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Business, Diversity & Inclusion, STEM

Training for Sexual Harassment, Diversity and Project Management Requirements Has Less Than Stellar Outcomes! Why?


It’s been about six weeks since the New York Times broke the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal with accusations stretching back a few decades. At the time, I wondered how long it would take before this story would be pushed onto the no longer news back-burner? A short answer is not any time soon as the list of those being accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault has not only grown, but extends well beyond Tinsel Town (Hollywood) to political figures and prominent businessmen. In addition to the above, a few of the accusers are men.

Many corporations, businesses, governments, non-profits and other organizations have conducted sexual harassment training for decades with questionable results and levels of effectiveness. Sexual harassment is not a new problem or one that is unique to America. As one of the host on ABC’s The View put it: This is an American problem.

Given the notoriety of some of the accused, and the period of time in which these alleged incidents took place, is it possible that for the first time in history, Americans are unwilling to turn a blind eye to the problem and say, Well you know, boys will be boys? or worse, blame the victims. It occurred to me that a significant number of Americans have been unwilling to adopt new attitudes towards sexual harassment in a similar way that others have shunned diversity and inclusion initiatives despite having attended several training workshops and discussion sessions on these two subjects. Somehow they just don’t see either issue as a problem or a big deal!

Large and small companies, governments, academia, and non-profits have been conducting some version of diversity and inclusion training for at least 50 years, if not longer. Often sexual harassment training and diversity and inclusion training are combined. In 2016, the annual costs of all training across U.S. companies was estimated at $71 billion. While the full cost of diversity training is not known, it is estimated that diversity training consultants are chasing $400 to $600 million of this figure. As online training becomes more popular, some have estimated the cost of delivery for compliance related topics at about $50 per person. The cost of damages from lawsuits that arise for either sexual harassment and race discrimination vary and is largely dependent upon whether or not the case was settled out of court or went to trail.

On Tuesday, November 14, 2017, the PBS News Hour reported that the House of Representatives will require anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for all members and their staffs, just hours after a hearing in which two female lawmakers spoke about incidents of sexual misconduct involving sitting members of Congress.

“Our goal is not only to raise awareness, but also make abundantly clear that harassment in any form has no place in this institution,” Speaker Paul Ryan said. “As we work with the Administration, Ethics, and Rules committees to implement mandatory training, we will continue our review to make sure the right policies and resources are in place to prevent and report harassment.”

The Senate took a similar action a week ago on Thursday, November 9, 2017. The Senate unanimously approved legislation that institutes mandatory sexual harassment training for senators and aides — a potentially meaningful shift amid calls for overhauling Capitol Hill’s system for handling harassment complaints.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a lead sponsor of this measure, said the next step was to make changes in how harassment complaints are handled. “You wonder why there’s only 21 women in the Senate or why there’s no women running Hollywood studios or there’s hardly any women running major businesses,” Klobuchar told reporters. “Well, when you have a work environment where people can’t get ahead without having to put out, that’s what happens.”

In her BizWomen post, Making Harassment Training Count, Melissa Wyle states that to create change, training programs must be thorough and have the support of a company’s top management. This is according to research from the College of Business at the University of Mississippi. [Ref 1]

Earlier, Gretchen Carlson, a former news anchor for Fox News, spoke to a group of women on October 26, 2017 at the Taft Center in Cincinnati as part of “A Conversation with Gretchen Carlson,” along with promoting her new book: Be Fierce. Carlson told her audience: “Companies, for the most part, are doing the training because they feel compelled to from a litigious point of view rather than really wanting to make sure we have a safe environment. Changing the way we do the training would be incredibly beneficial.” [Ref 2]

I’d like to believe that companies are already doing all of the above. However, my best guess is that few have actually gotten these very important training and education tools right, despite years of effort. The other issue is that there is not appropriate follow up and reinforcement once training has been completed. Carlson also went on to say that companies need to make changes in how they train employees on sexual harassment, including “bystander training” to encourage more people to come forward.

Diversity and inclusion training is also no stranger to most businesses, and as mentioned earlier, has been around for a very long time. I’ve written several post on diversity and inclusion over the years. Two posts that capture the spirit of today’s discussion were written almost three years ago:

o Diversity Without Inclusion Is Just a Game of Musical Chairs – Part 1
o Diversity Without Inclusion Is Just a Game of Musical Chairs – Part 2

The trending topic at the time was the lack of diversity in high tech industries. At the time, the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, had announced the company’s new diversity initiative: to hire more women and members of historically under-represented groups. For anyone following the news on companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon.com, etc., it is a well-known fact that the workforce of these companies are mostly white and male.

Microsoft proposed to launch a diversity program in 2015. I challenged Mr. Nadella to not only launch another diversity program, but to launch a diversity and inclusion program that also emphasized unconscious bias. Using the definition of T. Hudson Jordan, Director, Global Diversity & Talent Strategies at Pitney Bowes, Inc.: “Inclusion involves bringing together and harnessing these diverse forces and resources, in a way that is beneficial. Inclusion puts the concept and practice of diversity into action by creating an environment of involvement, respect, and connection—where the richness of ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives are harnessed to create business value. Organizations need both diversity and inclusion to be successful.”

One of the most encouraging signs I got from Microsoft was from their Global Diversity and Inclusion web page. The company states: “In over 20 years of committed diversity and inclusion efforts, we’ve learned that diversity is not a finite goal; it is a journey that requires constant self-assessment and recommitment.”

So far, the contents of this post show how difficult it is to implement effective sexual harassment and diversity training in the workplace. However, how does this relate to Project Management (PM)? It just so happens that I recently read an article sponsored by IAG Consulting and developed for the Project Management Institute (PMI): Diagnosing Requirements Failure. [Ref 3] The contents of the document provide a benchmark of the current capability of organizations in meeting business requirements and an assessment of the underlying causes of poor quality requirements.

In the world of project management, it is well documented that many businesses fail to do a good job in selecting business requirements. Business requirements are high-level statements of the goals, objectives, or needs of an organization. They usually describe opportunities that an organization wants to realize or problems that they want to solve. The business requirements for the project are often stated in the business case.

IAG’s report presents the findings from surveys of over 100 companies and identifies definitive findings on the importance and impact of business requirements on enterprise success with technology projects. The survey focused on larger companies and included an average project size of about $3 million.

Here are the major conclusions of the IAG study:

  • Over 50% of organizations surveyed do not have even basic pieces in place to be successful at business and software requirements.
  • Seventy percent (70%) of organizations do not have the fundamental competencies within business requirements discovery to consistently bring in projects on time and on budget.
  • Companies can achieve success rates in excess of 80% on a consistent basis. The greater the organizational focus on the combined aspects of business requirements (people, process and enabling tools), the better the expected project outcome.
  • The focus of companies must shift to the quality of Requirements Discovery as a process and away from Business Requirements as a thing that either happened or didn’t at the beginning of a project if they hope to consistently deliver successful projects.

Here is perhaps the most critical finding of the IAG report: Point changes to organization and deliverables don’t yield meaningful change to results in and of themselves. Only when elements associated with the process of requirements discovery are considered in combination with these other organizational elements is meaningful change to performance realized. It is this finding that leads IAG to conclude that many companies simply do not visualize business requirements as, first and foremost, a process rather than a document.

So, what does sexual harassment training, diversity and inclusion training, and project management requirements training have in common? Answer – a few things:

  • Significant Training Dollars Spent: Each year, U.S. businesses and other organizations spend billions of dollars on training in each of these three subject areas with dismal to minimum results or outcomes.
  • Cultural Issues: The corporate culture and support for these initiatives are directly tied to the employees’ awareness and understanding of these issues along with a desire to improve workplace practices.
  • Document vs Process: Most important, and as several persons have cited above, the methodology in which the training is taught and/or delivered may need to be greatly enhanced. Treating the topic as a document or workshop/seminar instead of a process of ongoing learning with applications to be repeatedly followed up on has resulted in little change for many organizations.

The Harvey Weinstein scandal appears to have created a sea change in the way that men and women view sexual harassment in the U.S. If the public’s view of the topic has changed, it is appropriate that training on the topic should also change. One can only hope that the knowledge and learnings on this issue can be transferred to other subjects of concern, especially those that are heavily embedded in cultural norms and have been resistance to change for decades if not centuries.

Great minds think alike and great minds also think differently!

Sources Cited:

1. Making harassment training count, by Melissa Wylie for BizWomen forThe Business Journal, Nov 14, 2017, https://www.bizjournals.com/bizwomen/news/latest-news/2017/11/making-harassment-training-count.html?page=all

2. Gretchen Carlson: Change sexual harassment training, by staff writers for the Business Journals, October 31, 2017, https://www.bizjournals.com/bizwomen/news/latest-news/2017/10/gretchen-carlson-change-sexual-harassment-training.html?page=all

3. Diagnosing Requirements Failure, a report by IAG Consultants, a training provider for the Project Management Institute (PMI)



About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.



  1. Pingback: Time’s Person of the Year – The Silence Breakers, #MeToo | BridgeBizSTEM - December 6, 2017

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