Diagnosing Organizational Body-Scapes

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In today’s world, there is an urgent need for organizations to transform into more equitable and diverse enterprises. For some, the need for change is painfully obvious, especially those who experience exclusion or discrimination on a daily basis. For others, diversity and transformation might feel like an overly daunting or complicated task, which easily gets side-lined for more pressing organizational priorities. Wherever an organization and its leaders are at in terms of transformation, one step is critical but often neglected—an accurate and cross-cutting diagnostic. In this article, we present a case study detailing the first phase of a diversity and transformation intervention in South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF), an organization that has opened itself up to study and the testing of practical models for change. The NRF presents a particularly important case as it is located in a country that has been heralded as a pioneer in transformation and reconciliation, and yet has faced significant challenges in addressing ongoing historical and current inequalities. The findings from the NRF case confirm the need for diversity and transformation diagnostics that draw on many different sources of organizational data. It is within the overlapping layers of this data that a clear and yet nuanced picture emerges, one that challenges organizations to avoid quick fixes or simplistic solutions, and to become actively engaged in addressing the systemic issues required to bring about real change.