Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Servant Leadership

KAI Partners Staff Profile: President & CEO, David Kendall

Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Community Service, Corporate Training, Entrepreneurship, KAI Partners, Learning, Managing/Leadership, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Professional Development, Program Management, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Sacramento, Servant Leadership, Small Business, Training, 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, Information Technology, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Managing/Leadership, Sacramento, Servant Leadership, 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.

Increase Teamwork and Collaboration with Scrum

Agile, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Corporate Training, Learning, Professional Development, Project Management, Sacramento, Scrum, Servant Leadership, Training, Workforce Development

By Shyanne Long, CSM

As a young woman entering the workforce, I want to learn as much as possible. After being hired on with KAI Partners as a Special Projects Intern, I was delighted to get the opportunity to attend the KAIP Academy’s Certified ScrumMaster® class.

From day one, the internship program was structured using Agile and Scrum processes. My intern partner and I acted as the development team while our supervisor was in the role of Scrum Master. We use a Sprint plan as well as a Kanban. In addition, we commence in bi-weekly stand-up meetings. Although I had a base of understanding and knew Scrum processes were helpful, I wasn’t sure how Scrum could be applied throughout my career. After taking the course, my outlook has changed.

A few of the most valuable lessons I learned in the class include sprint planning, how to organize a Kanban, and how to hold a sprint review and retrospective. In addition, I have a good understanding of the Scrum team roles and responsibilities. The Scrum Master acts as a servant leader to the group, ensures events take place, and helps everyone practice the Scrum theory, rules, and values. As the class instructor, Bernie Maloney put it:

“Scrum is lightweight and simple to understand but it can be difficult to master. To master Scrum, it will take continual practice.”

One thing I really appreciate about Scrum is that it’s very collaborative. Teamwork makes the dream work! The class activities were collaborative and included a lot of teamwork, which is similar to real life situations. We practiced timed sprints, sprint review, and sprint retrospectives. Bernie also encouraged the class to be self-motivated and self-organizing. It helped the class come together to figure out the best way we can complete the activity.

In my day-to-day, I enjoy doing a daily scrum meeting in the morning with my team. It is a quick, five-minute check-in and it sets me up to have a productive day. It gets everyone in the team on the same page and allows them to be “in the loop.”

I know that Scrum will be relevant throughout my career because it can be operated in almost any project you work on. It can be applied because Scrum is flexible and adaptive. According to the Scrum Guide, Scrum has been used worldwide to research and identify viable markets, technologies, and product capabilities and develop, release, sustain, and renew products.

Scrum’s values will also drive me throughout my career. Scrum’s values include commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect. I found it very interesting that these values line up well with KAI Partners’ core values as well. With these values in mind, I know that I can bring Scrum to the table wherever my career takes me and have a team of capable, respectful, and independent people.

Interested in taking our Certified ScrumMaster® or Certified Scrum Product Owner® courses? Visit our Eventbrite page to see our full schedule of upcoming courses!

About the Author: Shyanne is a Special Projects Intern at KAI Partners. She attends Sierra College and is exploring her career options. Ms. Long plans on transferring to a four-year university after completing her units at Sierra College. She has experience in customer service, childcare, assistant teaching, and is now in a business analyst role at KAI Partners. Shyanne is passionate about expanding her knowledge, working collaboratively, and making powerful connections. For fun, Shyanne enjoys spending with her family, reading, listening to podcasts, volunteering, and (attempting) to recreate home projects and recipes she finds on Pinterest.

It’s Not Easy Being Lean: How to Break Down Silos and Promote Collaboration

Communications, Continuous Improvement, Corporate Training, Lean Six Sigma, Learning, Sacramento, Servant Leadership, Training

By Ashley Christman, LSS MBB, SSBBP, CSM

This blog post first appeared on the Lean Transformation Group’s blog and was repurposed and posted here with permission. The original post can be found here.

Want to kill innovation, productivity, and healthy internal collaboration/competition? Continue to promote a culture of silos. Silos in the workplace involve the idea that departments, units, and sections stay within themselves and rarely if ever work collaboratively with other departments or groups. This silo mentality is the result of a culture that is full of high individual performers but fails to place value on choreographing activities. Unfortunately, this attitude is quite widespread in both organizations large and small, public or private, and in some places is seen as inevitable or just a way of life.

It is interesting because often, this is one of the top complaints that employees and leaders share. They often say, “We don’t communicate well across functions,” and leaders of projects that require the intersection of multiple functions face complex challenges with communication and alignment of goals, roles, and responsibilities. Without proper coordination, projects will suffer from a lack of resources and compete with individual performance targets. Additionally, there may be more waste associated with the project as the result of possible reworks and duplication. Without the collaboration of different areas, oftentimes improvement efforts are impeded because there is no one to ask “why?”

So, how do we make the shift to break down silos and promote collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas?

The first thing to realize is this a culture change. You are asking people to change the system and become innovators and revolutionaries—okay, maybe not that extreme, but you are asking them to “Think Different”.  Moreover, for some, this can be challenging. A great book that addresses change management in these circumstances is Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under any Circumstances, by John Kotter. It’s a great and easy read, but for those who don’t have the time, here are some ideas on how to shift from silos into high performing systems:

  1. Publicly acknowledge shared goals. Create a unified vision. In one of my previous incarnations as a consultant, I worked with a client organization that had a very rigid silo system. However, when tasked with making departmental improvements, the units were forced to start talking to each other. What worked in this instance was acknowledging that they had these improvements to make so they could serve the customer. In doing that, they started forcing the teams to work cross-functionally, as well as up and down the chain of command. Cross-unit teams began to form, and as they realized what effect this had, the units began to seek other opportunities to collaborate with peers. But, this would have never even began until the shared goals were publicly announced and the shared victories were celebrated.
  2. Embrace the “why”. Ever met someone who seemed to ask “why” every time they were asked to do something? This trait can be empowering to employees and foster innovation through the sharing of ideas. People need information to do things. Never disregard the power of “why.” Likewise, questions spur creativity and imagination. Imagination leads to innovation. Often we have to reach across the aisle to make this happen.
  3. Culture comes from the top. It is not enough to encourage staff to be “silo busters.” Change has to start at the top. In this case, servant leadership and leading by example is the best way to model the change you want others to immolate.

By shifting silos into systems, and placing more value on collaboration, organizations can overcome the barriers that lack of communication can create. This effort is driven from the top, and there must be a firm commitment by management to change the culture by committing to getting not just results but making steady progress. When changing the culture, remember the phrase, “Go slow to go fast.” Real change is a slow process, no matter how much we wish it were to the contrary. Over time, the organization will see an improvement in trust given, waste eliminated, and a more productive environment. The key is to focus on opportunity, not to dwell on putting fires out. Look for chances to engage people and watch them blossom.

Interested in learning more about Lean principles or getting a Lean certification? KAI Partners’ KAIP Academy is accredited through the Council for Six Sigma Certification as an independent training provider. We are excited to offer Lean Six Sigma training and certification in the Sacramento area! For a list of our current Lean course offerings, visit http://academy.kaipartners.com/course/lean-six-sigma-green-belt-certification/.

 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.

How to Inspire and Influence through Servant Leadership

Best Practices, Managing/Leadership, Servant Leadership


By Melissa McManus

There are many different leadership styles and theories available to businesses today. It is hard to walk through a book section or peruse an online news site and not find an abundance of information on leadership.

So, how do you know what the best information is for you among the many resources out there? For me, there is one that stands out heads above the rest and that is servant leadership (it might not be what you think!)

I first came across servant leadership when I was in my doctoral program at Drexel University. The servant leader is genuine, self-aware, and has empathy for others. A servant leader is willing to step down from their balcony and walk around with those who make their leadership possible.

I recently heard a speaker, Scott Hagan, who had a similar philosophy on leadership. In his book he points out, “You cannot inspire people to live outside the box when you personally lead from inside the circle” (Hagan, S. 2016, p.34). The status quo will not inspire greatness; you have to push the envelope every day.

Leadership is not so much an action as it is an attitude. People are watching you as a leader. They want to be inspired by what you do and be mentored to find their own style. People seem to often forget great leaders are not born, but rather, they are made through nurture and growth. You can be born to do something but you still need to learn how to do it. (And, as we know, leading/managing people is not for everyone.)

The servant leader takes the time to discover who they are not only as a leader, but as a person. They take time to discover how to best use their talents to serve and influence others for the better.

Leaders have a responsibility that should not be taken for granted. Leadership does not mean control; it means the opposite: The ability to delegate and relinquish control. A great leader trusts that they have been inspirational, influential, and transparent so that those around them can lead in their absence. This is the hallmark of a remarkably great leader.

Servant leadership has clearly made an impression on me and how I conduct myself and it truly represents what I envision when I hear leadership. What kind of leadership style do you most embody or strive to embody?

About the Author: Melissa McManus has five years of research experience as well as over a decade of experience working in the educational sector spanning from TK through Adult education. Melissa has a Masters in counseling, received from California State University, Fresno and a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership with a focus in Human Resource Development. Melissa’s professional interests include human behavior, research, writing, coaching, training, and knowledge transfer. On a more personal note, Melissa is involved in community service efforts including serving as chair of her children’s school site council, volunteering her time as an art docent, and serving in the library of her local church. In her free time when she is not running her kids to gymnastics or karate, Melissa enjoys reading (a lot), wine tasting, Crossfit, being with friends/family, and spending time with her husband and two children.