One Small Thing: Sharing our Visions and Voices to #RootCauseRacism

Deondra Wardelle

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:

  1. Determine where we want to be in the long-term objective (The Challenge)
  2. Understand where we are now (Current Condition)
  3. Set a short-term goal (Target Condition)
  4. 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

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.

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Deondra Wardelle
Deondra Wardelle is a Senior-level Training and Development Executive. She has proven expertise in Strategic Growth Initiatives, Organizational and Leadership Development, and Lean Six Sigma Implementation. Deondra has a track record of success in being a catalyst for change and a driver of results, driven to improve processes and operations. She is an astute business strategist who is driven, engaging, collaborative and results-focused. An inspirational leader who serves as a strategic business partner, cultural change steward and operational expert. Effectively lead change management process strategies that facilitate organizational transformation and increase overall capabilities. Possesses an inclusive management style that encourages idea sharing and inspires exceptionalism in others. Proven ability to design and deliver a comprehensive range of learning solutions which produce measurable results.


  1. Well said Deondra. I appreciate your testimony of how the recent events have personally impacted you. As working Black professionals, we don’t normally share our internal pain and frustration. We are part of the American story, and it’s time that our voices be heard too. Thank you for this platform to do something small in a great way.

    • Joy, thank you for helping me to find my voice both through our conversations and your book, “Purpose: A Shift from Driving It to Embracing It.” You’ve been a great example of the positive things that can take place for all people when we as Black professionals ensure our voices are heard.

  2. Thank you ,Deondra, for accepting my “blog handover” invitation for the week. Secondly, thank you for recruiting so many other guest bloggers and turning my small idea into a greater vision of the #RootCauseRacism theme. Thirdly, thank you for your blog post today, linked below. Thank you for your honesty in sharing some of your daily realities and concerns. As Deondra writes, what is our “Challenge” or ideal condition as a country and a society? What is our next “Target Condition” and how do we start taking steps from here to there?

    As I will do all week, I will invite everybody to read what the guests on my blog have to say as we stand together.

    • Mark, thank you for your courage and for being on the right side of history. Thank you for extending an invitation to me to write a blog. That one small step has led to the amazing #RootCauseRacism body of work. I hope you know how much the other guest bloggers and I appreciate you for sharing your platform and for providing a safe space for our messages to be shared. Thank you for modeling what we teach as Lean Practitioners: 1. Go See, 2. Ask Why and 3. Show Respect. I am eternally grateful for you.

  3. Deondra, your kick-off blog is so inspiring! I feel your pain and passion as it relates to what’s going on in the world. I have no doubt that your words and the words of others will somehow make a difference. I look forward to reading the blogs and tuning in to the panel discussion. Bravo! Thanks to you and your team for being the change!

    • Jeff, thank you for your feedback and thank you for registering for the webinar. In addition, thank you for the work that you are doing in your corner of the world to impact change and #RootCauseRacism.

  4. I am truly inspired and hopeful after reading this blog. I can appreciate your “a-ha moment” that you must have felt when you and the others realized that you could collaborate to use your skills to realize actionable change. I plan to share this blog series and upcoming panel discussion with the diversity council at a government agency that I support. I also think it would be valuable to share at my local club of Toastmasters International.

    • Susanna, it is encouraging to learn that as a result of your reading the blog you are inspired and hopeful. In addition, I look forward to learning what you will discover and what will take place as a result of you sharing the #RootCauseRacism work with the organizations you support.

  5. Deondra…I was especially moved by the action step you take every time you put on your turn signal! What an amazing way to honor and remember. #neverforget #blacklivesmatter

      • Deondra, your blog is so inspiring. I agree a moment of reflection is a small yet important way to honor a life that is gone too soon. I do a similar thing when I go for jogs. I remember Ahmaud Arbery. The first time I did it I was brought to tears while running. Now, I feel like I am continuing Mr. Arbery’s jog every time I run—two miles at time (weekly). #RootCauseRacism #leaninleanthinkers #PDCAzeroracism

  6. Deondra, thank you for opening your heart and sharing your personal journey. Love this application of Kata.💚❤️ ✊🏾✊🏻 Together we can overcome! #rootcauseracism #goodtrouble

  7. Thanks for this powerful kick-off to the #RootCauseRacism week, Deondra!
    Thanks for sharing your experience which makes it very easy to make us see and feel the problem.
    My one small thing is to create more opportunities for dialogue so that more people really see and feel that racism is an attack to humanity and encourage more and more people to take small but tangible steps!
    I am very much looking forward to read all the posts and learn and get inspired to more action!

  8. Wonderful kickoff to #RCR. I’m both emboldened and excited to see and participate in this work. And I’m also feeling the ‘tension of the gap’. Racism isn’t a new thing. This impactful kickoff, very overdue. Let’s get to work.

    • Thanks for your comments, Aric.

      Personally, as a white man (and to further elaborate on privilege, as a straight white Christian male of reasonable economic means, etc. etc.), I don’t feel the “tension of the gap” as you call it. But hearing about the “gemba” realities of people of color is eye opening. There is a gap between our “current state” and an “ideal state” — that should trigger problem solving and action (test of change). Those of us who are privileged can do our best to be empathetic (and not dismissive) of the plights of others.

      A white colleague of mine shared a story today via email about a black woman having a heart attack at a nearby amusement park. Somehow, her family being upset and wanting to speed up the help led to an officer yelling “You need to calm the F down” and it escalated into two family members being arrested. My colleague’s daughter was working there and was a witness to all of this. The officer could have been much more empathetic. Nobody was being a threat, as the story was told. The police need to be better than escalating a situation unnecessarily. This seems to be a big training gap… but I’d also suspect that race was an issue. Would a white family be treated the same way?


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