Change can be hard; especially for those of us who have always done things a certain way. As human beings, we are indeed creatures of habit. Even those of us who are adventurous and ambitious, we still find comfort in our daily patterns and routines.
As a practitioner of continuous improvement methodologies, I am a big fan of applying the Toyota Kata to all aspects of my life. From personal to professional, the steps of the Toyota Kata help with finding clarity, setting goals, and actualizing change. Over the years I've been a learner, coach, and second coach. By practicing the Toyota Kata, I've been able to change my mindset, develop new habits, and establish different behaviors.
This brings me to the purpose of writing this blog and my overall mission of “Sharing Our Visions and Voices to #RootCauseRacism.”
On May 25, 2020, the world was turned upside down as a shaky, cell phone video went viral. It showed the brutal murder of a Black man, George Floyd. For 8 minutes and 46 seconds, a Minneapolis police officer placed his knee on Floyd's neck, choking him to death. In the final moments of his life, Floyd, a 46-year-old man, cried out for his deceased mother.
I only know of the event from watching news coverage. I've not been able to bring myself to watch the actual video. It's simply too disturbing. Nor have I been able to watch any of the other videos that depict countless Black men and women being victimized and murdered by police – the very ones who take an oath to “protect and serve.” Each of these violent occurrences hit way too close to home. Sadly, I see myself and my loved ones behind every hashtag. I often ask myself “could we be next?”
The murder of George Floyd is not the only incident of this type to disturb my spirit. In July 2015, a 28-year-old Black woman named Sandra Bland was in the process of relocating to a new state as she embarked upon a new career. However, before she made it to her destination, she was stopped and arrested by police for allegedly failing to use a turn signal. She was later found hanged in a jail cell in Waller County Texas.
This incident was particularly disturbing to me, because around that time, I too was in the process of relocating to a different state to start a new career.
Moving from Kentucky to Indiana proved to be a great career move, but it was indeed a hectic time in my life. My mind was constantly pre-occupied with a lengthy “To Do” list, not to mention the emotional impact of missing my family and friends.
Due to these mental distractions, I am certain there were times I too forgot to use my turn signal. Thankfully, I didn't lose my life because of this infraction. Sandra Bland, however, was not so fortunate.
As a small tribute to Bland, I silently whisper “rest in peace Sandra Bland,” every time I use my turn signal while driving.
Sadly, there are many other instances of Black people being murdered at the hands of police. In July 2016, Philando Castile was pulled over for a minor traffic stop while driving through a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. That traffic stop ultimately resulted in Castile's death. After a 62 second encounter with a police officer, he was fatally shot in front of his girlfriend and 4-year-old daughter.
Castile was a hard-working cafeteria supervisor at a local high school. He was said to be a mentor and role model to all of the school's students. Castile's death broke my heart, because when I think of him, I think of my nephews.
Then there's the murder of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in my hometown, Louisville, Kentucky. Taylor was a civil servant, employed as an Emergency Medical Technician. Last March, she was shot and killed in her home by members of the Louisville Metro Police Department. Working on a No-Knock Warrant, three police officers entered Taylor's home, interrupted her sleep, and murdered her.
Ironically enough, the original suspect that law enforcement officers were searching for had already been apprehended and placed in police custody. Unfortunately, this mistake cost yet another Black woman her life.
Taylor's story and the images of her cherub-like face shake me to my core. She reminds me so much of my youngest niece. I can not stop thinking about the immense pain that Taylor's mother and loved ones must be experiencing. I pray that justice will eventually be served.
Perhaps you're wondering how the murders of George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, and Breonna Taylor have anything to do with practicing the Toyota Kata. The way I see it, it has EVERYTHING to do with the Kata!
I recently traveled home to Louisville to visit a few family members. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic we were forced to keep our gathering small, and each of my relatives practiced proper social distancing etiquette.
I was most excited to see the love of my life, my great-nephew. As a family, we call him “Baby Jae.” Every time I see him, I cuddle him while singing the steps of the Kata and the PDCA Cycle. (Hey, you're never too young to start learning about continuous improvement methodologies!)
As with any visit, I find myself filled with joy while admiring Baby Jae's sweet, innocent face. This time though, I had a very sobering thought while looking into my great-nephew's eyes. I thought to myself, George Floyd was once a baby. I am certain his family members once held “Baby George” and imagined what life had in store for him. I'm sure none of them imagined that they'd one day see him plastered on televisions and computers across America begging and pleading for his life.
My thoughts were immediately overtaken by the images of Officer Derek Chauvin pinning George Floyd to the concrete and murdering him with his knee.
While Baby Jae slept, I wept.
As racism and inequality seem to be at an all-time high here in the United States, I've wracked my brain thinking about what I could do to ensure what happened to George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, and Breonna Taylor will never happen again – to anyone! I quickly realized that overcoming this significant amount of hate is a lofty goal and an inspiring challenge.
I have many friends and trusted colleagues. Some are Black, some are White. We've had countless conversations in an effort to understand the challenges of this issue and determine solutions to bring an end to social injustice and systematic racism. After all that's been discussed, my mind keeps coming back to what we teach as the basic tenants of the Toyota Kata:
- Determine where we want to be in the long-term objective (The Challenge)
- Understand where we are now (Current Condition)
- Set a short-term goal (Target Condition)
- Understand the root cause of the issue, overcome obstacles, and run experiments to get us closer to our short-term goal (Experimenting)
I started by phrasing my long-term objective in the form of a couple questions. I asked myself, “Wouldn't it be great if my colleagues and I from varying industries shared our historic or recent experiences with systemic racism?” I continued by asking “Could we offer meaningful plans of action to dismantle racism within our areas of influence via daily blogs and a closing panel discussion?” I also captured the goal visually by creating a Strategic Vision Board.
To address this problem, I partnered with a team of other professionals who were committed to using continuous improvement methodologies to offer S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) countermeasures. Our intent was to craft measures that address the root causes of institutional racism in various areas, including Community Involvement, Business, Education, Healthcare, Government, and the Arts.
These countermeasures will appear in a series of blogs, written by myself and other thought leaders. Our ultimate goal is to get our readers to respond to the calls of action in each blog. We want each person to be motivated to support racial equity and justice for all Black people.
“If I cannot do great things. I can do small things in a great way.”Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our blog series begins today, Saturday, August 8, 2020. This date was specifically chosen because of its historical significance.
President Abraham Lincoln, signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. It declared “that all persons held as slaves are, and henceforward shall be free.” However, it wasn't until eight months later (on August 8th), that slaves in Western Kentucky, the birthplace of the Wardelle ancestors, were finally informed of their freedom. Since that very day in 1863, the 8th of August has been proudly celebrated as a day of freedom.
I invite you to join my friends and colleagues as we celebrate that significant day with the kick-off of our blog series. With the release of these blogs, we'll continue to pursue freedom by doing one small thing in a great big way as we work to dismantle systemic racism. To quote Karyn Ross, one of the collaborators on the project and a founding mother of the Women In Lean, “Each of us can be an active creator of the world as it can be: a world free of systemic racism and racial injustice.”
Our blog series will give you a tool kit of practical ideas and countermeasures that will make positive difference in your community, at home, or at work. During the week, you'll receive insight from a team of phenomenal women who'll share their visions and voices on topics such as:
Community & Individual Activism – Sunday, August 9th
Business & Corporate Responsibility – Monday, August 10th
Education – Tuesday, August 11th
Healthcare – Wednesday, August 12th
Government – Thursday, August 13th
The Arts – Friday, August 14th
You'll get a different and unique perspective as you read each blog. You'll be equipped with a list of tangible action steps that can be used and applied immediately. You'll be challenged to try some of the ideas that are shared each day.
Through our individual and collective efforts, we will create a better world – one without systemic racism. Please access our insightful blogs at Leanblog.org/rcr.
This first installment of the #RootCauseRacism series will conclude with a panel discussion on Friday, August 14 at 1pm EDT. The discussion will be presented via Zoom and hosted by Mark Graban of KaiNexus.
The panelists for our concluding event include myself and my remarkable colleagues from The Women in Lean. We'll gather virtually to think, learn, and grow. Each of us will share one small thing done in a great big way to dismantle systemic racism. Don't miss our panel discussion, “Share our Visions and Voices to #RootCauseRacism.” Click here to register.
Wouldn't it be great if you could be the change that you wish to see in the world? If you agree with this question, please join us as we unite globally to share our visions and voices to #RootCauseRacism.