I recently had the great opportunity to present a number of conference papers in Croatia, Nigeria and the UK covering a range of change and project management topics. In particular for the papers I presented in Nigeria, I was asked to cover diversity in teams. I decided to use the term inclusivity rather than diversity, as for me it had a different sort of energy associated with it. One that was more positive and strong.
I needed to be clear on my definition. I chose the definition from the Collins English Dictionary (2012) that stated that inclusivity was ‘the fact or policy of not excluding members or participants on the grounds of gender, race, class, sexuality, disability, etc’.
Nigeria is a country of more than 168 million people (as per 2012), with over nine different ethic groups with different religious beliefs, customs and views. They also have a reasonably young population. Most of the people I met at the conference were younger men and women who wanted Nigeria to become a number one African country. There is incredible opportunity in Nigeria, willingness and yet still some big hurdles to overcome, some of it relating to the ethnic diversity within the country and some historical beliefs and values that at times impacted on team formation.
Project management was seen by the 300 people in attendance at the conference to be one way that Nigeria could contribute to their country’s economy but move them into being a first class African nation. For me, when focusing on inclusivity I thought of three elements: self, team and organisation.
- Firstly, change starts with the individual. So understand what role culture and cultural differences play in your context.
- Secondly, there is a team need to build bridges between different diversity elements in a team with a strengths based approach.
- Thirdly, there is an organisational need to be competitively advantaged in this global economy to leverage the combined strength of diverse people.
In my next three blog posts I will share with you some of my thoughts in these three areas around some key questions to ask and processes to follow to build inclusivity at these three levels.