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EAFH27: Agile for Humanity Series with Dr. Dave and Stuart McCalla

Dr. Dave and Stuart McCalla

Dr. Dave:                      Hello, this is Dr. Dave Cornelius, AKA Dr. Dave. And I’m hosting the Agile for Humanity podcast series in partnership with the Agile Alliance. The goal is to have real talk with people in the Agile community that are black, indigenous, and people of color, as well as people that are white. The conversations will not be limited to people in the United States, so I’m going to do a virtual walk about globally to get different experiences about social injustice for black, indigenous, and people of color in the Agile community. In the Agile community we talk about changing the way we work, but do we change our hearts and humanity to love? Meaning being patient and kind people that look different than us. Today, I’m having a real talk with my friend Stuart McCalla and the Agile for Humanity podcast series. So hey, Stuart McCalla, my brother. How are you and your family? How are you guys doing during this season of COVID-19?

Stuart McCalla:             Dr. Dave, we are doing okay. We’re inside. That’s like my dad joke. Everybody asks us, what’s going on? I’m like, “Oh, we’re inside.”

Dr. Dave:                      We’re inside. Things are good?

Stuart McCalla:             Things are good.

Dr. Dave:                      Good.

Stuart McCalla:             Can’t complain. And in this day and age there’s a lot to complain about, but we’re going steady.

Dr. Dave:                      That’s great, man. So look, I’m grateful that you’re gracious to give us your time, to discuss our humanity and what it means in our lives and to people in the Agile community. When we talk, I know sometimes we go really deep about our experiences and we share some intimate moments and just what it’s like to be black men. We’re Caribbean roots, no doubt, living in the space that we do. And so before we jump into the interview, tell me, what have you been up to lately as a coach, an entrepreneur, husband, a dad, what’s been going on with you?

Stuart McCalla:             So right now I’m a managing partner for a group called Evolution Services. We’re based out of LA. And so we coach primarily high-growth startups and then also larger systems as well too. We do a lot of depth work for our leaders that we coach. We do diversity, equity, inclusion, and sustainability work. We have an amazing leader that helps us with that named Rudy Nickens, and who we all support. As you can imagine right now he’s super busy and we get to support him as well. And you know, I think a little bit about sort of the Agile space and how does diversity, equity, inclusion, and sustainability… How has it manifested in the Agile space and how will it manifest in the Agile space, and certainly within business as well too.

Dr. Dave:                      Okay, that’s good. So you’re busy.

Stuart McCalla:             I’m busy. I’m super busy.

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah, a little busy. Good. So talk to me, how are you feeling in this time of the disruption with COVID and the out cry that’s happening right now for social distancing? How does that impact you in the inside? I know it’s impacting me, so I just could only imagine.

Stuart McCalla:             Yeah I mean, I think what’s interesting to me is that first of all, I just am amazed about the young women and men who are out there marching. I think the sort of snarky, older people who are like the young people don’t know anything or don’t do anything, I’m like young people are showing them metal right now. Marching in the time of a pandemic, marching in the time of such social disruption and lack of leadership at the highest levels, right? To enact social change and justice equity, and justice within this country. So I’m certainly feeling both the despair of it took a pandemic and watching a man getting murdered on the street before this has happened before it’s in the world consciousness, and at the same time feeling absolute proud of the young people who are doing the work. And the change is happening within society about systemic racism and systemic oppression.

Stuart McCalla:             So I hold both, right? So as change workers in the world, like we hold both. We hold the complexity of one thing and the other, and the polarity and the in between of that. And so yeah, I’m just hopeful that our world can really come together to change this and to start addressing some of the other inequities that are currently in the world, especially around climate change, it’s one that I keep thinking about. But all the ways that one human being can be oppressive to the other, which is racism, homophobia, sexism, ageism, classes, and the list goes on.

Dr. Dave:                      So these are some of the things that are keeping you up at night?

Stuart McCalla:             They are keeping me up. You know, I think one of the things I keep thinking about is how do you combat a system like white supremacy? And it could be any system, white supremacy, sexism, homophobia, classism, but how do you combat a system where the people that are targeted are despairing about getting something to change, and the people who are not targeted are apathetic and turn away, and aren’t paying attention? And you know, it shouldn’t take a pandemic and seeing some horrific series of events. And of course, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the list goes on of black women and men who have been killed in police state sanctioned violence. It shouldn’t take an event like that for people to pay attention. And unfortunately it does, unfortunately it has so far. And so that’s what’s keeping me up. We can’t have that level of trauma happening within our society for each and every oppression that is currently affecting us in the world.

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah. I mean, I understand. And now I ran into this new term called BIPOC, you know, blacks, indigenous, people of color, you know, kind of lumping all nonwhites into a group. Do you feel marginalized by this, by using that term to describe who you are or who I am, or us, we? I’m just curious.

Stuart McCalla:             I don’t actually. Yeah, I don’t. I think it’s an interesting term. I think what’s interesting the reason why, as far as I understood it was that, people were seeing people of color and that was lumping in everybody. But saying black and really also noticing or highlighting the plight of indigenous folks within this country, I mean that’s in of itself a huge inequity that has never been addressed or is not being addressed in the way that I think should be. And so people of color, black, BIPOCs, is I think a perfectly fine term. I personally tend to like people of a global majority, just to show that black and brown people are the majority of the people on the planet. So you get we get to claim our majority status, right? So I prefer that term, but I totally understand BIPOC as well too, as it’s used specifically in this time to show distinction.

Dr. Dave:                      Understood. Understood that that’s how things are. But I’m glad, I just wanted to get your feel on that because I speak to some people and they go like, here they go again marginalizing us, putting us into a group. So it’s just a question to put out there. Are you feeling hopeful about the awareness of the social justice movements that are taking place? And not just in United States, I’m talking about people who are dispersed across the globe out there really raising their voices, their fists for what’s going on.

Stuart McCalla:             Well, you know, John Lewis just passed recently and I want to point out that people have always been fighting inequity in this country and in other places as well, too. If we look at the continent of Africa, we look at the Caribbean. I mean, you and I both have stories of freedom fighters in the Caribbean that has been out for many, many generations, what’s going on in the Amazon. So I just want to point out that I’m hopeful that the people that have been on the front lines for generations, prior to this social awareness and awakening, get to really see the fruits of their labor and to be recognized and know that we all have to do this work. We all have to do this work of ending oppression, both in society and in business.

Dr. Dave:                      Understood. So let’s talk about the Agile community. We always talk about hey, we have to change the way we work. Do you think there’s a gap in how we should tend to our humanity in terms of love for one another? I’m talking about being patient and kind, not the emotional side, right? That’s the kind of love that I’m talking about. Can we be patient and kind, do you think there’s a gap? Because you know, yeah we shift the way we work, but how about shifting the way we feel and respond to each other as human beings? Where are you at that gap anyway?

Stuart McCalla:             Well you know, as you remember very well, I think it was in 2017, I did a little thing. A little talk with a group of people where we did an exploration around race, class and gender.

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah.

Stuart McCalla:             Agilists are at the forefront of that if they are willing to take on that work. Are you willing as agilists? I mean, because the Agile manifesto and the Agile principles and values are very human centered. Right?

Dr. Dave:                      Right.

Stuart McCalla:             Are you willing to take on that work and what do you need to face and feel in order to be a change agent? Not just for process or culture, not culture being how does the entire organization get together, but to really become a conscience for the organizations that you’re in. It doesn’t mean that you’re like do this now or else I’m going to shame you, it just means having conversations with people and saying, what are you willing to address? What are you willing to face and feel? Have you thought about this? These are systems of inequities that are built in within our organizations, and people have talked about this for years from hiring, from performance improvement plans, from promotions, from just who do you see get elevated in organization?

Stuart McCalla:             That’s been around for years. So agilists have a chance to really bring that to the fore. And it doesn’t mean that you are branding yourself one thing or another, it just means A, am I going to do the work for myself to really understand how a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization is going to serve that organization? And what am I willing to do to help that rise within the organization? What am I willing to say, to talk about, bring to the various leaders, and what are the moments and opportunities in which I can do that.

Dr. Dave:                      That just leads right into the next question that I have is what would you like to see in the Agile community to make it more inclusive? I know we’re putting this out there, but we should have these types of serious conversations, right?

Stuart McCalla:             We should. Yeah, we should. And I always think about the Agile community because it has been a place of intense connection for me. I met you there, I met April Jefferson, I’ve met tons of black and people of the global majority agilists that I’ve just really enjoyed knowing. And I’ve also met many allies, I’m thinking of Michael Spade, Lisa Atkins, Michael Hannah, David Chilcott, Ainsleigh Nice, the list goes on and on of people who have been extremely supportive of me in particular to take a larger role within the Agile community. With that said, I think we need to look at the leadership of the Agile community. Whose voice gets promoted, whose face gets plastered on the material, who gets to lead conversations. I think that needs some work.

Stuart McCalla:             And I know that various organizations within the Agile community is doing that, but that needs to be addressed and that needs to be looked at, and that needs to be faced. And there will probably be some hard conversations around that in the next years to come. So that’s just what I would like to see the Agile community to do, is to really face that question. Who gets to be promoted? Who gets to be visible?

Dr. Dave:                      Right. And you know, that’s some of the work that we have to do as well, right? We have to be able to get out there, like what you and I do, or getting out there trying to lead stuff and see where things land, but we have to get involved as well. In terms about final thoughts, what are some final thoughts you would like to share as we have this conversation about… This is heavy stuff you know, this is really heavy stuff and it weighs on me a lot. I mean, I wrote a poem that I’ll send to you that says that I’ve become numb, be woke, stay woke. I’ll share that with you, but also part of just how that made me feel based on my experiences. So final thoughts, anything you’d like to share?

Stuart McCalla:             Yeah. In this day and age, white supremacy is a thing that is on people’s minds in a particular way. And I would like to say that it affects everybody. So for black and brown folks being targeted by white supremacy, there is direct effects, but white people and everybody else who is not African heritage in particular, are internalizing aspects of white supremacy. And I would like people to realize there is joy in being aware of that and taking it off you.

Stuart McCalla:             There is freedom on the other side of doing whatever work, especially around trauma I think, right, to remove this system from your mind, to remove this system from your body, to remove the system from our work environments, to remove the system from our homes and our families, and explore what’s on the other side of that. And I’m not saying I’ve done that, but that’s the work that we get to do. And that’s something to look forward to, is to have not this system of inequity on us. And there’s work we can do to get it off us, and what we are going to experience on the other side of that I can only imagine and can’t wait.

Dr. Dave:                      Yeah neither can I, because when we dehumanize another human being, we lose some of our humanity in the process. So how do we get beyond that?

Stuart McCalla:             That’s right.

Dr. Dave:                      Man Stewart, thank you for your generosity. You know, I’m always just really moved by some of our real talks, the stuff that we get into.

Stuart McCalla:             Yeah. Well, I appreciate you letting me be a part of this. So yeah, anytime.

Dr. Dave:                      Well you know, the way it goes is like who is the first person that I’m going to call? I’m going to call Stewart and have this conversation and start there. Well, thank you. I really appreciate it. Thank you for giving your time and for sharing with the Agile community, because it’s important for all of us to hear our voices and to hear our thoughts as a thought leader.

Stuart McCalla:             Aw, thank you Dave. And what I’ll just say is, I’d love to see all the people that I’ve mentioned to talk on this podcast and see what their thoughts are. There’s a long list, and I can only imagine as we bring more out into the open, like the dialogue will be returned stronger.

Dr. Dave:                      Well, share the list. You know I have some of them on my list, but I know you have some in your list that I need to get with, right?

Stuart McCalla:             That’s right. We’ll definitely talk after this.

Dr. Dave:                      For sure. All right, thanks brother.

Stuart McCalla:             Thank you.

Dr. Dave:                      So thank you for listening to our real talk on the Agile for Humanity podcast series. You will find Agile for Humanity podcast series recording under KnolShare with Dr. Dave on iTunes, Google play, Spotify, on the AgileAlliance.org website, on the KnolShare with Dr. Dave website, and Brockshare.com website, and also AgileforHumanity.org. So be well, stay safe, and connect soon. We’ll talk to you.

Sponsors & Summary

We would like to thank our sponsor KnolShare for the continued support for this podcast.  Visit KnolShare.org to achieve your awesomeness through agile coaching and training, digital transformation strategy, agile organization development, lean business startup, and diversity and inclusion training.

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Checkout Dr. Dave’s latest book Elastic Minds: What are you thinking? On Amazon.com.  You will also find his book Transforming your leadership Character: The lean thinking and agility way on Amazon.com.

Look for the KnolShare with Dr. Dave podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play.

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If you have any questions for Dr. Dave reach out on twitter @DrCorneliusInfo or @KnolShare.

This podcast and interview produced by Dr. Dave Cornelius

Until next time, find your awesomeness.  

Copyright 2020 KnolShare and Dr. Dave Cornelius.