Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Learning

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.

Chunking up the Juggernaut (aka: Scrum in a Government Setting)

Agile, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Corporate Training, Government, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, KAIP Academy, Learning, Professional Development, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Public Sector, Sacramento, Scrum, Technology, Training, Workforce Development

By Todd Wallace, PMP, CSM

Agile methodologies.
Scrum projects.
Continuous and rapid improvement.

These are all phrases you would expect to hear in a Silicon Valley startup, while attending a morning huddle in a shared space office.

You would not expect to hear these phrases while attending a quarterly all staff meeting in “the large conference room on the 6th floor” at a government office.

However, times are changing, and the way work is being done is changing with those times.

What was once a radical new way to manage projects, or “work efforts,” is now seen as a reasonable, efficient, effective, and adoptable methodology to bring into new areas, such as state government.

As opposed to the historically applied Waterfall method to manage projects in state government, using an Agile method allows for earlier customer feedback and course correction.

This helps increase the chances that your project meets the customer’s needs and isn’t outdated before it’s even completed.

While a juggernaut such as a government agency may not be able to pivot as quickly as a small startup, there are still very real gains that a government agency can realize through adopting Scrum into their day-to-day operations.

With the support and understanding from leadership, a group within a government agency can form into a Scrum team, with a Product Owner, a Scrum Master, and a working group.

By breaking up the work that needs to be done into correctly written user stories and a backlog maintained by the Product Owner, the team can accomplish recognizable progress every two weeks.

While Agile was originally created for software development and rapid releases of code, achieving success with Scrum doesn’t rely on being in a software development group.

Notice that that previous paragraph said nothing about technology or software.

Scrum can be applied to any work effort, from process improvement efforts, to reconfiguring the physical assets of a floorplan.

The overarching goal of Scrum is to “chunk up the work,” or break the work down into tasks that can be completed in a timely manner, with value added at their completion.

Scrum projects may seem like tech world jargon, but there is real value in knowing how to manage Scrum efforts within the government sector and there is a real push for government agencies to adopt Scrum in daily operations.

If you work in a government setting, either as a government employee or a contractor, Scrum is a very real change coming to you soon.

If you want to be ahead of the 8-ball and able to walk the walk when your department’s leadership implements Scrum methods, the Certified ScrumMaster course, offered by KAIP Academy, will teach you everything you need to know to get up to speed. You’ll be able to confidently raise your hand in a “fist to 5” saying that you can coach the team to succeed with Scrum!

About the Author: Todd Wallace is a Senior Project Manager with KAI Partners, Inc. He started his professional career as a student assistant in the special projects department of a state agency and worked as a state employee for over 7 years before transitioning to private sector and consulting to state agencies. He has a BS from CSU, Sacramento in Small Business Operations and an MBA from UC, Davis in Entrepreneurship and Strategy. In his free time, Todd loves tinkering on cars and motorcycles and has a passion for innovation.

KAI Partners Staff Profile: President & CEO, David Kendall

Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Community Service, Corporate Training, Entrepreneurship, Front Street Animal Shelter, KAI Partners, KAI Partners Staff Profile, Learning, Managing/Leadership, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Professional Development, Program Management, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Sacramento, Sacramento Steps Forward, Servant Leadership, Small Business, Training, WEAVE, Workforce Development

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 our very own President & CEO, David Kendall! David founded KAI Partners in 2003. As our President & CEO, he is a managing director for the organization, as well as service delivery lead for a number of our clients.

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

David: I spent nine years in the U.S. Air Force performing a technical role related to electronic warfare. At the same time, I was finishing up my undergraduate degree in Management Information Systems from University of Maryland University College. After the Air Force and graduating from college, I worked for several different companies in project manager and program manager roles.

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

David: I have my Project Management Professional (PMP)®, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM®), and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO®) certifications. I’ve found that certifications give us a common language to talk about a particular domain. They provide a framework to execute tasks in a specific order to achieve an outcome. They also provide a professional community and opportunities for community service.

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

David: For clients, my favorite part of my job is providing solutions to business problems. Helping solve problems means I can really see the value for our customers, partners, and our staff. My favorite part of being a small business President & CEO is individual and team development.

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

David: I frequently get asked by clients, “How do I manage change across my organization?” I recommend building coalitions, identifying change agents, and including these people in the process early and often. Internally, I sometimes get the ‘What’s in it for me?’ question. I think it’s important to communicate why we do what we do and how this relates back to all aspects of a person’s work—their own development, the team’s development, our community, and our customers.

At the end of the day, our goal is to help provide more reliable services to Californians, so it’s important to keep this at the forefront.

Now that we’ve learned more about David’s background and current work as both consultant and KAI Partners’ President & CEO, here’s a little more about him!

Quick Q&A with David Kendall:

Daily, must-visit website: For work, I visit Asana.com. It’s a flexible work management tool that allows the team to create a set of business rules so everyone can work successfully. For news and information, I go to the New York Times, LinkedIn, and—of course—social media sites.

Preferred genre of music or podcast to listen to: The most recent audiobook I listened to was “Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us,” by Dan Lyons. I read this for the bi-monthly KAI Book Club. The book club is a newer endeavor for us internally. I’ve enjoyed the participation and a diversity of perspectives and thought-provoking discussion that comes out of our meetings. We also have a resident mixologist who creates thematic cocktails based on each book!

Best professional advice received: “Leaders are not appointed.” Another piece of advice I received is simply said (but not always simply done), and that is: Manage expectations. I’ve found that this applies to any management job at any level.

Book you can read over and over again: Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio.

Most-recent binge-watched show: “Letterkenny” on Hulu.

About David: Mr. Kendall’s career serving the public sector includes key consulting positions for various health and human services agencies. Mr. Kendall supports a number of community partners in the Sacramento region, including WEAVE, Sacramento Steps Forward, and Front Street Animal Shelter. In his spare time, David enjoys playing golf and cooking.

Sacramento’s Impact Global Venture Summit recap

Conferences, Event Recap, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, Internet of Things, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Learning, Non-profit, Public Sector, Sacramento, Startup Company, Technology, The WorkShop


Photo credit: Impact Venture Capital

By Terry Daffin (PMP), Shyanne Long (CSM), and Lucie-Anne Radimsky (CSPO)

KAI Partners was in full force at Impact Venture Capital’s recent Impact Global Venture Summit!

Our organization thrives on innovation and partnership, so the summit was a great opportunity to meet with local entrepreneurs, businesses, and funders of next generation technology in Sacramento.

While the idea of “global” attached event in Sacramento might raise some eyebrows, we can assure you that the event lived up to its geographic expectations—we met with people from over 20 different countries who are currently living and innovating in the Sacramento area.

The innovative organizations in attendance at the summit represented industries such as agriculture, construction, IoT, VR products for the military, Blockchain, education, and entertainment.

What Sacramento may lack in density, we make up for in diversity, which is critical to long-term growth and success of any organization and/or region. The Impact Global Venture Summit was a good reminder that although Sacramento has always been top of mind due to its proximity to political power as the State’s capital, its popularity is starting to grow.

Rising costs in the Bay Area; our region’s thriving healthcare, construction, and agriculture sectors; the proximity to research institutions; and a skilled workforce and space spurring a resurgence of manufacturing all play an important role in attracting entrepreneurs and businesses from around the world.

Take for example autonomous vehicles, which is a priority for the Sacramento Urban Technology Lab, led by Louis Stewart of the City of Sacramento. Mr. Stewart presented this concept at the summit and discussed the initiative’s far-reaching implications in terms of raising our profile globally to Asia and Europe, including work-study visits to Germany and discussing with China the possibility of a training university co-locating in our region. Louis was joined by the CEO of SMUD, who have announced they will contribute $15 million toward the creation of a California Mobility Center, which will play a pivotal role in redefining SMUD’s future beyond selling electrons.

This topic was reiterated by Jan Geldmacher of Sprint, who discussed the rising importance of networks supporting the technologies of the future through 5G. He detailed Sprint’s latest project, self-driving robotic charging stations, which will service parked cars in heavily dense urban areas where static charging stations are uncommon.

It was empowering to have strong businesswomen in attendance and speaking on panels. During the “Women in Tech” panel, it was noted that in the future, there will not need to be a separate segment and panel just for women. Hopefully, it will be a given that women will not only be included, but also ingrained in technology, innovation, and all things business related. One panelist who stood out was Brissa Quiroz, the Director of the Valley Industry Partnership (VIP) Program at Fresno State University. With a PhD in Environmental Science and Engineering, Ms. Quiroz expressed her passion for fostering students interests in STEM programs, especially those who come from low income and minority groups. Ms. Quiroz made it clear that she hopes to get more girls into STEM programs and keep their interest thriving.

The event also included Epic Office Hours for current and future startup founders to ask questions and receive advice from some of the area’s most successful founders and investors on what it takes to succeed in this new ecosystem of innovation and disruption.

KAI Partners was pleased to be one of over 1,000 attendees enjoying this premiere event supporting entrepreneurship and innovation in the Sacramento region. Did you attend the Impact Global Venture Summit? What were you most excited to learn?

About the Authors: Terry Daffin is the Community Manager of KAI Partners’ coworking and collaboration space, The WorkShop Sacramento. Lucie-Anne Radimsky KAI Partners’ Business Development Lead, covering all divisions of KAI Partners, including training and managed IT services. Shyanne Long is an Associate Business Analyst supporting business intelligence and research.

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