Friday, February 26, 2016

The difference between 'Giving Up' and 'Letting Go'

The pursuit of goals often blinds us to all else happening around us. It is like driving down a highway at max speed where your line of vision is restricted to just the lane markers going by. Such unsustainable effort in one direction will only lead to a burn out or a crash. 
How do you 'clean up' your old goals, desires, passions and what is the difference between 'Giving Up' and 'Letting Go'?
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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Learning Win-Win from a waiter in Thailand

I was in Bangkok for a business meeting with a European client on the sidelines of a conference. We met in the lobby of the five star hotel. This was more than a decade back and smoking bans in public places were not yet ubiquitous. The client fished out a cigarette and as the waiter was serving us coffee, he asked as a formality, "Can I smoke?".

Read what happens next on my linked in post -

Friday, February 5, 2016

Changing mind-set for Agility using Scrum

Adopting agility and scrum in IT projects is more about changing mind-sets. The practices and processes will follow. If your organization is moving from waterfall to scrum you will mostly find the Project Managers are renamed to Scrum Masters and work carries on as usual. This renaming is not enough.

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Move over Big Data - LCD is here

So, LCD is an acronym for Little Connected Data. I have been fascinated by the perception changes caused by connecting little bits of data. The uncovering of these new meanings in little data can lead to huge insights in customer behavior in a local, social, online or offline setting. Something which Big Data endeavors to reproduce by looking in a similar manner at huge amounts of data.
Little Connected Data
Big Data or Little Connected Data?
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Friday, September 20, 2013

The utility of consensus

When teams choose to work together they need to commit to the betterment of the team leading in consequence to a betterment of their individual situations. This commitment towards the best interests of the team is what leads to teamwork and is a key element for achieving consensus.

Earlier I had written about situations where it is futile to seek consensus. When it is necessary to take some quick, hard decisions, a tough leader (think Welch, Jobs etc.) has no business building consensus. But tough times don't last and crisis is not an everyday phenomenon. If it is, then it is better to take a hard close look at your business model and dynamics.

In Business As Usual times it is far more advantageous to actively build consensus as part of your leadership strategy. While in the previous article we saw a study of futility of consensus, let us examine here the utility of consensus.

  • Write your own lottery ticket - When your team decides what they want to do, instead of being told what to do, they have a personal stake in the outcome. As a leader your job is to lay out the larger vision, while letting the team carve out the mission for themselves. Writing your own lottery ticket was an experiment performed in studying human behavior.  In this experiment, half the room was given printed lottery tickets while half the room was given blank papers and asked to write their own random six digits to make up a lottery. Before drawing the results, the researchers tried to buy back the lottery tickets by bidding for them. Guess what? The people who had written their own numbers were more reluctant (five times more reluctant as per the research) to part with their tickets, even though they had exactly the same probability of winning the jackpot as those who had been given printed numbers.  
  • A convinced team is a committed team - Even where the leaders like Jobs or Welch were seen to be autocratic in their approach, they had a larger than life reputation preceding them, which made teams want to tag along with their decisions. This conviction of the team in your abilities cannot always be presumed by all leaders. A bad year or a failed business decision is likely to erode your dictatorial powers pretty quickly. We had Groupon CEO Andrew Mason stepping down on the back of a ruining financial quarter and plunging share prices. In his open letter to employees he says "... My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our customers."  That says it all, doesn't it?
  • Et tu Brutus! - You may be able to pull rank on your team and get them to agree to certain decisions. You cannot make them deliver the success you envisioned if you had the super human capabilities of carrying out all the actions themselves. An unwilling team led into a battle they are not sure they will win, or even want to win, will either desert the ranks or find ways of sheltering themselves by simply going through the motions. It is far better to have the team solidly behind your ideas by listening to them and adapting the plans to what the team feels is the best way to achieve success. That buy in from the team, while costly in terms of timelines and compromises to the original goal, is what will guarantee a do or die attitude to achieving the goals the team has set for themselves. 

One of the pitfalls to avoid is faux-consensus. This is a false feeling of consensus based on team's sign offs on paper while in reality, doubts still linger. Often leaders will get teams into a room and lay out the 'what' they want to achieve and ask the team to come with 'how' they will achieve it. Larger teams often are broken into cross functional groups and asked to brainstorm on the 'how'. What emerges is a purely academic exercise with no clear ownership or buy in for the action items assigned to this team.

What is necessary is for the team to first deliberate on the 'what' agree on a common imperative they all feel is worth achieving. If this goal can be signed off by the team with commitments of timeline and individual ownership towards goal breakdown items, the 'how' can be left to the teams to work out over time as they proceed working on the goal.

It is to be noted that majority agreement is not consensus. Consensus is when everyone agrees to the common goal. This means arriving at a solution where diverse views and agendas have been addressed everyone feels there is something for him  in the end result. Such a result is indeed likely to be robust and may turn out to be far better than the original idea.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

An Agile Journey

I will be speaking at the Scrum Gathering India in Pune this Friday - 26th June 2013, about the components of a successful agile journey based on my experiences in Agile and Scrum. It will be exciting to address this gathering after two years of conducting Agile and Scrum Fundamental classroom training and hope to bring forth a view from the accomplishments of scrum projects executed.

My session is part of the 'Scrum Accomplished - Inspire 3' track from 1230 to 1330.

The discussion will cover Agile Maturity Models assessing readiness of organizations to be agile, the various metrics and more interestingly the non-metrics used to get a view of where we are and where we want to be on the agile journey.

How to select projects for scrum at various stages of the journey and finding the secret sauce for successful scrum forms part of the agenda. This is topped up with a discussion around the Scrum values and how we can relate to them in our quest.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Have you the courage of your convictions?

Having the courage of your convictions .... (def.) saying or doing what (you think) is right even when others disagree

We set out on our goals and missions with great ideas and visions. Few of us end up reaching our destination as we end up being waylaid by naysayers, distractors and obstacles. Having the courage of our convictions is what leads us through. The ingredients necessary to build this courage is passion, determination and perseverance.

Courage, or the lack of it, is built and demonstrated in small, daily actions. There is no need for a big show of 'Joan of Arc'-ish behavior to display courage. Believing in what is right as per you and staying on the course to see it happen takes a lot of small steps.

The courage of your convictions is very personal to 'you' and hence is uniquely interpreted by each one differently. The added emphasis with parenthesis above is meant to focus on 'what you think' is right. There is no one definition of what is right and what is wrong. One man's meat is another man's poison. Hence one's belief of right and wrong depends completely on their own moral upbringing, childhood experiences and environmental circumstances of tolerance and justice.

I am not advocating sticking to one's dogmatic beliefs and not tempering our views of right and wrong as our experiences mature. Our beliefs and thoughts are dynamic and our actions would be remodeled as we uncover new experiences and beliefs.

Speaking is one of the biggest fears people face. Speaking up - even more so. People think they are avoiding trouble by falling in line. We are only inviting greater problems by not speaking up at the appropriate time. If what we are doing does not fit in with the core values of who we are, then this inner conflict will surface in some form or other.

Having done the right thing would rather put us at peace with ourselves first, put a sense of purpose in what we are doing and make us succeed in much larger proportions.