Why Agile Transformation Fails?

Dec 17, 2013 | 0 comments |
Originally published at Xebia Blog

Organizations move into Agile because it sounds cool, team’s wants to transform and deliver more, have collaborative culture and make work fun. Very few actually look into the changes that will be required to bring in to make the transformation successful.

The first resistance initiates with the need to change. Change means new learnings and probably more of un-learmings.  

Most successful projects need a shift in cultural mindset; everyone wants the change but no one wants to work for it. Even in the best of conditions and work environment, very few organizations can bring in the culture of constant learning and improvement and keep everyone motivated.

To know why transformation is not the most popular thing at ground level:

  • Disrupts the comfort factor- change is never comforting because it requires everyone to work for it. Most senior members and managers are more resistant to change than new members. Why try out new thing when he old one works fine.
  • No zeal and capacity- its proven that just being intelligent isn’t enough for achieving higher things  . The zeal and capacity that are required from every team member to make teams successful is very difficult to inculcate unless they are inherently in the person. 
  • The Dunning Kruger Effect- where individuals think they are better than the rest and hence no need to change. In situations like these where the resistant to change increases, transformation is more and more difficult to bring about. 
  • Not praised for the effort during the process of transformation- 50 milliseconds after a mistake (which aren’t uncommon during new learnings), the first reaction called Error related negativity which is an involuntary reaction shows up. It’s been proven that just by praising the effort of an individual, chances of them choosing tougher task hence more learning is achieved. How the mistake is used by an individual whether for learning or withdrawal makes a  difference.
  • The big bang approach- though some cater to this approach of changing things for once and for all, sometimes it might be difficult for an organization to go through this because of the fear of retention of employees. The sudden change can bring in the fear of transformation as to what lies ahead and why none of them are being considered allies and instead being push to do things. It’s opposite to the much formal ad gradual method that Shu-ha-ri or the Dreyfus model talks about.   

So, the transformation is a complicated phenomenon to achieve and a success deserves every bit of the celebration. 

Fish Philosophy

Dec 2, 2013 | | 1 comments |
Last week  I spoke in Agile Tour Hyderabad, traveled for work and came back home with fever and cold.
2 days later I was happily back at office though still sick. Loving what you do is the best way to keep yourself inspired.

If you are into project management, read 6 things you should know about being one 

I think so much has been said about the fish philosophy already, there’s not really much to say about it. The core belief is perhaps the same: enjoy the work you do and be involved in it because it shows.

It’s much easier to spot people who don’t like what they do than it’s to spot people who don’t enjoy their work. And no matter what you are, unless you enjoy your work, you will find it increasingly difficult to inspire others.

Given below is a short video of the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, spot their energy, love of work and their unique ways to keep onlookers happy and involved.

I am back!

Nov 17, 2013 | 0 comments |
A lot has happened since my last post and I apologize for leaving without much notice and keeping the blog almost empty for months now.

I have reached one of my major goals and it has taken a chunk of the time. Plus work keeps me really busy along with travelling.

I have also started delivering training's and attending and presenting in seminars which takes separate time to prepare and deliver. To be honest its scary because the feedback is so immediate.

Nothing has changed much, other than trying to manage my time better and trying to fit in a lot more things. So, hopefully I will be back writing here from now on.

I hope things have been wonderful with you.

(Pic Courtesy: pinterest)

What does project management mean to me?

A Brief History of Project ManagementProject management for me as with everyone else is all about managing projects.

Obviously how projects are managed and how you want to reach your goal depends on how you look at it.

Project management has always been a journey for me, where I have learned every single day from my work, from my team and from my mentors. It’s been more about people for me than managing work through tools.

When I started working in project management for the first time, I was part of a small service based IT organization in Chicago (US). I soon learned that people management skills were the most useful because it helped me create the connection with my clients and more trust I had from them, I could understand the expectation and always deliver more. I also knew that it also helped me work better with my offshore team, one I knew the local language and second I ensured everyone felt I was one of them. This allowed me to get to know of the real problems and not sugar coated facts when required. In return I could manage my requirement, delivery and clients better.

The way you treat your team always is the way team will treat you. When we worked under tight deadlines, team members took the initiative to stay back and get the work done. Not because they had to because they felt they were part of a bigger picture. Plus working in a small organization also means there is lesser capacity and always more work to be done. Handling situations specially tough ones, teach you a lot more because you are forced to think out of the box.

Agile project management which has gained much popularity talks so much about the transparency, efficiency, collaboration, cultivating team environments and adapting to the need- this is how I have always run my team and projects. And definitely this is the way I have learned from my mentors.

Project management for me is being successful and helping others become successful at what they are doing. It’s about understanding what makes everyone click and create amazing team dynamics where everyone grows and trusts each other.

It’s about taking the stress, so your team feels secure. It’s about creating an environment where there is lesser politics and more appreciation. It’s about supporting your team members no matter what. And it is about accepting the challenge and knowing that it won’t be easy and get up every morning and be happy to take up the role. It is about the stress, the tight schedule, the pressure to deliver, to handle problems, to be responsible, to be accountable for all failures, to work on weekends, to have sleepless nights, to smile and assure even when you are paranoid, to be there when all you want is to go home and still keep the role.

P.S. This post is published as part of a first ever project management related global blogging initiative to publish a post on a common theme at exactly the same time. Seventy four (74!) bloggers from Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UK and the USA have committed to make a blogging contribution and the fruit of their labour is now (literally NOW) available all over the web. The complete list of all participating blogs is found here ...so please go and check them out!

(Pic Courtesy)

PM Flashblog : Sept 25

Sep 22, 2013 | 0 comments |

The time is set to  25/09/2013 @ 01:00GMT and posts will be tagged on social media with #pmFlashBlog. To know more read Shim Marom's post here.

On September 25, 96 PM Bloggers from all over the world will participate in a flashblog.
You can see the teaser here

So, while you enjoy your weekend, I am traveling again tonight and the stress to pack over and over again has considerably reduced.

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.

7 Tips: When travelling for work

Sep 16, 2013 | | 1 comments |

Travelling can be fun unless you are doing it way too much.

I still love it and the challenges it brings with it, over the past few months I have learnt the art of  packing mostly over terrible mistakes.

  • Always pack in your own shampoo- The hotel shampoo might leave your hair so limp that you wished you had your own.
  • Always have an extra pair of clothes in your handbag/backpack- I keep one in my laptop backpack just in case my luggage doesn't arrive. 
  • Travel Light- I carried more than I should initially, now I just pack right most of the time.
  • Keep a list- It helps every time.
  • Be comfortable- I carry one thing with me that will make me comfortable and keep me relaxed: a magazine, iPod, a good book.
  • Try local cuisine- This is my favorite part of travelling, I might not get the time to try out sight seeing always but at least I get to try the food.
  • Learn everyday- There's so much to learn by just observing people or while travelling. We get used to the same set of people so much that a change while travelling gives us a better opportunity to learn when we travel.
So, while I'm leaving for the airport in the next 30 minutes- I hope you get the chance to travel and say yes to it!

How should teams be build?

When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, “It’s in the script.” If he says, “But what’s my motivation?” I say, “Your salary.”
                                                 —Alfred Hitchcock, filmmaker (1899–1980)

Jim Collins talks about getting the right people in the bus in his book “Good to Great”. And we all agree- but how do you decide who are the right people?

Hiring happens based on the core competency, but when you put them as part of the team, how do you know they will work out?

Does team dynamics matter to you or your organization? Do you think it changes the quality of delivery?

The common failings for any team at organization level usually comes down to:
·       Develop empowered people working together to serve the best interests of the organization, and
·       Create an environment in which every employee contributes all of their talents and skills to the success of organizational goals.

To ensure we get individual players be and feel part of the team- is there a way to create teams at the first place differently? Like do you think, if teams are created based on their compatibility or interest, they will perform better OR do you feel any team if mentored and trained in team/organization culture will perform at their highest level?

To think about creating the right team, I think we should first think why teams fail at the first place? Why do teams not perform the way they should be? Is it a bad apple? Is it lack of proper management and setting the expectations? Is it freedom without no boundaries and when things go wrong, blame the team? Here are 20 mistakes that employers make.

Are we aligning people with their interest and what they want to do or do we just not hear what they have to say and push them into any role and any teams?

The hedgehog concept talks about looking into 3 aspects before putting the right people in the right role
By considering:
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What can you best in the world at?
  • What drives your economic engine?
This definitely brings out the best in individuals but how do we ensure the best is brought out at team levels also?  What if you got the right person in the right role and then had a bunch of laggards as team mates. Do you think we have set the right environment for him/her to grow and contribute to the best of ability?

How does your organization formulate teams? What do you fee is the right way to do it? 

(Pic Courtesy: Google Images)

Interview with Ellen Grove

Sep 9, 2013 | | 0 comments |
We are happy to have he opportunity to interview Ellen Grove, who helps teams do better work by coaching them to create the circumstances in which they can work most productively. Her Agile coaching practice with agilepartnership.com is founded in over 15 years’ experience leading software development and implementation teams in global enterprise, a passion for exploratory software testing and user-centered design, and a background in community organization. Ellen presents frequently at Agile conferences, most recently: San Francisco Agile 2012,Agile Day NYC 2012, Agile Tour Montreal & Ottawa 2012, Play4Agile2013 (Germany) and Agile Games 2013 (Boston).  She is the Scaling Agile Adoption theme chair for Agile India 2014. 

How did you begin in agile coaching/consulting?

I got my start as an agile coach while I worked for a large telecom company. My background is as a software tester, though I've done a little bit of everything except coding along the way.  My team had begun as a startup, which had been acquired by the large company but maintained the startup mentality of doing it all ourselves and trying to get things done with a minimum of process.  The company decided that they needed to introduce a standardized process for software development across the entire company; my team looked at the proposed process and realized we'd need to double the size of the team and the length of our release cycles just to handle the process overhead, which was obviously not acceptable.  

We decided that we would need to counter-propose an approach that would demonstrate some discipline in the process yet give us the flexibility we needed to do things very quickly.  Until then, we'd been playing with some Agile ideas informally, but hadn't really made an effort to work intentionally in an Agile way.  

This is when we got serious about Agile.  After arranging for myself, my boss and his boss to attend Scrum training,  I helped to organize and deliver Agile training for all the teams involved on the project: there were three teams involved, spread over 3 countries and a 10-hour time difference, as well as an external vendor who was supplying a vital component.  We were working in 1 week iterations (integrating the work of 4 teams) and learning a lot as we went along. I was playing many roles - leading the testing function, acting as Scrum Master for one team, and serving as an internal Agile coach to the larger project team.  I was also involved with the company's process team establishing an Agile alternative to the big universal process they were trying to introduce. It was crazy, but quite a lot of fun while it lasted.

When that role ended, my next gig was as a project lead on a non-Agile global network transformation project, very complicated and complex and risk.  What I learned from that experience was that I really only wanted to work on Agile projects, since Agile approaches offer some of the simplest ways to manage risk and complexity.

In a small company with less then 200 people following Agile, do you think a project managers role is as important and would be beneficial. Why?

Interestingly, in the large telecom situation there was never much attention paid to project managers, even though we had one on our team all along (even when we were still operating as a startup).  The PM was the person who updated Gantt charts, counted things and went to boring meetings that none of the rest of us were interested in.  It was quite a surprise for me to start consulting in other organizations where the Project Manager was effectively the leader of the project.

I think that many of the functions of project management are critical, but on a smaller team/project the important elements of the function can be built into the team's work and there's often no need for a designated project manager. Where I've seen real value in a PM role is in larger organizations where the PM acts as an interface (and shield!) between the development team and other functions in the company, allowing the Scrum Master (if the team is using Scrum) to focus on supporting the team's day-to-day activities and leaving the team to coordinate its work internally.  It's often very hard for people who are accustomed to a traditional PM role to make that jump and let the team have space for self-organization. 

Tell us a little more about what you do as a LEGO Serious Play facilitator.

I love doing LEGO Serious Play - I wish I could spend all my time running LSP workshops!  LEGO Serious Play is like play therapy for business.  It's a very simple, structured process that enables people to have really important conversations about how they're working as team or to share ideas about the work they're doing in a way that is designed to help them get to the heart of the conversation very quickly.  

How an LSP session works : the facilitator asks a question, the participants build a model to answer the question in a very short period of time, and then each person at the table shares their story about the model with the others. This process is repeated a few times to build up a shared understanding of the subject at hand that incorporates the viewpoints of everyone taking part. A longer workshop may involve fitting the individual models together in an integrated landscape to really create a shared view of what the aims of the group are. 

It's simple, but incredibly powerful.  Because people are using their hands as well as their brains, unexpected ideas emerge.  Time-boxing the builds forces a focus on the most important ideas.  And seeing the ideas take shape on the table results in a different kind of understanding about how the pieces fit together.  I use LSP for everything from team building sessions at the start of a project, to strategic visioning and planning, to retrospectives.  

I've written a bit on my blog about how LEGO Serious Play works.   I tend to overuse the word "magic" to describe the results of LSP, but every single time I run a session I'm blown away by what ends up on the table.  People are often very skeptical before they've used LSP to do work because it seems silly and not serious, but once they've taken part in an LSP session they realize how incredibly powerful it is as a tool for helping people to express what's in their heads and their hearts.

When working with organizations how you do come up with a strategy?

My Agile coaching strategy is fairly simple:  1) Help the organization figure out what they're really trying to accomplish, and then 2) help them find ways to get there.   This sounds easy but usually is not, especially in larger organizations where there is often ambiguity and conflict in what the real goals actually are.  With small teams/companies, there's usually a clear set of desired outcomes driving the team ('Make customers happy so that we make money and stay in business').  With larger organizations, especially in the public sector, it's often much more complicated to understand what the actual goals and desired outcomes are. "Get the project done" is a fairly meaningless goal unless you understand what the real value to be delivered through the project is and who you're delivering to, but large public sector projects often fail to communicate either of those things to the people who are doing the implementation work - the message conveyed to the team is usually "Here's the requirements, just get it done!".  It's very hard to transition to an Agile way of working in those kinds of organizations.

What are the 3 things you would suggest to all Agile project managers? 

Focus on the value being delivered through the work, not the meeting the expectations of the plan. Inexperienced PMs sometimes lose sight of this and confuse "successful delivery of project artifacts" with "a successful project".    It doesn't matter if you deliver on time and on budget if the end result doesn't please the people it's meant for. 

Trust your team to do the right things (and tailor your behavior accordingly). People tend to live up to what's expected of them, and if you want to encourage responsibility and accountability in your colleagues, you need to treat them as responsible, accountable individuals with good intentions and good judgment. Most people want to do great work - and if they don't, taking a command-and-control approach to managing their work won't result in happiness for anyone. If they do want to do great work, a controlling approach is just going to get in their way.

Make it safe for the team to fail. If you don't want the bigger effort to be a failure, you need to help create a culture (at least within the team) where it's OK for people to make mistakes and to ask for help when they need it.  I've seen too many big problems that were caused by smaller problems being ignored or hidden because team members weren't comfortable being open when things went wrong.  I'm a big fan of the "Failure Bow", because it's so much better in the long run to handle failures well instead of blaming-and-shaming so that we can learn from mistakes.

Thank you Ellen.

(Pic Courtesy: Ellen Grove)

The Broken Glass Theory: And What You Can Do About It

The Broken Glass Theory was introduced in 1982 by social scientists in Atlantic Monthly which says if there’s a broken window in a building, chances of breaking more glasses has a higher chance than in a building with no broken glasses. 
So as project managers, the goal is simple- fix things as soon as possible lest the rest of it gets broken too.
When you look from a team perspective, the goal is to ensure if you find something broken or out of order, address it immediately by having a one on one with the team member and seeing how you can help in the process.  The problem with not fixing the problem is that it will become a bigger problem when its gets too complicated to handle it and will create a furor in the team environment.

If you see the from organization culture point of view, not resolving or looking into the issues make it evident to the rest of the team that its okay to engage in these disruptive actions and management accepts it. This definitely send a wrong signal.

Address the trouble maker immediately and send the right message to your team, to ensure the process and work culture stays in place.

However, there is another research which shows that the Broken Glass Theory doesn’t work and the theory works because of dependencies because of some other action that took place.

Whether this reduces the crime rate or not (theory comes from criminal perspective), it definitely makes sense from the team handling. Leave a team with problems and it will only grow bigger and unmanageable.  

(Pic Courtesy: Google Images)

Agile Managers- what should you do?

Aug 19, 2013 | | 2 comments |
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves.”  -Lao Tzu

Simple things create the greatest impact. As Agile Managers, the goal is to ensure your team is groomed, mentored and ready to take up any challenges.

To do so, you also have to lead by example- you should be able to:

  • Inspire
  • Be supportive
  • Be empathetic
  • Be honest
  • Be objective

So, your focus is always to keep the team out of crisis so they can function at their optimum velocity.  Deming in his “14 action point guide” points at how one can get anyone out of the crisis mode. If you look at them, the main things to consider would be:

  • Creating constancy of purpose- it’s important during any time or during any transformation process to let your team know about the purpose and why what is happening. This avoids the most important confusion of team members being insecure, going through a loss of direction and not being comfortable with the change. 
  • Improve constantly- managers role is crucial here in keeping the theme of improvement going always. If you can inspire them in a one of a kind way, it has to be by dispersing the common message that every team member collectively has to improve. You can measure improve in various ways- by seeing team velocity, by seeing quality of the deliverable, seeing the team dynamics or seeing the happiness index of teams. 
  • Drive out fear- encourage people to express freely in your organization and team. Even if the feedback is negative- against the process, against the team or may be against you- it allows you to know the reality. You can only know how to respond to and what strategy to implement if you know the genuine problem. 
  • Remove barriers that that rob people of their pride to workmanship- inspiration for any work when intrinsic is way more productive than when its extrinsic. If you can find out what motivates them, what keeps them going, it’s just way easier to know their intrinsic motivation. I have worked with teams, who at some point got bored with the same kind of user stories in their backlog and wanted a change. In such situations just ask what they would like to work n, or what motivated them, One team wanted to take more risks at their work because they thought otherwise it gets boring; they did risk in one of the sprints against their committed stories and still finished really well.  The team member just find it motivating enough. 
  • Recognition for their efforts for some is very important- just by simply saying  a ”thank you” or recognizing them during daily stand ups is enough to keep them happy and it doesn't take a lot of time or money! This point actually came up in one of my happiness index surveys with a team and since then I have always tried to recognize members for their efforts, no matter how small they are! So, during retrospectives, we make a point that the team thanks other team members by simply writing n sticky notes about them and then we tack it in the cubicle walls. 
  • Put everyone to work- because transformation is everyone’s job; especially if you have adopted agile very recently. No one should feel that their part is for granted or not important. Keeping everyone involved is the most tricky part when going through transformation. And this is something only managers can do. You can work with your Agile consultant/coach on these scenarios, however you have to make the final call.  As a manager you have to let everyone now how they can be involved, contribute actively and help management make decisions.  
(Pic courtesy: Google Images)

Scrum Gathering Pune

Aug 17, 2013 | | 0 comments |

This post comes in a bit late I guess, mostly due to malfunctioning internet of my phone at the seminar and travelling next few days.

The Pune Scrum Gathering was bigger than I had expected, lots of people from all over the world and a location that was at grand as the event! 

The keynote speaker was someone I knew and had read his blog for years. To see Jurgen Appelo in person was nice and it was one of the best presentations in the 2 day event.

Most of my 2 days was spent with my colleagues, sometimes in the seminar, mostly just helping them out in the exhibition stall that was put up- just chatting up people who stopped by and answering different kind of questions.

By the way, I did manage to get an autograph from Jurgen Appelo, last one was from Elizabeth Harrin. I am still old fashioned that way!

The sessions have something for everyone- from real life case studies to new methodology to theories about latest way of using them in industries. So, whichever level you are in; you get to learn. Breakfast and lunch was good, so was the opportunity to network with hundreds of others and learn from them.

I enjoyed most of the sessions I could attend, some more than the others like that of Nancy Sharma.  She brought n the behavioral traits required in an agile team and unlike others she handled questions during the presentation, went back to it with aplomb and brought in amazing insights form the real world on how to encourage the team culture in an organization, how to handle loners and naysayers along with the so called heroes.

While this was my first visit to Pune, I loved the city and will return definitely. I enjoyed meeting up a friend over an Italian dinner after 10 years, meeting his wife for the first time and talking late into the night listening to stories on how they had met. The next day evening was spent with colleagues and client over an extended dinner.

Here are more pictures from the semnar in case you are interested.

Scrum Gathering Pune (India)

Jul 25, 2013 | | 0 comments |
The next 3 days will be pretty fun. I am heading out today for the Scrum Gathering Pune and will post updates, pics and lots of chit chats in the blog.

I am looking forward to listening to some great minds including Jurgen Appelo

So, stay tuned for the latest updates via the blog and twitter (@Soma_b)

I am speaking and you are invited!

Jul 11, 2013 | 0 comments |
July 22.

2pm-3pm (IST) for time zone converter click here

Agile for Managers.



All information  and registration available here  

Accidental Project Manager

It’s July and I am back!

Yesterday one of my friends came over to talk about project management. He has been working as a developer for a while now and suddenly is the project manager overlooking a co located team of 36.

Obviously, he is nervous. Doesn't know where to begin. And wants to know what project management is and if he can actually pull off being one.

So, here are 5 tips for you if you are in similar situation like him.

  • Analyse the situation- If you have been pushed to the role and you are not ready for it, give it a try. There’s no harm in trying it out. If you are very confident, that is isn’t the career path you want to take- be clear about it. Like my friend wants to be an architect, but is ok to give this opportunity a try. To look for inspiration hear what other project managers are saying.
  • Prepare- The sudden push can get you into a panic attack, however, getting in touch with someone who has been doing this for a while is the best solution you can have. Plus have a mentor to guide you through the process. 
  • Read up- Certifications might be important if your organization wants you to have one, however before you even go into it, research the what’s available in the market and the finalize it. Don’t rush into certifications. Instead look into blogs and websites which provide you with a plethora of options to learn up easily from.
  • Learn about expectations- Find out why you have been chosen to take up the role, find what your team expects from you along with the primary stakeholders. Your knowledge of the expectations and role might give you a clue to better direction. 
  • Take a risk- Don’t be afraid to give it a shot. Turns out, it will also make you happier  
Get some free goodies from here, if you already haven’t .

To know more about 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.

Summer Break

Jun 16, 2013 | 0 comments |
The last few months have been busy- with a new job, new responsibility and lots of planning and hours involved.

In the end it has been very fulfilling, fun and peppered with challenges. So, when my friend commented that I have become more like a robot working insane hours, I did take offense to it.
Sometimes in the process of trying to be what you want to be and the work in your hand, we probably over work and forget the bigger picture.

Has this been our story too? How do you handle the work pressure? I think this is one topic that barely gets covered- the reality of it all.

So, in trying to get in touch with my human side again, I am taking the next 15 days off and will be back in July.

Till then enjoy your work and life!

5 steps to be amazing at your job

Some people just are better than others and you know it!

Here are 5 ways to be amazing at whatever you do and show it too:Try to be content- Your first job might be to pay the bills, down the line find ways to look into what really makes you happy at work.

  •  Try to be content- Your first job might be to pay the bills, down the line find ways to look into what really makes you happy at work. Move into domains that you think are a better fit and then work on it. Content will come from your happiness at work . Turns out 41% of people think “the people” are most important factor as part of their happiness in job
  • Take genuine interest- You empower yourself by taking genuine interest in your work. Don’t restrict yourself only to your current role; look around how you can help the team, organization and take up the initiative. In the process you will learn, start thinking out of the box and be recognized for your interest.  And the morning routine sometimes helps too
  • Be good at what you do- To feel amazing, take the right steps when coming to work everyday. Come prepared, do your homework, get the facts right and be unbiased.  Try out some of these productivity secrets
  • Be social- Keeping your head down and getting the work done isn't always wise. By being social and building a good rapport with your team members and stakeholders, you make yourself visible and easy to work with. Here are 10 tips to be happy at work.  
  • Good communication- being clear about communicating the right things at the right time helps. A good communicator isn't just about being vocal, it is also abut developing your communication skills to the extent that you can customize it for different individuals. Every person has their preferred mode of communication and what convinces them (some stakeholders like data, some prefer bringing up similar case studies, some like formal presentations and report), use your knowledge about  a person to customize it for your communication plan.

Be inspired everyday and be happy. A happy project manager, makes  a happy team!

(Pic courtesy: Google images)

To learn about 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.

Office politics: whats your position?

Office politics is a relative term.

The one receiving the benefits always believes that politics never happened; he/she got the justice. The one on the other end has a different story to tell.

So, which side of office politics are you in? Or should you be part of it at all?

  • Is politics evil? - As a professional, you have 4 types of needs and more then often you will need alliances to build up your case, move to the next project, get sponsored and mostly get things done. Politics generally has a negative connotation unless you have used it to your benefit. Most professionals who are successful at what they do, are stakeholders or simply leaders have worked their way up, made themselves visible- is not only by the sheer power of their work, it’s also by getting a lot of help and support. And that takes time to build.  So, what is politics really?
  • Whom should you trust?- Are you allowed to have a real friend in office? How much information and personal life should you share? You know social networks use your information, so does  HR. Plus most of the information you share with your work friends might be shared with their office friends or simply used when the friendship goes sour. So, the best idea would be to be careful and not share anything that can be used against you to get leverage. 
  • You are at the receiving end of the smear campaign- All it takes is a small event to trigger off smear campaigns. So make sure, who you comment about and what you say. Plus as long as you are in office premises, don’t let your guard down even if it’s office parties. 
  • Power struggle- Politics is simply being part of power struggle and office politics is inevitable. No matter how much we try to stop it, it never will be. 
  • Positioning yourself- The ultimate goal whether you want to be part of office politics or not is to position yourself visibly. You want to keep an ethical and honest impression at your work place. Keep an eye on everyone and keep yourself safe from being portrayed negatively for others benefit. To reap the benefits, look into the organizational structure and people who are influential and have a positive impression and associate with them. Beware of being around people who are known to have negative impacts; it takes very little to turn tables against you. 

Interview with Agile Coach Derek Huether

Derek Huether is a Agile coach and over the last 25 years has held titles like U.S. Marine, Start-Up Founder, Project Manager, and Federal Government Project Management Office (PMO) Advisor, helping start-ups, private corporations, educational institutions, and government agencies. He has been involved with the PMI-ACP development process since the PMI North American Congress in 2010 and has transitioned to a new role as Co-Lead of the PMI-ACP Support Team. His book "Zombie Project Management" is available on Amazon.

How did you move into Agile Coaching? 
I used to be a traditional project manager, doing my best to deliver software projects following a waterfall process. I could do it but it wasn't easy.  I discovered taking a disciplined iterative approach got more to the customer earlier.  In the end, I was able to have more "successful" projects, leveraging iterative and incremental approaches.  I began evangelizing these methods to my customer.  Over time, I realized I could do more good if I coached more organizations than just a few internal teams.  And so began my coaching career.

When you are working with teams and organizations  and transforming them into an Agile organization, do you see a lot of resistance specially if they are moving from waterfall methodologies? How do you handle those situations?
I've always seen pockets or resistance, regardless of how badly an organization or team say they want to become an "Agile" organization.  If waterfall is working for them, I'm going to ask why they think Agile will work better.  Depending on the culture, they may have limited success trying to leverage Agile.  As the character Morpheus said to Neo in The Matrix: ...I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.   They hire us to show them the way.  I can't force them to change.

What according to you, is the ONE quality that Agile coaches shouldn't have?
Dogmatic beliefs

As a co-lead for the ACP Support Team for PMI; how do you think getting the PMI- ACP certification creates a differentiation for a professional from other available certificates in the market. How important is a certificate?

If you're looking for a new job, unfortunately, certifications are what HR departments are using to find people, rather than actually seeing if they are a good skill and personality fit.  As certifications go, I think the PMI-ACP is well balanced and I like the fact that you need previous Agile experience in order to quality to take the exam.  Some other certifications don't require any previous experience but HR departments either are unaware of this or don't care.  One differentiator of the PMI-ACP is that it certifies you as a Practitioner, not a Master or Professional in the given domain.  

How should a team get ready for a transformation, so they are ready to co-operate with the coach and participate in the change?
They just need to be receptive to change.  They need to have an open mind. They need to be honest with themselves and the coach.

How NOT to be Busy

Are you as busy as you think ?

You have to read the link above to read the rest of this post. Seriously.

When you can’t say “No” to more work or always say “NO” to friends or life- think again. What is your gain? What are you missing?

Being busy is our own ways of feeling important because we have forgotten how to handle spare time- Time where you have nothing on your agenda, no lists, no reminders, no TV.

I have tried it for a while and it feel great. The point is to not have enough in your plate so you are free, the goal is to have enough that you are comfortable with and still not be crazy busy all the time.

Have a life .

If you are into projects and think that isn’t possible think again. Here are few ways to have a life with work:

  • Take a breather when you need it- When you are too overworked and not well rested you can  slow down your brain  . It can just be a lunch away from work and stress, a stroll when the weather’s good, a few minutes laughing with your friend over coffee. You pick your remedy, being on the go 24/7 can only result in a burn out pretty early.
  • Look at balanced personalities- I enjoy getting emails from my mentor’s saying they will be unavailable via phone or emails for few days. It’s nice to know inspite of their wonderful careers they also take breaks. Read how successful people pace their life.
  • Watch this TED video - of Stefan Sagmeister 
  • Exercise to be more productive- Its not me saying because I really want much of a believer till recently. Listen to Richard Branson.  
  • Don’t judge yourself too garishly or not- Enjoy your time and know its ok to be laid back once in a while.  “ According to Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson in a recent article in Psychology Today, "The Trouble    with Bright Girls," women "judge our own abilities not only more harshly, but fundamentally differently, than men do." When young girls perform well, they are often praised in terms of innate abilities — for being "smart" or "clever" — and so they internalize a sense that their abilities are fixed and unchangeable. Boys are often praised for their efforts — for working hard, or for trying again and again — and so they learn that effort, not ability, is what's important. The result is that girls feel confident until they're faced with a setback, whereas boys' confidence persists even in the face of setbacks.”- HBR 

Try living your life without goals, it can be more fun than you think.

Take small steps to enjoy your life and get off your busy addiction. Stop trying to forcefully connect your existence to your job or work. There is more to life than you think, so it’s very important that you look for a role that will keep you happy.

To start with take a work from home or a day off just to enjoy yourself for a day.

(Pic Courtesy: self)

To learn more about 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.

Changing to Agile: How to handle the move

Apr 22, 2013 | | 0 comments |
When you or your organization is trying to implement something new: a process, new rules, new way of working; there will always come with the good and the bad. There will be too much enthusiasm from some, and negativity from others.

However, when you have to get something done, you better be prepared and get it done. If it’s about implementing Agile here are some things that will help you get through the storm:
  • The Non- Believers- change is difficult for most and it’s okay to have a percentage of non-believers. They are the ones:
    • Who will question your every move
    • Have a comment every 10 minutes
    • May be even be vocal to the extent they question how it will help their team or organization
    • Sometimes a bit rude
Having them will always keep you on your toes and it’s a good thing initially, don’t get frustrated by their behavior  the attitudes or even the negative comments. Take it up as a challenge, prove them wrong and they will come around.
  • The Team Members- The team members will size you up, look for your weaknesses,  find a way to make sure you snap and be on your side while they bash you publicly. There are 3 kinds of team members:
    • The receptive ones- some of them will be open to the change and ideas that you bring. They can be the one who are frustrated with the way the team/organization has been working so far. They are also the one who want things to improve, in a way there are the positive influencers and on your side. Always keep them happy and listen to them.
    • The shrug(gers)- they are ones who will shrug their shoulders every time you ask for a suggestion or opinion. They don’t care about their team, they are the ones who focus on themselves and their work and their sentences start with “i”. Watch them closely and find ways to learn more about them. 
    • The blockers- they start every sentence with a negative vibe, they ensure their opinion is always heard, are attention seekers and will try to find ways to block your work and ensure it fails.
  • The Scrum Master- If the organization has been using Agile, scrum masters are already there and most of the majority might not be very co-operative from the very first day. Everyone has a style of their own and the last thing they want is someone from outside to come and tell them what to do. The best way to deal in such situations is to:
    • Just be an observer for the first sprint- don’t interfere in their way of working. Let them be. Instead look up the backlog and find ways to make relevant conversations happening. Ask why a task is blocked, or why it isn’t updated etc. This will open up a conversation without interfering with their work. The goal is to have the scrum master talk to you and start listening to you. When in doubt, the SM will ask for suggestions- give suggestions which are open. 
    • Don’t over ride the SM in front of the team- let the SM be the one in limelight. Let the SM feel that you as a consultant or coach are not a threatening them in any way. 
    • Be on the side of the SM- talk often on a one to one basis with the SM to discuss any concerns from both sides. Objective is to ensure the SM is talking more than you are.
  • The stakeholders- like most team members stakeholders differ in their opinion. Some have sponsored the change, some want to have it because everyone else is doing it and some give in because they don’t want others to think they are the negative ones.
    • Stakeholders while going through transformation are 3 types:
    • Confirmed- the confirmed stakeholders are those who are sponsoring the transformation. These are the names that are known to you, who will meet you from the initial days and is your support for the transformation.
    • Floaters- these stakeholders come and go. They are the stakeholders who will support, however you need to convince them that the change is going good. 
    • Hidden- these stakeholders are those whom you need to find out. They might not be the official stakeholders, but these are the people who can influence the primary stakeholders. So keeping them informed and buying in their support might be a great way to get the go ahead light and support in the transformation process. They will help you when in problem, find you the right person to talk to and even personally take the initiative to support you in every possible way. These stakeholders are the most difficult to find and are the most useful.
Bottom line, keep your eyes and ears open and it’s all about handling your team and the individuals than anything else.

To learn more about 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.

Pick the right person to mentor

Apr 17, 2013 | | 0 comments |

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.

How he got his PMP: An interview with Jean-Luc

Apr 15, 2013 | | 1 comments |

Jean-Luc has been an IS/IT professional for more that 10 years. He holds a MEng in Telecommunications and a Master degree in Electrical Engineering. Since the early stages of his career, he's been delivering projects for Fortune 500 companies. He is a PMP and if not diving deep into business objectives to frame a vision or solve problem, he can be found scuba diving. He has numerous certifications from entry level to instructor in recreational and technical scuba diving

He can be found at his twitter handle @LatyrF.

Please tell us what inspired you take the PMP exam? How many months did it take you to prepare?
I found out about PMP and PMI on LinkedIn four or five years ago. This certification was nearly unknown in France (nothing on Job Ad). Two years ago, things had evolved and as I re-entered the job market I started having a closer look. Not being PMP did not stopped me to get a new job in an organisation that is promoting the PMP certification along its Project Managers. I then took the plunge and volunteer to fill an empty seat on a PMP BootCamp.

It took me a rough 7 calendar months from initiation to closing, but I really prepared during 2 to 3 months. 

Would you share your schedule for your preparation?
The BootCamp was in June or July 2012 and my original intent was to sit for the exam in September. I started studying but not on a regular base. I let myself being to polluted by my job.

I started the BootCamp without even opening the PMBOK yet after 40 contact hours, the trainer told me that I could take the exam in a month. I did not felt that confident and started really working with the PMBOK along with study materials (book and questions) from Rita and TSI.

At the end of the year, the trainer tried to convince me again that I should go for it but it was not the right time for me. When PMBOK 5th was announced I gave to myself the deadline: March it will be and March it has been :-)

What was the most difficult thing during preparation?
Getting out of work and allowing decent amount of time to concentrate and study on a regular basis. Studying fortnightly one or two process does not get you anywhere.

One must focus and study very seriously on a daily basis compressed in a short period of time after reading once the PMBOK (this can take time the 1st time to digest the content).

Any 3 tips you would give to the readers, what they should do to prepare well for PMP?

1. Read the PMBOK completely. This book has tons of information and prepares your mind to understand the concept of what PMI believes to be Project Management. Read the Appendix F summary and the Definitions in the Glossary. 
I have read it once in the way it is structured and then I have read it twice process by process in a logical order as if I was going through my project from initiating to closing.

2. You need to understand the basic concepts, knowledge areas, process groups and the Mapping to know by reading the question where you are in the project at any particular point. There is no need to memorize all of the ITTO’s but you need to know the important ones.

3. Practice, practice and practice again! Get Prep Questions and Exam simulator and test yourself. I used the questions from Rita Mulcahy. Try to score between 80 and 85% for super confidence yet below that you can still pass the exam. 

Practice also your brain dump that must include formulas, the 42 processes, the types of contracts, etc. 

How does it feel now that you are a PMP?
I can't tell why as it is a bit irrational for with my education background yet I feel proud and also more knowledgeable.

Studying the PMBOK was a unique opportunity to assess the way I was managing project with what is generally recognized as the best practices. It was also a chance to hover a bit above the dust of daily work and identity areas of improvements and/or better interest. It's also a responsibility as these 3 letters after your name set a level of expectation.

Thank you

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