Project Management Institute

A Wide Net

The Right Techniques Can Expand Inclusion across Your Organization



By Colleen G. White, PMP

Inclusion is a never-ending process, not a project with a defined start and stop date. However, projects can be used to help organizations make progress in their journey toward inclusion, and project managers can play an important role in this process.

When my employer, OhioHealth, added inclusion to its core set of values in 2018, I recognized an opportunity for the information services project management office (PMO) to embrace this change. I launched a project to identify concrete actions the entire PMO could take to foster a work environment that seeks diverse perspectives and respects everyone's uniqueness. I broke the project into three steps.


We used affinity diagramming to help ensure ideas and actions were driven from the bottom up. This diagram allows a team to generate a large number of ideas and organize natural groupings to develop solutions. We answered the question, “What can we do to provide an even more inclusive environment that will allow our PMO and project teams to thrive?”

We broke into small groups and each had 10 minutes to brainstorm actionable answers to the question, record ideas on sticky notes and post them on a wall. Each small group then spent 15 minutes “affinitizing,” or organizing the brain-stormed ideas into similar clusters. Finally, groups were asked to provide a heading for each set of affinitized ideas.


Before our next session, I put all the ideas and headings into a spreadsheet. Then, in a quick, half-hour meeting, the same groups reconvened, reviewed their prior ideas and selected their top two headings and top two actions under those headings. Each team shared its priorities and actions with the rest of the group.


Before the final meeting, I collated the top headings from each group and the actions under those headings. The entire PMO then reviewed the collective ideas. We agreed on the top three priorities for the PMO and the actions required:

1. Support each other and new ideas

∎ Be respectful

∎ Encourage new ideas

2. Strengthen the team's culture

∎ Get to know your team members

∎ Encourage collaboration

3. Leverage humble inquiry

∎ Teach humble inquiry to the team

∎ Practice it

The PMO director then printed these priorities onto pocket-sized cards for each team member to display in their work area.

This project opened the door to dialogue among members of the PMO about diversity and how we all play a part every day in fostering an inclusive work environment. PM

img Colleen G. White, PMP, is a program manager, enterprise project management office, Ohio-Health, Columbus, Ohio, USA.

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