Diversity in our workplace

January 22, 2012

Diversity in the workplace is a key issue in Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. Diversity creates new perspectives, new viewpoints. Talking with colleague Michael Avramides recently reinforced this issue. Here is a thought from Michael on this important topic.

Memo to Human Resources: It's about time!   Lessons from a Movie Producer for Quality- and HR Managers

There is a certain satisfaction on hearing of the new movie, “Red Tails,” the saga of the unsung heroes for more years than not, of the Black-American Tusckeegee fighter pilots of WWII, and having them finally get their big screen just desserts. Director George Lucas spent $58 million of his own money apparently because the Hollywood studios lacked the ambition and courage (emphasis mine) to back this venture featuring a mostly black cast. This is eerily reminiscent of the 1925 Army War College “study” that justified not training African-Americas as pilots for their presumed lack of ambition and courage (emphasis their's), which makes our rooting for the heroes, their overdue credit and Lucas' vision even more satisfying. Yes, we feel, it's about time.

But before we pat ourselves on the back for maybe being ahead of the curve (even the military has since ended  Don't Ask, Don't Tell) and for embracing the “diversity” agenda, let's ask ourselves: What, for our generation and for our time is “overdue?” Is there a modern day equivalent of this 70-year-old myopia? Is there another untapped resource waiting for their recognition, their chance to shine?

Yes, absolutely. People with disabilities. You know, the ones who have to try harder, be smarter and compete against the odds. The ones we try not to think about until we remember the family member, the friend or (as they presciently know) even us somewhere down the road.

What sets us apart from the dated stereotypical skeptics is that today we should know better. We can feel a sense of superiority some seven decades after the fact, certainly how painfully racism can be, but do we have the same courage to recognize our current prejudices?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is not the objective, it is a start.   As professionals we have the choice of acting like the Hollywood studios or like the George Lucas's, who understand that equality is quality and that you can't find the best and brightest if you refuse to see them. And we should all know this and it's about time.

Michael Avramides is an Architect and BIM consultant. 

If you have questions and would like to find out more feel free to contact Michael at


To Michaels point, imagine an organization turning down Temple Grandin because she has autism. She made TIME magazine’s top 100 most influential people of 2010. (Denis)

Denis Leonard has a degree in construction engineering an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in quality management. Denis is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality, a Certified Quality Manager, Auditor, and Six Sigma Black Belt. He has been an Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners a Judge on the International Team Excellence Competition and a Lead Judge on the National Housing Quality Award. A former Professor of Quality at the University of Wisconsin, he has experience as a quality manager in the home building industry as well as construction engineer, site manager, and in training, auditing, and consulting with expertise in strategic and operational quality improvement initiatives. His work has achieved national quality, environmental, and safety management awards for clients. 

Denis is co-author of The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing the Baldrige Criteria: Improve Revenue and Create Organizational Excellence.


Related Categories