Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Process Improvement

Improving the User Experience with Product Management

Agile, Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Continuous Improvement, Healthcare, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, Process Improvement, Product Management, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Public Sector, Sacramento, Scrum, Technology, Waterfall

By Jamie Spagner, PMP, CSM, CSPO

As a PMP, I have nearly a decade of traditional project management experience. I’ve worked on several projects and helped implement solutions into production using the standard waterfall methodology. With a very scripted plan, traditional projects have pre-defined scope and a definitive end.

Something I’ve recently started to work on is Product Management. In my current role, I am helping to plan the modernization efforts for a legacy system in the health care industry. The idea of Product Management is a relatively new concept for the public sector—it shifts the traditional way of thinking and is less prescriptive and more flexible.

You may be wondering how Product Management works, so I wanted to share my thoughts on Product Management in general, as well as some of its challenges.

  1. Product Management doesn’t stop. Product Management is customer-driven by nature—there is no fixed schedule or end date by which to release a product or system. Features are continuously added or tweaked to make the system or product function better for the end-user.
  2. Product Management is centered around the Agile approach. (Also true of some traditional projects.) Teams are self-motivated to determine how and when they’ll do the work. Product Management is not done in a vacuum—the development of the product is still structured using typical scrum tools like daily stand-ups and sprint planning.
  3. Product Management is not perfect. As with any new way of doing things, implementing a Product Management approach is not without its challenges. The idea of a product never being truly “finished”—because the product is continually improved to make sure it meets and exceeds customer needs—can be a tough concept.
  4. Product Management requires buy-in. Product Management often requires a culture change, as well. Coaching of executives and leadership is common—instead of directing their team, leaders should empower their teams to self-organize.
  5. Reporting Product Management’s progress. Another challenge of Product Management is reporting and being able to show progress against a plan. Since these are inherently waterfall tasks, there is a challenge in how to measure and show progress with a continuous process like Product Management. I believe using the tools of Agile can help in reporting and measurement. Developing a product roadmap, building a backlog, holding daily standup meetings, and overall accountability—you should trust in the agile process to develop and improve a great product.

Product Management is starting to be used more widely in public sector technology and innovation endeavors because it focuses on the people, processes, and technology. Product Management is a team effort to make sure a product thrives and meets the needs of the end-user community it supports.

Have you used a Product Management approach before? How is it working for you? Leave a comment and let us know!

About Jamie: Jamie Spagner is an Executive Consultant for KAI Partners, where she works as a Project Manager for a public sector health care client. She graduated from California State University, Sacramento with the Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies/Public Relations. She is a loving mother of a teenage son named Wyatt. In her spare time, she enjoys shopping, spending time with family/close friends, and working out.

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 Tips to Implement a Successful Process Improvement Program

Continuous Improvement, Lean, Lean Six Sigma, Process Improvement, Project Management, Sacramento, Six Sigma

By Ashley Christman, LSS MBB, SSBBP, CSM, CSPO

I recently read an article in which the author called Lean Six Sigma a ‘management fad.’ There were three core aspects that the author highlighted, in discussing his experiences, that struck my attention:

1. Lack of buy-in

2. Lack of adequate training for staff

3. No plan for ongoing monitoring of processes

These things are common in ineffective Lean Six Sigma deployments and can leave a bad taste in employees’ mouths. To counter this, a successful Lean Six Sigma or Process Improvement program should include the following:

  1. Buy-in: You need to have buy-in from staff and management, not just the enthusiasm from executive leadership. Staff are the people who execute the process. Middle management is crucial to have on board; in the long run, they are the process owners and ultimately contribute to the long-term success of any Lean Six Sigma or Process Improvement initiative by engaging and educating their staff in process improvement work and long-term management of the improvements.
  2. Training: Oftentimes training is provided, but it’s only enough to get a few higher-level employees through the process. In a successful deployment, all staff are trained to the level appropriate for their work. This empowers all staff to make suggestions and small improvements in their own work.
  3. Planning for Success: Part of creating sustainability in any Process Improvement program is ensuring that there are long-term plans for evaluation of capabilities, determining the need for improvement, and looking for a way to pursue perfection. Too many times once the project is done, people call it fixed and fail to revisit the process later to see what changes are needed or if the improvements that were previously made are still sustainable.

Lean Six Sigma is not a fad. It is a method used by organizations to implement changes and continuously improve. Organizations should take the time to deploy a Process Improvement or Lean Six Sigma program conscientiously and they should consider the changes in culture. In doing so, the process improvement program can provide a great return on investment and long-term success for employees and leadership alike.

KAI Partners offers Process Improvement services. To learn more about our services or to schedule a needs assessment to see how we can help in your Process Improvement journey, please call us 916-465-8065 or fill out this contact form.

About the Author: Ashley Christman is a former nurse and Certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with a background in organizational change management and Lean. Her extensive experience in healthcare quality and performance improvement has transformed a number of organizations and led to better outcomes in patient care, reductions in wait times, and more. Her experience includes consulting for the CA Department of Public Health as well as multiple large hospital systems, including Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley Hospital. Her passion for improvement and educating others led her to begin teaching in order to help entrepreneurs, professionals, and leaders create a sustainable culture change by empowering them to be change agents and champions of innovation. You can find her online at @learnlivelean on Twitter and on LinkedIn.