Epics of year 2018

To be honest, year 2017 just slipped by. Nothing significant happened. I will not say I did not stick to my personal resolutions for the year 2017, because I did not have any resolutions for year 2017 in the first place. Life happened without any aim or target.  I am sure that this is not the way to live life. This is not the first time I am facing such dilemmas in life, and it is exactly at those moments, I pull out the book ‘Seven habits of highly effective people’ by Stephen R Covey from my personal library. The first thing I did during the year 2018 is the same. Inspired by the concepts of this book, whatever I planned ten years back are all accomplished. That is the real crisis. Now what do I do?

Urgent and important activities of mine during 2017 (these things were deadline driven and were my bread winners, so I had to do them)

  • Conducting Agile project management using scrum workshops
  • Coaching people for PMP certification
  • Teaching project management at a leading business school

Urgent but not important activities of 2017

  • Impulse to log into social media
  • Checking offers on amazon
  • Watching time killers on youtube

Not urgent but important activities during 2017

  • Cycling and photography (helped me to stay fit and relax)
  • Spending time with family ( I am not sure whether I did justice to it)
  • Going for a medical check up ( Just neglected it)
  • Meditation and prayer ( I did it well in 2017)
  • Working on my youtube channel  (have started paying me. To be honest, google is the only company (social media related) who helped me to earn some additional money)

Not urgent and not important activities of 2017

  • Spending too much time with my dog, playing with him. I do not want to eliminate this and at the same time want to moderate it.
  • Facebook addiction ( This I must get rid off. To be honest, this is the one which consumed most of my time in 2017)

Begin with the end of year 2018 in mind 

  • Focus more on my youtube channel
  • Launch my social enterprise
  • Spend more time in serious research and writing
  • Focus more on spiritual and physical well being
  • Minimize time wasters

These are my epics for the year 2018

kadamakudy_dawn_vanchi

 

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Revisiting the 7 habits on Jan 1st, 2018

kadamakudy_happynewyear_2018

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least –  Goethe

Private victory 

  • Be proactive
  • Begin with the end in mind
  • Put first things first

Public victory 

  • Think win-win
  • Seek first to understand and then to be understood
  • Synergize

Habit 7 – Sharpen the saw 

Reference : Seven habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey

 

Blackbox thinking for the agilists

How to conduct better retrospective meetings?. What do scrum masters do after the daily stand up meetings?. The social media gets reverberated with these questions every now and then.

The Comet1 which was the world’s first commercially produced jetliner was involved in a number of accidents in which the machines broke up mid air. Eventually the flaw was identified as hairline cracks around the square windows of the plane, spreading across the fuselage and eventually causing the whole plane to breakup in mid air. Comet1 is the reason why air planes  these days have oval shaped windows. After the disaster David Warren, the investigator recommended the nearly indestructible flight data recorder (black box).

Steve Koppel, one of my favorite football coaches looks very aloof during the matches. He is quite different from many other coaches who throws tantrums standing close to the side lines. You can spot Steve very rarely there. Very often you see him partly hidden behind a window of the hideout, cool yet serious, noting down something in his small writing pad as and when something noteworthy happens. I am not sure about what he records there, and I speculate that they are all areas for improvement or triggers to that. This must be a great input when they retrospect in the dressing room after the match, and while developing strategies for the next match. He is always cool and composed. During the last season, he could take his team (not very strong, no big stars) till the final. Their performance was improving game after game. I love Steve Koppel for that.

Sprint retrospectives can become mere rituals if they are not conducted professionally backed by facts and data. A ‘sprint black box’ comprising of the recording of areas for improvements and areas of best results (to be institutionalized) is a great input for effective sprint retrospectives. The scrum master must own it. Apart from acting as a great input for sprint retrospectives, the sprint black box  will act as a great input for removing impediments as and when they happen.

The sprint burn down chart is a great input for effective sprint retrospectives. Conducting a sprint retrospective by analyzing all the crests, troughs and zero progress zones is another opportunity to run a structured retrospective.

After landing his plane safely in the Hudson river, captain Sullenberger wrote ” Everything we know in aviation, every rule in the rule book, every procedure we have, we know because someone somewhere died.” With each crash, future flights become safer.

The velocity of the current sprint is better only because of those failed sprints and the lessons we learned from them. So every data is important. Remember, in the agile world, success and failure does not matter, as long as failure does not become a pattern and we keep improving by doing everything possible to make the future sprints successful. Why sprints alone, even successful life itself revolves around this pattern.

 

Can we be truly agile?

Just completed a lecture on scrum to the final year MBA students. Everyone was in awe when I said ‘success and failure does not matter, and very often fast failure is success’. In a highly competitive society where every one has to compete with each other to secure that best education, job for that matter even a seat in the bus…forget about driving on the busy streets, it takes a while to drive that point. Agile is never going to solve all our problems in one go, and definitely it is going to highlight the issues very fast, and that will provide us with more time to recover. Over a period of time the issues will reduce, capabilities will improve, provided we are willing to make some investments. Then I rub salt into the wound by making another flurry controversial statements about estimates, to a society which always struggled for ‘very accurate single estimates’ for decades together for those fixed price, outsourced (in sourced) contracts. ‘All estimates are wrong, and we do not spend too much time arriving at a very accurate estimates, we operate based on abstract estimates, which gets revised and refined on an everyday basis based on the engineers judgement…these statements are not just rubbing salt to the wound, they are more like rubbing salt and pepper.

My parents never said things like ‘ do not do this, it is bad’, instead it was always ‘what will others think of you’. This has not changed much after two generations. I keep hearing this from the modern day parents as well. ‘Beta, eat this food, else the security guard will think that you are a bad boy’ is the norm, than ‘eat this food so that you will have more energy to play well’. ‘Do not litter, it is wrong’ has more credibility and appeal than ‘others will think that you are bad boy’. That child, as an adult, is going to behave differently when the boss is around, and in his absence, and can conveniently forget the fact that one can revise the estimate after working on it for eight hours with unwavering attention, irrespective of the boss is monitoring or not. The ethics part is easily forgotten. It is not even part of the curriculum. They say that a child’s character is formed before the age of five, and the rest are all adjustments. So, these values must be imparted before the age of five, not after one crosses the teenage. In a country where majority of the marriages are still arranged, driving the benefits of work volunteering of the self organized teams is another huge challenge. To my surprise, in my country the divorce rates are very low and the happiness index is also very low. Are we scared to make major decisions?. Are we even more scared about accepting and confronting failures with a cool head?. We are used to command and control due to olonialization and we are embodiments of matha, pitha, guru, manager daivam. We attribute excellence to experience.

All these breeds a kind of skepticism within me, and sometimes I think, our genes are better tuned to work allocation (command and control) than work volunteering. Very often this the tailoring of scrum thato happens in my country, and it is more like laying the ax on the foundations of scrum. In the book ‘Art of choosing’, the author explains about the diversity of behavior across nationalities. I think I will be more honest if I say ‘We are like this’ than trying to behave like some other nationality. Two hundred years of Are these just my views alone?. Do we just want to claim that we are also agile than harnessing the real power of agile?. Are we fearful about other’s perception about us, if we do not claim that our agile is pure agile?. Very often acceptance of reality increases credibility.

Perils of getting eager at work

How many start ups?, How many products?. How many successful start up companies?. How many successful products?. We have been told or asked to be eager at work. I have second thoughts about it. Very often it blinds us to the harsh realities. The following quote from Francis De Sales is very appropriate in this context;

“Do not be eager at work because every kind of eagerness disturbs reason and judgement. It even prevents us from doing well the very things of which we are too eager”

When people share with me  their business / product idea with lot of passion and eagerness I ask for the cash flow analysis, benefit cost ratio, payback period. Very often I carry the guilt of disappointing them by putting off their initial enthusiasm and at the same time I feel good as a professional because I have prevented a disaster. The first phase gate is the payback period. For products this has to be very short. Those business ideas and product ideas that can sail through this check have the potential to be carried forward.

During one of my consulting assignments of transitioning a team of one hundred from waterfall to agile, I was eager to understand the business case for this transition. This hundred member team worked on a product for a couple of years and at the end they realized that no body wants it. When they started, it had a business case, which got eroded because of competition and new technologies before the first version hit the market. By going for agile, they wanted to acquire the ability to fail fast. If they had failed during the initial stages, they would have saved millions. That was the reason why they were transitioning from waterfall to agile, with the hope that agile will bring in better transparency and will provide them with the good and bad news very early. They were relying on the agile frameworks ability to make faster and frequent releases (going by the books).  Unfortunately, it has more to do with the organizational culture of openness, trust and mutual respect than any particular framework.

Some of the key questions in this context are;

  • Is excellence linked to experience?. Does the organization / industry considers a more experienced person as more capable than an inexperienced person?.
  • Does every idea, suggestion, view treated with the same seriousness, irrespective of the source of it.
  • Does the organization provide the real  ‘freedom of expression’ without any fear?

Till these are addressed, irrespective of the framework used the end results will be the same because the eagerness of the promoters / product owners will prevail over the collective wisdom of the stakeholders.

Beauty of the ordinary

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There was nothing unusual for the normal eye to capture, yet the photographer in me was not willing to give up. Once I hang the DSLR around my neck, I must click. So started the search for beauty in the ordinary. I loved the lighting.

On becoming a servant leader

Every leader is a servant first and then a leader. The first step to become a servant leader is to have a grateful heart. Today while coaching a group of young engineers in agile project management using scrum, a sense of gratitude towards my parents, towards my teachers,  towards my mentors, towards my family, towards my business partners, towards the audience  who enabled me to stand up infront of a group of intelligent engineers with confidence and add some value to them engrossed me. A grateful heart, attitude is the starting point towards transitioning into a servant leader. Ultimately Iam grateful to my Lord for creating me for a definite purpose on planet earth and for providing me with the talents to accomplish it.

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