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.



Which certification to pursue

Which certification to pursue?..that is a million dollar question which every professional face, at some point in time of their career. This discussion is based on which certifications one should pursue, after making a concrete decision to tread the project management route. Within project management, we have two major schools;
  • The agile project management
  • Traditional project management

Both are valuable, and complementary.  Which one will give you the fastest return on investment depends on;

  • The industry to which you belong to
  • The industry where you want to spend your future
  • The country where you will be working

The globally well known certifications for project managers

  • Project Management Professional (PMI, USA)
  • Projects in controlled environment (UK)
  • Certified Scrum Master (CSM), by Scrumalliance
  • Professional Scrum Master (PSM) by Scrum.org
  • Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) by PMI-USA

If you are from the information technology domain, it is better to with any one of the agile certifications straightaway. The certified Scrum Master (CSM) by Scrumallianceis expensive and has the early starter advantage, where as PSM is not that expensive, and at the same time it is very authentic, because it is coming from Ken Schwaber’s Scrum.org. For those of you who do not know Ken Schwaber, he founded scrum along with Jeff Sutherland, and both of them together developed thescrum guide, which is the most authentic documentation on scrum, becuase it is coming from the founders. The syllabus for these two certifications (CSM and PSM) are the ScrumGuide, and upon completion of the certification process, one will have the proficiency to play the role of a scrum master (project manager, in the traditional forms).

Then we have the PMI-ACP certification. The syllabus for this certification is a cocktail of all the frameworks available out there and calls for;

  • Complete understanding of  SCRUM
  • A very good understanding of Extreme Programming
  • Some key concepts like earned value management, risk management, communications management from the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK)
  • Complete understanding of Agile body of knowledge

After getting anyone of the agile certifications, then try for PMP credential. Without a proper understanding of the nine knowledge areas of PMBOK;

  • Integration management
  • Scope management
  • Time management
  • Cost management
  • Quality management
  • Communications management
  • Human resource management
  • Risk management
  • Procurement management

one will fail, when it comes to real life project management. More than that, while the future holds good for the Agile, many customers insist on PMP’s to manage their projects. If you are from the I.T background, these two certifications are mandatory. Start with agile, and then graduate into PMBOK. Both complements.

If you are from any other domain, other than I.T, then the options are either PMP or PRINCE2. Since the origins of PRINCE2 are from U.K, it is appreciated there, and the rest of the world is with PMP. So, based on where you are, and where your customers are, you have to decide.

Please post all your additional queries as comments to this page, and I will reply.


Applied project management #1

In the present day world of  opportunities and competition, the smart achieve their goals on time, within budget and with quality. This ability has become a necessity today, rather than a choice. In order to appreciate this fact, let us take closer look at the basic characteristics of a project.  

What is a project?

  • Projects have definite start and end dates.
  • Projects are temporary in nature. Upon completion of the project, the team moves on. Here the team can be a one man army, or a very large group of people.
  • Projects are progressively elaborated. At the start of the project we have very less information about the project. As we get into the project more and more, we gain more insight about the project. This calls for continuous planning, tracking and course correction.
  • Projects are performed by people.
  • Projects are unique in nature. Projects deliver unique product or services as outputs. No two projects are identical. There could be similar projects, and still the challenges will be different.

Whether one is a student preparing for an exam or a project manager of a metro rail construction projects, the basic project management tools and techniques  will help to reach their destination with predictability.

Project Management is all about the application of project management good practices to achieve the project’s objectives within the agreed upon triple constraints of;

  • Time – Must be completed within the agreed upon time
  • Cost  – Must be completed within the agreed upon cost
  • Scope – Must meet the agreed upon objectives / scope

PDCA cycle 

The Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle is the mother of all management, and covers project management as well.

  • Plan – First plan for the successful project outcome
  • Do – Execute the project
  • Check – Track the project to see whether everything is happening as per the plan
  • Act – If the actual project progress is different from the planned, then take corrective / preventive actions

In practice, the PDCA cycle is applicable for those projects where scope of the project is very clear, and the technology part is familiar to the project team.

PDSA cycle

The Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle is most suitable for those projects where the scope is not very clear at the beginning (evolving). and the technology is very new to the team. PDSA is the backbone of all adaptive / agile project management frameworks like Scrum, XP, RUP, TDD, DAD etc.

Project strategy

When does projects fail?

  • At the beginning
  • During execution
  • At the end

Generally the root causes of project failure happens at the beginning of the project. Here are some of the main causes for project failures;

  • We start projects without a solid business case to support them
  • We apply a very wrong project strategy to execute the projects
  • We choose the wrong contract types, which does not support the project strategy
  • Wrong estimates
  • Technical debt of the team
  • Wrong selection of the project manager
  • Poor risk management

As discussed before, no two projects are identical. One must spend enough time to develop the project strategy, charter and the project plan. I am not talking about copy paste plans. I am talking about those which are built from ground zero, with the sole objective of making you and your projects successful.

Your comments and feedback about this post will help me.