Integrating Diversity Management into the Management of the Organization:
Multiple Case Study with the 7S diversity instrument
Martens, H.1 & Dehaes, R.2
Diversity is more and more seen as a competitive advantage in organizations.
Organizations want to improve their diversity management. We developed an instrument
based on the 7S framework of Peters and Waterman to assist organizations in the
integration of their diversity management into the organization management and
practice. From a social constructionist viewpoint we state that the development of a
common image of the present and the desired for situation is crucial. Working with and
discussing our 7S diversity instrument can support organizations to further develop their
common image of the present and desired-for-situation concerning their diversity
management. The instrument has been used in six organizations in different ways: in a
solely research by the diversity manager, in a workshop approach with different
department heads and their co-workers and within a diversity project group. We research
the effects of use of this instrument to integrate diversity management into the
management of the organization, the effects of the different ways in which the
instrument is used and give further advices and recommendations.
1 Professor HRM, TQM & Organizational Behavior, Applied Economics, Human Potential, Hasselt University,
Agoralaan 1, 3590 Diepenbeek (Belgium). Phone: +32(0)11 26 86 62, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 research associate, HR-consultant in strategic talent management (age and internal mobility); Chronos ∞
Kairos, de Merodestraat 26, 3078 Everberg (Belgium). Phone: +32(0)2 757 64 50, e-mail:
1. Problem Statement:
Need for diversity management in organizations
On the website of the Managing Diversity Conference of 2003 at Melbourne, Australia
diversity and the need for diversity management are described exactly the way we think
about it. They say: “ Diversity refers to all the ways in which people differ, and may be
defined by differences in ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation and ability. Diversity
management is the art of capturing the 'diversity dividend' (the organizational benefits to
be gained by meeting the needs of diverse groups) to maximize the organization's
potential, bringing significant benefits to internal and external stakeholders. The key to
successful diversity management lies in the commitment and attention of organizational
leaders. Successful managers in the twenty-first century, whether in the public or the
corporate sector, stand out as having the experience and tools to deal with the demands
of locally diverse communities in a globalized world. The new leaders position themselves
at the forefront of organizational management and recognize the shift away from the
outdated service delivery model of 'one size fits all' towards a broader and inclusive
approach. This approach is based on the fundamentals of niche market penetration,
product and service customization, the ability to find complementarities rather than
commonality in teams, the management of diverse human resources and diverse
customer relationships, and the creation of an inclusive organizational culture.
Building an organizational competency in diversity management also has far reaching
benefits in contributing to the community and the organization's capacity to engender
cohesiveness. Whilst the dollar bottom line is implicit, attention to diversity can enhance
a new, cultural bottom line for organizations based on service excellence, human
productivity, competitive advantage and meaningful intercultural community relations.”
In this article we discuss a way to improve the diversity management in organizations.
We developed an instrument based on the 7S framework of Peters and Waterman, to
assist organizations in the integration of their diversity management into the organization
management and practice and used it in five other organizations. Some of them just
made the choice to start a diversity management, others are doing efforts for several
years, but all want to accelerate and optimize their diversity management.
We discuss consecutively our theoretical frameworks, the 7S model as point of departure
for the development of the 7S diversity instrument, research questions, methodology and
practice, results and findings, and conclusions and recommendations.
2. Theoretical framework 2.1. An action-research project, based on a social constructionist view on organizations
We chose to study an organization from a social constructionist
angle (Weick, 1995;
Gergen, 1994,1996) and to see an organization as the result of ongoing negotiations
between all the parties involved in the organization. The creation and sharing of
'meaning' is the basic process of organization. This means that an organization is seen as
a co-creation, as something in a constant state of becoming. In social constructionism
organization diagnosis and organization intervention are closely linked. Working on a
diagnosis and seeking joint visions implies a constant construction and deconstruction of
shared 'meaning'. We therefore deliberately avoid scientific research that studies an
organization as an 'object' from an exogenous perspective. We consciously choose to do
action research. The desired output of action research
consists of solutions to actual
problems on the one hand, and of making a contribution to scientific knowledge and
theory on the other (French and Bell, 1995). This is research with the objective of
steering present and future action from the inside, and with the typical co-operation
between individuals working within the system (referred to as “clients”) and individuals
outside the system (referred to as “researchers”). We regard this action component,
working alongside with employees and the implementation of research results, as a
particular mission and challenge. This action-research research strategy implies an
iterative process of purposeful data-collection, feedback to the client group, discussion of
data, action planning, action and evaluation. The perceptions yielded by this cyclical
process are continuously the subject of implementation and testing. This increases the
validity of the generated knowledge in the context of the professional university sector.
This process of collectively negotiate the new way of organizing is the most decisive
within the learning process (Swieringa 1990). In this way we involve people in research
and action so that the organization benefits from its inside knowledge and skills, and,
what’s even more important, that people are motivated to help each other out. By
choosing action-research, we opt for a win-win operation between the organizations and
research. We opt for co-operation between researcher and clients, and work in close
contact with HR-management of the organizations.
This is the framework of our research: an action-research project, based on a social
constructionist view on organizations and directed towards appreciating differences. 2.2. Optimization of diversity management is a complex organization change process
Any process designed to ‘value’, ‘manage’, or ‘increase’ diversity is fundamentally a
change effort. Change efforts must be pervasive and systemic. Change involves new
ways of thinking and acting. From a social constructionist viewpoint we state that the
development of a common image of the present and the desired for situation is crucial.
Organizational change generally implies that a diversity of actors bring about a variety of
change initiatives at various places in the organization (e.g., reformulating the company’s
vision, creating new tasks and functions, generating new structural arrangements,
setting up new training activities, etc.). All these change initiatives have to be aligned in
order to bring about successful organizational change. Organizational change is often
about a complex process of organizational culture change, a change in the prevailing
basic assumptions and norms of the company (Schein, 2004). It always comes down to a
far-reaching, long-term and gradual change process in which the whole organization is
involved. Each person in the organization is ultimately challenged to change his/her
behaviour in relation to other persons. Hence, in every process of organizational change
the creation of situations in which people and groups can learn and change is crucial
Or, as Beer (2000) puts it: “The need to design a process of
implementation that enables organization members to learn is critically important in the
field of organizational change. Indeed, it is what organizational change is about” (p.
434). As a consequence of these premises we opt to deliver a diagnosis and set up work points
together with the relevant organization members.
3. The 7S model as point of departure for the development of the
7S diversity instrument 3.1. Why the choice of this model?
As mentioned in the previous chapter our method of working is firmly based on joint
diagnosis and action planning. It is our intention to further help organizations already
pursuing diversity policies on their way towards their integration, and we therefore aim
to develop an instrument whereby a group of persons my jointly deliver a diagnosis or
take a inventory of the present diversity efforts of their organization. That diagnosis must
give out effortlessly into a series of action points.
For this a framework is necessary, a way of working that is sufficiently straightforward
and sufficiently complex, and in which an inventory can be taken for each aspect over a
continuum ranging from complete integration of the diversity policy in that area to total
absence of diversity policy in that area.
The resultant dialogue makes it possible to discuss with each other the underlying
assumptions and work methods. This produces a shared picture of the current state of
play, a set of work points and, ideally, an objective with quantifiable concrete indicators,
enabling the tracking of progress. This process of co-operation and learning should give
rise to a change of attitude. 3.2. The 7S model, what it is about ...
The 7S Model is better known as McKinsey 7 S, because the two persons who developed
this model, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, were consultants at McKinsey & Co at that
Central to the model is the idea of 'fit' or congruence between the different organization
elements or aspects. These organization elements are strategy, structure, systems, style,
skills, significant values and staff.
An organization cannot be effective unless all organization components are logical
extensions of each other. In organization change you can start in one or several aspects,
but the change will not be effective unless the other organization aspects change with it. Figure 1: 7S model, Peters & Waterman, cit in Kolb D. et al, 1991
Those seven elements are distinguished in so-called hard S’s and soft S’s. The hard
elements are feasible and easy to identify. They can be found in strategy statements,
corporate plans, organizational charts and other documentations.
The hard S’s are Strategy: Actions a company plans in response to or anticipation of
changes in its external environment; Structure: basis for specialization and co-ordination
influenced primarily by strategy and by organization size and diversity; Systems: formal
and informal procedures that support the strategy and structure. (Systems are more
powerful than they are given credit for).
The four soft S’s however, are hardly feasible. They are difficult to describe since
capabilities, values and elements of corporate culture are continuously developing and
changing. They are highly determined by the people at work in the organization.
Therefore it is much more difficult to plan or to influence the characteristics of the soft
elements. Although the soft factors are below the surface, they can have a great impact
of the hard Structures, Strategies and Systems of the organization.
If one element changes then this will affect all the others. For example, a change in HR
systems such as internal career plans and management training will have an impact on
organizational culture (management style) and thus will affect structures, processes, and
finally characteristic competences of the organization.
The 7S model is a valuable tool for initiating change processes and giving them direction.
A helpful application is to determine the current state of each element and to compare
this with the ideal state. Based in this it is possible to develop action plans to achieve the
intended state. 3.3. The 7S diversity instrument
In order to benefit most from diversity as an organization room must be made for diversity and the process of co-operation must be managed’
On the basis of the 7S model of Peters and Waterman, together with the NMBS diversity
study group, we developed a 7S diversity instrument3 (Martens, 2007 A+B) and
published it in the form of a brochure including its application by the NMBS Group. The
purpose is to make a contribution to the creation of a personnel policy that starts out
from the appreciation of difference by examining all relevant company variables
(company goals and policy, vision, strategy, leadership, systems, culture, personnel,
structure, …) to see whether they promote diversity or in fact inhibit diversity and how
that point may be further developed as regards diversity. This is done with reference to a
number of questions for each S. Organization members thus discover that there are clear
links between diversity and different organization aspects and possibilities to do (even)
more. These elements give a total picture of the policy and make clear that diversity calls
for an integrated approach in the different areas.
There is no cut and dried way of working to make a success of a diversity policy in the
organization. The content and the process
determine the success of a diversity policy.
Each organization itself must therefore get down to the job of giving shape to the content
(what do we take 'diversity' to mean?, how do we integrate this in our vision – mission?
– objectives, which actions do we undertake?) and
with the design of the process
we approach it?, who do we involve?, how do we create sufficient support?, … ).
Using the 7S diversity instrument we obtain an idea of the place and integration of the
the ESF(European Social Fund) project “Op de rails naar diversiteit” by the University of Hasselt
together with the NMBS-Groep, from 01/09/2006 to 01/10/2007.
With sincere thanks to research associates Joke Manshoven from 09/2006 to 08/2007, and to Marie De
Keukelaere and Germaine Drieskens from 08/2007 to 12/2007.
ESF: contributions to the development of job opportunities through promotion of employability, spirit
of enterprise, adaptability and equal opportunity and through investment in human resources.
diversity policy within the organization.
We formulate a number of core questions regarding diversity in each organization aspect
and indicate which concrete steps the organization might take to render the organization
aspect more pro-diversity. These steps are drawn from a collection of various check-lists
on diversity currently on the market.
The instrument, containing some twenty pages, is explained in outline. For each S we
give here a summary of the most important questions and work points used as basis for
the preliminary research work and as basis for the subsequent dialogue. 3.3.1. Strategy
- Is diversity included in the strategy of the organization? How does diversity help to
realize the organization strategy? -
Is the vision / mission of the organization in the matter of diversity expressed in
objectives (in the short – medium and long term)?
- Are these objectives sufficiently concrete? Are the results measurable?
- Is the path that the organization intends to follow to attain these objectives described
with sufficient clarity?
We may then consider the following steps: -
Entering into commitments, for example by inclusion in the employment regulations,
developing a code of conduct, signing a diversity charter;
- Making the vision around diversity known internally and externally; -
Further development of mission, vision and objectives in connection with diversity;
- Seeking partnership with organizations concerned with diversity. 3.3.2. Structure
Is there space at structural level for diversity via supporting functions, consultation
groups or other, ... ?
A first important step is to arrange with the management which structures are advisable
to give diversity a clear, visible place within the organization. The project leader plays a
major role in this respect, he has the task of involving the right people so as to arrive at
the most suitable structure.
A second step is the creation and maintenance of structures supporting diversity.
Concerning communication and the involvement of co-workers, decisions are best made
to the measure of the organization. 3.3.3. Systems
Departing from the 7S model of Peters and Waterman we have, to enhance homogeneity
of use, also brought HR systems under the general denominator of systems.
For each system work points were named that each time had the intention of offering
everyone chances to appreciate diversity and to support the diversity policy.
Two conditions must be taken into account in the development of this kind of system.
First, positive discrimination of specific groups must be avoided. This means that
attention is to be paid to the disadvantages that a group may experience through the
introduction of a given action. The effort has to be made to take actions that are
perceived by everyone as being positive.
Second, any action or instrument should be evaluated by the co-workers (or applicants)
so that improvements can be made.
3.3.4. Shared values, superordinate goals
- What are the values that live on the shop floor?
- Do these values promote the further development to an open company where
everyone feels happy?
- To what extent are the vision and desired values of the top management (see
strategy) supported by the personnel? 3.3.5. Staff
The staff of an organization includes all members of personnel from the various
personnel and function categories. Departing from the original version of the 7S model,
we have approached 'staff' purely and simply in terms of presence, as “who is present in
The diversity policy has the objective and consequence of creating a proportional
participation on the shop floor. This can be done via quantitative targets and/or
qualitative actions, or by creating a diversity-friendly image of the organization so as in
time to become an attractive employer for various groups and to work towards a
different composition of the personnel.
Conditions for screening the personnel department are the availability of key or reference
figures in order to examine the desired progress in diversity policy and to include
diversity as a variable in, e.g. satisfaction inquiries, … . 3.3.6. Skills
- Which combination of knowledge and skill predominates?
- Where do the organization and its members do best?
- To what extent is the personnel skilled in dealing with diversity among colleagues and
- To what extent managers can develop teams with persons of different backgrounds?
- To what extent are differences appreciated and lead to real synergy (instead of to
conflicts)? 3.3.7. Style
Good leaders on the one side create an environment in which co-workers feel at home
and and on the other side give constant guidance to processes of renewal towards
greater diversity. Leaders perform an exemplary function in handling diversity.
- Is there a feeling of diversity in the (top) management and the executives? How can
this be seen?
- To what extent do management and the executives take account in their style of
management and communication of diversity among the personnel?
- Do the leaders perform an exemplary role in this respect?
The 7S instrument is a dynamic model. The diversity policy is at its best when the
interpretation of the 7S’s are harmonized with each other. Once the diversity policy is
integrated in all organization aspects, effective en and lasting results can be scored.
Given that organizations regularly change, it is recommended to go regularly through this
guide to common diagnosis and to create each time a ‘fit’ between the various aspects of
the organization. ‘When all seven needles are all pointed the same way, you’re looking at an
organized company’. (Peters & Waterman, cit in Kolb D. et al, 1991)
3.4. Objectivation of our view on looking to results
In order to be able to analyse the results of the works with the 7S diversity instrument
with a certain objectivity, we sought the aid of auditing frameworks. We first tried Ely
and Thomson (2001), a model that is mainly directed towards diversity in work groups.
We found another model in Taylor Cox (1993) that gave us a number of useful indicators
necessary for a good diversity policy.
A third model was found in Doyen, Lamberts and Janssens (2002) who start their
research from the approach used by Ely and Thomas to arrive at 4 angles of incidence for
diversity policy, namely span or focus, the level within the organization at which diversity
takes shape, whether the organization presents itself to the outside world with its
diversity policy, or not as the case may be and, finally, whether actions apply only in
respect of groups or for all co-workers.
From 'span' 3 fields of activity can be mapped out, namely:
- the opening of doors: the removal of obstacles for 'other' employees to enter the
organization and the making of efforts to attract a varied personnel;
- the opening of practices: taking account in the other HR instruments of the needs of a
varied group of co-workers;
- the opening of eyes: training personnel and making them aware of differences and the
appreciation of differences in the personnel; turning to best account the experience,
knowledge and skills of the 'other' co-worker.
Through the 'level' looking glass we examine how the diversity policy finds expression
within the organization: is it top-down or bottom-up? The observed form hardly ever is
purely one or the other and will evolve over time.
Manifest or latent policy refers to the way in which the organization communicates its
diversity policy. Does it or does it not make its commitment public? Does it, for instance,
give training courses under the denominator 'diversity', or is the term completely absent
in the communication?
As fourth dimension Doyen, Lamberts and Janssens (2002) distinguish between ‘specific
or non-specific' measures. ‘Specific measures’ for example, covers such actions as the
making accessible of the workplace to persons with industrial handicaps and the use of
specific recruitment channels. ‘Non-specific’ describes measures arising from ideas about
diversity that are in place for everyone. Training in diversity may also be non-specific by
exploring mechanisms of stereotyping without focusing any particular group.
This model gave us an additional factor, namely a scaling on a continuum of a number of
indicators that lead to a good diversity policy, indicators that may rise to the surface by
working with the 7S diversity instrument.
A fourth source, Özbilgin and Tatly in their recent book ”Global Diversity Management, an
Evidence-Based Approach” (2008), gave us what we were looking for: the criteria that a
diagnostic tool must satisfy in order to be effective. Their research reveals that such a
tool needs to answer to the following criteria:
The instrument must consist of successive steps that, once completed, show the current
status of the organization and facilitate the creation of action plans. The instrument also
has to be complemented with 'awareness-raising information', such as examples of good
practices or case studies.
The instrument must be multidimensional and approach diversity from all the various
− all forms of equality and inequality;
− related to individual, organizational and social matters in order to locate the source of
the discrimination from a wider constitution;
− involving all stakeholders in the organization;
− allowing internal and external networking, exchange of information and benchmarking
with other progressive organizations;
− showing not only the results in a diagnosis, but also the strengths and weaknesses
and how these might be approached;
− (a) evidence-based in terms of past, present and future and (b) showing practices.
The instrument must be sophisticated and accessible at the same time. This means that
a 'standard' use is possible, but a working method adapted to the organization may also
be applied, thus making the instrument sensitive to the priorities of the individual
Armed with this approach to objectivation of results we may now proceed to Research. 3.5. Research questions or propositions
As part of our assignment for ESF (European Social Fund), the development of
instruments or tools making it possible for organizations to develop and continue to
pursue a good diversity policy autonomously, we study what it means for organizations
to work with the 7S diversity instrument. More specifically we seek an answer to the
1. Is the 7S instrument for diversity an effective tool for organization members to
examine how advanced the organization is as regards its diversity policy and
which possible steps may follow? What are the possible improvements?
2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different ways of working with
the 7S model? Which recommendations can be given regarding a working