26 May, 2022

“People are more likely to behave their way into a new way of thinking, as opposed to thinking their way into a new way of behaving.” Ray Reagans, MIT Sloan

“How do you know what you’re doing is what should be done? No one has the complete answer, but…you need to look at the systems and structures of your organisation. People often want to know what’s different between our cultures for given situations, that puts us in a space where we need to know your culture really intimately but you don’t need to know ours.” Angela Barney-Leitch, QUT

To conclude The Future Enterprise series two, jointly presented by MIT Sloan School of Management and QUT Business School, our global experts examined The Inclusive Enterprise.

The cultural impact of an organisation relies heavily on how it aligns with and represents diversity.
As QUT’s Professor Rowena Barrett established as the webinar’s moderator, “We see purpose, trust and inclusion as key cultural characteristics of future enterprises.

“The things that have to happen within, or the attributes of, organisations that are seeking to lead the pack.”
In the final webinar or the series, Ray Reagans from MIT Sloan and Angela Barney-Leitch from QUT discussed how leaders can initiate inclusion and scale it for meaningful impact in their organisations.

How can you create an inclusive enterprise?

Analyse processes and policies

Ray Reagans started the discussion by asking, “Should we be blind to our differences or not?”

He explained that MIT is an organisation which acknowledges differences, outlining that at MIT staff are encouraged to be objective about their subjective experiences.

This paves the way to acknowledging how people are advantaged or privileged in some ways.

“When an organisation is race or colour-blind, it often reproduces the inequality that already exists,” he said.

Instead, analysing processes and looking for places in that process where there’s differential outcomes for different groups provides opportunities to intervene.

Angela Barney-Leitch continued this discussion, highlighting that locked-in inequality is the historical advantage or disadvantage that occurs, resulting in structural discrimination.

“When policy is written in enterprises, it’s often written from the hegemony,” she explained.

This leaves the majority, those not experiencing inequality, to dictate how inclusion is shaped and discrimination is managed.

Keep yourself accountable

Both Reagans and Barney-Leitch highlighted the importance of sharing your journey of inclusion with others for feedback and accountability.

“How do you sustain your effort?” Reagans asked.

“By making your commitments public.

“By making your commitments visible, key stakeholders, members of your community, will hold you accountable.”

He expanded this, explaining that stakeholders will provide insight about what you can do to lead more effectively.

By taking on this honest feedback from those in your organisation, you can progress inclusion more effectively than bringing in outside experts.

Barney-Leitch outlined getting help from a credible source as the first step to creating an inclusive enterprise.

She encouraged actively listening to internal First Nations and equity groups.

“They are the ones who can tell you what need to be done first,” she explained.

By organising regular focus groups and catch-ups with Indigenous Australian staff at QUT, Barney-Leitch asks for constant and honest feedback.

This allows her work in the space to create reform for those being impacted.

Change your behaviour

Reagans shared that we should behave our way into new thinking, rather than expecting a change of thinking to shape our behaviour.

“Our lived experiences, that are shaped by demographic categories, shape how we view the world,” he said.

“Demographic diversity leads to cognitive diversity.”

By changing behaviour, and the context in which decisions are made, inclusion can be built in organisations.

On whether training is the solution for improving culture, Barney-Leitch described that training is one of the answers but not the whole solution.

“When you’re working in the First Nations or equity space, what frustrates Australian Aboriginal people is training where they learn about ‘us’,” she said.

“‘Us’ is not the problem. People need to learn about themselves and the organisation.

“You need whiteness and anti-racism training.”

By pivoting the focus of inclusion to individuals and the power they hold to shift culture, this can create a more inclusive enterprise.

Commit to the journey

Both speakers emphasised that creating an inclusive enterprise is not a quick project; instead, it needs to be committed to over a generation.

Sharing on QUT’s progress in doubling the number of Indigenous staff and increasing  the number Indigenous Australian students by 23 percent in four years, Barney-Leitch acknowledged that her work in the First Nations would be a long process.

“QUT really wants to be an inclusive enterprise, but acknowledges it will take a generation,” she said.

“Are you ready for that kind of commitment?”

Reagans also shared how organisations need to commit to a sustained equity journey.

Keeping in mind that this is a journey, new members of your enterprise will enter at a particular point.

“Historical progress is less relevant to them,” he said.

“They want to know: what progress are we going to make now?”

If you want to find out more about embedding inclusion in your organisation, or revisit how to build your enterprise’s culture, watch The Future Enterprise series here: https://www.qut.edu.au/engage/the-future-enterprise-webinar-series

Helpful resources

Angela Barney-Leitch shared the below resources for further reading:

Anderson, D., & Anderson, L. A. (2011). Conscious change leadership: Achieving breakthrough results. Leader to leader, 2011(62), 51-59.

Kezar, A., & Eckel, P. (2002). Examining the institutional transformation process: The importance of sensemaking, interrelated strategies, and balance. Research in Higher Education, 43(3), 295-328.

Leading in public organisations – organisational change (developed by the State government of Victoria in 2013) https://vpsc.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Organisational-Change_Web.pdf

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