Diversity and Inclusion Wisdom from a College Student

Enjoying Georgia Tech homecoming 2017 with mascot Buzz

Often in my “off-work” life I am on the look out for good material for my blog, especially since I try to publish an entry three or four times a month. And I lucked out while attending by 40th college class reunion at Georgia Tech in late October this year.

The Georgia Tech Alumni Association offered a robust series of events on Homecoming Friday at their new Georgia Tech Global Learning Center. One session I attended was the student panel talking about student life at Georgia Tech. I knew it would be fun to see how campus life differed from my time (1973 – 1977) 0n campus.

The panel included 2 male and 3 female students from various majors involved with a wide range of activities on campus. The panel moderator opened the discussion with a few planned questions before opening the floor to alumni, most of who were attending their 40th and 50th class reunions. Discussions included topics such as favorite traditions, hardest classes and easiest classes. Certainly there have been many changes over the past 40 or 50 years.

One of the more notable changes is the gender make up of the entering class. When I arrived at Georgia Tech, approximately 10% of the student body was women. Now the latest entering class was over 40% women. It is great to see the drastic increase in women pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education and careers.

Then one gentleman in the audience asked a particularly fascination question of the students, “Who do you feel are smarter at Tech – the men or the women?”

After a short somewhat awkward pause, one of the women on the panel gave a profound answer. She said:

“I have been on project work teams in my classes where I was the only woman. I have also been on project teams that have been entirely women. And I have found the most successful project teams have been those with a good mix of men and women. We often have different ways of looking at issues and problems, and it seems that teams that have more diverse ways of thinking end of with the best results.”

As a diversity and inclusion consultant and trainer, I was so heartened that this young woman could articulate the value of diversity of thought that many organizations still need to learn. Often diversity breeds an increase in creative thinking leading to the best solution to business challenges, the best product offerings and the best customer support. This makes me enthusiastic about the future of American business and the future business leaders coming out of universities such as Georgia Tech.

The Power of Open Decision Framework and Diversity of Thought

Allison McMurray, Senior Director, Global Talent Center of Excellence at Red Hat presented the Open Decision Framework of Decision Making and Project Management at our February 2017 TSRM meeting

As a SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) member of two local chapters (Raleigh-Wake and Triangle SHRM in the Raleigh – Durham, NC area) I attend as many of these chapters meetings as I can. And when there is a fascinating and useful presentation, especially if it intersects with my consulting areas of diversity and career development, I will write a short blog about it.

On February 16, 2017, I attended such a session at that month’s TSHRM meeting, titled “Open Sesame! The Power of Open-Source Decisions.” Allison McMurray, Senior Director, Global Talent Center of Excellence at Red Hat presented the Open Decision Framework of Decision Making and Project Management.

A few years ago, I heard Red Hat CEO and President Jim Whitehurst speaking at a session on Corporate Social Responsibility, and he offered Red Hat’s commitment to “open sourcing” as a prime example that aligns with community efforts to provide free access to important information and applications. Link to my blog about that session. Allison McMurray at the TSHRM session followed up with the Open Decision Framework as a proven process within Red Hat that is now documented and available for anyone to use. Link to Open Decision Framework on GitHub.

The Key Elements of Open Decision Framework include:

Open Exchange. This includes leading with transparency, publishing work as it proceeds, setting expectations up front, and managing those expectations along the way.

Participation. It is crucial to engage customers and stakeholders early and often. Effective participation includes making it safe to voice concerns, and being specific about what feedback you are looking for.

Releasing Early and Often. This means as the project progresses, publishing progress openly. That includes showing how feedback was used in shaping the project direction, and being open about ongoing expectations around requirements and constraints.

Meritocracy. The best idea wins no matter where and who it came from. This truly encourages everyone to contribute.

Community. That a team can truly accomplish more together

I believe it is very easy to see that using this framework for managing any project would increase its probability of success.

The Open Decision Framework strongly supports one of the emerging sub-fields of diversity and inclusion, Diversity of Thought. Companies are now looking beyond diversity of appearance and to diversity in ways of thinking. When companies open themselves to diverse approaches to business problems and developing solutions, often a blended solution which includes different ideas results in a much stronger answer. When an enterprise is comprised of leaders who all think exactly alike, there is a huge potential for missing entire market segments and innovative products and offerings. Embracing diversity of thought includes listening to others and keeping an open mind to creativity and innovation.

This “Open Decision Framework” is an excellent execution of Diversity of Thought, and I encourage all my blog readers to get more information about it and look at building a cultural shift to project management at your enterprise.