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

3 Things to do before you wrap up 2017

Lets get straight to the point, the year just went by.

  • Revise your job profile and interest- because you have a specific job title doesn't mean you cannot rethink or change it. The goal is to always be updated and be in a job that aligns with your interests. This means:
      • Observe the market shifting- and get yourself a new certification or  learn something new. Websites like Coursera allow you to enrol for them without having to pay a dime. You join the course of your choice and learn and if you want the certification you can pay.
  • Be thankful and take a break- to revise your goal and intentions you need to remove yourself from the current environment. You can reset your goals every quarter or once in two years. This means you dont need a sabbatical to decide the course of your life- it could be couple of hours in your favorite coffee shop.  For me personally, this year (in fact starting today), I am taking a couple of weeks off where I can travel and revise my goals.
  • Find  a sponsor- mentors are life changing but a sponsor is mandatory. A sponsor is also rather difficult to find,someone who will play a very active role in promoting you and ensuring you are in a role that interests you and climbing up the ladder.  3 ways to find a sponsor:
      • Have a work ethic- project your work personality and what you stand for.
      • Talk about your goal/career path- figure out where you want to career path to be at and then talk about it with your manager, mentors and sooner or later you will find your sponsor. 
      • Prove your worth- this is a no brainer, you have to prove you have it in you and are ready to work for it. No one will be willing to take a risk on you otherwise.
(Pic courtesy: Google images)

Interactions within Agile Teams- The SCARF Model


Image result for SCARF model

“In a world of increasing interconnectedness and rapid change, there is a growing need to improve the way people work together. Understanding the true drivers of human social behavior is becoming ever more urgent in this environment.”- David Rock

We talk about creating self-organizing team and encouraging team dynamics in Agile but what we forget to mention is how it should be done. This is where SCARF model comes in- Social neuroscience explores the biological foundations of the way humans relate to each other and to themselves. From this a theme emerges from social neuroscience- Firstly, that much of our motivation driving social behavior is governed by an overarching organizing principle of minimizing threat and maximizing reward.

Which simply put means we have to ensure our Lizard brain (the part which tells you not to change, take a risk and ensure you continue to live by keeping you safe from trying out unknown things) doesn’t feel threatened at any point.


Image result for agile teams

The SCARF model involves five domains of human social experience: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, relatedness and Fairness. These 5 domains will either trigger the rewards or the threat thought process.  This also means even during conversations you want to “rewards” trigger to go. This will ensure positive discussion and participation plus engagement.

Certainty and Autonomy out of the five is directly related to you. For example- do you feel empowered that you can make your decision in the current job title? The empowerment  cannot be influenced by anyone else.

The other three Status, Relatedness and Fairness are all influenced by “others”…. Like do you feel you are treated fairly?

So, this is a mix bag of social influence which allows you to feel empowered and positive or otherwise. The dynamics can be created, so if you are a team member or scrum master or manage a team- you need to ensure that these 5 fundamental cornerstones are all in the positive side of things. If by using all of these, we can ensure that a sense of fulfillment, balance and progress within team members can be created- the self-organization will start forming very soon.

Here are 3 ways to build on the improve the team collaboration:·
  • Explain the change (why) - don’t enforce without talking about the big picture.
  • Show why it matters to them(how)- how it can impact them and what usually happens
  • What is expected from a specific role (what)- being articulate about the responsibility of a scrum team/member

If we are successful in ensuring all of these are considered, the team  dynamics and communication will be positive. 

(Pic courtesy: Google images)

Walking Past Your Fear

Have you been scared and still done it anyway? Bungee jumping or public speaking?

Today I wanted to talk about why being scared and still going ahead with it is okay. Everyone starts somewhere even the greatest of speakers or writers. So, why not you?

The job of one part of our brain (reptilian) is to ensure we stay safe and discourages us from trying out new things. The basal ganglia is referred to as the reptilian or primal brain, as this structure is in control of our innate and automatic self-preserving behavior patterns, which ensure our survival and that of our species. We might not be living in the same world as primitive man, but we are still met with threatening and potentially dangerous situations. The brainstem is responsible for keeping us safe now, as it was for early man. The health and functioning of this brain region largely determines our ability to detect and respond to threats. At the most basic level, the brainstem helps us identify familiar and unfamiliar things. Familiar things are usually seen as safe and preferable, while unfamiliar things are treated with suspicion until we have assessed them and the context in which they appear (More here).

So when you feel shaky about taking the stage- its your brain telling you its risky and something new... just stay in the couch, that's something you are used to.

The choice is always there and its yours to make, do you want to stay a newbie for the rest of your life or you want to make that touch call and speak up and ask a questions, volunteer for an opportunity or ask for more responsibility. The difference between those who have done well and who are still waiting is earlier has been scared and still gone ahead and tried something new. Its also Growth Mindset.

Here are 33 ways to overcome your fear and when you decide you are ready, here's a video to watch- Growth Mindset simplified. This is how I am working around my fears :)



 

(Pic courtesy: Google Images)

Growth Mindset- Why you should have it?

If you have ever wondered why some people continue growing in their job/business and some stagnate- this is perhaps the post for you.

The concept of Growth Mindset was first introduced in the book Mindset: The new Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck .

The Stanford professor in an article in HBR talks about what the Growth Mindset shouldn’t be confused with:

  • People confuse it with being flexible or open minded
  • Is about praising and rewarding the effort
  • Good things will happen if you have a growth mindset
So, what is a Growth mindset?

“Growth Mindset thrives on challenges and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening spring board for growth and for stretching existing abilities.”

Read more here 

The questions is- how can a simple belief have the power to transform your psychology and as a result your life? The Growth mindset creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval.

So, how can you implement the growth mindset in your life?

Being aware of the two mindsets and knowing that the Growth Mindset requires taking risks and wandering off into unknown territories where you might not succeed but that is okay- because you will learn out of it.


Don’t get motivated because you don’t know much about a job profile/interest/hobby and you are terrified of failing. Not everyone fails and you have to take the first step.

This leads to believing in yourself :
1.Create a positive environment
2.Affirm your beliefs
3.Don’t hangout with naysayers- take their perspectives and improve on it
4.Celebrate learning’s





               So, if you are a newbie the mindset will be a game changer for you. Now you can go back at think about your mentor and realize why they have been doing so well- am sure they have a growth mindset too.

              You can read more about Growth Mindset here:


              (Pic courtesy: Google Images)

              October Wrap Up

              Happy Halloween!

              This month I thought I would share something fun- so the decors and gadgets to keep around at work for better productivity and happiness.                                     

                                                                       
              So, if you are into cleaning up your space and getting into the right Fall mood, here are some links for you:

              Reading this month for me was limited to Amy Cuddy’s book -Presence, rest was mostly work related research. 

              I also did a wellness journey via Instagram  and yes I posted for a month everyday.

              November will be busy month with fun projects and upcoming travel in December. 

              How was your October?

              (pic courtesy: Soma Bhattacharya)

              Scrum Master: 5 Kinds

              Whether you are in an organization that follows Agile or not chances are you already have pre-determined notions about Scrum Masters- their roles and responsibilities.

              In my experience of working within the Agile domain in India, there are five kinds of Scrum Masters I have come across:

              • Managers- This specially happens when the organization is moving into Agile initially. Reasons are often genuine and till a scrum master is identified in a team, the team manager in some cases will volunteer for the role. Also, managers who like to know what exactly is happening in the team so they step up into this role which always might not be a very good sign.
                  • Pros- Understanding the role will eventually help the manager better appreciate the role. Boosts positive communication within the team and change in process.
                  • Cons- it shouldn’t be the case where micro management is the agenda and so why not take up the role and still be the decision maker instead of allowing the team to self-organize
              • Tech Leads- Some organization focus on having adequate experience required for the role of the Scrum Master, the focus is on people who have considerable domain knowledge and its mostly been in the industry ten years or more.  
                  • Pros-The vast experience of a lead could help the team manage the domain and deliver work with better quality. 
                  • Cons-It shouldn’t end up being a practice that others don’t speak up because the lead is always right. 
              • Project Manager- The team project manager takes up the role as natural transition in a lot of cases. While the project will definitely be delivered with this one in charge, being a servant leader might not be something that will be easy to adopt to; where team calls the shots.
                  • Pros- Communication, delivery and milestones will always be in check.
                  • Cons- unless the right mindset has been achieved, you don’t want to encourage/continue with the command and control situation.
              • Functional Team Members- This happens commonly as a core team member is either assigned or volunteers to take on the role. This means a split of hours for being a Scrum Master and performing the core competency work.
                  • Pros- Buy in within team is easier
                  • Cons- Time management during deadlines; the time split doesn’t mean when extra hours are required you drop the scrum master responsibility and take in more hours to finish for example testing.
              • Full Time Scrum Master- Very few organizations will go ahead and hire full time members into this role. When it does happen one Scrum Master is assigned to at least two teams and the unit is very confident of the them working within Agile methodologies. 
                  • Pros- Someone available and accountable to ensure the process is in places and problems are looked into and resolved immediately.
                  • Cons- Dedicated scrum masters don’t mean they are administrators for the team, filling out details (like in the agile tool) that should be done by everyone themselves. Also, lack of discussion on what the role is about and the responsibilities are by management can create misunderstanding within team members. 

              What have you experienced or observed?

              (Pic courtesy: Google images)

              September- Wrap Up

              I am wrapping up the last month  and hope that's okay with you with some great reads and videos. 
              Image result for septemberSeptember personally has been a challenging month with sickness (bad weather) and festivals.

              Nonetheless the blog goes on, while I haven’t been able to read much ( a new book) this month, I had to make sure I still felt inspired everyday. 


              For me, small tiny changes sometimes make huge impact so I created Happiness corners with string lights http://amzn.to/2fDIxM7  and my favorite books.

              These are some of the reads I found very interesting:


              (Pic courtesy: Google Images)

              5 Changes: Game Changers for my Productivity

              Life can lose its motivation for people in stressful jobs. I am no exception and last couple of years have been a struggle to keep my head above water just because I want to do so much (everything!) and had difficulty managing it all.

              Over the time I have experimented, learned more about myself and made some major changes. If my job profile has changed, so should my life and routine.

              Here are 5 things I changed and why you should too:

              1. Getting up early- I wake up at 6.30 am every single day except Sundays. Take it from someone who has never seen early mornings (unless there’s a flight to catch). I realized by waking up early I felt much more in control while having my cup of coffee and getting some fresh air. I clear my head before I start the day and somehow it feels more positive. Here are some benefits of waking up early  
              2. Going to bed early- I still own a TV but never watch it. Instead I wind down early and sleep as early as 10pm. I work around a calming night time routine, so it takes the edge off my work day. More rest, better mind. Better mind, better workday- next day!
              3. Stopped Impulsive Sprees- I met friends at malls and coffee shops and spent money to buy happiness. Splurging felt good for a short span of time and I felt I deserved it after all the hard work. At some point I also realized that half of the items I bought I never wore them. Also, I wasn’t sure shopping was making me happy to even last a week. So, I stopped and now try to meet friends over casual dinners at home. The point isn’t about shopping at all; it’s about creating meaning in our life. So, if the time spend or the person you are catching up with isn’t adding any value for you, you should rethink.
              4. Using a Planner- Nothing beats a good planning even if you work impulsively. By writing down a plan and ideas from your head to paper- you take the stress out of remembering them. Our work life is mostly linked to planners (outlook calendar/Google calendar), why not try it out in our personal life as well. If you are a management professional, you are probably very good at it already, try to see what you plan and how much you actually get done.  There are lots of ways to plan- a whiteboard, sticky notes, a planner, a bullet journal etc. Here’s how writing down things will impact your life 
              5. Meditation- I am really not an expert on this, my version is very simple. Its just a way for me to connect with myself. Sometimes it can just be quiet 5 minutes for myself in a couch. I do have to mention that I like how it makes me feel. I am calmer and peaceful.  Studies indicate that mindfulness meditation benefits women more than men. There are multiple apps that are available (both paid and free) to help you ease better, try them out. 

              What have you incorporated in your routine recently?

              (Pic courtesy: Google Images)