Hasty Snippets – Management Agility Conference


As ever, this is a hastily put across compilation of the sessions that I attended on the two day Management agility conference held at the Sheraton Bangalore on Feb 27th and Feb 28th 2013. Everything in this compilation is lifted from http://agileindia.org/ai2013/index.html and copy rights belong to the original people who presented in the conference. The speakers I attended to are listed at the end of this note. Like everything in agile, this was a well attended, well done conference with no philosophers (excluding the likes of me) and only practitioners. In other words these came from people who have made the journey from Apprentice to Master. Any mistake in this should only be attributed to me.  For any specific details regarding this, please feel free to write or talk to me and I shall be happy to share whatever I experienced.

People, People, People

The importance of people was re-emphasized in all talks. Simply put success of agile practices depends on people and collaboration between them. Good people make a 10X difference in quality, speed and every related aspect. The essence was captured in the following text.
Clearly the role of conventional manager is changing to more of a facilitator. Their primary responsibility can be summarized as
  • Help the team deliver
  • Stop external interruptions to the team
  • Make them better people than what they were when they got into the project


People should transition to be what can be termed as an oxymoron. They should be ‘Generalized specialists’ having both the breadth and the depth.  This can be visualized as follows and possibly said as having the ‘T’ skill.  This essentially means everyone in the team knows what it takes to get software deployed to field (from analysis to rollout)

To illustrate how a bid (real life example) was won using agile teams the following examples was shown. This is overhauling an insurance company
Company that won the bid
Project Schedule
12 months
8 months
Project Price
2 M $
1.1 M$
ROI (Return on Investment)

This is the kind of productivity improvements that a Polyskilled team can demonstrate.

Technology Radar

Technology organizations should have a Technology Advisory Board (TAB) that shall meet frequently. ThoughtWorks uses this effectively and have a weekly virtual meeting and two face to face meetings in a year. The output of the two face to face meetings is technology radar that they publish twice in a year and which portrays their view on technology and makes a case to adopt/hold/trial/assess. A sample of the recent radar can be seen from the following link.
Emphasis should be placed on creating personal technology radar once in a year as well which helps to manage the individual’s knowledge portfolio. Individual should have four quadrants as shown below and manage this on a yearly basis.


An organization quadrant shall possibly look like this and it would be a good idea to map if individual directions and company directions are in sync.
Tools and COTS (Commercial off the shelf software)

A good litmus test for choosing a particular technology can be as follows (Though it varies from organization to organization)
  • Testability
  • Integratibility
  • Narrow suitability to task
  • Adoption
The benefits of adopting technology radar for the organization and individual can be summarized as follows
  • A platform of continuous analysis
  • Unified message to non-technical but interested people
  • Excuse to get together and have impassioned conversation
  • Business view of technology
  • IT view of technology
  • Being Aware of the “Competitive blind side”
  • Manage your knowledge portfolio
  • Proactively guard your career

Engineering Fundas and Metrics

Inverting the testing pyramid

The two diagrams are self explanatory on how testing should be approached. This also provides a possible tool list on what tools could be used at what stages

Nice things re-produced

  • Agile can scale from 2 member teams to 2000 member teams co-located or distributed
  • Agile not only web applications. Have been proven in all kind and all scale of applications (From startups to giants like Ericsson, Intel)
  • Agile architects are coding architects
  • Safety isn’t success
  • Velocity isn’t value
  • Good process looks bad
  • One balanced team not client -vendor
  • Working as a team of co-makers requires mindset changes
  • Reality bites
  • System 1 Thinking
    System 2 Thinking
    Evidence, plans
    Tacit Knowledge
    Explicit Knowledge
    Auto pilot
    Manual Mode
    Overrides System 2
    Checking on System 1
    Makes most decisions
    Basically Lazy
    • Getting better is a better option than being good.
    • Worry about being resilient rather than perfection. If someone brings down Amazon can they recover in minutes or seconds? Though they design very carefully, they are not paranoid about ‘not going down’
    • Focus on telling a compelling story
    • Do not fall into the experience trap especially when in estimating

    Move from
    • Productivity to impact
    • Predictability to experimentation
    • Efficiency to Decentralization
    • Making money to making a difference
    Deming’s 14 obligations of Management (http://www.managementwisdom.com/wedde14po.html). This was mapped to agile thinking
    1. Create constancy of purpose to improve product, service, and people with the aim to become competitive, stay in business, and provide jobs.
    2. Adopt the new philosophy of continual improvement. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and become leaders.
    3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for massive inspection by building quality into the product in the first place.
    4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Move towards a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust. Minimize total cost.
    5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
    6. Institute training on the job.
    7. Institute leadership
    8. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company. Fear paralyzes people and prevents improvement
    9. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production as well as consumer difficulties. People need to understand how departments interact and affect each other.
    10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force. Only management can improve the system.
    11. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.
    12. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship
    13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
    14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job and management must create a vision and program to include and inspire every employee.


    Speakers (Sessions I attended and the material came from)

CII 8th Innovation Summit

Eight India Innovation Summit 2012 – Notes

. 7

I attended the 8th CII India Innovation Summit held at the Leela Palace on August 30thand August 31st 2012.  I have attended the conference two years back and it is interesting to note that CII maintains a remarkable standard of professionalism in conducting this conference. Kudos to the present CII chairman Mr. L. Krishnan and his team. It was a packed audience for the whole of two days and that does tell about the entire engagement levels brought about by the conference.
It is always heartening to see accomplished industry veterans, accomplished professionals and budding entrepreneurs (some even less than twenty five years of age) sharing their experiences in a single stage.
In this short note I have tried to distil the key take away of the forty odd wonderful sessions. Please note it is impossible to re-create the magic brought about by the individual speakers.
 Made in India’ is *not* a taboo
‘Made in India’ is to be taken seriously.  It is something to be proud of. Low cost *does not* translate to low quality. India has lessons to offer for the world. Be it HealthCare, IT, Manufacturing, Biosciences any other field, India can create for the world. There were strong opinions for and against this, however the mood was optimistic and it was felt that the progress was being made in the right direction. Some note worthy examples were
·         The cost of bringing down the Hepatitis B Vaccine from Rs 800 to Rs 10 per dose by Bharath Biotech
·         Nano Car – No one ever thought a 2000$ car can be made
·         Animation can be as good or better than Hollywood – Wait for the upcoming movie Delhi Safari on October 19th
·         GE’s portable ECG machine

Foundations *remain* the same

The following fundamental values were repeated through-out by all speakers in some form or the other and possibly numerous examples were given for each of these values
·         Passion
·         Commitment
·         Excel within constraints
·         Do something different each day
·         Follow  your heart
·         Making creativity count (i.e accountable creativity)
·         Do not be afraid to fail
·         Do not re-invent the wheel (Copy and Adapt is alright)
·         Do not afraid to tread a path where no one has gone
·         Enlist the right set of people
·         Lack of belief is the barrier
·         Money is a side effect, be obsessively focused on purpose
·         Be Aware – There is always a story
·         ‘And’ is possible
·         Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

Juggad and Low cost innovation

Juggad, a term originating from here is nothing to be ashamed of. It is applying logic, resources and common sense to solve a problem in a unique way keeping the local context. A vehicle powered by a motor used for agricultural can be considered as Juggad. Low cost innovation on the other hand is ‘Juggad’ by design!!. Developing a vaccine for ten rupees or making a $2000 car is not juggad. They are frugal innovation built in the purpose. The entire world is looking at India for low cost innovation and taking the lessons, work done here to their markets across the globe. Here is a view of how Bosch is looking at India.
“As a group, we have said that is strategically important for us to be in the low-cost vehicle market, and there are two reasons for this: Firstly, you cannot just transfer technology X, from Europe to a low cost vehicle. You need new engineering, the intelligence to make things simple, and adapt it to low cost markets. Secondly, this is valuable for our engineers, who could down the line bring these ideas back to the low end of the European market. “– Bernd Bohr, Bosch”
TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) is a battle everyone is fighting to stay relevant and it cuts across industries

Invest in Humanities, Fine Arts and Basic Sciences

Everyone stressed the importance of investing in children in the above subjects. It was felt that we are disconnecting from our roots and creating a factory of individuals who are more mechanized in their approach towards life. We are not laying the foundation for critical thinking in our students at earlier years and are churning out mostly machines. The ‘Right Brain’ skills which need lot of horning are not nurtured enough in earlier years, thus leading to lot of gaps in all corners of all industries where skills are needed, people are available, but people with skills are not found.  We are preparing our people to clear textbooks, but not making them ready for market. Though isolated pockets of efforts are made by individuals to correct this, there needs to be more systemic correction. It was cited as an example with ample evidence on how a taste for music acquired in the early years can help the individual to be better grounded in shaping their personalities. The most glaring example of lack of originality came from Dr Krishna M Ella of Bharath Biotech when he said that as a country we have never developed or launched a new molecule. The underlying message is that find avenues to keep nurturing the ‘Right Brain’ skills, the earlier the better, otherwise we run the risk of creating a copy-cat society.

Lack of political will

This is something that I guess everyone was saying and not saying. While the customary acknowledgements were made in the support given by the governments, it was blatantly evident that there was no correlation in the speed at which the governments are functioning and the speed at which the industry is expecting the government to function. Here again, pockets of excellence still exist. An example was given of a state where infant mortality was the largest five years back , but in a span of five years , it was brought down to better international averages. It just goes to show what political will can do. However the mood was sullen on this aspect and I somehow came out with the feeling that these guys somehow seemed to make things happen bearing the governmental apathy.

Some Little Known facts

·         India has 633 districts and a budget of 1200 crores per year is available for each district. Imagine what accountability, trust and governance can bring about with that kind of money.
·         Karnataka runs the largest e-procurement portal in the world and 1,65,00 crores of money was handled through the portal last year
·         An Indian Institute of Nanoscience  is being setup
·         The biggest biotech park is coming up in Bangalore
·         Centre for Indian Music Experience is on the anvil
·         The budget for Metro phase I is around 11000 crores and each year it will save the exchequer around 1100 crores. The Managing Director of BMRCL Mr Sivasailam remarked that this is a small project !!
·         The budget for Metro phase II is 26000 crores. He mentioned here that this is a slightly bigger project !!

Familiar faces

·         Professor Sadagopan  – Director IIIT Bangalore
·         Dr Gopichand Kattragada – Managing director GE India Technology Centre
·         Kris Gopalakrishnan – Executive Co-Chairman, Infosys
You will find the above people, generally present in any conferences of significance related to Innovation and Project Management in Bangalore. The depth, clarity, passion, humor, and consistency they bring about in their speeches and the sessions they chair are laudable. The underlying theme of their talks generally center on that we have everything in here to ‘rub shoulders with the best in the build’. Their quest for excellence in anything and everything they do is visible

Opportunities to make a difference

Education and Healthcare are primary areas if focused properly can change the direction of this country. Energy and Biosciences are fast growing up. I do not think anyone doubted our abilities in IT and we seemed to be considered as leaders here. It was felt that we need to supercharge bringing about IT in other areas

Interesting Session

The banquet session on the first day was the best. Clearly it floored me. All speakers spoke from the heart without opening any slide and the flow was amazing. This was one session and probably the only session which got standing ovations. I will see if I can get a video to share , but the way in which the speakers shared their achievements, failures,  hurdles they had to cross, apathy they had to face from the environment around them and nudging along their way to be what they are stuck an emotional chord with the entire audience. I have briefly summarized in the table below the speakers and what they do. You probably can explore further if you wish. Please note that these are people who have taken the ‘road less traveled’
Brief Remarks
Mr Aroon Raman
Managing Director – Raman Fiber Science and former
Mr Ramji Raghavan
Founder Chairman – Agastya International Foundation
Dr Gopichand Kattragada
Managing Director – GE India Technology Centre Pvt Ltd
Mr Anil Srinivasan
Classical Pianist and Founder Rhapsody Music
Ms Manasi Prasad
Classical Musician and Project Director Centre for Indian Music Experience

Interesting Speakers

Though most of the speakers were engaging, the following people stood out in terms of connecting with the audience and the messages that they were able to drive home in the short time they had
Key Note
Dr Krishna Murthy Ella – Chairman and Managing Directory, Bharath Biotech International Limited
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Imagination + Knowledge = Innovation
Dr. V.Sumantran Executive Vice Chairman , Hinduja Automotive Limited and Vice Chairman, Ashok Leyland
Innovating to a cost advantage
Engineering => Combination of Brains and Materials. More the brains, less the materials.
Dr Lalitesh Katragadda – Country Head, India Products Google
Nine Rules for Visionaries 1
Mr K Ramakrishnan – President Coffee day group
BEAN there  ; Done that
CTRL +C, CTRL + V, Adapt
Vidyashankar and Sivasailam – IAS officers
Transparency and Public Accountability
Committed public machinery can make a large scale impact
Aditya Nath Jha
Delhi Safari – Creating India’s Answer to Bollywood
We are ‘world class’. Make no mistakes on that.
Sundi Natrajan
Funding Innovations
It is easy to start an enterprise now with very little capital
Mr Vivek Sahadevan Nair and Mr Deepak Ravindran
Less than twenty five years of age and their raw enthusiasm was infectious
1Nine rules of Visionaries
·         Hire the best
·         Everyone can contribute
·         Share
·         Everyone must understand your vision
·         Morph ideas
·         Speed Matters
·         Data, Data, Data drives decisions
·         Users come first, always
·         Let passion bloom (20% time is the kindling)

Interesting Links to follow through

A ‘crack’ on patents

Professor Sadagopan answered a question on Patents and Intellectual property in his own trademark way.  He said that he used to travel from Dehradun to Delhi in a train which was generally crowded. Each station people use to say ‘Darwaza Kholo’ (‘Open the door’) to get into the compartments and after some struggle one or two persons get into the compartments. However the same persons who get into the compartments remain mute to the ‘Darwaza Kholo’ appeals to people in the subsequent stations!


It is easy to sit at my own seat and think life is difficult, but it was gratifying to come out and see that people are surpassing bigger mountains with constraints that are larger than I face. Though I am still dozing I would like to conclude by a quote which was shared in the event
“We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter’s evening. Some of us let these dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which comes always to those who hope that their dreams will come true – Woodrow Wilson”

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.

Project Management Practioner’s Conference – 2010 Bangalore

It was an interesting event and the most interesting part of the two day conference was everything went on time.  To see practice in action by the preachers in the same stage is some kind of a rarity and kudos to the entire PMI team for making it look so simple
To be frank they indeed had reserved the best for the last
T.N.Seshan showed why he is considered as a demi-god for most of the youngsters in India. Age did not wither him or custom stale his infinite variety. His thirty minute speech looked like thirty seconds and I could only hear the continuous applause and see the standing ovation he received on entry and exit. I was so overwhelmed that I completely missed what he was saying. He was asking the youth to take on bigger projects like ‘eradication of poverty’, ‘restoring peace in Kashmir’ and work for project that have a deeper and meaningful impact. When asked how he managed to make a difference in every undertaking he took despite hurdles, he said that he was brought up believing in Lord Tennyson’s verse ‘To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield’.
Professor Sadagopan followed Seshan’s address with a cameo performance.  Great teachers are great influencers and he is undoubtedly one of them. He began by saying that he was put in a hard spot by the organizers who asked him to speak after a man who had the last word on any subject! He said the following, to complete anything in time we need to ‘fix a muhurt’. If we can get a million marriages done on time, make the Brahmoutsav in  Tirupati happen in time , we can get half of the projects we do in time. He said Project Manager’s should develop the following characteristics
·         Being Gutsy, in other words having the guts to make a difference
·         Study Successful Whiz Kids in Project Management like T.N.Seshan and E.Sreedharan of Metro
·         Be Resilient and cool under crisis
He also emphasized that if we need to become world class, we need to strive for world class infrastructure. He said there was only one auditorium in the entire country in Hyderabad that is capable of holding a world class conference like the yearly w3c conference. Incidentally they are bringing the W3C conference to India next year and he said that has taken them 6 years of work!
Professor Y.S.Rajan, the person who co-authored ‘India Vision 2020 and The Scientific Indian’ emphasized the need to disaggregate and make things simple for all of us. He said that we need to bring technology to the trapezoid of the 700-800 million who live in the unorganized sector and impact the quality of those lives.
All of the above talks continuously argued on the need for taking up projects that impacts a significant portion of the society in a lasting way.
The following notes give a distilled summary of some of the talks that were enjoyable
SMASH Innovation: Smashing the hand-mind-market barrier by Dr Gopichand Katragadda of GE
·         “Create with Freedom”
·         “Nurture with Passion”
·         “Change with Detachment”
Ten ground rules for successful innovation
Example Company Cited
Know your end customer
P & G
Know your business and market priorities
Find and articulate your passion
Develop the voice of the future
Set aggressive goals
Map goals to actions and focus on actions
Work as a team
Fail early and iterate to success
Celebrate small and big wins
South west Airlines
Lunar Space Mission by Mr A.Krishnan of ISRO
The most important aspect of the mission was to discover water on the moon and to a great extent it was successful. I could see the engineer in him talking and the pride was awesome. 
These are some of the key aspects of the talk
·         Mission achieved with 0.2% of the national R & D budget
·         Mission was considered 100% successful
·         For the first time six payloads from international centers including NASA was piggybacked into the launch vehicle. This was never the case earlier. We always piggy backed onto other satellites.
·         Mission pulled India into the prime league and made other nations look up to us as equals
·         No IP was violated.
·         The closest moon mission by a competing country had the budget twice of the 386 crores spent on this mission. However when asked how we could manage with such a budget he quipped in with a remark , ‘Well, we are poor scientists’

Invisible hands at the FIFA world Cup 2010 by Mr. Chetan Joshi of Mahindra Satyam
Mahindra Satyam provided the complete event management, extranet and onsite support services to FIFA for the world cup.
Some of the key aspects of the talk were
·         Agile and Scrum employed successfully for a 200 person project for three years
·         There were 50 iterations over a period of three years
·         100% uptime during the event
·         Logistical challenge of Staffing and Managing around 125 people in SA for working 24/7 during the event
·         Continuous Regression testing was emphasized
The other key note talks from IBM and panel discussion on innovation emphasized the following
I could see the vision of the companies imbibed into the speaker’s DNA. For example IBM people who came and spoke articulated the ‘solutions for a smarter planet’ and their theme of future where everything is going to be ‘Instrumented, Interconnected and Intelligent’.
·         Create a sense of urgency when there are dearths of ideas
·         Get out of the comfort zones
·         Innovation can be managed
·         Demand more as individuals and citizens
·         Just enough is not good enough
The other notable talks were on
Aadhaar – The UID project by Dr Ashok dalwai.
Interesting thing to note was the emphasis on simplicity in collecting data and also the verification process which involves the collection of thumb impressions of all the ten fingers and the iris. More details can be had from (http://uidai.gov.in)
Digital Hampi – From Ruins to Glory by Mr Ram Budihlal
A very interesting project funded by India Innovations Labs in Wipro. Stressed the need for ‘Open Innovation’ and getting out of the day to day ‘factory mode’.  More details can be had from http://www.technologyreview.in/computing/25206/. He delivered a TED lecture in the TED conference at Mysore.
Challenges in Mega Project – Fast Breeder Reactor by Dr Chellapandi
This one went totally outside my head. The scale of the project is Rs 5000 crores and the project is expected to complete by 2050 and is expect to generate 500gw of power. I guess I cannot absorb such complexity and I am sure I would be dead by 2050! Only thing I could realize is people with such vision keep doing what they are supposed to do without any need for any kind of appreciation. I can see only the speaker being internalized and drives sheer strength from within and knows exactly what he is talking about.
The high light of the conference was that the entire conference up held the spirit of volunteer ship and all the people who were behind the show had a full time job. They managed to deliver this conference working on weekends over the last six months and they have been doing over the past five years without fail.  I guess they can go in for a CMM level 5 certification as well! Also the underlying thread which was spoken with modesty was with 400 million people below the age of 30 who could or probably would lead the country to greater heights in the coming years. Interestingly the conference began with Vijay Paul saying
asato ma sadgamaya
tamaso ma jyotirgamaya
mrtyorma amrtam gamaya
This translates roughly to
Lead me from the asat to the sat.
Lead me from darkness to light.
Lead me from death to immortality
Whatever happens, the foundations are intact!

Stay Tuned and Have Fun