size, so there is no need to waste time manually creating invoices, chasing late payments, or processing payroll. Find a solution that works for your business model and remember that the small financial commitment you are dedicating for these services will actually yield anther commodity you might not have enough of: time.

8. Know Your Audience

In a competitive market, it is not enough to simply have a good product. You must also excel in customer service. Great customer service is first and foremost a combination of good communication and adaptability; every client is different and you must be able to meet their unique demands and speak their language while maintaining your company’s standards of quality.

9. Serve Quality

When you make products people want to buy, marketing is secondary. If your product quality leaves much to be desired, no amount of marketing will salvage it. Mistakes happen, and whether you sell a product or a service, addressing mistakes by thoroughly analyzing what went wrong and working to amend it will yield results and improve quality. Your team can use mistakes, and the efforts to correct them, as learning opportunities to fuel growth.

10. Invest in Your Company’s Future

Oftentimes, it becomes tempting to cash in on profits, rather than reinvest in your company growth. You must resist this urge in favor of your company’s future. Take a cue from successful companies like Amazon, whose revenue keeps rising while net profit stays incredibly low. While not every company is going to be the next Amazon, the lesson is the same. Invest in your own growth and plan for the future.

Organizational Design

Organization Design: 5 Must-Read Articles to Transform your Business

Clearly, organization design plays a key role in the success of any company – but it goes well beyond some geometric shapes on a page in an employee handbook. There are endless opinions on what is best, but we can generally agree that effective and strategic management of organization design is far more than the traditional adjustment of those lines and boxes and is critical to staying ahead and remaining competitive – no matter what might get thrown your way.

Below, I have suggested 5 articles to give you a good understanding of what strategic, intentional organization design is (and what it isn’t), along with critical fundamentals and practical application tools on getting it right the first time that are universal to most companies regardless of size, demographics or current structure.

Organization design: The Missing Link Between Strategic Planning and Execution

You’ve invested valuable resources into designing the perfect strategic plan. Now what? Your plan isn’t the problem, but your execution could be. In this short read, Ron Capelle offers three critical steps to ensure your new strategic plan moves your company from a carefully constructed theory into real life reality and the results you expect. Read more

Boosting Performance Through Organization Design

Is your business more likely than its peers to be flexible and successfully responsive to changing business conditions? This detailed article is based on a late 2016 survey of 1,100 executives and other employees at companies with more than 1,000 employees, representing ten industries in more than 40 countries. In it, BCG offers in-depth discussion, analysis, supporting evidence, links to related articles, and recommendations regarding six factors of organizational design most likely to influence a company’s performance, growth and profits.

“A company that incorporates all six will benefit from a multiplier effect: its chance of becoming a top performer increases to more than 50%”.

Read more

How Organization Redesign Could Help You Survive The Age of Disruption

In these times of disruption, fast and furious is generally the rule. To not only keep up, but to stay ahead, Steve Olenski explains that organizations need to “maintain a strong yet adaptive organizational design.” But how? In this article, you will learn four effective steps to clarify what to keep and where to improve, and lay strengthening groundwork to continually adapt and remain competitive. Read more

10 Guiding Principles Of Organization Design

Top CEOs recognize the need for organization change, but they also understand that “shifting the lines and boxes in an org chart” won’t cut it in this business environment.

“A company must make its changes as effectively and painlessly as possible, in a way that aligns with its strategy, invigorates employees, builds distinctive capabilities, and makes it easier to attract customers.”

With an average tenure of only five years, global company CEOs generally have one shot to get it right. However, companies across all industries and geographies can benefit from the fundamental principles offered. Gary L. Neilson, Jamie Estupiñán, and Bhushan Sethi have compiled this article that is well worth the longer read as it provides the sustainable “how to” for leaders whose strategies require a different kind of organization than the one they have today. Read more

Getting Organizational Redesign Right

Initiating organization change that results in disappointment obviously leads to reduced-morale, wasted time and lost expense, not to mention hesitancy and skepticism towards trying again. The good news is that leaders can dramatically increase their odds for success…the first time…using the nine golden rules illustrated in this article. Read more

Change Management Organizational Design Team

Meet Chris Becker, NetEffect CEO

Chris Becker is an experienced consultant and entrepreneur with a background in international consulting, managing new business startups and driving large impactful corporate change initiatives. As the CEO of NetEffect, his focus is on digital transformation. This includes identifying opportunities for companies to change the way they do business by leveraging the power of web, mobile, and other emerging technologies.

We caught up with Chris to learn how he works with both large corporations through to small technology startups to analyze, discover and apply innovative ways to leverage technology to improve performance, team interaction, quality of outputs and speed of action. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn here.

NetEffect helps large organizations think and act more like startups. What experience has given you the skills and insights to provide these types of services?

Early on, my focus was in organization design and change management. This has proven to be a solid foundation of concepts and tools when looking at how to help an organization be nimble, while still being mindful of how to effect change in organizations with thousands of people, a range of products and services, competing priorities and functions, and complex business processes.

While we talk a lot about technology, most of the challenges arise in the use of that technology to enable business process and to equip people with new ways of working. Anyone can get the technology perfect, and still fail on execution due to lack of attention to large organization dynamics and the changes affecting people. Even a well-conceived strategy can be lost in the minefield of execution.

Organizational priorities, the complexity of work, evaluating and positioning talent, and organization design all need to align with technology innovation and disruption. The result requires a more holistic effort, but the payoff is form and function coming together to create sustainable business value and advantage.

This approach has provided a solid starting point to enable our technology team to build compelling experiences and solutions. NetEffect can be described as a powerful blending of consulting, digital agency and product development capabilities.

Culture quote Peter Drucker NetEffect

Specifically, what kind of companies have you worked with and where do you provide support?

We have a broad team with experience in a range of geographies, industries and organization types. Organization design and change management was an early focus and has now become a part of almost everything we do. Since 1995, this has included the financial services (e.g. VanCity and Coast Capital credit unions in British Columbia, Goldman Sachs, Sun Life Financial), energy (e.g. EnCana), automotive (e.g. Nissan) as well as professional services, NGOs and retail (e.g. Canadian Tire, Hudson’s Bay).

Our focus now is on large scale change in complex organizations with a particular concentration in financial and professional services. Complexity is not just size. It can be driven by geographic coverage, product range, brand equity and innovation and organizational models. Organizational models for example, have expanded greatly over the past 20 years:

  • More collegial and partnering networks for organizations
  • Independent contractors and agents versus traditional captive employees
  • Loose affiliations between complementary companies
  • Joint ventures and strategic alliances
  • Complex vendor/sub-contractor relationships and more.

At NetEffect, we are utilizing these new working models to adapt and learn, and equip us with more versatile ways to work so we can bring these types of models to our clients. This can greatly increase client focus on core capabilities while building in expertise and speed through these other models. Greater flexibility to engage external expertise and capabilities help bring fresh perspectives to large organizations that often rely on their own internal functions and teams which can often result in them losing sight of the dynamics in the marketplace. The emergence of ‘Software as a Service’ is an example of alternative models for leveraging best in breed applications and technology. Change must be a continuous improvement process of self-examination and growth that can often be painful.

Recognizing how interconnected strategy is with execution helps ensure the real business need is always kept front and center when working on the necessarily deep technology efforts. Too often, technology is left with abdicated authority to make a change which inevitably leads to lost value and failed efforts. With the rise of nimbler, technology-enabled competitors, large organizations do not have time to repeat mistakes and restart efforts over and over.

Change quote Jack Welch NetEffect

We’ve had the chance to work with clients from the point where the strategy is defined but requires articulation to drive it down to meaningful words, phrases and themes that are going to matter to the people on the ground. These often expand to projects or programs that are designed to rally people within the organization to a common cause and move quickly. Having a clear starting point at this stage can make all the difference when moving to designing, building and implementing a solution – be it a new product, new ways to interact with the market, or innovative ways of working.

When you then combine strong technical and operational capabilities, including partnerships with best-in-breed software, you have a powerful combination to provide strategic execution capabilities to large organizations struggling to keep pace with new, smaller competitors that have a greater impact on industries over time.

What prompted your transition from a consultant to an entrepreneur?

Sooner or later you have to practice what you preach and eat your own dog food! Consulting from an early age was a great chance to see a wide range of organizations in action. Eventually my words sounded hollow without the sense of ownership and weight of responsibility that comes with accountability for outcomes.

So, around the mid- 2000s, I worked with a small team on a social media startup. As CEO, I led a team building a ‘User Generated Content’ Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform. We worked with media companies, large brands, and agencies to leverage, monetize and engage consumers in user-generated content. We successfully sold that business in 2015.

What followed was a powerful and somewhat unique perspective, combining complex organization consulting with the scrappy world of bootstrap startups. This is the spirit around which we’ve built NetEffect.

So the transition was gradual and I’d say it’s now a less of a transition and more a combination.

Consulting is embarking on a discovery process of getting to know and understand a business’s issues, and coming up with ways to solve those issues in new and innovative ways. From that perspective, consulting provides a wealth of ideas to help entrepreneurs figure out ‘what problem they are solving’. So in many ways, consulting and entrepreneurship are tightly interwoven.