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Newsletter - Jul 2015

 
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PM Essence
The Digital Trinity - Learnings from Indian Mythology
                                                                                                                      - Reena Dayal Yadav

 

We all know that Innovation and Learning are closely tied together. This is intuitive and almost every leader will be able to acknowledge the correlation and the fact that these need to go hand in hand. Very few people can however take the two concepts and create organizational levers and interventions that create a machinery that is well oiled and is working towards creating business impact for the Organization. Therefore if one has interest in Innovation, one has to understand the role that learning can play within the Organization and harness the same. Innovation is also extremely impacted by the rate of change in the Industry and therefore learning has this challenging task of keeping up with the rate of change as well.

 

Creativity

 Analogy based learning is nothing new. One could argue that this is linked to the art of Story Telling, since the "Moral of the Story" has historically been extended as analogies to be referenced in life, society or business. The key however is linked to the manner in which this analogy is played out so that meaningful messages can be strengthened in the subconscious of the individuals.

 

A great place to look for analogy is mythology. Around two weeks ago I was speaking at an Academic Summit and talked about the Digital Churn. I took the analogy of the famous " Ocean Churning" or "Samudra Manthan" ( as it is called in hindi) which was done jointly by the Devas ( Gods) and Asuras ( Demons). The churning resulted in several things coming out of the ocean, many were symbolic, however the main purpose of the churn was to get access to the "amrut" or the "Nectar of Immortality". As science, philosophy and maths teaches us- Every positive has a negative associated with it ( and so remains the balance in the universe), therefore, apart from the Amrut, the ocean yielded a poison as well. As the story goes, Shiva, who is one of the three from the Trinity of the supreme Hindu Gods( Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva), drank the poison to save the world. If he had swallowed the poison, he would have died ( yes despite being a god), so he let it remain in his throat. His throat turned blue due to the impact of the poison and hence he is also called Neelkanth. While the entire story is very interesting, the focus of the discussion was around the fact that positive and negative are in juxtaposition always. The same is true for any Change that impacts Industry and Business.

 

The Digital Churn - which includes Social Media, Mobility, Analytics, Big Data, Internet of things, Cloud etc, is creating two kinds of polarized viewpoints. On one hand the really technical and those in the business of technology are exhilarated by the opportunities that Digital represents. The forward looking early adapters of technology around the world are optimistic about the improvement in quality of life that this can bring in. On the other hand, the policy makers, the technical activists and those who are laggards in technology adoption are worried how Security, Privacy considerations may impact life negatively. Artificial Intelligence and Robotics is viewed with scepticism as future possibilities are extracted from the science fiction stories of the past. The Churn as expected is creating many more situations and scenarios than were expected.

The digital churn is changing not only business, but has an impact on society as well. The emergence of social technologies along with the "Internet of Things" is changing and will change even further, how people live their lives. In this context, understanding what can be the "amrut" and the metaphorical negatives( poison) is a good thing. This is where Innovation and Risk Management stand next to each other. Let us take the example of internet and the social mediafacebook, twitter, instagram and linkedIn are changing the way people keep in touch and how they communicate. Distances have got reduced and information is available on the fingertips, for whoever wants to reach out and look for information. Research and Innovation around the world is benefitting tremendously with this kind of connectivity and access to information. Communities of knowledge cross boundaries of organizations, regions etc to fast track learning. The flip side to the same access is that criminals and identity thieves have data more readily available and possibly accessible.

 

The key is possibly not to merely focus on the 'Amrut" or the "poison" but asking the question - What are the possible negatives and how can we effectively manage the Risks associated with the Digital Churn. Issues like security, Privacy etc are Risk Mitigation points from the Societal as well Business angle. Technology, Standards and the Regulatory Environment - all have a role to play in this process.
 
From a Business perspective - key transformations are getting induced through adoption of Digital Technologies. e.g wearable healthcare devices used as monitoring and diagnostic devices, requires an understanding of " Whether these devices have adequate checks built in for preventing unauthorized access and tampering of data, since a person's life may depend on it. " Another way to address this could be that until there is clarity on how these devices can be relied upon for first hand remote information, they be used as secondary devices and for pre-empting certain treatment/ diagnostic scenarios, rather than primary ones. This is the challenge that regulators, HealthCare providers and the device manufacturers are grappling with.
 
So if you are a company which is working on devices in the wearable space, the unknowns associated with the regulatory and standards environment, could be one of the risks that has to be managed well, along with Innovation in this space.

 

Is this a board concern? Yes it is. Since the rate of change and introduction of new technologies and associated new solutions is very high today, Innovation and Risk Management associated with Innovation is a big concern for any Organization.

 

This write-up for reasons of brevity is a simplified view of the concept of Innovation vs. Risk Management. Before I wrap it up, it is important to understand that the Churn also creates a side effect within the Organization- The learning process needs to speed up at a phenomenal rate as well- whether is it technological learning, or the ability to work on multiple technologies for a single solution. Analogy based learning is the way to go. I call this interplay of Innovation, Technology and Learning as the "Digital Trinity of Hope" for Organizations.
 
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PM Essence
De-jargoning Agile - The Agile Experts
                                                                                                                      - Premalatha Balan

 

When "Agile" became the buzz word, suddenly it started appearing in CVs. "I have worked in Agile environment", many say. If asked what Agile in specific, the answer may be "Scrum...." with or without a confusion in the eyes, while still thinking whether this is different or the same. Some might throw a flurry of words, Scrum, Kanban, DSDM Atern, of course Lean, Six Sigma, some might add XP, and these days you will surely find TDD, BDD. There are some more stuff such as Crystal... sorry, just got carried away! Anyway, it is a whole load of words and their rules to learn as well. Wikipedia can give some idea. Then, you will slowly hear, "hybrid". Ask, what hybrid. Then you will hear "pragmatic" and not a "pure Agilist" or a "purist". Then you will hear SIT and UAT as the company really cares about integration testing and quality control/assurance. This is a whole big story in itself. For the scope of this post, let us just focus on the Agile experts, aka Agilists*

Creativity

 

Agile is a big movement happening and claiming to be changing the world. The cult followers share some secret knowledge, which they cannot share with outsiders before they become "experienced" in Agile! Confusing as it gets, just on the word "experienced" for a starter.

 

I wish the LinkedIn feature team did not think that the customer's ability to resize the header picture is a nice to have* and I wish they had not deprioritised* it to the bottom of their backlog*! The above picture could have looked a lot better giving the idea of an expert! I guess the LinkedIn team do not have an UX* person in their Agile team or the UX person is just for whacking up some wireframes* so that the user story gets the green tick for their Definition of Ready*! Back to the understanding of the "experienced" Agilists, there is hardly any developer these days, who says he hasn't worked in Agile environment before. I need to hurriedly add that I am not "that" experienced in Agile. Recruiters often make that clear to me. Not their fault. I have a clear timeline. Anyway, the experienced people are supposed to be holding the most knowledge of the cult literature. Or, if you can rote and spit out all the Japanese terms (Muda, Mura, Muri, anyone?) coupled with all the rules of the different frameworks... No one can question you! You can start a consultancy!

 

There was a ‘shouty shouty’ PM, how a team member introduced him to me (when the PM in question was not in sight), whacked up a couple of Agile projects, promoted another ‘shouty shouty’ business analyst as Agile coach and the PM has gone out and started his own consultancy so that he can transform the world. There was another Agile coach, who saw the team going towards the white board for the first time and was all swelling up with pride for having created a proper self-organising "scrum" team. That is "scrum", the coach taught me. I nodded. Then there are indices and metrics developed and ready to plug & play, some companies claim, while some entice you with their promise of CoP* implemented and some companies sell "products" and "services" that will make your project Agile once the contract is signed and beware your company will be transformed too, for free. There are consultancies and consultants everywhere and everyone seem to know Agile. When I come across someone saying he/she is new to Agile and wants to learn, I wonder whether they have just been dropped off by the flying disc somewhere when I wasn't looking.

And there is a whole load of groups and discussions with international experts contributing. You are sinned at the church of Agile if you have estimated "wrong" points for your story. There are a few discussion threads on different special groups on how and when one can claim story points. Not kidding. The first point in Agile manifesto is that "we value People and Interactions over processes and tools"! The first aspect that got devalued or valued less is "Processes and Tools". It is a powerful thing to realise. Yet, the cult followers can only talk about the "processes" and "tools" and the "rules"!

 

I try to set up some best practices at home. I try to set up some simple process frameworks such as, the first thing we take off is the jacket and put it on the hanger and then take off the shoe and tidy up in the shoe rack when we come back home from outside . My daughter sits on the staircase and takes off the jacket first, spreads it on a few stairs, then takes off her shoes and keeps them on two other stairs before she begins to play. I keep saying to her, "you see, you have created a few blockers, your brother cannot run upstairs to the loo and I cannot go faster to rescue my bathroom before it gets all ‘wee-wee-ed’ all over the floor". I slipped and fell down once trying to run over the jacket. This is an everyday story, every time we come back home from shopping or from any activity that involved us leaving the front door and coming back home. We see the same scene with such a Groundhog Day effect. Today my daughter got really upset and she put the jacket back on and left the house. My husband ran to find her. She was waiting behind the car for her daddy and discussed with him that will he have a word with mummy that she (mummy) should understand that different people do differently. As a self-respecting scrum master, all I wanted to do was to remove the blockers* and coach the person to understand, so that we can be more selforganising*! It was a revelation that I needed to learn to "be Agile*", not try to "do Agile*" and allow different people to do differently!
 
But then we are not a cross functional team, we are a team of specialists with some specialising in making mess and the others in tidying up!

 

Peace is now restored, as the tele is on and the Netflix is evoked!

 

Jargon
List of jargon used above and possible simple meanings:
 
Agilist* - A person who practices Agile.
 
nice to have* - A new feature or an aspect of an existing feature that can improve the product as a nicer one. List of items without which the product can still go live.

 

Deprioritised* - ranked down in the backlog list.
 
backlog* - a to do list for the product.
 
UX* - user experience.
 
Wireframes* - an image or set of images which displays the functional elements of a website or page, typically used for planning a site's structure and functionality (courtesy - google).
 
Definition of Ready* - check list to consider whether a story is ready or not for code development.
 
CoP* - Community of Practices
 
Blockers* - the items that stop us from doing something.
 
Self-organising* - the team members organise themselves, rather than being organised by a manager - by Niels Malotaux
 
Be Agile* - practising Agile.
 
Do Agile* - following some set of rules to achieve a certain Agile method.
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PM Essence
What is an Employee looking for @ work??
What they need most?
                                                                                                                      - Vamshadhara G.

What exactly your staffs want? Forget about raises and better benefits. They are important -- but will they be really happy with just that?

 

PAY is Important!! But pay only goes so far. Getting more pay will drastically increase the satisfaction element for employees, as they would always like to get MORE - after all we are humans. Higher wages won't cause employees to automatically perform at a higher level. Commitment, work ethics, and motivation are not based on pay.

 

To truly care about your business, your employees need these Eight things - and they need to get them from You!
Creativity

1. Liberty/choice - Allowing employees more room to be flexible makes them happier and more productive.

 

(i) Autonomy and independence
(ii) Provide parameters or boundary conditions, and then offer choices.
(iii) Relinquish the 9 to 5 time bound. (iv) Find a way to unify the culture.
(v) Instill values through training.

 

Whenever possible, give your employees the freedom to work the way they work best.

 

2. Goals - Goals can be fun. Yes you heard right!! Everyone wants a challenge, even You. Well defined goals create a sense of purpose and add a little meaning to even the most repetitive tasks.

 

Without a goal to shoot for, work is just work and gets boring.

 

3. Mission - We all like to feel a part of something bigger. Motivated to be worthy of words like "best" or "largest" or "fastest" or "highest quality" provides a sense of purpose. Let employees know what you want to achieve, for your business, for customers, and even your community. And if you can, let them create a few missions of their own.

 

Caring starts with knowing what to care about and why.

 

4. Expectations - While every job should include some degree of space or freedom, every job needs basic expectations regarding the way specific situations should be handled. You may lose an employee, if you criticize him/her in an inappropriate way for some job which was not done well.

 

Employees should get the feedback and positive reinforcement and not a set of demotivating speech from you.

 

5. Input - Everyone in naturally inclined to offer suggestions and ideas. If you deny listening to their suggestions that means you are generating robots. Then they only accept what you say, and they resist from offering suggestions or ideas. Make it easy for employees to offer suggestions. When an idea doesn't have merit, take the time to explain why.

 

You can't implement every idea, but you can always make employees feel valued for their ideas.

 

6. Connection/Affection - Employees don't want to work only for a paycheck; they want to work with and for people. They need a kind word, a short discussion about family, a brief check-in to see if they need anything.

 

Individual or personal experience sharing's are no less important than meetings or formal evaluations.

 

7. Dependability and Loyalty - Most people may be ok to deal with a boss who is demanding and pointing out issues... as long as he or she applies the same yard stick to everybody. The key to maintain consistency is to communicate. The more employees understand why a decision was made the less likely they are to assume favoritism or unfair treatment.

 

While you should treat each employee differently, you must treat each employee fairly (That's a big difference).

 

8. Future - Every job should have the potential to lead to something more, either within or outside your company. Take the time to develop employees for jobs they someday hope to fill—even if those positions are outside your company. (How will you know what they hope to do? Try asking.)

 

Employees will care about your business when you care about them first.
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PM Essence
DidYouKnow
Q. This is a technique for accommodating the concern of other people and this may not always lead to a win-win situation.? 

A. Smoothing is a conflict management technique and recommends accommodating the concerns of other people first of all, rather than one's own concerns. Smoothing is also known as accommodating. Example of smoothing is when it is important to provide a temporary relief from the conflict or buy time until you are in a better position to respond/push back or when the issue is not as important to you as it is to the other person. Advantages of smoothing is in some cases smoothing will help to protect more important interests while giving up on some less important ones. Also smoothing gives an opportunity to reassess the situation from a different angle. However there is a risk of it getting abused, i.e. the opponent may constantly try to take advantage of your tendency toward smoothing/accommodating. Therefore it is important to keep the right balance and this requires some skill.

[Source - Internet]

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"The Lighter Side of PM”
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PM Essence
PMI-ACP® exam is changing in 2015 – Important note for aspiring PMI-ACP® exam takers this year
 
PMI-ACP® was introduced in 2011 as the pioneering Agile certification from PMI, USA. As a practice, PMI continues to improvise the content through large-scale survey of certified PMI-ACP® holders and non-certified agile practitioners to help revise the domains, tasks, knowledge and skills, as well as tools and techniques. As an outcome of the Role Delineation Study (RDS) involving over 1,000 agilists from 60 countries, few changes have been introduced in the PMI-ACP® course content. A new domain called Agile Principles and Mindset has been added to the already existing list of domains. Also, 62 tasks have been validated in context of the seven domains of practice.
 
The reference material for the exam has also been revised to include books on Kanban, Scrum and Extreme Programming. All details about the revised PMI-ACP® certification is available at http://www.pmi.org/certification/exam-changes/pmi-acp.aspx with links at the right pane of the page.
 
It is extremely important for aspiring candidates to review all the books as the past exam questions have been not just on Scrum but on Lean, XP. In this year, candidates can surely expect on Principles & Mindset domain given that it has been added recently this year. It is also highly recommended that candidates should leverage the groups on LinkedIn where certified professionals share tips and tricks not only on the preparation but also on clearing the exam successfully.
 
For people who are taking the exam between 15-Jul-15 and 16-Aug-15, PMI is providing a 20% rebate on the exam fees. The new exam would be in effect until 14-Oct-15 (starting from 15-Jul-15) with results staggered till 22-Oct. Candidates are requested to view the revised exam content outline at http://www.pmi.org/~/media/PDF/Certifications/ACP_Reference_list_v2.ashx

PM Enrich: A one day workshop on "Leadership Challenges in Agile Transformation” will be held on 27th June 2015. Presently organizations are increasingly realizing that in adopting Agile Methodologies to manage projects, the challenge goes far beyond changing terminologies and templates to a paradigm shift in the way the team is empowered and mentored to own and accelerate the outcome of their projects. To facilitate this transition, PMI Bangalore India Chapter in collaboration with PM Power Consulting brings this one day workshop to PM community. Those interested in attending the same may kindly visit the Chapter website for further details and registration.

                                       One More Reason to Renew Chapter Membership Now
 
The Economic Exception Pilot Program launched by PMI in 2012 allows PMI Members in India to renew their membership at a reduced cost of US$65. This was done to study whether this will address the issue of lower membership renewals from developing countries like India. After three years of existence, PMI is reviewing the effectiveness of the program. In the meanwhile PMI decided to extend the Economic Exception Program till December 2015 by which time PMI will complete the review and take decisions. We request all PMI Members to renew PMI and Chapter Membership and be proudly associated with the leading Project Management community in the world. This will help the program to be extended and will benefit everyone. Apart from a host of benefits to renew your Chapter membership, here is one more reason to renew/join the Chapter membership.

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