People + Strategy Journal

Spring 2021

The Takeaway: A Discussion Guide

The Takeaway frames several articles with this thought exercise: If I were to be facilitating a conversation on this topic with my C-suite, my direct team or my business partners, what discussion prompts might I use to frame that meeting?

The Takeaway: A Discussion Guide

Transformation or Iteration?

  • Ambition: What is our case for change, and what is our ambition for the future? How inspiring are our goals? How do we want our people to think and act differently? Are we as leaders fully aligned before we start working with the organization? Are we clear about what won’t change? 
  • Intent: Why is this important? How will we get there, and what will we do to mark progress? Who will be and how will we deal with those stakeholders? 
  • Risk: Most transformation efforts struggle to achieve their goals, how do we anticipate and mitigate our delivery risks?
  • Roadmap: How do we ensure that impacted parts of the organization have capacity to drive the changes and don’t get overwhelmed with competing priorities? How do we ensure the plan is achievable? How do we equip leaders to be effective in their change roles?


“Employees are raising their voices like never before. But how much influence and power—implied or explicit—do you give employees? The questions run the gamut. Do you work with the government? Do you do business with certain countries and not with others? What is your stance on various societal issues?” 

—Pat Wadors, Chief People Officer of Procore 

Creating ESG Impact

  • Who do we need to bring along for the ride? Who needs to be engaged at the board, leadership and front-line levels, and who is responsible for engaging them? What role do we play in our communities and what role do we want our communities to play in our priority-setting or impact targets?
  • What do we want to accomplish under E, S and G? If we don’t have a goal under each, what is our rationale and talk track for why not? How will we track progress against our goals?
  • What governance structure will link our public commitments to our internal stakeholders, our board, investors, customers and communities? What risks do we face in stating these goals to these different constituencies? What signals are we monitoring to tell us if we’re off-track, and who owns flagging those and planning for contingencies?


“[Board members] want the opportunity to spend time with each of the key division leaders. Those conversations are not just about revenue and profit.  What are they doing to develop their team? What have they done during COVID-19 to help relieve some of the stress on their team? You’re looking for an emotional intelligence of the operating team. ” 

—Beth Comstock, Nike Board Director

Shifting D&I to DE&I

  • If we are serious about changing our equity and inclusion results, are we willing to commit our own time to ensure executive leader representation for every business resource group (BRG) and to set the expectation that all people managers must be active in BRGs?
  • If we are serious about changing our equity and inclusion results, are we willing to put compensation on the line? Will we link executive incentives to diversity contributions? Will we incorporate DE&I into every employee’s performance review?
  • If we are serious about changing our equity and inclusion results, are we willing to commit to outcomes by putting the discussion first in our board meetings and HR reviews? Will we center these conversations on the data and discussion of, “How are you doing with your team? How diverse is it? Who got promoted and who got hired?” Are we adding an inclusion index or other quantitative measurement to our employee surveys?


“In terms of talent, we’re talking a lot about our business models. What have we learned from this past year in terms of our ability to work remotely? What are the implications for our facilities? What kind of things would we do differently as a company? The talent implications are big.” 

—Patricia L. Lewis, CHRO of UnitedHealth Group

The Post-COVID-19 Workplace

  • As we’re building out a post-COVID-19 workplace, have we identified the concerns of our employees, or do we have a plan in place to do so? 
  • In an environment where scientific analysis can be viewed through a variety of filters, what are we prepared to define as a company mandate versus individual employee responsibility? How will we manage it when those two come into conflict? 
  • Let’s get granular for a minute—what is our plan on elevators, cleaning, masks, hand sanitizer? What is our role as a leadership team in articulating the plan and then cascading its execution into the real estate decisions we make?
  • If we say hybrid works, but we come into the office every day from 8am to 6pm, what message are we sending? Are there behaviors we need to model differently or more overtly?