diversity as strategy

7058 WordsOct 7, 201329 Pages
www.hbr.org IBM expanded minority markets dramatically by promoting diversity in its own workforce. The result: a virtuous circle of growth and progress. Diversity as Strategy by David A. Thomas Reprint R0409G IBM expanded minority markets dramatically by promoting diversity in its own workforce. The result: a virtuous circle of growth and progress. Diversity as Strategy COPYRIGHT © 2004 HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL PUBLISHING CORPORATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. by David A. Thomas When most of us think of Lou Gerstner and the turnaround of IBM, we see a great business story. A less-told but integral part of that success is a people story—one that has dramatically altered the composition of an already diverse…show more content…
Over the past two years, I have interviewed more than 50 IBM employees—ranging from midlevel managers all the way up to Gerstner and Palmisano—about the task force effort and spent a great deal of time with Ted Childs, IBM’s vice president of Global Workforce Diversity and Gerstner’s primary partner in guiding this change process. What they described was a significant philosophical shift—from a long tradition of minimizing differences to amplifying them and to seizing on the business opportunities they present. Constructive Disruption David A. Thomas (dthomas@hbs.edu) is a professor of organizational behavior and human resource management at Harvard Business School in Boston. Gerstner knew he needed to signal that diversity was a strategic goal, and he knew that establishing task forces would make a powerful impression on employees. Early in his tenure, Gerstner had convened various task forces to resolve a range of strategic choices and issues. He used the same structure to refine and achieve IBM’s diversity-related objectives. Gerstner and Childs wanted people to un- harvard business review • september 2004 derstand that this was truly something new. IBM had a long practice of being blind to differences and gathering demographic information only to ensure that hiring and promotion decisions didn’t favor any particular group. So this new approach of calling attention to differences, with the hope of learning from
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