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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Upcoming Agile Project Management MasterClass at Swinburne – Aug 21st and 22nd

This two day Masterclass commences with an introduction to the foundation and history of the Agile movement. It then looks at common practices and frameworks used by teams including Scrum, Kanban, Lean Start-up and XP.

Day two drills into project management activities related to planning, monitoring and controlling projects highlighting the role of collaboration, developing appropriate feedback and quality systems, including elevating the focus from schedule and budget targets to delivering customer value.

This course introduces

  • The background and history of Agile management
  • Leading frameworks used in industry and their features and benefits
  • Principles and practices to initiate and plan a project
  • How Agile practices and techniques can be used to manage a project, with particular focus on dealing with a changing project scope

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Check out here for more details.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Enterprise Agile Transformation through Centralized Agile Group – Benefits and Challenges

Authored the following article for Cutter Consortium as part of their Agile advisory series.  In this article, some analysis has been done detailing pros/cons of setting up centralized Agile excellence or group to promote Agile as part of Agile transformation in the enterprise.

Here is just a snippet and the complete article can be accessible by  Cutter members.

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Read rest of the article on Cutter

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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Changing the mindset of Agile teams

Recently I penned a guest post for Version One  about the why people behave in the way they do and how to change them ?

Agile is not about practicing Scrum, XP or Kanban. It is a mindset that one needs to cultivate. It is not about doing a daily standup or retrospective but knowing the values/principles behind it. Most of the agile teams are interested in practices and very few are interested to learn the values/principles.

People resist adopting new values and principles as it expects a change in mindset of teams. Changing the mindset of agile teams is always a bit difficult. I have started believing that it is easier to change the people than their mind. The good news is, there are some tools and tips available to help in this journey of changing mindset.

Let me explain one of the tools with an example. A couple of weeks ago, I came across these two dustbins outside of our apartment complex.

venkatesh-dust-bins

As one could see, one of them a simple open cardboard box and the other one is a proper dustbin. Not sure why they had kept these two together. In the next few days, I noticed that people were throwing wastes mostly into the open box. However, the other one needed additional effort to open the lid to throw the wastes, which was left unused.

What I learned from this experience is, if you want people to follow ideas, make it easier for them to learn and use. Or else they will never change.

Another case study is from one of my agile projects. The teams were using an agile project management tool which was not so user-friendly. Teams diligently added all the user stories and tracked them on a regular basis. However, when the need came to extract the key metrics like Velocity and Cycle times, the team had to write queries manually and tweak it regularly. They always resisted this manual, cumbersome process, which was time consuming as well. The teams always used to fall behind sharing these critical agile metrics with the stakeholders.

I suggested an alternate approach, which involved adding a dot on the user story cards after their daily standup until it is complete. It looked something like the one shown in the picture below for measuring the cycle times.  They used a simple sketch pen to put the dots on the cards.  This was so much easier, and the team loved it.  After this little change, they never resisted sharing the metrics.

Conclusion: If you want to change the behavior or mindset of agile teams, create an environment that is easier to navigate and use. The non-intuitive tools and processes could be a major blocker in the change journey of your teams.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Some buzzwords in Agile community and new trends

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In the recent times the following ideas/buzzwords are getting filled with the void of struggling, adolescent Agile

1. Holacracy :   Read more here from Zappos example.

2. Real Options Theory :  Read more here

3. For scaling Agile:  SAFe(Scaled Agile Framework) is already popular,  Craig’s  LeSS(Large Scale Scrum) and now ScALeD

4. Open Agile Adoption

Photo Courtesy: Flickr

Friday, May 02, 2014

How culture gets created and how to change ?

image I will explain this through a simple example of how culture gets created in organizations.
The team is conducting a retrospective.  They capture all the good, bad and ugly items on post-its and capture the action items as well. However, the Scrum Master never bothers to follow up with action items.
Team attends the second retrospective and the similar issues crop up again.  Some one nudges the Scrum Master about the pending action from the last retro and you would hear that it is yet to be done.
By the time you are in 3rd or 4th retro, team members would have lost interest in creating action items as they have lost faith in this process. This has lead to creation of a culture that “nothing works in this team” OR “It is a waste of time”
When new members join the team and observes the retro, they would be surprised to see that no one is creating action items. They could potentially blame the team for this.  Even if the new team members try to bring their new ideas, rest of the team would be skeptical and pull them down by saying  “nothing works in this team” don’t stress yourself.  This trend will have domino effect on the entire system.
In retrospect, it is not that the team was un-willing to do anything with action items, it is the leader who silenced them in every instance. People in power, authority, dominant and influential positions play a key role in  creating culture in the organizations.
Good news is, it is possible to change. I see two options in such situations, either get a new leader who could enable in creating a new culture or get a shark in the team, who could stand up and challenge the status-quo
What is your experience in changing the culture ?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Different Root cause analysis techniques and tools

image It’s common to see people point fingers and play the blame game after a project fails. These blame games not only hurt the team members but also impact their morale as well. Is there a way to avoid these hurtful situations while focusing on improving process and identifying the failure’s root cause? 

The answer to that question can be found with root cause analysis (RCA), which helps to divert attention from people to process improvement.

Typically, agile teams are recommended to do an RCA session in response to issues raised during retrospectives. Shamefully, many agile teams skip RCA and continue to struggle in a whirlwind of issues.

RCA is not rocket science—especially when we have such a simple tool as the five whys. Eric Ries has elaborated on RCA with some practical examples from his lean startup journey. Here’s an example of a simple Excel spreadsheet that shows how to conduct RCA using the five whys; you can download a ready-to-use spreadsheet here.

Read the complete article on Techwell

Photo attribution: ThinkReliability

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Scrum, XP, SAFe, Kanban: Which Method Is Suitable for My Organization?

image I have recently seen the SAFe framework criticized by the Scrum founder as well as the Kanban founder (see "unSAFEe at Any Speed" and "Kanban -- The Anti-SAFe for Almost a Decade Already"). Method wars are not new, however, and could go on forever. In the face of these discussions, it is important to remember the real intent behind Agile methods.

In this recently published Cutter article, I discuss the importance of understanding Agile as a tool rather than as a goal.  I am also proposing some ideas from complexity theory and Cynefin framework to substantiate the need for parallel/safe to fail experiments rather than  handcuffing organizations with single framework/method or a process.

Read the complete article on Cutter

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Photo courtesy: Flickr