Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Incredible India - Qutub Minar

As part of Incredible India series, this post is for Qutub Minar, which is located in New Delhi, India
Qutub Minar is a 73 m-high tower built in 1193 by Qutab-ud-din AibakTower has five distinct storeys & measures from 15 m diameter at base to 2.5 m at top. It is considered among the tallest & famous towers in the world and has some incredible carvings. 

Qutub Minar is made of red sandstone and marble with intricate carvings and verses from the Qur'an. The stairs of the tower has 379 steps leading to the top but a stampede of school children and presently for security reasons, visitors are not allowed up the stairway. If you wanna understand how Qutub Minar is from inside then you can watch this beautiful song from one of the old hindi (bollywood) movie featuring Dev Anand and Nutan in the movie 'Tere Ghar Ke Samne'.    

Inside the complex, there is the iron pillar which is said to have stood the test of time without getting rusted. The pillar has attracted the attention of archaeologists and materials scientists and has been called "a testament to the skill of ancient Indian blacksmiths" because of its high resistance to corrosionThe height of the pillar, from the top of its capital to the bottom of its base, is 7.21 m (23.7 ft), 1.12 m (3 ft 8 in) of which is below ground

Qutub Minar is a short auto rickshaw ride (~ 40) from either metro stations Saket or Qutab Minar and is conveniently located and easily accessible via public transport. 

Place has been well preserved considering it was built around 12th century and surrounding place also kept neat. These photos were taken on a very cold winter day during noon so the fog is visible in the snaps. On a clear day, I am sure this place is a photographer's delight with so many spots to take some amazing pictures of this glorious structure that has stood for so many centuries. 

It certainly is one of the must visit world heritage sites in the world and an incredible, breathtaking experience. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Top 20 Tips for Project Managers

Project managers are responsible for the successful initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, controlling and closure of projects. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), a project is temporary in that it has a defined timeframe, and therefore defined scope and resources. Also, a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal. Project teams often includes people who don’t usually work together – sometimes from different organizations and across multiple geographies.
Project management is the application of knowledge, skills and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently. The following 20 tips (not necessarily in any particular order) are good references while managing a project.

  1. Take good care of your project team and your team will take care of client, which in turn will take care of business
  2. The project is all about delivery and keeping stakeholders (internal/external) informed
  3. At any given point of time a project manager should know what tasks need to be done, who should do it and have an ETA
  4. Always be on top of the RAID (Risks, Assumptions, Issues, & Dependencies) log as RAID is a critical factor for a successful project outcome
  5. No plan is perfect so always have Plan B. Circumstances change frequently so always consider the alternatives
  6. Projects are 90% planning and 10% implementation
  7. Plan, Execute, Review and Adjust
  8. Be adaptable and flexible while thinking outside the box
  9. A good communicator is a good listener. By listening you may learn something new while speaking repeats what you already know
  10. Always remember the 80/20 rule (Pareto Principle), which means by executing 20% of the work you can get 80% of the benefit
  11. Break the whole plan into milestones and scope them accordingly including the development of checklists for each milestone to verify quality as project work incrementally iterates
  12. Understand the dynamics of 'Definition of Ready' and 'Definition of Done'
  13. Design a robust feedback loop to learn lessons along the way and strive to continuously improve
  14. Negotiate achievable commitments by separating people from problems
  15. You cannot manage and improve what you cannot measure
  16. 6 P's of Project Management: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Project Performance (If i had 4 hours to cut down a tree, i would take 3 hours to sharpen the axe)
  17. Get the right people involved including the experts you need and proactively seek guidance 
  18. Trust but always verify. Direct communication is a key for forging trustworthy relationships
  19. Plans are nothing; planning is everything. Planning is a continuous process including progressive elaboration or rolling wave planning
  20. The difference between a good project manager and a great project manager are the leadership skills they possess
What are your top tips for a project manager? Please leave a comment to share your tips.

Top 20 Tips for Project Managers was originally posted under Prokarma blog on Dec 10th 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

7 Leadership Skills All Project Managers Should Embrace

Managing a project to successful completion on time, on budget, within scope and with high quality results requires project managers to have exceptional leadership skills. Having the right set of leadership skills ensures project managers are making informed decisions, while adapting to changes and responding to risks appropriately. While some project managers possess natural leadership qualities, other leadership skills must be learned and adapted to ensure consistency in managing projects.
These 7 Leadership skills are fundamental to effective project management

  1. Communication
  2. Delegation
  3. Commitment
  4. Positive Attitude
  5. Creativity
  6. Honesty
  7. Focus

1. Communication
Effective communication with all project stakeholders both internal and external is essential. To manage projects well, project managers must articulate clearly while communicating vision, objectives and expectations with stakeholders. It's very important to share business values derived from the outcome of the project and consistently shared throughout the tenure of the project. Multi-channel communication should foster the delivery and reception of information in a timely manner.
2. Delegation
Delegate project tasks according to respective project team member strengths. Before delegation it's very important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each team member and assign project tasks appropriately. Create environments where project team members experiences play to their respective strengths, thus facilitating health and trust.
3. Commitment
Commit to project success by ensuring alignment with goals. As a project manager, you need to lead the team and acquire commitment to achieve project objectives. It's equally important to acquire commitment from client stakeholders to provide necessary support while remaining aligned and moving towards common project goals.
4. Positive Attitude
Ensure positive attitudes are reflected across the project team. Be a trailblazer by creating a path for your team members to feel inspired and achieve greater things. Foster an environment where team members are given goals to achieve and encourage them to use their ingenuity. Create awareness that they are being observed to enhance productivity and as a project manager, you are there to provide support when needed.
5. Creativity
Be creative and think out of the box when things deviate from plan. Your team is your biggest asset so create an environment where their feedback is encouraged and valued. When teams feel empowered, they back you up and when things deviate, they can help you come out with ideas on how to manage unscripted work. It is said that a successful project manager sees the opportunities in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity.
6. Honesty
Be honest and ethical, setting standards and inspiring team members to follow. By showing your commitment to adhere to your own set of values and ethical practices, the  project team will be inspired to follow suit and trust you to lead them. It's also important to establish a trust worthy relationship with clients where transparency is provided on how the project is being managed. One way of defining quality is to do the right things when nobody is watching.
7. Focus
Remain focused on your team and ensure your team remains focused on project goals. Whether managing projects traditionally, iteratively or using Agile methodologies, it's important to remain focused and aligned with project goals. Team members remain focused if their respective task goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. There should also be a constant feedback loop to ensure alignment with overall project goals.

7 Leadership Skills All Project Managers Should Embrace was originally posted under Prokarma blog on Nov 12 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

10 Ground Rules on the Right Metrics

Metrics are standards of measurement that enable us to evaluate aspects of business crucial to growth. Be it operations, project, program or portfolio, they increase visibility into our performance. Note that if we cannot measure, we cannot improve and with right metrics in place we continuously improve. 
Here are ten ground rules on how to select the right metrics for your business:

  1. Each metric should be informational (tells you what's going on), diagnostic (identifies areas of improvement) or motivational (influences behavior)
  2. Metrics should be easy to gather with existing data points for greater efficiency.
  3. You should not gather metrics for the sake of it. No one who matters will care and you will will quickly train people to ignore the data you compile
  4. Portfolio and Program metrics should measure outcomes, not activity. In the cases of Projects and Operations, metrics should measure output and activities as needed
  5. Create a dashboard for each category of metrics that is easily digestible, accessible and more importantly should be actionable
  6. Be smart about what you measure and make use of the data you gather
  7. Measure everything necessary and nothing more. Stakeholders make better decisions with concise data
  8. Don't cut corners as data integrity is very important in a trustworthy partnership
  9. Use tools to measure. Manual effort more often leads to manipulation and invalid data points 
  10. Metrics should be mapped with client and organizational KPI's
Please let me know if you have additional rules regarding business metrics or would like to comment the ones listed above. 

10 Ground Rules on the Right Metrics for Your Business was originally posted under Prokarma Blog on Oct 14th 2014. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Art of Writing an Email

The Art of Writing an Email was originally posted under Prokarma blog on Sep 3rd 2014

Effective communication is key for an open, transparent and honest environment and more so in a virtual setup. Writing an email that is precise and courteous is one effective way of communicating, so it is very important to understand the art of writing an email.  While writing an email, have empathy towards the recipient(s) and ask yourself whether the email will actually be read, understood, not annoy and not take too much time to read. Always remember the principle of 'Keep it simple stupid' (KISS) while composing the email and stick to facts instead of using too much verbiage to make a point.
Sometime back I received this email while working at a client site.
Dear All,
Mysteriously, a sweater appeared on my chair at some point yesterday morning. If it was a gift, thank you. It's not really my style but I would wear it to any company parties we might have to show my appreciation - but you have to tell me who you are so I know who to thank.
If it wasn't a gift and you left it here inadvertently, I have protected it from the people who have come to ask if they can have it but I don't know how much longer I can fend them off. Best if you come back and retrieve it at your earliest convenience.
This just in: It was found in the bathroom in the hallway on the 9th floor and was believed to be mine. Nope. It is multi-colored with brown, red, blue and green triangles all over it. Made by CRT8CO, 85% acrylic and 15% wool. Made in Taiwan, size small. If you're not sure, I can provide more details.
Is it yours?
Intent of sharing above email is to cite an example of how an email can be used effectively to communicate. This email while stating the intent and the message in clear terms, also includes sense of humor. This makes the email both easy to read and at the same time gives you a reason to smile.   

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Lessons Inspired By Chanakya

Lessons Inspired By Chanakya was originally published as an article in LinkedIn

It amazes me how much culturally rich India is and how much we can learn from our glorious history. Chanakya was a renowned Indian scholar, who served as a teacher, philosopher and royal advisor. Other day I was fortunate enough to watch a youtube video of TV serial Chanakya, which used to be telecast on national television in India during early 1990's. In this episode, there is an interesting Q&A session which takes place in the court of king DhanaNanda (last ruler of Nanda dynasty) involving his court priest and Chanakya's student from Takshashila University. Q&A session goes like this

Court Priest: Who is greatest enemy
Chanakya's student: Pride

Court Priest: What is wealth of the poor 
Chanakya's student: Knowledge

Court Priest: Who is a honorable man
Chanakya's student: One who is benevolent

Court Priest: A woman's virtue
Chanakya's student: Her modesty

Court Priest: Who is the most heroic man 
Chanakya's student: A generous person

Court Priest: Against whom we should protect wealth
Chanakya's student: From thieves and state officials

Court Priest: What is the root of happiness
Chanakya's student: Religion

Court Priest: What is the basis of religion 
Chanakya's student: Economy

Court Priest: What is the basis of economy
Chanakya's student: State

Court Priest: What is the basis of state
Chanakya's student: Conquering the senses

Court Priest: What is the basis of conquering the senses 
Chanakya's student: Humility

Court Priest: What is the basis of humility
Chanakya's student: Serving the weak

Court Priest: Where does the King's welfare lie
Chanakya's student: In the welfare of his subjects

Listening to this Q&A session, it makes me feel that answers given by the student are so righteous and relevant even today. So what lessons did I learn from this

#1. Always be humble in life. John Wooden quoted "Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful."

#2. Be respectful to one and all. One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what others have to say.

#3. Your team's success is your success and their failure is your responsibility. 

#4. Somebody can steal your money but nobody can steal your knowledge. So share your knowledge as the more you share, the more you gain. 

#5. Integrity is the most important quality. Samuel Johnson quoted "Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful."

#6. Happiness is in thoughts and not in things. Charles Spurgeon quoted "It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.

#7. Serve others. John Holmes quoted “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.

What are your thoughts? Please share your comments.

Friday, December 5, 2014

20 Guidelines for a Productive Meeting

20 Guidelines for a Productive Meeting blog post originally appeared on Prokarma Blog

Sometime back Verizon commissioned the Meetings in America study to gain a better understanding of meeting trends and the needs of its customers. Study provides some very good insights on how meetings are perceived and includes interesting stats such as:
  • 91% of professionals admit to daydreaming in meetings, 
  • 95% say they miss either all or part of meetings, 
  • 75% say they bring other work to meetings and 
  • 39% say they have actually dozed off during a meeting
  • 92% on the positive side, value meetings as providing an opportunity to contribute, suggesting that successful meetings may be a contributing factor to employee job satisfaction.

Even though above study seems specific to United States, it applies globally as well. To have a productive meeting, consider the following guidelines.
  1. Define purpose of the meeting 
  2. Consider who needs to be invited
  3. Email goal(s) wise agenda well in advance
  4. Arrive 5 minutes early for the meeting 
  5. Start and end meeting on time
  6. Come prepared for the meeting especially if you are the host 
  7. Take notes or identify someone to take notes 
  8. Set expectations to switch off or keep smartphones on mute during the meeting
  9. Share all relevant data for the meeting ahead of time
  10. Be brief and concise during the course of the meeting 
  11. Encourage participants to share their thoughts without interruption 
  12. Encourage everyone to participate in the meeting
  13. Respect people’s thoughts so if needed, disagree without being disagreeable 
  14. Direct the conversations to encourage participants remain focused on topic(s)
  15. Silence is perceived as an agreement when an opinion is needed
  16. No side conversations or comments should be encouraged 
  17. Challenge ideas rather than people 
  18. Agree on actionable items before wrapping up the meeting
  19. Summarize main points discussed in the meeting and
  20. Follow up with an email including minutes of meeting