Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Communications

Communication is Key to a Successful Remote Work Transition

Communications, KAI Partners, Remote Work, Virtual Work

By Mia Di Miceli, PMP, CSM, CSPO 

From In Office to Home Office: The secret ingredient to shift an entire workforce to a remote working environment.

I have worked in Executive Communications and Employee Engagement with private sector businesses for over 15 years; the immediate reaction to Shelter-In-Place requirements of COVID-19 put my knowledge and experience to the test. Supporting a public sector client where the practice of remote working was just a nice thought made responding to the COVID-19 pandemic seem daunting. 

The first question that came to mind was, how was I going to help my client shift their entire workforce from the office to working from home, with littletono productivity loss? The answer became immediately clear–by using the best secret ingredient around:

Strategic, thoughtful, and focused communication.

Organizations frequently underestimate the value of thoughtful communication, but communications can be a game-changer for any organization. As a Communications Consultant, you might say I am biased, but really, a communications professional is one of the most impactful resources an executive should have at the ready.

Creating a strategic, thoughtful, and focused communication approach does not have to be hard or complex. Here are 4 tips for creating a quick communications plan to help transition your workforce for any situation–pandemicpost-pandemic, or otherwise.

  1. Determine the overall theme of the message. Does the organization want to convey a specific message such as: business as usual, we are united, or do not panic? Work with executive leadership to determine and help guide a thoughtful theme to be conveyed to the workforce. 
  2. Identify the two or three best channels to deliver the message. In times of crisis such as COVID-19, the usual channels may not be the best for quick, concise, and efficient messaging. You may have to adopt something new like a vlog (video blog) or virtual office hours. Deciding the channels upfront will help streamline the volume of content and will set expectations for future communications with the audience. The channels chosen should also lend themselves to a natural feedback loop. Whether it’s as simple as advertising an Outlook inbox location or just capturing comments from the vlog hosting sitea feedback loop is imperative to a focused approach.  
  3. Ensure all content supports the overall theme message. As an example, if the theme is, “We are united,” then all content distributed should have a tone, language, and relevance to support the feeling of unification. For this theme in a teleworking environment, you could produce a vlog series with tips and tricks on staying connected while working remotely. 
  4. Document the frequency of publishing/distributing for each channel. With the theme determinedthe channels identified, and the content outlined, you will need to work on a cadence calendar. This calendar will help leadership understand how often the workforce will receive the push of content, and it will highlight opportunities for leadership to insert additional instructions or relevant information. 

Utilizing these 4 steps, I supported my client to successfully mobilize over 300 staff members and contractors from a 100% inoffice environment to a 100% teleworking environment in 2 weeks. This approach to thoughtful communication guided direct support of the executive team through daily crisis management meetings where we identified and approved appropriate messaging, determined the frequency with which we would engage the management team and staff, and helped ensure we had a plan for technology training and the comfort level of staff in being able to perform their regular job duties in a remote environment.

As mentioned at the start of this post, strategic, thoughtful, and focused communications can be the secret ingredient needed to support an organization to engage with what might now be a remote workforce. Communications will support the process of acceptance and can help you inspire what might be the new hybrid way of working. The days of everyone in the office every day might be over. Embracing teleworking as a long-term possibility now will help you ramp up for the next inevitable transition.

How will you get your organization through the next acceleration?

About the Author: Mia is an Executive Communications Consultant for KAI Partners. Mia joined KAI Partners in late 2019 with extensive experience in the private sector technology industry. She has successfully supported C-Suite executives in transforming their organizations through employee engagement, strategic communications, and organizational change management. She is an active member of International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and holds PMP, CSM, and CSPO certifications, and is trained in Six Sigma Green Belt.

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.

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. If testing a new software system, consider which users are appropriate to participate in User Acceptance Testing.
  3. Address concerns about job loss—are they really losing their job or are they just going to perform a new job function?
  4. Empower SMEs to provide input on communications to the larger group.
  5. Leverage SMEs to help develop and review training material and assist with/support training.
  6. 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.

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 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.

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