Project Management

Why Diversity Improves Project Management – by Michelle LaBrosse

The human capacity for self-delusion is nearly bottomless. We think we’re smarter than we are, more capable than we are and tougher than we are. For example, in one survey, 9% of men actually believed they could win a fight against an elephant!

That unwarranted confidence certainly extends to project management. According to a Project Management Institute survey, 85% of executive leaders said they believe their organizations are effective in delivering projects to achieve strategic results.

For evidence that confidence is misplaced, look no further than the same survey, which found that around $2 trillion is wasted annually by organizations around the globe due to ineffective implementation of business strategy through poor project management. The study shows that, on average, organizations waste 9.9% of every dollar due to poor project performance, and that around one in three projects (31%) do not meet their goals, 43% are not completed within budget, and 48% are not completed on time.

In my experience as a Project Management Professional, one of the key reasons for this level of delusion in project performance is a lack of diversity at the executive level.

Lack of diverse perspectives

A lack of diversity at the executive level can create a corporate environment in which project management failures are overlooked or even hidden. A C-suite full of men with similar backgrounds, experiences and education is likely to create, however unintentionally, a “group think” environment that excludes outside voices and discourages self-examination in defense of the status quo.

This can become a self-perpetuating and self-reinforcing system which is closed off against outside influences and continues to reward poor project management practices to the detriment of the organizations.

Project managers and others trapped in these sealed systems are less likely to recognize the need for change due to the lack of diverse, outside perspectives. The self-delusion and belief that “everything is going to be fine” can prove disastrous. And even if they do identify the need, the system is hard to change because any evolution is dependent on the same leaders who caused the problem.

This rigidity can be disastrous for any organization, but particularly for those that operate in a competitive and fast-changing field. Which is to say, almost every organization.     

Why diversity is the answer

A sincere, consistent, and significant attempt to increase diversity at the executive level can overcome the elements that create delusions of project performance. When committed executives adhere to governance policies that increase diversity at the top of the organization, that diversity spreads throughout the rest of the operation. There are measurable improvements in project performance in organizations that have a more diverse staff with policies that enable diversity. Increasing diversity lifts the veil of delusion all too common amongst mono-culture, male-predominant executive leadership at all levels of society.

Research shows companies with more gender and ethnic diversity enjoy increased profitability. A McKinsey & Company study found a bump in profitability from increasing diversity. Just increasing the percentage of women in leadership by 1% increased the profitability difference between the most and least diverse companies by 40% from 2014 to 2017. Imagine what could happen when gender equity is 50/50 in the executive ranks!     

Boston Consulting Group also did a study on the impact of diversity and innovation. It surveyed more than 1,700 companies across eight countries and a variety of industries and sizes, examining diversity in management positions in respect to gender, age, national origin, career path, industry background and education.

The study found “a statistically significant” relationship between diversity and innovation outcomes in all countries, with more diversity, the stronger the relationship. It also concluded that the most diverse enterprises were also the most innovative, as measured by the freshness of their revenue mix.

Of course, diversity doesn’t just happen. It’s created by such top-down initiatives as fair employment practices, participative leadership, management support, divergent thinking, and open communication practices, which are often in short supply in companies.

It’s time to stop kidding ourselves when it comes to our abilities in fighting elephants and project management. No amount of work is going to help with the former, but the latter can be enhanced by improving diversity.


Photo by Daria Nepriakhina 🇺🇦 on Unsplash

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One thought on “Why Diversity Improves Project Management – by Michelle LaBrosse”

  1. Hey there, Michelle Labrosse! I just finished reading your article on why diversity improves project management, and I must say, it’s a fantastic piece that really highlights the importance of embracing diversity in project teams. Your insights and examples really drive home the idea that diverse teams bring unique perspectives, experiences, and skills to the table, ultimately leading to more innovative and successful project outcomes.

    I completely agree with your point about diverse teams fostering creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. When people from different backgrounds come together, they bring a wide range of ideas, approaches, and problem-solving techniques. This diversity of thought can spark new and innovative solutions that a homogenous team may have never considered. By encouraging diversity and creating an inclusive environment where everyone’s voices are heard, project managers can tap into this creative potential and unlock groundbreaking ideas.

    Additionally, your emphasis on diversity enhancing adaptability and resilience is spot on. In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business landscape, projects often face unforeseen challenges and require quick adjustments. Having a diverse team means having a pool of individuals with varied skills and experiences, which can be invaluable when it comes to adapting to unexpected situations. Different perspectives can help identify alternative strategies, mitigate risks, and find opportunities in adversity. Ultimately, this diversity-driven adaptability can significantly improve project outcomes and enable teams to navigate complex and uncertain environments.

    Thank you for sharing such an insightful article, Michelle! Your perspective on the benefits of diversity in project management is truly eye-opening. It’s clear that embracing diversity isn’t just about ticking boxes or meeting quotas; it’s about harnessing the power of different perspectives to drive innovation, creativity, and success. Your article has inspired me to continue championing diversity in my own projects and to encourage others to do the same. Keep up the fantastic work!

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