The Art of Scheduling: What it can mean for you

Schedules have always been part of our life, since the day we started school. 

And over the years things have only become more serious. If school wasn’t enough, we took up dance lessons and basketball practice sessions over weekends and felt occupied and busy and we were all okay with it because thats how everyone’s schedule look liked. Full….gasping for air. 


In college we just kept on adding more- more hours dedicated to studies, projects, internships and then job…. and now you are just rushing from one meeting to another, meeting friends over weekend, trying to slip in a yoga class and spend evenings at the gym and things never stop. Your phone is constantly beeping with notifications.

So, schedules or rather management of schedules have always been an integral part of our life. 

Schedules primarily do 3 things:
  1. Ensures we remember to do things- define objectives
  2. Help us move things around based on the prioritization- scheduling software of some form
  3. We end up actually doing it- if its on calendar it must be important.

If the only calendar you manage is yours, you can use your phone calendar for reminders, google calendar for your online scheduling, sticky notes and a whiteboard for tracking your own projects. Depending on what works for you, scheduling shouldn’t be complicated. 



So, there are benefits ofcourse around scheduling  even if you are simply doing it for yourself:

1. Cal Newport, MIT grad and professor at Georgetown University is one of the leading supporters of something called the  “fixed schedule discipline”. Cal showcases how he manages to only work from 9-5 (plus a little on Sunday morning) to manage all (don't underestimate what all means here, till you have read the article) of the things he has on his plate. If you are want to read more, click here . So, obviously you can do insane amount of work without showing off your busy-ness with a well managed schedule. 

2. Scheduling teaches you to prioritise. So to make the most out of the mornings of  ultra-successful people , most of them automate as much and cut out as many non-essential decisions as possible. That way, their mental muscles and willpower are reserved for making wise choices that matter.“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”   – Obama  Read more about link of decision making and handling your schedules here . 


3. Redefining your habits will happen automatically. When you work on a schedule or are working around the schedule of many, you might have to relook at your own habits. Because Cal (from point 1) didn’t work after 5pm he had to make sure he was productive during the time he worked. He couldn’t have spent his time on social media and still end his work day at 5pm. In an attempt to redefine your habits; you are defining yourself and your purpose. Once you know your purpose , its easy to work around it or pick your priorities. 

4. Discipline/structure always helps, well at least in most cases. The power of habit is powerful enough to change your life in a good way. When you have created the structure around your work, you will be disciplined enough to know when to say No or when you take a up a project, speaking assignment or new client. 


A schedule only works when you have  a pre defined timeline (like Monday to Friday 10am-6pm) and you structure or schedule your day accordingly. Any software can help you work with schedules at any scale, however, the work can be only be done by you. 

(Pics Courtesy: Burst)




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Happy Weekend

Aug 25, 2018 | 0 comments |
I hope you all are having a lovely weekend! don't forget in the mad rush of life to stop, be still and always be kind.



(Pic courtesy: Pinterest)

Staying Positive: Youtube Channels and Blogs I read every week (Pt 1)

Hello there, I hope you had a good weekend.

don't know much about your weekend routine, for me weekends are the time I usually destress by detaching….this is also the time I use to learn and grow and browse and tinker.

This year is in a lot of ways life changing for me because staying positive consistently is the greatest gift I am trying to give myself. And I get my fair share of help from the books, blogs, podcasts and Youtbe channels I watch. 

So, thats what I thought I will share with you today. This is part 1 of the post. 

YouTube- This is my guilty pleasure. I pretty much have more than 50 channels subscribed to and watch them every night and mornings as I get ready to take on life. Depending on my day and mood, I will choose what I watch. There are of course some favs that I don’t miss and thats what I am sharing with you today. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Lavendaire - Eileen’s channel is all about being your best version and ways you can achieve it.
She also brings in her personal stories and has a wonderful dreamy aesthetic that makes it a wonderful experience to watch. I also love listening to her podcast. For her website click here

Kalyn Nicholson- A lifestyle blogger, Kalyn talks about her travels, lessons learnt along the way and general fun stuff  and how she keeps her self motivated and positive. Also a podcaster, she brings in positive vibes and a fun lively way to impart wisdom. Click for website here  

Pickup Limes  - Sadia a registered dietician whose channel is about minimalism, food, health and simplicity and being positive amidst it all. She recently had 
million subscribers and moved to a studio space and her journey has been amazing to watch and so is her lifestyle. For her website and health tips click here   


  1. Marie Forleo - If you need a pick me up anytime of the day, suffer from self doubt and have dreams hidden from the world- this is the channel to watch. She brings in some wonderful guests, powerful in their thoughts and wisdom that you will want to save the episodes  bookmark them and listen to them a thousand times till its instilled in you like a second brain. She defies situations and circumstances and talks about how she grew her business and how others can do as well.
Lewis Howes - His channel is all about interviews with personalities you know and don’t, however in every single interview the discussion is simple, to the point and something you can always take notes on and implement later. I have gone through a lot many of his interviews and is obviously subscribed to his channel. These interviews need attention and are best heard when you have sometime to sit down or when you commute, the meanings are lost if you are listening while multitasking- its not your background music score that you want to leave unattended. If you are looking for some more info, please click here 

Rachel Talbot- A lifestyle blogger, she is all about DIY, positivity and managing her life with family, kids, a
business she recently launched, a singer (look up itunes), her simple recipes and tending a new house. She oozes calm and happiness and positivity and her channel is my mood fixer anytime of the day. If you are trying to find content and meaning in simplicity, she is the one to watch out for. Website link is here.

Claire Marshall- I would lie is if I didn’t mention her, I watch her often. She is a beauty blogger, however she is not just an expert about beauty and lifestyle, she dabbles in wellness and talks about her own struggles to find meaning in life. I particularly enjoy her creativity and editing style, watching her independent spirit and wonderful positivity through the episodes of life. For website, click here 

Rachel Aust - an Australian who is a fitness freak, a minimalist and her unique style of filming will keep you occupied. She talks about fitness, her wellness
journey and diets like keto. I watch her channel primarily for her styling and the amount of work she happily puts in the range of multiple things she does successfully. Find her website here 

So, thats it for today, let me know how you recharge and what you like to do on your weekends.

Part 2 of the post will be about my fav blogs, so watch this space. 

(Pic courtesy: taken from the blog of the featured Youtubers)



Happy Weekend

Aug 19, 2018 | 0 comments |


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Change Management & Scrum: Gamification Perspective

Aug 16, 2018 | | 0 comments |
This is a guest post by Madhavi Ledalla.
Introduction to Gamification
I have been studying about Gamification for a while and after having been part of several change initiatives, I started appreciating how the game design concepts can be used for change initiation and management. Gamification involves using game design elements in non-game design contexts. Gamification plays a very key role in increasing the employee engagement. The gaming elements and concepts behind the game design framework used to inspire people to get to the next level of the game play can be applied to non-gaming context as well to engage and motivate teams to reach to the next levels as deemed by the organizations.
There are many games in the industry which use simple game mechanics that include extrinsic rewards like badges, points etc. However the versatility of a gamified system depends on how the intrinsic motivators are exploited by providing real-time feedback to the players to reinforce the desired behavior. The key success of a gamified system is based on how effectively the gaming elements are used for engaging, rather than a means of showcasing extrinsic rewards. The desired outcome of a gamified system directly correlates to the motivation of the players involved. The idea of gamification and the universality of its application bring in a completely different dimension of thinking!
Game Design Framework:
The game design process typically goes through six steps as cited by “Kevin Werbach”, which are detailed below:
g1.png
Now let us try to understand the typical steps involved in Change management and then look at how game design steps can be used as a tool for change management.
Change Journey steps:
Any general change initiative whether it relates to agile transformation or not requires the following activities to be done at a minimum in most of the cases, though there could be exceptions depending on the context and organizations.
  • Identify the need for charge and define the desired state?
  • How will it affect the organization, leadership and teams?
  • Assess the organization readiness for the change?
  • Figure out who will lead the change?
  • How will the change initiative be facilitated?
  • How will the change participants be engaged and motivated?
  • Initiate the change.
  • The communication strategy.
  • Inspect and adapt the change initiative based on the feedback.
Change Management and Gamification
Having said this, I think that the game design process steps can be mapped to a change management process. In fact, the game design process may be used as a change management tool depending on the context, though it may not be applicable always.  Here is how I see them both map to each other as shown below.
G2.png
Having worked with a couple of agile transformation initiatives, I think the game design process steps can be used to initiate agile transformations too as it is all about change management.
Gamification and Scrum
There are several agile frameworks like Scrum Kanban, XP that can be used at the team level during the delivery and execution, depending on the context and the problem domain. I have been using Scrum from few years, and was thinking of doing something different to create more engagement and fun! Since I was reading on gamification, I thought why not I gamify the Scrum framework!  As I started working on it, I was surprised to appreciate that Scrum is already gamified to a larger extent as I describe it below.
G3.png
Scrum can be considered as a collaborative game play framework where team members engage with each other every sprint to deliver business value. Any game should have clear goals and rules- and every sprint has this. The gaming environment must provide constant feedback that helps players change their strategy all along the way and the sprint ceremonies are in fact meant for this! The ceremonies and artifacts in Scrum are nothing but the activity loops. For example, the burndown charts, Task boards- Daily progress indicators, Definition of Done, frequent feedback from Product Owners during the sprint, are typical examples of engagement loops used in a gamified system. Similarly the Sprint reviews, retrospectives, release burndown/burnup charts can be considered as examples of progression loops in a gamified system.
In my opinion, I think the concept of basic gamification is already embedded in the Scrum Framework to an extent. This is my comprehension based on what I read and understood about gamification, while I was figuring out avenues to apply this concept to Scrum teams.  However there is always a scope to add more elements to gamify the existing framework by using customized information radiators to maximize the team’s engagement by providing lots of feedback that will help them look at the current state and inspect and adapt!
My two cents
I would summarize by saying that we can always gamify the existing system to make it engaging by using data analytics, visual radiators, maturity levels and feedback loops. A word of caution is that too much focus on extrinsic motivators like the points, badges, rewards, levels may lead to teams getting pressurized to attain levels and may end up in misusing the gamified system and eventually start playing with the numbers!
Would be glad to hear from readers if any of you tried gamification while working with teams! Looking forward to learn from your experiences!
If you are interested in Agile, you can read more here.

If you would like to submit an article in SIPM, please send your article at Steppingintopm(at)gmail.com with the email titled as "blog article submission".


Happy Weekend

Aug 12, 2018 | 0 comments |
Have a lovely weekend you all!

Being in the shadow once in a while isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as you learn something you want to and from someone amazing!




(Pic courtesy: Soma Bhattacharya)

Interview: Authors of A Guide to Distributed Agile Framework

The book has been recently published in Amazon and if you have heard of Agile, work as part of Agile teams or would like to have  a better understanding how to make it across countries to work as one team- the challenges and the tools that will help you bribe the gap, this book is for you.

Today we are interviewing the authors of the book: John Okoro, Savita Pahuja and Hugo messer. 

1.First of all congratulations on the book, tell us how did three of you meet and decide to come up with the book?

John: We met on-line through shared interests, and at the Agile Singapore 2016 Conference. 

Savita: Hugo was already working on distributed agile blogs, models and mini books. When we met and discussed the topic, we figured out the common interest and experience on this topic. That’s how we decided to write a book.

We always wanted to share with the community our experience as well as experience of other people working in this space that’s why we have many practices shared by people in the community. 

Hugo: A few years back, I ran a podcast around distributed agile. The interviews with Savita and John inspired me and later, in our discussions, the idea of writing a book about it popped up. We initially started with 4 authors, but one was too busy to continue the effort. The initial idea came up as we saw ‘distributed’ was never answered fully within the agile community. Most frameworks touch upon it, but always look at distribution through their framework-lense. We thought it would be interesting to help address the specific challenges that come up when working distributed. We spoke to many people who struggled with it throughout the years. In my own company, Bridge, I have always had challenges with the distribution across Europe, Ukraine and India. With the book, we mean to help provide people solutions to these challenges. 


2.  You talk about the 6 bubbles of a distributed team, why are they so important to you?
 
John:  Many Agile teams struggle when it comes to working across countries or locations.  Having guidance and the experience of other distributed Agile practitioners is an important first step.  The bubbles are a good way to organize these ideas for easy consumption by our readers, and practitioners. 

Savita: These six bubbles are the main areas where teams struggle particularly when they are distributed. If organisations want to overcome the challenges of distribution, they should focus on all these six bubbles which are: 
Culture
Communication
Leadership
Product
Teams and tools
Organization                  

Hugo:The issue with distribution is that people see the ‘problems’ in other areas. For example, they believe they need to become better at ‘agile’ or ‘scrum’. Oftentimes, scrum doesn’t work perfectly because teams forget that culture influences their collaboration. Leaders forget that to grow a distributed organization, they need to organize work in a different way compared to ‘local agile’. We discussed what were the main ‘influencers’ of agile collaboration across the globe and summarized it in these 6 bubbles. We had more earlier, but since less is more, we simplified it to 6.  

3. Throughout the book you focus a lot on culture and the stories around it…what would you recommend the top 3 action items for any teams who work in distributed mode?

John
  1. Meet face to face at least once, there is no underestimating the power of building an in-person relationship. 
  2. Ensure there are truly Agile leadership virtues like servant leadership, empowering teams, and a growth (Agile) mindset in the organization.  With these Agile leadership virtues and the related practices in place the team is off to a good start. 
  3. Have collaboration tools in place like virtual electronic Agile Boards, Wikis, Virtual Pair Programming tools, DevOps tools to provide dependable and fast builds and deployment.  We talk about practices, and other tools that support distributed teams like high quality video conference. 


Hugo
  1. Create ‘one team’. No matter where people are and what company they work for, ensure people see their common ‘product/goal’. Have coaches to foster that ‘one team’ spirit
  2. Make sure people have a ‘rhythm’ in which they meet face to face as often as possible + they use high quality video and audio to communicate throughout their sprint cycles. 
  3. Get leadership support in order to get to the right team structure (onshore roles versus offshore roles). 


4. Tell us what is a team canvas and the benefit of having one?

Savita: Alex Ivanov and Mitya Voloshuk present a model called Team Canvas for team alignment that we find useful to align everyone on goals, roles and skills, values, rules and activities. The Team Canvas is a Business Model Canvas for teamwork. It is a free tool for leaders, facilitators and consultants to organize team alignment meetings and bring members on the same page, resolve conflicts and build productive culture, fast. It becomes more important to align team members on these attributes when they are distributed. It also creates a level of understanding about people on other site that improves collaboration. 

5. The team room with the wall as a focal point is wonderful, tell me how to convince a team what they can expect when they have a team wall?

Savita: Team wall is one way to improve transparency in the team. It is also helpful to align everyone on the common goals and the work they are doing. It keeps on reminding people on the agreed stuff.

Human by nature is visual and many studies have proved that visual information stick in the memory. That’s what team wall gives to the team. 

Hugo: Transparency and visualization are key in Agile. Without the traditional requirement documents, teams get lost. Team walls and other portfolio/product visualizations help teams to see the big picture of a product, the roadmap, the users, the progress, etc. 

6. Do you think through all these discussion and points, the goal is to bring the members of the team to a common understanding and set up an understanding  that leads to better quality work?

John: Our goal is to bring relevant perspectives and experiences, that are distilled into a set of virtues, questions, and practices. These can be used by our readers to continually improve (Kaizen) and help their distributed Agile teams to succeed. 

Hugo:  Yes I believe so; if we don’t have the discussions proposed in our book, people will blindly execute; business as usual. By becoming more aware of the specific challenges inherent in cross-country-work and having clear action plans to address them, teamwork and hence quality will increase. 

7.  Do you think the concept of distributed culture and its working agreement depends on team maturity? How should one overcome it?

John: Every distributed Agile team is different.  We suggest that teams should come up with their own working agreements that are suitable for their own teams.  If a team is very mature it is likely they will very easily agree to and follow their team working agreement.  On the other hand, newer, less mature teams may need more guidance from a ScrumMaster, Agile Coach or facilitator to stay in alignment with their working agreements. 

Hugo: It surely helps to have mature teams. If I am a junior and just join a software development team, I don’t know yet how to be productive, how to communicate well, etc. As I don’t know that yet even for a local context, working in a global team will bring a lot of challenges. If we have a mature team with experience working in agile for a couple of years, they’ll more easily adapt to the global setup. 

Thank you for your time for the interview.

To buy the book click here.

If you are like this interview, you might also like 44 other interviews done right here. If Agile makes you happy, click here. 

Happy Weekend

Aug 4, 2018 | 0 comments |

I hope you get to travel and drive to your dream destination. Have a wonderful weekend.

(Pic courtesy: Soma Bhattacharya)