Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Tag Archives: remote work

Communication is Key to a Successful Remote Work Transition

Communications, KAI Partners, Remote Work, Virtual Work

By Mia Di Miceli, PMP, CSM, CSPO 

From In Office to Home Office: The secret ingredient to shift an entire workforce to a remote working environment.

I have worked in Executive Communications and Employee Engagement with private sector businesses for over 15 years; the immediate reaction to Shelter-In-Place requirements of COVID-19 put my knowledge and experience to the test. Supporting a public sector client where the practice of remote working was just a nice thought made responding to the COVID-19 pandemic seem daunting. 

The first question that came to mind was, how was I going to help my client shift their entire workforce from the office to working from home, with littletono productivity loss? The answer became immediately clear–by using the best secret ingredient around:

Strategic, thoughtful, and focused communication.

Organizations frequently underestimate the value of thoughtful communication, but communications can be a game-changer for any organization. As a Communications Consultant, you might say I am biased, but really, a communications professional is one of the most impactful resources an executive should have at the ready.

Creating a strategic, thoughtful, and focused communication approach does not have to be hard or complex. Here are 4 tips for creating a quick communications plan to help transition your workforce for any situation–pandemicpost-pandemic, or otherwise.

  1. Determine the overall theme of the message. Does the organization want to convey a specific message such as: business as usual, we are united, or do not panic? Work with executive leadership to determine and help guide a thoughtful theme to be conveyed to the workforce. 
  2. Identify the two or three best channels to deliver the message. In times of crisis such as COVID-19, the usual channels may not be the best for quick, concise, and efficient messaging. You may have to adopt something new like a vlog (video blog) or virtual office hours. Deciding the channels upfront will help streamline the volume of content and will set expectations for future communications with the audience. The channels chosen should also lend themselves to a natural feedback loop. Whether it’s as simple as advertising an Outlook inbox location or just capturing comments from the vlog hosting sitea feedback loop is imperative to a focused approach.  
  3. Ensure all content supports the overall theme message. As an example, if the theme is, “We are united,” then all content distributed should have a tone, language, and relevance to support the feeling of unification. For this theme in a teleworking environment, you could produce a vlog series with tips and tricks on staying connected while working remotely. 
  4. Document the frequency of publishing/distributing for each channel. With the theme determinedthe channels identified, and the content outlined, you will need to work on a cadence calendar. This calendar will help leadership understand how often the workforce will receive the push of content, and it will highlight opportunities for leadership to insert additional instructions or relevant information. 

Utilizing these 4 steps, I supported my client to successfully mobilize over 300 staff members and contractors from a 100% inoffice environment to a 100% teleworking environment in 2 weeks. This approach to thoughtful communication guided direct support of the executive team through daily crisis management meetings where we identified and approved appropriate messaging, determined the frequency with which we would engage the management team and staff, and helped ensure we had a plan for technology training and the comfort level of staff in being able to perform their regular job duties in a remote environment.

As mentioned at the start of this post, strategic, thoughtful, and focused communications can be the secret ingredient needed to support an organization to engage with what might now be a remote workforce. Communications will support the process of acceptance and can help you inspire what might be the new hybrid way of working. The days of everyone in the office every day might be over. Embracing teleworking as a long-term possibility now will help you ramp up for the next inevitable transition.

How will you get your organization through the next acceleration?

About the Author: Mia is an Executive Communications Consultant for KAI Partners. Mia joined KAI Partners in late 2019 with extensive experience in the private sector technology industry. She has successfully supported C-Suite executives in transforming their organizations through employee engagement, strategic communications, and organizational change management. She is an active member of International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and holds PMP, CSM, and CSPO certifications, and is trained in Six Sigma Green Belt.

How our Team Performed Remote Design Thinking

Continuous Improvement, Decision-Making, Design Thinking, Digital Transformation, Information Technology, Innovation, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Team Building, Technology

By Terry Daffin, PMP and Denise Larcade, Prosci

KAI Partners has recently been using design thinking to help create new products and improve existing processes to support the work we do for our clients. Even before the stay at home orders, one of our design thinking teams held a design sprint that was done almost completely remotely—and resulted in a product ready for implementation!

Here are some of our experiences and what we learned through our remote design thinking experience.

Remote Design Thinking Challenges

As with using any kind of new approach or methodology, there were some challenges and we certainly went through the 5 stages of group development: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning.

Working remotely added another level of complexity with the addition of anonymity or facelessness. With a lot of strong personalities on our team, it was easy for some folks to disengage from the group.

So, how did we get past this?

To get through the storming phase, we had to work together to develop trust and respect.

True trust and respect empowered the team and were ultimately what led us to the norming and performing stages.

Because we met virtually (over Zoom) once a week, we had to become more vocal than usual. It was not uncommon for members of the group to speak up in order to keep others on task so that we did not go down a path not in scope or bring up topics that should be added to the backlog for future discussion.

Remote Design Thinking Successes

Despite our initial challenges, we did make it to the norming and performing stages! How?

We didn’t wait for people to join in order to begin—we jumped right in and started working.

What made this easier were our tools—we used MS Teams to share files, document meeting notes, have team conversations, and even to build our prototype. There was rarely an occasion where people felt out of the loop, because all the notes, resources, and information were right there in Teams.

Working remotely also allowed us to reach more people, cross more boundaries, and include more perspectives, as opposed to in-person coordination.

People are busy (and that’s a different problem for another blog post!) but working remotely gave more people the opportunity to participate and contribute.

Self-Organizing Team Tips

Part of our remote design thinking method was to truly self-organize within our team. Here’s what worked for us:

Set expectations and make team agreements from the start.

Because there was not one person designated as our “Lead,” we created a list in Teams with the Facilitator and Scribe for each meeting. If someone was unable to Facilitate or Scribe on their appointed day, it was their responsibility to find coverage.

This helped promote ownership—we were all one team of equals and therefore equally responsible for the team’s success.

Of course, since we are a firm that provides organizational change management (OCM) services, OCM was always on our mind. Design thinking was new for some folks and people are often wary of change. Assigning the rotating roles was a good way to share the workload and learn a skill—we were all in this together!

Another tip is simply to have patience. We were learning a new way of working and change is hard. Trust and respect had to be established and re-established and that process took patience!

At the end of the day (or sprint), it was satisfying to see how we created a product through sheer teamwork—even though remote design thinking was a challenge at times, the final product was worth it!

Have you done any kind of remote design thinking work on your team?! Let us know your experience in the comments!

About Terry: Terry Daffin is an Executive Consultant within KAI Partners. He has worked in the IT industry for more than 30 years and has over 25 years of project management experience. As a public sector consultant in the health care industry, Mr. Daffin assisted in the development and implementation of Project Management Offices that include project management, service management, lean agile and traditional product development lifecycles, and governance processes. He has been an innovation advocate and evangelist for 15 years and has implemented innovative processes for projects that he has been engaged in since 2001. Mr. Daffin currently works as the Project Manager of the KAIP Academy, KAI Partners’ training division and is the Community Manager at KAI Partners’ coworking space, The WorkShop Sacramento.

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 lives in a 55-acre walnut orchard and enjoys the early morning hours when wildlife is stirring and the many birds are chirping. Since working from home as of recent, Denise has found she enjoys that extra cup of AM coffee without the commute…just her and nature.