Why I’m “Handing Over” My Blog for the Week to #RootCauseRacism

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You might have heard of a “social media takeover” where a brand with a large following gives control of their social media feed to somebody who is promoting a cause or a social message.

As many Americans are doing, I've been thinking about, reflecting, and learning about racism and the effects on People of Color. For what it's worth, I've read the book White Fragility and have participated in discussions about it with colleagues at both Value Capture and KaiNexus as we figure out how to improve our organizations.

My wife and I have watched and talked about films, including “13th” and “Let it Fall” about some of the history in Los Angeles. Both are available on Netflix and 13th is available for free viewing below, via YouTube.

On the subject of history and my curiosity about “how did things get to be this way?”, I've been reading Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, the book that Ibram X. Kendi wrote before the wildly popular How to be an Anti-Racist, which I started reading but put on hold to read “Stamped” first.

This video by Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., now the Chief of Staff for the United States Air Force was particularly powerful when I watched it back in June:

Unlike General Brown, nobody looks at me and asks, “Does he belong?” because of the color of my skin. It saddens me that he has faced such discrimination.

I have shared some of my other reflections (in a blog post) and I've hosted a conversation on the subject of “Lean and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” in my podcast series. I'm not an expert and I'm just as flawed as anybody else. But I'm trying to learn and grow.


Listen to Mark read the post (subscribe to Lean Blog Audio)


One person I've followed on LinkedIn is Deondra Wardelle. She is a Lean practitioner (like me) and she's a Black woman (unlike me).

Deondra was brave enough to post some thoughts and personal reflections on her feelings and experiences in the aftermath of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. I was disappointed in (embarrassed really) by some of the utterly dismissive comments that were made by white men in reply. That didn't seem right. It's one thing to have a different point of view… it's another to try to invalidate the experiences and feelings of others.

As Lean practitioners, we should humbly aim to respect all people. This means listening and understanding their perspectives and realities. The idea of “go and see” doesn't mean going and imposing our views… it means going and listening.

As Toyota's Fujio Cho (and probably others) say:

  • Go see
  • Ask why
  • Show respect

When people are hurting, I think we should go see, ask why, and show respect. I don't know what the answers are, and that's OK for now. I'm trying to understand the problem, the current state, and causes (if not root causes).

Edit: Reflecting on the “that's OK for now” — maybe the lack of answers is “OK” for me as a white person, but I can understand the sense of urgency that people of color would have to find solutions yesterday.

If an employee says that something is unsafe the workplace (physically unsafe or otherwise), an executive shouldn't reply by saying, “No, it isn't.” When somebody says they are being treated differently or being discriminated against, we shouldn't say, “No, you aren't.”

So, thinking back to the idea of a “social media takeover.” I was inspired by Deondra, so I asked her to accept a “blog handover” as I'm calling it. My initial thought was to give a platform for her to write and talk about anything she wanted, to give more exposure to her voice.

We had some email exchanges and a wonderful Zoom conversation to get acquainted and to brainstorm. Deondra really ran with this idea, recruiting a number of Black women (and white women) to write on themes of Lean, diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is calling it #RootCauseRacism. Some of the blog posts don't come from a Lean perspective and that's fine (and refreshing).

Below, you'll see the participants and the plan for the series that runs through Friday, August 14. We'll have two or sometimes three posts per day.

Please come back tomorrow when Deondra will give her introduction to the series, laying out the plan for the week.

Flyer about the #RootCauseRacism blog series

On Friday the 14th, I will be moderating a panel discussion with Deondra and eight other women. KaiNexus has been kind enough to allow us to use their Zoom Webinar account for this. Click here to register.

Sharing our Visions and Voices to #RootCauseRacism

Flyer about the #RootCauseRacism webinar

I'll also be publishing one podcast during the week (on Tuesday) that touches on these themes with two very special guests: Dr. Randal Pinkett (the first and only Black winner of “The Apprentice” and Dr. Jeffrey Robinson (a professor at Rutgers Business School). We'll be talking about the book they co-authored, Black Faces in White Places and their upcoming book Black Faces in High Places.

I hope you'll accept the invitation to read and listen to these perspectives over the coming week.

Thanks,

Mark

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

16 Comments
  1. Bella Englebach says

    Mark, this will be a fantastic week of learning for all of us. Thank you for your generosity in creating a space for #RootCauseRacism.

    1. Mark Graban says

      Bella, thanks for sharing your voice here this week!

  2. Janae Pitts-Murdock says

    Mark, I was honored to participate at Deondra Wardelle’s invitation. Thank you for your partnership in this effort. May we all be inspired to advance our communities to be stronger and better.

    1. Mark Graban says

      Thanks for agreeing to participate, Janae!

  3. Mark Graban says

    I added a pargraph in the middle of the post:

    Reflecting on the “that’s OK for now” — maybe the lack of answers is “OK” for me as a white person, but I can understand the sense of urgency that people of color would have to find solutions yesterday.

  4. Tracy Defoe says

    Reading your post, I hope all lean practitioners and all leaders who aspire to respect people will be moved to examine the ways they live that respect.

    1. Mark Graban says

      Thanks, Tracy. I’m still very much in the process of understanding and figuring out what that needs to mean on a daily basis for me.

  5. Tania R Lyon says

    This is phenomenal, Mark. I look forward to this.

  6. Sabrina says

    Thank you, Mark Graban, for handing over your blog to #rootcauseracism! That’s awesome! Looking very much forward to reading all what is coming!

  7. Mamta says

    I am so deeply moved by this gesture. Thank you for the courageous leadership you model in everything you do, Mark.

  8. Mark Graban says

    Everybody, please please PLEASE come back starting tomorrow to read the important things these wonderful women have to share.

  9. Kate Bivens says

    Thank you, Mark. It’s very encouraging to see business leaders trying to engage in such a thoughtful way… there don’t seem to be enough safe and respectful places to reflect and learn, and yet in our work and everyday lives is where we should be able to practice respect for people and encourage equity. I really look forward to hearing from your guests and learning from their experiences.

  10. Joy E. Mason says

    I personally appreciate your allyship Mark. Racism is embedded deep within U.S. identity. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr once said “ There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.” Thank you for your conscience of empathy.

  11. Deondra Wardelle says

    Mark, thank you for leading by example. In addition, thank you for creating a safe space where we can publicly have a meaningful discussion and seek ways to #RootCauseRacism! I am forever grateful for your kindness.

  12. Aric Ho says

    This is so critical. This conversation has deep connections for WHY I even got started in the Lean world in the first place. Thank you to all who are helping to create a space for the conversation.

  13. Mark Graban says

    Be sure to check out Series 2 and everything else that’s now available at the new website http://www.RootCauseRacism.com.

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