ATD Greater Twin Cities Monthly Newsletter: September 2021
We hope you had a wonderful Labor Day!
With the easing of masking and social distancing restrictions, we’re resuming in-person events this month. ATD-GTC will not be requiring a proof of vaccination at our events, but we will be closely monitoring the status of the public health crisis and we will plan to make adjustments accordingly.
We know that everyone will, of course, respect any individual precautions you may continue take to keep yourself, your neighbors and loved ones safe from COVID-19.
We’ve also received feedback that virtual events have made chapter participation easier for members who live outside the metro area or have less-flexible schedules so virtual events will continue for as long as we can manage to provide them.
However you choose to attend, we’re happy you’ve chosen to be part of our community and we’d love to see you there.
Thanks for helping us keep our community vibrant and active.
ATD-GTC Marketing and Communications team
Welcome New Members
The following new members have joined our chapter in the past month:
We welcome you on behalf of the Board and all members, and hope to connect with you soon at one of our regular events.
Community Spotlight: Change Management CoP
Helping Organizations Create Lasting Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Access Q&A with Nam Provost, Bob Randall and Minna Jain
A few months ago, the Change Management CoP gave a presentation on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Access. During frank and open discussion, Bob Randall, Nam Provost and Minna Jain presented researched-based, well-developed strategies for overcoming resistance, involving the entire [corporate] community and creating safe spaces for people to be heard and supported during this challenging cultural mind shift. We spoke to them last month and asked if they would summarize what they have learned through many years of helping organizations take concrete steps towards lasting Equity, Inclusion, Diversity, and Access (EIDA).
"The internet is flooded with advice on how to do this work. We really set out to explore and test deeper ways of being deliberate and intentional around implementation and impact."
"This issue has been around for hundreds of years, and people have been working on it in organizations for decades and we haven’t necessarily seen that really big transformation and a great model to see how that actually works. So, in many ways we’re hopefully trailblazing a path to make that happen."
"One of the things that we’re always holding in our hearts and minds in doing this work is that while it’s vital for organizations to take up equity, inclusion, diversity and access, the work can also end up reinscribing harm for the Black, Indigenous & People of Color (BIPOC) staff during the process. We’re always looking for ways to support complex groups of people in organizations with complex histories."
Q. Please describe your process for successful culture change:
Nam: We ended up with a metaphor using four doors and a key. On the surface, this offers a linear way to look at a complex process. Through any door, there are ways to take concrete action. Whichever metaphorical door you enter, you end up in the same space - or room if you will. Actions taken specifically behind one door overlaps and integrate with others actions since they are all interrelated. Behind each door actions are connected and flow together.
The work of culture change can seem overwhelming. To simplify it - and simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy - enter through any one of the doors with the goal of eventually taking action through all four doors.
At the center of all four doors, there is accountability and/or governance. Ultimately, we set out to understand what progress looks like; what progress feels like; and execute true culture change through building fundamental infrastructures that results in culture that is more equitable and inclusive for all.
Minna: This is how we represent the Four-Doors model:
Firstly, there’s a key. The key is organizational EIDA governance and accountability practices. Then we’ve got the four doors:
A community of practice
Cultural fluency fundamentals
A comprehensive strategic plan
1. Communities of Practice Minna: It’s important to build communities of EIDA practice within organizations to address cultural fluency development while providing support for staff most affected by this work.
Communities of practice sustain the momentum and relevance of the work
Communities of practice can lead to the development of relationships, allies, and change advocates across hierarchies and silos —creating connections that might not otherwise be created within teams
They may provide much-needed spaces for frank conversations and the surfacing of organization-specific needs as well as unexamined organizational narratives and practices
Communities of practice may include employee resource groups or affinity groups where connections, support and development can blossom
They lead to strong collective conceptual frameworks in EIDA, grounded in the organization
I like to sum it up as an ethic of care. Lasting change is only possible when EIDA work is coupled with practical relationship building and collective care.
2. Cultural fluency fundamentals Bob: This is directly related to our client work, whereby we put on workshops for cohorts of employees. We call it REAL —Racial Equity Through Action Learning, and this is a learning experience that Nam has been delivering for the last 15 years.
It’s a 21 hour learning experience that builds cultural fluency on an individual level. It builds up over seven modules, connecting people to action-oriented work they can do at the systemic level.
We’ve been delivering this experience to cohorts of 10 to 25 people at a time. They meet with us for three hours at a time, seven weeks in a row. We go deeply into some very specific issues like white privilege, systemic racism, and things of that nature to help build them up to get ready and be prepared to put their work into action.
We use a model called, “see it, understand it and engage it” in the REAL series. It helps people see oppression from a new lens, understand how and why oppressive systems were built over several centuries. Finally, cultural fluency is also about engaging it, or what we like to say is moving from understanding in to action. Action can take many forms, such as building relationships with people who are different than you or changing a practice or policy in the workplace that subtly contributes to disparities and inequities.
3. Develop a strategic guide and implementation plan Nam: Door number 3 brings us to the creation and implementation of a comprehensive plan – comprehensive in structure, who it includes and how it can be implemented towards identified impact. A great way to start is to use the communities of practice model to ensure that people’s voices are evident in the plan. From there goals and strategies can be built that are aligned with organizational mission, vision and goals.
An added benefit to the building process is that it starts to shift the culture. The conversations that engage people in the work creates a shift in overall mindset. I believe in the universal design of EIDA work. Engaging people in courageous conversations, breaking down silos while doing it and making clear that accountability lies with all contributors moves the whole organization and culture towards excellence and equity.
We have developed a model that organizations could customize to their business as a jumping off point. It is tempting to immediately ask, “what are the metrics? What are the ways that we know that we’re making progress?” These questions are important and present when plans are built and once the community is engaged in moving the plan forward, we can better determine and report on metrics and progress.
4. Managing resistance Minna: Our focus on managing resistance makes our Four-Doors model unique. Resistance is an inevitable part of EIDA work, intrapersonally, interpersonally and organizationally. And it’s not often addressed.
One of the main themes that we continue to return to in our Racial Equity Through Action Learning series is the importance of recognizing resistance and tracking what it looks, sounds and feels like in real time. We must train ourselves to be aware of resistance to EIDA work as it arises in ourselves, as well as how it shows up (through our leaders, our co-workers, etc.) in our organizational spaces.
This can look like noticing and preparing for common pushbacks and deflections. We often call these the “yeah, buts.” We’ve found that this kind of training has a measurable impact on how folks are able to notice within themselves and others the resistances that are often hidden in organizational cultural norms. It gives communities of practice a springboard from which to begin addressing those.
Surfacing organizational narratives which aren’t part of the organization’s public-facing image is vital behind-the-scenes EIDA work, and contributes directly to a more supportive staff experience and lasting change.
Through a focus on recognizing and managing resistance, we center the idea that EIDA work is a long arc of “progress” rather than “success.” And that long arc will include discomfort.
Bob: At the center is the governance piece. Having top leadership commit to support this work, while at the same time the responsibility is shared across the whole organization. What we try to do in our REAL workshops is to make sure that each person feels like they have a shared sense of responsibility for this work, and that it's not all on the shoulders of a person over there — like leadership, for example.
So, the key in the middle, the governance piece, we cannot forget about. But we talk about it a little bit differently than maybe some other organizational experts might in the sense that we don’t shoulder this all on leadership and expect leadership to wave the magic wand and make all this happen.
It’s really the fact that leadership is on board, they’re supportive and that everyone in the organization is on board and moving toward the same goal.
Q. In helping organizations undergo this cultural shift, what have you found are some of the most common misconceptions that should be avoided about this change process?
Nam: Often, this work starts with a grassroots effort, where progress is made around activity-based efforts. To be effective, the grassroots effort needs to align with leadership commitment and readiness. If this commitment and readiness is missing, it can create barriers to organizational transformation. It is not all leadership’s responsibility but leadership must be part of it.
Minna: I think this is a well-known organizational failing in EIDA work, but it bears reiterating: equity, inclusion, diversity and access professionals within organizations need to have a seat at the table at the highest level of leadership within organizations and be adequately resourced to do the work.
Bob: I think there’s a misunderstanding about what this work really is. I think a lot of organizations work on diversity and inclusion but don’t really understand what equity is in the most fundamental way. It’s what Minna was talking about, having a seat at the table and making sure that we’re looking at the overall power structure within the organization and we often have to disrupt that. It has to change for true transformational change to occur. Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the last several decades are a lot of organizations doing the flashy stuff like: “we’re gonna try to hire more people of color,” or “we’re going to make some donations.” And those are all good things, but they don’t fundamentally change the culture that exists in the organization. The surface-y stuff is not sustainable so we try to go deep and enable culture transformation to take place.
Nam: Many organizations have been working on diversity and inclusion for a very long time, and as Bob pointed out, often leading with goals of diversifying the workforce and creating environments where individual bias is reduced and welcoming people who are different into a space that isn’t made for them and have not historically been welcome in the organization. These things are necessary and yet, very few organizations start with building infrastructures. I think this needs to be flipped. Begin with building a sustainable infrastructure from and the goals of diversity and inclusion will be easier to attain. My work in Higher Education impacted the way I thought about this work. For decades Higher Ed has been at the forefront of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) efforts. During that time, the industry made some significant progress. At some point, the narrative changed to “Inclusive Excellence” and was packaged through speakers, conferences and publications. The “how to” became about systemic and organizational change. That shift, from doing D&I activities to doing systemic work is a large chasm to cross because it requires a shift in mindsets throughout an organization. When I moved on to an organization and industry that wasn’t as far along on the journey, I wanted to lead D&I by starting with the infrastructure and incorporating the concept of the four doors and key. It’s a slow process that requires buy in across the organization. That organization, through its actions, such as lack of support, commitment and resources, preferred to stay at the surface level. My resignation from this predominately white, cis gendered, upper class, able-boded organization was due to an assessment of deep resistance in the leadership to engage in transformative, systemic change. My current organization is ready and committed to flip the script and start with the infrastructure. We have entered each of the four doors and have made significant progress on the key. In a short amount of time, we have experienced a shift in culture within the company. This translates to more equitable and inclusive decision making in content, audience engagement, hiring and retaining. Because of the current racial reckoning there has been an urgency to get to organizational excellence quickly. This type of deep work requires time (go slow to go fast). It requires collecting all the boulders of work, and pushing them together up the steep journey of equity so that when we reach the horizon. Once there, efforts will be stronger and tied to systemic change all while gaining traction along the way.
Minna: I think that circles back to the point I often repeat, which is that one of the most common pitfalls and misconceptions is that EIDA work will inherently be supportive of, and celebrated by, BIPOC staff within organizations or the communities they serve. In reality, EIDA work can cause harm and exhaustion, thrusting BIPOC staff into painful conversations, situations and experiences in the midst of the organizations’ growing pains (and those of its white leadership and staff.) Conversely, being willing and able to flip the script as an organization committed to this work and take up a humble, long-term vision of structural change, can have the positive effect of supporting current staff and community members as the hard, messy work moves forward.
Q. What gives you hope? Just in the past year, has there been anything that’s come out of it that’s encouraging that you can build on?
Minna: The first thing that comes to mind is really small. It’s a recurring experience I have with Nam and Bob as the three of us co-facilitate 21-hour Racial Equity Through Action and Learning cohorts within organizations. Often, the folks whom I would least expect to be up for deep, personal transformation around systemic racism, white fragility and white supremacy are the ones who grow the most. And witnessing that growth and transformation over the course of just 21 hours is such a concrete reminder that equity, inclusion, diversity and access are possible. Those baby steps, those small connections and moments of true vulnerability and discourse are at the heart of the big changes we can create together in our organizations. At the heart of it, EIDA is about people connecting with people, learning together, and taking informed action toward systemic, organizational impact. That’s really hopeful.
Bob: A couple of other things that give me hope: I see large powerful organizations, maybe they’re getting on board in kind of “surface” ways but at least there’s some movement in that direction where in the past there was a lot of resistance to even talking about this topic. Places like the Federal Reserve putting out web content on racial equity. I’m not trying to endorse any particular organization, but places like that were never involved in this work before! High profile organizations like the NFL even, which was very resistant to putting up Black Lives Matter in their venues are now finally open to doing so. So again, those might be “surface” things, but they’re powerful images and things that we just haven’t seen before. And so I’m hopeful that our society can get to those more fundamental changes that will occur. Because at least some of the formerly resistive, powerful organizations and structures and institutions in our society seem to be at least cracked open to this type of work.
Nam: I would agree with both Bob and Minna. Experiencing first hand the journey of transformation participants go through during the REAL experience is inspiring. Each participant also walks away with concrete actions that are connected to systemic impact and a mindset to sustain this effort. Eventually, I hope our organization will meet the goal of a critical mass of people in the organization who have had this experience, eventually leading to more equitable decision making, openness to change, and different conversations in the “halls (virtual and physical.)”
The public discourse around Critical Race Theory (CRT) is difficult and challenging, and I think it is a good sign that this conversation is happening. The resistance showing up is a sign that it’s important. Resistance (one of the four doors) can be leveraged by discovering reasons for the resistance and addressing it head on. The REAL curriculum has deep roots in CRT and we know this is an essential piece to the learning process.