It’s Time for Equity

It’s Time for Equity

From the beginning, the members of Team Toolkit have aspired to be equitable in our work. We don’t claim to be experts on the topic, and our practice hasn’t always matched our aspiration perfectly, but equity is a goal we want to work towards.

As several previous blog posts explained, we try to include equity in how we design and update our tools. Our tools represent a big slice of our work, so it’s important to design them with equity in mind. Another big slice of our work is facilitation, and we want to make sure that we include equity in how we use and apply our tools as well. What does that look like? Perhaps an example will be helpful.

A month or two ago I was facilitating a group through a Lotus Blossom exercise. At some point I referred to “the green blossom on the left.” One participant spoke up and said “I’m colorblind, not sure which blossom you’re talking about.” Clearly, the language I used did not provide equal clarity to all participants and left out this person – which means my technique was not equitable.

After thanking the person for speaking up and apologizing for my misstep, I began referring to the blossoms based on their position in a clock face, rather than just by color. Instead of “the green blossom,” I referred to “the green blossom in the 9:00 position” or “the red blossom at the 12:00 position.” That minor change to my language ensured that everyone in the session was able to follow along and participate fully. It was a more equitable technique.

The fact that colorblindness exists does not require us to avoid all use of color. Instead, an equity focus means we should be aware that colorblind people exist, and be thoughtful about which colors we use when we design our tools (here’s an article with tips on designing colorblind friendly visualizations). We should also be thoughtful about how we use those colors – instead of referring to something only by its color, we might refer to it by its location, size, shape, or other distinguishing characteristic. I’ve continued to use the clock face references in all my other Lotus Blossom sessions. I hope that by sharing it here, the rest of the ITK community will adopt this equitable facilitation practice as well.


Existing In The Future

Existing In The Future

In a recent conversation about team culture, I heard a senior executive say something remarkable:

“Companies that get this right are the companies that will exist in the future.

Her comment was not hyperbole. It was not an overstatement. If anything, she may have understated the case. Getting culture right is indeed essential for any company that wants to exist in the future. Any company that does not get culture right is going to find it virtually impossible to justify its existence – to its employees, customers, stakeholders, or even to outside observers.

The phrase “get this right” clearly implies a dividing line between right and wrong cultures, between healthy and toxic environments. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. There is such a thing as an organization getting culture right (and such a thing as getting culture wrong). To be clear, there is more than one way to get it right, and we should leave all talk of Only One Good Culture for the fanatics and fascists. But we still must spend some time exploring question about what types of beliefs and behaviors constitute a healthy culture that will allow a company to exist.

Exploring how to answer that question for any particular organization requires a longer discussion than this short blog post can provide. Answering it for every possible scenario isn’t going to happen here either. But we can start with a list of some cultural attributes that belong on the good side of the line and are likely to be found in most healthy cultures, such as:

  • Valuing and embracing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
  • A welcoming culture that treats people with grace and respect
  • A culture of collaboration, where people believe in working together rather than undermining each other
  • A culture of initiative and autonomy, where people take action and make decisions (and accept accountability)
  • A culture of experimentation, where people try new things as a way to learn & grow

If you’re up for starting that  “longer discussion” mentioned earlier, you may want to check out this 11-minute video about culture building.

photo credit: User Hide1228, from Wikimedia Commons