The Pursuit of Craft

For the last six years, I have been convinced the best tactics and intentions will not result in effective diversity management unless diversity practitioners master the craft of diversity management.

What is a craft? I define craft as a mixture of task-related elements, such as concepts, principles, skills, tactics, decision-making frameworks, art, savvy, practice requirements, continuous learning requirements and mastery requirements.

Who needs a craft? Individuals seek out the elements of a craft only when absolutely necessary. Initially, those addressing a given task focus on tactics, and only move to appropriate other elements of the mixture when they discover what they are doing is not enough — that more is required than was anticipated. Stated differently, people reach for a craft only when there is ample motivation to justify the commitment required for mastery.

How can practitioners access a craft mixture? Books provide one vehicle for accessing craft mixtures, as do research reports and other documents where knowledge about a given task might be accumulated. If such documents and books do not exist, interested parties have to develop, discover or assemble the craft elements by researching across related mixtures or observing practitioners in action. This is different than ascertaining best practices with respect to tactics. It is focused on developing and evolving the craft.

Do all members have to achieve mastery? Individuals charged with leading the adoption process, and those playing a major role in performing the task in question would be expected to master the craft. To support adoption and mastery of the craft, others would be asked to secure only a basic understanding.

Certainly, there are those who can master a task without having to access the elements of the related craft. These individuals deserve special mention and often earn the label of being “a natural,” such as a “naturally gifted” speaker with no public speaking training, or a “natural teacher” with no study of the art, science or education profession.

What are the benefits of accessing a craft? Craft elements provide a road map for task mastery and for the transference of capability. This explains why practitioners who know and understand the craft, but are not necessarily the most skilled, often make better coaches and mentors than those who naturally excel with the given task.

By facilitating the transference of capability, a craft can help push decision making down to where the requisite information resides. This downward thrust of responsibility should enhance the likelihood of quality decision making.

Also, a craft mixture provides a common framework that can be used across the organization at all levels and geographic locations. In the era of globalization, this benefit is especially attractive.

Where are we with diversity management as a craft? I see few organizations reaching for the craft. Most place an emphasis on tactics in hopes of securing results as quickly as possible. Few are motivated to commit the time, energy and financial resources necessary to master a diversity management craft.

This is unfortunate. I believe if the diversity field’s development is to be taken to the next level, practitioners will have to reach for the diversity management craft mixture. This means accessing what exists or creating the elements needed to establish a craft.

CDOs who seek to adopt and foster the mastery of diversity management as a craft must take two initial steps. First, they must nurture an understanding of the nature of a craft within their organization. This will help their executives realize what they are missing by focusing primarily on tactics.

Second, they must foster the commitment required to master a craft. Inadequate commitment will greatly hamper efforts to adopt and master the diversity management craft.

CDOs who meet these requirements will be able to create a readiness to access and master a diversity management craft. Those unable to achieve this shift to craft will find that progress to the next level will be difficult.

R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr. is CEO of Roosevelt Thomas Consulting & Training, founder of the American Institute for Managing Diversity and author of World Class Diversity Management: A Strategic Approach. He can be reached at editor@diversity-executive.com.