Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Team Building

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.

The Benefits of the Certified ScrumMaster® Training Course

Agile, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Corporate Training, Event Recap, KAIP Academy, Learning, Sacramento, Scrum, Team Building, The WorkShop, Training, Workforce Development

By Daniel Fast, CSM

I recently had the honor and privilege of attending the Certified ScrumMaster® training at the KAIP Academy. This short, yet informative two-day class allowed me to expand my creative and mindful solution-finding skills.

The class was very different than any of my previous training events. It went beyond traditional lectures and book learning and instead focused on lively, interactive, and passionate Scrum meetings.

I recently joined KAI Partners and at the time did not know some of our staff who participated in the class. I got to meet some of our great staff using the techniques and methods from our Certified Scrum Trainer, Bernie Maloney.

Mr. Maloney demonstrated that the scrum methodology is expressive and personal. This was made clear as I got to know each participant beyond their “work” role. Learning about each person—not as a resource, but as a human who has skills beyond their title—was quickly evident in our discussions.

Naturally, it is easier to talk and participate when everyone has a voice. Knowing each person beyond their work role made one of our training exercises more approachable.

The exercise involved building a city using only LEGOs and our imagination. We started with a collaborative discussion about the initial design phase. What looked like chaos in some ways was a well-organized effort of distributed tasks. This course taught us how to capture our energy and direct it into tangible results. This mindset became second nature when we approached our list of tasks.

One of the great practices and changes in philosophy in the Certified ScrumMaster® training is the “pull vs. push.” Imagine a to-do list of a dozen different tasks, each requiring a different level of effort and time to complete them. The “push” method would have an authority drop tasks into each person’s lap—not very exciting or new. The “pull” method differs as each team member pulls a task, based on their own passion and ability to accomplish the task. The team accomplishes the full vision using their individual creative contributions.

The Certified ScrumMaster® training allows managers and teams to operate as a diverse and creative collaborative/collective—and it’s fun! As a newly appointed Certified ScrumMaster®, I look forward to continuing to add to the KAI Partners family the skills to help our clients and the community achieve success.

 About the Author: Daniel Fast is an Associate Consultant for KAI Partners. He has worked as an IT Consultant for over 18 years. Mr. Fast has managed clients in health care, SaaS companies, lobbying, and law firms. Mr. Fast has also provided direction to non-profits as board member and president. He is comfortable wearing many hats over the year as project manager, software developer, staff developer, and world champion stick fighter.

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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