DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) initiatives are growing quickly in organizations around the world. Leaders and entire departments dedicated to DEI – or EDIB (equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging) – are being installed in for-profit and nonprofit organizations. These teams are committed to deeply embedding DEI principles into the values and actions of the business so that it can be more accessible, welcoming, and empowering.
Here we’ll discuss the “E” in DEI. Compared to diversity and inclusion, the words equity and equality (with which equity is sometimes substituted) are ambiguous terms that can be defined very differently from organization to organization.
According to Robert Harris, Director of EDIB at National Audubon Society, it's "not advisable to use equity and equality interchangeably."
"In general," he says, "equality is when folks receive the same resources in amount and proportion and equity is when differences are recognized. Resource allocation varies based on those differences to achieve equality."
How you implement your DEI initiatives will depend on how these terms are defined. Your definition of these terms will also influence your culture deck, hiring process, team charter, operating agreements, mission statement, media/investor relations, etc. Making sure that they are clear and meaningful for everyone on the team is very important.
Equity may be defined in the following ways:
To review, diversity means that you have various people in the room, equity means that there is awareness that they are not all on equal footing, and inclusion means that you have a process for engaging them. Equality is the outcome of people being equally resourced.
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For those of you leading organizations in growth mode, you are continually having to balance efforts between the business you are and the business you are becoming. As your team expands, you’ll need to consider new and exciting (yes, they can be!) iterations of your org chart.
I recently worked with a corporate team coaching client. We were tasked with building an interdependency journey in Mural that would allow leadership to measure where interdependencies were happening on their global finance team. Interdependency is not only a function of a team, it’s also a quality that emerges at the higher stages of team development (think storming, norming, performing, etc.).
If you’re familiar with McKinsey’s innovation horizons, you know that each level of product or portfolio planning requires new or different team members, leadership styles, mindsets, language, business systems, experimentation frameworks, and management methods.
Just as in innovation, interdependency has a similar way of scaling. According to the 1967 book Organizations in Action by sociologist James D. Thompson, for each level of team interdependence (pooled, sequential, or reciprocal), there are different levels of coordination required (standardization, planning, or mutual adjustment).
Pooled - This type of task interdependence combines separate parts. Business units perform separate functions, not necessarily interacting or overlapping. Like a gymnastics team, however, their individual performance can negatively impact the rest of the organization.
Sequential - Like an assembly line, this type of interdependence means that one unit depends on the output of another before they can do their part. Planning and scheduling become vital to avoid bottlenecks in production.
Reciprocal - These units are highly interactive and reflexive. It’s sequential, but with the addition of multiple rounds or cycles. Teams or departments may adjust as the situation changes (think sales, marketing, product development, R&D, etc.) and if one department underperforms, the house of cards could come crashing down.
A lack of agreement between the types of interdependence and levels of coordination can reduce results, bruise relationships, diminish well-being, or shutter businesses.
For now, consider these questions:
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ABOUT THE Author
Joran Slane Oppelt is an international speaker, author and consultant with certifications in coaching, storytelling, design thinking and virtual facilitation.