Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Team Building

How to Improve Teamwork With Scrum

Agile, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Employee Engagement, KAIP Academy, Sacramento, Scrum, Team Building

By Nick Sherrell, MBA, CSM, PMP

“Done!” I shouted as I closed the lid to my laptop after another 4-hour break-free session of hammering out analytics. I looked at my watch…5:30pm. I turned to give my officemate a high-five for another successful day before heading out, but he didn’t feel like getting out of his bed in the living room…and I didn’t have any treats to convince him.

Yes, my officemate used to be a Golden Retriever. When I worked from home, I often didn’t see another human until 6pm when my family walked in the front door of my office (uhh, house).

Today’s technology has empowered a whole new workplace that cuts the cord from the traditional brick and mortar office where everybody sits under the same roof and drinks from the same water cooler. We have more freedom to work remotely and from wherever we can get a good Wi-Fi signal.

However, this comes with another challenge. How do we grow and maintain relationships with our teammates, supervisors, or those we supervise (who likely don’t have four legs and a tail like my officemate)? After all, good relationships with colleagues is often listed in top 10 lists of job satisfaction indicators, often within the top five.

Scrum is here to help!

The scrum framework provides a structure of effective meetings that requires frequent communication, clear roles, and collaboration to get work done. Its self-organizing approach allows co-working relationships to develop naturally, without having to lean heavily on team-building exercises that often make introverts anxious.

Here are five ways a scrum approach can help your team work better, together:

  1. Sprint planning sessions require collaboration and teamwork to set and focus on a shared goal.
  2. Daily scrum stand-ups allow for consistent face-time (even if done virtually) to provide the space needed to allow teammates to get to know each other, build trust in each other’s’ skills, and build a dynamic that learns how to tactically remove an obstacle by reaching for a helping hand.
  3. A good scrum master’s ability to remove impediments curbs many misunderstandings that often lead to hurt feelings and fractured relationships within a team.
  4. Sprint reviews give a team that feeling of completion, and a frequent reason to celebrate delivering value.
  5. Sprint retrospectives allow for shared learning, celebration of best practices, empathizing with struggles, and a chance to innovate and co-design a better sprint for the next round.

Of course, scrum won’t solve all your problems—it never did teach my officemate to open the door to the backyard—but it can help you establish good working relationships with your coworkers (even virtually) so you can maintain a sense of teamwork wherever you choose to plug in your laptop!

Interested in learning more about KAI Partners’ scrum training sessions? Visit academy.kaipartners.com

About the Author: Nick Sherrell is a Project Manager with over 10 years of healthcare experience ranging from Quality, Performance Improvement, Technology Implementation, Data Analysis, and Consulting. Nick has worked with organizations ranging from the Sacramento Native American Health Center, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, Blue Shield of California, and The Advisory Board Company. He currently works for KAI Partners, Inc as a Project Manager Consultant on a Public contract with the State of California. He received his MBA from UC Davis in 2015 with an emphasis in Organizational Behavior and Innovation. He became a Certified ScrumMaster in 2018 through Scrum Alliance training offered at KAIP Academy. He lives in Sacramento with his wife, two children, and former officemate Emma (Golden Retriever). Find Nick on LinkedIn here.

KAI Partners Night at Raley Field

KAI Partners, Sacramento, Team Building

By Keith Givens

Watching baseball on TV is a good time, but nothing tops seeing the game from the stands. KAI Partners recently held a fun team bonding event at the Sacramento River Cats game against the Las Vegas 51s. It was a fun team bonding night for KAI Partners staff and guests.

The event was a thank you to the KAI Partners team for all their hard work. KAI Partners President David Kendall says, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. Individual commitment to a group effort–that is what makes the KAI Partners team work.”

Guests were treated to ballpark food like hot dogs, hamburgers, peanuts, popcorn, and Cracker Jacks. During the seventh inning stretch, the group took part in the age old tradition of singing, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

As for the game, the River Cats scored a thrilling walk-off 1-0 victory over Las Vegas. Thank you to everyone who attended and we look forward to the next event!

About the Author: Keith Givens is Senior Communications Specialist with KAI Partners. Prior to joining KAI Partners, Keith served in a variety of Communications leadership roles at Wells Fargo, Kaiser Permanente, and Cisco Systems. Keith has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Missouri – Columbia and Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Phoenix. In his spare time he enjoys travel, sports, cooking, and music.

WEAVE’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes 2018

Community Service, Event Recap, KAI Partners, Sacramento, Small Business, Team Building, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, WEAVE


Some of the KAI Partners’ men getting ready to walk a mile!

By Michele Sadowski

As a recent transplant to Sacramento, it has been on my to do list to meet new people. Community service is a great way to meet new people.

One of the reasons I chose to work at KAI Partners is because of its strong commitment to community service, so when it was announced that KAI Partners would participate in WEAVE’s “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” annual fundraiser, I immediately signed up. In Sacramento County, WEAVE is the primary provider of crisis intervention services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

It was a bucolic day—light wind and unseasonably cool for this time of year (or so they tell me)—perfect for a long walk in some stilettos…or crazy boots…or well, anything that had high heels on them.

As I walked into Crocker Park, I was greeted by luxurious trees and teeming, lively, cheerful people sitting on blankets, tables, or walking around with their adorable dogs. Many were sampling the flavors of food and drink from a long line of food trucks stationed at the park for the hungry walkers and their supporters. It was the first time I have ever seen a lobster food truck. For all of the crazy weird foods you can find at a festival in Wisconsin, where I’m from, you will not find a lobster truck—a deep fried Oreo cookie or pickle, sure. In the background a rock band was playing and there were more than a couple of folks swaying and singing along, and just off the side of the stage was a giant red shoe!

The WEAVE team, all in their purple shirts, were amazing! To see all those young people there to make a difference—to support and commit to something so strongly and with such energy—was absolutely life affirming. I caught them in a quick game of kick ball in-between manning their booth—it looked like so much fun I wanted to join in.

While the event opened at 11:30am, the walk didn’t start until 1pm. So, after a long leisurely walk about, I went to go find my cohorts. KAI Partners was a sponsor of the event and of course our team was out in full force. Working onsite for a client, I don’t get much time with my teammates, so I truly enjoyed having the opportunity to get to know them a little better.

The time finally came for the walk to begin, and a mass of humanity began walking towards the start line, and then they were off. About 15 minutes later the walkers began to return. They were greeted with cheers and cow bells—yup, cowbells—and I think my ears are still ringing. Each participant received a rope with cowbell on it and a medal as a memento of their achievement. One man twisted his ankle just as he was coming over the finish line and wow it looked excruciatingly painful. Been there done that!

I’m so proud of the men and women who put those heels on and walked that mile. It was a nice day, but a mile in heels is hard (and painful, right guys?)! All in all, it was a great day to be outside and to support a great cause. I look forward to participating in next year’s event.

About Michele: Michele is a recent Certified ScrumMaster with 20+ years of communications and project lead experience in small and large technology firms. After a 15-year stint in Wisconsin, Michele recently returned to California. When not at work, she spends her time learning about her new home, Sacramento, CA, and enjoying time with family and friends.

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

Communications, Continuous Improvement, Corporate Training, Employee Engagement, KAIP Academy, Kotter, Lean Six Sigma, Learning, Sacramento, Servant Leadership, Team Building, 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.

It’s Not Easy Being Lean: Dos and Don’ts of Visual Management Boards [INFOGRAPHIC]

Best Practices, Corporate Training, Employee Engagement, Infographic, KAIP Academy, Lean Six Sigma, Learning, Project Management, Sacramento, Team Building, Training, Workforce Development

By Ashley Christman, LSS MBB, SSBBP, CSM

A version of 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.

In many organizations seeking to deploy Lean, one of the first things they rush to do is deploy visual management boards. Visual management boards are often found in Lean environments, and many Lean consultants extol their virtue, leading to organizations adopting them without enough information on the best practices with the board. They post a white board and fill it with metrics and graphs, performance data and improvement plans, but often fail to deploy them effectively. Soon enough these boards, chalk full of information, become nothing more than background noise on a wall with no real value to the organization. And this becomes a cycle.  As organization leaders come to the realization that it has little value as the boards are, they revamp them without a solid understanding of why they were ineffective in the first place.

So, what constitutes an effective use of visual management boards? Here is a quick overview of the dos and don’ts of visual management boards!

KAI Partners, via the KAIP Academy, is excited to starting bringing Lean Six Sigma training and certification to the Sacramento area soon! Follow @KAIP_Academy on Twitter to stay informed as we announce the dates of these Lean courses!

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.

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