Home
Presentations
Managing Diversity

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure and honor for me to address you in the opening of the EFQM Forum 2000, here in Istanbul. The Turkish quality community is proud to host you all, for the first major Quality event of the new millenium, in this city of rich historical and cultural heritage.

On behalf of KalDer, The Turkish Quality Association, I wish the Forum to be a productive and stimulating experience for all the participants and an enjoyable short vacation for those who stay thereafter.

Please allow me to thank and congratulate all the individuals and the institutions that supported and participated in the organization of this event for the last two years. In the organization committee, we have tried to utilize the experience gained from our National Quality Congress, which incidently has been the largest in Europe for the last three years and awarded the “Best Congress Award” in Turkey for two years in a row. We hope that you will be pleased with both the content and the logistics of the organization throughout your stay.

Istanbul, is just the right setting for our theme “Managing Diversity: A Bridge to Excellence.” We have a long experience in managing diversity in a city where peoples, cultures, religions, and ideas met and merged. I hope that this city, where hundreds of years of cultural diversity is still visible in every corner, will inspire us in our work for diversity management.

This theme is becoming ever important, not only to better manage our companies, but also to have a better functioning global governance system.

Let me start from the company perspective. The two key issues facing the business leaders today are attracting talented people and managing the restructuring of industries through mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships.

In attracting talented people we all have to reach out to a more diverse pool of individuals: in terms of their age profile, gender, nationality, religious backgrounds, ethnicities, and sexual preferences. Many countries are modifying their laws to follow capabilities based immigration policies. However, individuals come as a package both with their talent and their backgrounds. Therefore, if we are to attract and retain talent, we have to appreciate and cater for their differences.

Last year the value of mergers and acquisitions was $3.4 trillion worldwide, an increase of 35% from the previous year. Also last year, M&A activity in Europe surpassed that of the US. However, how to make them successful is still a question to be resolved. As the Economist has suggested “Are mergers like second marriages, a triumph of hope over experience?” “Cultural differences” whether corporate or national are often blamed for failures. Are such critics right?

Cultures are real forces for change or stagnation, but it is important to remember that cultural structures are created. However, when we talk about cultural resistance to mergers, to a large extent we are talking about entrenched interests and incentives. Therefore, it is up to the management to devise policies to set up new incentive structures and to manage diversity. As ABB has discovered during its painstaking merger process “the true merger process does not come automaticaly or naturally – it is unnatural and takes management determination.” Diversity breeds creativity and innovation. Improving our ability to manage diversity, will also improve our ability to benefit from occasions when different cultures come together as in mergers and cooperation agreements.

Now, coming back to the global governance perspective.

Five hundred years ago, Cabeza de Vaca, a Spanish Explorer and one of the first inter-continental travelers, was sponsored by the Spanish King. He wrote to the King that the strange people living in this newly discovered continent, America, were as human as the Europeans and should be treated as such. In doing so, he became the writer of one of the first books on human rights and diversity management. Today, when human genome is deciphered, and information processing is reaching mind boggling speeds, and costless communication in the form of free internet service and even inter-planetary travel is around the corner. We now have to consider the right of every one of six billion inhabitants of the world to participate in our governance structures.

Today, individuals’ urge to shape their future collectively is greater than ever. Their quest for new ways of governance is leading to fundamental changes whereby individuals, private and public institutions try to harmonise their diverse interests through complicated interactive decision making processes. New governance mechanisms involve new, variable partnerships, and networks whose rules of engagement are yet to be formalized.

Today, protection of free trade and clean environment, fight against terrorism and international crime organizations, and issues such as celestial property rights require supra-national governance structures. As important powers and functions are transferred away from the nation-state through consensual delegation of sovereignity, governance is inescapably becoming multilevel, as we can observe from the case of the European Union. And the key issue is becoming the inclusion of the masses into these multi-level governance structures.

We should be aware of the two main threats originating from the nature of globalization-localization dualism and their potential for both integration and exclusion at the same time. The first of these threats is the ethnic, national or religion based conflicts which display a tendency to spread, and in some cases turn into ethnic cleansing. Stopping that nightmare will doubtlessly be one of the top priorities of a new global governance structure committed to the vision of democracy and equity.

In addition to this threat which tends to divide people with their geographic borders, common ancestry or religious beliefs, there is the danger of discriminating people on the basis of their social positions. This is an outcome of the communication revolution which has de facto enabled present level of globalization. Currently, there are serious imbalances in the ownership of means to access information and even the most basic technology. Two billion people – one in three individuals in the world – still lack electricity. In the early 1990’s Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, and Nigeria together had fewer telephone connections than Canada which has only 27m people.

Lack of appropriate infrastructure and the lack of education to participate in the new world of “connected society” is presenting a serious threat to establishing new governance structures based on the principles of democracy and equity. For the “connected society”, the focus of exchanges in a wide range of fields from economy and politics to culture and social life is shifting from the real to the virtual sphere; and patterns of life, work, and sharing relationships are undergoing radical changes. At he same time, those who are unable to catch up with this revolution are left outside the system at an alarming rate. This development presents the danger of an alienated two-tier society in contrast to the exciting prospect of efficient governance patterns based on the principles of democracy and equity.

Unless we can provide an equitable access to knowledge and means of communication among the people, we cannot lead humanity to a world free of discrimination, prejudice, and animosity. This requires not only a reform in what and how we teach our children, but also a rethinking of the global priorities to make education of the masses as global citizens the top priority.

Otherwise, humanity will be shaken this time, and at a global scale, by the fault line between the enlightened and the ignorant. This fault line differs from the geological one we have experienced last year in Turkey in that it is in the minds of people, the most valuable piece of property in the new millennium. Therefore, it is more difficult to observe and more difficult to repair.

Therefore we have to ask: How can we incorporate the people into the new multi-level governance structures? Is our infrastructure and more importantly infrastructure of the individuals (i.e. their education level) sufficient to allow such an involvement? If not, are we leaving huge masses out of the governance structures? If so, is this sustainable and is this compatible with our value systems? Will we need another Cabeza de Vaca to remind us that all of the 6 billion inhabitants of our planet are humans? Therefore, don’t we need a major international education effort to peacefully and meaningfully engage all the people in our new global governance structures?

Yes, education. It is the focal point of the issue. And for me this is just the right point to remind ourselves that Total Quality Management is not a set of pre-defined and finalised rules but a structured effort for cultural change. Therefore, in essence, TQM is a process of education.

When KalDer launched the National Quality Movement in Turkey, it had announced that this was a movement for social transformation, an education drive. Therefore it was a very important step when the Turkish Ministry of Education declared its decision to join the National Quality Movement and to utilize EFQM Excellence Model to reform the management of education in Turkey. This, perhaps, is the largest public sector-NGO partnership in our country. We hope that this effort will help our children to become responsible global citizens. However, we should all admit that we have a long route to travel both in educating our people and in reforming our governance structures.

If we are successful in including rather than excluding all the communities into global governance structures, we have to improve our ability to manage diversity. I would submit to you that the past experiences of the mankind can meaningfully contribute to the refinement of diversity management. Let’s take the example of Turkey, the proud custodian of this land and the civilizations flourished on Asia Minor throughout thousands of years. When we look at the history of the Ottoman and Anatolian civilizations what we see is great fluidity between religions and communities. Just to give an example, the Seljuk Sultan Izzeddin Keykavus II, whose mother was a descendant of the Byzantine aristocracy, routinely organised in his palace teological discussions between Christian priests and Muslim religious leaders. Our tradition, particularly highlighted in its sufi variant, embodies a philosophy of great tolerance and accomodation. Poets and thinkers like Yunus Emre, Haci Bektas Veli, and Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi are inseparable parts of the cultural make-up of the inhabitants of Turkey. We learn from the historical records that Mevlana Celaleddin, the sufi religious leader, poet and thinker of the 12. Century, regularly visited the monestaries to exchange views with Christian and Jewish religious people. Prominent Christian clergymen came from Istanbul to discuss with him certain teological issues. It was Yunus Emre, the great sufi poet and thinker of the 13th century, who preached in one of his poems: “Regard the other, as you regard yourself, this is the meaning of the four Holy Books, if there is any.”

Just as in new movement of alternative medicine where the old traditions of eastern cultures are providing the keys to healing of the body and the mind as a whole, the new developments in management thinking can benefit from the traditions of old civilizations. For example, our tradition of accomodation and tolerance is the reason why until late 19th century the Ottoman political order did not experience ethnic discrimination.

What marked the Seljuk and Ottoman experience in this field was a very specific definition of the “self” and the “other” and an associated administrative form of social organisation considerably different from that in the Western world. In this form of organisation, the so-called “Millet” (Community) system, different communities enjoyed a considerably high level of autonomy. This system also allowed non-Muslims to be appointed to administrative positions which required a high level of political and financial trustworthiness.

In the 19th century the rise of race based nationalism in the West had its echoes in the Ottoman territory as well. The course of events proceeded in a chain of reactions, paving way to the great sufferings at all parts of the society. History nowhere in the world proceeds along a straight line. Despite the inevitably irregular advance of history, the fundamental context of life in Anatolia is one of coexistence between different groups. In that sense Anatolia’s legacy to the world is one of great diversity management full of rich experiences. These experiences have, therefore, the potential to make significant contribution to the international process of furthering the progress towards better governance of Europe and the world.

In short I have two messages: (1) Success in the new millennium requires incorporation of diversity into our management thinking and governance structures. (2) Actively seeking diversity by enlarging our perspectives and learning from the past experiences of different cultures will improve our ability to manage diversity.

Managing diversity is managing our own selves. Managing diversity is ridding ourselves from our fears, opening our eyes and hearts to new perspectives, and “regarding others, as we regard ourselves.”

I sincerely hope that by the end of this Forum, we will not only learn a great deal more about managing diversity to become better leaders in our own communities, but also, through others with different backgrounds, start to better understand ourselves to become fuller individuals.

Thank you.

Dr. Argüden

 

“You are not only a career idol and a great mentor, but also one of the foremost thought leaders in Turkiye. During my career at Rothschild I have witnessed first hand the admiration and respect you have gained from all segments of the Turkish business world. I wish to express my gratitude for the opportunity to learn from you.”
Selman Ruso