Diverse Teams are More Successful!



By John Cable, Director

Project Management Center for Excellence
A. James Clark School of Engineering
University of Maryland

College Park, Maryland, USA

Today, it is well recognized that more and more work is executed by teams. It is no longer just architects, engineers, construction companies, consulting companies, and software developers that deliver their work by project teams. In virtually every facet of business and government, it is now recognized that the way to accomplish a task is to organize a team focused on getting the job done. Growth in interest in the management of projects is evident simply by looking at the membership in project management associations.

While teams accomplish more work than ever before, we still experience stunning failure rates in delivering successful projects. According to a report published by Team Stage titled “31 Pivotal Project Management Statistics for 2021[1]” 70% of all projects fail! So, the question becomes, what can we do to encourage teams to be successful? The answer might surprise you! Evidence shows that nonhomogeneous teams are simply smarter[2]. Working with people who are not the same, challenges everyone to think outside their usual comfort zone and become sharper and more competitive. Therefore, designing your teams to be more diverse is one key to success.

The first step is to redefine “diversity” in your workplace culture. Diversity has traditionally referred to demographic categories like race and gender, but diversity experts are now expanding far beyond that meaning of the word, considering a much broader range of factors. Given that statement, then what is diversity?

“It means understanding that each individual is unique and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.”[3]

Aiming to increase diversity in the workplace is not a futile effort. Plain and simple…its good business strategy. The HBR article titled “Why Diverse Teams are Smarter” cites a 2015 McKinsey report that found that public companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean. In addition, those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above the industry mean.[4]

The HBR article is only one of many that document diverse teams in different work situations are simply better. Why is this? Let us look at some ideas.

Diverse teams drive better decision-making

Kevin Coleman, “The Empowerment Coach” at KMC Empowerment LLC, talks about asking more questions that might be uncomfortable to ask and challenging of others’ viewpoints. A person who might be seen as a team outlier could be the one who can up level the project, simply because they asked questions and challenged thoughts, causing new perspectives to be introduced, resulting in new ideas. This is how teams grow and create the best outcomes.[5]


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How to cite this article: Cable, J. (2021). Diverse Teams are More Successful! Commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue XII, December. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/pmwj112-Dec2021-Cable-diverse-teams-are-more-successful-commentary.pdf

 About the Author

John Cable

Director, Project Management Center for Excellence
University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA


 John Cable is Director of the Project Management Center for Excellence in the A.James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, where he has been a professor and teacher of several graduate courses in project management. His program at the University of Maryland offers masters and PhD level programs focused on project management. With more than 1,300 seats filled annually with students from many countries, including more than 40 PhD students, the program is the largest graduate program in project management at a major university in the United States.

John Cable served in the newly formed U.S. Department of Energy in 1980, where he was involved with developing energy standards for buildings, methods for measuring energy consumption, and managing primary research in energy conservation.  As an architect and builder, Mr. Cable founded and led John Cable Associates in 1984, a design build firm. In 1999 he was recruited by the University of Maryland’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering to create and manage a graduate program in project management. In his role as founder and director of the Project Management Center for Excellence at Maryland, the program has grown to offer two undergraduate minors, 3 master’s degrees, and a doctoral program. Information about the Project Management Center for Project Management at the University of Maryland can be found at www.pm.umd.edu

In 2002, PMI formed the Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Educational Programs (GAC).  Mr. Cable was appointed to that inaugural board where he served as vice chair.  In 2006, he was elected as chairman, a role he held through 2012.  As Chair of the PMI GAC, John led the accreditation of 86 project management educational programs at 40 institutions in 15 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and the Asia Pacific Region. John was awarded PMI’s 2012 Distinguished Contribution Award for his leadership at the GAC.  He can be contacted at jcable@umd.edu

To view other works by John Cable, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/john-cable/

[1] https://teamstage.io/project-management-statistics/
[2] https://hbr.org/2016/11/why-diverse-teams-are-smarter
[3] https://www.qcc.cuny.edu/diversity/definition.html</a