None of Us is As Good As All of Us: How McDonald's Prospers by Embracing Inclusion and Diversity

ISBN: 978-0-470-49932-0
192 pages
September 2009
US $30.00 Add to Cart

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Q&A with Patricia Sowell Harris, McDonald’s Global Chief Diversity Officer 

1.      Why did you decide to write this book?

I have always thought that McDonald’s has an incredible story to tell about its commitment to diversity, especially how we got to where we are today.  I thought it was important to talk with the people who were there at the beginning, some of whom have long since retired, and in the process, I discovered many things that I hadn’t known.  In addition, I believe many other organizations can learn from some of the challenges we had to overcome and understand how diversity can drive the success of any business.

2.      “None of Us Is As Good As All of Us” is a quote by McDonald’s co-founder, Ray Kroc. Explain the meaning behind this title.

Ray Kroc set up a unique business model with McDonald’s, especially for the mid-1950s.  McDonald’s success was equally dependent upon the success of our franchisees, our suppliers, and the company itself – what we call the “three-legged stool.”  That’s what led Ray to say, “None of us is as good as all of us.”

And it was this same spirit that came to describe our approach to inclusion and diversity within the McDonald’s system.  Each person’s contributions are valuable and important to us, no matter who they are or what their background is.  The more people we include in the process of satisfying our customers, the more successful we will be.  So the meaning of Ray’s quote has expanded as our diversity has evolved and it’s a perfect definition of the benefits of diversity – none of us is as good as all of us.

3.      What is the definition of Diversity?

At its simplest, diversity means that your organization reflects the customers you serve and the society in which you operate.  But to be effective, it’s more than counting numbers … it’s making those numbers count.  A truly diverse culture means that different views, opinions, experiences, educations, religions, and lifestyles are respected, where everybody is a valued and contributing member of the team, and where actions are led by insights that create success in the business.

4.      “The seeds that can blossom into diversity are often planted long before you realize it.” This being said, a company’s diversity does not evolve overnight; how can companies use this to their advantage?

Every company has values to build upon to create a successful diversity initiative.  In McDonald’s case, we were a strong training company and we knew how to network with our three-legged stool and we built upon those values to make diversity work.  So a company should look to unique core values of its own that can be used as foundational building blocks to develop diversity – fundamental qualities like fairness, honesty, integrity, and opportunity ... and operating principles that make a company successful in the marketplace.

5.      A common misperception is that diversity is a goal that stands apart from a company’s profitability; McDonald’s believes they go hand in hand – explain the importance of practicing this concept.

At the most basic level, people like doing business with other people like themselves – it’s common sense and it’s proven by consumer studies as well.  So when your employees and franchisees mirror the communities you serve, your customers can count on seeing friendly faces to serve them.  In addition to that, when you draw from the community for your workforce, you also attract people who understand the local culture and customs.  Their insights are critically important in developing products and services that are relevant to those customers you are hoping to serve.

Beyond that, as you increase the critical mass of diversity within your ranks, you create a broader and deeper pool of talent to tap into when building your leadership team.  If you don’t value women in your workplace, for example, you’ve eliminated half of the brightest prospects from consideration.

As our CEO Jim Skinner says in the foreword to the book, “For those who say that it is easier to embrace diversity when you are the biggest and the best, I would argue that the cause and effect is just the opposite.  I believe that our diversity strategies are among the business practices that have helped us to become the acknowledged leader of the quick service restaurant industry.”

6.      How can the “Management Commitment” strategy help build diversity within a company?

The commitment of a company’s leadership is absolutely critical to a successful diversity strategy.  Embracing diversity means changing behaviors and attitudes in many cases, and that is a difficult thing to do under the best of circumstances.  If the middle management ranks perceive it is not important to top management, it won’t be important to them either.

On the other hand, if senior leadership makes it clear that a diversity initiative is a long-term commitment for the organization, with visible verbal and budgetary support, and also behind-the-scenes support for those who are taking tough actions within the company, then your strategy can succeed.

7.      Many companies have not yet embraced diversity as part of their business strategy, explain why this puts them at a competitive disadvantage.  

As the benefits of diversity are becoming clearer, there is no question that companies are embracing these principles to a greater degree than ever before.  They have discovered that it’s more than just the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do for their business.  Companies who have not learned to manage diversity within their own workforce are finding they have a disadvantage in competing … and this is a gap that will only become wider in the future.  That’s why it’s important to recognize how society is changing and adapt your organization to accommodate the new realities.

8.      Why is training and education a vital step in the production of a diverse organization?

Everybody knows the importance of training and educating employees in the principles and practices of whatever business or profession you’re in.  But when you are attempting to diversify your workforce, it’s also important to expand these training principles to support this initiative as well.  Recruiting minorities is the easy part, but educating them in how a corporate culture works and how to succeed within this structure is important in making them productive and happy members of your team.  We found it was essential to train our existing people in how to manage a diverse workforce and educate them about changing attitudes and behaviors in the new, diverse world we were dealing with.  It’s a simple matter of giving people the tools and resources they need to be successful.

9.      McDonald’s finds great value in the networks that have evolved within the corporate culture, how have employees benefited from participating with these networks?

 Networks extend an individual’s learning progress and allow them to draw on the support and encouragement of their peers at the same time.  In some cases, networks spring up spontaneously and in others they need to be encouraged and nurtured.  Either way, networks are an essential tool in fostering diversity and helping employees become successful.  There is nothing more valuable to people facing challenges than turning to colleagues for advice and counsel.  In addition, by volunteering to serve in a network leadership position, people can gain valuable management experience that can help them advance on their jobs as well.

We support our networks at McDonald’s because we believe they help create better, more satisfied employees, and that’s obviously good for us.  Networks also provide a framework for feedback to the company’s senior leaders, and that two-way communication helps our business as well, both by sharing the company’s vision and strategies with the workforce and by hearing great ideas that bubble up from the employees themselves.

10.  McDonald’s makes a point of recognizing as well as managing the cultural differences that exist within the company – explain the risk of applying a cookie-cutter approach to all groups.

We learned a fundamental lesson in managing diversity very early in the process that seems obvious today but wasn’t so clear to us in the beginning.  That is, you can’t apply a cookie-cutter approach to deal with the issues important to various minority groups.  Issues that are important to African Americans differ from those that matter to women, and both can be different from Hispanic American concerns.  The culture and background of each minority group often prompts a different response to the same situation, and various individuals within each diversity group differ from their peers as well.

In addition, we found there is a richness of diversity within each of these groups.  Hispanic Americans, for example, are not a monolithic group by any means – it makes a significant difference if their heritage is Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, or Argentinean.  Asian Americans also represent a rich assortment of distinct cultures.  So, we work hard to tailor our techniques to the individuals we are dealing with so that we don’t become oblivious to their real concerns.

11.  What makes the difference between a successfully diversified organization and one that is not?

 The key differentiator is persistence.  You have to understand that diversity is not a destination you will ever reach, it is a journey you decide to take.  It’s important to establish milestones, but your real mission is to create a culture than embraces diversity every day, all the time.  Diversity is not something you do, it’s who you are.

 We depend upon management commitment, training and education, and networking as the tools and techniques to foster diversity within our organization, but the real secret of our success is the constant application of these principles in good times and bad, no matter what the swings in the business cycle.  If you put your efforts on hold to save money when times are tight, you send a message to your entire organization that diversity is not really a priority.

12.  What advice can you give companies that are trying to incorporate diversity into their business strategy but don’t know where to begin?

I would “steal ideas shamelessly” from companies who are already managing inclusion and diversity successfully, and I would start with this book about McDonald’s.  These are not trade secrets we’re talking about … diversity is all about helping people reach their career potential.  Companies who have experience in inclusion and diversity welcome benchmarking, especially in an area that provides opportunities to others and strengthens our society and our world.

Embracing the principles of diversity and inclusion can be very difficult because it requires people to open their hearts and minds to new ideas and concepts.  But it’s well worth it – it’s a journey I recommend to all of you.  None of us is as good as all of us.