Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Being Agile: Team Got To Know Its Limitations

#SridharPeddisetty #Agile #BeingAgile #Scrum #Motivational #ProjectManagement #Management #AgileBestPractices #Team

"A man's got to know his limitations”, a quote made immortal by Clint Eastwood in the 1973 movie Magnum Force. I am not a movie buff but do like to rewatch classics once in a while and the inspiration to write this blog came right after watching Clint deliver his famous one liner. While adopting Agile development practices, its often seen that Organizations have a great deal of passion and good intentions. But unfortunately the intent alone is not enough if the attempt involved either the adoption scope to be too large or at a pace too fast for the organization, whose culture is not ready. 

For successful adoption of Agile across Organization, its important to start with one or two pilot teams. For the team to be successful in adopting Agile practices, its important to get to know its limitations. Intimately knowing and addressing team limits, a lot could be truly accomplished. Below are my tips in identifying team limitations and playing to their strength for successful adoption of 'Being Agile'. 

#1. Deep philosophical understanding of Agile: In my earlier post An Agilist Needs More Than Training To Succeed, I had shared that getting trained in Agile does not necessarily mean that we have started thinking ‘Agile’. After training, it is important to work in your Org towards bringing in changes including predictable delivery by taking small steps in developing an environment, which fosters a collaboration culture with a shared vision across the Org. 

#2. Get familiar with individual team skills: Agile encourages team to consist of self performing & cross functional team members. Its important to understand the skills of each team member including front end, back end and other needed skills in the sprint (or) project. While grooming or planning, its essential to identify and play to the strengths of individual team members.  While finalizing the team, one needs to be very clear what the objectives are and what they need to deliver individually as a member and collectively as a team.

#3. Set clear goals for the teamIts vital for each member to understand how their individual goal fits into the overall objective. For a team to be highly productive, its vital for them to understand what they are delivering as a team and how the deliverables are going to be measured. A team, which understands the importance of what they are delivering will always be highly productive and will adhere to much higher standards than one with no clear purpose. 

#4. Provide team the necessary tools: Performance of any project team is only as successful as the weakest link in the team. So we need to constantly nurture the individual team members while providing the necessary tools to be productive. For instance, once we have identified the weakling, its necessary to plan the mitigation either by pair programming or mentoring by cross training or guiding. Keep in mind that a happy team would automatically take care of keeping your client(s) happy so its important for the team to be equipped with right & necessary tools.

#5. Build in culture of continuous improvement: Its essential to create a robust environment where feedback is encouraged, appreciated and taken (or) given on a standard basis. Without proper guidelines, measurements and feedback, it is very easy for team to fall into a spiral trap of stress, demotivation and rapid disintegration. When the right culture of continuous improvement is put in place, it always guarantees a well-functioning, highly motivated and goal-driven team. 

While the practitioners of Agile are still divided into teams that are highly productive ‘Being Agile' and teams that are not. In my experience, team is successful in adopting Agile when it understands well its limitations and plays to its strength within the known constraints while continuously striving to improve. Teams that usually fail in adopting Agile successfully or struggle in their adoption are the ones that are usually leaning towards why something will not work rather than working on finding solutions to the constraints. 

Share your thoughts in the comments sections to the best team management practices you employ while practicing Agile. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Being Agile: Best Practices For A Retrospection

#SridharPeddisetty #Agile #BeingAgile #Scrum #Motivational #ProjectManagement #Management #AgileBestPractices #Retrospection

"While some of us learn from the mistakes of others; the rest of us have to be the others!"

Being Agile is not just about processes, tools, bunch of smart technical people coming together & figuring it out all by themselves on what business value to deliver. Being Agile is about aligning the core Agile principles with the Org strategic goals and then enforcing the following of those core principles in delivering business value in an iteratively incremental manner. 

What is Retrospection?
By definition, retrospection is the action of looking back on or reviewing past events or situations. In the context of Agile, retrospective meetings are held at the end of an iteration or sprint. During the retrospective, the team reflects on what went well in the iteration or sprint and identifies lessons learned & actionable items for improvement moving forward.

Why Retrospection?
If you cannot measure, you cannot improve. Retrospection helps you provide a platform to measure your current status with the goal(s) and an opportunity to do course correction. In my earlier post Everyone's Perspective Is Key In Retrospectives, I had shared why its very important for everyone’s inputs to be considered during the retrospection. 

Best Practices for Retrospection
While working on any project there are 4 major components
  1. People
  2. Process
  3. Technology & 
  4. Tools
For having a productive retrospection, my recommendation would be for retrospection meeting participants to come prepared with some specifics in terms of above components. Keeping above components in mind, team can be specific about what went well in sprint or project, things that can improve for next sprint or project. For instance, some discussion points could be around following 
  • Did we identify all the right skills needed? 
  • Did we mentor the team members as required?
  • Did we follow RACI matrix as agreed upon?
  • Did we manage stakeholder's expectations as per Backlog/SOW?
  • Did we address team’s or individual impediments in a timely fashion? 

  • Did we use follow best practices in delivery process?
  • Did we implement identified improvements in past retrospection? 
  • Did we standardize our meetings to measure progress & concerns? 
  • Did we practice continuous improvements? 
  • Did we address any redundant process(es) that can be discarded or improved upon? 

  • Did we align technology solutions for optimally delivering business value? 
  • Did we use coding best practices? 
  • Did we follow technology best practices?
  • Did we use good DevOps, build, deployment & automation best practices?
  • Did we employ engineering practices like pair programing, peer code review, etc.?

  • Did we make the best use of relevant tool for managing requirements & measuring progress?
  • Did we make the best use of relevant tool to efficiently measure quality of our code?
  • Did we make the best use of relevant tool to measure our testing to ensure quality alignment? 
  • Did we make the best use of relevant tool to provide communication transparency on status, quality, etc.?
  • Did we make the best use of relevant tool to optimize collaboration among team(s)? 

Its important for us to celebrate our successes & failures and retrospectives provide us an opportunity to do the same. 

“You can never make the same mistake twice. The second time you make it, its no longer a mistake, its a choice.”

Share your thoughts in the comments section on the best retrospection practices you employ while practicing Agile. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Being Agile: It’s A Matter Of Perspective

#SridharPeddisetty #Agile #BeingAgile #Scrum #Motivational #ProjectManagement #Management #AgileBestPractices #Inspirational  

A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside. "That laundry is not very clean", she said. "She doesn't know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.” Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, The young woman would make the same comments. About one month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband: "Look, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this.” The husband nonchalantly said, "I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows."

Its been more than 15 years since Agile Manifesto is formulated but still there are strong voices heard for and against adoption of Agile. Its interesting to hear the arguments of why ‘Agile’ does not work and these arguments are not very different from when traditional SDLC & project management practices were employed. If you analyze Standish Group 2015 Chaos Report, its interesting to align some of the common concerns about Agile with what is shared in the report. 

Some of common concerns about Agile include

#1. Agile just works for smaller projects: 
Larger the goals, larger the chances of its failure irrespective of how you execute your strategy. As I had shared in my previous post Being Agile: Identifying Right Opportunities To Act, one of the Agile principles is "If You Have to Fail, Fail Fast”. Whether we take the approach of Waterfall, Spiral, RUP or Agile SDLC methodology, success is more certain when we break our larger goal(s) into smaller milestones and frequently measure our execution results with the plan. According to the report, 18% large scale projects are successful when adapting to Agile compared with Waterfall’s 3% success so notion of Agile not working for large projects is not necessarily a fact. 

#2. Agile does not work in some native cultures: 
There are few articles stating Agile does not work in places like Asia or Germany. Its the most generalized statement without acknowledging that we are more global than ever before and emotional maturity in an Organization is changing faster than ever before. Having lived and worked in countries including India, Japan, USA and Argentina, I have experienced various cultures and my learnings have been that its not as much about the culture of the native country as its about the culture of the Organization. In an earlier post Be Too Agile To Be Governed By Fear Of Change, I shared that Agile is all about adapting to change; it was built on the foundational principle that business drivers will change and the culture of Organization must be ready to adapt for it to be successful.

#3. Agile is getting more done in less: 
Agile is more about being focused on delivering value and ability to respond to changes. While practicing the principles of Agile, it does feel that we are improving productivity but thats a result of applying the right principles. Motivation of adopting to Agile with the expectation that more can be expected to get delivered from the same team, is not the right thought process. In my earlier post An Agilist Needs More Than Training To Succeed, I shared that implementing Agile in any Organization requires more than just knowing the terms or ceremonies.

#4. Agile works only with co-located teams: 
Its not as much about whether team is co-located or not but its more about how much the project team is involved in decision-making and information-gathering process. A remote team can be as successful provided the team is actively involved enough with more robust communication channel established. Communication channel is key, which would include transparent user feedback, requirements review, R &D effort, prototyping and other consensus-building tools. In one of my previous post Everyone's Perspective Is Key In Retrospectives, I shared that people with a different perspective can come up with some incredible ideas and its about the right feedback channels in place whether with resect to co-located or remote teams. 

#5. Agile works only with strong performers in the team: 
No team member comes to work to do a bad job and its usually the culture of an Organization or project team that usually fails performers. So it does not matter whether you are employing Agile or not, performance of project team is dependent on collective success more than individual heroics. Agile encourages cross functional teams to bring down silos and when the silos are rid of, collective performance improves as there is better sense of common goal(s). In my previous post 5 Tips on Strategizing Your Key Project Resources, I shared 5 tips on how to strategize your key project resources. 
IMHO its not about which SDLC methodology or Project Management practices you follow for successfully delivering quality services but its about the principles you embrace to achieve goals. ‘Being Agile’ is not about some practices or set of rules, its about how disciplined principles are applied to achieve strategic objectives. 

“There are no facts, only interpretations.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Share your thoughts in the comments section on the common concerns you have encountered while practicing Agile. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Being Agile: Identifying Right Opportunities To Act

#SridharPeddisetty #Agile #Scrum #Motivational #ProjectManagement #Management #AgileBestPractices #Inspirational  

A police officer found a perfect hiding place for watching for speeding motorists. One day, the officer was amazed when everyone was under the speed limit, so he investigated and found the problem. A 10 years old boy was standing on the side of the road with a huge hand painted sign which said “Radar Trap Ahead.” A little more investigative work led the officer to the boy’s accomplice: another boy about 100 yards beyond the radar trap with a sign reading “TIPS” and a bucket at his feet full of change.

All problems are opportunities in disguise. Having said that, not all problems are well understood and therefore not all right opportunities are identified to act upon. One of the main incentives seen of Agile adoption across Organizations is in identifying & acting upon the opportunities in a disruptive & fast changing new World. 

Below are few tips in identifying the right opportunities to act upon and successfully delivering the results using the Agile philosophy 

#1. Define Clear Problem Statement(s) Mapped With Customer(s): 
Define clearly problem statement(s) mapped with customer(s) and what matters to them the most. This can be accomplished by engaging, observing and working closely with your key customers in identifying the opportunities with their changing demands. It seems very obvious but if the upfront effort is not put in defining customer needs and if they are not aligned on the key problem statements, which needs to be solved, there will be an immense waste of time, effort and Organization resources. 

#2. For Defining Goals Iterate Enough To Identify MileStones: 
While identifying the problem statements, its important to clearly define the criteria for success. Plan to break down the success into a journey and not necessarily a destination. This should be achieved by identifying the milestones and iterating through the milestones in achieving the goals. In my earlier post Be Too Agile To Be Governed By Fear Of Change, I had shared how Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage. 

#3. Design Org. Strategy For Maximizing Learning To Manage Risks : 
Design your Organization strategy in identifying and defining Internal processes, tools & technologies, which creates an environment that maximizes learning to manage risks. Its important to anticipate changes, which may affect achieving your goals but with right environment, problems can be converted into opportunities. Encourage experimenting and then reinforcing & building on what works. Enlist and inspire your Org. around a compelling purpose and grant Project team(s) the autonomy and resources to continuously adapt and adjust course.  

#4. Start Small, Think Big & Scale Fast: 
Its important to focus on developing a minimum viable product (MVP) for early validation of the product. Formulate the philosophy of starting small, thinking big and scaling fast. In my earlier post Minimum Marketable Features: An Agile Essential, I had shared how the product innovation is tied to change and often the need for change appears midstream in a project so decomposing the requirements into Minimum Marketable Features (MMF) is key for successful execution of solutions for right opportunities 

#5. If You Have to Fail, Fail Fast: 
In the fast paced changing trends, ideas for product innovation needs constant nourishing. For the success of pursuing right opportunities, its important to generate alternatives and make fast, fact-based decisions about which to pursue. So if you have to fail, fail fast. Iterate to build new capabilities, shed what doesn't fit and take the first steps in a new direction as needed. In my earlier post Every (Failed) Project Has ‘Success' Story To Tell, I had shared how its important to identify & share the ‘success’ value of a project even if it failed to meet its main strategic goals.

In the past, Organizations very diligently used to spend quality time in formulating a strategy and then sticking with it through the thick & thin. Today we are in Fourth Industrial Revolution in which we are talking about Cyber-Physical systems and in these interesting times, Organizations rapidly surge ahead, rapidly fall behind, or even rapidly disappear. So in these interesting times for an Organization to survive, it needs to continuously evolve, change and stay a step ahead of its competition. And for that survival, Organizations need to be in an advantageous position of identifying the right opportunities to act upon. 

Share your thoughts in the comments section on how do you normally ensure identifying rights opportunities to act upon while practicing Agile. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Being Agile: Applying Common Sense With An Uncommon Level Of Discipline

#SridharPeddisetty #Agile #Scrum #Motivational #ProjectManagement #Management #AgileBestPractices #Inspirational  

It takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field 
- Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers

Agile is applying common sense with an uncommon level of discipline. Its a journey of continuous improvements with the openness in providing an environment in which one can learn, unlearn and relearn.  

Below are some of my common sense tips in applying Agile philosophy with an uncommon level of discipline 

#1. Prepare for a marathon: 

While applying Agile philosophy in delivering services, prepare for a marathon and not just a sprint. Its important to ensure clarity about the end objectives and lead the Agile team to show great commitment for the same. Both Pigs (those committed) & Chickens (those involved) should base their decisions on a long term strategic objectives instead of always just tunnel focussed on sprint goals.  Agile philosophy comes good when it is motivated by authority while fostering an environment of collaboration, which is constructive, open & respectful.  

#2. Ensure authentic communication: 

Authentic communication is key for creating an environment, which allows to bring impediments to the surface by having more engaged employees. It allows to create a culture in which team can afford to stop to fix the problems and get the quality right, the first time itself. In my earlier post Looking At An Impediment From A Value Perspective, I had shared how when faced with an impediment, one can enlarge the vision of looking at the impediment from the perspective of delivering value. 

#3. Build a culture of learning from doing:

In an Agile environment, which is driven by cross functional teams & innovations, learning from doing is key. Just the lip service of doing retrospection at the end of sprint is not enough. Build truly a learning culture through relentless reflection (hansei) and continuous improvement (kaizen). In my earlier post Value Stream Mapping As A Process Improvement Tool, I had shared how Value Stream Mapping can be used as a tool for identifying inefficiencies in the processes within your organization.  

#4. Do not have the “Ants in the pants” attitude:

The “Ants in the pants” attitude can be a problem with the beginner practitioners of Agile where the expectations are wrongly set to start seeing immediate results. Practice the ‘Rolling Wave’ adaptive planning to achieve the results and keep your expectations realistic. Keep in mind that an empirical approach generally yields better results than a perspective one. Its important to define some milestones and measure the success based on those milestones. 

#5. Practice Agile with a purpose more than need:

Purpose is more important than need. In the chase between lion and deer, many times deer wins. One reason could be because lion runs for food, while deer runs for life. While practicing Agile, its important to practice with an understanding of the purpose of outcome or output in context of solving business problem. Most of the Agile practitioners do not use governance well enough for monitoring and controlling the project. 


Discipline is the deciding factor to ensure transparency and accountability is promoted through Agile philosophy. In my earlier post An Agilist Needs More Than Training To Succeed, I had shared that getting trained in Agile does not necessarily mean that we have started thinking ‘Agile’. After training, work in your Org towards bringing in changes including predictable delivery by taking small steps in developing an environment, which fosters a collaboration culture with a shared vision across the Org. This change would require an uncommon level of discipline. 

Please share your experiences on the uncommon level of discipline you follow while practicing Agile. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Silence The Mind To Think Clearly & Deliver Results

#SridharPeddisetty #Agile #Scrum #Motivational #ProjectManagement #Management #AgileBestPractices #Inspirational  
Once there was a farmer who discovered that he had lost his watch in the farm. It was not an ordinary watch because it had sentimental value for him. After searching the hay for a long while, he gave up and sought help of a group of children playing outside the barn. He promised that the person who finds it would be rewarded. Hearing this, the children hurried inside the barn, went through and around the hay but still could not find the watch. Just when the farmer was about to give up looking for his watch, a little boy went up to him and asked to be given another chance.The farmer looked at him and thought, “Why not? After all this kid looks sincere enough.” So the farmer sent the little boy back in the barn. After a while the little boy came out with the watch in his hand. The farmer was happy and surprised and so he asked the boy how he succeeded where the rest had failed. The boy replied, “I did nothing but sit on the ground and listen. In the silence, I heard the ticking of the watch and just looked for it in that direction.”

A peaceful mind can think better than a worked up mind. Using the metaphor, a focused project team more often than not, delivers a project successfully. Project team must remain focused on managing value based project goals and stakeholders instead of simply concentrating on budget and scheduling. Below 5 tips can be used for a project team to remain focused 

#1. Be clear on the project value: Project delivery is not just about achieving agreed scope, schedule or cost but its about delivering value. Its often seen that project team while remaining focused on current work tasks sometimes remain oblivious of the value project is going to achieve at the end. In most cases, statement of work (sow) or proposal is authored by individual(s) who would likely not be responsible for actual execution of the project. So its important for the project team to be always aligned with what would be the end value of project. Project team needs to have a complete ‘buy-in’ into the value for them to appreciate their current work tasks. 

#2. Break plan into achievable milestones: We all understand that for every journey we embark, milestones helps us remain focused. Milestones are the small steps, which leads project team to the ultimate project goal whether it be developing of new product or service. Measurable milestones help the project team remain focused and celebrate their achievements along the journey, which goes a long way for a motivated team. Milestones also help team in executing, checking, planning and acting while keeping tab on quality to ensure alignment with the overall project goal. 

#3. Prioritize impediments mapped with value: In my earlier post Looking At An Impediment From A Value Perspective, I had shared  how when faced with an impediment, enlarge your vision of looking at the impediment from the perspective of delivering value. Matured project teams view the impediments as tasks, which needs to be completed for respective user stories and the tasks could be updated and prioritized for the value. As a Scrum Master or Project Manager, one needs to know how things get done in the organisation and who to speak to when faced with an impediment. 

#4. Separate people from the problem: It is very easy to get overwhelmed with frequent pressures of delivering value and thats when things can get defensive for the team. In my earlier post You Already Have ‘NO', Go For ‘YES’, I had shared how its important to keep emotions under check while delivering and always keeping in mind to respond and not to react.’My side of the boat is not leaking’ attitude does not help so its important to separate people from the problem and be rational in identifying solutions for the impediments or dependencies. 

#5. Look for continuous improvements: In my earlier post Value Stream Mapping As A Process Improvement Tool, I had shared how "Value Stream Mapping” can be applied as a tool for identifying inefficiencies in the processes. Retrospections are also key in identifying opportunities for continuous improvements. Note that singular way of doing retrospections does not necessarily fit culture of all organizations so its very important to customize how the feedback is taken and loop for the continuous improvement is applied.

Similar to how important it is to allow yourself a few minutes of silence to think sharply, project team needs to be focused for successful delivery of project value. 

Please share your thoughts on how you manage to keep yourself focused. 

Previous posts you might be interested in

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Be Too Agile To Be Governed By Fear Of Change

#SridharPeddisetty #Agile #Scrum #Strategy #Change #Management #ChangeManagement #AgileBestPractices 

Your success in life isn't based on your ability to simply change. It is based on your ability to change faster than your competition, customers, and business.
-Mark Sanborn

One of the Agile principle states “Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage”. Apparently the name "Agile" was chosen because its founders viewed "adaptiveness and response to change" as the most essential concept of the methodology. Agile based SDLC methodology of building potentially shippable products incrementally in short periods of time is one of the most tangible changes and benefits, which an Agile process provides. Change is the only constant factor in a SDLC and we should plan enough to be receptive to change. Agile creates an opportunity for increased customer satisfaction and return on investment by handling change effectively with more robust feedback loops, which accommodates changing requirements to generate higher-value products.

Below are the 5 tips on managing change successfully 

In my earlier post Change Management Is Not Everyone's Cup Of Tea, I had shared how presently all Organizations are growing through a disruptive phase whether its technology transformation, changing customer demographics, challenging economic times, etc. In this disruptive phase, It is an Organization's ability to learn and translate that learning into action rapidly, which gives it the ultimate competitive advantage. 

Agile is all about adapting to change; it was built on the foundational principle that business drivers will change and the project teams must be ready to adapt. 

Previous posts you might be interested in