Discovering the Benefits of Data-Driven DEI: An Interview with Dr. Randal Pinkett on his New Book


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Joining us for Episode #471 of the Lean Blog Interviews Podcast is Dr. Randal Pinkett. He was a guest in Episode 380 in 2020, with Prof. Jeffrey Robinson, his co-author for the book Black Faces in White Places.

Today, I'm honored to be joined by Randal again to talk about his new book, his fifth book —  Data-Driven DEI: The Tools and Metrics You Need to Measure, Analyze, and Improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, released yesterday, March 14th. 

Randal is an entrepreneur, innovator, speaker, author, media personality and DEI expert who is leading the way in business, technology and equity for all. He is the co-founder, chairman and CEO of BCT Partners, a global, multimillion-dollar research, training, consulting, technology, and data analytics firm whose mission is to provide insights about diverse people that lead to equity.  

He's a graduate of the MIT Leaders for Global Operations Program. He's a Rhodes Scholar with a PhD also from MIT. As we talked about a little bit last time, Randal was the winner of Season 4 of The Apprentice.

Questions, Notes, and highlights:

  • What was the inspiration for the book? 
  • Video: Candid Conversation with a Black Businessman: 7 Myths of Racial Equity
  • Lean… Safety… Quality… Can DEI be delegated by the CEO?
  • Question from Deondra Wardelle: “What DEI data points do you recommend using to gain buy-in from leadership/decision-makers to prioritize DEI initiatives/programs? Especially when there's an assumption that the company is doing *enough* to support DEI because they've conducted/participated in DEI training.
  • “Do you feel like you belong?”
  • An inclusivity index (“not the employee engagement survey”)
  • Inequities to be addressed?
  • Disparity (fact – measures) vs. Inequity (something unfair) – Problems vs. Causes
  • Health disparities – not just patient safety
  • Does a lack of Psychological Safety distort the data from surveys or reporting? – what lengths do you go to to prevent data problems?
  • Only 1 in 5 companies measure DEI effectiveness?
  • “If you can't measure it, you can't manage it”? Incorrect (Deming)
  • Measuring DEI effectiveness – closing the gaps, not just feeling?
  • Only 9% say DEI programs are “very effective”? What is that based on?
  • A program vs. the way we do things?
  • 5-step process at a high level?
  • Paul O'Neill and Zero Harm
  • The book's website

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Automated Transcript (Not Guaranteed to be Defect Free)

Announcer (1s):
Welcome to the Lean BlogPpodcast. Visit our website Now, here's your host, Mark Graban.

Mark Graban (13s):
Hi, it's Mark Graban. Welcome to Lean Blog Interviews. It's episode 471 from March 15th, 2023. I'm really excited to be joined again today by Dr. Randal Pinkett. To learn more about him and his new book, Data-Driven DEI. You can look for links in the show notes or go to lean As always, thanks for listening. Hi everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. My guest today is Dr. Randal Pinkett. He's a returning guest. He joined us in episode 380, back in 2020. He was here with Professor Jeffrey Robinson, who is his co-author of the book Black Faces in White Places.

Mark Graban (56s):
Today, I'm honored to be joined by him again. The talk about his new book, his fifth, it's titled Data-Driven DEI: The Tools and Metrics You Need to Measure, Analyze, and Improve Diversity Equity and Inclusion. It was released yesterday, March 14th. Before I tell you a little bit more about Randal, it's good to see you again. Thanks for joining us again.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (1m 16s):
Hey, Mark, it's good to see you too. I appreciate the invitation. I'm looking forward to the conversation and just thankful to be back on the, on the podcast.

Mark Graban (1m 26s):
Yeah. Well, thank you. I'm glad that you're here and you have a lot to share with us today. There's a lot more to learn from the book. So we're, we're gonna just scratch the surface. I, I hope people will go check out the book, but if, if you don't know Randal, let's just try to summarize a little bit here. I mean, he is an entrepreneur, an innovator, a speaker, an author, DEI Expert, who's leading the way in different ways in business technology and equity for all his co-founder, chairman and CEO of BCT Partners, which is a global multimillion dollar research training, consulting technology and data analytics firm whose mission is to provide insights about diverse people that lead to equity.

Mark Graban (2m 6s):
He's among all of his five degrees. He's a graduate of the M ITLeaders for Global Operations Program. He is a Rhodes Scholar with a PhD also from MIT. And as we talked a little bit about this last time, episode 380, Randal was a winner of Season four of The Apprentice. So a lot, I can't quite cover it all. I hope people will go check out your full bio. But congratulations again on the book, Randal. And, and maybe just start with a pretty open-ended question. You know, what, what was the inspiration for the book? Lots of things that you could cover and write about. It'd be good to hear kind of the origin story of, of, of bringing this book to press.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (2m 50s):
It's an interesting story on how this book came to fruition. I had produced a video after George Floyd's murder entitled The Seven Myths of Racial Equity. And it was subtitled Candid Conversations with a Black Businessman. And I got approached by an acquisitions editor at, at Wiley who said, we'd love to convert that seven myths of racial equity video into, into a book. And his name was Mike. And, and Mike and I proceeded to have some very, very in-depth conversations about what was happening in that moment.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (3m 41s):
We all remember what it was like after George Floyd's murder. And part of what we were also discussing was, is that the right gap in the marketplace? Myth of Racial equity, or is there a different one? He's like, I looked at your background and you've got this eclectic mix of technology and data. MIT, right? On the other hand, diversity, equity, and inclusion. You don't typically see that combination of a, of a, of a technology and data scientist combined with a diversity, equity and inclusion strategist. And as we were dialoging, he said, I think there's something else you should consider.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (4m 24s):
And he came to me with the idea of data-driven DEI. He said there, there's nothing out there like it, it's, it's such a rich, fertile ground for some scholarly attention. And he's like, and he said, I believe people are genuinely wrestling with this issue of how to measure and what are the right tools to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion. So after all those conversations, we actually decided we would abandon the seven Myth of Racial Equity project reincarnated as data-driven DEI and that's how the, and then, and then, and then Mike left Wiley, but his legacy remains.

Mark Graban (5m 7s):
I'm glad it kept going forward. I mean, that story, I mean that, that's the, the thought process of an entrepreneur, I guess, of, of iterating looking at the market, not just thinking about the book you could write, but trying to think a little bit more about the book you should write. It sounds like that was certainly part of the thought process there. That's really interesting.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (5m 28s):
Yeah, Mike Campbell shout to Mike Campbell.

Mark Graban (5m 31s):
Yeah. And I'm sure there's a whole team then that continued working with you, thankfully, to help get you through the writing process. I mean, you, you, you have the concept. I'm, I'm, I'm curious then, I mean, you know, how much iteration was there through the writing process? You know, before we get into the details of, of what is there in the, in what, what's there in the book,

Dr. Randal Pinkett (5m 54s):
Mike was visionary, but little did I know what I had signed up for. This was the most difficult book I've ever written. And I've written, and as you mentioned, I've written five, I try to do topics justice, and I try to make the reader's job easy. That is, I've done all the research for you, I've done all the scaffolding for you, and I'm laying it out in a very practical, easy, approachable, relatable way. And that rec and, and so the other gift that Mike gave me before, before he left Wiley, was the, my first cut at the idea of the book was targeting DEI leaders, DEI, champions, Chief Diversity officers, folks who have some responsibility for improving diversity equity inclusion.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (6m 50s):
And then he challenged me again, this, I mean, we had some great dialogue. He said, I think you can target a broader audience than just the DEI traditionalist. I think you could target anyone, meaning anyone who wants to improve their diversity, equity, and inclusion could be the audience. And how could they use data in order to measure their behavioral changes, their attitudinal changes, their capabilities, and et cetera. And I, so that took me back to the drawing board. I said, okay, Mike, let's go back to the drawing board. Let's not focus in on the d e I leaders. Let's focus on anyone who cares about diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (7m 30s):
And that made it significantly harder. Significantly. Yeah. Cause now I have really two audiences. My primary audience is anyone within the sound of my voice, my secondary audience remained what was my original primary, which is the DEI leader. So the book vacillates between what should people do and what should organizations do, what should people do, and what should organizations do. And what the interesting thing is, and I'm sure you'll agree, is we so often talk about DEI in the context of organizations. They have statements, they have missions, they have it on their websites. But if you can convince people to care, the organizational piece takes care of itself. It's like, it's like lean, you know, if people care about lean, it just falls out in the organizational context because they're driving the agenda.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (8m 16s):
And so right in, in almost a circuitous way, in challenging me to focus on people, he actually made the organizational agenda easier.

Mark Graban (8m 25s):
So you mentioned lean and I, I was gonna frame this question in the context of the role of a CEO, the board of directors, maybe, you know, all this, all of them together of, there's always debate and discussion around what, what can really be delegated and what has to be driven, whether it's lean or safety or quality of saying, you know, going back to Dr. Deming, that quality is made in the boardroom. What, what's your thought around, you know, how much a CEO really needs to own and take responsibility for increasing d e I versus hiring someone, delegating it, making it a function?

Dr. Randal Pinkett (9m 4s):
I, I love the question Mark, and I'm gonna answer it directly, and I'm gonna answer, answer it a second time. I, I believe it, it has to be driven at the CDEI level. It has to be, and I'll explain why. When I'm advising senior executives around DEI and, and I had some fascinating discussions behind the scenes with CEOs after George Floyd's murder. And as they were wrestling with how to respond, what to do, how to, how to find their voice. I remember in one instance, I was going into a town hall with a CEO, and I said to him, so you're in the driver's seat. He said, no, you're in the driver's seat. He said, I've never done this before. I said, okay, so you're in the passenger seat.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (9m 45s):
He said, no, I'm in the backseat. You're driving the conversation. I, this is not my expertise. And I, I share that story because just like we challenge CEOs, if not, no, I'm sorry. Just like we expect CEOs to understand manufacturing, understand operations, understand marketing, to understand sales, to understand all these disciplines, even HR and the, and the list goes on in the 21st century. You gotta understand diversity, equity, and inclusion. And DEI has a particular asterisk on it because the way you lead on DEI is by being authentic.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (10m 26s):
It's by personalizing. It's by being transparent about your journey and all of the things that we talk about with some might call it servant leadership, but being humble and listening, and in the absence of a leader who can demonstrate those behaviors. DEI can only go but so far. Sure. And so it is, has to be driven, but has to be driven from an authentic and personal place, because that's what DEI is all about.

Mark Graban (11m 0s):
And a, a lot of CEOs have find it difficult to be vulnerable on any level to admit they don't know something about manufacturing or, or, or anything. A lot of them have risen through the ranks and a culture where you, you sort of at least pretend to be all knowing. And it's seen as, you know, maybe a weakness to not really deeply understand a topic. But then I think when it comes to DEI, I think, you know, there, there's, there's even more fear of, of making a mistake, I think, especially in the context of, of issues that can be uncomfortable or awkward for some people to, to, to talk about.

Mark Graban (11m 41s):
I mean, do you have any thoughts on trying to help coach somebody, coach an executive through taking some risks in the spirit of being vulnerable? Because it'll be, we hope more helpful to do that instead of being all knowing what, what, what do you think?

Dr. Randal Pinkett (11m 57s):
Yeah. Yeah. DEI is is, is paradoxical in that regard. The conventional, traditional model of leadership is I have to have all the answers. And I'm not trying to show my hand for where I don't have the answers. DEI turns that completely on its head, servant leadership turns it on its head, inclusive leadership turns it on its head and says, if you believe, and the research does bear this out, that it is not employee engagement. That is the, the, the, the gold standard.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (12m 38s):
It is feelings of inclusion and belonging. That is the gold standard, which is a higher order calling than just employee engagement. And we already know from all the work around lean and, and, and operational efficiency, that employee engagement was shown to lead to productivity and super tension. And the list goes on. Well, inclusivity and belonging take that to the next level. Yeah. Because now people are bought in. So if, if you believe in that and the research bears it out, that you therefore want people to feel like they are included and they belong, now it begs the question, well, what does it mean for that to happen? And what the research tells us is that humility and curiosity are two of the most, two of the highest predictors for whether people on your team will feel like they belong.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (13m 25s):
Humility says, I'm going to be forthcoming of what I don't know. I'm going to admit what I don't know what the solution is or how to approach it. And curiosity says, I want to understand how you see it so I can mitigate my blind spot so I can see it from different angles. And so it's that curiosity and that humility that people on your team then feel included, which means you get to all of what the research tells you about productivity, engagement, retention, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And, and, and so I, I coach people to say, first you gotta change your mindset. That's the first thing as you think is as you do, you gotta change your mindset. And I'm from the old school where it was considered leadership to not show your hand.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (14m 8s):
Once you can change your mindset, then you can begin to get comfortable with this idea that my transparency liberates people on my team for their transparency.

Mark Graban (14m 19s):
And then you're hoping to bring, I don't know if in this exact case, with the CEO you mentioned to bring them from the back seat, the front seat. Did, did you get… was there a future town hall where the CEO felt comfortable driving?

Dr. Randal Pinkett (14m 34s):
Yes. Yes. That CEO is leading by example. I sat in a meeting with his board of directors where he spoke comfortably, confidently, and eloquently about his personal journey around diversity, equity, and inclusion, and his commitment to the organization to be held accountable to making progress on those matters. So yeah, he, he found his voice and is now strengthening that muscle of diversity, equity, and inclusion each and every day. It's a great transformation story.

Mark Graban (15m 6s):
Yeah. Well, and it goes to show how everybody could use a coach, whether a CEO on whatever topic sounds like you really helped that CEO out as, as you do others. So I ask a question, this is actually a question posed by a friend of mine, Deondra Wardelle, who, who also shares that that, as you called it, rare combination of a background, lean Six Sigma, and also a lot of work that she does on the DEI front. She has a, a, a website, that I wanna mention and go check people, go check that out.

Deondra Wardelle (15m 43s):
Dr. Pink. What DEI data points do you recommend using to gain buy-in from leadership or decision makers to prioritize DEIA initiatives and programs, especially when there's an assumption that the company is doing enough to support DEI because they've participated in unconscious bias and other DEI training?

Dr. Randal Pinkett (16m 7s):
Hmm, great question. Great question. So gonna try to keep it simple, and I'm gonna focus on the D, the E and the I, and actually in a different order, I'm gonna focus on the D, the I, and then the E for, for, for the D, we are essentially talking about representation and making certain that we are disaggregating our representation numbers by identifiers like gender and race and ethnicity and disability and sexual orientation. And by level and by level. So I gotta know where I stand at the executive level, at the mid-manager level, at the entry level. And I gotta disaggregate across all of those.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (16m 48s):
And I gotta scorecard every division and department on the, on, on those lines so they know where they stand. And there's also a healthy competition that no one wants to be at the bottom of that, of that, that scorecard. That's the D but the I you, you have to have some measure of your culture and your climate. Call it an inclusive, an an inclusivity index. It could be a composite of a survey that you're administering. Now, again, I wanna be clear when I'm not talking about is your employee engagement survey. That's the old school employee engagement does not go far enough from a diversity, equity and inclusion perspective to ask people, do you feel like you belong? Do you do, do you, do you feel like your voice is heard?

Dr. Randal Pinkett (17m 32s):
And so an inclusivity index or survey gives me a measure of culture and climate and how people are experiencing my organization. And that too must be disaggregated by all of the dimensions I described a moment ago. So I understand that there are differential experiences, hospitals have been doing this for years in terms of disaggregating patient satisfaction or patient outcomes data to know where are our disparities, right? And that's kind of the, the metaphor here, to know where I might need to focus my energy to close those gaps and to the, the, and so that's the, I Then to the e there's two sides to the coin for the E.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (18m 14s):
The first side is looking within the organization. The other side is looking beyond the organization. Within the organization, it's, are there inequities that need to be addressed? Do I have a pay equity gap? Do I have an advancement gap? A time, we'll call it time to promotion, to be more data driven in my language, time to promotion. Is there a gap in time to promotion? Is there a gap in pay equity? Which means I must conduct a series of equity studies to figure out where are there inequities to then target my initiatives at closing those equity gaps. So those, then that's the internal piece. Then last thing is the external e doesn't matter what your industry, your market, your sector, you have a customer.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (18m 56s):
You could be a nonprofit, you could be a, a corporation, you have a customer. The question I ask is, how well do you understand the differential experiences of your customers? And I'll keep this simple, let's just go with net promoter score, an NPS that says, would you recommend our product and or service to somebody else? And disaggregate that, yeah. By all the identifiers I mentioned before to see, do a, have an inequity or a gap in how well I'm being responsive to certain groups, certain communities, certain demographics, et cetera, et cetera. And that's the D that's the I and that's the E. Keep it simple. Yeah.

Mark Graban (19m 33s):
Yeah. Well thank you. And thank you again Deondra for the question. I mean, I guess, you know, for, for my own follow ups there, I mean, when, when, when you talk about the gap, like to me, I mean that that's Toyota language, they, they talk about defining a problem as a gap between where performance needs to be and where it actually is. Like it's the starting point of like, have we properly defined the problem in a way that's not just like a big vague concern, right? So you might say, people say, I think we have an equity and I think we have a diversity and or an equity or an inclusion problem. Like that's maybe just very, a big vague concern.

Mark Graban (20m 14s):
And, and as the way Toyota might describe it, and then being able to, you know, kind of narrow that problem down and having a measurable gap, like to me, and hopefully to listeners here on a lean podcast, that, that sounds like an important first step in, in, in any good problem solve.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (20m 29s):
Absolutely. And, and let me make sure your audience is clear on the difference between a disparity and an inequity. A disparity is a difference. So if you and I take the same medicine and we have a different reaction to that, to disparity, And we expect that certain medicines might be more responsive for you, and certain medicines might be more responsive to me, we, we don't, we don't necessarily lament over a disparity. It's a difference. Men and women respond to different drugs differently. That's a disparity, right? And inequity implies something unfair is going on behind the scenes. So if you and I are both working in different roles, I'm a nurse, you're a doctor, we expect a disparity in our pay.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (21m 19s):
Doctors earn more than nurses, no surprise there. But if you and I are in the same role, we're both nurses doing the same thing, and you earn more than me, that's an inequity,

Mark Graban (21m 30s):
Right? With the same experience and everything. All all other things.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (21m 33s):
Exactly. Control for everything else. Once we control for everything else, if there's still a difference now, it's no longer a disparity. It is an inequity. And when we talk about the e the equity, we're talking about inequities, not disparities. I want folks to be clear about that.

Mark Graban (21m 47s):
Yeah. Well thank that's, that's a great clarification. And, and, and just to, I can't help it, but to think a little bit in this lean problem solving language, what I hear you saying, let me check this, is the disparity is a fact, it's a measurable difference. Inequity is maybe getting closer to causes that inequity. We, we identify disparity. Now we start thinking about the current state and causes, fair to say, inequity could be a cause of a disparity. And that doesn't necessarily get us to a root cause of the inequity.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (22m 23s):
Yes, that's right. To get to the root cause is to understand what is there happening that's unfair, that is leading to this difference that we call an inequity as a result of the fact that there must be some unfairness. Cause when I control for every other variable, all I'm left with is this difference. Something's going on, somehow someone's being denied opportunity, someone's not being paid equitably. We have to unearth that, understand it so that we can then address it. So yeah, in, in the parlance of lean inequities lead you on an investigation to find root causes. Yeah.

Mark Graban (22m 56s):
And then one other things, just a, a, a, a reflection or you, you, you talk about disparities in patient safety data and how hospitals will look at that or look for disparities in quality outcomes. I, I, it's not firsthand experience, but I do know there are organizations, healthcare organizations that are starting to look at employee disparities. First off, looking at employee safety injury rates and lost work time back to data, you know, instead of safety is just a broad concept. So hopefully we'll see more work in, in that direction. I probably can't say it's every health system yet, but there are some that are leading the way.

Mark Graban (23m 38s):
I'm sure there's a lot to learn from them.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (23m 40s):
Yeah. And there's an interesting interrelationship between what you described in our earlier conversation about leading and creating environments of inclusivity. And when we think about high reliability organizations, h r o, which basically says we are highly reliable that when we perform a certain function or activity that is, it is repeatable and it's safe. And to create a high reliability organization, say in healthcare, you have to create an environment where people are comfortable calling out what might be something that's not safe. For example, studies have shown, people have known that you're about to operate on the wrong limb and didn't say anything.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (24m 22s):
Right. Because it's not an environment where they're comfortable challenging the power structure. The physician whomever's, they, they must know what they're doing. Although it looks to me like that's not the right limb.

Mark Graban (24m 34s):
They've been conditioned to not speak up if they tried before and they got in trouble.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (24m 39s):
Exactly. Exactly. So there's this wonderful interrelationship between creating environments of inclusivity and belonging where people are empowered to speak up or to see something and say something which creates safer, more harmonious, more equitable organizations at this all at the same time. Yeah.

Mark Graban (24m 59s):
So it comes back, I mean, I, it makes me think of a phrase, psychological safety. You know, do, do, do people feel safe? Well, you can't just lecture them. You know, you, you, you should be brave. Like, I just thought that that doesn't seem to work.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (25m 12s):
Does not work.

Mark Graban (25m 14s):
It's it, well, I'm sorry.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (25m 16s):
No, it does not work. I was agreeing with you.

Mark Graban (25m 18s):
Yeah. Does not work. But when you think about data, like, I'm just, it makes me wonder if, if, if there's a trap, maybe kind of paint a scenario. It's probably not too farfetched of your organization. Let's say, well-intended puts out some sort of survey they're trying to look at, you know, an inclusivity index and they're asking people to fill out an anonymous survey. And I know in a lot of workplaces, people do not believe that the in the survey is anonymous, which can be a barrier. But you know, or we're encouraging people to report problems. If, if you're being discriminated against or mistreated, we want you to report it. We want you to speak up. But without a foundation of psychological safety, we might see an under-reporting, just as we see under-reporting of patient safety incidents.

Mark Graban (26m 6s):
And somebody might draw the wrong conclusion of like, well, we ask people to speak up. We're not getting any reports, therefore everything must be okay. Hmm. Maybe not.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (26m 15s):
No, you're right on point. And when we conduct our diversity, equity, and inclusion assessments to get the evidence for where are you on your journey? So we know where we can go and we're doing surveys and we're doing focus groups and we're doing interviews. Everything you just talked about is exactly what arises along that assessment path. Are we getting honest and forthcoming responses to the survey? Do people feel like they can give us their true lived experience so that we have a real depiction of what is their lived experience? So we're going into the survey selling people, we're a third party, it's anonymous, we're not gonna disclose the data, we're not going to compromise anonymity or privacy or security.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (27m 5s):
We're gonna aggregate the results so no one can be identified by their identifiers. There's only one Latina woman in your department. We will not disclose the responses of Latina women. Yeah. Lemme go to all these links in focus groups to say, this will be anonymous. You know, we're gonna create this safe space all for the goal of trying to get to the truth. And it's funny cause it's a play within a play for the most challenged organizations who need our help are the most challenged in getting people to tell us what the problems are. And so we've learned a variety of techniques to hopefully maximize response rates and maximize psychological safety. The piggyback off your words that can get to the heart of the matter.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (27m 47s):
Get to the root causes.

Mark Graban (27m 49s):
So Randal, I I wanted to ask one other question. There's, there's all kinds of measures here. There's measures of the underlying situation or condition or experiences, and then, you know, there's maybe attempts to measure or gauge the effectiveness of a DEI initiative. You know, you, you, you, you point out only one in five companies measures DEI effectiveness. What, what, what are your thoughts on, on, on, on why that is? Do, do people think it's, it can't be measured or they're they're just, they're just not getting there?

Dr. Randal Pinkett (28m 22s):
So I'm gonna, I'm gonna quote Deming, since you brought in Deming before I, I wrote, I wrote, I actually wrote this in the book, people often attribute the phrase, if you can't measure it, you can't manage it to Deming. And actually, his exact words were, it is wrong to suppose that if you can't measure it, you can't manage it. Right? And, and, and therein lies the juxtaposition of d e I on one hand, which for some reason, when we start having conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion, people somehow translate that into a, a quota or something that's too touchy feely for us to be able to put numbers around.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (29m 16s):
And both are disastrous assumptions. The, the first that it's a quota, blas, everything we know about making progress, we put a goal on everything we do in business, right? Manufacturing, yield, take your pick. Yep. DEI should be no different. If, if, if we're serious about it, it should be no different. So the assumption that, or the, the approach or the argument that it, it cannot be measured and therefore cannot be managed, is, is a, is a, is a, is a falsehood. But the second one that says it's, it's, it's a, it's a, we're trying to enact a quota is also a falsehood.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (30m 4s):
I'll just take recruiting and hiring. For example, if I want it hired the best and the brightest, then I want to cast the widest possible net, right? And if my data tells me that I'm only recruiting from certain places only getting certain types of candidates, then it behooves me to cast a wider net. And I'm not saying put a hard number on that. I'm saying put a goal on that. Because if we're doing poorly with this group, in order to get better, I gotta set a goal to get better with that group, right? So not a quota a goal. And so both our necessity, our necessities, in order to get measurable improvements, for some reason, di Falls victim to both falsehoods.

Mark Graban (30m 47s):
Yeah. Yeah. And and it's not just the, the goal, it's doing the work to close the gap. That's right. You know, I, I think a lot of, a lot of times there's this old management mindset of, well, I'm, I'm gonna set a goal and I'm gonna, you know, lecture, browbeats, threaten, you know, do all these things of like, I don't care how you do it, just hit, just hit goal as opposed to, you know, maybe more of, you know, a data-driven problem solving process where we can actually look at what are the right specific actions instead of just telling people to try harder within the existing system. I mean, there's, I think this might have actually been attributed more correctly to Deming, and thank you for pointing out the, the often misquoting of Dr.

Mark Graban (31m 31s):
Deming. Oh, lemme get my train, train of thought. Back to the other expression. Oh, the, the idea of every, every system gets the results that it's designed to get, I think might be kind of an appropriate phrase. I'll, I'll tell and tell you a story and get your reaction to it. I was at a conference, so I don't wanna say where, when, what the conference was about. There was a, a, a session about d e I, and again, I don't wanna identify even by describing who they, you know, anything about them. But anyway, there was a comment made about, you know, like basically, well, you, you can't fault us for the gap in hiring certain groups of people because we're not getting the applicants.

Mark Graban (32m 18s):
So what can we do? And I was a little dumb, I'm not an expert in this, but I was a little gobsmacked of like, wait a minute, is this, this is the DEI session, right? Like, that didn't, that seemed kind of like, you know, Vic victim language of like, well, what can we do? Well, there are things we can do. How do we, how do we cast that wider net? What are, give us some examples maybe.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (32m 39s):
Yeah. And, and another phrase that's, that's, that's loaded affirmative action. Let me put aside the legal interpretation and, and the societal debate around affirmative action. Let me focus solely on the words being affirmative about taking action, being intentional about doing something. Like that's what it's meant to communicate. It's gotten lost completely. Right? You're right. Right. And so, so, so to your point about not just setting a goal, but working toward the goal, it is unacceptable to throw our hands up in the air again, which we can, which we, which we'll do for DEI if we're talking about, oh, we have this big hairy, audacious goal around product introduction, big hairy, audacious goal around marketing and sales.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (33m 39s):
Everyone gets energized. How can we go after it? Let's, let's dig in our heels. We're not getting the recruiting population we want, or the pool we want. Oh, they're not, they're not, they're not, they're not applying. Oh no, they need to go to our website. Oh, wait, wait, what, what do we go wrong with this? So examples are, are not rocket science. If you're only recruiting at Harvard and MIT and Yale, maybe you should consider Howard and Morehouse and Spellman, right? You know, if you don't have any employee resource groups that give diverse employees a place to feel like they can see a reflection on themselves, then maybe you might want to experiment with that.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (34m 21s):
If you've done no organization-wide training around how to acclimate people to the language and the strategies of diversity, equity, and inclusion, you might wanna try that. And if you've never done a town hall, or what we would call a courageous conversation around a difficult, sensitive topic like our democracy or the me too movement or racial injustice, which we would never touch 20, 30 years ago, that was, again, that's the old school. You wouldn't even touch that conversation in the workplace. But now we're saying, no, you need to have that conversation because the only way we get to greater understanding is with less misunderstanding. And the only way we get to less misunderstanding is about having dialogue, not debate or discussion, but dialogue that allows us to explore how we all see things differently.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (35m 11s):
So there's just a few examples of things that folks can do to be affirmative in taking action around closing the gaps we've been talking about, right?

Mark Graban (35m 19s):
Yeah. Be a problem solver. Take action. I, I don't like the victim language from, you know, sometimes you hear it from executives on around different goals, different dimensions of performance. And like, that's, that's not, that's, to me, that's not helpful. That's not leadership. You know, you've gotta help inspire action and, and creative action to, to, to try to help close those gaps. But, so, you know, back to the question of, you know, measuring DEI, effectiveness, there's a question of how many are trying, and then there's probably a question of how the best way to measure it. I, I imagine you, you would point it toward closing these gaps as opposed to just asking, well, how do you feel about the DEI program?

Mark Graban (36m 2s):

Dr. Randal Pinkett (36m 3s):
Oh, without a doubt. And, and it's all of the above. It is making sure that we have a representative workforce. That's the de and that begs the question, what, what, what's my benchmark? You could benchmark against the communities where your facilities are located. You could benchmark it against the broader societal population, but you need to have a benchmark. So, you know, and are comparing apples to apples. I wouldn't expect a, a company headquartered in North Dakota, it's necessarily have an employee base that reflects the same population of Chicago. I just would not expect that. Or Illinois for, for, to put it at the state level. So that's, that's, that's the d for the i, it is again, asking people what their lived experiences, how are you experiencing the culture?

Dr. Randal Pinkett (36m 49s):
But then, because I'm dis-aggregating that, not only by demographics, but also by department and division. Okay, so where am I doing the worst around how people are experiencing, not only in terms of groups, but also divisions and departments. And I gotta now to the discussion around root cause. Why is it that in my manufacturing plant I have the lowest inclusivity, but in my financing accounting department, I have the highest inclusivity. Like what's happening in accounting and finance that I need to bring over to manufacturing? And what do I need to stop doing in manufacturing that they might be able to learn from accounting and finance?

Dr. Randal Pinkett (37m 32s):
Like, like that's what the data begins to unearth is those kinds of dynamics, which, if you're looking at aggregate numbers or averages, one of the books I cite in my book is the end of average, because average averages obscure the underlying reality. Yeah. Only when we disaggregate, only when we stratify do we understand differentials in people's experiences. That's the I then the e we talked about that. It's identifying where are the inequities? Is it pay, is it advancement? The list goes on. And then the hard work is trying to then root out, well, what do we need to do? So for example, an advancement gap, okay, well maybe when we're doing performance evaluations, we need to look at ways that we are being more objective in how we're evaluating talent.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (38m 17s):
Because we know performance evaluations can be notorious for being subjective, right? I think somebody's a good fit for the culture and you don't, what does, what does that mean good fit for the culture? What does that mean? Well, let's break it down. Does that mean team oriented? Okay, I can, I can observe team orientation. Does it mean a risk taker? Okay, I can observe behaviors of someone who's a risk taker, but if I just say cultural fit, Houston, we have a problem. So we have to be subject objective and not subjective in our criteria. Be clear on how we will evaluate the criteria and then make sure we're all aligned, that we evaluated the criteria the same.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (38m 58s):
Now I have mitigation and the bias in evaluating performance, which will close my equity gap in advancement. Yeah.

Mark Graban (39m 6s):
Yeah. And so you, you, you say, you know, one in five companies are measuring DEI effectiveness, and only 9% say DEI programs are very effective. Like, it seems like there's a big gap there. Not just are we measuring it, but when we are measuring it, there's a gap in effectiveness. What, what, what, what do people point to as, as reasons why they, they would not say their program is very effective

Dr. Randal Pinkett (39m 38s):
For odd? We have two reasons. And the second is gonna sound as if I'm being facetious. The first is they don't, they don't know. I'm sorry. The first is they're not seeing measurable improvements. And the second is they're not measuring it. So they don't know if they're making measurable improvements and they're going off of subjectivity. What people feel, what people think. And, and, and I understand that there is a, a, a, an organically natural subjective element to DEI I mean, we're talking about feelings and at some level, but I think we also have to acknowledge that this is, this is, this is very difficult work.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (40m 22s):
And chief diversity officers are often under-resourced, not empowered, and ill positioned under-resourced low budgets, not empowered, they don't have much control over the other functions needed to move the needle on the things that matter. And, and then, and then lastly, ill positioned not reporting into the CEO, you give me those three factors and you're asking me to lead, I can't lead, I can't, I can't do it.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (41m 4s):
So it's elevating DEI it's empowering DEI it's properly budgeting DEI like we do any other function that where we wanna make improvements so that we can see the effectiveness of the work. So I actually often, there's been a lot of debates around the effectiveness of training and ERGs. Again, research has shown that when done right, we can see measurable improvements. My critique is not of the work being done by DEI practitioners. My critique is of organizations not sufficiently budgeting, empowering and positioning DEI to do the work that it's being asked to do. Yeah. Yeah.

Mark Graban (41m 43s):
I I think a lot of what you talk about there is the same conversation people could have about, let's say lean in healthcare. How many are measuring the effectiveness of their lean program? How many of those would say that program is very effective? And then the first thought that comes to mind is like, well wait a minute. Part of the trap is it being a program instead of the way we do things around here.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (42m 6s):

Mark Graban (42m 6s):
Yeah. And that, that also bounces back to DEI.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (42m 10s):
It does. And, and as you know, and as your audience knows, what Lean does benefit from though is lean was always built upon a foundation of statistics and numbers and data and language around root cause. Like there's a, there's a body of language and we'll call it scholarship underpinning lean that has always been about data and numbers and statistics. DEI has come through a different tradition to arrive at where it is. And that's why data-driven DEI I say humbly is I believe a valuable contribution to the DEI agenda because it is very intentional about its embracing of statistics, quantitative, qualitative machine learning, artificial intelligence.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (43m 4s):
Like we go in, in this book, I go in, in this book on all of the, the, the traditionally numerical quantitative aspects of DEI that can sometimes get lost in the dialogue. Yeah.

Mark Graban (43m 18s):
And in the book, I mean, when we can go back to problem solving methodologies or, or cycles back to Dr. Deming, you know, the Deming cycle of P D C A or P D S A, whatever language you want to use, six Sigma and DMAIC. And you lay out in the book and, and obviously people can find a lot more detail there in the book of, you know, this five step process. But the way it's drawn is a cycle. Tell, tell, tell us about, about that. I, I, I know there was no accident around it being a cycle, right?

Dr. Randal Pinkett (43m 51s):
No, no accident and I'm, I'm revealing my, my roots in, in manufacturing and, and leaders for global operations at MIT, just like P D C A and all these methodologies that underline lean, I, I I see DEI through the exact same lens. It is a never-ending cycle of, watch my phrase continuous improvement, you know, no surprises here, right? And, and, and I in intentionally drew out a, a visual of a cycle because it, it, it, it, it marries this idea of continuous improvement with a never ending journey.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (44m 34s):
That the journey for more diversity, equity, inclusion has no destination. It, it, it, it is ongoing. It, it is one where we can always learn more, grow more, expand more, do more, et cetera. And the five step process is, is built around the, the letter i DEI incentives is where it begins asking the question, what's your motivation then DEI inventory, which is the assessment to know where you stand, then DEI in initiatives or rather imperatives to know what your priorities are. Then my favorite one DEI insights, how can you look to best practices or promising practices to know what works?

Dr. Randal Pinkett (45m 15s):
Then it's DEI initiatives, what are you gonna do? That's the fifth step. What are you gonna do? And then lastly, DEI impact, how can you measure the effectiveness of your work? And then it continues and continues and continues. Yeah.

Mark Graban (45m 29s):
I mean, you know, when when, when you set big hair audacious goals, for example, you know, I think of the late Paul O'Neill who had been CEO of Alcoa, very similar in his thought process to Don Davis. You know, who taught at, at MIT and the LGO program, former CEO of Stanley Tools. Paul O'Neill would, would have this, you know, big hairy audacious goal of zero harm. He would say, nobody should be hurt who comes to work? And you can see the data that shows they never got to zero, but they started, I mean, you see the chart, they, they were better than average, but that wasn't good enough for Paul O'Neill.

Mark Graban (46m 8s):
And you could see this curve of, I don't know, 40, 50% reduction every year. It was a continuous sustained intentional effort. And, you know, it seems like there's a parallel, if we want to aspire to zero harm, meaning zero discrimination, zero mistreatment, zero disrespect, zero inequity. Sometimes that scares people. I'd be like, okay, well no, that I, we're not gonna get there. So why, why try? I hear people react that way to a goal of zero harm for workers, zero harm for patients. How, how would you encourage somebody to not be scared off? I'm not, I'm not from, from a big hairy audacious goal when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (46m 52s):
I, I love, I love the question. And it's interesting cause even as you cited the example of zero harm, my sense is that that would be more palatable al albeit it has its own dimensions of scary, but more palatable than if we were to say 0% on discrimination or zero 0% on harassment and other equity related issues. And, and my, my response to folks would be much like any other aspiration that we have, let's shoot for the stars and not the mountaintop. Yeah. If you shoot for the mountaintop and you don't make it, you'll fall to the bottom of the mountain.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (47m 31s):
But if it's you for the stars and you don't make it, you will fall to the top of the mountain. Let's pleasantly surprise ourselves with what we might accomplish or what we will accomplish when we set a big, hairy, audacious goal. And business is littered with stories of people who had big, hairy, audacious goals and accomplished them. What's that old phrase? The only people who changed the world are those who are crazy enough to think that they can do it. So I said, let's be crazy. Yeah.

Mark Graban (48m 4s):
A good in a good, a good way. And, you know, I'm just aiming, aiming high. You know, there's a, I might be paraphrasing Vince Lombardi football coach. If we aim for perfection, we might reach greatness.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (48m 21s):
Something. I love it. I love

Mark Graban (48m 24s):
It. And you know, I think part of the, the Paul O'Neill dimension was aiming for, he, he would use this phrase, it fits perfectly at MIT for, you know, the theoretical limits of performance, but meaning goals, like zero or a hundred percent. Like it's really not as complicated as the, the words might sound. And, and, and using that goal, as you used the word earlier, energizing how a goal can be energizing. And I, and I think part of his leadership genius was aiming high, helping people actually change the system instead of just telling people, Hey, be careful. Don't get hurt.

Mark Graban (49m 5s):
But, but really aiming toward encouraging and celebrating progress instead of creating more of that fear-based punitive approach of, I think that's where sometimes people are afraid of an audacious goal cause they think, well, I'm gonna be punished if I don't reach it. But that, that, that doesn't have to be the case. What, what are your thoughts around, you know, aiming high, celebrating progress without aim, without losing sight of the top of the mountain as you put

Dr. Randal Pinkett (49m 34s):
It? Yeah. I mean, I'm gonna riff off, you know, your, your narrative. People are not afraid of failure. People are afraid of the consequences of failure. Yeah. So if you can remove the consequence and say it's okay to fail, it's okay if you don't make the goal. But what I want to see, I want see us take some risks. I wanna see us innovate. I wanna see us try something new. I wanna see us think, it sounds so colloquial and cliche out of the box, or that there is no box. And so I'm, and so as a leader, it's saying to the team, I'm giving you this space Yeah. To make mistakes, but I'm challenging you to aspire to this goal.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (50m 14s):
I'm here to, to say we're all in this together. But what we can't have happen is to is, is to operate from a place of fear. We have to operate in our strength to say, while it is big and hairy and au and audacious, it's only when we set these big, hairy, audacious goals that we can do something greater than we could do apart from one another. And that, and that, that's leadership. Like that, that's the essence of leadership is galvanizing people toward that goal, whether it's sports, it's business, or whether it's in your home.

Mark Graban (50m 47s):
Yeah. That's very well said. So again, we're joined today by Dr. Randal Pinkett, his new book available now, data-driven DEI, the tools and metrics you need to measure, analyze, and improve diversity, equity, and inclusion. And this might end up being the last question here, but yeah, you, you talked earlier at the beginning of the episode of your intended audience and, and, and, and helping people who are convinced that we need to make more progress moving forward with d e i, maybe they're struggling to figure out how to do that. How much of the book is targeted toward, let's say, people trying to go from a good to great situation versus an organization where the leaders aren't convinced?

Mark Graban (51m 35s):
Are, are, are, are you writing for people who, who need that boost? Or is there an opportunity to try to, if you will, convert some people to realizing that that DEI is a strategic business imperative?

Dr. Randal Pinkett (51m 46s):
Yes. I'm a, I'm a big basketball fan and my wife often uses this phrase about people going hard in the paint, you know, which is a, a, a metaphor for a basketball player going, you know, down low to the basket trying to score. And to use her phrase, I go hard in the paint in the first chapter for why you should care about DEI — I, I believe we've done an excellent job of articulating the organizational case, the business case for DEI. And there's been tons of studies by McKinsey and others articulating the business case.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (52m 26s):
But I don't think we've done as good a job of is articulating the, what I call the personal case for DEI. No, the, the most popular radio station on the planet is WIIFM, what's in it for me? And so I go hard in the paint in that first chapter to say, if you're on the fence, if you are wrestling with whether this thing matters or whether you should care, I'm gonna put aside why your organizations should care. And I'm gonna go and talk directly to you for why you should care. And that could be from your head or from your heart, from your head. It will lead to advancement over others. It'll lead to more compensation than others.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (53m 6s):
But if I wanna go to the heart, because it's the right thing to do, because it creates a more valuable life experience because it makes you a better, a better global citizen. And if you are in a position in an organization, it will make you a better leader, a more inclusive leader, a more responsive leader, a more effective leader. The list goes on and on. So I try to articulate the personal case for DEI cuz to the, to where we started, if I can convince people to care, the organizational case is made.

Mark Graban (53m 41s):
Well, I know the book is, is going to help people move forward in, in, in that direction. Move closer to closing, you know, the gap with not, not, you know, not just the data-driven approach, but the, you know, kind of methodical process for closing those gaps. You know, it's really exciting to see this come together in the book. So you can learn more about the book data-driven, DEI at I'll put links in the show notes to Randal's full bio and his website and the book, the new book Data-Driven DEI. So Randal, thank you so much for being a guest today.

Mark Graban (54m 21s):
Maybe lemme lemme just ask the obnoxiously open-ended question here. If there's anything you'd like to add, give you the last word.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (54m 28s):
I appreciate it, mark. And what, what I'll say is this, we, we we're seeing a watershed of innovation happening in our present day, whether it's, you know, ChatGPT, AI, natural language processing, there's all these sophisticated tools and, and then when I first got into DEI I and others would, would say we're trying to get DEI into our DNA into the organization's d n into our personal d And now I'm also mindful that while we want to make sure we get DEI into our DNA, that we also keep our DNA into DEI, that the humanity that we all represent, the ability for our ourselves to relate to each other does not supersede what data or machines or tools can do.

Dr. Randal Pinkett (55m 22s):
It has to lead what people, it has to be our DNA that leads in DEI nor to make sure that what I believe is becoming a more fractured society that's more divided along any number of lines one could cite. While I might sound biased in this belief, I believe DEI can be a, an incredible asset to stitching together the fabric of our society that's right now tearing at the seams. So I'm hoping people do take this book to heart. And I mean that literally like for them to personalize this for their own journey that we can all see ourselves as agents of change, not only for ourselves and our organizations, but for our society.

Mark Graban (56m 8s):
Well said, Dr. Randal Pinkett. Thank you again for being a guest here on the podcast. Really

Dr. Randal Pinkett (56m 13s):
Appreciate, Mark, appreciate your voice, appreciate your work, and thanks for having me back.

Mark Graban (56m 16s):
Well, thanks again to Dr. Randal Pinkett for joining us today. His new book, Data-Driven DEI is Available now. You can look for links in the show notes or go to 471 to order your copy and to learn more about Randal and his work. Thanks again to Deondra Wardelle for being here today. You can learn more about her or Thanks

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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