VOICES In the Trenches
A Richer Chorus
How organizations can use project management to increase diversity.
By Colleen G. White, PMP
Colleen G. White, PMP, is the director of
diversity and inclusion at Cardinal Health in
Dublin, Ohio, USA.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION are often viewed
as “feel good” functions within HR departments,
which provide programs and activities for employees who have time to attend. My organization, a
Fortune 500 healthcare services company, views
diversity and inclusion very differently—so much
so that it includes a program manager in its efforts
toward these goals.
Cardinal Health believes that an inclusive
strategy that seeks diverse perspectives lets us better anticipate the needs of the marketplace and
leverage the talent of our people as a competitive
advantage. In other words, diversity and inclusion
are business imperatives and are managed as such.
Diversity Goals as Projects
At Cardinal, a Diversity and Inclusion Council
chaired by the CEO approves the overall diversity
and inclusion strategy. Next, senior leaders collaborate with the diversity and inclusion team to develop
goals that support the strategy. These goals are executed as projects with defined scope, accountability,
deliverables, milestones, risk and metrics. In my role
as program manager, I work with project sponsors
to ensure the projects are executed according to
plan and are collectively providing defined benefits.
I also work with the project teams to ensure scope
is maintained, milestones are met and issues are
resolved. Project updates are provided at a regular
cadence, and overall progress is measured by representation metrics and trended employee satisfaction
scores. These are reported annually to the Diversity
and Inclusion Council.
Because it’s so rare for project management prac-
tices to be used in diversity and inclusion, we’ve
run into several challenges. The projects and pro-
grams we support can take years to see measurable
results. This can make adhering to timelines dif-
ficult, and robust project planning, scope control
and stakeholder management are critical in man-
aging the work.
Another difficulty has been reporting, as most
stakeholders have no project management
software and aren’t familiar with project management terms such as requirements or scope creep.
Working with our Operational Excellence department, I adapted reporting formats from its Lean
Six Sigma toolkit. We chose
a format with all key items
on one page—business case,
goals, scope, risk, stakeholders,
deliverables and key milestones. This has made project
tracking and reporting easier
for all stakeholders.
One project that has been
particularly rewarding for me
is Engaging Men to Advance
Women, which began in 2013.
Its goal is to create an even
more diverse and gender-balanced culture in which men
are supporting the progress of
women into leadership. Project
participants are male leaders
at the vice president level and
above, trained to engage in the company’s efforts
to increase the number of women in leadership
positions. Among the groups led by men participating in the project, female promotions as a percent
of total promotions experienced a double-digit
increase. Like all projects with a goal to change
culture, this multiyear project requires much communication and stakeholder management. PM