MCOD: Multicultural Organization Development

The Five Questions You Must Address Before Attempting to Initiate Diversity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Work

This article was written to provide high impact context for starting, maintaining, or breathing new life into diversity, inclusion, and culture work in organizations. One of my favorite things to do is to find powerful theories or models to accomplish highly valued outcomes in human systems. This article combines relevant models in the areas of Diversity / Inclusion, Organization Development, and Organization System Change. An area of mild frustration for me is when I have to wade through large amounts of information to get the salient points of an article or book. For this reason I’ve written this article in the form of 5 key questions designed to satisfy a laser focus on how to start or revive strategic work in this area. Lastly, realizing that before any change effort can take place, one must embark upon the task of collecting valid data. This will provide insight and direction regarding where the effort should begin. With that principle in mind, I’ve provided an opportunity for you to have access to a link that will allow you to assess your organizations current location on the MCOD continuum. An anonymous data summary will be provided to everyone who completes the assessment. You will learn everything you need to know about the continuum later in the article. Let’s get started with the five key questions.

1. What is the MCOD process and how did it get started?

The MCOD process was born more than 20 years ago when practitioners combined approaches in the fields of Systems Change, Diversity / Inclusion, and Organization Development. The combined disciplines brought together social diversity and social justice. Social Diversity focused on building organizational culture for people from various social identify groups (i.e. race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, social / economic class, religion, nationality, age, and other identities). While Social Justice change efforts focused on eliminating racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, anti-Semitism, and other manifestations of social injustice. Early practitioners viewed the system or organization as the target of change, rather than the individual (Jackson, 2006).

A Definition: The Multicultural Organization (MCO) is an organization that seeks to improve itself or enhance its competitive advantage by advocating and practicing social justice and social diversity internally and external to the organization (Jackson, 2006).

Six Key Assumptions Supporting the MCOD Theory

  • Training is required but it’s not the silver bullet – systems, policies, and practices must also be addressed
  • Avoid labeling the organization – conduct an assessment of what is and begin the work at that point
  • A vision of what the end state looks like and transparent data of the current state are both required
  • Data assessments should include tangible areas that matter to the organization (i.e. productivity, quality, customer satisfaction, innovation, hiring, turnover, promotions, pay, key assignments, etc.)
  • The organization must own both the “Real” and “Ideal” in order for the process to be effective (current vs. future state)
  • Diversity, inclusion, and culture changes will need a champion and the work must be connected to strategic objectives

2. What are the key steps in the MCOD process?

Once the organization makes the decision to pursue the goal of becoming multicultural, the MCOD change process begins. The process has four main components; 1) identification of the change team, 2) determination of system readiness, 3) organization assessment / benchmarking, 4) change planning and implementation.

MCOD Process ModelChange Team
The Change team is a group of well-regarded individuals who demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion efforts. The members should also represent different parts and levels of the organization. The group should be of manageable size and realize the diversity work will be a part of their job throughout the change process. It’s also a good idea to select opinion leaders who have several connections and constituents.

System Readiness
This step in the process facilitates a mini assessment to determine if the system is ready to begin it’s work or would some foundational groundwork need to take place first. This phase would be done with a small sample segment across the organization. The readiness check would also inform leaders of how best to enter into the work with the organization. Following this step the organization will be informed of the start point, direction, pace, and depth of the required work.

The purpose of the assessment is the get a clear picture of where the organization currently is and how far it has to go to become and MCO. This step in the process also establishes a benchmark from which future progress can be measured. The process involves collection of three types of data (surveys, interviews, and audits). Ultimately, the Assessment phase is intended to hold up a mirror to the organization and allow the data to speak for itself.

Implement Change
Following the data feedback and ownership of its outcomes, the organization is ready to develop a specific change plan and goals. It is important to select high impact changes that will be observable and measurable over the next 1-2 years.

Evaluate & Renew
Upon reaching key goals and learning along the way the organization is ready to evaluate and renew its efforts of becoming an MCO. The MCOD process is expected to become part of the organization’s culture. It should new possess the internal capacity to conduct it’s own MCOD process without help from external assistance unless it would prove to be beneficial or is simply desired.

3. What are the various organization descriptions along the MCOD continuum and where is your organization currently located?

The MCOD Continuum provides a framework which help to identify change strategies that are consistent with the developmental readiness of the organization (Jackson, 2006). The MCOD Continuum identifies six points along the organization developmental continuum. Each stage of development describes the consciousness and culture of an organization with regard to issues of social justice, diversity, and where they are relative to becoming an MCO (Jackson, 2006).

Where would you place your organization along the below continuum? Also what differences might appear if the following groups assessed where your organization landed along the continuum (executives, middle managers, individual contributors, entry level / support staff members, or customers). Be sure to access the survey link at the end of the article.

Milti-Cultural Organization Development

 4. What are 5 key challenges that will derail the MCOD process?

The below list is not intended to be an exhaustive and you may think of other key areas to consider. Please feel free to share your additional input. Based on our experience, here is what we’ve found to be true most of the time when MCOD work becomes derailed. Deciding what to do if you find yourself in either of the below categories, depends on a multitude of factors which will be the subject of future articles. Please stay tuned.

  • Lack of Executive leader commitment and vision
  • Failure to develop strategic goals for the work
  • Lack of transparent and relevant metrics
  • Failure to integrate and leverage effective organization change principles
  • Failure to appoint an effective leader who is accountable for the work

5. What are aspirational goal areas for an organization working to become an MCO?

Aspirational Goals

MCOD practitioners must be aware that a true multicultural workforce who feels included and valued cannot be fully achieved if a socially unjust environment is allowed to exist. The goal of becoming an MCO involves achievement of social justice (an antiexclusionary objective) and multiculturalism (an inclusionary objective). Some of us have unfortunately validated this concept by attempting to implement diversity or multicultural objectives without attending to the absence of social justice (i.e. sexism, racism, classism, anti-Semitism, heterosexism, and other manifestations of social injustice).

This concept is related to organizational readiness, which was discussed earlier. If social injustice is found during the preliminary phase of the work, it must be dealt with before members of the organization will take the effort seriously.  Imagine how you would feel after hearing a key leader discuss their support and vision for diversity work, when you’re repeatedly mistreated based your cultural identity and received no support or feedback after reporting it. My guess is that you’d feel the leaders are not serious and this is the flavor of the month initiative. You’ll hear what they have to say and go back to business as usual. One would think if they were serious, they would deal with the injustices reported to them or have a credible process to address these types of concerns and violations.

One of the insights gleaned throughout my years of working with people and organizations is the power and benefit of blending effective theory, models and framework. After researching the material on the MCOD model I quickly realized and was drawn to the power and wisdom of how the concept combines diversity / inclusion work with Organization Development, and Organization Systems Change work. This method of combining key concepts from the Applied Behavioral Sciences is similar to our approach at Inspirus Consulting. The holistic approach helps to develop new insights and solutions for individuals and clients systems.

Finally, I thought it would be inappropriate for me to mislead anyone into thinking that taking on work in this space is anything but easy or simple. I would describe it as serious, complex, value added, personally rewarding, and potentially life changing. The non-linear nature of the change process will promise to keep the work interesting. Regardless of a well thought out plan, practitioners must stay aware of what’s happening in the here and now so they can take appropriate follow up action to continue the momentum towards desired outcomes. Be sure to stay open to learning new insights along the way. As mentioned in the beginning, we’ve created an anonymous opportunity to assess where your organization is located on the MCOD Continuum. Please CLICK HERE to participate in the anonymous survey and receive a copy of the results.

Al Sullivan, MSOD, SPHR
(919) 522-9782

Jackson, B. (2006). Theory and Practice of Multicultural Organization Development. The NTL Handbook of Organization Development and Change Principles, Practices, and Perspectives (pp. 139 – 154). San Francisco: Pfeiffer.