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Enterprise Excellence Episode 14: Deondra Wardelle

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

Understanding each other and effective communication will achieve excellence within an organisation and help overcome racism.


Welcome to episode 14 of the Enterprise Excellence Podcast. It is such a pleasure to have Deondra Wardelle on the show. Deondra is a transformation leader, coach, motivational speaker and expert in empowering and developing individuals and groups toward achieving their personal and professional goals. Deondra is a connector of people and absolute sharer of knowledge. Deondra is active in many fields supporting and leading change which we will explore today.


Effective communication and understanding can achieve organisational excellence and help to overcome racism.

Deondra begins the episode discussing the knowledge and wisdom that her parents instilled in her. Her parents really invested in her a respect for people and desire to truly understand and help others. Her father was a very hard worker, a natural mathematician and opened his own business despite having a 5th-grade education. Her Mum gave Deondra the perfect balance of nurture and tough love and along with it, much great advice that Deondra still reflects on to this day, in the boardroom. Some of the concepts she later learned in Continual Improvement she learned from her parents, especially 5S - a place for everything and everything in its place.

Deondra initially studied Public Relations and Communications at University until a professor confronted her saying that due to her body shape, she would have little hope of ever becoming the public face of an organisation. Thankfully Deondra had another professor who had heard her speak and challenged her to change her major to Corporate and Organisational Communication and Change. He advised her to pick a degree that would allow her to do all of the things she needed to do in the world. She did, and studied and found that communication became her passion.

Deondra's first job out of college was to sell insurance, then she managed a very successful branch of a central bank, then moved into retail managing two clothing stores. Deondra wanted to develop her skills in training and development and spent the next 15 years working with a staffing company in an electronic repair company. Her primary purpose was to teach others about the lean six sigma system, which was then only for leaders. Deondra opened the system up for everyone in the company and quickly climbed the managerial ladder.

Her nickname was the Oprah of Lean, due to the conversations she would foster with people to uncover the root cause of issues happening in the organisation. Deondra believes that misunderstanding is the leading cause of break down between employees and that people do not realise that they share many skills across the value stream. That we can't see things from one side or another; we have to know how the sides are connected so that we can work together to accomplish goals.

Deondra became the connecter between employees and management, fostering listening skills between the parties, and at a most simple level, teaching them how to respect one another, and the work that they each do. That everyone has value, input and something to add. True understanding through communication between all levels of the company transformed the business into one that was people-centric and that would continuously improve their culture.

Deondra's laser-like focus now is to work on tackling the big issue of racism with a Continual Improvement hat. She initially took over the Root Cause Racism blog from Mark Graban, and together with many other colleagues, friends and family wrote a regular blog which offered practical advice on how every one of us can make improvements towards abolishing systemic racism. Mark Graban facilitated a webinar as a culmination of the work achieved. This ignited a worldwide movement. Deondra couldn't stop working on the topic as she believes that systemic racism still exists across the world. Fear, a lack of respect and misunderstanding of others should not be the way that we live.

She believes that together, people can tackle the vast problem of racism using continual improvement tools. Working together, people on both sides of the wall need to sit down and talk about what it is that we can do to put a dent in systemic racism. Deondra believes in creating a better future for everyone in the world: red and yellow, black and white...all of us and using continuous improvement as the model in how to achieve this.

Deondra knows that this could be an insurmountable problem; believing that future generations will live a better life is the just cause, and small improvement steps are the answer. There are many obstacles. Right now, Deondra is inviting people to get involved, to come off the sidelines, and finding the anti-racism activities that people can then do when they do come off the sideline.

Deondra passionately believes that we need to create environments that foster communication and education. She is using her mighty purpose and voice to create a better future one small step at a time.

Deondra’s episode is a true inspiration. I look forward to working with Deondra into the future.


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06:05 min ...and that really opened my mind to how what we practice and what we teach in continuous improvement is not only limited to manufacturing, but it can, it applies to all aspects of life.

07.55 min You know, management is needed to facilitate, to help garner resources, to help move projects along. and the non-management is needed as well, because typically they are the ones who execute the work. They're the ones who come up with the great ideas. And in all that we do in continuous improvement, we're stronger together. It's a collaboration. No-one has all the ideas. No-one can do the job on their own. And it would really need to be that collaboration.

09:08 min That along the way, things may go as we expect them to, or they may not. But there's a learning that takes place along the way, to not only improve those processes, but to develop people and improve relationships.

11:58 min Look at the people who engaged in doing the work, and what are some of the challenges they are experiencing in just coming to work and being successful.

17:09 min ...and it's so important that we show respect for one another, and respect for the work that we do and that we should work to try to help one another be successful in executing that work.

26:44 min the response that we received from the blogs (Root Cause Racism) and the response from the webinars just turned into a movement, where we were like, "You know, we can't stop here. There's more to do because racism still exists".

28:59 min Create a better future one small step at a time. And create that better future for everyone across the world. Red and yellow, black and white. All of us.

30:17 min I get so excited. I get chills when I talk about this because this is not a one and done or one time type activity. This is really a movement, and you know, with the recent events from George Floyd, to Breanna Taylor, and now Jacob Blake... There's been a shift and people are starting to wake up and realise that something is wrong.

34:26 min Out of all the list of obstacles, I have to focus on one obstacle at a time.

My Key Takeaways

1. The influence that people can have on our lives - both good and bad. Even a negative experience can inspire forward motion. It's what we do with these experiences that counts.

2. The power of unlocking and creating communication between leaders and front line employees who create value. These means leaders getting to the front line and spending time with employees there. Creating forums to encourage communication and sharing of information. Use the power of video conferencing to communicate with team members across the globe.

3. The power of understanding and mutual respect. Wow. How amazing was that conversation with Deondra? Understanding each other more and respecting each other more will bring a better world. Communication is key.

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