Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Employee Engagement

It’s Not Easy Being Lean: How to Break Down Silos and Promote Collaboration

Communications, Continuous Improvement, Corporate Training, Employee Engagement, KAIP Academy, Kotter, Lean Six Sigma, Learning, Sacramento, Servant Leadership, Team Building, Training

By Ashley Christman, LSS MBB, SSBP, CSM

This blog post first appeared on the Lean Transformation Group’s blog and was repurposed and posted here with permission. The original post can be found here.

Want to kill innovation, productivity, and healthy internal collaboration/competition? Continue to promote a culture of silos. Silos in the workplace involve the idea that departments, units, and sections stay within themselves and rarely if ever work collaboratively with other departments or groups. This silo mentality is the result of a culture that is full of high individual performers but fails to place value on choreographing activities. Unfortunately, this attitude is quite widespread in both organizations large and small, public or private, and in some places is seen as inevitable or just a way of life.

It is interesting because often, this is one of the top complaints that employees and leaders share. They often say, “We don’t communicate well across functions,” and leaders of projects that require the intersection of multiple functions face complex challenges with communication and alignment of goals, roles, and responsibilities. Without proper coordination, projects will suffer from a lack of resources and compete with individual performance targets. Additionally, there may be more waste associated with the project as the result of possible reworks and duplication. Without the collaboration of different areas, oftentimes improvement efforts are impeded because there is no one to ask “why?”

So, how do we make the shift to break down silos and promote collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas?

The first thing to realize is this a culture change. You are asking people to change the system and become innovators and revolutionaries—okay, maybe not that extreme, but you are asking them to “Think Different”.  Moreover, for some, this can be challenging. A great book that addresses change management in these circumstances is Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under any Circumstances, by John Kotter. It’s a great and easy read, but for those who don’t have the time, here are some ideas on how to shift from silos into high performing systems:

  1. Publicly acknowledge shared goals. Create a unified vision. In one of my previous incarnations as a consultant, I worked with a client organization that had a very rigid silo system. However, when tasked with making departmental improvements, the units were forced to start talking to each other. What worked in this instance was acknowledging that they had these improvements to make so they could serve the customer. In doing that, they started forcing the teams to work cross-functionally, as well as up and down the chain of command. Cross-unit teams began to form, and as they realized what effect this had, the units began to seek other opportunities to collaborate with peers. But, this would have never even began until the shared goals were publicly announced and the shared victories were celebrated.
  2. Embrace the “why”. Ever met someone who seemed to ask “why” every time they were asked to do something? This trait can be empowering to employees and foster innovation through the sharing of ideas. People need information to do things. Never disregard the power of “why.” Likewise, questions spur creativity and imagination. Imagination leads to innovation. Often we have to reach across the aisle to make this happen.
  3. Culture comes from the top. It is not enough to encourage staff to be “silo busters.” Change has to start at the top. In this case, servant leadership and leading by example is the best way to model the change you want others to immolate.

By shifting silos into systems, and placing more value on collaboration, organizations can overcome the barriers that lack of communication can create. This effort is driven from the top, and there must be a firm commitment by management to change the culture by committing to getting not just results but making steady progress. When changing the culture, remember the phrase, “Go slow to go fast.” Real change is a slow process, no matter how much we wish it were to the contrary. Over time, the organization will see an improvement in trust given, waste eliminated, and a more productive environment. The key is to focus on opportunity, not to dwell on putting fires out. Look for chances to engage people and watch them blossom.

Interested in learning more about Lean principles or getting a Lean certification? KAI Partners’ KAIP Academy is accredited through the Council for Six Sigma Certification as an independent training provider. We are excited to offer Lean Six Sigma training and certification in the Sacramento area! For a list of our current Lean course offerings, visit http://academy.kaipartners.com/course/lean-six-sigma-green-belt-certification/.

 About the Author: Ashley Christman is a former nurse and Certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with a background in organizational change management and Lean. Her extensive experience in healthcare quality and performance improvement has transformed a number of organizations and led to better outcomes in patient care, reductions in wait times, and more. Her experience includes consulting for the CA Department of Public Health as well as multiple large hospital systems, including Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley Hospital. Her passion for improvement and educating others led her to begin teaching in order to help entrepreneurs, professionals, and leaders create a sustainable culture change by empowering them to be change agents and champions of innovation. You can find her online at @learnlivelean on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

It’s Not Easy Being Lean: Dos and Don’ts of Visual Management Boards

Best Practices, Corporate Training, Employee Engagement, Infographic, KAIP Academy, Lean Six Sigma, Learning, Project Management, Sacramento, Team Building, Training, Workforce Development

By Ashley Christman, LSS MBB, SSBP, CSM

A version of this blog post first appeared on the Lean Transformation Group’s blog and was repurposed and posted here with permission. The original post can be found here.

In many organizations seeking to deploy Lean, one of the first things they rush to do is deploy visual management boards. Visual management boards are often found in Lean environments, and many Lean consultants extol their virtue, leading to organizations adopting them without enough information on the best practices with the board. They post a white board and fill it with metrics and graphs, performance data and improvement plans, but often fail to deploy them effectively. Soon enough these boards, chalk full of information, become nothing more than background noise on a wall with no real value to the organization. And this becomes a cycle.  As organization leaders come to the realization that it has little value as the boards are, they revamp them without a solid understanding of why they were ineffective in the first place.

So, what constitutes an effective use of visual management boards? Here is a quick overview of the dos and don’ts of visual management boards!

KAI Partners, via the KAIP Academy, is excited to starting bringing Lean Six Sigma training and certification to the Sacramento area soon! Follow @KAIP_Academy on Twitter to stay informed as we announce the dates of these Lean courses!

About the Author: Ashley Christman is a former nurse and Certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with a background in organizational change management and Lean. Her extensive experience in healthcare quality and performance improvement has transformed a number of organizations and led to better outcomes in patient care, reductions in wait times, and more. Her experience includes consulting for the CA Department of Public Health as well as multiple large hospital systems, including Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley Hospital. Her passion for improvement and educating others led her to begin teaching in order to help entrepreneurs, professionals, and leaders create a sustainable culture change by empowering them to be change agents and champions of innovation. You can find her online at @learnlivelean on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

5 Ways to Achieve Work-Life Balance

Best Practices, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, Human Resources, SAHRA—The Sacramento Area Human Resources Association, SHRM

By Melissa McManus, Ed.D and SHRM-CP

Work-life balance. I am sure you have heard this phrase before or even tried to fulfill its simple message: To balance your work and personal life.

Some of you might be thinking, “Yep, I’ve got this down to a science,” while others might be thinking, “It seems so easy, why can’t I just do it?”

Well, I am about to let you all in on a little secret…I know from personal experience that there is no magic answer or solution—work-life balance is something you have to actively think about and try doing.

As a Human Resources professional, one of my responsibilities making sure my employees can find ways to have this balance, which is important. Not only should it important to the individual, but it is important from an employer standpoint as well. Ever hear the expression, “Happy wife, happy life?” Well, we can apply that same principle here: “Happy employee, happy organization!”

Employees who feel rundown, overworked, or stressed are more likely to be less productive. It is easy to get caught up in our work, especially when we love what we do and who we work with and for. However, it is equally important to unplug (sometimes literally) once the work day has ended and take time for yourself and your loved ones. Sometimes this is easier said than done, as I have found myself putting in 10 hour days without even realizing it.

So, how do you make sure to balance work and life appropriately? Here are some tips that you might find helpful.

  1. Be Organized: Stay as organized as you can throughout the day; set goals or make lists. Use whatever methods are effective, depending on what organization looks like for you personally. Find a way to prioritize and delegate tasks accordingly.
  2. Breathe: Remember to take breaks and refocus throughout the day. Sometimes I find that taking a quick walk or doing some simple stretches (especially important for those of us who work at a desk or in a seated position all day) can help you reset and allows you to be more productive and less stressed.
  3. Be Flexible: Be open to flexibility in your work and ask for flexibility when needed. We all need a little wiggle room at times and being flexible and having flexibility can lead to higher productivity—a win-win situation!
  4. Be Efficient: When you are at work, be efficient by staying present, avoiding distractions, and staying focused on your tasks. This can be as simple as keeping a clean work space, organizing your tasks or projects for the day, creating a timeline and sticking to it as much as possible, and delegating tasks as appropriate. Working efficiently allows us to get more done at a quicker pace and worry less when we go home (or get us home faster). Work smarter!
  5. Communicate: Communication is the cornerstone to just about everything. If you need something, ask for it. Whether it’s a day off or assistance with a project, be sure to communicate what you need—those around you cannot read your mind.

These tips might seem simple, but give them a try. By doing a few simple things, you may find yourself more energized, productive, and less stressed throughout the day and at night when you go home. Remember, it’s okay to leave work at work; I promise it will be there when you get back!

About the Author: Dr. Melissa McManus is a Human Resources Professional and research guru. One of her greatest strengths is her resolute ability to soak in new information and her never-ending thirst for knowledge. Melissa has a Master’s degree in Counseling, and a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership with a focus in Human Resource Development. Melissa’s professional interests include human behavior, career development, research, writing, training, and knowledge transfer. She is passionate about life and describes herself as an avid bookworm. In her free time, when she is not running her kids to gymnastics or karate, Melissa enjoys reading (a lot), wine tasting, being with friends/family, and spending time with her husband and two children.

What the KAI Partners Team is Thankful for in 2017

Communications, Data Management, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, KAI Partners, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Prosci, Sacramento, SAHRA—The Sacramento Area Human Resources Association, SHRM, Small Business, Team Building, Training


From the KAI Partners team to yours, we wish you a happy, healthy, and stress-free Thanksgiving holiday.

7 Tips to Work Successfully in a Virtual Environment

Best Practices, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, Managing/Leadership, Team Building

By Angela Darchuk

We live in a world where most of us use technology to do our job, and often that can include being able to do our job from anywhere. With businesses offering work from home or flexible schedule options, many employees now have the opportunity to work in a virtual environment.

Since starting to work in a virtual environment four years ago, I have found ways to make sure working virtually is a success for me and the virtual team I manage. Working in a virtual environment has its challenges and it may not be for everyone, but with some self-motivation and these tips, hopefully you can make your virtual work successful:

  1. Be Open: If you are joining an already established virtual team, and especially if you have never worked on a virtual team before, be open to the process. Virtual teams require a lot of positivity—there is little worse than a team member joining a team and being negative to the process.
  2. Ask Questions: Ask questions about the process, what is expected of you on a daily/weekly/ monthly basis, and seek clarification if you don’t understand what is being asked. It’s a waste of time for an employee or a supervisor to do or receive unnecessary work, so make sure you understand the expectations from the start.
  3. Get to Know Your Team: Getting to know your team can be hard when working in a virtual environment. Talking about your life, your likes and dislikes, and your personality can help open up a dialog and make the team comfortable together.(Working in a virtual environment may mean working solo, but it isn’t just about you doing your job—it’s also about collaboration with others in different locations (and maybe even different time zones!) More tips for virtual team success can be found in our blog post, How to Create a Successful Virtual Team Dynamic.)
  4. Know the Roles Your Teammates Play: Knowing the role of each of your teammates is important. When you know what others’ jobs are, you can leverage their expertise when needed. Additionally, if you are familiar with everyone’s roles, you can start to anticipate what may be needed from/by other members of the team.
  5. Be Involved: Be involved by offering information, providing solutions to issues, and volunteering for action items. A weekly meeting—usually via conference call or video conference—is a must to make sure the team is involved, but if you need more frequent meetings, just ask.
  6. Show Initiative: Showing initiative can be difficult in a virtual world, but if you see something that needs to be done, talk to your supervisor about what you can offer. Your skills and abilities were some of the reasons you were hired, so offer up new ideas to help!
  7. Ask for the Proper Equipment to do Your Job: As a virtual employee, it’s important you have the tools to do your job. This can include software and hardware; in addition, you should have access to tools for conference calling, sharing screens, direct messaging, and project management. However, be mindful of what is a ‘need’ and what is ‘want’—equipment needs to be budgeted and you should be able to justify the request.

As a virtual employee, it is your responsibility to show your value so that you thrive—hopefully these tips help your venture into virtual work a success!

About the Author: Angela has a background in book-keeping and office management. She worked for several small businesses in the Sacramento area before taking a job with the State of California. She worked for Dept. of Child Support, EDD and the State Treasurer’s office before making the jump back to private sector where she feels more at home to voice her opinion and help grow a company. Angela is currently the Administrative Services Manager for KAI Partners. In her spare time Angela loves to read, dance, and go to Disneyland. When she goes to Disneyland, her favorite ride is It’s a Small World. She is a graduate of Penn State University, has been married for 18 years, and has two boys, ages 19 and 13 (who hate It’s a Small World).

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