Hello and Welcome

I'm an ex-Project Manager who currently moved on to Agile Consulting and this blog is my sounding board. This blog was started in 2008 journal-ling through my project management journey, today it combines both- my passion for all things project management as well as looking into the agile way of transformation and undergoing changes.

Here I write about my experiences, struggles, failures and joys. I also interview, do book reviews and keep you updated.

I usually post twice a week: Monday and Thursday unless I am too caught up which is often these days

If I'm not working; I can be found reading with a cup of tea. I love to read, push the envelope one step further, work on new ideas, experiment, travel and explore life.

Did you know you can now buy Stepping into Project Management at Amazon Kindle.

You can reach me at steppingintopm@gmail.com

Relearning: The Gadget Habits (5 simple tips)

If you spend all your time slouching in the couch and complaining life isn’t taking you anywhere, well you already know nothing will happen.

An average person will usually complaint 15-30 times day. The chronic complainer falls into a perpetual cycle of finding fault, feeling negative, and then being unable to face the next situation with an open mind.  

Instead of picking ourselves and working on our list, we are busy with the Gadget Browsing. We use it every day- new fancy phones, laptops, tablets... hundreds of apps crammed in it. We wake up with the mindless chatter of browsing and we wrap up our day by telling the world we are ready for bed. Does information overload or mindless browsing help your creativity- perhaps not. We are way too occupied with our gadgets (that's where the free times heads to) till we need a mental day off .

Here are 5 ways to re-think about your habits:

  1. Stop all the notifications- this includes your emails, social media and news channels. When you need something (info/news) you can open the app and it’s always better to have a fixed time to do it. Don’t use it as a cure for boredom instead pick a book or go for a walk or meet a real friend.
  2. Delete apps- you don’t need so many apps, delete them. Free yourself from the urge to constantly monitor your behavior, deleting helps. Once done you can decide to login to your Facebook or Instagram once a week or month and check for updates (in case you forgot they also have a website), you really don’t need to prove anything to anyone here. 
  3. Use apps to develop the growth mindset -don’t stop learning because you are out of college, keep that fire in you alive. Use your gadgets instead to learn a new domain, or pick up a interest or a certification. Download the content and you can even use it while you commute even with a shaky wifi. this includes paid and free stuff- read a blog, take up a course and get a certification that will actually help you to move to your new role.
  4. Shake up your timeline- make the time spent meaningful, there’s no point in giving up your time and feeling worthless. If you think browsing through social media is giving you all the negative vibes then just get out of it. Use apps to create real connections, meet your mentor once a month over Skype or use Google hangout to teach... the possibilities are endless as long as you use them correctly.
  5. Positive vibes only- use gadgets to create the life you want, not the life your social timeline dictates you to live by and crib about. Use apps to meditate or write or create amazing headspace that takes you through the day. 

Stop the mindless browsing and create the positive road-map you have always wanted and see how it feels to stop complaining for once.

(Pic courtesy: Google images)

Being Human in Agile

Agile is one of the most-discussed subjects in any process domain.

With commercialization and certification now so easily available to many, the approach has become easier to learn and implement, and with that has come the liability of seeing it as only a set of rules and practices. The "individual" who was the center of the process has now taken a back seat among the fancy tools and apps. Among many, Agile has become only a term.

As an Agile coach working with multiple teams and organizations, I have always felt that miracles are expected just because you gather together for 15 minutes. We look for data and stats and obsessively check tools. We have made the tool bigger than the process. Rarely does anyone talk about the human factor in Agile. No one wants to take the time to make the connections; we only want the productivity increased.

Have you ever noticed how you work your best? Let’s take a blind guess — maybe you like the freedom in the way you work, the human connection with your peers, and an understanding manager or mentor. No matter which process you are part of, doing your best work shouldn’t change.

If you are still old school like me and prefer the human connection, here are three ways to bring it back.

Storytelling

Don’t approach an Agile transformation with hard-set rules and terminologies. Instead, take the time to explain why, as a team or organization, you are going for it, what benefits you are hoping for, and the challenges that will be encountered. Tell the story of failures, recall the successes you have seen, how you have mentored or coached other teams, and the fact that every transformation is unique and should be treated as such.

Hear their stories, too; try to create a story card. Divide a paper in four quadrants and create your guided storytelling pattern. I have seen that when given a structure to tell a story — based on a question or an activity — people respond better, and it opens up a real conversation rather than just encouraging free-flowing conversation.

You can choose any of the following to create your story card for the teams and then talk one-on-one to understand them:

  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator score (personality type): Try the free online assessment. This is just for fun and provides some insight into the person. Even if people disagree with the results, they will talk about why it doesn’t match up.
  • Moving Motivators: I find it interesting to see the most- and least-favorite motivators; it's usually an eye-opener. Asking the right question along with this assessment helps form some perspective you will need as a coach or manager to work with each individual. You can find the game at the Management 3.0 website.
  • Who you are: That 30-second elevator speech is rather difficult when you take out of the equation their job title or technical domain expertise. People really must think about who they are, and that’s what you want.
  • The improvement you would like to see in your team/process: Depending on their comfort level, people will talk. Trust me on this; you will get more information here than from looking at the trends in your team's velocity.


Mind Mapping
Sometimes we think better when articulating clearly, and the train of thought is easier to chase when we can come back to it. Mind mapping is a wonderful tool that can be used in various scenarios to get to know a person and to explain the process, and it can even be used in retrospectives. The transformation doesn’t need to be done in the same way everywhere. Learn about others and who you are working with, and bring new techniques to work that bring out the personal point of view and perspective.

Visualization
Reactions will always change more when people see something than when they are told something over and over again. Instead of telling teams that they are full of flaws and that productivity and velocity have to increase, try value stream mapping with the team. Let the team draw with colored pens and crayons and have some fun. Then let them see where they have been lagging. When realizations come from within, changes are easier.

The bottom line from all of the above is that we are trying to keep the uniqueness of an individual and not trying to assume that everyone is the same. Data matters; however, you won’t know the authenticity of the data if the team is always gaming it up to protect themselves from you.

Yes, we are busy — always busy moving from one meeting to another. But not even for a second do we think that the human connection is replaceable with a process or data. When we showcase the human within us and try to understand the other person, it makes the transformation and the assumed role much more fulfilling for all.

This article was originally published in Scrum Alliance

(Pic courtesy: Google Images)

Stop the Burn Out

How are you feeling lately? Energetic and jump out of bed, inspired to go to work? Or tired juggling too many things and exhausted. Yet, instead of stopping we just continue pushing, till we come to a dead halt.
  • Till you can’t get out of bed anymore
  • Till you feel so uninspired, you don’t know what to do
  • Till you don’t find meaning in your work
  • Till you are careless
  • Till there’s no ambition
  • Till you can’t push through the day anymore



Stop, take a break and introspect. 

You can take 2 months off  or realize sometimes doing a better job means not doing your job at all.

48% of Americans experienced increased stress over the past 5 years. So, if you are invested heavily in your work life, it also means we have to take measures to sustain it equally well. That can only mean considering vacations https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/4-scientific-reasons-why-vacation-is-awesome-for-you.html so you can enjoy your job.

In your regular work life, find out what triggers your stress the most- is it your co-worker, the commute, the inability to grow in your job and then come up with a plan and figure it out. Being able to be happy in your job could prevent the burn out at the every start and then follow it up with vacations and positive work environment, creating your hyggae at work etc.

If you are looking for great tips to bring in the balance in your life, try these:
  • Ariana Huffingtons book- "The Sleep Revolution" and the website that allows you to find out articles about the balance and keeping you happy. 
  • If you need to sort out your finances, try this out 
  • If you need to sort out your life, look no further than Vishesh Lakhani’s – "Code of the Extraordinary Mind". 
  • See what your interests are and ensure you can keep it up at an extent even in your very busy life that brings in some peace. Meet similar minds by joining meetup.com
  • Physical movement is equally important to stop the burn out, try couple of times a week to start with 
  • Learn through lots of free resources on the web and boost your career. 
  • Find a mentor and ask for suggestion on how they handle it. Observe in your own organization or read up on what’s the best thing to do. 
To sum up, stop the glorification of busy and then burn out. Instead take the time to feel okay and not always on the rush. If possible try working from home, couple of times a month (no commute at least and perhaps even healthier choice of food), get into your zone and just enjoy the flow, create a routine and keep on adapting to it.

Being successful and being able to achieve your goal, also means taking care of yourself and your thought process.

(Pic courtesy: Google Images)

Finding your Purpose (Ikigai): In your Work

What does a job mean to you?
  • Is it a way to earn your paycheck? 
  • A way to find out your calling? 
  • Or is it your life’s purpose

If you are struggling to figure out what’s your life purpose, the Japanese concept of Ikigai explains it all

If we are fortunate enough to match up our purpose with the jobs we have, life can only be amazing.

If you are trying to match it up here are 5 tips:
  • Find out what you like to do. Try Mind Mapping
  • Once you know your Ikigai, try internship positions/volunteer
  • Try reading up/taking courses on the subject matter (like from Coursera ). Having a degree will only add up to the chances of finding a job in that domain
  • Revise your resume. Don’t send resumes that cater to all types of jobs you are thinking about, it will make you look less serious to the one you are applying for. Customize your resume line by line for the job.
  • You will know when your job matches your Ikigai- it’s probably also your hobby. You enjoy waking up and heading out for your job. 
This can be you as a newbie or someone who continuously grows and evolves your interest might have just changed. As they say, you are never done finding purpose in your work

(Pic courtesy: Google Images)

Mind Mapping: What are you good at?

If you belong to a certain domain or hold a fancy job title- does it mean that’s the only thing you are good at? Or that's your life calling for the next thirty years?

Did you know that more than 70 % of the workforce is disengaged from the job they hold- this cannot be true if you are truly inspired by your profession. So, may be the job you have isn’t what you are interested in anymore because you figured they are other things you are better at.

Meet Anisha, who has a comfortable job and has been in it for a while till she woke up one day and felt she wasn’t being recognized for her loyalty and the long hours of work. she isn't drawn to her job anymore. She’s looking for something that excites her ...  So, what does she do- she joins the disengaged workforce.

So, how can you figure out what you want to do or better: what you are really good at?

Close your eyes and imagine yourself as a toddler and think of what you wanted to be when you grow up. I wanted to be a teacher. To me that was the power figure- in control of a class of 60 students. That seemed a coveted position to hold for me.

Over the years as we grow and environment shifts and changes happen, our interest changes, skillsets take shape and we find a job.

Ten years later- is that what you still want? How can you navigate your career to ensure that its synced with your interests?

So, let’s try mind mapping- no fancy tool or budget required.

  • In the center place yourself ...  think of anything you like to do or makes you happy and start writing/sketching. Write as many as you can. Against each idea, see if you are still doing it (example- poetry- I published a coffee table book or I have a diary full of poems written and hidden because I think my friends will laugh at me and call me sappy). Rupi Kaur self-published her first book of poems in Amazon and it went to become a NYT best seller.
  • When you have sketched everything you can think of, add 5 more. Once you start thinking, it becomes easy.. Now see how you can take each of these ideas and keep thinking deeper- what does it mean to you. For example if you mentioned “creating” – you can mention writing blogs, clicking pics, creating travel vlogs, writing articles for magazines, becoming an author. Once all are done, take a different color pen and look for patterns. Common things that have surfaced- it could be similarity in the main ideas/categories or it could be sub categories within the categories- mark them.
  • Can you see the trend now- what you really like to do- in most cases you can also see a profession shaping up? Against the profession/interest you found- try adding ways on how you can achieve it or make money from it. That can lead to clarity- if this is something you want to take up as a profession, or you want to prepare for it (like take certifications) or talk to friends or references who are already in the profession of your choice.
  • That’s your calling. You don’t have to give up your job and go for it but if it does make sense- think about it. Think how you can try out this opportunity. 

This can be a wonderful way to find yourself back and be inspired again. So, did you find what you are good at?

(Pic courtesy: google images)

Dumping the Black Bag


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I don’t think I was listening. I am pretty sure I wasn’t. I had hit a block and nothing was getting me out of it.
It was mostly tiring- the juggles of work and life. I almost quit. I was uninspired.

I am an INFJ and I need my personal space and time- that’s how I recharge.

Disruption helped. I just gave away a lot of things that had given me a structure- I needed to find my way back. So, I lost the structure.

Here are 5 ways to find your game back:
  • Find your groove- Find what you really like to do. It could be things that relaxes you the most or things you did when you were a kid and wasn’t pressed for time. Things change, you might just need something new now.
  • Be inspired- Use a gratitude journal, you can shift your bitterness by being grateful by just trying it out regularly. It gives you an instant mood booster.
  • Create a space for yourself and maintain it- It should be comfortable and pleasing whether it’s your home or work, add personal touches and reminders that make you happy and comfortable.
  • Have reminders- In formats you prefer- it can be post its on your desk, notes in your phone, jewellery that reminds you of how far you have come and where you want to be.
  • Look for good content- In books, music, art or friends. Be in the space which is full of life, happiness and creativity. It will inspire creativity and thoughtfulness in you.
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When you feel you are slipping, get back on the grip. It takes time and the shift isn’t overnight. Have the patience. Let it be.

Finally, when you are ready- dump all your worries in the big black backpack and let it go. Replace with something nice and wonderful and just be happy. 

When you are happy- the real you will shine through and you will be unstoppable.

(Pic courtesy: Google Images)

Destress and Focus with Jazz

Work is fulfilling for a lot of us, however with it comes the stress and the burn out.

Consider this: Jazz music can lower blood pressure by causing blood vessels to expand by 30% (This change in blood pressure is like loosing 30 lbs).

It incidentally helps you to get better sleep.  Studies shows that just 45 min of soft, slow music (60-80 BPM) like jazz, before bedtime results in better and longer night-time sleep as well as less dysfunction during the day:
• After 1 week, 26% were sleeping better.
• After 3 weeks, 35% were sleeping better.

After finding out about Jazz, I decided to implement it in my own life and see the results. My work is sometimes stressful and while I enjoy it... working parallel in a lot of things sometimes leaves me burned out. I realize that I am not being as effective in getting things done, because I am worried about how much is left to be done.

So, I tried 2 things at work:

  1. When I start to worry/stress/get irritated I immediately walk out to refill my water bottle, or get a coffee. read the newspaper or sometimes just walk around. That momentarily relief and taking me out of that zone seems to work positively on the mind. 
  2. I also played jazz over the web via ear phones and I did work better partially because I felt more relaxed. It helped me to the extent that I now use it almost regularly specially when I have things to deliver in a tight timeline. 

You wont know what works for you, till you try it out yourself. So, my suggestion is to give it a go and see whether this is something that will work for you.

All I can say is, its definitely worth a try.

(pic courtesy: Google Images)

Tools- aren’t the answer to your Agile Transformation

The most hyped up idea during an Agile Transformation is the search for tool that would best suit your organizational needs. Tools is necessary, however isn’t the priority in your Agile journey.

In the process the focus shifts to the tool and then purpose of the transformation is lost. It reaches a point where transformation is equated with tool.


You don’t need fancy tools and a huge budget to start something small. Start your journey with a whiteboard, something that the team has to work on and can play around with it, changing and adding metrics or creating their own customized dashboard.

You can even try a team cork board, or use simple sticky notes or free software to try out the teams comfort level. Tool should be part of the process, not the process.

There are lots of reasons, why you fail in agile and tool shouldn’t be one of them. 
So, find ways to ensure you are Agile in reality. 

To know more about Agile tools, try the links here and here.

(Pic courtesy: Pinterest)