LCS Named Top Strategic Planning Firm

Having gained experience through executive leadership roles and leading teams for more than 20 years, Andréa Hawkins believes that organizations can better achieve their goals by appreciating the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) of their workforce. Recognizing the need for an inclusive workspace, she used her expertise in systems thinking and ability to navigate complex challenges to launch Leading Culture Solutions in August 2019.

Leading Culture Solutions brings a consultative approach to mid-size growth companies looking to advance business outcomes at scale – offering strategic planning, organizational effectiveness and culture transformation through the lens of diversity equity and inclusion (DEI).

In an interview with Manage HR, Andréa Hawkins, CEO of Leading Culture Solutions, talks about the DEI landscape and how the company’s 4A and 4L frameworks are roadmaps for Strategic Planning and Culture Transformation, respectively.

What are common client pain points, and how do you address them?

Our target audience is primarily growth companies with 100 to 1000 employees experiencing significant growth. Growth companies are good partners because they understand the value of DEI and the connection to positive business results.

We are invited in to transform culture or to help clients identify their Strategic “North Star”. In the majority of the cases, growth companies tend to be more open to innovation, and their size allows them to be nimble, agile and quickly adjust to marketplace changes. Growth companies are more willing to include diverse voices to allow them to quickly “…learn, unlearn and relearn” (Toffler).

In order to achieve the benefits of DEI within your culture transformation journey, there needs to be diverse perspectives, shared authority and collaborative decision-making. These are the critical tenants of DEI.

How do you go to market with the services you offer?

Depending on the presenting challenge, we offer several frameworks to support our clients’ needs. Two common frameworks include our 4A Strategic Planning journey. The four A’s are ‘Assess’, ‘Align’, ‘Assign’ and ‘Adjust’. With the rapid pace of change in today’s marketplace, it is necessary to have a plan that can be articulated on one page which is designed to be adjusted periodically over time.

The Assess phase focuses on understanding the current state of an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. In the Align phase we use a collaborative process to create alignment on priorities, initiatives and metrics for the organization. The Assign phase is where accountability is established and the Adjust phase is evoked periodically when time has passed or there has been a major shift in the internal and external environment.

Our proprietary 4L© framework is used to support a culture transformation journey specific to DEI. The four L’s are ‘Listen’, ‘Learn’, ‘Lean-in’ and ‘Live’. The 4L framework helps to guide organizations on their journey to inclusion, track progress and create sustainable change.

The first step, ‘Listen’ includes a current state assessment of DEI within an organization. Using the information “Diversity, equity and inclusion will be the foundation of how work gets done in the future. So it is very important to put a DEI lens on everything we do” from the Listen phase a readiness rating is assigned and informs the ‘Learn’ phase. The Learn phase includes training on language, history and business case to be sure there is common DEI proficiency. Next, the ‘Lean-In’ phase focuses on improving processes based on DEI knowledge gained. The ‘Live’ phase focuses on ensuring DEI exists within the mission, vision, and values of the organization to inform competencies and DEI metrics. The 4L journey is a marathon and not a sprint. For those clients serious about embarking on this path, in order to experience meaningful change, we recommend minimally a three-year commitment.

Could you elaborate on a customer success story?

We recently collaborated with a local arts organization, using our 4A model to co-create their strategic plan incorporating input from the local community. As part of the strategy, we helped the organization develop a custom survey and invited community members to participate. We also conducted focus group and interviews to understand how the community viewed the arts organization and what was wanted from the arts organization in future.

With the information gathered, we helped key stakeholders develop their strategic plan using a very collaborative process to ensure all voices could be heard. Finally, we were able to communicate the key priorities to the organization and other stakeholders. The stakeholders who participated felt included and enjoyed the equitable processes that allowed for many diverse perspectives to be taken into consideration and made for a strategic plan in which everyone could see themselves reflected.

The successful creation of a strategic plan that integrates many voices is critical for gaining buy-in on the priorities for the organizations.

What sets you apart from the market competition?

For enterprises looking to lead in the marketplace and to be well positioned for future growth, it is crucial to include people from diverse backgrounds. Today’s world is more diverse than ever, and with the internet and global marketplace where we all interact, people from various countries are communicating and doing business together. As we consider regional needs within the marketplace it is important we take into account different time zones, languages, customs and other factors that allow people to show up as their whole self in work settings.

Diversity, equity and inclusion is foundational for the future of how work gets done well. A DEI lens will be the differentiator for market leaders. It is crucial to remember, we are all part of a system and connected in some way, shape or form. The pandemic was clear evidence of that reality.

How have you envisioned the future from here on?

When we started the company in 2019, we had five clients. Six months later, the pandemic hit and we lost every client. We contemplated a pivot back to “regular jobs” but when George Floyd was murdered and the civil unrest happened, the phone began ringing and we continue to hear from organizations who want to evolve their cultures. Since then, we continue to support new clients and grow our team.

It’s a good feeling to witness organizations on their journey to inclusion, knowing that what you do is not only impacting the business outcomes but the people involved and communities where they live. As we cross the threshold of work, even if it is in our basement or offices, we bring our whole self. A positive, inclusive, work environment has the potential to make significant change for a person and how they show up not only in the workplace but also in their community.

We believe that the work we are doing is about changing hearts and minds–not bits and bytes. We strive to keep doing that work and “be the change we want to see in the world” (Gandhi).