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Category Archives: Best Practices

5 Ways to Improve your Strategic Vision

Best Practices, Communications, Digital Transformation, Government, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, Managing/Leadership, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Public Sector, Sacramento, Strategic Plan, Team Building

By Nick Sherrell, PMP, MBA, CSM

January is the time of new. We have shaken off the retrospective December and are opening our eyes to new ideas and new possibilities for our careers, our personal lives, our habits, and perhaps even some new hobbies.

This January has a couple extra layers of ‘new.’ Not only is it a new year, but a new decade. On top of that, the term “2020” is a cliché connotation for someone having perfect vision.

Let’s talk about your organization’s vision.

Many clients I work with have a Strategic Plan. It is typically that document found somewhere deep inside their document library that pops up when you are using the search feature to find some other document. It is usually from a year or two ago, and sometimes still contains a ‘Draft’ watermark.

What happened?

All too often, it follows the same path that many of our personal new year’s resolutions take. A great exercise to think about our future with a lot of creative brainstorming, dreaming, and sometimes (let’s be honest here) wishful thinking. We write it all down, even set some abstract goals, and then…life hits! Critical staff get sick (or have kids that get sick). A new decision comes from the larger organization that shakes up your organizational structure. Sometimes those old habits are just too tempting to pass up, just like that dessert case at The Cheesecake Factory!

Here’s how to set up an organizational vision that sticks.

  1. Commit to the process by building a team: It is hard enough to set your own personal vision into action. It is significantly harder to put somebody else’s imposed vision into action. Instead of doing this on your own or with a small group of executives, create a cross-functional team from all levels of your organization and have a trained facilitator guide these discussions. People brought into the design phase are given a sense of ownership and commitment to the results. This is not a strategy that is imposed on them, but rather something they have been empowered to help create. Equally as important, this commits you to the process because once you communicate the concept of building a vision to others, you create the accountability to see it through.
  2. Set realistic and concrete goals with clear accountabilities: With your team, set 3-5 core focus areas that each have a maximum of three clearly defined and achievable indicators of success. Make these goals stretch goals, hard to achieve and only attainable through dedication and teamwork. They key factor to keep in mind when selecting core areas and key indicators is that less is more, especially in the early stages of creating a strategic culture. The simpler the message, the easier it is to get everyone on board and rowing at the same cadence.
  3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: Once you have identified the core focus areas and a few key indicators, spread this message like wildfire across your organization! Wherever possible in your communications to staff, tie the message back to your strategic goals.
  4. Build and integrate frequent check-ins: This is where most strategic plans fall short and ultimately meet their demise by collecting virtual dust in a document library. Leaders are usually happy to get in a room and discuss strategy. They are usually pretty good at setting concrete goals, assigning accountability, and communicating a kick-off. The challenge is incorporating this into existing leadership meetings and decision-making. Inevitably, a distraction will happen. Prepare for it early by ingraining these goals into a habit. Which takes me to my last point…
  5. Make vision an organizational habit: Once these efforts are integrated into your regular work, reward small wins to build momentum and turn strategic thinking into an organizational habit. If you don’t reach a goal, find the positive aspects and momentum and use those as a springboard to challenge the next iteration of goals. If positives are hard to find, then focus on the learning of what did not work and bring these lessons learned into your next strategic planning session.

Does this sound like a familiar scenario at your organization? If you need help putting your Strategic Plan into place—or creating one in the first place!—we would love to help! Contact us today to learn more!

About the Author: Nick Sherrell is a Project Manager with over 10 years of healthcare experience ranging from Quality, Performance Improvement, Technology Implementation, Data Analysis, and Consulting. Nick has worked with organizations ranging from the Sacramento Native American Health Center, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, Blue Shield of California, and The Advisory Board Company. He currently works for KAI Partners, Inc as a Project Manager Consultant on Public contracts with the State of California, most notably with the Judicial Council of California and California Medicaid Management Information Systems. He received his MBA from UC Davis in 2015 with an emphasis in Organizational Behavior and Innovation. He became a Certified Scrum Master in 2018 through Scrum Alliance training offered at KAIP Academy. He lives in Sacramento with his wife, two children, and Golden Retriever Emma. Find Nick on LinkedIn here.

Why Process Improvement Is a Never-Ending Job…Thank Goodness

Best Practices, Continuous Improvement, Innovation, Lean Six Sigma, Process Improvement, Sacramento

By Stephen Alfano, PMP, CSM

Ice cream melting. Kids whining. Anger mounting. It’s a Saturday morning in the middle of summer. The lines at the local grocery store registers are six people deep. Patrons have been moving at a glacial pace for the last 10 minutes. Many are complaining to one another. Several have begun to shout out for the store manager. The store manager is not on duty. The shift manager is—so, the bottleneck is her problem. She needs to find another way to move these customers through the queue as quickly as possible or risk seeing dozens of negative (business-killing!) reviews posted on social media. Her job is at stake. If she’s unsuccessful, then the ice cream won’t be the only thing having a meltdown.

Of course, if the shift manager has been trained or has prior experience with this type of process problem, she will undoubtedly follow the store playbook or her gut and get the shoppers on their way in no time. But, what if the store didn’t have a playbook on how to handle this kind of situation? Or what if this was the shift manager’s first day on the job?

This check-out crisis at the corner store might seem a little cliché at first. However, it is a perfect example of a real-world (real-time) business process improvement opportunity, for example…

  • An opportunity where an individual or an organization can take a bad scenario—or “use case”—and turn it into a teaching moment that will drive value for customers;
  • An opportunity that highlights how critical addressing process flow problems are to the success of any business; and
  • Perhaps most important, an opportunity that demonstrates the need for making a plan, doing what the plan prescribes, studying the results or reaction to what was done, and actively identifying and pursuing any changes to the plan to improve the process on a continuous basis.

I like to use the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle. Known as the Deming Wheel or Deming Cycle—named for Dr. W. Edwards Deming, an American engineer, professor, author, and management consultant—the PDSA is an organized approach to continual learning and improving products, processes, or services.

“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing” ― Dr. W. Edwards Deming

Here’s how the PDSA cycle is applied:

The Plan step starts the cycle:

  1. Establish a goal or outcome.
  2. Formulate a theory or an approach to achieving the desired results.
  3. Define success criteria, including actual activities and products necessary to execute the plan itself.

Then, in the Do step:

  1. The plan is implemented.
  2. Processes are executed.
  3. Products are generated.
  4. Services are delivered.

Next comes the Study step. The results—the outcomes—of the processes, products, and services are monitored and evaluated on their effectiveness and efficiency towards meeting the customers’ expectations and needs. The entire plan is examined: Progress and success are measured as much as problems—and areas for improvement are prioritized.

The Act step brings the cycle back to the planning or drawing table. Here, data and learning gained throughout the process are used to help make informed decisions—or at the very least, adjustments in goals, approaches, and value metrics.

If executed with discipline and intentions to drive continuous improvement, the PDSA cycle can be repeated over and over to the delight of customers and managers alike in any season or business scenario.

For more insight on process improvement, check out these links:

Whether it’s at the ice cream counter or on technical project, this model for process improvement can apply! Do you have questions or comments about Process Improvement or your preferred best practices? Comment below!

About the Author: Stephen Alfano is an Organizational Change Management Consultant and Communications Expert. He has over 30 years of experience 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—PMP®, CSM® with KAI Partners, Inc., providing change management and communications expertise and project management support services on several active contracts.

Why Successful Meetings Start with Stakeholder Management

Best Practices, Communications, Continuous Improvement, Employee Engagement, Managing/Leadership, Project Management, Sacramento, Team Building

By Stephen Alfano, PMP®, CSM®

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been in a meeting that was derailed by a dominating or distracting stakeholder. Now, concentrate on that scenario: Do you remember how you reacted to the meeting going off track?

If you attended the meeting as a secondary stakeholder—in a role like a union representative or a regulator not tied directly to an outcome of the meeting—the event probably made you feel a bit confused or at the very least a little uncomfortable for the person running the meeting.

However, if you were a primary stakeholder—accountable for a project or an outcome tied to the meeting—you might remember feeling like you witnessed a total train wreck.

Regardless of your takeaway, I’ll wager that everyone—except the stakeholder at the center of the disruption—left that meeting shaking their head wondering why someone (anyone!) didn’t anticipate that the meeting might be at risk of being derailed. Better still, I’ll double my wager that the root cause of the derailment comes from insufficient insight and analysis on the stakeholder in question. In other words, I’ll bet the house that the meeting would have stayed on track with Stakeholder Management on the scene.

Stakeholder Management is an essential component in the delivery of business processes or activities.

Stakeholder Management identifies the needs of vested participants and helps rank (arrange and prioritize) their power, interest, and influence levels in context to one another and in alignment with the overarching strategic goals and objectives of the organization, program, or project driving the delivery.

That’s why a project owner or manager with a Stakeholder Management Plan in hand can anticipate and approach disruptive stakeholder behavior quickly and effectively—especially in a meeting.

The key to effective Stakeholder Management comes from a continuous, laser-like focus on the significant interactions between and impact on people—playing roles as individuals, inside groups, or within organizations.

Maintaining a high level of awareness and engagement with stakeholders to assess, analyze, and then align their needs and expectations—often referred to as providing “care and feeding” throughout the delivery lifecycle—is a demanding job.

It’s a job that requires masterful interpersonal skills like leadership, motivation, and active listening, as well as proven project management skills like risk management, negotiating, and critical thinking.

Of course, there are many other skills involved in stakeholder management that I could list here, but I wouldn’t want to get off track. 😉

For more insight on running successful meetings, check out these links:

How to Run a More Effective Meeting
https://www.nytimes.com/guides/business/how-to-run-an-effective-meeting

Five principles for getting more done as a team
https://slackhq.com/run-effective-meetings

7 Ingredients for Effective Team Meetings, Distilled from Two Years of Torture
https://blog.hubstaff.com/effective-team-meetings/

Do you have questions or comments regarding Stakeholder Management including best practices? Submit them in the form below!

About the Author: Stephen Alfano is an Organizational Change Management Consultant and Communications Expert. He has over 30 years of experience leading and managing internal and external marketing 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—PMP®, CSM® with KAI Partners, Inc., providing change management and communications expertise and project management support services on several active contracts.

Reinforce and Reward for Change Management Success [INFOGRAPHIC]

Best Practices, Employee Engagement, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Prosci, Sacramento, Team Building, VUCA

By Debbie Blagsvedt, CSM, LSSGB

It’s 6:30am, the alarm goes off, and I roll out of bed, jump in a hot shower, feed Emmett (a 48-pound cocker spaniel needs his breakfast), get ready, drive to work, and drive home. Next morning, repeat.

Sound familiar? Routines bring comfort and a sense of control in our lives in a volatile, uncertain, chaotic, and ambiguous world. Remember, VUCA? Humans are creatures of habit and we like to stay in our comfort zones.

As a change management professional, I’m supposed to embrace change. Honestly, I kind of like change, but I have to say, I’m often looked at with scorn even by some of my fellow change management peers.

What’s the real reason we want to stay in our comfort zones? One reason is that we are often not rewarded for going outside of them. This can be true at work, as well—a new change initiative occurs, and once staff is trained and the change is implemented, everyone moves onto the next project.

Oftentimes, mechanisms for sustaining the change aren’t built into the equation and don’t get established.

For a change initiative to have the most success, leaders should reward staff frequently in order to reinforce the new behavior.

So, how can you create mechanisms to sustain change by reinforcing and rewarding behavior? Take a look at our infographic for some ideas!

3 Ways to Build Trust on a Change Management Initiative

ADKAR, Best Practices, Communications, Digital Transformation, IT Modernization, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Prosci, Sacramento

By Denise Larcade, CSM, CSPO, LSSGB, Prosci

When working for a client as an Organizational Change Management (OCM) practitioner, you sometimes also wear your Project Management hat. Your Project Management hat ensures the change is addressed from a technical aspect. Your OCM hat helps you address the impact of that technical change on people.

I recently had an opportunity to implement a new program within our internal organization. During this assignment, I assumed both the role of project manager and change manager. Wearing both hats and switching between hats proved to be important to a successful implementation.

At the end of the implementation, I took a look at the project and asked myself a few key questions to help me improve for future projects:

  1. Did I miss an opportunity to take off the Project Management hat and put on the OCM hat?
  2. Did I switch hats often enough?

I know from my change management experience that bolting change on the end of a project is not the way to handle change. I also know that these three key elements are needed to ensure success:

  1. Technical expertise
  2. Change agent implementation experience
  3. Change agent with good relationships

While all three of these are important, it’s the establishment of good relationships that can truly make or break a successful implementation. This is where taking off the Project Management hat and putting on the OCM hat is important.

Contrary to what some may think, a “good relationship” does not mean simply meeting or knowing the people you are working with. You must have trust and credibility, as well.

Here are some ways to build trust and credibility:

  1. Executive support and sponsorship – a sponsor or leader can aid in communicating and building the trust and credibility of a change agent.
  2. Foster your relationships – show competence, be genuine and sincere; be accountable, honest, and respectful.
  3. Earn it – trust and credibility are earned, so start developing the right type of relationships early in the project to allow time to earn trust.

I always welcome an opportunity to grow and learn new ways of doing my job better. My recent project surprised me in a lot of ways—most importantly, by reminding me that OCM success often means switching hats frequently to make sure all aspects of the project are run effectively.

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 grew up in the Silicon Valley and relocated to Utah and Idaho before recently returning to her native California roots.

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