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Category Archives: Managing/Leadership

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.

Why Servant Leadership works in the Digital Services world

Digital Transformation, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, Information Technology, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Managing/Leadership, Sacramento, Servant Leadership, Team Building, Technology

By Catherine Kendall, PMP

Throughout my career, I have worked for some incredible individuals at esteemed consulting and technology companies. I am fortunate to have witnessed brilliance in action, incredible creativity, and professional excellence.

I have also witnessed behaviors that I promised myself I would never adopt or condone. Such behaviors include bullying, intimidation, fear mongering, public humiliation, sabotage, and my personal favorite, elitism (for example: “I have a manager title, so therefore I am better, smarter, faster”).

At the assortment of companies where I worked during my career, this is the feedback I consistently received: “You may be more suited for change management since you are so sensitive,” followed by, “You’re too touchy feely,” and, “You will never be an executive because you are too sensitive. Maybe an HR job is better for you,” and finally, “You care too much about people and how they feel. You need to stop that.”

Guess what? I became an executive and I am still a sensitive person.

I figured it out fairly early in my career that I am a servant leader and although this was not a leadership category I was aware of during the tender ages of 25 – 35, I always knew that I believed in building people up and putting their needs before mine. I knew if I took care of my team members and had their backs, they would deliver on their commitments. I believe in service to others, compassion, and kindness. Yet to many of my peers and managers, this kindness made me weak.

Fast forward 10 years later, I keep reading blogs about servant leadership as if it is some new kind of leadership style. It is often paired with digital services—why is that?

Technology has pivoted towards caring about customer behavior, thoughts, and actions. Technology is about the customer experience, not just the customer transaction.

The experience has everything to do with feeling and yet, for over 20 years, I was told feelings have no place in the corporate world of technology.

I am happy to say that I stuck to my own principles and continue to behave in a kind manner towards others. I would like to argue that I did it because I am incredibly principled, but if I am being perfectly honest, the few times I tried to be really tough, I felt sick to my stomach for a long period of time and then the guilt caused by the cognitive dissonance was overwhelming and incapacitating.

Being kind to others and behaving as a servant leader does not make a person weak. Abusing employees, taunting them, condescending on them, bullying them—do people really believe leadership is equivalent to being mean?

I am pleased to see the changing of the tides. While I do not believe the days of bullying and intimidating leaders are a thing of the past, what I do see is a growing belief not to mistake kindness for weakness.

About the Author: Catherine has 20 years of experience in managing large scale information technology systems integration projects. Before joining KAI Partners as the Service Delivery Director, Catherine was the Chief Information Officer for the California Department of Conservation. Prior to that, Catherine worked for IBM as a delivery Project Executive where she served predominantly public sector clients in both California and New York. Catherine started her career as a programmer at Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting) in San Francisco and a process engineer designer and test lead at Deloitte Consulting in Los Angeles. She has her doctorate in education from Drexel University and she has an MBA and a B.S. from the University of California at Davis. Catherine is an animal rescue volunteer and does community service with the elderly. Her hobbies include playing piano, reading non-fiction and macro-economic research, and writing.

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.

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.

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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