The Platform


Many organizations talk about increasing diversity in their workforce, but that does not increase skills or performance. Today, regardless of whether you have a “diverse workforce,” you still must have skilled people doing the work.

No matter who gets hired, they need to bring in skills and competency to the job so they can be productive. They also need to be trainable to gain more skills. Critical skills in demand today are those necessary to design, implement and operate communications-based information systems as well as many industrial and medical machines, systems, and equipment, which all have some computerization embedded in them, in order to perform all their functions and operations.

No one is qualified simply by their gender or skin color. Diversity is not a skill set. If we look at some of the best-positioned companies, like Apple or Tesla, did they get there by decisive inclusion? Or did they achieve their positions because of adhering to the four pillars of enterprise success?

You could read forty years of books on managerial concepts and corporate leadership and not find any great companies which were run by committees. A long-time executive pointed this out to me. “I was involved at the very top with almost 40 mergers and acquisitions totaling over $3.5 billion. You must be joking if you think committees and inclusive decision-making is the way to succeed.”

There’s a Forbes article from 2017 about diversity and how much better it is to include more people in a decision. That really goes against the argument, “No great leadership of companies was directed by a committee.” Most strategic decisions come from individuals. Tactical implementation of those decisions are performed by project teams.

If you look at the founder of Forbes, he did not have a committee run his company. He did. Malcolm Forbes would have laughed at the article in his magazine, as his astute managerial observations still rings true:

“ANY FOOL can handle the Helm in Calm Seas.”

“He who has the wheel, sets the direction.”

Those two statements say it all. Pop management strategies and their related books and software packages come and go. Real innovative leaders, like Henry Ford, Marjorie Post (General Foods), George C. Patton, Lee Iacocca (Chrysler), Debbie Fields (Mrs. Fields), Reginald F. Lewis (TLC Beatrice International), Larry Ellison (Oracle), and others did not depend on committees for critical decisions.

Let’s define “diversity” as what it should be: diversity of technical skills and competencies, diversity in product/service expertise and experience, diversity in situational work experience (e.g. launching a business, turning around a bankrupt business, entering or expanding into a new market sector, political influence advocacy, and regulatory experience).

Candidates for jobs at every level are qualified by their skills and experience and their ability to learn new skills. Some diversity and inclusion advocates seem to forget this and think a selection based on diversity is the same as a selection based on skills, competency, trainability, and experience. Diversity is a goal to strive for, but it does not replace the actual skill sets needed for the position as well as the team.

Teams built simply because of diversity do not deliver as much as teams built on real complementary skill sets shared across the team. Again, diversity is not a skill.

What is also happening today is if someone gets criticized for doing a poor job, they try to blame diversity as the root cause of their problem. They believe they are being criticized because of some identity issue. They cannot accept the fact it just might be because they are doing a bad job.

Some politicians are guilty of this as well. If you say they are doing a bad job, they immediately get defensive and call you a racist or a misogynist.

To those making diversity an issue for positive change, don’t try to hide behind it as a blanket excuse to avoid being criticized for real shortcomings, like incompetence and poor work performance. When it comes to assessing someone’s performance, incompetence knows no boundaries when it comes to race, gender, creed, or sexual preference.

“You’re incompetent on this job” has nothing to do with race, gender, creed, or sexual preference. It simply means you lack the qualifications and competency to perform well.

In the recessionary times we are about to face, reality and truth need to be the foundation of decisions and actions, not obtuse dancing around an issue. As Hal Geneen, the famous ITT CEO from years ago said, “words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises, but only performance is reality.”

Lately, there seems to be a new direction some companies are taking to get back on track with real issues and not be hampered by “woke” concerns which stifle the workplace by narrowing freedom of speech, diversity of thought and overall attitude of everyone in the workplace.

In discussing this with a retired executive of AT&T, this was his observation: “Unfortunately, this current generation of workers doesn’t believe in skills other than pushing their own agenda while ‘canceling’ everyone who disagrees with them. They play the victim card every chance they get and think they are entitled to high-paying, high positions in corporate America because it is owed to them. Yet, none of them want to go out and start their own business; they want you to change yours to fit their whims. It’s time to dust off the wise, old saying ‘don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.’”

Safe spaces may be a great refuge at college, but they are not found in the real world.

Jesse Powell
Jesse Powell, founder and CEO of Kraken. (Kraken)

Jesse Powell, the CEO of Kraken, has given an ultimatum to his employees to either conform to their open Libertarian approach and accept all perspectives or take a four-month severance package if they cannot work in an environment which does not conform to “woke” standards.

“Diversity of thought” is actually something some at his company do not want to hear or tolerate. Everyone has rights, but no one should have special rights. If you cannot accept that, you’re out.

It’s time for all companies, organizations, and politicians to stop the politically correct handling of people, where obtuse, fluffy euphemisms are used to describe or skirt around problems and challenges and instead, become politically accurate in their descriptions and discussions to solve complex problems and alleviate society.

It’s also time for many younger workers to adapt and become more mature in their dealings with other people and realize no one is perfect, no one shares the same perspectives, and not everyone is out to persecute them for their religion, race, gender, or sexual preference. Unlike a lot of their narrow education in their college years, one perspective is not representative of real life. They need to understand and accept there are multiple perspectives.

Many issues have been blown out of proportion and have become major obstacles when they could be avoided if everyone would be more accepting and more tolerant – on all sides.

In looking at the reality of today’s job market, the emphasis on education today has been slanted towards subjects and ideologies which do not prepare students for competing in the global workforce.

The need for more STEM-based courses has been addressed and discussed, but it has not been fully satisfied by a true concentrated focus on developing and delivering the courses. Secondly, the concept of team dynamics must also be embraced because most work is done in project teams.

Do you need diversity in the workplace? Is it necessary to have it to compete? If you answered yes, it is a must, you better look to China because they are not diversified at all in their project teams and not hampered by artificial requirements.

Let’s start getting our priorities straight when it comes to skill sets needed to compete globally.

If we are to create the next-generation workforce which will be successful in a very technologically complex world, we need to focus on the skill sets needed for them to compete. Those skill sets require a strong and in-depth focus on math and technology skills as well as team dynamics incorporating the areas of flexibility, adaptability, creativity, and trainability.

James Carlini is a strategist for mission critical networks, technology, and intelligent infrastructure. Since 1986, he has been president of Carlini and Associates. Besides being an author, keynote speaker, and strategic consultant on large mission critical networks including the planning and design for the Chicago 911 center, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading floor networks, and the international network for GLOBEX, he has served as an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University.