Recording — A Special Panel Discussion on #RootCauseRacism


Thank you for reading this week's special #RootCauseRacism series.

Yesterday was the culminating event of the week, a panel discussion thatI moderated as part of the KaiNexus webinar series. Thanks to KaiNexus for their support in this effort.

Sharing Our Visions and Voices to #RootCauseRacism


Click here to view some additional resources related to the webinar.


In the video below, Deondra R. Wardelle and I talk about this series and preview the panel discussion a bit. We hope you can join us. If you cannot join the live session, please register anyway and you'll be sent a recording.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


    • Transcript of Crystal’s remarks:

      Crystal Davis: Good afternoon. I’m Crystal Davis. I’m the CEO and founder of The Lean Coach, Inc. I also am a mother of Women in Lean, very, very proud of that. Actually, I’m coming to you from Atlanta, Georgia. I grew up in Lean in the manufacturing and supply chain arena. When I was asked to participate, there’s a lot I could say, but I thought one thing that I would share for you is just a couple of statistics, and then I’ll share my point.

      Then also, I want to just acknowledge. Oh, yes, thank you. They took care of the acknowledgement of my sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Mark has learned a lot about sororities already. [laughs] So anyhow. All right.

      So from a manufacturing supply chain perspective, in 2016, woman make up 49 percent of the labor force, but only 29 percent of manufacturing.

      The number of women in color is even smaller than that. They asked the women if they were to start over, would they start over in manufacturing? Two-thirds of the 29 percent said “yes.” The reasons that they leave are poor working relationships. Check, I’ve experienced that. Lack of promotion opportunities. Check, I’ve experienced that and lower pay. Check, I’ve experienced that.

      Companies have done a lot to help women become more comfortable staying there, like offering flexible schedules, having opportunities for greater visibility, mentorship, so forth and so on. All of these things are great. But here’s where, when I started to reflect on my own career and all the challenges that I overcame and dealt with, they were all lessons for me. But here’s where I want to offer practical advice.

      All of the benefits, and I called them carrots that are offered to people, are great. Unless we change the environment, it’s very difficult to invite other women, young girls who are studying STEM careers, young girls who are in college, the percentages will never change if we don’t change the environment.

      I thought, OK, great. But this is a big problem. Racism is a complex issue. I thought, OK, from a Lean continuous improvement perspective, we are taught to ask great questions.

      We are taught to be curious. And so when I thought about this, here’s the question that I want you all to think about.

      What if we could get to zero racism? What would it look like? I thought about that because my experience in manufacturing when we were all driving one of the Big Three, and we had lots of competition from foreign auto makers, was the issue with quality. We were challenged, I remember very distinctly, we were challenged that we needed us to get to zero defects. I looked at my engineering director like he had three or four heads because I was like, where do we do that?

      We were bad. I set up a 32-point inspection station because we were on containment and we still had slippage. But where, get to zero? Are you kidding me?

      I thought about the power of that question, and I thought, you know what, Martin Luther King didn’t live to see some of the things that we now have experienced. John Lewis, who just passed, we still fight for voting rights. He didn’t get to live to see that.

      I think about my ancestors and the people who were in slavery, who didn’t get to live a free life. I thought, it may be preposterous, it may be big, I may not live to see it, but if we take one step toward it, and continue to move toward it the same way that we move towards zero defects, that’s how we got Six Sigma, the same way.

      If we took that attitude and took that approach, that we need to change the environment one small step at a time, be curious, ask great questions the timing what you can do, no matter how big or how small. That’s all I got to say.

      Mark Graban: Somebody just commented, “I could listen to Crystal all day.” So you said, that’s all you’ve got to say, that was beautiful, and I’m sure there’s more, and we’ll draw you into more of the discussion.

    • Deondra’s remarks:

      “Deondra Wardelle: Thank you, Mark. Thank you to those fabulous panelists for being here today. Thank you to those who are online participating, watching, and interacting with us on this webinar. Just to give a high-level overview, this project came about, started out from a pain point.

      Much like what we deal within the space of continuous improvement, when there is a pain point, we want to find a solution. We want to find a way to alleviate that pain. My pain points stemmed from what I was seeing going on in our world as it relates to race relations, specifically after George Floyd’s murder.

      With that, I kept thinking with what we do in continuous improvement, especially with what we do in the Kata, where we have these big-huge challenges. We still find a way to come up with a solution. Why can we not apply that to what’s going on in our world? The other thing is I wanted to make my voice heard about my concerns as a Black woman and what I was experiencing.

      I’ve always been a talker. My form of protest, I decided was going to be the virtual streets of LinkedIn.

      Typically, I only talk about just basic safe things on LinkedIn. I took a risk and decided to post about be gentle with your black colleagues returning to work the Monday after George Floyd’s murder because there’s no telling how they may feel.

      I was nervous about posting that. I didn’t know what different events I was scheduled to keynote at and different projects I was scheduled to lead. Was there an opportunity? I would lose those? What I decided, at the end of the day, I’m a black woman before I’m anything else and those risks would be worthwhile.

      With my hands literally shaking over my keyboard as I typed the post, I just did it scared. What happened was I did receive some feedback that was a little unkind. From that pain point, it helped me to further think about what could be done to raise the voices and bring Lean more to the forefront to use the tool to address what we’re experiencing.

      That, along with just the support from Women in Lean and my friends across the world, and different sororities, especially Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, and the way the Women in Lean and all these women rallied around and provided support, it gave me the strength to keep posting.

      I did another post about microaggressions, because I’ve dealt with those in the past. I’m dealing with those now. I was nervous about that post, but I had a little more courage because I had an army of all these women behind me.

      From that, that again received some more unkind posts that they were noise like we see in our process. Sometimes things are noise and they just need to be ignored, but it caught Mark Graban’s attention, the Mark Graban.

      He messaged me and we just had very open, honest…It was a really healing dialogue. He extended to me the offer to write a blog. I don’t believe there is a “I” in team. I never do anything alone. I always say if I ever get a seat at the table, I’m bringing all my friends with me.

      When he extended that offer, I said, “You know what? It’s odd that you should mention that because I’ve been wanting to write a blog. “Let me check with my friends, specifically the Women in Lean, and I’ll get back with you.” The rest is history, and here we are today.”

    • Karyn’s comments:

      “Karyn Ross: Thanks, Mark. Thanks, Deondra. I’m Karyn Ross. I’m coming to you from Naperville, Illinois, 35 miles west of Chicago and here in my art studio today. I, along with Crystal Davis and Dorsey Sherman, am one of the founding mothers of Women in Lean.

      I’m the founder and president of The Love and Kindness Project Foundation and a Lean coach in consulting. Some of you may know me from my book, “How to Coach for Creativity and Service Excellence,” and also “Toyota Way to Service Excellence.”

      What you may not know about me is that I don’t come from the world of business to the world of Lean in continuous improvement. I come from the world of art. I have a master’s degree in sculptor. 20 years ago when I started studying art, people said to me, “Why would you want to study art? It’s pointless. Art has no purpose and artists have no purpose.”

      What I believe now is what I believed then, and it’s what I wrote about in my blog. It has two really super important purposes. Artists actually look at the past and we create forward to the future. When we create something, we may look at that history, but we’re able to take our creativity and go forward to the future.

      When you do a drawing or write a song or create a dance, whatever you want to do with your creativity, you actually are able to access those deeper parts of yourself, those parts that are underneath words. When you create a drawing, you can look at that drawing and you can see things and learn things about yourself and the way you think and the way you feel that you might not have access to.

      How does that relate to our #RootCauseRacism? Here’s my practical step that you all can take. Gather your children, gather your family members, gather your friends. Virtual is great. Get a piece of paper, some art supplies, sit down, take 10 minutes and draw a picture of what this world would look like without systemic racism.

      I actually did that. Here’s my picture of what I envision a world without systemic racism would look like. To help encourage you, because I know sometimes people say, “Drawing is very scary and hard,” there’s going to be one more blog that you’re going to find on the series.

      What we’re going to ask you to do is whatever next step you decide to take, if you comment on that blogpost and tell us what that next step is, we’re going to send you a signed print of what I envision a world without root cause racism to be. That’s my next step. I look forward to hearing about everybody else’s next step.”

  1. Here is video of Bella Englebach talking about creating jobs that are fair to people in terms of pay, benefits, schedule, and more… making sure we are giving opportunity to all people.

    Bella Englebach: Thanks Mark. Thanks, Deondra, for the opportunity to be here. I’m sure there are people here on the webinar who are not into Lean or continuous improvement. In fact, you might even be asking, what is it that we do? I’m just outside [indecipherable 13:53] . What I do is I work with people and organizations to help them work better.
    We have a fantastic opportunity in the work that we do in continuous improvement in Lean, but it’s also an opportunity that people in HR have, that people in other corporate roles have, people who get involved in organizational change, organizational redesign. That is to look at is the work that we’re doing changing the impact of systemic racism?

    The impact of systemic racism are often economic. The impact of systemic racism fall on the backs of people who perhaps have not had fabulous educational opportunities. They fall on the backs of people who perhaps cannot get full time work, or have to work multiple jobs, or struggle to get childcare.

    I’m going to suggest some questions that anyone who is in this type of role can ask as they’re working on the work, as you are thinking about how does work get changed, how does it get redesigned.

    I would suggest, based on what Tracy said, that you pick one of these questions and you put it in your wallet or put it on your desk or wherever you need it to be to remind you to ask these questions as you redesign work.

    First of all, let’s look at the work that we’re helping to create through a real‑people lens. Let’s ask questions like is this work we’re creating, is this job we’re asking people to do, is it really fair? Does it provide a good day’s work?

    Does it provide a schedule where in the US you can actually get benefits or pay enough to live on? There are a lot of times, those of us in continuous improvement don’t get too involved in what people get paid to do the work. I would suggest that we start asking that question. What are people going to get paid to do this work?

    Does this job, does this work, does this new process lead to growth for everybody who is involved? Most importantly, how is this work that we are helping to create, this new process we’re helping to create, how is it accessible to those who are not usually included?

    That means really looking around and seeing who’s included, and making sure those people are brought into the room, their voices are heard, and the work is designed and developed, new process is designed and developed with them in mind.

    Just pick one question to start asking. Be brave about it. It’s hard to ask those questions. It might feel a little bit scary. You might be worried about your own job, I’m going to lose a client. But start to take that first step. I hope that you find at least one of those questions helpful in your work no matter what you do.

  2. The remarks of Tracy Defoe:

    Thank you, Mark. Thank you Karyn, for that offer. Always a hard act to follow, Ms. Karyn Ross, I’ve got to tell you. [laughs] I’m coming to you today from Vancouver, Canada. I am also not somebody who came to continuous improvement from business, but from education.

    I’m an adult educator, specializing in what people learn at work. I also part‑time feature at university. It was my university work that first took me to workplaces. I think that’s enough. I teach part‑time at Capilano University in Vancouver.

    I have a consulting company called The Learning Factor. I am a self‑described CAD geek and a curriculum nerd. Right now, actually spending a lot of my time helping people flip their training and their meetings to remote learning.
    The thing that I wanted to share, and what my blog post is about, is a really personal thing that helped me take a step and change the way I see myself. As part of my work at the university, we are indigenizing and decolonizing our work as educators.

    As I write in my blog post, my family history in Canada is a history of settlers from Europe who came to North America at the invitation of a colonial government who gave our lands, for example, to one of my great‑great‑grandfathers to farm that wasn’t theirs to give away.

    When we started looking at what we call in Canada truth and reconciliation, I attended the hearings and heard the stories of indigenous people and the suffering they’ve had from systemic racism in Canada, and also realize the great gaps in my education.

    My high school and elementary school education in Canada didn’t tell me about the ugly sides of our culture. As I read in so many books that perhaps America’s education system hasn’t told white people the real hard truth and lived experience of the people that they are in America with.

    My tip was something that I did at the time. I’m just holding it up. There’s a picture of it on the blog. At the urging of Chief Robert Joseph, who said to white people in Canada, “Hey, settler people. We don’t want your house and we don’t need you to go back anywhere. We just want to live with you in respect and move forward to a better world.”

    He said one of the things you could do ‑‑ white people ‑‑ is to start to call yourself white. I had never called myself a white person. If you had said to me or on the census, I’d put Canadian. I’m born here. My family’s born here. At his urging, I did that. I wrote on this piece of paper one thing I could do to make Canada a better place was to start to call myself white and a white settler.

    I also decided to acknowledge lands. I didn’t do that this morning. It just seems so weird on a webinar, but I am coming to you from the unceded territory of the Squamish, Tsleil‑Waututh, and Musqueam Nations where I was born, live, and work as a guest upon these traditional lands.

    The third one I wrote here was to support indigenous artists, voices and writers, something I have really enjoyed and sometimes been pretty uncomfortable as the only white lady at a book launch. It is something that has given me courage to say I can put my time, my energy, my money, my volunteerism into places that helps me learn and grow and extend my experience.

    I would urge everybody who is listening to this who has never maybe called themselves white to just put it on a Post‑it note. This is an excellent continuous improvement tool. [laughs] It’s an excellent education tool. Chief Bobby Joe calls this your back pocket plan. I keep mine in my wallet most of the time.

    You want to put it somewhere where you will see it and remind yourself that just this one little step can be a brave step that changes the way other people feel included and welcome, and maybe could expand the way you walk upon the earth as a kind and gentle person. That’s basically all I wanted to say.

  3. Remarks by Elisabeth Swan:

    Hey, there. I’m Elisabeth Swan. I’m the Chief Learning Experience Officer for, and also the author of The Problem‑Solver’s Toolkit. Also teach problem‑solving at UC San Diego. I’ve been helping, coaching problem‑solvers build their problem‑solving muscles for way too many decades, wonderful decades.
    I’m based in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I am thrilled and honored to be part of this. Deondra gave each of us an opportunity to get off the sidelines and join this discussion. I will acknowledge, based on Tracy’s points, as a white woman, that was a big deal for me and gave me pause to think.

    What I know about problem‑solving is that it’s symptoms that trigger your efforts. Something’s going wrong, something’s taking too long. In terms of racism, the symptoms are all around us. All the writers in the blog series, the women on this panel have been educating all of us on both the symptoms and a lot of the root causes of racism.
    I’ve been teaching and coaching and helping people through problem‑solving for over 30 years. Applying my experience and methods to the problem of racism caused me to think about first and foremost, we always tell people you have to look upstream for root causes. You’re seeing a symptom, the cause is upstream somewhere. What if you’re looking up the wrong stream?

    We see conferences where the keynote speakers are all white men or workforces that lack any people of color. That’s a symptom of racism. The root cause is not just upstream. It is the stream. I’m quoting the talk show host, Jon Stewart, but if we don’t pay attention, we will easily access the same white male tributary.

    I’ve heard people say they use blind techniques when they’re hiring, not paying attention to names or gender. By the time you’re looking at a candidate, they’ve already come through a chosen stream, whether you are conscious or we are conscious about it or not.

    Even though I think I am fully aware, I recently did the same thing without thinking. A colleague and I chose a series of podcast interviews with white male leaders to include in their training. There were a lot of options, but it took someone else to point out that we’d failed to include any women and anyone of color.

    Yes, we need to target, or as Karyn Ross pointed out, you need a vision. What should the workforce look like? What should the conference look like? What stream are you accessing? My challenge to myself and to others is to always question your sources. Be mindful of the waterways you’re on and who else is on them because you may have to look elsewhere.

  4. Debbie Sears Barnard:

    Hello. Thanks for the opportunity to be here. I’m Debbie Sears Barnard. You’ll notice that off to the side, you can see it’s nighttime where I am. I am currently in Dubai. I work for Joint Commission International, but this conversation and my participation in the blog series was not related to my current job.

    Deondra tapped me on the shoulder and initially, I hesitated because I’m not one to be on the frontline. I’m not a protester. I’m not a marcher. As I listened to her talk about why this work was so important, I realized that I needed to add my voice, my personal contribution to this discussion.

    I started healthcare as a young nurse in my early 20s. For 30 plus years, I’ve been involved in healthcare. Healthcare is all I know. I’ve had the opportunity to live in five different countries. I’ve seen healthcare at various levels as a frontline nurse, in roles at the executive level. In Canada, I had the opportunity to work for the Canadian Patient Safety industry.

    When I first started to do research and collate my thoughts for the blog, I realized that this point in our conversation is connected to a lot of the data that we’ve already uncovered related to safety, that basically unfortunately, when patients come to us in healthcare, they’re often harmed by care. That’s been the focus of my work for more than 15 years.

    I can tell you I was totally impacted because I realized in my past role, when I was looking at how to answer the question, “How safe is healthcare?” that the organizations where I previously worked and the work that I led, very seldom did we pull the data and look and see is harm equal?

    As I was doing the research, we had a part of our Women in Lean group who did some additional research. I provided those references in the blog. Those of you interested, I encourage you to go and look. The data is very clear that persons of color are harmed by care.

    I realized that my passion for making sure that our patients are safe that I personally, out of this conversation, have realized that my work needs to add to it a new dynamic. The two things, the call to action…If you noticed, I’ve given you my personal viewpoint, my personal feelings because I feel that for those of you that are participating, when you look at the data as someone who gave feedback after the blog, she said, “Oh my God, I didn’t know this data.”

    I would encourage every single person, because if you have not interfaced with the healthcare system yet, somewhere along your life journey, you will have to. I recommend that you look at the data, look at the current state. There are two things that we can do.

    Those of us that are sitting in leadership roles, we can first do this. A lovely free assessment tool that’s available that organizations can look and do an assessment so that they can understand what is the current state.

    On an individual basis, for those of us that are healthcare professionals, there’s a test called the implicit bias test. It can be used in healthcare. It can be used in any of the industries, but healthcare is my baby. I’m asking all my healthcare practitioners to take it.

    Because even as we’re interfacing with patients, we realize that those things that we’re not even aware of may be dictating how we interface with the people that we care for. Those are my two things. On an organizational level, do an assessment, know where you’re at. As all of my colleagues have said, once you know, do one small thing, start with action. Thanks a lot.


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