Agile nirvana – An iterative and incremental list

Everybody wants true peace (nirvana) and very few achieves it. In I.T, majority wants to go for agile, and they take a plunge, but very few reaps the real benefits of agile. They are quite satisfied with the benefits the ceremonies like daily stand ups, planning meeting etc, without really dwelling into the benefits of culturally challenging stuff like work volunteering, true retrospectives, velocity calculations, agile principles etc..If one can get up early, walk up to the place of worship, being part of the prayer group also provides a sense of well being, and many get satisfied with the tip of this iceberg of benefits. Following agile very often resembles being part of an elite group physically, without any mind share. Very often the ‘association’ tag alone helps to elevate the social status of the individual, even when they are not part of it in the true sense. Here are some of the reasons why people follow or want to follow agile …

1) Some plunge into it, because they are so fed up with the current state. They want to improve the way they do work, and the resulting product.

2) Some follow it, because the customer is insisting for it (contractual obligation).

3) Some follow it because anything is fine with them.

4) Some follow it because they want to learn it, and get ready for the next job.

5) Some others follow it, because they want to add the word Ágile’ to their resume.

6) Some follow it, to learn it.

7) Some follow it to use their learning.

8) Some follow it to prove that agile is a failure, and will not work for their team / organization.

9) Some follow it to discipline their bosses (chickens).

10) Some follow it to make the product owner  more accountable for the requirements.

11) Some use it to focus their guns on the opposition (organizational politics)

12) Some follow it because they want to get trained on agile, at the company’s expense.

13) Some follow it, because they do not know any sort of project management, and they want to start with agile.

14) Some follow it because it is someone’s KRA (Key responsibility area)

15) Some follow it, because of peer pressure.

16) Some follow it to become a scrum master

17) Some follow it to prove their capability, beyond their job title

18) Some follow it to become a PMI-ACP

19) Some follow it to understand it, so that they can audit a project better (violation)

20) Some follow it, hoping that it will resolve all their organizational problems

21) Some follow it, because they want to build great products

22) Some follow it because they want to improve their work culture

23) Some follow it to build an organizational culture

24) Some follow it, to reduce cost

25) Some use it to improve productivity

26) Some use it to escape from unpaid overtime (agile talks about 8 hour working days)

27) Some use it to please the management

28) Some use it to improve themselves as a professional

29) Some use it, because they see it very close to the natural way of doing things

30) Some use it, to master it, to become consultants and trainers

31) Some use it, because they already bought an overpriced certification, and want to use it somewhere

32) Some use it, to tell their customers that they are agile

33) Some follow to get everyone in office at sharp 9, they even have evening standups to ensure people leave not before 9

34) Some follow because they have been told to follow, just one more status report (not a replacement), since the people who told them to follow like things the way it is, they have just been told to follow themselves.

35) Some follow, but are still too immature to manage people. Its more a process/job to them then the “culture” agile demands.

36) Some follow a lot, and fall on their face, because they cant say no to their bosses.

Incomplete….feel free to add….

Anyway everyone is using it…..

The books I purchased and practised – Seven habits

7habitsThe seven habits of highly effective people’  by Stephen Covey is one book I purchased several times during the last 20 years and read several times, and benefited a lot by practicing the concepts. One of the exercises in the book under ‘Begin with the end in mind’ habit was to write down a personal mission statement, and I did one. The gist of it was to get into a job which will help me to travel a lot, meet lot of people, see new places…I wrote them in a writing pad, and as usual I lost track of it. After another ten years this writing pad surfaced again, and to my surprise I had accomplished everything that was written there as my personal mission. It sounds good. According to the book ‘The power of the sub-conscious mind’, which I just completed reading last week,  when I wrote my personal mission statement on a sheet of paper, it might got registered in my sub-conscious mind, and slowly the vision became a reality, because the subconscious mind, and in turn, the conscious mind started working toward it. Then the hunt for the next set of ‘vision starts’, and the cycle repeats.

“What is your personal mission statement?”. Yes, I am asking a difficult question. This year, I started by asking several people about their ‘definition of success of life’ and the majority did not know about it, yet they were chasing it. Here is a great opportunity. Take a sheet of paper, and write down your personal mission statement. Once the mission is clear, then we will be able to clarify our ‘to do list’ and ‘not to do list’. The ‘not to do list’ is as important as the ‘to do list’, because the ‘not to do list’ releases time for the ‘to do list’. Stephen covey explains the time quadrants of;

  • Urgent and not important
  • Urgent and important
  • Not urgent and not important  (eliminate)
  • Not urgent and important (give priority) 

‘Not urgent –  important’ activities are the ones which will give maximum benefits in the long run. One must eliminate the ‘not urgent – not important’ stuff, and make time for the ‘not urgent and important’. My post graduate degree happened like that. Some of my certifications which gave me maximum dividends in the longer run happened like that. Once we have our personal mission statement defined, then prioritization of our activities become easier. After all, it is just one life, that comprises of just 36,500 days, if we live for 100 years. Time is constant, and we must prioritize.

Once we know what is our true mission, then…

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

 

 

Multi dimensional risk analysis for PMP

Here is a multi dimensional risk analysis for the PMP credential from the industry, trainer, PMP aspirant perspectives with an intent to communicate an independent and unbiased view. 

pmprisks

Industry related risks 

  1. The risk – There is a wide spread rumor about PMP credential as a product, which has reached the end-of-life stage in the product life cycle.  Reality – While this can be true from the training providers perspective due to too many trainers / companies undercutting each other, this is never true from the project management professional’s / aspiring professional’s perspective. PMP still rules as most recognized certification for predictive project management (most suited for large projects involving engineering, procurement, construction and management (EPCM). PMP credential is followed by PRINCE2. There is no other choice as of now for anyone who wants to pursue a globally accepted predictive project management related certification based on Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) by Deming. I am using the term ‘predictive project management’ explicitly because there are many popular certifications available under the agile family (SCRUM, XP, RUP, TDD etc..) which are not a right fit for EPCM projects where the engineering discipline does not allow for much change, hence the agile family of frameworks are more suitable for product development where the requirements and the technology are highly volatile. Even then I am toying with the idea of applying agile during the planning phase of EPCM projects. Do not pelt stones at me because I am talking differently, or because I am the only one talking so. Unfortunately the agilists and the traditionalists do not like each other very much, even when the scrum masters fail miserably because they do not have any clue about stakeholder management, risk management, communication management, resource management, scope management, quality management etc. In my personal opinion, predictive and adaptive (agile) project management streams are complimentary  in nature for those whose goal is to manage their projects successfully, without bias towards any one particular framework.

Trainer related risks

  1. Many trainers teach the inputs, tools and techniques and outputs of the project management processes, in the same sequence as they are listed in the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK), without focusing on the benefits. That makes it very boring and difficult to remember (note that PMBOK is a 750+ page document). A better approach would be to learn process group wise;
    • Initiation
    • Planning
    • Execution
    • Monitoring & Controlling
    • Closing – This approach makes it easy to remember, as this is the natural flow of the project.
    • processgroupwisedoclist
  2. Many trainers provide too much emphasis on remembering inputs, tools&techniques and outputs (ITTO). Remembering them for 49 processes is humanly impossible, especially when one is under exam pressure. In fact, surprisingly those who spent maximum effort to mug up ITTO during their preparation time have failed in the final exam. Once you understand PMBOK process group wise, it is easy to recollect logically the inputs, tools&techniques and outputs. For example remembering the ITTO for the process ‘Develop project charter’ is much easier when one looks at it as the first process under ‘Project initiation’ process group, than the ‘First process’ under ‘Project integration management’ knowledge area.
  3. They do not give any emphasis on the ‘professional ethics’ of project managers. You can imagine the plight of someone who tries into master professional project management without any idea about professional ethics. Since the questions are scenario based, every project management scenario has an ethics angle, and mastering it makes it easier while choosing the best project management decisions.
  4. PMBOK has a wealth of information for the project management practitioner. Many trainers lacks the experience to articulate the concepts from the practitioner’s perspective. For example, project charter can be explained as just an output of project initiation or it can be a great document to develop a well understood project success criteria among all stakeholders..
  5. Trainers may not be well versed with various project domains to cite the right examples, whereas the participants are from different domains. They end up seeing everything as a nail, because the only tool they have is a hammer.
  6. Trainers trying to showcase their knowledge than focusing on the knowledge transfer. Mostly with inexperienced trainers.
  7. Trainers who does not explain things in detail, due to monotony. Mostly with highly experienced trainers.
  8. Trainers recommending too many reference material, thus making the preparation difficult.
  9. Trainers who charge very less fees, who losses interest mid way through the course because they are not compensated enough for their efforts.
  10. Disillusioned trainers, who are wearing the trainer’s hat out of compulsion than by choice.

Learner related risks

  1. Underestimating the effort required. One need to spend atleast 80 hours of preparation time, which include training, self study and exam practise.
  2. Over confidence, hence insufficient preparation.
  3. Lack of confidence, hence not scheduling the exam and finally dropping the idea.
  4. Enrolling for cheap courses, just because they are cheap, without giving any weight age for trainer profile, method of training and track record. Online courses which are just record and play, which are priced lower than the price of books is the number one culprit. Think of the frustration, re-preparation effort and the re-registration fees after failing in the first attempt. Passing PMP in the first go is very important. Do not decide based on the direct costs alone, consider the indirect costs (especially the cost of failure) as well, before deciding on the training program.
  5. Try to finish it off at the earliest, preferably within 30 days of the course completion, else other priorities may take precedence.

pmpinjust5weeks

Open your eyes before you open your mouth

5 Tools You May Not Know About

https://wp.me/p3Ca1O-8Ae

Mentoring someone with imposter syndrome

Found this HBR article very useful. At times, I am also suffering from this syndrome. May be, I am not alone in this. Most of us would have undergone this at some point or other.

https://hbr.org/2019/02/mentoring-someone-with-imposter-syndrome

Before the camera – 10 points to professionalize your corporate video presentations

Whatever is repeated is a potential candidate for automation. Repeated or to-be repeated corporate presentations, learning / training programs are no exception. While adding professionalism to our otherwise amateurish video presentations can be exciting, there are many hurdles one has to cross, which are successfully overcome by everyone else,  who have traversed the same path before. Speaking to the camera is a different ballgame when compared to talking to live audience. The time has come for professional managers to develop great video presentation skills. Here are the lessons I learnt from my journey and by observing others behind and before the camera within the corporate world.

  1. Everything needs planning to get perfect results. Professional video making is no exception.
  2. Practice is the key. Do not expect perfection without practice.
  3. No one in this world captures perfect video presentations without retake.This awareness will help you to remain cool and confident in the middle of multiple retakes.
  4. Script / story boards are essential. That is a perfect confidence booster. Will help to avoid repetition.
  5. Good and comfortable dressing and makeup are essential.
  6. Body language is important. Do it during the time of the day when you are most energetic.
  7. Do it incrementally than attempting long single take. If possible do it sentence by sentence. While this increases editing work, this reduces stress on the presenter. Patience and energy to do several takes is important. Do not try to finish it off quickly. Take breaks when required.
  8. Setting the right environment is important. Everyone must set their mobiles to silent mode. There is nothing more frustrating than a ringing mobile during a video recording. Prevent others from moving behind the scenes, unless it is planned so. Do not compromise on perfect lighting and audio as it enhances the viewing experience.
  9. Begin with the end in mind. At the end, you are going to get great product / output. Treat your video shoot as a project. Manage all potential risks pro-actively.
  10. Observing professional corporate video shoots with an intent to learn and improve and then implementing the lessons learnt is the smartest way to master this art. In fact, the points in this blog post are my notes to self which I scribbled down on my mobile phone while observing how professionals perform a professional corporate video shoot at WRENCH.

Why traditional project success criteria are still relevant today?

During one of my training programs, a project manager said ‘I am not getting acceptance for my project. What should I do get the acceptance?’. That was a difficult question to answer, considering the fact that I did not know much about his project. Still I wanted to give it a try, and I asked more questions about the probable causes that are acting in favor of project acceptance and the ones acting against project acceptance, just to understand the context better, before trying to help him out, if possible.
The key factors favoring his project’s acceptance

  • The project leadership team, especially the CEO is committed to the project
  • The product quality is excellent.
  • Capability of the team is good.

The key factors opposing his project’s acceptance

  • Organizational politics
  • Fear of loss of job
  • Trade union involvement …

Luckily I asked him about the ‘acceptance criteria’ of the project, which he, his team and all the key stakeholders were trying to achieve, and unfortunately it was not available. Further research reveals that, this is a major problem in many projects. The perception of success varies from project to project, and from stakeholder to stakeholder. There is no agreed upon success criteria for most of the projects, and it is a global project management problem or opportunity!.

Click here for the original blog post

Courtesy : http://www.wrenchsolutions.com

Evolution of ‘project success criteria’

During one of my training programs, a project manager said ‘ I am not getting acceptance for my project. What should I do get the acceptance?’. That was a difficult question to answer, considering the fact that I did not know much about his project. Still I wanted to give it a try, and I asked more questions about the probable causes that are acting in favor of project acceptance and the ones acting against project acceptance, just to understand the context better, before trying to help him out, if possible.

The key factors favoring his project’s acceptance

  • The project leadership team, especially the CEO is committed to the project
  • The product quality is excellent
  • Capability of the team is good

The key factors opposing his project’s acceptance

  • Organizational politics
  • Fear of loss of job
  • Trade union involvement …

Luckily I asked him about the ‘acceptance criteria’ of the project, which he, his team and all the key stakeholders were trying to achieve, and unfortunately it was not available. Further research reveals that, this is a major problem in many projects. The perception of success varies from project to project, and from stakeholder to stakeholder. There is no agreed upon success criteria for most of the projects, and it is a global project management problem or opportunity!.

  • Who has the right to declare success?
  • What are the criteria that will be used to determine success or failure?

Answers to these questions are critical to every project’s success, irrespective of the contract types used.

The definition of ‘project’s success’ is continuously evolving; 

1960 – Technical terms (If the product of the project is working fine, then the project is successful)

1970 – Time, Cost, Quality (Triple constraints)

1980 – Accepted by the customer

1990 – Still more criteria

(Harold Kerzner 2000)

Here is the Project Management Institute’s view of project success as per the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Version6), Released in the year 2018 ;

“Traditionally, the project management metrics of time, cost, scope, and quality have been the most important factors in defining the success of a project. More recently, practitioners and scholars have determined that project success should also be measured with consideration toward achievement of the project objectives.”  Ref  Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Version 6 

That is a radical shift in the definition of the success criteria of projects. Till recently, the industry believed that a project is successful if it is completed within the agreed upon time, cost and met it’s scope with required quality. As per this definition, the project’s management need not really worry about meeting the end goals of the project.

Kochi metro rail  is a project which got over on time, within the acceptable budget and met the scope with the required quality. Till last year, I believed that it’s project management is extremely successful. Did it meet it’s objectives?. I am doubtful. Since I do not know the pay back period, I am not sure. Did it ease the traffic congestion, “no”, it did not. From that perspective I may have to change my view from ‘success’ to ‘failure’ for this project. And the project manager is accountable.

As we all know, every project delivers unique product or services as it’s output (PMBOK). Based on this, the project success criteria  can be further divided into;

  • Project management success  – Time, Cost, Scope, Quality
  • Product’s success (Effect of the project’s final product)  (Baccarini 1999)

Project Success

Going by the latest view of PMBOK, project is successful if it is completed within the agreed upon time, cost, met it’s scope with required quality  and the benefits forecast used for justifying the project’s initiation is accomplished. The first part (project management success) is accomplished through professional project and program management, where as the product’s success is ensured through project portfolio management and project management combined.

Best practices :

  • Opportunity planning
  • Success criteria document
  • Monitoring stakeholder engagement

In my next blog post, I will elaborate the steps to develop, deploy and maintain the ‘success criteria document’ 

Courtesy : Wrench Solutions 

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