CHANGING FOR CHANGE
By Dhiraj Rankhambe
Director EDREST (Entrepreneurship Development and Resources Support Trust)
Navi Mumbai, India (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Plato and Aristotle (Greeks) did not conceptualize society as something distinct from the different kinds of political institution they discussed. The move was in eighteenth –century Enlightenment. Johan Heilbron suggests that ‘Rousseau was probably one of the first to use ‘societe’ as a key concept and explicitly to reason in terms of “social” relations’. (Reference: Alex Callinicos, Social Theory A Historical Introduction; Published by Polity Press in chapter 1, The Enlightenment 1.1 Prehistory Page 10, IInd paragraph).
Muslim Philosopher and Historian Ibn Khaldun “Man is a child of the customs and the things he has become used to. He is not a product of his natural dispositions and temperament”. (Reference: Alex Callinicos, Social Theory A Historical Introduction; Published by Polity Press in chapter 1, The Enlightenment 1.1 Prehistory Page 11, Ist paragraph).
A. The concept of modernity
The significance of the Enlightment lays in large part in the fact that it broke with this assumption. It did so by formulating the idea of a new age which no longer seeks to derive its legitimacy from principles derived from the past, but rather offers its own self-justification. In Jurgen Habermas’s words: ‘Modernity can and will no longer borrow the criteria by which it takes its orientation from the models supplied by another epoch: it has to create its own normatively out of itself.’
This conception of modernity as a new epoch representing a radical rupture with the past gradually takes shape in the course of the eighteenth century. It implied a changed relationship to historical time. Whereas previously European intellectuals had oriented towards the classical past, now they turned towards the future. A critical stage in this reorientation came at the end of the seventeenth century in what came to be known as the querelle des ancienset des modernes. Various French and English writers argued that the ‘new science’ of physics developed by Galileo, Descartes, Boyle, and Newton was decisively superior to anything the ancients had written. In particular, Bernard de Fontenelle, secretary of the Academie des Sciences, argued that scientific knowledge had not simply progressed, but would continue to do so indefinitely into the future.
The idea that knowledge progressed was readily extended to the claim that the entire course of human history represented a more or less continuous forward movement. Turgot wrote of a man in 1750. “Possessor of the treasure-house of signs … he can assure himself of the possession of all his acquired ideas, communicates them to other men, and transmit them to his successors as a heritage which is always being augmented. A continual combination of this progress with the passions, and with the events they have caused, constitutes the history of the human race, in which no man is more than one part of an immense whole which has, like him, its infancy and its advancement.
Gandhi’s India – Unity in Diversity.
I do not consider myself worthy to be mentioned in the same breath with the race of prophets. I am an humble seeker after truth. I am impatient to realize myself, to attain moksha in this very existence. My national service is part of my training for freeing my soul from the bondage of flesh. Thus considered, my service may be regarded as purely selfish. I have no desire for the perishable kingdom of earth. I am striving for the Kingdom of Heaven which is moksha. To attain my end it is not necessary for me to seek the shelter of a cave. I carry one about me, if I would but know it. A cave-dweller can build castles in the air, whereas a dweller in a palace like Janak has no castles to build. The cave-dweller who hovers round the world on the wings of thought has no peace. A Janak, though living in the midst of “pomp and circumstance” may have peace that passeth understanding. For me the road to salvation lies through of humanity. I want to identify myself with everything that lives. In the language of the Gita I want to live at peace with both friend and foe. Though, therefore, a Mussulmen or a Christian or a Hindu may despise me and hate me, I want to love him and serve him even as I would love my wife or son though they hate me. There are no politics devoid of religion. They subserve religion. Politics bereft of religion are a death-trap because they kill the soul. (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi – National Book Trust, India, Gandhi’s India – Unity in Diversity)
Dr B R Ambedkar
“On the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which the Assembly has to laboriously build up.”
All the above leaders and scientist have emphasis of having equality and equanimity to sustain development and build a better entrance in the new era. Which also mean “changing for change”, which is not an evolutionary process only but a conscious action, to see and quantify the change. Thus understanding diversity at both social and economic (business) level becomes important. Embracing diversity are conscious efforts, not of showcasing how unbiased one is, but realigning once own mind and determining the actions for inclusive society. Equality may be the myth but equal opportunity is for harmony inside and outside, of mind and society.
B. What is cultural diversity?
Cultural diversity, at the simplest level, reflects the characteristics that may make one individual culturally different from another. Cultural difference involves patterns of lifestyles, values, beliefs, ideals and practices. Cultural diversity includes differences in race, ethnicity, national origin, language and religion.
It is tempting to believe that to learn the details of difference cultural norms will help the workforce to operate more effectively. However, learning about different cultures is useful only so long as the dangers of stereotyping are recognized.
A young British woman from a particular cultural or religious background, born and educated in the UK, will have had different life experiences from the older British woman from a similar group, born outside the UK. Age, background, experiences will all have an influence on how the two individuals interact with the culturally dominant population. Young Asian men, born and educated in the UK, will also have differing influence, pressures and needs from those of older Asian men who have migrated to the UK. And yet, on the face of it, they are from the same ethnic group and gender and we could be tempted to give a blueprint as to how, for example, a white person should interact with them. This could lead to stereotyping a group rather than finding out about the individuals.
C. Cultural Diversity at Workplace
The subject of cultural diversity in the workplace is highly sensitive and offers a variety of challenges to managers. Effective management of a culturally diverse workforce can mean change to the working environment, including making a variety of amendments to the current rules and regulation; it also implies the sharing of power and decision making.
Often individuals will throw up barriers to the changes required by saying that they ‘treat everyone the same’. We should move from ‘treating everyone the same’ towards identifying discrimination, recognizing the effects of past discrimination and recognizing the exclusion, or under-utilisation, of different sections of society. But much more importantly, a diverse approach means valuing differences and treating people in ways which bring out the best in them.
Primarily, this entails the successful management of a multi-cultural workforce in a global context. But it also means being able to vary services across cultures: not simple marketing ploys imposed from outside, but an understanding of how culture drives differences from within.
The development of genuinely transnational business organizations therefore requires managerial approaches and systems which allow for variations deriving from such diversity. This might be “national” cultural diversity between nations, races or ethnic groups (example in a two-nation joint-venture), intra-national diversity involving the range of cultures within a single nation (example in the USA), or internal cultural diversity where managers need to deal with foreign-owned transnational companies in their own country. All this is well known, and there is indeed a burgeoning literature on the management of cultural diversity. But the problems go deeper than is often appreciated: it is not simply a matter of minding manners or learning to deal with varying attitudes to punctuality. These are the surface manifestations of much deeper differences in mental structures.
A few examples will make this clear.
1. Negotiating Alliances
In a world in which cross-cultural joint ventures and alliances are essential, problems of ethics and trust will loom large. How is it possible to achieve a balance between the necessary and the contingent in business ethics, or in other words to allow for flexibility between a strong corporate ethic and the need to adapt to difficult local conditions? And how can we learn to build a lasting trust relationship with people from a different culture? How can managers going to the negotiating table be prepared for the very different styles they will face? It is not merely a question of setting bargaining ranges, toning down confrontational styles, or following pre-established rules. That is sufficient for making a deal, but not for setting up a permanent alliance. It is essential to grasp the deep structures – religious, social, ethnic and ethical – which influences the way the opposite party will reason, the way they will react to different presentational styles, what they expect and how they listen.
This requires a level of genuine understanding which goes beyond rapidly-acquired skills. Recent studies have shown how an inherent sense of cultural superiority is often enough to undermine European joint-ventures in Third World countries even when extensive training has been provided. Such “superiority” emanates from non-verbal aspects of behaviour like the tone of voice and body language, which few people other than accomplished actors are able to control. Humility is a key factor, how is it possible to inculcate this quality in managers whose education has often prepared them for anything but humility?
2. Human Resources
The global operator obviously needs managers capable of working globally. Some European companies are now recruiting “non-nationals” in order to resolve their problems quickly, but how does a human resource specialist trained in his own culture, who can make a rough assessment of a candidate’s capabilities in a brief interview, deal with the problems of recruiting staff in other cultures? How valid is psychological testing when applied cross-culturally? How much do most human resource managers know about other school and university systems?
Suppose a German manager needs to choose between, say, a Finn, an Italian and a Portuguese. That would require an awareness not only of the very different education systems in European countries but the ways in which educational background influences patterns of thought and managerial style: how, for example, education underlies the way in which the same conflict might be addressed in France by seeking orders from a superior, in Britain by sending the people in conflict on a management course, and in Germany by employing a consultant.
Assuming for a moment that these problems can be resolved, how might the issue of dual allegiance be tackled? For the employment of local managers necessitates the creation of loyalty on their part to a distant entity with culturally diverse norms and assumptions. Even a long-term expatriate who is nominally still of the same nationality but has in fact “gone native” might respond to an order in this way: “I’m sure my local employees won’t like this, so I won’t tell them and try to smooth over the issue in some other way.” It can be much more difficult for the locally employed manager, especially under stress.
3. Everyday Work
Then there is the nitty-gritty of everyday working together, the problem of creating the rituals, the back-room humor and the “off-stage” relationships which are so vital to harmonious corporate life. Company jokes and in-group stories, for example, are notoriously difficult to translate into other cultures: what sounds laudable to a Briton can seem risible to an Italian. Companies which contrived to impose a global corporate culture, such as IBM, did not face the insidious cultural problems of a transnational organization.
Language is another problem. Although it might appear that the use of English as the common working language of the international company community favours native English-speakers, this can turn into a disadvantage when one of them is unaware of the problems that a regional accent or rapid speech might create, and how linguistic confidence can be perceived as a manifestation of quasi-colonial arrogance. Non-conformity with what might be termed the “industry pidgin” can also generate unexpected tensions.
Worse still, behind the words on the surface lurk centuries of cultural and ideological rivalry which has often exploded into war. At moments of strain, when a minor conflict might have irreversible consequences, simmering stereotypes and prejudices boil up. Studies of cross-cultural teams indicate that often it is the most superficially similar cultures which in the end experience the greatest traumas: while differences such as those between the US and Japan are obvious, serious problems often occur where they are least expected – say, between Britain and Denmark – and warning signals are neither perceived nor acted upon. In a competitive world like yours, in coming decades, nothing may be taken for granted.
Resistance: Resistance is not the same as prejudice. Prejudices are prejudgments – attitudes and beliefs about particular social groups.
When people are resistant they are unable to seriously engage with the material. They refuse to consider alternative perspectives that challenge the dominant ideology that maintains the status quo. They resist information or experiences that may cause them to question their worldview. They may dismiss the idea that oppression or systemic inequalities are real.
Resistance stems from fear and discomfort. Because we are asking people to question their fundamental belief systems, it makes sense that people feel threatened and act resistant. Defensiveness, specifically, is a way to mitigate anxiety, assuage guilt, or protect against other painful feelings. It is irrational, an automatic reaction rather than a considered choice. When people’s needs for safety and stability are not met, they turn off, shut down, and avoid new information – hardly conditions for education to occur.
D. Structures and Values
In general, the system is set up to the advantage of dominant groups. People from the same groups gain material benefit from oppression. The very nature of being part of an advantaged group means that one has greater access to resources, opportunities, and unearned privileges because they are denied to others. Social change threatens these privileges that have been taken for granted and alters the rules of the game.
E. The Way Forward
Cultural training is essential to avoid potential conflict, and to improve the disastrous failure rate of joint-ventures in the recent past. In fact, most companies with global ambitions now provide cross-cultural training in order to create genuinely international managers. This sometimes involves in-house training, and is also provided by consultants and business schools. Yet much of this training deals with the traditional, superficial problems without seeking to explore the deep causes of underlying cultural differences. Another problem is that much of the research and background material is rapidly outdated as the pace of change accelerates. No comprehensive solution to the problems of cultural diversity has yet been conceived. Indeed, there has been little specific research. Yet it is clear that preparation for the successful management of such diversity in all its ramifications will be a vital component of long-term success in the global market. For while business is already global, management remains culture-bound.
a. Making the Case for Diversity and Inclusion: Strategies and Approaches
Definition of diversity is everything that makes us “different” from others, such as race, gender, values, work styles, communication styles and characteristics. To define inclusion as recognizing the importance and value of bringing together individuals and their different perspectives in our various workplace processes.
Achieving sustained success requires the highest possible quality and most effective workforce and workplace. Anything less leaves superior business results to chance. Business success is about moving beyond inclusion and building intercultural competence. Employees can “buy in” to the value of building a culture that supports diversity.
Thus, diversity and inclusion need to be a core business strategy to bring a systematic approach by:
1. Support from the senior leadership.
2. Assessing the current culture in the organization and the readiness to change.
3. Outlining the strategies to align the key business objectives and overall goals of the organization.
b. Measuring Diversity Preparedness and Readiness
Once organizations realize the importance of addressing diversity, they must ask the following question: How do we determine our current status related to diversity?
Develop and administer a customized employee cultural assessment survey. By making the survey available to all employees, they are more likely to be accepting of the findings. Use the survey tool in conjunction with one-on-one interviews and focus groups.
1. Focus on building awareness by building understanding and encouraging reflection.
2. Develop a vision of inclusion which defines the direction change.
3. Rethink key management concepts and principles to match new vision.
4. Plan for action oriented-integration which translates the principles, vision, and competencies into observable and measurable behavior. (This leads to fostering development and reinforces the vision and principles of Diversity.)
1. Create visible displays throughout the organization showcasing all areas of diversity.
2. Establish Affinity Groups.
3. Hold monthly celebrations/events embracing diverse groups.
4. Establish diversity lunch/learn programs.
5. Produce a monthly newsletter geared to recognizing efforts and highlighting diversity initiatives or programs.
6. Provide on-going communication on the company intranet around upcoming events that encourage employees to participate.
7. Establish a listening post through the use of the employee survey to understand where the organization is with building acceptance and understanding among groups.
8. Develop exchange programs to foster key learning competencies with your global workforce.
9. Encourage job sharing and job shadowing across geographies.
10. Correct your recruitment advertisements and brief your consultants and selection panel.
11. Establish learning programs that are varied to accommodate different learning styles.
12. Develop programs focusing on cross generational workforce awareness and work styles to promote interdependence and acceptance.
13. Compensate employees for volunteering efforts with community outreach programs and groups.
14. Edit current policies regarding benefits to ensure all employee populations are represented and offered equal coverage plans.
15. Establish recruiting/retention affiliations in diverse communities.
16. Hold or participate in Diversity Job Fairs for all levels, quarterly/half yearly or yearly.
17. Create internships through partnerships with minority higher learning institutions to attract and build hiring pools.
18. Design programs for the diverse talent pools hired to assist in communication and build on assimilation.
19. Develop benchmarks for utilizing vendors that are minority-owned.
You need to determine our Diversity financial spend, goals, set the targets, and evaluate the results.
These are some of the best practices to enhance the acceptance of diversity and inclusion. I am sure there are many more that you can brainstorm, which are feasible for your organization.
Diversity initiatives build trust and perceptions of trust. With trust comes engagement and with engagement comes retention. Furthermore, retaining staff keeps our labour costs down, serves our customers with continuity and overall experience bottom line impact to business outcomes. It also fulfills the moral obligations to work towards work space excellence.