Effective Solutions Through Partnership

How our Team Performed Remote Design Thinking

Continuous Improvement, Decision-Making, Design Thinking, Digital Transformation, Information Technology, Innovation, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Team Building, Technology

By Terry Daffin, PMP and Denise Larcade, Prosci

KAI Partners has recently been using design thinking to help create new products and improve existing processes to support the work we do for our clients. Even before the stay at home orders, one of our design thinking teams held a design sprint that was done almost completely remotely—and resulted in a product ready for implementation!

Here are some of our experiences and what we learned through our remote design thinking experience.

Remote Design Thinking Challenges

As with using any kind of new approach or methodology, there were some challenges and we certainly went through the 5 stages of group development: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning.

Working remotely added another level of complexity with the addition of anonymity or facelessness. With a lot of strong personalities on our team, it was easy for some folks to disengage from the group.

So, how did we get past this?

To get through the storming phase, we had to work together to develop trust and respect.

True trust and respect empowered the team and were ultimately what led us to the norming and performing stages.

Because we met virtually (over Zoom) once a week, we had to become more vocal than usual. It was not uncommon for members of the group to speak up in order to keep others on task so that we did not go down a path not in scope or bring up topics that should be added to the backlog for future discussion.

Remote Design Thinking Successes

Despite our initial challenges, we did make it to the norming and performing stages! How?

We didn’t wait for people to join in order to begin—we jumped right in and started working.

What made this easier were our tools—we used MS Teams to share files, document meeting notes, have team conversations, and even to build our prototype. There was rarely an occasion where people felt out of the loop, because all the notes, resources, and information were right there in Teams.

Working remotely also allowed us to reach more people, cross more boundaries, and include more perspectives, as opposed to in-person coordination.

People are busy (and that’s a different problem for another blog post!) but working remotely gave more people the opportunity to participate and contribute.

Self-Organizing Team Tips

Part of our remote design thinking method was to truly self-organize within our team. Here’s what worked for us:

Set expectations and make team agreements from the start.

Because there was not one person designated as our “Lead,” we created a list in Teams with the Facilitator and Scribe for each meeting. If someone was unable to Facilitate or Scribe on their appointed day, it was their responsibility to find coverage.

This helped promote ownership—we were all one team of equals and therefore equally responsible for the team’s success.

Of course, since we are a firm that provides organizational change management (OCM) services, OCM was always on our mind. Design thinking was new for some folks and people are often wary of change. Assigning the rotating roles was a good way to share the workload and learn a skill—we were all in this together!

Another tip is simply to have patience. We were learning a new way of working and change is hard. Trust and respect had to be established and re-established and that process took patience!

At the end of the day (or sprint), it was satisfying to see how we created a product through sheer teamwork—even though remote design thinking was a challenge at times, the final product was worth it!

Have you done any kind of remote design thinking work on your team?! Let us know your experience in the comments!

About Terry: Terry Daffin is an Executive Consultant within KAI Partners. He has worked in the IT industry for more than 30 years and has over 25 years of project management experience. As a public sector consultant in the health care industry, Mr. Daffin assisted in the development and implementation of Project Management Offices that include project management, service management, lean agile and traditional product development lifecycles, and governance processes. He has been an innovation advocate and evangelist for 15 years and has implemented innovative processes for projects that he has been engaged in since 2001. Mr. Daffin currently works as the Project Manager of the KAIP Academy, KAI Partners’ training division and is the Community Manager at KAI Partners’ coworking space, The WorkShop Sacramento.

About Denise: Denise Larcade is an Organizational Development Consultant and Merger and Acquisitions Expert. She is a Certified ScrumMaster, Certified Scrum Product Owner, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, and is Prosci certified. She has over 25 years of experience in training, development, and leading companies through organizational change management. Denise has worked in corporate retail, technology, and government healthcare and most recently has experience with large-scale implementations nationwide. She currently works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc., providing client support to KAI Partners’ state clients. Denise lives in a 55-acre walnut orchard and enjoys the early morning hours when wildlife is stirring and the many birds are chirping. Since working from home as of recent, Denise has found she enjoys that extra cup of AM coffee without the commute…just her and nature.

In Case of Emergency: Have a Crisis Communications Plan

Communications, KAI Partners, Risk Assessment, Sacramento, Strategic Plan

By Stephen Alfano, PMP®, CSM, Prosci 

There is no sure-fire way of predicting when (or how) a crisis will occur in an organization or a business environment. Crises, by their very nature, are all too often unpredictable and all-consuming events. 

However, with the practice of risk management, organizations and business leaders can assess potential crises and quantify their ensuing impact. More important, they can use the assessments to create mitigation plans to prepare for potential emergencies. 

One such mitigation plan is preparing a crisis communications plan. 

A crisis communications plan provides a framework for timely and clear messaging from when the crisis hits through its evolution. A crisis communications plan often extends well beyond the end of the crisis to ensure that everything and everyone is on the same page or narrative. Like most proactive business management strategies, crisis communications plans fall into categories that mirror the most critical operations and functional areas.

Here are the top five crisis communications plans and what they aim to mitigate.

  • Financial Crisis Communications Plan: This plan focuses on controlling the narrative surrounding revenue loss or asset devaluation caused by external factors (like decreased customer demand) or internal factors (like poor purchasing decisions).
  • Personnel Crisis Communications Plan: This plan focuses on controlling the narrative surrounding either illegal or unethical behaviors of staff or stakeholders which could damage the organization’s reputation. 
  • Organizational Crisis Communications Plan: This plan focuses on controlling the narrative surrounding negative press coverage or media attention when an organization mistreats or manipulates customers in pursuit of profits or market data.
  • Technological Crisis Communications Plan: This plan focuses on controlling the narrative surrounding technology failures, such as a customer-facing website crashing or errors in codes that disable business processes and limit or shut down operations. 
  • Environmental Crisis Communications Plan: This plan focuses on controlling the narrative surrounding operations disruptions ranging from one-time or temporary delays or closures (like a power outage or gas leak) to sustained, long-term delays or closures (like a plant shutdown or a devastating hurricane). 

Most Crisis Communications Plans have the same core phases and steps, including:

Pre-crises Phase 

Step 1: Identify Potential Crises Risk

Step 2: Designate and Educate Potential Crises Risk Owners and Spokespeople

Step 3: Standup Notifications and Monitoring Systems

Step 4: Test Response Regularly

Post-crises Phase

Step 5: Assess the Situation

Step 6: Create and Rollout Key Messaging

Step 7: Wind down/Wrap up Response as Quickly as Possible

Step 8: Perform Postmortem of Response Steps

Step 9: Revise Plans with Postmortem Insight

For more insight into Crisis Communications, check out these links:

Your Survival Guide to Crisis Communication – HubSpot

3 Best Practices For An Effective Response Plan – Business 2 Community

Crisis Management: Communications Best Practices – Department of Energy

If you need additional information or support creating crisis communications plans explicitly designed to fit your organization or business, contact us to learn more! We would love to help!

About the Author: Stephen Alfano is an Organizational Change Management Consultant and Communications Expert. He has over 30 years of experience in leading and managing initiatives for both private and public-sector clients. His résumé includes providing both new business and business process improvement services to Apple, American Express, AT&T, California Department of Transportation, Chevron, Entergy, Levi Strauss & Co., Louisiana Office of Tourism, Mattel, Microsoft, Novell, SONY, Sutter Health, and Wells Fargo. Stephen currently works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc., providing change management and communications expertise and project management support services on several active contracts.

Technically Speaking: How to Create a Functional Home Office

General Life/Work, Information Technology, KAI Partners, Managed IT Services, Sacramento, Small Business, Startup Company, Systems Engineer, Technology

By Chris Koroluk

For many of us, working from home has become the new normal. However, some people may find it difficult to recreate an office environment at home without a little technical guidance. Luckily, our IT team is here to help!

While laptops are portable and convenient, the screens are usually small. The small screen will often condense websites and make the text much harder to read. Reading small text for long periods of time can strain the eyes and cause headaches, thus slowing down your work.

Our IT tip: Use a spare TV in place of a computer monitor.

Since most laptops come with an HDMI port and using an HDMI cable, you can connect your laptop to a spare TV! You can use the TV in addition to your laptop screen or make the TV the primary display. Here’s how:

  • Once you have your laptop and TV connected using the HDMI cable, press the Windows Key and the P on your keyboard. Then select ‘extend,’ or ‘second monitor only.’
  • Adjust size scaling and resolution in the Display settings.

Next, you can change the power settings to keep your laptop on after the screen is closed, which allows you to use your laptop as a desktop PC. Here’s how:

  • Go to Settings > System > Power & Sleep—the additional power settings are on the right.
  • Click ‘Choose what closing the lid does.’
  • Choose ‘Do Nothing’ on either or both ‘Battery’ and ‘Plugged in.’

This is just one way to make your office more functional so you can remain productive throughout the workday! Is there something our IT team can help you with? Let us know in the comments and we’ll talk about it in a future blog post!

Technically Speaking: From Corporate Office to Working from Home

Best Practices, Cloud Computing, Corporate Training, Digital Transformation, Information Technology, Innovation, IT Modernization, IT Security, Learning, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Technology, Training

By Elizabeth Long and Denise Larcade

KAI Partners works with many clients whose typical work environment is in a physical office space. So, as you can imagine, this new normal of working from home has been a tough transition for many people.

Over the years, KAI Partners has helped many of our clients bridge the gap to work cohesively across regional offices around the state. For us, helping entire departments transition from working together in an office space to working separately from home is a challenge we are well-equipped to handle!

Here are some things we have learned over the past few weeks. Try to keep these in mind as our new normal continues to change and as your team continues to make the transition into working from home.

From a technical perspective, many people are not prepared for the transition to remote working.

At a minimum, when working remotely, you need to have a computer or a laptop. While this seems like a no-brainer, you might be surprised to learn that a lot of people do not have a company-issued laptop that they can bring home. This means that oftentimes people are using their own personal laptop, computer, iPad, or tablet. All of this brings a layer of challenges around cloud computing access and making sure the technology functions so people can do their jobs.

How KAI Partners can help.

To help support this transition, we have been educating clients on not only the tools they need to work effectively from home—laptop, webcam, microphone, speaker—but also how to use the tools and how to securely gain the appropriate access they need to online work programs.

Every client uses different cloud computing and file sharing systems, so it has been important for us to unpack our knowledge of all these different systems and pass that knowledge into our clients!

In-person meetings are different than online meetings.

Navigating online meetings—everything from getting signed in and getting the camera working, to using chat functions and knowing how and when to mute—is a learning curve for folks who are used to holding in-person meetings exclusively.

How KAI Partners can help.

We have really been using our change management and training best practices during this time! Because everyone’s level of IT maturity differs, it is key to know your audience and tailor the training to their particular work environment.

Since KAI Partners supports many different clients—as well as our own internal operations—we have experience using a wide variety of virtual tools and have a high level of technical skills necessary to help educate our clients use the tools that are supported by their organization.

With many people these days focused on the challenges that come with transitioning their home space into an office space, we cannot forget that the technical changes are a huge learning curve for many and extra support should be given to ensure success.

If you are one of the many people who are working remotely, let us know the pain points as well as some successes—how has it been transitioning your team to work from home?

About the Authors

Elizabeth Long is a professional Organization Development Consultant and Curriculum Developer/Trainer. She received her Certification in Organizational Change Management from Prosci and is certified in e-learning development from Langevine Learning Center. Elizabeth has worked in many industries: High tech, healthcare, and state and local government. Currently, Elizabeth works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc. as a contractor working in a variety of California State Departments. Elizabeth’s favorite part of currently working from home is her increased productivity! She spends less time commuting and walking to meetings and client site locations—all that time is now focused on project deliverables and activities…She just has to remember to take breaks!

Denise Larcade is an Organizational Development Consultant and Merger and Acquisitions Expert. She is a Certified ScrumMaster, Certified Scrum Product Owner, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, and is Prosci certified. She has over 25 years of experience in training, development, and leading companies through organizational change management. Denise has worked in corporate retail, technology, and government healthcare and most recently has experience with large-scale implementations nationwide. She currently works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc., providing client support to KAI Partners’ state clients. Denise lives in a 55-acre walnut orchard and enjoys the early morning hours when wildlife is stirring and the many birds are chirping. Since working from home as of recent, Denise has found she enjoys that extra cup of AM coffee without the commute…just her and nature.

7 Tips for Leading Successfully through Change

ADKAR, Communications, Corporate Training, Digital Transformation, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, Learning, Managing/Leadership, Organization Development (OD), Organizational Change Management (OCM), Process Improvement, Project Management, Prosci, Technology, Training, User Adoption

By Elizabeth Long, Prosci, CSM

Most people don’t resist change just to resist change. Most people resist change because of fear.

Fear of:

  • No longer being the knowledge holder or subject matter expert (SME)
  • Not being capable of performing the new work
  • Not being comfortable with or slow to learn the new job/technology
  • Having to do things differently—maybe they have been performing the same function the same way for a long period of time and they want to keep the status quo
  • Losing their job—in some cases, people choose to leave on their own; the truth is, sometimes jobs may need to be altered to keep up with changing technology

If your organization is going through a period of change—whether an update in technology or a corporate reorganization—it’s important to know how to address the fears and help users transition smoothly.

Here are a few actions you can take to make this happen:

  1. Get users involved by leveraging them to help document as-is business processes and create to-be business processes.
  2. Provide opportunities for people to have hands-on practice with the new system.
  3. If testing a new software system, consider which users are appropriate to participate in User Acceptance Testing
  4. Address concerns about job loss—are they really losing their job or are they just going to perform a new job function?
  5. Empower SMEs to provide input on communications to the larger group.
  6. Leverage SMEs to help develop and review training material and assist with/support training.
  7. Provide honest and direct communication regarding job impacts and information about the project.

If you need help in managing a large change in your organization, we can help! Our change management experts can help you determine who your users and SMEs are, conduct a stakeholder analysis, determine the best approach for engagement, and more!

About the Author: Elizabeth Long is a professional Organization Development Consultant and Curriculum Developer/Trainer. She received her Certification in Organizational Change Management from Prosci and is certified in e-learning development from Langevine Learning Center. Elizabeth has worked in many industries: High tech, healthcare, and state and local government. Currently, Elizabeth works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc. as a contractor working in a variety of California State Departments. Elizabeth has lived in Sacramento for the past 20 years and appreciates the history of Sacramento as well as its convenience to many well-known destinations like San Francisco, Tahoe, and Reno.

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