#naturewalk #cycling

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Agile projects are journeys, do not make it a race.

Every project is a journey. It is not a race. That’s why progressive elaboration is identified as one of the key characteristics of projects. While reaching the goal is important, it is more important to enjoy the journey. In fact, if you enjoy the journey, you will exceed all expectations. Then that calls for a disruption of the conventional mindset of constant focus on goal.

Recently one of my agile workshop participants asked me this question ‘What is good velocity?’

That was a very simple yet profound question. That made me think twice before answering. Is there something like a pre-defined good velocity for a greenfield project?. There is nothing like a good velocity. The focus is on consistent velocity which can be maintained across the journey.

Velocity is the productivity of the previous sprint. Nothing more, nothing less. As long as you do better than or equal to yesterday’s output.”, that is good enough. Enjoy the journey, that is more important than blind focus on goals.When all the cylinders are finetuned and fired, that is the best you can do. Accept it. Keep focussing on the motivation / enjoyment factor. ‘A dream is not something you see when you sleep, it is something that keeps you awake’. Thanks to Late Dr. Abdul Kalam. It is all about planting that dream, that will keep the team awake, not just You alone. 🙂

Mixing agile, project management, cycling and photography. Connecting the dots and creating new dots to connect. I call it as pleasure with purpose 😀

My cycling tour of the Kadamakkudy Islands

One of the clicks from my cycling tour of the Kadamakkudy Islands to make the Kadamakkudy Guide, a travellers guide to Kadamakkudy Islands.

Kadamakkudy just reminds me of the fact that there is quite more to do in life than the routine eat, work, sleep cycle. There lies the whole world to explore. Do it when you can do it. Life is precious. Life is beautiful. It is more than the eat, work, sleep, eat cycle.

From my cycling trip to Kadamakkudy

from my cycling trip to Kadamakkudy Islands

I am fond of cycling to Kadamakkudy Islands, which is located hardly five kilometers from my home. A 10 km ride in the morning helps me to start the day at a positive note. I come back and blog about Kadamakkudy Islands. That is my humble attempt to put Kadamakkudy Islands on the tourist map of Kerala, if not India and the World. Started this blog of Kadamakkudy around 10 years back, when Kadamakkudy was not at all popular as a tourist destination. To know more about Kadamakkudy, visit my blog of Kadamakkudy

Everything that has become monotonous & boring for me due to repetition, I documented into this online guide – PMdistilledGuide

Teaching project management from the year 2005, till now and continuing…Not becuase that is the one I enjoy the most, but becuase that is the only one skill of mine others are willing to pay for. So, what I have done is to make me redundant by compiling my knowledge in the form of a guide called PMdistilledGuide which is published under creative commons. That mean, anyone can use it free of cost. This guide has 10 modules. Each module will take approximately 5 hours of your time to complete.

This is a time tested material, which helped many to master professional project management easily. There are also many who relied only on this guide to prepare for their PMP certification. Most important aspect is, they are not that dependent on me for preperation. As of now it is available online. The physical print will happen, when I am fully satisfied with the content and presentation. That is going to take some time becuase I am my biggest critique. Right now, I call it as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for all those;

  • Who wants to master professional project management easily
  • Who want to pass PMP certification, without referring to the Project Management Body Of Knowledge (PMBOK) by PMI, USA

Go to PMdistilledGuide

Forest bathing & who am I?

While in a bookstore I came across a book on forest bathing. What is forest bathing?. It is about spending time in the forest with trees. This exercise has reported many benefits including better immunity system and has its origins in Japan. Today morning I made it a point to spend some time among the greenery at the backyard in a meditative mode.. asking the question who am I really?. Even if it is too early to judge this exercises benefits..there is definitely a feel good factor associated with it…

Me after the first forest bath…

Sunday special

10 life lessons from my photography

1. There is beauty and ugliness in this world. Focus on the beauty.

2. Nothing is permanently beautiful nor ugly. It all depends on the day and the light in which we see it.

3. We will not be able to spot the beauty in ordinary things without a humble and pure heart.

4. Right tools and techniques helps to some extent, but the subject is more important. The best equipment is the one you have at hand at the moment.

5. Patience and timing, the ability to wait for the right moment is very important.

6. Learn and practice continuously. It is all about trying again and again. It is about viewer experience.

7. Composing photographs helps us to focus on the subject completely, which we would have ignored otherwise.

8. Capturing nature is like instant meditation. we end up adoring the creator for the splendid creations.

9. Street and portrait photography helps to mingle with strangers, make new friends and to engage them in conversations thus practice active listening.

10. Of all the creations, humans are the most beautiful. Any person with a glow in his eyes is irresistible.

Please comment the life lessons you learned from your photography. That will make it very interesting.

Deconstructing performance appraisals

Recently I could witness the performance appraisals of a fast growing medium size organization in a detached manner. As usual, some were happy for a while where as some others are unhappy and disillusioned. In a nutshell, tension, frustration, stress …lots of these emotions were in the air as usual. As a seasoned professional with more than thirty years of corporate experience, here are some simple and practical tips to deconstruct the traditional performance appraisals into performance Up-raisals.

Instead of re-inventing the wheel, let us build around the the globally accepted Q12 survey questions by Gallop as the yardstick for workplace health. Getting a high score on the Q12 survey by all team members is the dream of every manager or team leader. According to Gallop, an average score of 4.5 and above by your team members is an indication of the health of the work environment you have created for your team. Remember the famous saying “People join organizations and leave managers”. Remember the fact that for every employee, the immediate boss is the true representation of the organization. So, as a manager or team lead, if your team is scoring high on these 12 questions, you can be sure that you are in the right path as a boss and you are doing things right.

When that is the case, managers can proactively re-define their approach to team management in such a way to build up the average score. To be honest with you, this approach helped me to re-build a team which was at the point of disintegration in the past.

Here are the list of the famous Q12 survey, and the practical proactive tips to score high ranking from your team members

Q12 survey element Proactive management tips for the manager / team lead
1) I know what is expected of me at work.1. Spend more time in defining measurable goals.
2. Define the roles and responsibilities very clearly
3. Define the ground rules very clearly
2) I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.1. Proactive resource planning and budgeting
2. Negotiation skills
3) At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.1. Work allocation based on the strengths of people
2. Self organizing teams
3. Work volunteering
4) In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.1. Creating a culture of appreciation
2. Leading it by example
3. Developing servant leadership
4. De-linking appreciation and suggestions for improvement
5) My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.1. Have formal 121 meetings with team members where project issues and performance issues are not discussed. Instead focus on career aspirations, goals, feedback
2. Active listening
3. Strong faith in the fact that you are only as good as your team. You are dependent on your team than the team members dependency on you
6) There is someone at work who encourages my development.1. Formal training
2. Buddy programs
3. Progress monitoring outside the regular performance appraisal meetings
7) At work my opinions seem to count 1. Meeting norms
2. Active listening
3. Maturity to appreciate disagreements
4. Creating equal opportunities / environment for everyone to talk fearlessly
5. Elimination of halos
8) The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.1. Articulation of work and it’s connection to the organizations goals
2. Effective communication
9) My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.1. Transparency of work progress and ownership
2. Daily team meetings
3. Periodic team retrospectives
10) I have a best friend at work 1. Team building activities
2. Buddy programs
11) In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.1. Periodic formal 121 meetings with employees (outside the performance appraisal meetings) to assess progress and mutually agree on improvement measures
12) This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.When the 11 points above are taken care of, the 12th one will happen automatically.

As managers we are only as good as their teams. Without good team, we cannot accomplish much. People join organizations and leave managers. I have also seen situations where people follow great managers. An average score above 4.5 by the team in the Gallop Survey indicates that one is doing things right as a manager. One can proactively reverse engineer work styles and achieve high scores. That is the best part of it. By doing so, we can deconstruct stressful performance appraisals into joyful performance “upraisals” resulting in capable high performance teams. In the longer run, all that matters are the success stories of your product, organization, team members and You….

Key point – I do not write or speak anything which I have not experienced personally 🙂

Good to Great Scrum Masters…

7 points to become great Scrum Masters at the Work Place

What is the key differentiator between good scrum masters and a great scrum masters?. These days I come across many certified scrum masters who understands the scrum framework inside out and at the same time either fail or do not have the confidence to perform the scrum master well.

Here are some key pointers for becoming great scrum masters…

  1. First and foremost quality required for the Scrum master is the conviction on the usefulness of scrum to the organization. You should never manage a project using scrum just because somebody asked to do so. You must be fully convinced about the usefulness of agile principles, values and the scrum framework.
  2. The scrum master should buy into the ‘non-negotiability of time’. All the Scrum ceremonies (planning meeting, daily scrum, reviews and retrospectives must happen on time, and every stakeholder must understand the fact that ‘Time’ alone is non negotiable in Scrum where as scope and resources are negotiable. When a disorganized person starts the scrum master role declaring that I am a habitual late comer, you are giving wrong signals to the team and most probably your sprints and even your scrum project will fail, just because of this. Do not forget the fact that, the fundamental responsibility of the scrum master is to implement scrum by being a role model to others.
  3. Scrum master should have in-depth understanding of the latest Scrum guide, which is very open for customization without diluting the Scrum values and the 12 agile principles. For example, no where in the Scrum guide there is mention about User stories, Story points, Playing poker for estimation etc. If you have something better that will work, go for it. Typically in organizations transitioning from waterfall model to agile, there exists detailed documentation in the form of Product Requirements Specifications. In such situations it is better to leverage that, instead of forcing User stories.
  4. Instead of focusing on the requirements given by the business (product owner), try to understand the problem the business is trying to solve, so that you can steer the discussions to deliver maximum value to business in the shortest possible time. For example, the business is groping in the dark because they do not have the defaulters details. Technical team assumes that the business needs it ‘real time’ and the planning meeting got into that mode which increased the effort to build real time dash boards. When the business said that they are fine with a 24 hours lag in the reports, the effort and waiting time for security clearances dropped drastically. So, always try to understand the problem the business is trying to solve and help them out to solve it as fast as possible. People will start liking you and will respect you more for that.
  5. The enemy is always out there. The business, product owner, scrum master and the team are working together to improve the quality of service offered to the customers, else they will go to your competitors who can deliver better services faster than you. It is all about the alignment of the business goals, strategy, programs, projects, releases and sprints to deliver better features faster thus gaining better market share. A fair understanding of the larger business landscape and the challenges faced by the sales and marketing teams will help the Scrum masters to align better with business.
  6. Please stop using the word ‘But’ as much as possible. Replace it with ‘Yes, And‘. Scrum is all about possibility thinking and taking calculated risks to deliver.
  7. Understand the Scrum Master’s role very clearly. In Scrum, Scrum masters role is to;
    1. Implement Scrum – The project must be executed following Scrum
    2. Removing impediments – Whatever issues faced by the rest of the team must be resolved as fast as possible.
    3. Not interfering with the day to operations of the team, especially work allocation.

For a person switching from waterfall, lot of unlearning is required in order to be effective in scrum teams as there is no room for command and control. In the agile world everything thrives around delegation, volunteering and collaboration.

Soon I will write one blog for business owners / product owners 🙂

Who said breaks are bad?

Break from hectic schedules and travel for sometime is good. It gives us time to recuperate, rethink, re-brand and re-launch. Due to the pandemic, I was forced to work from home and from places near home for almost two years. During this time, what kept me going forward was my new role as Project Management Domain Expert at Wrench Solutions. Their product ‘SmartProject’ is an emerging star or giant killer in construction management.

That was career pivot for me from the tag ‘Corporate trainer’ in I.T , Agile and PMP to the real world core project management that is construction management. Thanks to Wrench and my colleagues at Wrench, especially it’s CEO, Mr. Varghese Daniel, a great colleague and role model, who can wither any storm with confidence. That taught me a lesson or two about the influence of surroundings and people in life. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by positive people during this difficult times.

When we learn to think and act positively, lot of good things happen to us. Out of the blues, new assignments started coming my way and I am in the middle of a major assignment to transition a group of projects into agile from waterfall for a large bank. That forces me to get back to scrum after a break and I started appreciating the simplicity of scrum like never before. It is so simple and straightforward and there is nothing to tailor in it. Either you do scrum, or do not do it. 🙂

After all what is there in scrum?. Scrum comprises of;

  • Everything in scrum starts with the product backlog, maintained by the product owner.
  • The Scrum master and the development team help to convert the items in the product backlog into working product
  • The team comprises of the product owner, scrum master and the technical team who really work on the requirements to convert them into the real product.
  • The whole team gets into the sprint planning meeting (time boxed into 7 hours) for a 30 day sprint
  • The output of the sprint planning meeting is the sprint backlog, which is a set of clean requirements to be developed in the sprint.
  • The development team self organizes and develop the increment of the product
  • Every day, the team has a daily scrum meeting of 15 minutes where each team member explains;
    • What did he or she did yesterday?
    • What is he or she planning to do today?
    • What are the challenges faced, where they need help to resolve?
  • During the whole project, the Scrum master plays the role of a servant leader by helping the team to resolve all the impediments they are facing as fast as possible, so that the sprint can be completed on time.
  • At the end of the sprint, a sprint review meeting is conducted where the product increment is demonstrated to the key stakeholders against the pre-defined acceptance criteria.
  • Then the team gets into a retrospective meeting where the team evaluates their performance during the sprint and identifies ways to improve further during the subsequent sprints.

Scrum is as simple as that. To develop great products all we need is a clean and validated set of requirements and a capable, motivated team who respect each other and are willing to follow scrum.

Let us not complicate it unnecessarily.

2021 retrospective…..

It was almost like taking a one and half years break from serious work and enjoying life with my best friend Raphael, my grandson. That was the best thing happened during the pandemic. The pandemic forced Raphael and his parents to come back to Kerala from Bangalore and work from here, which gave us amble time to be with him and become more like a kid again. Now it is time for them to go back to Bangalore. Though the Grandpa in me is little bit sad, the professional in me is really excited at the opportunity to dive deep into deep meaningful work again….

I have started making daily to-do lists again, and that is really helping me to regain the much required focus. My quest for 0 to 1s continue as I am really getting fed up with the 1 to Ns. That might give you a hint about the book I enjoy reading now, after a while. ZERO to ONE by Peter Thiel. More about this book after completing the reading. Another book I ordered just now is the Checklist Manifesto. The concept of checklist for everything to do things right goes well with my agile mindset…. more later….

Me, Jessy and Raphael at the Cherai beach. Thanks to the photographer, my darling daughter Roseanna. Photography is in our blood….Will miss you all for sure….then life is like that….


Urgent and Important to do …

  1. Switch off the internet connection of the mobile phone from 7pm to 7 am
  2. Meditate
  3. Physical exercise
  4. Develop watchfulness
  5. Single tasking
  6. Re-capture Playfulness
  7. Sleep well

thaal during har-thaal..

Har thaal means breaking the rhythm. Harthaal is also a unique mode of strike. Today we have harthaal to support the farmers strike in India. Due to the pandemic, the thaal of life is already disrupted and I thought of making the best use of the empty roads and rains….Here I am at the banks of river Periyar having pazham pori (banana fry) and a cup of garam chai after some cycling. Capturing some thaal during har thaal…

It was wonderful to cycle through the empty roads on a rainy harthaal day… Preventing a harthaal is not in my circle of influence, but making the best out of a day is definitely within my circle of influence. Remembering Stephen Covey and his seven habits….:-)

The cyclists

For me, cycling is my way of protesting against environmental pollution, unreasonable fuel price taxes which is more than the production cost, fighting diabetes, depression and ageing. Cycling also shows me the right approach to life itself. It teaches not to rush from cradle to grave very fast, instead progress at a slow and steady pace, taking time to stop on the way to see the sunsets, birds and beaches and to converse with fellow human beings. Destination is only a milestone, what matters the most is the ability to enjoy and sustain the journey….

Happy Daughter’s Day

Happy Daughter’s day darling daughter Rosanna…

@cheer ayee !

Cheer aayi…the arrival of happiness. There are reasons to be happy. There are ways to be happy. If one wants to be happy. At Cherai beach again after a long gap of more than a year. There you become a boy again, born again….praising the marvels of this world with gratitude to the creator of this universe….the omnipotent. It is also about breaking the patterns of life, to explore the unexplored…embracing the new and continuously renewing self…saying bye to the familiar key boards and touch screens to listen to the sounds of nature, immersing oneself into it…..life is beautiful….for those who can kindle the ray of life in self…

Familiar strangers…

Are you really a stranger….Yes, we met for the first time, I do not know your name, and You do not know mine either….but you are familiar to me….at least the expressions in those eyes are familiar to me….blessings to you my dear familiar stranger…..thank you for allowing me to capture your photograph…..

Father Stan Samy

You imitated Christ till your death, fighting for the tribal community of India, who were denied their basic rights by the large corporate houses supported by the Government. To get rid of you, they finally alleged you with links to the prohibited Maoist outfits by planting documents in your computer. All these happened when you were 82 years old and suffering from major heath issues. You never complained. You continued your fight for the poor till your last breath, as a true follower of Jesus Christ. I happened to listen to one of your recent interviews where you said, you do not have any complaints and you are very happy because you fought well and was not ‘complacent like the majority’ in raising the voice for the poor and downtrodden.

We have not met even once in this life, and we will not. Still, the thoughts about you do not subside in me, even after three days of your end of journey on earth. The words ‘complacency like the majority’ hits by conscience very deep. I am disturbed. What am I doing with my life which is worthwhile to be called as a significant life????.

Sitting at the right hand of God, please bless us, and pour your blessings upon us to make us capable of leading significant lives…..

Unleashing Creativity with Chrome book

Last week, I got my first Chromebook. HP’s most inexpensive Chrome book. It happened to be the first blue colored computer used by me. The Chrome experience is totally new and refreshing. It definitely helped me to improve my productivity by increasing the availability of the main computer which I use for regular work. These days, Chromebook is mainly used by my partner in fun Raphael, my three year old grandson, for watching youtube. The touchscreen based UI helps him to be self sufficient when it comes to choosing the videos of his liking. Kudos to the UI team. The battery lasts for more than 13 hours in a single charge, that makes it extremely portable. It unleashes the creativity of Raphael and mine…here are two digital paintings (connecting the dots), by us. 🙂

Have ordered a pen, with the hope of improving the paintings more. The first experience with painting is really good. It is a kind of meditation and the process is totally different from photography. Hope to do more in the coming days. Thank you HP and Google, for making this chrome book available at reasonable price with reasonable quality.

Hope you enjoyed our first digital painting experience…

My Dadaa….

Some days are quite depressing and it is during those moments I take my camera and walk around and inside the house. When I view through the viewfinder of my good old Canon 550D, it is truly meditative moments seeking some beauty and meaning in the ordinary things around, and the creator of heaven and earth re-assures me of my blessings amidst chaos.

Shashtipoorthi..the 60th birthday

Shashtipoorthi is the 60th birthday in Sanskrit, and today is my turn to celebrate mine. What a reckless rollercoaster ride it has been….! Sometimes it was sheer madness, still protected by the divine forces….like the tolerant and loving father tolerating the immature child’s eccentricities… Overall it has been a wonderful journey so far and hopefully it will continue in a more refined form. On this day, the prominent feeling is gratitude. Gratitude to everyone I came across this life, and especially for those who stood by me during the ups and downs including job losses, health issues, financial issues and other occasions of emotional turbulence, the good times and the bad times.. I love you all, and above all my parents, my wife, daughter, family, good friends and the Almighty Lord, whose Words, when I meditate upon refines me and instills in me a child like heart…which is the biggest treasure I cherish. That helps me to look into the future with hope amidst the turbulence around. Thank you Lord, Thank you family, Thank you friends for this wonderful journey called life..Love you more.

Connecting and creating dots..

Blogging, Vlogging, Youtuber, Photographer, Word Press, Jira, Training, Founder, product owner, designer, Organization building…, Marketing strategies….training…..evangelist… mentoring…playing and learning with grandson …I do not exactly remember when I learned all these. It all started when I started work 35 years back. Fortunately all these are of great help now, when one work remotely. Busy connecting the dots and creating new dots to connect in the future. The journey continues….what we are doing now is just a dot to be connected with many others. The best is yet to come..let us keep exploring the world of opportunities….

locked down

How long will I have to wait for the locked gates to open, so that I can be free again…to play with other kids of my age….that must be in his mind … my best friend and Grandson Raphael…….

How long will I have to wait to hold my camera again to click some photographs again…should i wait till the end of the pandemic……no way….and I stretched my hands to my good old cannon 550 D and the 50mm lens…..with the hope of clicking my spirits up…..

The sunk cost syndrome…

In my shares portfolio, there are some shares from a particular company, which has stagnated slightly below the purchase price. Many times the temptation to sell off these shares and invest in shares with better yield gripped me, still I did not sell them. Even when I was missing good opportunities, just because I invested and waited for so long, I want to sell them either equal to or more than purchase price, and that is a foolish idea.

Then this has taught me to observe other things in life I am unnecessarily clinging to, just because I have invested lot of time and energy. This include a face book group created by me, which has around 10,000 members, a youtube channel with about 1800 subscribers. Just because I have spent lot of time and money in nurturing them from ground zero, even after knowing that I am not enjoying them any more, I am unable to delete them. I have seen many marriages where the couple continue to live in agony till death separate them, because they already lived a few years together. They must either decide to live happily or decide to separate. I can say this confidently because I am living in a country where the happiness index is very low and at the same time the divorce rates are also very low. The sunk cost syndrome can happen with relationships with people, pets, jobs, organizations, hobbies….

The only way out is practicing detached attachment, so it becomes easier to shrug of those interests, which are no more interesting. Instead of doing the ‘to do lists’, people like me, plagued by too many activities will benefit by creating and implementing ‘not to do lists’ periodically.

Are patterns like these hampering our progress?. Is this a common phenomena for every one?, or is this just my problem?.

The two things that made my lock down days ecstatic

In this part of the world, we are getting into the fifth month ever since the pandemic was identified as a major threat. To be honest, it was an emotional roller coaster till I came across this sentence from Osho ‘Do not allow your mind to question the good things happening to you, allow it to question only the bad things‘.

Over the years, we are conditioned to believe that great joyful experiences are illusions, or too good to be real, and must be questioned and validated, else they are termed as unreal and unworthy of pursuing. In the process we cease to experience true joy, because the mind cannot comprehend it yet. They are beyond logic, or the logic is not evolved to that level to validate unbound joy and ecstasy.

I have not reached the ecstatic levels yet, and at the same time I can vouch that I am more peaceful and happier than ever, despite the turmoil that is happening around me. Everything started with my attempt to stop thinking in a detached way, after listening to one of Oho’s Youtube videos. Did I succeed?. Not fully and at the same time to a great extent or partially. Most of the time, we are either thinking about the past or of the future, and in the process we loose the present. If we allow this pattern to continue, we will never experience life, and many of us have failed to experience life to it’s fullest because most of the time we are either thinking about the past or of the future, at the cost of the present.

Can anyone stop thinking altogether?. Nobody can stop thinking, the state of non-thinking has to arrive and it will arrive , at the appropriate time. We can only facilitate the arrival of the state of ‘non thinking’ with some foreplay and be patient. One thing is sure, if not total stoppage of thinking, a reduction in thinking happens first.

Where did I start?. I started by just focusing on by breathing. Close your eyes, and just focus mildly on your inhales and exhales. That is the first step to start focusing on the present. Other thoughts will surely creep in. Over days, the distractions will reduce.

The second fun exercise I started is to start dancing. I am unable to remember the days I danced during this life. Now, I have started dancing in my room all alone with my favorite music in the background. Hopefully others will join me in the due course. Then I started mixing both dancing and observing my breath. I start with dancing and music, then witnessing my breath again dancing…and then again witnessing breathing in a detached manner…..and I slip into a very peaceful state…which I want to preserve throughout the day. It is beautiful.

I am still mastering the art of unbound Love, Peace, Joy and Ecstasy :-).

The two things that turned my days ecstatic are learning to witness my breath in a detached way, and dancing to my favorite soft music……

It is easy. Everybody can practice it. I share my unbound joy, peace and happiness to you ecstatically.

On Embracing Empathy

During the past one and half years I evolved as a professional blogger from a personal blogger. When I say professional blogger, others started sponsoring my efforts. Though the journey was and continue to be exciting, it had it’s own share of conflicts, both internal and external. As a personal blogger, you are not restrained by anything, when you write. As a professional blogger it is not so. There are multiple stakeholders involved. The one who is sponsoring your efforts and their interests is on one side. On the other hand, it is about delivering tangible value to the reader Vs just airing your views and opinions. Then there is the conflict of the ideal Vs practical.

For example, when we talk about ‘Agile Project Management’, very often I use the term ‘Implementing Agile using Scrum’ which implies a specific start and end, which is fine to the corporate world, where as it is not that fine with the academics and purists (at the bottom of my heart, I belong there). Their view is about improving agility in teams and individuals, which sounds more evangelical. Some go one step further in defining ‘Agility’ as a mindset. While I agree with the idealists point of view, I do not disagree with my own view because for most of the consulting assignments for transitioning teams from waterfall to agile, the first criteria is time frame followed by cost. That is the way the corporate world functions. At a personal level, I am of the view that agile is actually a mindset, it is about getting rid of everything unproductive, and embracing everything that can improve productivity. I even do, a very honest daily retrospective (introspection) before going to bed which helps me to improve myself on a daily basis. Here empathy, or in other words, the ability to see and understand things from others perspective and even my own perspective (in a detached manner) helps me to proceed without contempt.

Empathy, is the ability to understand the feelings of others and respond to them. In other words, it is the ability to get into the shoes of others and understand their perspective. When I moved from a very large MNC organization to a fast growing startup, again the ability to empathize with the organization, helped me to empathize with the people within the organization. In other words, it helped me to understand why some body is behaving in a particular way. So was the case, when I had a lateral entry as a manager into a new team, where there were many aspirants for the same position. Empathy was the rescuer again. The ability to understand things from their perspective, helped me to perform well in the longer run, though I faced problems initially. It is much better and easier than ‘I am right always’ attitude.

Without empathy, real collaboration is almost impossible and less enjoyable. If we learn to root our thoughts and decisions on empathy, we automatically become master collaborators, and great servant leaders.

I am sure that those who worked with me two decades back, would be wondering and laughing about the transformation of a command and control freak. Those are the moments when I realize that I am truly agile, I am constantly getting rid of unproductive ways and embracing new ways. I am more empathetic to others and to me, than I was. Enjoying it.

Evolution of the Hybrid Project Management Manifesto

So far, project management had two distinct streams, the Adaptive (Agile) and the Predictive (traditional). The purists believed in any one of the streams. Over years of practice, the non aligned practitioners like me, started to see benefits in tailoring the project’s processes from the agile and traditional repository of best practices. One reason for this is because each had it’s strengths and weaknesses. This led to the third stream of project management known as ‘Hybrid’ project management.

The Hybrid Manifesto are my thoughts about the right attitude for successful adoption and excellence of Hybrid project management, which is here to stay and grow. I hope, this will help project management practitioners in increase project success rate by healthy adoption of Hybrid project management.

The Hybrid manifesto is evolving.

Click here for the Hybrid Manifesto

Mastering the Art of ‘Peer to Peer’ and sometimes ‘Boss’ mentoring

There is a notion that mentoring is always top down. Fortunately, it is not so. Those opportunities to mentor bottom up or peer to peer are great opportunities to learn and grow professionally. Very often it brings in great benefits to the organization as well. Bottom up mentoring and peer to peer mentoring without offending the mentee is an art, which must be perfected through practice. This is key to success especially in the middle and senior management positions. The good news is, it is easy and enjoyable.

What do we generally discuss with our bosses and peers during our one to one meetings?. Ideas?, Events? or People?. Here is the famous quote by Eleanor Roosevelt; “Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.”. Though this quote is very inspiring and true, it is very difficult to develop and validate relevant ideas for business consistently.

The single source for these new yet time tested ideas is our own quest for knowledge and self improvement. One major source for these are best selling books. Unless they have something useful in them, they would not have crossed the 1 million copies sold mark. It is not just reading them, but internalizing and sharing those ideas with others. I always do a cost benefit analysis before buying books, as I do for everything I buy. These concepts, learned from the books or blogs, if shared with others at the appropriate time can do wonders.

A new senior manager was recruited to a product development company, which had a highly participatory / collaborative work culture. The new recruit was coming from an organization which had a command and control culture. After joining the new team it was slipping into a loose-loose situation, before one of his peers recommended the ‘First break all the rules’ by Markus Buckingham. That transformed him within a very short span of time and he went on to bag the best manager’s award.

Recently, in a casual one to discussion with the CEO of a successful medium sized product company, I asked this question ‘Have you read the book ‘Crossing the Chasm’ which talks about successfully marketing products. And I left it there. I took this liberty because he used to recommend books to me. Some of them, especially ‘The power of the subconscious mind‘, ‘Hooked‘ and ‘Deep Work’ had positive impact on me. I am grateful for that.

After a couple of weeks of our discussion about ‘Crossing the Chasm’ , one day when I met him in his cabin, he was was very enthusiastic in explaining the concepts of ‘Crossing Chasm’ and the relevance of the concepts to his business at the current juncture. He modified his marketing strategy to incorporate some of the concepts and the business is doing well even during the pandemic time. In fact, it is growing during this period.

To summarize;

  • Be enthusiastic about reading both professional and personnel improvement books which are best sellers
  • Pick those relevant stuff, which are applicable to you
  • Experience the benefits conducting personal experiments. Even the learning from failures is an asset.
  • Share your experiences with others. Listen to others.
  • Do not assume that just because you have read a book, others might have already read it. There are still many in this world who have not read the ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’.
  • Be choosy about the books and articles you read. The cost of the book is negligible when compared to the time you spend to read it. Ensure there is potential for Return on Investment.
  • Reduce discussions about people and problems. Instead, focus on solutions.
  • Many senior professionals do not get sufficient time to update their knowledge. You are helping them by doing the learning and sharing the concepts with them.
  • Do not over do it. Create applicable knowledge inventories and use them when the right opportunities arrive.

Project Integration Management

Many project management meetings looks like manager’s meetings. Almost every one you see in these  meetings are managers like Engineering managers, Quality managers, Project Owner’s managers, Contractor’s manager, Sub-contractor’s managers, H.R Managers, Project Controllers, Finance managers, Change managers……. that is a long list. Each of them are busy handling their fragment of the project. Who manages the project as a whole?. Who is the CEO of the project?. What does she do ensure that all fragments integrates well on time to deliver value to the Owner of the project or program?

 Project Integration management is the key responsibility of true project / program  managers.  

Let us drill down further to understand Project Integration Management which is the backbone of Integrated Project Delivery;

  • Project Integration Management’s emphasis is on collaborative teams working together from the contracting phase till the project completion
    • Project teams comprises of teams of different disciplines and they develop their plans (subsidiary plans)  like;
      • Engineering -> Engineering plan
      • Construction -> Construction plan
      • Quality -> Quality management plan
      • Procurement -> Procurement management plan
      • Risk management -> Risk management plan
      • Resourcing – > Resource management plan
      • Communications -> Communications management plan
      • Owner / Architect / Business analysts – Requirements / Scope management plan
  • These efforts can be further distributed among Owners, Architects, Contractors, Sub-contractors and Suppliers
  • Project integration management comprises of integrating the efforts of all these different disciplines towards the accomplishment of project goals of Time, Cost, Scope, Return on Investment (ROI) , Return on Capital Employed (ROCE) throughout the project’s life cycle by performing activities like;
      •  Developing and communicating the Project’s charter to the relevant stakeholders for approval and knowledge sharing. Typically project charter contains;
          • High level description of the project 
          • Business case of the project 
          • Alternatives analysis 
          • Major milestones with dates 
          • High level risks, constraints and assumptions 
          • Project approval criteria 
          • Project exit criteria 
          • Key stakeholders, their roles and responsibilities 
          • Project manager’s name, roles and responsibilities etc 
      • Developing the Project management plan and communicating the same to the relevant stakeholders for approval and knowledge sharing. Many get confused between the project management plan and the project’s schedule. Schedule is only part of the project management plan. Project management plan contains;
          • Project’s overall strategy for execution
          • Explanation of  how the project will be executed, monitored and controlled
          • Has the consolidation of the subsidiary plans like;
            • Scope management plan
            • Requirements management plan
            • Schedule management plan
            • Cost management plan
            • Quality management plan
            • Resource management plan
            • Communications management plan
            • Risk management plan
            • Procurement management plan
            • Stakeholder engagement plan
            • Change management plan
            • Configuration management plan
          • Scope baseline
          • Schedule baseline
          • Cost baseline
          • Performance measurement baseline (time based budgets)
          • Project life cycle description
          • Development approach
      • Ensuring that project’s work is happening as per the project plan during the execution phase. 
      • Ensuring knowledge capture, dissemination and archival for future use. 
      • Monitor and control project work to ensure that the project will get over on time, within budget and meet the scope. The most common tools used for monitoring and controlling project work are;
          • Earned Value Management (EVM)
          • Earned Schedule Management (ESM)
          • Burn down charts 
          • Critical Path Analysis 
          • Project dashboards
      • Perform Integrated Change control by;
          • Ensuring establishment of Change Control Board, Change Management Process.
          • Ensuring adherence to the process 
      • Ensure formal closure of phases and project according to the defined process 


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