David Meadvin in Fast Company on the “DEI Swerve”...and what it means for CEOs

In a new op-ed for Fast Company, David Meadvin, CEO of One Strategy Group, delves into the complexities of managing corporate DEI programs in a climate of tremendous political pressure. Reflecting on the significant shift since the era that followed the murder of George Floyd four years ago, David highlights the negative impact of the debate moving from data-driven to primarily values-driven. 

"Many who favor DEI have ceded ground and lost the persuadable middle, but this middle is exactly where most CEOs operate,” David writes. “Hardly any of the leaders with whom I work are staunchly pro-DEI or staunchly against it. They want to do the right thing, but they don’t want to SAY the wrong thing: 87% of executives feel it is riskier to take a stance than to stay silent. They are under pressure from investors to deliver measurable ROI and are focused on profitable growth, first and foremost.”

Given these realities, David continues, "corporate leaders need to insist on vigorous measurement. Writing the biggest possible check, without a plan for how the investment will move the needle, is always a recipe for failure. Getting back to a fact- and results-based analysis of DEI programs puts CEOs in a position of power. It allows them to deflect political attacks and stay focused on strengthening the company."

David outlines a framework known as the "Three Ms": Manage, Measure, and Message. First, managing DEI involves integrating these initiatives into the core operations and culture of the organization. This requires commitment from leadership and a clear roadmap to foster an inclusive environment.

Measurement is the second crucial aspect, where David argues for the importance of setting clear, quantifiable goals. Without precise measurement, it's challenging to assess progress and make informed adjustments. He suggests that organizations should employ robust data collection and analysis methods to track their DEI efforts' effectiveness, ensuring accountability and transparency.

The third pillar, messaging, focuses on the importance of clear and consistent communication. In the current climate, where DEI initiatives are under intense scrutiny, companies must articulate their goals and progress transparently. Meadvin stresses that messaging should be fact-based and resonate with both internal and external stakeholders. 

With a thoughtful framework driven by data and analytics, CEOs can get back to safer ground on DEI and move forward with programs and empower people and provide a defensible ROI.

Read the full op-ed here.