Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Communications

Why Change Management and Training are Critical in IT Modernization Projects

Communications, Employee Engagement, Government, IT Modernization, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Prosci, Sacramento, Team Building, Training

By Tim Townsend

State and local governments in California face long-term cost pressures. Because of these fiscal constraints, government agencies are staring at a new reality of providing the same level of services with fewer resources.

So, how will government agencies respond to this challenge? Like their private sector counterparts, embracing new technology to increase productivity is crucial.

However, simply adding new technology for the sake of adding it is not enough on its own to increase efficiency. That’s where things like organizational change management and training come into play. Unfortunately, this important part of the equation often is not given the attention it deserves.

It’s not enough to just drop a new tool in a department and walk away. Employees should understand the need for it, how it can support them to do their job better, and, most importantly, be thoroughly trained to use it (especially if they have been doing something a certain way for a long time).

I saw many examples of this while working in the State Legislature, which, like many government organizations, is looking to incorporate new technology. However, when a tool did become available, the challenge was always getting employees to embrace it.

One project that particularly showed this challenge in action was an effort to create a new automated system to streamline making vote recommendations. This technology tool created for Legislative offices was extremely helpful and had the potential to save a lot of time if used correctly. It eliminated the need to print hundreds of pages of analyses and manually transcribe vote recommendations when preparing for Floor Sessions where large numbers of bills would be voted on. Prior to the creation of this tool, it would sometimes take up to eight hours to print and fill in the packets of information that Legislators relied on when it came time to vote.

Despite the potential to save time and free up resources to work on other things, few Legislative offices changed their internal processes to use it. Why? Because the organizational culture hadn’t yet adapted to the technology. Many preferred their old systems because it was what they knew. There were certainly efforts made to train all employees on how to use it, but it never got the traction that the technology deserved.

This same story can be seen in countless other IT projects in both the private and public sector. That’s why KAI Partners offers organizational change management and training as a component of our IT modernization project services.

People, process, and technology need to work together to achieve the desired results. This upfront investment into employees pays huge dividends down the road when technology delivers on its promises to save time and money. As I saw while working in the Legislature, the greatest technological tool is only as useful as how excited and willing people are to use it.

KAI Partners strongly values investing in organizational change and training for employees so they can make technology work for them and support their needs, not the other way around. As state and local governments across California look to technology for solutions on how to continue offering the public services with less funding, choosing the right approach on IT projects will be the determinant of success or failure.

About the Author: Tim Townsend is an Associate Consultant for KAI Partners and a communications specialist with on IT project developments. Prior to joining the company, he was a Chief of Staff in the California State Legislature, where he worked for eight years. He enjoys snowboarding with his wife and is a parent to two rescue dogs.

KAI Partners Staff Profile: The OCM Consultant

Business Analysis, Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Communications, Continuous Improvement, Corporate Training, Government, Healthcare, Human Resources, KAI Partners, KAI Partners Staff Profile, Lean, Lean Six Sigma, Learning, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Process Improvement, Professional Development, Prosci, Sacramento, Six Sigma, Technology

There are many paths to success and while not everyone takes the same path, we often manage to arrive at the same destination. In our KAI Partners Staff Profile series, we share interviews and insight from some of our own employees here at KAI Partners. Our staff brings a diversity in education, professional, and life experience, all of which demonstrate that the traditional route is not necessarily the one that must be traveled in order to achieve success.

Today, we bring you the journey of Denise Larcade, an Organizational Change Management (OCM) Consultant for KAI Partners. Denise recently supported Business Process Re-engineering implementation for a KAI Partners client before moving on to implement some special projects at KAI Partners headquarters. Denise’s next client-facing role starts soon—she will be an OCM consultant for a California public sector state agency to help them move from a paper system to an electronic process.

KAI Partners, Inc.: How did you get into your line of work?

Denise Larcade: I started in grocery retail working in the stores—I found areas where I excelled and was able to implement Human Resource, Technology, and Operations practices. The grocery industry, much like banking and airlines, fell into mergers and acquisitions. I was placed on various mergers and acquisitions teams and due to my experience, eventually led activities to support retail mergers and acquisitions. My last merger came with a relocation from Idaho to Minnesota which didn’t work for my family at that time, so I chose to go back to school and get my bachelor’s degree. Not enough to fill my time and still residing in Idaho, I looked for local opportunities where my skills would transfer outside of the retail industry. I was hired on as a contractor to a local tech firm headquartered in Boise, Idaho to work on HR restructuring. While creating a plan to support HR restructuring, I saw an opportunity to move from paper-based manual processes to electronic stream-lined process improvements. My next venture, also outside of my roots in retail, was to lead training and development efforts to support the implementation of Idaho state’s new MMIS (Medicaid Management Information System). Two years in, I received the phone call from a former Idaho colleague at MMIS to support training and development on California’s MMIS. This was the opportunity to move back home to California, and I was excited to spend more time with my 96-year-old grandmother. I moved back to California and was fortunate to have three quality years with the matriarch of our family.

KAI: Are there any certifications or trainings you’ve gone through that have helped in your career?

DL: I received training and certification as part of leadership development when I worked in grocery retail. This training was instrumental in understanding the people side of change long before Prosci was identified as a Change Methodology. My experience in mergers and acquisitions prepared me for being a leader for change. Later, getting my Prosci certification was a desire as the methodology aligned to activities I valued in my merger and acquisitions experience.

I have been twice certified as a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. The first time was more than 20 years ago and my recent certification occurred earlier in 2018. It was nice to compare what is still a valued practice in Lean Six Sigma methodologies and how technology advancements provide a more streamlined approach to process improvement.

KAI: What is your favorite part about your line of work and why?

DL: Teaching others and assisting resistors through change. No one likes change and what I find most interesting is that we adapt and make changes in our personal lives every day, so why are we not as willing to make changes in our work lives? I like leading a group through the awareness of making a personal change and how and why adopting that same mindset is valuable to you, to others, and to your employer in your work life.

KAI: What is one of the most common question you receive from clients and what counsel or advice do you give them?

DL: “Why do we have to change? We have been doing it this way forever. Doesn’t ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ apply?” My advice is to walk people through their personal life changes, e.g., The oven still works and isn’t broken, so why would you invest in a microwave? What are the benefits of a microwave versus an oven? Do those benefits support the investment? There are so many examples that support change. If we don’t change as a business, how can we be current and competitive?

Now that we’ve learned more about Denise’s OCM work, here’s a little more about her!

Quick Q&A with Denise:

Daily, must-visit website: I don’t have one, but I subscribe to many technology and change newsletters.  Sometimes you need something that pertains to your current focus of work.

Preferred genre of music or podcast to listen to: Top Pop and Top Country—I like to be relatable to the generations following mine. The music is usually uplifting and gives me lots of positive energy.

Best professional advice received: My grandfather was a great businessman; he developed his own corporation and was successful as a professional business leader, CEO, and mentor. He always said, “Your word is your commitment and treat others how you would like to be treated.”

Book you can read over and over again: Jack Welch’s book “Winning.” I could read it over and over again and it always pertains to my work at hand.

Most-recent binge-watched show: I don’t watch much TV and tend to turn it on for background noise; however, I am a fan of Survivor and the Amazing Race. I love to watch people problem-solve and I like to be on teams where people problem-solve.

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.

3 Ways to be a Successful Change Leader

Communications, Employee Engagement, Managing/Leadership, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Sacramento, Team Building

By Debbie Blagsvedt, CSM, LSSGB

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realists adjust the sails.” – one of many inspirational quotes by William Author Ward, whose words reminded me how difficult the winds of change can be for change leaders.

Change is hard. People like their comfort zones and take great measures to protect them. While there are those who get on board with the change, some people only adjust to it as time sails on. A change leader’s role is to influence and inspire people even though they may not support it.

Here are three tips for change leaders to help navigate the winds of change to ensure setting sails toward your destination.

1. Accept the impact of the change. When a change is announced, people may feel stunned and disillusioned, particularly when they feel the change is being done to them. People are not always equipped to deal with uncertainty while maintaining the job they were hired to do. What we know is that resistance is normal, and often people’s reactions hide their rational thoughts about how the change may be beneficial. Change leaders need to be cognizant of where people are in the change journey and know that individuals will not always catch the wind, but rather will set the sails when they are ready to embark on the change journey.

Be aware of individual’s concerns and take actions to address them.

2. Set sail with emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage yours and others’ emotions, as well as the ability to manage interactions and relationships successfully. Emotional intelligence helps change leaders manage people and themselves during change. Change leaders must be aware of their emotional impact and know how to proactively influence a project team’s emotional state though moving from pessimism to optimism.

Focus on sharpening your emotional intelligence to create positive emotions to help shape the organization’s climate towards change.

3. Head up the wind with strengths. Understanding, acknowledging, and building on the strengths of people who have contributed to past successes make change feel less like an imposition from the top and more like a shared goal. Successful change leaders know the value in facing those winds by focusing on the strengths of the crew.

When assembling a project team, make sure you have the right combination of people who have the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to sail towards a successful change journey.

Did you know KAI Partners provides change management solutions and services to clients in California and beyond? Interested in learning more? Contact us today at info@kaipartners.com.

About the Author: Debbie Blagsvedt is an Organizational Change Consultant with over 25 years’ experience in change management, performance management, process improvement, training, and facilitation. She has a worked in both the private, public, and non-profit sectors in industries that include health, legal, financial, social services, high tech, and transportation. She currently works as an Organizational Change Consultant with KAI Partners on assignment with a child welfare services agency. Debbie is passionate about collaboration among teams which she believes leads to high employee satisfaction and is equally fascinated with the rapid-fire speed of change and what it means for organizations today. Debbie grew up in the bay area but now considers Sacramento her home. She has many interests from home projects to wine tasting, volunteering, witnessing the changing face of Sacramento, and going on new adventures with her family and friends…Not to mention nightly walks and occasional mountain hikes with her dog, Emmett.

How to Navigate OCM on an Agile Project [INFOGRAPHIC]

Agile, Best Practices, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Communications, Infographic, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Prosci, Scrum

By Debbie Blagsvedt, Prosci, CSM, LSSGB

What do current communication trends and Agile—the interactive system development framework—have in common? They both have increased the speed in which an activity occurs with the work being done in “sprints,” or 1-4 week periods. Mobile and visual communications have reconditioned people to prefer consuming information in small chunks and systems are built in pieces using an Agile framework.

With shorter, tighter, and visual communications as the go-to preferred method of communications and the increasing prevalence of Agile, traditional change management strategies and plans are being challenged. This infographic provides six ways Organizational Change Management can evolve to meet the demands of Agile and changing communication trends.

We hope this infographic aides you in successfully bridging the gap between your agile and OCM environments!

About the Author: Debbie Blagsvedt is an Organizational Change Consultant with over 25 years’ experience in change management, performance management, process improvement, training, and facilitation. She has a worked in both the private, public, and non-profit sectors in industries that include health, legal, financial, social services, high tech, and transportation. She currently works as an Organizational Change Consultant with KAI Partners on assignment with a child welfare services agency.  Debbie is passionate about collaboration among teams which she believes leads to high employee satisfaction and is equally fascinated with the rapid-fire speed of change and what it means for organizations today. Debbie grew up in the bay area but now considers Sacramento her home. She has many interests from home projects to wine tasting, volunteering, witnessing the changing face of Sacramento, and going on new adventures with her family and friends. Not to mention nightly walks and occasional mountain hikes with her dog, Emmett.

3 Things Leaders Can Do to Be Better Change Agents

Best Practices, Communications, Employee Engagement, Managing/Leadership, Organizational Change Management (OCM)

By Denise Larcade, CSM, CSPO, LSSGB, Prosci

One of the most common things I’ve seen through numerous mergers and acquisitions or other major change events within an organization is the lack of engagement and communications from leadership.

Oftentimes, leaders are so busy leading the change, they forget to play an active role in the communications process.

Unfortunately, not adequately communicating change events to staff can cause the rumor mill to start churning (at best) or employee upheaval (at worst).

Luckily, there are some easy ways leaders can mitigate the feelings of confusion and disorder for employees that often come with times of change:

  1. Be Present

As a leader, your physical presence is not only needed, it’s required. Your employees need to see you at town hall meetings, open forums, staff meetings, etc. Anywhere their presence is mandatory, yours should be too.

We know you’re busy; it’s likely not possible for you to attend every town hall meeting across all shifts. Plus, you are already involved in the planning process, so why would you need to be present at these meetings? Remember, your staff doesn’t necessarily know what you know, nor do they know how much you know.

Be present by attending the last 5-10 minutes of each meetings. At the meeting, engage employees by asking questions:

  • What did you learn today?
  • How was this meeting valuable?
  • What can we do better next time?

This shows you are engaged in the discussion while also getting direct feedback on how the communications process can be improved going forward.

  1. Be Honest

The rumor mill can start for numerous reasons:

  • Leaders themselves are not sure about what’s going on within the organization and so they avoid discussions about it
  • The information cascade is not working effectively
  • Employees pick up on small changes in attitude and draw their own conclusions about what’s going on—Joe seemed grumpy today, that must mean a layoff is going to happen.

No matter how the rumors start, it’s important to address them directly, rather than hope they go away. To identify which rumors are out there, try implementing smaller focus group-like sessions. These sessions should include people from across all different departments and should be facilitated by a member of the leadership team who does not directly supervise any of the staff in attendance.

Scheduling these focus groups can be tricky at first (you can schedule video calls with remote teams), but the benefits are numerous. Allowing staff to talk through whatever is on their mind in a small group setting brings about honest conversation, as well as informing leadership about which rumors are out there and need to be addressed.

You can squash the rumors in the focus group itself, as well as address the rumors at the next open forum or town hall. Remember to put questions and answers in a shared location so that all staff can see what was discussed. I recommended keeping the identity of the question-askers anonymous.

For longer change activities—6 months or more—consider setting up an internal webpage or SharePoint where people can ask questions and leadership can provide answers. If updated regularly, this forum can become the first place people look for an answer to a question, and a good way to stop a rumor before it begins.

  1. Be Early

Engage staff early in the change process. If their department is likely to be effected, let them know as soon as it’s appropriate. When possible, bring them into the process to get their feedback about the future state and how they think roles, responsibilities, and procedures should change. When it’s time to implement any changes, employees will be more likely to accept the changes, since they were brought in from the beginning.

It’s also advisable to communicate when you’re going to communicate. Set up a framework or schedule around when people can expect to hear communications and in what form. Whether it’s a monthly town hall meeting on the third Wednesday of the month or an informational email digest each Friday afternoon, set expectations early around when staff will hear updates. The rumor mill has less of a chance to churn if employees know they are scheduled to receive an update at a previously-appointed time.

Change is going to happen whether we like it or not. As a leader, remember to be honest, present, and early in your change communications so that staff is informed, accepts, and is prepared for the change.

About the Author: Denise Larcade is an Organizational Development Consultant and Merger and Acquisitions Expert. 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 one of 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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