Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Government

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.

What you missed at the California State of Technology Industry Forum

Digital Transformation, Event Recap, Government, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, Public Sector, Sacramento, Technology

By Lucie-Anne Radimsky, CSPO

Last week, I attended the State of Technology – California Industry Forum, hosted by Techwire.

The event brought together technology and professional service delivery vendors who provide IT and support services to State agencies. According to event speaker Joe Morris, Vice President of Research at eRepublic, public sector technology spending in California looks like this:

  • $7 billion State surplus
  • $8 billion spent annually on IT
  • $900 million in State contracts were awarded to 1,300 vendors through 7,000 purchase orders

Some of the event speakers included:

  • Amy Tong, California Department of Technology (CDT) Director and Chief Information Officer
  • Scott Howland, California Highway Patrol (CHP) Chief Information Officer & Chief, Information Management Division
  • Michael Wilkening, Governor’s Office Special Advisor on Innovation and Digital Services
  • Richard Rogers, CDT Chief Technology Officer and Acting Deputy Chief Information Officer
  • Ben Word, CDT Chief Enterprise Architect, Government Operations
  • Angela Shell, Deputy Director, Procurement Division, Department of General Services and Chief Procurement Officer

Topics discussed during the 4-hour event included the growing importance of AI, including the launch of a strategic initiative dedicated to this increasingly important technology. This strategic initiative will include Data Management; the development of an Information Security roadmap; a cloud first and cloud smart approach to be deployed on an as-needed basis, rather than a blanket solution; promoting a user-centric mentality when building government services; and using a modular and more agile approach to streamlining and improving project results.

I was particularly interested in the ‘Innovation in California’ panel which included Governor’s Office Advisor Michael Wilkening and CHP CIO Scott Howland. Chief Howland compared hamburgers to IT projects, likening the promise of innovative technology solutions to that of an advertisement for a juicy hamburger. The reality of what you receive often looks nothing like the photo—but, while it might be an imperfect version, it’s still a hamburger.

Chief Howland’s point was that the imperfect version was good enough to start with offered and a place from which to improve. This is the true path of innovation—to take risks, fail fast, and move on. He talked about the ‘mobile office’ patrol cars of the CHP workforce that will allow them to respond more quickly and more effectively, resulting in improved safety to citizens and communities.

Michael Wilkening from the Governor’s Office led his participation in the panel by announcing that there will be some key hires in the next few months. New hires include the naming of the Office of Digital Innovation (ODI) Director, as well as a Chief Data Officer—a true sign of the times!—who will likely lead the effort in promoting and implementing an overarching data use agreement that is currently being developed. (This data use agreement is inspired by an existing framework used within the Department of Health and Human Services).

Other ODI updates and projects in the pipeline include:

  • Earmarking $10 million for innovation. The expectation is that this will help spark the growth of several smaller projects.
  • Re-imagining the state’s website to improve and provide a more current experience in terms of how citizens interact with government. (See alpha.ca.gov to follow the progress of this undertaking.) Mr. Wilkening noted that a key to innovation is the importance of building greater trust in government among California’s citizens—increased trust means greater access to valuable data that will help define and inspire new services.

Department of General Services (DGS) staff closed out the conference with a panel discussion around procurement and the ways in which DGS is working to improve the process and experience. DGS discussed the arrival of RFI2, a unique program which incorporates a proof of concept portion. The importance of accountability on both parties (vendor and agency) was another point driven home by Amy Tong, who stood in for Marlon Paulo, who was unable to attend. DGS also invited vendors to contact the agency with questions, concerns, and ideas on how to improve the procurement process.

Overall, this was a great event that allowed many of us public sector vendors to reconnect with our partners and colleagues within the community. It provided an arena for us to access leaders within the State who are instrumental in defining the upcoming IT projects that many of us vendors will help support.

About the Author: Lucie-Anne has over 15 years’ experience in communications and business development in the U.S. and Europe, on behalf of start-ups and non-profits. She has represented clients within the technology, energy, and telecommunications sectors to government agencies, press, and industry analysts throughout the world. Lucie-Anne has both American and E.U. citizenship. She is fluent in English and French. Lucie-Anne is an active community volunteer and has served on numerous non-profit boards and led alumni groups in Paris, Washington D.C., and San Francisco. She holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Irvine. She currently resides in Sacramento with her Brazilian husband and two boys.

OCM Success Story [VIDEO]

ADKAR, Corporate Training, Digital Transformation, Government, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Learning, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Prosci, Public Sector, Sacramento, Technology, Train the Trainer, Training

One of our OCM consultants shares one of her most successful change management tactics! We empower your organization to carry on the change after our work is done! Learn more here!

When is Project Management not Project Management?

Continuous Improvement, Corporate Training, Design Sprints, Design Thinking, Digital Transformation, Government, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, Learning, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Public Sector, Sacramento, Technology, Training, UX / UI

By Tammy Debord, MBA, PMP, PMI-ACP, CDAP, SAFe Agilist & Scrum Master, CSM

Luckily, this isn’t a trick question. Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s more of an art than a science.”? This holds true for many different endeavors in life and business, including Project Management.

The Way we Approach Problems is Changing

As a Project Management Professional (PMP)® for over 12 years, here is what I’ve learned—think of it as two different buckets of knowledge.

Let’s call Bucket A: “The Science.” This may include:

  1. Project Management Certifications (PMP, CSM, SSM)
  2. Project Management Frameworks (PMI, SAFe, Disciplined Agile, FLEX)
  3. Project Management Process and Artifacts (Project Charters, Agile Release Trains, Six Sigma Flow Chart)

Bucket B: “The Art” includes things like:

  1. Building psychological safety
  2. Driving innovation
  3. Empowering self-organizing teams to deliver valuable solutions

While the science is absolutely needed, without the art, we have to ask: Would we still consider it a successful endeavor?

I have witnessed a shift from only defining success through costs, dates, and deliverables to instead broadening the definition to include delighting our customers, building a high-performing team culture, and criteria that includes more items from Bucket B.

Design Sprints to the Rescue

Intrigued by this shift and how it relates to my work as consultant, I recently signed up for a Masterclass by Jake Knapp called The Design Sprint.

Design Sprints, born out of Google Ventures, is now practiced across the globe as a proven method for problem-solving and launching innovative solutions.

A Design Sprint traditionally runs four to five full consecutive days with a set number of team members who are pulled together to focus on a core problem. The structure follows the path of Design Thinking, which includes: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.

At its core, Design Thinking is user-centered and focuses on rapid learning based on human interactions driven through a tailored process that drives to solutions.

5 Design Sprint Tips

  1. Show, don’t tell. Facilitators encourage visuals like sketches, prototypes, and dot-voting over traditional meetings where participants typically just talk about ideas. Having a dialogue using an interactive medium helps to eliminate assumptions when people only describe what they mean.
  2. Put people first. People oftentimes drive your greatest outcomes or are your biggest barriers. Projects are not inanimate things to manage.
  3. Frame and re-frame. How you frame a problem allows you to find the right challenge to tackle. “How might we…?” problem statements allow participants to try many different lenses to a particular challenge.
  4. Embrace ambiguity. Sometimes situations won’t be clear and your cheese will be moved—when that happens, stay the course and push through with your team.
  5. Context matters. Whether you are in a new organization or another country, every ecosystem has their own culture, language, and norms to which you should recalibrate.

While I did earn a certification to add to my collection (think Bucket A: The Science), what I take with me is that the “art” of running a successful Design Sprint is the same “art” as running a successful project.

It takes a different part of the skills in your toolbox to master both—the best consultants I know have the best toolbox to pull from.

Put Your Skills into Action

A couple of ideas from the Masterclass that I have been able to use immediately in my current higher education consulting work are:

  1. Re-framing the problem
  2. Understanding context

For example, when developing an application, it is easy to believe the end goal is simply ‘completed functionality.’

By reframing the problem with the user in mind, i.e., “How might we ensure a student is able to combine and transfer their units online between campuses?”, we ensure that what is developed meets the needs of a solution beyond working code.

This could mean ensuring the underlying data needs to be revisited or that a mobile-first user experience better serves the population using the application.

By understanding context, we may discover we need to know more about the upstream or downstream applications that units are coming from or feed into so that the student has a tool that can meet their needs.

By reframing the problem and understanding context, we refocus using an empathetic lens through a technology solution.

These are just a few ways I’ve started using Design Sprint concepts in my work—do you use the Design Sprints or Design Thinking concepts? Let us know some success stories or problem areas—maybe we can help!

About the Author: Tammy Debord, MBA, PMP, PMI-ACP, CDAP, SAFe Agilist, SAFe Scrum Master, CSM started her career in gaming at Sony PlayStation and has worked in several fields including Solar, Higher Education, and Finance in Silicon Valley. Currently she is an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, working with a public sector higher education client. While not collecting letters behind her name as part of her love of life-long learning, she enjoys watching boxing and following the Marvel Universe of films.

California Digital Government Summit recap

Agile, Conferences, Digital Transformation, Event Recap, Government, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Product Management, Public Sector, Sacramento, Technology, Waterfall


Photo credit: Techwire

By Dave G. Cornejo, MBA, CSM

For over 30 years, Sacramento has been home to some of the largest and most-anticipated government technology conferences on the west coast. This year’s Digital Government Summit was no exception.

About the Event

Hosted by Government Technology/e.Republic, the summit included key state and local government executives, technologists, and industry specialists to address the most important policy, management, and technology issues surrounding the future of digital government in the State.

This year’s event included an impressive line-up of guest speakers like Governor Newsom’s Advisor on Innovation and Digital Services, as well as representatives from the Department of Technology, the Government Operations Agency, and more.

Key Takeaways

Some of the most interesting topics from the breakout sessions included:

  • Re-inventing Customer Services
  • AI (machine learning and predictive analytics)
  • Census 2020
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Design Thinking in Action (putting focus on people when designing new services and products)

The overall theme for this year’s summit was on customer-centered technology, so it was not surprising that a large crowd gathered to hear the latest chapter on the Governor’s plan for the Office of Digital Innovation (ODI).

Governor’s Goals

Summit attendees learned that Governor Newsom wants the State to be more innovative on how it interacts with clients. He believes government is not focused on customers like private industry and he wants that to change.

Some of ODI’s innovation goals include the following:

  1. Encouraging agile and modular approaches to project management, rather than “waterfall” models.
  2. Bridging silos, not blowing them up.
  3. Developing talent, creating a community, and investing efforts in a culture change.

Final Thoughts

Working for a private sector consulting firm that supports many state public sector agencies to digitally transform, it was encouraging to hear the innovation-focused message from the Governor’s office and other guest speakers and summit attendees—and to know that we are on the same page when it comes to using technology to better serve Californians.

About the author

Dave G. Cornejo is a retired State executive having served as an Assistant Executive Director over Administration and Information Technology, Chief Financial Officer, and a Fiscal Division Chief. In these capacities, Dave successfully oversaw the implementation of multi-million-dollar technology projects. Dave has also taught Computer Information Science and Business courses as an Adjunct Professor with the Los Rios Community College District and served as a loaned executive to the California Performance Review team. Dave currently serves as a Financial Analyst for one of our public sector health care clients.

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