Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Team Building

Why Teamwork is Necessary for Innovation in the Public Sector

Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, Project Management, Public Sector, Sacramento, Team Building, Technology

By Todd Wallace, PMP

Thomas Edison did not invent the lightbulb. Henry Ford did not invent the assembly line. Elon Musk did not invent electric cars. While these men all had a hand in growing the success of these products, none of them was the actual inventor, and none of them did it all on their own.

Much like any accomplishment in the public or private industry, it is easier to associate a major innovation with a single person—this is called the Great Man Fallacy.

However, it is a larger group with input from many sources that moves a concept forward—if two minds are better than one, then a team of minds is best.

Thomas Edison had a team of inventors working at his “invention factory” in New Jersey. Edison was the boss, but the team members helped with the various inventions that came out of their shop. It’s said that Edison tested 6,000 materials before he found the right combination for his version of the lightbulb and it is highly unlikely that he tested all 6,000 materials himself while his team stood by and watched.

Elon Musk is the face of electric cars with Tesla. His name is associated with the revolution of alternative fueled vehicles. However, before Elon Musk was even involved, Tesla was utilizing game-changing lithium ion batteries instead of the bulkier lead acid batteries used by other electric vehicles of the time. Before even this, other car manufacturers had already tried their hand at electric cars—in fact, in 1884, Thomas Parker produced the first electric car in London. Elon Musk may be the face of the modern movement and people may associate him with the invention of the electric car, but in reality, it was a long line of tweaks and updates by many teams consisting of many great minds—before Musk even entered the game.

These examples may be from the private sector, but the same concept applies to the public sector. While the head of a state agency might be the only person named in the news headline, a successful project implementation is due to the hard work of a large team.

The primary difference between innovation in the private sector and innovation in the public sector is the importance of teamwork.

In the private sector, it is possible for one person to invent something in their garage and bring it to market entirely on their own. In the public sector, nothing is done entirely by one individual. Gathering requirements for a project must reach across departments or other agencies to ensure the application will work in the larger ecosystem. Development is a constantly evolving team effort and closely tied to testing, which goes back to the multi-departmental team for review and approval. Implementation needs to be coordinated with everyone to ensure no reverberating effect on other teams and departments. Throughout all of this, there are competing priorities by various key stakeholders that need to be negotiated in order to keep the project moving forward.

In the private sector, negotiations can involve many different variables and creativity in terms of what can be offered. In the public sector, you cannot offer nearly as much in negotiations, so a relationship and understanding of how groups work with each other is key. Having an established relationship is the strongest negotiation piece in the public sector. Teamwork allows for smoother negotiations and effective advancement the project.

Teamwork is what makes a project a success. The ability to work together and build relationships allows a project to move forward. It would be a lot easier for a “Great Man” to implement a project and not have to worry about anybody else—but the results of the “Great Team” will always create something better.

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.

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.

Reinforce and Reward for Change Management Success [INFOGRAPHIC]

Best Practices, Employee Engagement, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Prosci, Sacramento, Team Building, VUCA

By Debbie Blagsvedt, CSM, LSSGB

It’s 6:30am, the alarm goes off, and I roll out of bed, jump in a hot shower, feed Emmett (a 48-pound cocker spaniel needs his breakfast), get ready, drive to work, and drive home. Next morning, repeat.

Sound familiar? Routines bring comfort and a sense of control in our lives in a volatile, uncertain, chaotic, and ambiguous world. Remember, VUCA? Humans are creatures of habit and we like to stay in our comfort zones.

As a change management professional, I’m supposed to embrace change. Honestly, I kind of like change, but I have to say, I’m often looked at with scorn even by some of my fellow change management peers.

What’s the real reason we want to stay in our comfort zones? One reason is that we are often not rewarded for going outside of them. This can be true at work, as well—a new change initiative occurs, and once staff is trained and the change is implemented, everyone moves onto the next project.

Oftentimes, mechanisms for sustaining the change aren’t built into the equation and don’t get established.

For a change initiative to have the most success, leaders should reward staff frequently in order to reinforce the new behavior.

So, how can you create mechanisms to sustain change by reinforcing and rewarding behavior? Take a look at our infographic for some ideas!

Why Change Management and Training are Critical in IT Modernization Projects

Communications, Employee Engagement, Government, IT Modernization, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Prosci, Sacramento, Team Building, Training

By Tim Townsend

State and local governments in California face long-term cost pressures. Because of these fiscal constraints, government agencies are staring at a new reality of providing the same level of services with fewer resources.

So, how will government agencies respond to this challenge? Like their private sector counterparts, embracing new technology to increase productivity is crucial.

However, simply adding new technology for the sake of adding it is not enough on its own to increase efficiency. That’s where things like organizational change management and training come into play. Unfortunately, this important part of the equation often is not given the attention it deserves.

It’s not enough to just drop a new tool in a department and walk away. Employees should understand the need for it, how it can support them to do their job better, and, most importantly, be thoroughly trained to use it (especially if they have been doing something a certain way for a long time).

I saw many examples of this while working in the State Legislature, which, like many government organizations, is looking to incorporate new technology. However, when a tool did become available, the challenge was always getting employees to embrace it.

One project that particularly showed this challenge in action was an effort to create a new automated system to streamline making vote recommendations. This technology tool created for Legislative offices was extremely helpful and had the potential to save a lot of time if used correctly. It eliminated the need to print hundreds of pages of analyses and manually transcribe vote recommendations when preparing for Floor Sessions where large numbers of bills would be voted on. Prior to the creation of this tool, it would sometimes take up to eight hours to print and fill in the packets of information that Legislators relied on when it came time to vote.

Despite the potential to save time and free up resources to work on other things, few Legislative offices changed their internal processes to use it. Why? Because the organizational culture hadn’t yet adapted to the technology. Many preferred their old systems because it was what they knew. There were certainly efforts made to train all employees on how to use it, but it never got the traction that the technology deserved.

This same story can be seen in countless other IT projects in both the private and public sector. That’s why KAI Partners offers organizational change management and training as a component of our IT modernization project services.

People, process, and technology need to work together to achieve the desired results. This upfront investment into employees pays huge dividends down the road when technology delivers on its promises to save time and money. As I saw while working in the Legislature, the greatest technological tool is only as useful as how excited and willing people are to use it.

KAI Partners strongly values investing in organizational change and training for employees so they can make technology work for them and support their needs, not the other way around. As state and local governments across California look to technology for solutions on how to continue offering the public services with less funding, choosing the right approach on IT projects will be the determinant of success or failure.

About the Author: Tim Townsend is an Associate Consultant for KAI Partners and a communications specialist with on IT project developments. Prior to joining the company, he was a Chief of Staff in the California State Legislature, where he worked for eight years. He enjoys snowboarding with his wife and is a parent to two rescue dogs.

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