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 up on project management, agile, coaching or business books with a cup of green tea. I love to read, push the envelope one step further, work on new ideas, experiment, travel and explore life.

You can reach me at steppingintopm@gmail.com

Creating the Space

We have so many things to think, plan and execute and as busy bees we barely get the time to get to all of these.

To take up more we should also create more space in our life. Here are simple tips that I have been doing for the last 1 month-
Pic Courtesy: Google Images 
  • Delegate- I delegated my grocery and regular market trips to the online way of shopping. Saves me a lot of time and gives me the added benefit of quickly comparing prices if I want to and make better choices. This is also a great way to reduce impulsive shopping and pile up more junk than you need (I have been trying to create a minimalist lifestyle, more on this coming up next year) .
  • Keep a list and Prioritize work – I use trello to keep a track and a backlog. Moving a card to the done stage is a great sense of accomplishment to take up the next.
  • Organize- keep things organized to find things easily, last week I kept couple of hours free and just worked on cleaning up the piled up paperwork and put them in labelled files.
  • Keeping time for yourself- this is crucial to keep yourself creative. I plan out things however will sometimes just change up things and do what I like. This helps me not feel strapped to my plans.
  • Have good friends- have positive people around you and have good friends to talk to. Make time for them and you will back to your planned work in a better frame of mind.

·What do you do to create space in your life?  

Adopting Agile Pt2- Who should be the scrum master?

A lot of organizations and teams tend to appoint a scrum master for the team, sometimes against the wishes of the individual taking up the role.

I think it beats the purpose of transformation.

Appointing someone for the role can never lead to success. A scrum master as we know plays a crucial role during the transformation, you want someone who is interested, who will put their best foot forward and who’s up for the challenge.

Here are some ways you can look for a scrum master-
  • Provide enough information on what a role of a scrum master is and is expected
  • Talk about benefits of being a scrum master from a career perspective
  • Ensure enough support and training's for the scrum master who will take up the role.
  • Ask for volunteers

 Once you have a pool of volunteers or one per team, you can provide them with training's required to take up the role.

However, this role has its own classic confusion. Should a scrum master be a full time role or should it be part time along with your functional role. Some will have full time scrum master roles and take up multiple teams and some prefer part time scrum masters who are an integral part of the team and also works in their functional role.

I persnally prefer scrum masters who are an integral part of the team and understand the work and ins and out of what’s going in the team.  I also think team members accept scrum masters easily when they are part of the team than someone who is part of multiple teams and is more of a manager with a title of the scrum master.

So, who should really take up the role of a scrum master?
·         Someone interested (there is a learning curve)
·         Has social skills (taking care of impediments requires some)
·         Strong in communications (keeping the team together)
·         Has enough negotiation and convincing skills  (need that to interact with your product owner)
·         Is generally calm and not aggressive (when handling internal team conflicts)
·         Has a sense of humor (helps when dealing with the pressure of juggling roles and rebellious team members)
·         Can think objectively and not take sides
·         Determined to fix issues and keep the team together
·         Ability to think out of the box ( absolutely required when working with a smart competent team)

Well that might seem a lot, the good news is most of us have it in us. We have been trained and retrained to give up a lot over time and that might have clouded our out of the box thinking.  A nudge and encouragement can bring in the creativity back. And it improves with time.

The managers/management need to understand that the role though of a facilitator isn’t easy and needs time to settle in. Team members always don’t make it easy on the scrum master. So, give the time and encourage as much as possible.

Here’s what Mike Cohn says about being a scrum master  and an interesting article that talks about why the projectmanager is not a scrum master

You can read Part 1 of the series here

(Pic courtesy- Google Images)

Pre- New Year Resolution Post

Planning is not enough.

I never had a problem planning things or writing to-do lists. I like getting things done. It makes me feel accomplished.

That doesn't mean I never fail my new ears resolution, in fact I do a lot.

So, this year instead of writing more lists I took the time to understand why I fail them and how to set a goal.

My lists are random, it’s a mixture of personal and professional goals. It’s more of a wish list than a resolution.  

I have already set myself for failure from the way I usually write my list. There is a loose deadline (the approaching next 12 months) and no follow ups or plans on how to get it done.

If you see, the New Year mostly starts with high energy levels equipped with a long to do list. In a week, the energy level is dwindling and by the end of the month the list has become just another New Year resolution.

The reason behind it if you think is we fail to create a habit out of it. We try it out and then just give up one day.

And that’s precisely what I wanted to change. So, I thought what action I can take that ensures I won’t give up. I decide not to have a new year’s resolution at all. Instead I just have one item in my list.

Just one. I have made it simple. I can only change or inculcate one habit of mine at a time. And I want to focus all my energy in it. 

I focus on these 9 things-
  1. Remember it on time- I don’t want to think of my goal throughout the day. I only think of it at a specific time of the day, when I will be working on it. And I decided on the time based on my availability (I need to be free and nothing else should come up).
  2. Give ample time to yourself- I have a window of 2 hours within which I have to get it done everyday. Telling myself I have to do it at 6 pm might not work, just in case I can’t make it at 6 and then my mind automatically pushes it till tomorrow. The 2 hour window helps and I haven’t missed a day.
  3. Do it everyday- I can do something every day, it’s easier for me than doing it on alternate days. Once you have the habit formed, you can decide which days you want to do it. I didn't want to leave much fodder for my mood that day- I knew I just had to do it everyday no matter what.
  4. Don’t think much- I really don’t and this has been working. Instead of thinking about doing the new task, I just go ahead and do it.  
  5. Enjoy the rewards- I don’t buy myself a gift because I have been keeping my goal, I simply focus on the feel good factor after getting it done. And I repeat it the next day again. That allows me to focus on the goal and not anything else. keeping the resolution is my reward.
  6. Use the 80-20 rule- Don’t allow yourself to think slipping a day is okay- its not. However, once in a while just do something you would like to do and still continue with your new habit. Don’t skip it. That allows you the freedom to have fun but also work on your schedule. Like you can have a cheese cake but still exercise.
  7. Don’t share publicly- There are lots of studies that say, sharing your goal/resolution/new habit with your friends, makes you more accountable and that leads to lesser chances of failures. Doesn't work. I tried, I shared and hey I failed over and over again. So, I don’t believe in the disclosure and it’s the feel good factor that will keep you going.  
  8. Feel the changing environment- Truth be told, one new habit can change a lot more. I have one goal and the feel good factor of keeping it makes me happy. So I work on the other areas too that extend and doubles up my feel good factor and I use it back to pursue my goal. My life is more organized and I am definitely happier. I still have only one resolution.
  9. Give yourself a head start- Don’t wait till January to begin, give yourself a head start and start from December.  By the time its new year, you have already created a habit and maintaining your new resolution will be much easier. Cheers to that!

Adopting Agile Pt 1- Three things to consider when moving into Agile

Moving into the Agile way of working is a life changing decision.

  • Don’t move to Agile because everyone is- IT’s a trend and everyone is working the Agile way and so should you- is the wrong way to approach Agile. Sometimes even client requests and management interest force team members to move. Changing overnight is tough especially when you have been comfortable working a certain way. If transforming into Agile is the agenda, read some blogs, attend training's, look up articles, ask people who have been working in Agile. Then decide if you really want to make the move and simply start with pilot teams.
  • Don’t look for tools immediately- start slow and stop adopting tools immediately. A white board in the team area will just work fine. If you have distributed teams, use simple tools like Linoit  or Trello .  Tools should encourage more communication not replace it. 
  • Don’t expect a miracle in your first sprint- Make smaller changes before you transform completely, start with a daily standup or writing user stories. Every sprint introduce something new and work within the comfort levels of the team, this will make your new adoption easier than being messier. Not all teams adopt as easily or work as smoothly, what you will notice is more and more internal problems surfacing and that’s a good sign. Try working out the problems and watch the team perform better.  
This is a 5 part series on Adopting Agile. 

(Pic Courtesy- Google images)

News for you and more

While I join back work,  am incredibly lucky to still have the time to blog- thanks to my amazing support system of friends and family.

In the last 3 months from doing the obvious, I also have managed to read a couple of books and I think you should definitely give it a try-

  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  • Management 3.0 Workout by Jurgen Appelo
  • Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (ongoing)
Not entirely related to project management but hey we do need to make a lot of decisions at work and knowing how and why we do its essential in breaking the bad habit and create some new. 

Anyways this year I decided to think about my new years resolution a bit early and while its still on the works,  I do know that I am thinking of them as more of things to implement than  keep them in the list that after a month lands into the trash can. 

It might be a good time for you to start thinking as well. 

Meanwhile, I have news for you. 

A 4 part series on new resources for project management community will be coming up soon and yes I do have a big hairy goal for next year and that involves you too! More on this soon. Plus if you haven't received any newsletters recently that's because I haven't been doing any, although I do enjoy reading the ones i subscribe too. So, the newsletter will be up and coming from December again! 

Stay warm and happy this November.