As a project manager, I’m fortunate to work with diverse teams. This means that the team members have differences, such as ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, professional experiences, and so on. The fact that the individuals look at opportunities and problems based on their unique perspectives, creates an environment that is filled with creativity and innovation.
Learning to Accept Others
The first step to creating a diverse workforce is to have an open-mind. There are far too many leaders and managers who prefer to work with people who think like they do. The problem with this approach is that the backgrounds and experiences of the individuals are similar, which means that they are looking at the situation in a similar way. The solutions derived from a homogenous team are often limited in depth. This occurs because consensus-building happens quickly, given the people think nearly alike.
I’ve been fortunate to work with managers who are open to having diverse teams. In fact, most of them are merely looking to assemble a qualified team, and it just so happens that diversity occurs naturally. However, managers must take an intentional approach to creating teams that are composed of people with different backgrounds and perspectives. It’s not enough to hope that diversity is the end-result of the team formation process.
My Scrum Coaching Example
While attending a Scrum coaching conference in San Diego, the participants were assigned to teams of 6 people. Our group was tasked with learning more about the project management concepts of Scrum and Waterfall. To make our name catchy, we called the topic “Scrum Fall.” Waterfall is an approach to managing predictive projects, such as swimming pool construction, planning an annual conference, and so on. Differently, Scrum is an Agile framework dedicated to unpredictable projects, such as software development.
Our team was composed of four women and two men, and the nationalities included Asian, Caucasian, Hispanic, and Indian. The first step was to determine the process by which our team would present the results to all the participants. As a college professor, presentations generally mean that a PowerPoint approach is best. However, the Indian female team member suggested that we use an engaging skit. The young Caucasian participant, who makes many presentations for her company, recommended that we use clear examples. The Asian male on our team reinforced the importance of including clear literature to support our stance. Even though our team was diverse based on ethnicity, the input was based largely on work experience. By working together, we delivered an excellent presentation on the final day of the class. We worked together for two days, and some folks from the audience commented that they could feel the synergy we had as a team.
Creating high-performance teams is far from easy. When running projects, my job is to find the right people to do the right work at the right time, and for these individuals to make the right decisions. Given that so much of the work performed today is complex, it’s important to have teams who can look at the situation from unique perspectives. To reinforce a point made earlier, let’s make sure to have an open mind when staffing teams. The focus must be on performance, and diverse teams oftentimes have the aptitude to deliver excellent results.
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