Am I a Moron ?

There was a time when I decided to see a friend, got up and ensured I met him
There was a time when I waited for the rain, dashed out, got wet and knew how to have fun
There was a time when I waited for the night to have dinner on the floor with my family and exchange with each other the beauty and beast each day brought to me
There was a time when I could just lie down in the sofa and expect to get three square meals a day without anyone uttering a word
There was a time when I waited for the electricity to go, so I could rush out and meet all my friends and keep praying that the electiricty never comes
There was a time when everyone knew my favorite dish and would have it ready for me when I stepped in
There was a time when I loved the joy of travelling in the crowded public transport and the pleasure of sharing with anyone on anything
There was a time when I could say what I felt saying to anyone and not worry about it
There was a time when I believed that I am a product of chance and everyone is equal
There was a time when I used language to ‘communicate’
There was a time when I just did what my parents or elders asked of me
There was a time when I loved fractional coffee with my friends
There was a time when I worked long and felt I did so little
There was a time when I lived in a small house and still seem to have space to accommodate any number of people
There was a time when I had no money and still be absolutely thrilled about everything I did
There was a time when I celebrated winning and losing with equal fervor
There was a time when I needed to give no explanation on anything to anybody
There was a time when I was so sure of myself even when I had no clue of tomorrow
There was a time when I did nothing and I got everything
And I think now
Those were the times I did not possibly realize what a complete moron I was  
Or Am I Now ?

Stay Tuned and Have Fun

Factors Gating Innovation

Learning from CII Innovation Conference


  • Organizational Gravity
  • Industry Gravity
  • Country Gravity
  • Cultural Gravity
Organizational Gravity
Walt Disney created history by creating the animation movie ‘Three Pigs’. The success was phenomenal. What was the natural way to repeat the success ?? PIGS – Part II happened and it bombed miserably at the box office. Walt Disney and his team came back to the drawing board , brain stormed extensively, they realized PIGS do make money and PIGS – Part III happened. Again it failed miserably. The gravity here is to stick to a success formula, what worked earlier is no guarantee that it will work in the future. Disney being Disney did not give up and then Snow white and the seven dwarfs happened. What are we doing to change PIGS to SNOW White ?? Break out of ‘More of the same’ approach. Local examples are Tata’s entry into jewellery by means of Tanishq and ‘Steel Retailing’ by Steel Junction
Industry Gravity
The circus industry was facing a big threat and it was on the verge of closing down. Cirque de Soleil redefined by using humans as performers. It uses a story line for each performance and made it into a format that can be taken to anywhere both in terms of physical mobility and in terms of emotional content offered to audience.

Country Gravity

Singapore when freed from Malaysia was in need of huge image makeover. They wanted to create the best airline in the whole world out of nothing. They could not afford new and stylish planes. Instead they decided to bring on something called ‘In Flight Experience’ and that turned the definition of passenger experience in flights completely 360 degrees. Singapore Airlines has managed to keep that leadership in ‘In Flight Experience’ from inception
Cultural Gravity
Samsung wanted to create the world’s best experience in consumer products. Culturally Koreans always took the best of everything from the best in the world (example : Best of designs from Italy,US) and assembled their product. Suddenly someone asked ‘ What is korean’ in this and that turned on the heat. They decided to be the best designers in the world and hired the best in the world to educate, train their people on design and today their products are competing among the world’s best in their design.
Some of the above are forces that we need to get out and when we say ‘Out of the box’ we need to think which of the above boxes we are stuck inside and then move on.
What some companies then do to get out of these gravity ?
Stay Tuned and Have Fun.

The Journey of the Accidental Leader

The Journey of the Accidental Leader – Steve Gladis

  • No one knows what they are doing until they try
  • You get what you give. So give a little first
  • Build trust by character, competence, caring, commitment and consistency
  • Change isn’t easy, but if you do it right everyone wins
  • You have to have a vision to make it come true
  • If you want to create a positive culture, show people by actions what you believe in. Do not just tell them.
  • Leadership is all about courage
  • The long march begins with the first bold step
  • Change will happen. Embrace it while sticking it to your core principles
  • Leaders have a passion for people

Get the real stuff from the following link
The Journey of the Accidental Leader

Stay Tuned and Have Fun

Discovering Ourselves – 101 (Getting back to basics)

I am sharing some of my thoughts on what some of the expectations that we probably need to have on our own self and expectation that some of our stakeholders would have in our existing and emerging leadership roles. Irrespective of what ‘we feel’ about ourselves and the environment around us these are some areas where we need to be conscious about. We probably are aware of what all is being said here and may be the master of our own self but these thoughts could be considered as reinforcement of what we are probably good at already.
This might look silly, but unless we get this one thing right, we will have difficulty in most areas of our professional and personal life. If I have to quote from Wiki, the definition is “Self-discipline refers to the training that one gives one’s self to accomplish a certain task or to adopt a particular pattern of behavior, even though one would really rather be doing something else” . Our current lifestyle has probably spoiled or taken away something as simple as this over years. So in some sense we probably need to unlearn some of our acquired bad habits. I am personally an advocate of the philosophy ‘as long as work gets done’ why should I worry about anything else and in all probabilities that argument is a very fair and reasonable argument. But the counter argument is if we have a team looking up-to us then we have a fairly bigger responsibility than what probably we could have imagined.  We can be fairly sure that we will be seeing the adage ‘as we sow so shall we reap’ being lived upon.  One simple way to start cultivating this is by coming in office to time, clocking in the required hours and leaving in time. We could argue we are not machines, that we spend some weekends, we stay after office hours for emergencies, we take calls after office hours, but those are exceptions rather than rule. If they are rules then we have something more fundamental to correct and we should attempt correcting that. I am fairly positive that this one single thing will bring in more predictability, consistency into our own self and the teams we command. We can ignore this if we are working on ‘creating the next Google or face book’ though that requires a lot more self-discipline that what we generally are capable of pulling off. Please remember as someone said that discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.
Managing Commitments
If we have said that we will do something on certain time to someone then we need to do it.  It is perfectly alright to say ‘NO’. The Infosys model of ‘Under Committing’ and ‘Over Delivering’ is not a bad idea. We build credibility and trust by doing that repeatedly and that thing we accumulate over years can be broken easily with one failed commitment. People would be tolerant once or twice of ‘failed commitments’ but subsequently they will fail to take us seriously.  Kindly remember that ‘someone’ can be ‘anyone’ that we made a commitment and they need not be people necessarily higher up in the hierarchy. Do not bring up last minute surprises to people whom we have committed as they would have made some commitments based on our commitments. In our roles we interact with a variety of stakeholders and all stakeholders are to be treated with equal respect. Please do not expect people to ‘whom we gave commitment’ to ‘babysit’ us in reminding about those commitments and also do not spend time in exercising our cerebrum on thinking about ‘excuses’. In my personal view nothing can get more embarrassing than that. If I have to summarize this is one sentence, please always remember ‘we are as good as our word’. PERIOD.
Creating Value
As we move along the hierarchy it is important to do ‘things right’, but we need to move from doing ‘things right’ to doing the ‘right things’. I am sure we would have heard this one thousand times but hearing it one more time will do us ‘no harm’. While it is important to retain and continuously strengthen our foundations and take the occasional pleasure in ‘yes, I fixed this bug today’, or ‘I solved this problem today’ or ‘I managed to avert a crisis today’ or taking that deep breath and saying ‘amma, no escalations today’, our real role is to shape a better tomorrow for us, our teams and the organization at large. This comes by serious, conscious and consistent investment in the following
·         Self
·         Team
·         Larger Picture
Investing in ‘Self’
Generally we seem to take our positions and growth for granted just because of the number of years we spend in an organization. In an economy where we live in the number of years we put in has ‘zero relevance’ and what probably has ‘relevance’ is ‘what’ has gone into the number of years. Unless we pay serious attention to how we ‘stay relevant’ we can be dead sure that we will float along till we sink. Nothing ever will guarantee our permanence except ‘continuous’ and ‘relevant’ learning.
Investing in ‘Team’
Swami Vivekananda said ‘Each human being is potentially divine’. I agree that we probably are not in the business of extracting divinity but we need to give a fair chance to each one in our team. This comes by investing quality time with them. We need to see their SWOT and work with them in ensuring a mutually enriching experience.  We are where we are because of our teams and we will be where we probably should be because of our teams. Unless we are willing to expend energy in terms of engaging our teams towards excellence, we will be mutually destroying each other’s aspirations. I would like to paraphrase some text from Jim Collins ‘Good to great’ book where he stresses that ‘The people come first’ in any kind of success that we wish to achieve. Here is a quick summary.

First Who, Then What

The good to great leaders understood three simple truths. First, if we begin with ‘who’ rather than ‘what’, we can more easily adapt to a changing world. If people join the bus primarily because of where it is going, what happens if we get ten miles down the road and we need to change direction? We’ve got a problem. But if people are on the bus because of who else is on the bus, then it’s much easier to change direction: “hey, I got on this bus because of who else is on it; if we need to change direction to be more successful, fine, with me.” Second, if we have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away. The right people don’t need to be tightly managed or fired up; they will be self-motivated by the inner drive to produce the best results and to be part of creating something great. Third, if we have the wrong people, it doesn’t matter whether we discover the right direction; we still won’t have a great company. Great vision without great people is irrelevant.
Investing in ‘Larger Picture’
It is important to have a ‘point of view’ in the area in which we are working. That is an acquired skill as well. We need to understand where our product is heading, who is the competition, what is the ‘competitive advantage’ that we offer, ‘Productivity Metrics’, ‘Customer Satisfaction’ , ‘Quality Metrics’ ‘Elevator pitches’ and the equivalent. We may think this is not our job or why should I care, but if we do not care, we can be sure there will be very little people who will. Unless we are the greatest salesman of our work and are geared to back up that ‘sales performance’ with ‘product performance’ we will be bordering on the edges of fooling our own selves.
In the long run we would be remembered for the tangible and intangible value we helped create.
Managing conflicts
Conflicts are ‘necessary packages’ that we need to ‘exist’ with. At many a times we will find ourselves in situations where our values conflict with organizational values or we may be at cognitive dissonance with what we are being asked to do. A typical example would be the pressure to comply with bell curve in performance ratings. While there is no easy answer on these and similar type of conflicts what we need to ensure is that we have made our case without making ourselves or the others around us miserable. Debate is essential for society to progress and as long as we have done justice to what we believe is right, we should leave it at that. It is perfectly ok to disagree without being disagreeable. It is a chain of managing stakeholder expectations and though we pride about ‘Being Boundary less’ etc, in real life boundaries exist and we should learn to live with and respect those boundaries.  There are two sides to a coin and we should form our judgment only after seeing the two sides. The question we need to answer is ‘Did we do our damned best?’ to resolve conflicts in a ‘win-win’ manner.
Linear Programming
All management typically boils down to a problem of “Linear Programming’. We need to ‘achieve something’ subjected to ‘certain constraints’. We will never live in an ideal world where we are going to be given what all we need. We need to cultivate a ‘possibility thinking’ and evolve ‘there has to be a way’ before coming out with ‘how and why’ we cannot do certain things. We have to deal with a lot of ambiguity, be willing to do mid-course correction many a times and have an obsessive focus on results. We will be mercilessly judged by our ability to ‘Deliver on time, with budget and quality’.
Purpose of Existence
This might sound philosophical but we need to begin with the ‘end in mind’ as Stephen Covey would say. We probably are in a way lucky enough to be where we are and unless we spend our energies in meaningful contribution to us and everyone around us, we are in the danger of falling into the ‘also ran’ trap.
This note is just intended to share areas where we have to be probably aware in our existing and emerging leadership roles and for those of we who are already aware it can serve as a reinforcing function. This note would probably sound abstract without concrete examples but I am sure we all have plenty of real life experiences to fill in. Before writing this I thought how I would fare with respect to the above areas on a scale of 5 (1 – being low and 5 – being high) and the results are as below.
Managing Commitments
Creating Value
Linear Programming
Purpose of Existence
We could probably as well share with me on what we think about my ‘self-evaluation’ and do this exercise on ourselves or amongst our peers.
Alvin Toffler’s said that “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”.  I hope we would be able to break free of our comfort zones in our respective roles, re invent ourselves and carve a future that has purpose .
Stay Tuned and Have Fun

Lean Software Development

Lean Software Development – An Agile Toolkit – Mary Poppendieck, Tom Poppendieck

Seven Lean Principles

Eliminate Waste

The Seven Wastes of Manufacturing
The Seven Wastes of Software Development
Partially Done Work
Extra Processing
Extra Processes
Over Production
Extra Features
Task Switching
Amplify Learning
  • Feedback
  • Iterations
  • Synchronization
  • Set based development
 Decide as late as possible
  •  Options thinking
  •   Last Responsible Moment
  •   Making Decisions
Deliver as fast as possible
  • Pull Systems
  • Queuing Theory
  • Cost of Delay
Empower Team
  • Self Determination
  • Motivation
  • Leadership
  • Expertise
 Build Integrity In
  •  Perceived Integrity
  •  Conceptual Integrity
  •  Re factoring
  •  Testing
 See the whole
  •  Measurements
  •  Contracts

Get the real stuff from the following link
Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit

Stay Tuned and Have Fun

The Art of Project Management

Art of Project Management – Scott Berkun
  • Project management is about using any means necessary to increase the probability and speed of positive outcomes or simply put “Making good stuff happen”
Key Insights
  • Project Management and software development are not sacred arts
  • The simpler your view of what you do, the more power and focus you will have in doing it
  • Simple doesn’t mean easy
Overview of Project Management Activity
  • Figuring out what the project is (Planning, Scheduling, Requirements Gathering)
  • Shepherding the project through design and development work (communication, decision making, and mid-game strategy)
  • Driving the project through to completion (leadership, crisis management, end-game strategy)
The Juggling Act (The Human Angle)
 Balancing Traits (Tom peters – pursuing the Perfect Project Manager)
Eight Dilemmas to be juggled
  • Ego/no-ego
  • Autocrat/delegator
  • Tolerate ambiguity/pursue perfection
  • Oral/written
  • Acknowledge complexity/champion simplicity
  • Impatient/patient
  • Courage/fear
  • Believe/skeptic
Typical distillation cycle
  • Marketing Requirements Document->Vision/Scope document->Specifications->Work Breakdown Structure
 Five qualities of good vision
  • Simplifying
  • Intentional
  • Consolidated
  • Inspirational
  • Memorable
Getting it Right
  • Writing well requires one primary writer
  • Volume is not quality
  • Does the vision accurately reflect our goals and intentions for this project?
  • Is the vision helping leads and individual contributors to make discussions and reject requests that are out of scope?
  • Requirements – What we need to do ?
  • Specifications – How will we do ?
  • Implementation – Do it
Writing good specifications
  • Ensuring right things get built
  • Provide a schedule milestone that concludes a planning phase of the project
  • Enable deep review and feedback from different individuals on the course that the project will take
 “The hardest single part of building a software system is deciding what to build. No other part of the conceptual work is as difficult in establishing the detailed technical requirements, including the interfaces to people, to machines, and to other software systems. No other part of the work so cripples the results if done wrong. No other part is more difficult to rectify later. Therefore, the most important function that the software builder performs for the client is the iterative extraction and refinement of the product requirements” – Fred Brooks
Quality Requirements
  • Provide a plan for requirements negotiation and iteration
  • Hunt down erroneous assumptions
  • Hunt down missing information
  • Define relative priority to each requirement
  • Define or eliminate unintentionally ambiguous language
  • Milestone length should match project volatility
  • Be optimistic in the vision and skeptical in the schedule
  • Bet on design
  • Plan checkpoints for add/cut discussions
  • Inform the team about planning philosophy
  • Gauge the team’s experience with problem space
  • Gauge the team’s experience in working together
  • Take on risks early

 Schedules have three purposes 
  • Make commitments about when things will be done
  • To encourage everyone who’s contributing to a project to see her efforts as part of a whole (Impose a forcing function. A forcing function is anything that –when put in place –naturally forces a change in perspective, attitude or behavior. So schedules are important forcing functions for projects)
  • Tool to track progress and to break work into manageable chunks
In all cases methodologies need to be adjusted and adapted to fit the specifics of a team and a project and that’s only possible if you have a foundation of knowledge
Ultra simplified model of scheduling – Divide into three phases
  • One for design
  • One for implementation
  • One for testing
Scheduling as a Learning Curve
  • Schedule estimation grows in accuracy over time
  • Schedules are simply a kind of prediction
  • No matter how precisely they are drafted or how convincing they appear, they are just a summation of lots of little estimations, each one unavoidable prone to different kinds of unforeseeable oversights and problems.
  • Good work estimates have a high probability of being accurate and bad work estimates have a low probability
  • Establish baseline confidence interval for estimates
  • Lead programmers must set the bar for quality estimations by asking good questions and  taking wise approaches that the team can emulate
  • Programmers should be trusted
  • Estimate depend on the programmer’s understanding of the project goals
  • Estimates should be based on previous performance
  • Specification or design quality should be to whatever point engineering needs to make good estimates
Stages in communication
  1. Transmitted
  2. Received
  3. Agreed
  4. Understood
  5. Action
Communication pitfalls
  • Assumptions
  • Lack of clarity
  • Not listening
  • Dictation
  • Problem mismatch
  • Personal attacks
Quotable Quotes from the book
  • A man fears the tiger that bit him last instead of the tiger that will bite him next
  • Human beings, who are almost unique[among animals] in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so – Douglas Adams
  • “I like working with good people because if I come up with an idea, they come up with a better idea, then I come up with an even better one, and so on. It’s a leapfrog process, and the work becomes much better than it would be if I only did exactly what I want”
  • The way the universe works is big decisions don’t necessarily come with great amount of time to make them
  • Probability is cold and heartless and it helps to remind us that entropy is everywhere and is not the friend of projects or their managers
  • All successful projects are simply a long series of adversities that must be overcome. Far from it being unusual to face adversity, it is normal and our business to overcome it. The real test is not when we are successful when there is no adversity but when there is and we triumph
Get the real stuff from the following link
Stay Tuned and Have Fun.

Our Iceberg is Melting

Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions – John Kotter, Holger Rathgeber

Set the Stage
  • Create a Sense of Urgency
  • Help others see the need for change and the importance of acting immediately.
  • Pull Together the Guiding Team
  • Make sure there is a powerful group guiding the change-one with leadership skills, credibility, communications ability, authority, analytical skills, and a sense of urgency
Decide what to do
  • Develop the Change Vision and Strategy
  • Clarify how the future will be different from the past, and how you can make that future a reality.
Make it happen
  • Communicate for Understanding and Buy In.
  • Make sure as many others as possible under-stand and accept the vision and the strategy
  • Empower others to act
  • Remove as many barriers as possible so that those who want to make the vision a reality can do so.
 Produce Short-Term Wins

  • Create some visible, unambiguous successes as soon as possible.

 Don’t Let up

  • Press harder and faster than the first successes. Be relentless with initiating change after change until the vision is a reality.
 Make it stick
  • Create a New Culture
  • Hold on to the new ways of behaving, and make sure they succeed, unitl they become strong enough to replace old traditions.
  • The role of thinking and feeling
  • Thinking differently can help change behavior and lead to better results.
  • Collect data, analyze it.
  • Present the information logically to change people’s thinking.
  • Changed thinking, in turn , can change behavior
  • Feeling differently can change behavior more and lead to even better results.
  • Create surprising, compelling and if possible visual experiences
  • The experiences change how people feel about a situation
  • A change in feelings can lead to a significant change in behavior
Get the real stuff from the following link
Have a look at
Stay Tuned and Have Fun.