Wrapping up 2014

It’s been a wonderful year for me personally. Like all others it had its ups and downs, life became more complex, sometimes fun, sometimes tiring and most of all just another day I had to go through.
There have been some major changes though in addition of having my son.

In the last 365 days I have realized that in just going through the days and checklists and meetings and the stress, I was sometimes missing out on the fun.
  
Now I am just running after tomorrow instead of enjoying the today I have.
  
I made a couple of small changes in my life experimenting with my own self to see if I could change. Sometimes these smaller tiny changes made a huge impact, there weren't small change anymore.

If there’s one book you would like to read next year or may be today- pick up the Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It’s not just helpful in your professional life, it’s also a major help in your personal as well. Have time for a second read try, the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Want a book that helps you professionally, read Jurgen Appelo’s Management 3.0   

Want to start your new year with difference, you can try out simple ways to organize your life, declutter  and may be thinking about Mindfulness .

I thought this video (60 minutes with Anderson Cooper)  will allow us to rethink our lives and start living!

Before the final wrap up, here's my article on Scrum Alliance  and you can read by clicking here 

A very Happy New Year to you and thank you for all your support, encouragement and inspiration. 


New Resources Pt 1- Interview with Jeff Furman

This is a special short and crisp series of posts that promise to help you get prepped up for 2015. And we start with some new available resources that help you get to your goal faster.

We start with Jeff Furman and his second edition of the book "The Project Management Answer Book" (second edition) which is a great resource for anyone getting into project management as well as considering about getting the certification. 

You can read his interview with me when the first edition was out by clicking here.

Please tell us about your book which is a great resource for the upcoming project managers.     
PMP Certification –Getting certified is very important for anyone who wants a career
in project management.  And my book is packed with PMP tips in every chapter, based on my having taught more than 100 PMP Prep classes over the past eight years, as well as teaching many other Basic and Advanced PM classes. So many of these tips are NOT in other books. And I share these throughout my book in very easy-to-find “sidebars.”

Easy-to-Read Q&A Format - My book is the only current PMP book in Q&A format, making it easy-to-read and navigate through. But it’s also highly-detailed – I provide very thorough explanations on difficult topics such as Earned Value and Critical Path, but broken up into short, “bite-size” Q&As. For this reason, many PMs from around the world have “Liked” my book’s Facebook Fan Page – (“Likes” currently from 25 different countries!)

NOT Just PMP! – Most PMP books are mainly “for the test.” My book has a very strong PMP test focus, but also contains a great many templates, figures, diagrams, examples, and case-studies to help PMs with practical, hands-on advice for managing projects efficiently and effectively.

NOT Just Waterfall (Hello, Scrum Agile!)  For the 2nd Edition, I’ve added a robust new chapter on Scrum Agile. Waterfall PM has been the industry standard for many years. But Agile is catching on rapidly, with Scrum by far the most popular type. My book provides 54 new Q&As on Scrum (also making comparisons to Waterfall where helpful). My chapter also provides info on Agile certifications, networking groups and resources for Agilists, and more.

 And where can we find it?
 My 2nd Edition just came out in November, 2014.  It's available in paperbacks and in several
e-formats:  

  • Paperback: Amazon.com
  • Paperback from the publisher: Management Concepts Press
  • eBook: from the publisher: Management Concepts Press
  • Paperback: at the NYU Bookstore in Manhattan     

Also coming soon in:

  • Kindle: Amazon.com
  • Google Books

Why do you think this is a must have for new project managers? 
New PMs, as well as job candidates, have a need to quickly be able to show potential customers, stakeholders, and employers that they understand the latest techniques and terminology. My book takes  hundreds of technical terms from the PMI PMBOK Guide and other sources and provides very easy-to-follow explanations, examples, and templates to help PMs very quickly get up-to-speed.

My book also provides a great deal of help toward the certification process. In addition to many PMP test tips, I provide unique content such as a template on how to complete the PMP exam application, a list of “language aids” supported by PMI (Turkish just added!), tips on creating the PMP exam brain dump, and a study sheet / practice grid I created for my PMP students on how to learn the ITTOs (Inputs, Tools, Techniques, and Outputs) PMs need to know for their exams.

 What are the 3 main takeaways from the book?
Top 10 Pitfall Lists – My book offers “Top 10 Pitfalls” on the PMI Knowledge Areas, based on my many years experience managing I.T. projects, as well as many shared by my students in my PM classes.  Looking at pitfalls to watch out (a.k.a. “other people’s mistakes”) is a fun way to learn the PMBOK.

The Triple Constraint –  Many PMs have heard about the classic “Triple Constraint.”
But many don’t know that there are actually several useful variations out in the world of PM. My book provides:

My book provides diagrams of three popular models plus three advanced models:
  • The Talent Management Triple Constraint 
  • The Value Triple Constraint 
  • The Triple Constraint For Ethics. 

Mini Waterfall –  Scrum Agile is an important new area of PM to learn, in addition to Waterfall PM (which is the discipline tested for on the PMP). Good news is that if you have already studied Waterfall, there are some key concepts common to both, so much so that some actually call Scrum “mini-waterfall.”

So my Chapter 14, “Scrum Agile: The New Wave In PM” is designed to help you quickly learn many of the key concepts of Scrum. And to make it fun, my chapter answers questions for you such as: “What are misconceptions Waterfall people have about Agile?” and the other way around:“What are misconceptions agilists have about Waterfall?”


One piece of advice that you think is an absolute must for new project managers?
One word: Ethics!
Don’t let the customer (or your management) push you into an unethical decision. There is always the pressure: “The customer is always right,” and to do whatever they ask. But if you say yes to something you shouldn’t, such as cutting corners, or skipping an important test, your project’s quality will suffer. And if your reputation becomes compromised, it will be very difficult to get it back.

My Chapter 10: Ethical Considerations PMs Face On The Job takes you through the PMI Code of Ethics®, as well as PMI’s EDMF® (Ethical Decision-Making Framework), and provides Q&As on many real-world issues around ethics that can help you set a leadership example on your projects.


To know more about the book, you can see the reviews and read another great interview by Elizabeth Harrin  

The series continues in 2015.

(Pic courtesy: MWild Photography)

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with friends and family and doing good for others.

While its never going to be a white Christmas for me in India, am just glad being around family and friends I truly care for.


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.

SIPM

The SIPM community platform is still running and if you notice, it doesn't have ads running all over and run on its own merits.

It's meant to be a platform that helps connect newbies in project management with the experts. As far as I know it's one of  a kind. It's FREE. Word spreads just by word of mouth and if you like it, let your friend know.

Recently there's been too many of fake sign ups and  I think it's wrong on the part of those who are doing it. Please understand the site was build as a way to give back to the project management community and allows and encourage interesting discussions, finding mentors and a way to find your next job or internship. So, if you have nothing to learn or offer, please don't malign the interest of the site and this community.

The Challenges of International Projects

This is a guest post by Elizabeth Harrin.

The world of business is continually shrinking: we work in an environment with real-time audio visual communication with colleagues on the other side of the world and online translation tools. Even small companies can operate internationally with outsourcing agreements and partners overseas, which means that project managers in organisations of any size face the challenges of managing international projects.
And that means far more than just calculating that when it’s 9am in ‘my’ London it’s 4am in London, Ohio. International projects come with two main challenges: the people you are working with won’t necessarily work in the same way as you, and the people you are working for won’t necessarily want the same things.
Having an open mind about these challenges is the first step in being able to address them on an international project team. You need a pragmatic approach, especially as national culture plays a big part in how we act, and we can’t change who we are – we can just learn how to make those differences work for everyone concerned.
This can be difficult for project managers to get their heads around. Once you are in the position of managing an international project, you may well be one of the more senior project managers in your team. You have gained that position through hard work and successful project delivery. You expect your project team members to behave in certain ways and people from different cultures won’t always behave the way you expect. As you can imagine, that causes problems and conflict on projects.

Making international working easier

Project managers taking on international projects face a variety of practical challenges. For example, time zones are important. How will you conduct real-time team meetings? Who is going to be the person who gets up in the middle of the night for a call with the Brazilian development team to go through the testing results? In the absence of incentives for the project team, the project manager will find it difficult to recruit volunteers.
Protecting the interests of the UK-based team also falls to the project manager. A project sponsor who doesn’t appreciate that you have just spent half the night on a web conference with the manufacturing supplier in New Zealand won’t look favourably on your request to send everyone home at 3pm. Project managers with international components to their teams not only have to educate team members in how to work well together, but also have to manage upwards and ensure that senior stakeholders understand the constraints of this type of project. In reality, international projects take longer and involve higher travel costs than projects where the entire team is co-located – and that isn’t always a welcome message to the executives.
Practical suggestions aside, the easiest way I have found to work with international teams is to build cultural understanding. As I found when living and working in France, you can be linguistically literate without being culturally literate. At a pub quiz I couldn’t answer the questions about children’s TV programmes or what was found under the streets of Paris (I think, if I remember rightly, that it was the river). But the pub quiz was in an Irish bar, and there weren’t many of them around so that was a change of environment for many of my Parisian colleagues.
Cultural understanding relies on the emotional intelligence of the project manager, his or her leadership skills, adaptability and ability to inform and train the teams.

Using software to help international communication

Aside from cultural understanding, your next challenge is communication. Successful communication relies on the soft skills that a project manager brings to the table. These are the ability to listen, hear the unspoken concerns and messages, and respond clearly in a way that the other person can understand.
Being able to put those soft communication skills into practice is something that can be helped by technology. People need to be able to hear and speak to each other in some format before the project manger’s emotional intelligence can be put to good use. Technology can help with the challenges of international projects, even if we have to accept its limitations with regards to the interpretation of messages communicated using it.
There are lots of technologies available to project managers with virtual teams, whether they are based all over the world or in multiple offices in the same time zone. Instant messaging gives project teams the ability to connect informally when their status is shown as online. This can promote collaborative working as team members can quickly and easily ask questions of their colleagues instead of waiting for a scheduled formal meeting. In general, the more communication the greater the bonds and understanding between team members, so provided this facility is not abused, it can help improve working relationships. In practice, it works best when all users are in similar time zones where the difference is only a few hours.
The next step up from one-to-one messaging is web conferencing, where multiple users join the same online conference. Applications such as WebEx allow you to hold a virtual meeting with the team. Web conferencing means you can make changes to documents in real time or show product demonstrations to the rest of the team without having everyone in the same room – lower travel costs and a reduction in time spent out of the office even if you don’t have the international element to contend with.
Instant messaging and web conferencing allow synchronous communication, but asynchronous communication is also useful for project managers with international teams. You could opt for something as simple as a shared calendar, where team meetings and project milestones are recorded for everyone to see. When you connect from a PC configured to a different time zone, Outlook will automatically show the meeting at the correct time where you are. However, I have been caught out by the same feature in Google’s calendar, which didn’t seem to adjust for daylight savings time for some reason – and I missed my conference call.
Whatever software you choose to use to manage your project, you will quickly realise its limitations. A good project manager knows when to use the tools, and when to set the tools aside and lead with understanding and instinct.
Spending some time with your team members overseas is the best way to understand how they work, but desk research before you go (or if budget constraints mean you can’t go) will be beneficial. You will find out a great deal about how team members will most likely react in the project environment if you see them react, but that of course relies on you having the time to do that period of ‘getting to know you’.
Even if you don’t have lots of time, be curious in the time you do have. Many people love talking about how their countries work and a short discussion early on in your project can make a big difference. This knowledge provides you with a framework to manage the differences that will occur and also the confidence that you can develop an appropriate way of working together. In a shrinking world, projects are expanding, and the keys to success in international projects are shrewd use of the available technologies and excellent cultural awareness.
 This article has been adapted from material published on A Girl’s Guide To Project Management and is reprinted with permission.
(Pic Courtesy: Google images)


Introducing Project Rio

Introducing Rio, my latest project and clearly the reason I have been offline or a while now.

He has happily taken over in the last 20 days my entire calendar and finding time for myself has been nothing but luxury.

Thank you for being so patient with me for a while now.

Will Power and free resources for wannabe Project Managers

You never know where inspiration comes from
.
I have been doing random stuff to keep myself going and one of it has been watching youtube videos. I recently watched a TED talk by Kelly Mcgonigal and that led to watching more talks by her. This one is my favorite.
It talk about Will power and what we can do to attain it and how smaller interventions actually change the way we think.


I also read up her “how I work” series in LIfehacker  as it seems very natural to see how she does it in real life. I hope this video gives you the will power you need to pick up or face a storm in your own work space or life .

 By the way if you haven’t noticed, there’s a new e-book in town by Geoff Crane where he has gotten 52 project managers from all over the world talk about their initial experience into the work life and profession. Its insightful and a must read for all including seasoned players- there’s something in it for everybody. And am more than honored to be part of his project. 

Guilty as charged

I multitask and can do it well. Really well.

I put hours at work, I blog, I write, meet lovely friends, keep in touch with everybody and barely give anyone the chance to complaint.


The last few months, I have stopped multitasking. Not really deliberately, it just happened. Work was crazy and by the time I was home I didn't feel like doing hundred more things. I wanted time for myself, sometimes doing nothing.

And I felt guilty, especially about not being able to meet friends or writing my blog like I used to do. I wanted to be away from my laptop. I even stopped browsing. I stepped away.

I probably haven been writing but every day I am full of guilt that I haven’t been doing what I should have. I see other bloggers or professionals who are doing well, so inspired, so full of energy and I still don’t feel like writing.

It could be writers block, it could be doing the same thing for so many years now or it can be just wanting some time for myself.

Today, I browsed through some articles and wanted to know if there are more people like me who feel the same. Or am I just losing my fire?  

I read about mothers feeling guilt , about difference in the way men and women approach work  and multitude of other stuff.

Bottom-line, yes we should be responsible in what we do but I just feel sometimes it’s okay to do random stuff out of the daily routine. It’s okay to want some time for yourself to get recharged and then be back or choose not to be. Enough of guilt!

So yes I have been spending some time doing nothing except regular work. And to my all my readers if you have expected articles and seen the same one and no new updates over and over again- I was busy in my balcony looking at the mango tree and sky and birds. I was spending more time with myself than with anything else, definitely not my laptop.  

Have you been through same situations may be in different context?


I am hoping I will be writing very soon, but bear with me if it takes time- blogging is tough.  Meanwhile enjoy your schedule and what you are happy doing and if you are not- take a break minus the guilt.  It will certainly help!

(Pic Courtesy: Soma)

Scrum Team has stabilized- what next?

Most transformations start with the basic idea of either getting teams to start working in Agile or streamlining their existence process.

At a certain point, teams stabilize, velocity improves, quality soars and things look up.

Is the goal to repeat the same cycle day after day or is there more to work through once the team stabilizes? I have always though that the trying to get teams working in Agile is more like a bicycle- if you stop pedaling, it stops.

Here are 5 things to consider as next steps to keep the team going:
  • Baseline velocity- Always know your baseline velocity, when you started and ways you can work on it.
  • Focus factor- when the team stabilizes, it’s a good idea to know if the team has the right focus. Its velocity/work capacity. For more info read Jeff Sutherlands article here .  
  • Failure trends and patterns- The commitment made by the team always doesn't match the outcome. Looking into why stories fail and trying to identify a pattern might lead the team to understand the underlying problem. It could be user stories that require infrastructure, it can be kind of stories that haven’t been worked on, it can be a story requiring a new technology.  Once you have identified the pattern, it becomes quite easy to find a resolution.
  • Estimations- If in every sprint more than 20 percent of stories remain not done, along with other factors you might want to have a look at the way estimation is being done by the team. Some teams commit more by underestimating stories in trying to please the management and keeping to the team’s velocity. Of course by the end of the sprint teams fail to deliver. There are more managers and Product Owners who always push the team to commit more, so they have enough work on hand ever sprint fearing lesser work meaning team members might be free most of the time. Bottom-line, under estimating doesn’t help as much as over estimating doesn't.
  • Linking and tracking the layers- Stop looking only at team levels and start looking at the bigger picture, look into the your program and portfolio management and how it  is coming down to the team. Look into the quality of the user stories and how everything is affecting the team.
(Pic Courtesy: Google Images)

To learn about how to get into project management read my book Stepping into Project Management (Welcome to the #PMOT World). To connect with experienced Project Manager's from all over the world, get mentored or shadow for a day see the SIPM Community.

Interview with Siddharta Govindaraj

Today we interview Siddhartha Govindraj, who specializes in Lean/Agile processes for software development. He has also contributed in the book "Beyond Agile: Tales of Continuous Improvement" published by Modus Cooperandi Press, Feb 2013 and Published in the March 2011 issue of the Cutter IT Journal on "Use of Kanban in Distributed Offshore Environments". An occasional organizer of events as a part of Chennai Agile User Group and speaks in conferences in India and abroad.

He was nominated for the Brickell Key award in 2011, an award given by the Lean Software & Systems Consortium for recognizing achievements in the lean-agile industry and is also a Fellow of the Lean Systems Society.

He is very interested in the behavior of decentralized and distributed systems.

Agile becoming mainstream now, how do you think the world of project management has changed?

In one way, yes….. definitely more and more organizations are seeing the value of agile in terms of incremental development and faster time to market. However, there are a few aspects where agile is still to make a significant mark. First, the people aspect of agile has still not fully permeated into the culture of many organizations. The idea that motivated, self-organized teams can deliver better software is not yet in the mainstream. I also think that many companies need to invest in the technical environment. The third aspect that companies often neglect is looking at delivery as an end to end system in the organization. Agile is often applied at the team level, and systemic impediments are not fixed. So there is still a long way to go. 

While older companies have a tough time with transformation, the good news is that newer companies like Facebook have been agile right from the start. Over the next decade, success of these newer companies will establish the culture for the whole industry.

As someone who creates tools for Agile and Lean project environments, please tell us what according to you is the most important: the tool or the expertise of the project manager?

Of course the expertise of the people in the project is the primary criteria for success. Where tools will help is in aiding decision making so that people (both within the team, and management) have better insights to take better decisions. 

This questions also leads to an interesting difference between agile project management tools and traditional project management tools. In agile, a lot of decisions are taken by the self-organized teams. Hence the tools need to be able to support the needs of the team. If the team decides that the tool is an overhead or is not adding value to them, then it becomes worthless. By contrast, the primary need of traditional tools is targeted towards managers, who are the decision makers to micromanage the team. 

A big problem is when an agile tool is used in a traditional way – i.e. the team does not feel the value, but is forced to use it so that the managers can micromanage them. My personal opinion is that tools that encourage this behavior rarely lead to truly agile culture. 

Tell us why you decided to create your software and did you use agile way of managing it while n development?

The previous answer has some insight into why we launched our tool. We saw that many organizations implemented tools which support agile mechanics, but not the agile mindset. Such tools get deployed, teams hate to use them but are forced to do so because the management doesn't trust the team and wants to control exactly what is going on in the team. Well, guess what? The team only updates the tool rarely and the data is unreliable so it helps nobody. This does not help build an agile culture. 

What we wanted to do was to build a tool that a team will find easy to use and useful for their own self organization. Basically, we took traditional, proven methods that teams use in a physical space -- card walls, task boards, story maps and so on, and made them available in an electronic format. This gives the benefit of electronic tools, while still being in a format that teams find useful for themselves. 

What according to you are the 3 qualities that every Agile Project Manager should have?

First, curiosity to keep learning. Secondly, soft skills to connect with people (within the team and outside) and build relationships. Finally, the ability to influence people and drive change and improvement. 

I haven't said anything about knowledge of agile. This is easy to learn, and anyone can learn what a product backlog is and how a particular process works. But the qualities above are difficult to train, and very crucial for agile success.

If someone new, stepping into Agile Project Management asked you about the 3 books to read, what would you recommend?
My favourite three books are:

1. Agile Software Development -- Alistair Cockburn (Quick note: This book isn’t about agile, but methodologies in general. It’s a great background about how and why agile works, but perhaps not what you are looking for if you want to know specific mechanics like how to story point a story)
2. The principles of product development flow -- Donald Reinertsen 
3. Kanban -- David Anderson

Where can someone find the link to your software and your books?
I've also been a contributor to this book - http://amzn.to/beyond_agile


Thank you very much for your time.

Does Agile mean NO Managers?

In trying to move in the right direction Agile-wise too soon, there are organizations who will consider removing managers or team leads completely from the equation.

However, removing the title doesn't mean, the role or the job has been removed and these management positions are simply disguised via different names. There are scrum masters sometimes who are actually functional managers for the team.


I think the reason these roles overlap is because sometimes organizations don’t realizes the role of a scum master.

A scrum master is the facilitator for the team and does not make decisions for the team. I think this is the trickiest factor that no management realizes. Scrum master isn’t the decision maker or someone who will appoint stories or tasks to the team. So a manager cannot disguise himself into this role.

So, one way to resolve this problem is to never merge both of these roles. Scrum master and the functional manager shouldn't be the same person. Even by overlapping roles for one team, you send out the wrong message to the other teams.  

The managers can happily co-exist with the agile teams and they can be great blocker resolvers. They should be the one helping teams deliver more by removing all impediments, looking into the patterns and trend of all teams and see what can be done to minimize the recurring causes of the issues.  


If management interferes and spoon feeds teams in every chance they get, teams never come close enough to becoming self-organizing teams and making their own decisions. Management can choose to either make teams adopt Agile better or make decisions that messes it u for the organization. 

(pic courtesy: google images)

Interview with Laura Dallas Burford

I hope all of you are having an amazing year 2014, today we interview Laura Dallas Burford; who is a vision mover with domestic and international experience who focuses on partnering with management by aligning strategy and projects. She has experience with big four consulting organizations; was a managing director at a start-up international technology consulting organization; and currently is the owner of LAD Enterprises, a management consulting company. Over her career, she has worked for or provided consulting advice to several Top 100 corporations and led numerous large multi-million dollar information technology and business improvement programs, outsourcing efforts, start-up initiatives, and project turnarounds. Currently, she provides project related services and training to assist organizations in realizing their goals and is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP®

Please tell us how you became a project manager?

I became a project manager early in my career. I was in a management-training program at top US Corporation and working as a programmer/analyst when a project manager resigned. Because of my experience, Management felt I could do the job and assigned me the role of project manager for a cost accounting system. It was great experience but in the early 1980's, project management was not a specialized field of study. Outside of information for engineers on managing projects, there was with limited information for business or technical project managers so much of my project management training was on the job.

What has been the most challenging for you as a project manager? 

This is a tough question because every project has its own challenges. Two common project management issues that I continually struggle with are estimating the level of effort and duration when working with a team of all part-time team members, a topic discussed in the book, and working with first time project team members with limited or no project management knowledge, which is one of the reasons for the book.

However, as a project leader, I have found the most challenging aspect of project management is the building a productive and high quality team. Every project manager has been trained to build a team with the right skills and knowledge. Every project manager strives to have a team that works towards a common goal. However, building the right team is more than assigning people with the right skills and knowledge because the best teams are those where all team members feel that they are making a meaningful contribution and are satisfied with the job. To create such a team takes time and requires communication, collaboration, and compromise with a project sponsor, potential team members, functional managers, and even corporate human resources. Not assigning a person to the team, even if they have the right skills and knowledge, can be the best and right option for both the person and project.

What was the most challenging project you even managed and why?

My most challenging project was writing and getting Project Management for Flat Organizations published because I moved from the role of project manager, managing my writing efforts, to becoming a client of the publisher with client expectations. I was looking at the production effort as a project, a unique event with a specific start and end date while the publisher considered the effort an operational activity. As the book progressed through the production process, different people became involved and the understanding of expectations changed highlighting the importance of communicating.


Your recent book "Project Management for Flat Organizations" is one of ten winners of the 2013 Small Business Book Awards. Why did you decide to write the book?

The idea to write this book developed over time and is based on experiences with client projects and project management courses I teach. The attendees in the courses vary but tend to be new project managers with little or no formal training in project management, project team members, business leaders, functional managers, and project sponsors—all of whom are looking for something to assist them with their job so that they can successfully define, plan, and work a project.

Among all the available project management books, why do you think this is the one that will help newbies understand what they need to know about project management?

My book provides a simple, no-nonsense, cost-effective approach to project management. It explains the fundamentals of project management and then walks the reader through the entire project life cycle from management concept to completing the project. The book focuses on three critical activities: the first key activity is the defining of the project outcome and the recording of that definition in a scope statement (or project definition); the second activity is to plan what needs to be done and create a project plan documenting what needs to occur to accomplish the outcome; and the third activity is to “work the plan,” successfully delivering the outcome with the aid of a status report.

The book does not focus on nor was it written for people focused on sitting for a certification examination; rather it is a basic book that a person new to project management can understand and use as a reference tool when managing any type of project.

It appears that the 7 sections and 22 chapters cover everything that a person working on a project needs to know about project management.  Was this your goal? 

Use of the work “everything” suggests comprehensive coverage of project management. This was not my goal though I intended to provide a comprehensive introduction to project management for novice readers. The book builds on three critical activities—defining the project; planning the project; and working the plan—and is divided into 7 sections with 22 chapters. Each chapter is short and easy to read enabling the reader to focus on the chapters that are important to him or her without reading the entire work.

The beginning of each section provides an overview of information to be covered, a brief explanation as to the importance of the section, and a description of each chapter within the section. Each chapter starts with a list of the subjects covered, and ends with a review of key points and step-by-step instructions. The theory of the subjects is introduced and then, using examples, visual aids, tools, and techniques, the chapter walks the reader through applying the theory. Included in the chapters are short stories, scenarios, suggestions, reference tables, questions to consider, and guidelines intended to illuminate the subject, issues, or skills.

Where can your book be found, if someone wants to purchase.

The book is available from J. Ross Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and any Indie Book Store. Reviews of the book can be found on Amazon’s site .

A downloadable copy of Chapter 7: Define the Project Scope and three free downloads, known as WAV files, associated with the book:
•Project Management Word Templates (templates that are referenced throughout the book)
•Selecting a Project Management Software Application—A Whitepaper
•Ten Steps to Create a Project Management Methodology—A Whitepaper
are available at J. Ross Publishing Sign-in is required for the WAV files.

Additionally, the book is available as an e-book (i-bookstore)

Thank you Laura.