Chevalier Cleaves: Transforming D&I in R&D

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By Princess Jones Curtis

Lexington, MAChevalier “Chevy” Cleaves is a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) veteran with four Chief D&I Officer appointments—private sector, higher education, government, and R&D. 

“What I have seen in every industry, and at every level, is some version of the idea that the work of D&I is smaller and more narrowly focused than is actually the case.  Both Diversity and Inclusion are strategic imperatives. To ensure that my leadership team partners are able to fully realize the value proposition of a successful D&I effort, I work to leverage an accurate understanding of both the problem statement and the opportunity statement.”

His efforts ensure the full integration of innovative D&I strategies. “My purpose is to lead enterprise-level Diversity and Inclusion transformation, in order to maximize individual and organizational performance and effectiveness, by incorporating holistic diversity and inclusion operations across the Lab’s people, business, and R&D systems and processes.”

According to Cleaves, “The true power of D&I work is harnessed by the proactive creation and execution of a vision of where an organization should go, not simply the ability to successfully craft a post-crisis way ahead.  Being part of a leadership team that is deeply connected to the mission, while cultivating this kind of competency across disciplines and embedding them within critical systems and processes, is incredibly gratifying.”

Cleaves’ background in active-duty military and the inaugural Chief Diversity Officer for the US Air Force affords him a unique perspective on D&I in the private and public sectors. “In my experience, the private sector generally has much greater agility and reach.  Obviously, most public sector constraints and operational controls were put in place to support and guard the public interest, so leaders have to be prepared to work within that context.”

When discussing the challenges of his role, Chevy states that most come from leaders and employees misunderstanding the scope of diversity and inclusion operations. “D&I transformations are driven from leadership at the top of an organization where accountability is initially established. If leaders and employees don’t understand the full scope and spectrum of D&I operations and their connection to organizational outcomes, goals, and objectives, then it is not possible to create sustainable success. I work hard to partner, both strategically and tactically, around these essential components of long term success.”

Join the conversation about the future of D&I on July 25th with Executive Panel Moderator Chevalier “Chevy” Cleaves at The 2019 Chief Diversity Officer Summit hosted by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Register Today! 

(Photo description: Chevalier Cleaves, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. Courtesy of MIT Lincoln Laboratory)