Each week I conclude my message with the same statement: keep looking out for one another.
These aren’t just words tacked on with little thought. I mean them sincerely. I think about them often as a personal guiding principle and particularly every week when I type them.
Likewise, they aren’t specific to the coronavirus pandemic. This week they seem even more important.
AME stands against racism, intolerance and prejudice. Our members, volunteers and staff — and the larger lean community — include people from every race, religion and sexual orientation. We are proud of this diversity. It mirrors the diversity of our society and industry. It makes AME and the organizations we serve better.
The AME mission — “to inspire a commitment to enterprise excellence through experiential learning by bringing people together to share, learn and grow” — is a commitment to unite people to share and learn from our ideas, our differences, and our similarities for the common purpose of growing. Of improving. We are called to continue this effort and hope you will embrace this as part of your mission as well.
I don’t have the answers to overcome racism in America. I don’t profess to understand the intense pain and frustration of people of color, and particularly the Black community that is disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis and systemic racism. But I know we must do better as a society to hear each other, to stand up for one another, and to engage in peaceful discourse to find and implement answers to overcome racism.
There are voices that are more important than AME’s in this conversation, but lean practitioners can be a model for inclusion. We know the value of being inclusive in the workplace. There are myriad examples of organizations that have overcome obstacles by including solutions from people of different backgrounds with different life experiences and perspectives. And we know that each person must be valued, and their ideas acknowledged, in order to make an organization reach its optimal state. Lean methods work when organizations have a people-centric focus that values everyone. That same focus can be applied to society.
For its part, AME is working to develop additional diversity and inclusion programming. We will provide information about these programs via our website and email as it becomes available.
My charge to you is to "keep looking out for one another." Meet people where they are, listen to their stories, ideas, thoughts — and, yes, even their criticisms — and be empathetic to their experiences. Stand against racism and amplify the stories of those who experience it so that we can all work towards a better future. Beyond words, you can take action to break down these harmful walls by creating diversity and inclusion programs and conversations in your workplace or encouraging volunteerism with local programs — sponsored by civic and community organizations or your chambers of commerce — aimed at eliminating systemic racism and conscious and unconscious bias.
Using our continuous improvement mindset, we can help end racism, break down institutionalized barriers, come together and — as always — keep looking out for one another.