Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Project Management

KAIP Academy Lunch & Learn Event at The WorkShop – Sacramento

Business Analysis, Corporate Training, Event Recap, KAIP Academy, Learning, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Sacramento, The WorkShop, Training

The KAIP Academy recently had the pleasure of hosting Steve Morris, PMP, as he introduced his Morris Business Integration Framework via a Lunch & Learn event at The WorkShop – Sacramento.

Developed over the course of 40 years, Mr. Morris presented the labors of his research and extensive background to a select group of participants during KAIP Academy’s first Lunch & Learn.

The KAIP Academy is excited to host Mr. Morris’s future courses on Business Integration. We’re also looking forward to hosting Lunch & Learn sessions on a variety of topics coming soon!

If you need a location for your training session or meeting, The WorkShop – Sacramento can provide the space for you! Our small conference room holds eight people and our large holds up to 20. Email workshop@kaipartners.com or call 916-465-8065 to schedule your next event!

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.

Is the Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) training right for me?

Agile, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Human Resources, KAIP Academy, Learning, Project Management, Scrum, Training

With the KAIP Academy’s Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) training sessions taking place soon, we wanted to address some questions we’ve received about whether a CSM designation is worth it. One of our partners, Michael Bosch (Certified Scrum Professional from Brightline Solutions, Inc., a locally-based firm offering Agile Delivery and Change Management Services) answers some questions we’ve received. Hopefully these will help you if you are on the fence about getting your CSM certification! If there are any questions we haven’t addressed, please ask them in the comments—or email academy@kaipartners.com—and we will tackle them in a future blog post!

Question: I have relatively limited experience using Agile processes and I am not an “IT” person. I do business process analysis and participate in Change Management on an Agile project.) Would training to be a Certified ScrumMaster® be appropriate for me?

Answer: Absolutely. Scrum, at its heart, is what’s known as an empirical process control framework. This means it helps us figure out what needs to be done when it hasn’t been done before. Organizational change management frequently involves solving the unsolved, building incrementally and adaptively, and creating and maintaining early and constant communication with the project community. All these are honed in the acquisition of a CSM.

Question: I would likely be described as an “end user” of systems rather than a person who develops systems. Would it be useful for me to be a Certified ScrumMaster® if I’m not developing new systems?

Answer: Yes, if you find yourself leading or being part of teams that are called upon to perform what is referred to as “knowledge work, i.e., effort that requires creative, adaptive, incremental development of something that has a lot of unknowns to it. If this describes your team’s work, then having the knowledge of a CSM will help you be more predictably successful.

Question: I have learned the basics of Agile and use it on the projects I work on—how would getting a CSM help me at all?

Answer: Learning Agile in a way that it can be used to get reliable, adaptive products in the hands of clients when they need them in a way that provides real business value is constant and rewarding journey. Pursuing a CSM adds to the value of that journey; moreover, it provides a benchmark with which we can rely on a set of established, common knowledge about Scrum as a community of Agilists.

Question: I readily see the value in getting my CSM designation in my role, but I literally can’t afford to take time off from work and pay for the training costs: How can I get my employer to endorse or sponsor my training?

Answer: When I got my CSM, I ran into similar issues. One idea is to work out a bargain with your employer: you’ll take the time off as vacation if they pay the course. Another selling point to give your boss: You can provide the team/organization with a presentation of what you learned. Or, you could do some research and gather data and information (the KAIP Academy website and KAI Partners Blog are a great place to start) on the real business value, profitability, and potential for innovation represented by employees gaining their CSM.

Question: I work in administrative services but work with Project Managers and Certified Scrum Masters daily, how would being certified as a CSM myself help me?

Answer: The CSM certification provides a balanced, effective introduction to Agile and Scrum. The value this provides is exposure to the concepts, vocabulary, and mindset of an Agile framework. It would help you in understanding the difference between the approach your PMs follow as opposed to your CSMs – giving you a firm perspective on the entirety of work being performed and delivered.

Question: As a human resources professional (in a leadership role), other than understanding the language, process, and methodology, is there a benefit to me or my organization for me to be a Certified ScrumMaster®?

Answer: Agile and Scrum are human-centric and collaboration and communication dominant. In these and other ways, Agile comports with the mindsets of human and talent resource management. HR is a process-centric discipline, too—much of what is performed follows prescribed workflows. New initiatives, unusual circumstances, and expansion of business services often result in a need for an HR team to have a framework to plan, execute, and deliver on these needs that is adaptive and lightweight. Scrum to the rescue!

Question: Would having this certification make a difference in the way I perform my job functions or interact with my staff (of whom I have PMs and Agile/Scrum personnel)? From a human capital perspective, what would be the benefit (or the disadvantage, if any) of achieving this certification as a human resources professional in a leadership role?

Answer: Dedicated, committed acquisition of a CSM will result in positive changes in one’s leadership styles and capabilities. It provides an alternative to Theory X management styles, giving the HR professional a fresh look at how to govern the creation and sponsorship of self-governing, self-managing teams. Without the knowledge and practices provided by a CSM certification process, an HR professional would be unprepared to support this ever-more common organizational structure.

From HR to PM and everything in between, we hope this article helped you get the answers you need to know whether the Certified ScrumMaster® training is right for you!

How to Use tools from Work to make the Holiday Season Easier and Happier

Best Practices, Communications, General Life/Work, Managing/Leadership, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management

By Judi Phelps

‘Tis the season to get overwhelmed by holiday parties, Secret Santas, decorating the house, numerous family functions, and all the other festive activities that can take over your life this time of year. On top of that, the end of year is always a busy time at work, as you try to get everything off your desk and out of your email inbox before leaving the office for a week.

I was thinking recently about all we have to do in both our personal and professional lives during the holidays it got me thinking—how can we take the skills we use in the office every day and apply them to our personal lives? If we project managed our personal lives a little bit, perhaps we would be able to increase the quality and quantity of the time we get to spend with our friends and loved ones—not to mention entering 2018 feeling like we have things under control.

Here are some of my suggestions for project managing your holiday season:

  1. This can be overwhelming, but gather the family and begin the conversation to determine what your plans are this holiday season.
    • Prioritize Tasks: Decide what you want or what needs to get done this season, plus which events are most critical or which you are most excited to attend. Make sure you ask your family their vision for what the holiday celebration should be. Then determine the level of commitment from yourself and others—do you have the commitment needed to accomplish all your tasks?
    • Make a Timeline: Look at what is on the schedule. Whether it’s extra choir rehearsals, cleaning, decorating, or addressing envelopes, schedule everything out so you have a clear picture of what needs to get done by when.
    • Identify resources (both physical and financial): Assign roles to complete the tasks. Seek volunteers for tasks no one wants to do (e.g., clean the bathroom before guests arrive; make room in the coat closet). Maybe an older grandson and friend could put the lights on the house. It may not be how you would have done them, but it gets the job done! My 3- year-old grandson actually helped me decorate their Christmas tree this year—this is a great memory and the tree got decorated! Just don’t forget to empower your team—you should be willing to accept imperfect results!
    • Plan for Contingencies: Have a backup plan for when things go haywire. Perhaps you and your best friend had dinner plans but you’ve run out of time for shopping—will your friend combine shopping with visiting?
  2. Change Management: A year goes by in a flash, but 365 days is actually a long time! Some change is bound to happen!
    • Take inventory of your contact list. Marriages, divorces, new babies, moves? Whether it’s updating the Christmas card list with a new address or adding a new nephew to your gift list, make sure you are working with the most up-to-date information.
  3. Communication Management: You can do all the planning and scheduling in the world, but if no one is informed or consulted on what’s happening, then the plan doesn’t mean much!
    • Think about the most effective way to make sure everyone knows what is happening and when. Ask your family/friends which communication method works best—maybe it’s a Facebook chat or a group text. Perhaps a Google doc where everyone can make edits as needed. Just make sure everyone knows what’s going on so they are not left in the dark—remember everyone else has their own plans too!
  4. Work toward the Goal: As you move through each item in this process, remember the goal…
    • …to have fun and celebrate! Perfect is not the goal, and you may find that a little breathing and perspective will make a misadventure a memory!

Getting all of this together may not be possible, but approaching the season with the same skills you use to conquer the business or project issues you deal with everyday could get you further along to a less stressful holiday season. I know I’m working on it!

About the Author: Judi Phelps has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and worked for the State of California for more than 38 years, starting as a part-time clerk-typist and ending as a Staff Manager II. Judi worked almost all of that time in various areas of the Medi-Cal program, implementing program policies as well as working to develop policies. As a consultant, Judi currently works with clients to look for better ways to achieve the mission. Judi loves singing and scrapbooking—sometimes together!—for both the paper-craft and the time with friends aspects. Judi enjoys traveling, entertaining, and making memories (to put into scrapbooks) with her two grandsons.

7 Smart Ways to Make Your Sprint a Success

Agile, Best Practices, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Corporate Training, KAIP Academy, Learning, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Sacramento, Scrum, Training, Waterfall

By Michael Bosch, CSP, PMI-ACP, CSM, CSPO

KAI Partners is excited to share a guest blog post by Michael Bosch, Agile Services Director of Brightline Solutions, Inc., a locally-based firm offering Agile Delivery and Change Management Services to public sector organizations and private sector firms.

Remember, KAIP Academy offers Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) training courses! For more information or to register your team and take them to the next level, click here.

Establishing all the components of an Agile framework (even a lightweight one) can be a daunting task for any organization. If yours is one that has decided to take the transformation plunge, then you’re likely planning (or have already started) your iteration cadence.

Timeboxed development periods, known as iterations or sprints (the latter promoted in the Scrum methodology), are the foundational rhythm to the “groove” of Agile. Supported by other elements such as roadmapping, release planning, demonstrations, and retrospectives, sprints are the dominant architectural feature of the Agile framework. And for good reason:

Sprints are where all the work is performed and where the innovation occurs.

The best sprint lengths are one to three weeks. If multiple Agile teams are working in your organization, the common wisdom is to have them running on a synchronized sprint schedule. The most critical aspect of running an iteration is that the team is formed in such a way that it can perform the work foreseeably asked of it, that the team is empowered and entrusted to a sufficient degree, and that the entire product community (not just the team, but everyone involved in its work) understands the mindsets, roles, and expectations required in Agile.

With that foundation in place, you’re ready to start looking to optimize your team’s sprint so that success becomes predictable. Below are seven things high-performing Agile teams do that you can use to ensure your sprints are optimized for business-driven delivery.

1. Create and Promote a Sprint Theme or Goal: One of my favorite ways to focus a team on the sprint is to ask the members to put together a headline of what is to be produced, accomplished, and attained in the upcoming iteration. I’ll ask, “If this next sprint was a newspaper article, what is its headline?” This technique allows the team to:

  • be concise and pithy,
  • create understanding amongst themselves,
  • share insights; and
  • have fun putting a “brand” on their effort to keep a sharp focus on what’s being delivered and why.

2. Encourage the Product Owner and Sponsors to Address the Team: Another stand-by technique to promote success in a sprint is to allow time for the product owner, sponsor, or both to speak to the team about why the planned work is important. Have them speak about the features that will be created and why these are important to the organization, its customers, and their users. I once had a sponsor talk to a team before a sprint about the importance of the new feature set to the world—you have never seen such commitment as I saw in that team in that timebox. Have your sponsor and product manager make the visit—the time invested can translate to delivered value.

3. Establish and Drive an Effective Product Backlog Grooming Process: Disaggregation (a term Agilists use to describe the defining a set of items that will result in the production of the whole) of the product into logical components, commonly referred to as “epics,” and the subsequent disaggregation of those epics into producible items (or “stories,” in Scrum) is the chief responsibility of the product manager (“product owner” in Scrum). This role works in close coordination with the development team, usually working with the Agile Coach (in Scrum, it may be the ScrumMaster) and/or other team members to prioritize the items listed in the product backlog, or PBL, prior to each sprint as part of its planning process.

There are several techniques that can be employed to support and mentor the work of a product manager (stay tuned for future blog posts on this topic!) and there are multiple resources on the Internet to get a good PBL up and running. The take-home message:

Make sure there is a close, communicative connection between the development team and the product owner throughout product development, and that the PBL is the central point of that connection.

4. Champion and Facilitate both Individual and Communal Commitment: A critical component of the translation of items from the Product Backlog to the Sprint Backlog (SBL) is a clear understanding on the team’s part of what each item is, how it will be produced, the criteria of satisfaction for its acceptance, and how it fits into the larger whole. As discussed above, this is fostered by a sufficiently-groomed PBL; another way to help facilitate this understanding is promoting a team-level mindset.

One of the steps in translation of items from PBL to SBL is the volunteering of team member(s) to perform the work involved in the item. This is the individual commitment necessary to produce the work. Great Agile teams, though, don’t stop there: They also commit communally as a team to all individual commitments.

To promote this, have the person(s) who has taken responsibility to produce the feature or component discuss:

  • how the feature will be produced (remember W. Edwards Deming, the father of modern quality management: if you cannot describe what you’re doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing)
  • what impediments may be encountered
  • what information gaps needs to be filled, and any foreseen dependencies, risks, or issues.

Then have the team ask questions, give feedback and suggestions, and (if warranted) recite back the work as described. This will ensure a critical common understanding: Not only do the persons doing the work have a clear plan, but the team also understands—and can help if needed. This adds surety that all the work the team committed to in the sprint gets done, which is one definition of a successful iteration.

5. Coach the Team in the Beginning, Coach the Individual in the Middle: As Lyssa Adkins points out in her book Coaching Agile Teams, interruptions—even in the form of well-intentioned but ill-timed coaching—can seriously impact a team’s flow during a sprint. One way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to prevent ad-hoc “mini-retrospectives,” “team teaching sessions,” and other events from occurring during the iteration. You should save that type of teaching for the planning sessions and lessons learned reviews that bookend it (see #6 for more on this topic!). While the sprint is active, it is best to keep coaching at the individual team member level, and even that should be limited to directly supporting an immediate need in the sprint.

6. Leverage the Opportunities for Retrospective: Keep your retrospectives fresh with some easy modifications: Change up the agenda, location, facilitator role, and other elements to keep your team interested and engaged. Come prepared, but be flexible—I usually come to a retro with an agenda in mind (for example, something observed during the sprint that indicates a need for review of an Agile principle), but I check with the team first to see if there’s something they’d rather review. Check with the team on where in the Sprint cycle they’d like their retrospective. Many teams like to hold it directly after the review, some like to do it just before, still others like to wait until just before the beginning of the next iteration. Find what works for each team, but continually impress the importance of the retrospective. It is more than mere ceremony—it is a vital step to allow your team time and space to reflect on the past iteration in order to improve future ones.

7. Foster Urgency and Fun: One of the most productive aspects of an Agile production environment is the consistent, predictable, confining nature of timeboxed development. It creates a sense of urgency that can almost be sensed, like a feeling in the air. The regular performance of sprints helps with this—it creates the downbeat that helps everyone stay (or get back into) rhythm. It is the chassis on which the other elements of the Agile framework are attached (as they owe their intrinsic value to the sprint itself).

Foster that sense of urgency in your teams, but balance it with the need to maintain a sustainable pace. Moreover, make sure that your team is having fun! Agile is fun—getting things done that provide needed value to our customers quickly is intrinsically rewarding. Let that shine on your team in whichever way you find works—they will reward you with sprints jam-packed with innovative product delivery!

About the Author: Specializing in transformation and disruption services for companies looking to improve, Michael Bosch has been providing high-value delivery services for more than 15 years. An Agilist with more than 10 years’ experience in the incremental development of complex digital solutions, Mr. Bosch has served as a Scrum Master, developer, and Agile coach for multiple sectors and lines of business, is a recognized Agile services technologist, product developer, and staff development expert. He specializes in creating breakthrough, team-empowering, lightweight communication and delivery frameworks for organizations of all sizes. Mr. Bosch is a Certified Scrum Professional (CSP), an Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), a Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and Product Owner (CSPO), and an accredited Project Management Professional (PMP). He holds multiple degrees, including a masters in computer information systems. He has served as a professional trainer and speaker for more than a decade and is a published author and regular contributor to multiple information sources.

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