Book Launched - Agile Laments now available at amazon


My book has finally been completed and published at Amazon today.
Practices driven change is neither sustainable nor fruitful in the long run when principles are compromised while values are misunderstood.

Organizations embark on a transformation journey with the introduction of various standard and proven techniques. Real life economic pressures play a vital role in bringing practices on-board. This ‘Libra’ varies dramatically across verticals. Initially, the practices are tailored in good faith and this evolution is aligned with the principles. However, unless we are careful - the essence of agile values is lost over time in this adaptation process. It helps if we keep the suggestions as an analogy in another domain. The team will get a much better understanding within a new context as the minds will not be hardwired to their own 'unknown-known' constraints.

Some of the root agile laments are:
The mushroom farm lament for lack of innovation
The subordinate’s lament based on diminishing team motivation
The perfection lament rooted in lower productivity


http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00AV6VXE0/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_alp_haC4qb0GEZ2PP

Personal Kanban for higher productivity

Every now and then, considerable events occur with and around us. We can either take notice and think about these or keep our concentration to the results of higher value.

This is the detailed version of the most famous blog post in the past few months.

On Sep 14, 2012 - while wrapping up this particular week on  a Friday evening (as captured in the photo - look carefully :)), I realized that drinking a glass of milk will give me the required nutritious value. Before placing it on the desk - it was imperative to think about the positioning of the glass on my personal kanban.



For the past few months - I have been asked by numerous colleagues and friends on how I manage my backlog and bring this technique to the personal level.


Fortunately, my 'Today's Backlog' has been completed and the last activity is in progress.


For the benefit of everyone - here it goes:

On any given work day, before even checking the email - I look at the prioritized backlog, and then embark on the activities of the highest value for that day (while keeping both long and short term results in perspective).

Activities/ tasks/ actions items were moved to the 'Today's Backlog' column as the last step before concluding any given day (today's list was completed yesterday). This ensures that the next morning - the items are ready and waiting for me at the most productive part of my day (first thing in the morning).


The following five columns are the standard swim lanes:
  • Backlog
  • Prioritized Backlog
  • Today's Backlog
  • In Progress
  • Complete


The first item in the 'Today's backlog' column is picked up and moved into 'In Progress'. Then it is worked on with a focus on only one activity - known as  'Work in Progress'. Upon its completion the item is moved to 'Complete' column. The cycle continues till we exhaust the whole backlog for the day.

How do I handle interruptions or distractions throughout the day?
It is inevitable that interruptions kick-in. I have to pause on an activity that is currently in progress. The challenge at that point is only the personal discipline of relatively prioritizing the interruption at hand.


In simple terms - if the item in progress is of higher priority then the interruption goes into 'Today's Backlog" according to its relative priority within the log. Otherwise - the current activity gets paused and is put back into the log at the top.

The final step in this sprint process is to negotiate lower priority work out of today's log and ensure that we do not stress ourselves by trying to complete everything - everyday. Interruptions ensure that I keep an eye on the higher priority work and to understand that some piece of work is bound to be pushed out of today's bandwidth.

In the midst of explaining how a personal kanban works for me - a healthy snack is not an interruption :).
The next item is to enjoy the rest of the glass of milk (this time not from my in progress column :)).

I consider this as a personalized gift. Now it is up to you to take it as a story or try it in your personal and/ or professional life.

Don't forget to share your feedback.

CXOs' portfolio prioritization conundrum [Part 2 of 2]


Following up from the Part 1 of this post - the apples could have rotten if we delayed the choice further.

CXOs' 'Portfolio Prioritization' conundrum has a potential game-changing solution.

Even in this oscillating economy - the businesses still crave certainty and try to build complex return on investment focused portfolio management.

Imagine with me:
We are asked to pick 10 out of a box of 50 fresh apples. With our experience - we can relatively compare and make a decision. What if we ate two and kept the rest at home for a month? Would they stay useful?

Now consider a choice of 10 programmes out of a list of 50 within a portfolio. We make the best guesses on  their value, duration and cost according to the given forecast (in volatile conditions).

There is a higher probability that the choice we make at start of the year could be completely incorrect with the global changes by end of first quarter. Do we continue with the chosen programmes or do we reconsider, re-prioritize by going back to the evaluation process?


Consider this:
Two programmes are running in parallel.
One of our chosen six month programmes (Programme A) is expected to bring £7M revenue.
Another similar six month programme (Programme B) is expected to have an ROI of £5M.

At the quarterly portfolio review - it is evident that Programme A is on budget and is running on-time based on the agreed and demonstrable milestones. Programme B on the other hand is struggling to meet its targets. It is behind schedule and has missed a milestone already. From face value - it is evident that Programme B is going to slip its expected end date.





With the global economic changes - we have to make a choice between the two.
Which programme would you stop?

With a shallow understanding of the portfolio - we can fall into a trap.
In this scenario - the market conditions govern that Programme A is not valuable anymore (for the rest of the fiscal year) and the cost of delaying Programme B is much higher comparatively.

In line with the choice of apples or programmes. A near perfect selection does not guarantee that the chosen items will not rot over time. 


One of the best strategies is to re-assess the programme value iteratively and incrementally.

Strong 'Agile & Lean' methodology implementation, a culture of responsibility and autonomation (continuous integration/ delivery) provides CXOs with adequate flexibility with this wicked portfolio prioritization challenge.




FeedForward or FeedBack

Having fun at work and especially with most of what we do, is a recurring challenge in our lives.

We embark on some activities with high adrenaline rush. If we are diligent and disciplined, these soon become part of a routine and habit. Ultimately (if we are not careful) - the activities that started as fun, turn into dragging and frustrating chores.

Feedback - by the nature of its name is a dreadful experience for most of the employees every year. Especially when it is to do with appraisals and isolated in a void (6 monthly or yearly).


Fortunately, there is a positive reincarnation of the personal improvement initiatives (in groups).

Instead of rehashing a past that cannot be changed (feedback), Marshall Goldsmith and Jon Katzenbach coined “feedforward” to encourage spending time creating a future.

The intention is to have half an hour of fun while walking around in the room and gaining quick feedback for our personal and professional development.

Note: Giving and receiving feedforward only takes about two minutes. Thus 20 team members should finish this activity within 40 minutes.

Rationale:

When you think of giving feedback, try giving feedforward - focus on the promise of the future rather than the mistakes of the past.

In the midst of all the dreadful experiences for recalling the mistakes of the past, assume that they are all forgiven. You are genuinely sorry and will not do them again.

This is an approach to a positive new start of yourself.

The commitment to stay positive has its long term rewards waiting for you.

Give it a try and embark on a lifelong journey of self actualization.

Serendipity or Hard Work - a medici effect

Imagine that you are in the middle of proposing the potential spouse of your dreams.
Now pause the scene at this exact moment and focus on the flashbacks of how you reached that conclusion.
You must have overcome many challenges in the past to feel ready to commit to this lifelong journey.
Hold on - this is not a dating advise!
This is from an excellent University of Cambridge (Judge Business School) CfEL event with the title "Serendipity or Hard Work".

Picture from http://www.fastcoexist.com

Start-ups seem to follow a very similar pattern.
Entrepreneurs work hard to pursue their passion and when the time is right - they pitch their proposal to potential investors in anticipation of embarking on a lifelong yet serendipitous journey together.

Having helped numerous organizations and various diverse teams - for me, the session was an excellent forum of varying (yet complementing ideas).

Two special quotes of the night were:

Markets don't exist. Consumers don't exist. PEOPLE exist.
Strong ideas - loosely held!


The key takeaway was to surround yourself with ethical & intelligent people:
Randomness + Persistence + Selection = Potential Success


Choosing the right options requires knowledge, wisdom and guidance to help us become lucky.

Serendipity or Hard Work ...... or a bit of both.
Which one would you focus more on?


Leadership vs Entrepreneurship - a synergistic clash of the titans

The entrepreneurial spirit is vivid in the Cambridge population (hence known as silicon valley of the UK) and in contrast Oxford is famous for producing amazing leaders for the past 800 years and maximum number of "Prime Ministers" that any city has ever produced (globally).

Being an Oxford Business Alumnus and a regular collaborator with Cambridge Judge Business Alumni - I  learn significantly and compare their approaches regularly towards the glocal (globally local) trends.

For the past few weeks - I have had the privilege to attend the "Enterprise Tuesdays" event at Cambridge University (via Judge Business School).

The theme is:

Recognising Opportunities
Mindsets and Motivations
Spotting Market Needs
Serendipity or Hard Work

The focus of these sessions is to encourage the participants and inspire them to pursue their entrepreneurial ambition.


When we step back and try to make these concepts abstract - the approaches become clear and distinct.
Oxford focuses on Leadership, Strategy and Change Management (top down) while Cambridge has the spirit of entrepreneurship with a focus towards technological start-ups (bottom up).

In the midst of these top down and bottom up approaches - there are rays of hope for the road to recovery from the national and global economic crisis.

Who knows - only time will tell.
What do you think?




 




Innovation rain - first step of a long journey

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. 
Lao Tzu

Silicon Valley came to the UK (SVC2UK) last week and rocked the boat at various institutions including the prestigious Said Business School (University of Oxford).



Big data was the buzz and tremendous ideas were presented including some very interesting analogies. Being an Oxford Business Alumnus, I had the honor of getting the invitation and good fortune to be able to attend.


One of the most resonating ideas came through a simple yet extremely powerful analogy.

The speaker mapped numerous technological advances, ventures, innovation and inference into the idea of ice, water and vapor.

 Inferring from one of those ideas - interesting questions arose?

Intel has stayed in the ice state for a long time and is struggling with the current disruption from ARM (expected to meet the demand of two Billion processors just in 2012).

Samsung and Google are continuously disrupting innovatively into mobile computing in both ice and vapor space.

Amazon went from books (ice), to digital books and marketplace (water) into clouds (vapor).
http://www.drinktap.org
Seeing the tremendous progress in these industries during the past five years - the time is near where another player will come in and challenge more ice, a little bit of water and most of the vapors.

I call that era - the innovation rain.

The rain where the shining sun will liquidate the ice and burning hot ground will vaporize it.Or inference that involves multiple states.

Let us see what happens next, only time will tell.

Where do you think is the next big idea?

Leanness for agility with jidoka and code monkey


Improving ‘FLOW’ (using jidoka) towards a smooth automated build & deployment system is an extremely challenging journey for large corporations
One of the root causes is the presence of huge legacy systems.





History has proven that the first baby step is to consider defining a recurring frequency for build & test. The next iterations are to continuously measure and improve upon the first step.

It is both painful and time-consuming in the start and carries numerous long term benefits.

‘Jidoka’ comes from lean manufacturing and maps into automated software builds for our industry
It means that an automated process is sufficiently "aware" of itself so that it will:



In ManufacturingIn Software

  • Detect process malfunctions or product defects

  • Detect failing automated tests (regression & unit)

  • Stop itself

  • Stop the build

  • Alert the operator

  • Escalate the build failure accordingly

Create a role “build monkey” who shares the build information as part of the daily scrum routine. Discussing the potential jidoka in the daily scrums is an effective and logical first step.


In addition to "What I completed yesterday", "What I intend to complete today" & "Any blockers" - the build monkey answers one extra question - "Build failures?".

Highlighting this root-cause of lower quality and missed deadlines, can go a long way.

The ultimate result is improvement in productivity and a solid foundation for continuous innovation.

CXOs' portfolio prioritization conundrum [Part 1 of 2]

CXOs & Portfolio Management has been a star challenge in the agile transformation for the past few years. Organizations continuously endeavor to master this art of forecasting (in simple terms - what to work on - "Next Year").

Various methods including:

  • Return on Investment (ROI)
  • Highest Paid Person's Opinion (HiPPO)
  • First In First Out (FIFO)
  • Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA)
  • .
  • .

and numerous other techniques are used to help answer this prioritization conundrum.

Unfortunately all the above mentioned initiatives frame us into the boxed thinking of return on investment focused financial models.

Imagine this. You have a box of apples to choose from. Our choice is limited to the selection of apples presented to us. 

Do we have a choice not to pick any?

........ stay tuned for the next blogpost (part 2 of 2) for a potential solution to this rotten challenge.




Principles of Product Development Flow [Part 0 of 12]

In the coming weeks - I will be sharing excerpts of my notes on this amazing and complex book.

Donald Reinertsen's instant classic "Principles of Product Development Flow" has been very instrumental in helping numerous organizations redefine the VALUE and PURPOSE of deliverables based on the principles of FLOW.



Mark Twain's perspective bridges the gap between science and art of product development.

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It is what you know for sure that just ain't so.
[Mark Twain]


 I highly recommend the book - however, it is extremely dense and one chapter can take days (if not weeks) to scratch the surface of those complex topics.

 

Building High Performance Agile Teams at Agile Cambridge 2012 Conference

Here are the high level details of our session at Agile Cambridge 2012 conference.


Session TitleBuilding High Performance Agile Teams 
Session TypeExperience Report
Duration90 minutes
Session Description
Agile Cambridge 2012 - Conference Schedule
Our aim is to have you leave this session with thought provoking ideas on how to improve your team's Agile model. We will be demonstrating some of the various Agile methods we have used to help teams mature from being just another Agile team to becoming a high performing Agile team.

This session will cover many different aspects of how you can improve the processes and practices of your team/s. We will touch on business relationships, interactions, communication, collaboration, team empowerment, ceremony improvements, test automation, continuous integration, continuous delivery, automated acceptance, BDD, Kanban (focus on Class of service in a defect environment) and numerous other techniques with real world examples of our own journeys.

Speaker(s)Naveed Khawaja (Morphilibrium)
Over the past decade, Naveed has helped major players in the verticals including manufacturing, finance, public/ civil service, energy, utilities and telecom.

Various organizations ranging from fortune 6 to 300 have benefited from his passion for the transformation towards continuously improving iterative, incremental and collaborative product development with a focus towards agility and leanness.

He has degree in Computer Science, is a Design for Lean Six Sigma Software green belt & is an Oxford Business Alumni  with a philanthropic agile and lean spirit.

Having five patents & two invention publications, Naveed Khawaja brings a unique combination of motivation, productivity  and innovation.


Get the slides for our session at Agile Cambridge 2012

Connect via linked in

Agile edible bites

Every now and then considerable events occur with and around us. We can either take notice and think about these or keep our concentration to the results of higher value.

While wrapping up this particular week on  a Friday evening (as captured in the photo - look carefully :)), I realized that drinking a glass of milk will give me the required nutritious value. Before placing it on the desk - it was imperative to think about the positioning of the glass on my personal kanban.

The following five columns are the standard swim lanes:


  • Backlog
  • Prioritized Backlog
  • Today's Backlog
  • In Progress
  • Complete


Fortunately, my 'Today's Backlog' has been completed and the last activity is in progress.

On any given work day, before even checking the email - I look at the backlog, prioritize it and then choose the activities of the highest value for that day (while keeping both long and short term results in perspective).
Items are moved to the 'Today's Backlog' column as the first step while maintaining the priority.

The first item in that column is picked up and moved into 'In Progress'. Then it is worked on with a focus on only one activity - known as  'Work in Progress'. Upon its completion the item is moved to 'Complete' column. The cycle continues till we exhaust the whole backlog for the day.

In the midst of explaining how a personal kanban works for me - the next item is to enjoy the rest of the glass of milk.

Have a great weekend.




Collaborative story progression

Following up from a recent post on kick-offs, here is the further evolution within a similar line of thought. 

In pursuing the path for more interactive and collaborative solution development with agility and leaness, we as a team have implemented another initiative.



Because Information is subject to interpretation, even with kick-offs in place - there is a continuous challenge of adequate expectations management throughout the lifecycle of a piece of work (story). 

After the kick-off, the team members used to go back to their silos and struggle again at the end. 
By taking another baby step of enforcing a rule of collaborative story progression - we are challenging the status quo further.


While being on a journey to develop a solution for each self-contained piece of work - the team gets together and tries to understand what is actually expected as an acceptance criteria and defines the meaning of 'done'. This includes the proxy customer or business analysts, user experience representatives, technical author, developers and test team members. After this intial session, this process continues as the test team members discuss possible failure scenarios with the development team members. The deveopers write automated unit tests while testers capture further test scenarios within reasonable limits of the acceptance criteria. 



In simple words - it is like rowing. A good streamlined start is beneficial, however - it is the continuous team effort that gets us the gold.

With this approach - there are hardly any surprises or last minute changes for a given story.

Try to change this habit of not working in isolation and you will be surprised by the immense benefits in the long run. As any other continuous improvement technique - identification of such a scenario is an effective trigger. Results will be reaped with less rework and more customer expectations that are adequately met. 

Understanding and presenting a complex problem

A fresh pair of eyes is sometimes a good solution to our so-called unique challenges. Because the new person is not biased towards a specific solution and is willing to ask 'dumb-questions', having such a discussion with a wider audience is often frustrating for the team members. Coming up to speed on a complex scenario and then offering a potential alternative in a specific domain burns alot of extra time for various team members unnecessarilty.
Anecdotes are some of the strongest tools to help us solve a problem and address the complexities of day to day business challenges. 
 This is a simple three step process yet quite challenging to master:
  1. Have a smaller (more involved) group present the contextual scenario to a reasonable level of detail informally.
  2. Identify the pattern of the situation and what is not being said.
  3. Share a thought provoking anecdote from another context that is similar to the identified pattern.

The next time you stand up infront of an audience and share the solution to a problem, it would help if you keep the solution as an analogy in another domain. The team will get much better understanding with a new context as the minds will not be hardwired to their own 'unknown-known' constraints.


AgileFall - WaterScrum - MiniWaterFall Vs Relay Race


Question: Describe AgileFall, WaterScrum & MiniWaterFall in two words.

In solutions delivery space - reducing the rework due to misunderstood requirements is a major concern in all major verticals in this industry.

AgileFall, WaterScrum & Mini WaterFall
all are pointing to a common root cause of progressing as a relay race. This is in contrast to the more interactive and collaborative solution development with agility and leaness.

Experience shows that even the hyper-productive teams fall into a status quo of contentment. Information is subject to interpretation as it is passed on from one team member to another. Teams inevitably become satisfied by promoting specialism as a ground rule rather than focusing on co-ownership and a pseudo-generalist effort.

By taking the first baby step of enforcing a rule of collaborative story surgery sessions - we can challenge the status quo regularly.



Before embarking on a journey to develop a solution for each self-contained piece of work - the team gets together and tries to understand what is actually expected as an acceptance criteria and defines the meaning of 'done'. This includes the proxy customer or business analysts, user experience representatives, technical author, developers and test team members.




Having successfully implemented this previously in a very challenging finance industry and now in telecom - the results are reassuring and promising.

Try to change this one habit of not working in isolation and you will be surprised by the immense benefits in the long run. As any other continuous improvement technique - identification of such a scenario is an effective trigger. Results will be reaped with less rework and more customer expectations that are adequately met.

My answer to the question in the beginning: Relay Race

What do you think?


Agile insanity

"If we are just iterative - we have fallen into the trap of insanity. It is the interative and incremental that helps us make progress." 
[Naveed Khawaja]

[Fragile to Agile] Daily stand-up [Scrum/ Huddle etc.] improvement suggestions

The essence of any successful team is its strong communication. Time and time again we hear organizational leadership gurus emphasize on the importance of candid and regular communication.

One of the key practices towards agility and leanness is timely communication e.g. a daily stand-up. A team gets together every day at a set time and shares the answers to the following three questions:




  1. What I completed yesterday?
  1. What I intend to complete today?
  1. Any barriers or blockers?

Over the past few years - various mutations have helped us evolve the structure and focus of these short status update sessions.





Here is a short list of suggestions to keep these sessions focused and valuable.
Your suggestions are most welcome.

  1. Give a one line description of the item you are progressing with not the story number.
  2. Collaborate (pair-up) with others first and don't start a new story.
  3. WIP (work in progress) limits need to be highlighted  don't start a new story.
  4. Handover the work in progress to the team and don't leave the story hanging on the board.
  5. Contribute to the flow of status update round and don't start discussions before completing the round.
  6. Next person starts immediately after the last person and don’t let them wait for a cue to move.
  7. Stop a conversation during the status round, capture the potential discussion items and come back to them in the end. Don't allow the side conversations to hinder the flow.
  8. Face the team and talk to them. Don't focus on the facilitator only.
  9. .
  10. .
  11. .

In the quest for continuous improvement - taking small steps, mastering and picking up the next is the key to success.

Amygdala - influencing the daily scrum


If your team has a varying duration of daily stand-ups – read on. Otherwise, this post might not be valuable to you.

Making associations across stimulus modalities is an innate part our natural ability to learn, retain and recall experiences. Deep inside our brain is a trapped area called ‘Amygdala’ (part of the LIMBIC System) which is responsible for the influence of emotional states on sensory inputs. This produces a spectrum of sensory perceptions from apparently identical stimuli e.g. face recognition etc.

Some effective agile coaches help the teams develop this recognition. A simple example is evident when different teams run their daily stand-ups. While one team will be very focused and lean in describing the updates, others struggle to stick to the scope of the discussion and require strong facilitation.

In order to enhance your teams’ – try to help them associate to a visual clue.

  1.      What I completed yesterday?
  2.      What I intend to complete today?
  3.      Are there any barriers?


A colourful notice on the wall stating the three questions to answer helps the team to stimulate their sensory inputs and stay focused.


Prioritize or procrastinate

Be it personal, professional or social - throughout our journey in life  we keep transforming from dependent to independent and inter-dependent. The key to inner satisfaction and long term happiness depends on how we decide to prioritize long term goals in every aspect of life. .

Learning to let go comes with maturity and choosing the right options at the right time.

Whenever you reach that decisive moment - ask the following questions to yourself.
You might find courage at the brink of uncertainty:


  • Do I have a good feeling about its current value (intangible cost of doing vs not doing)? 
  • Do I understand its long term value (over a six months to two year period)? 
  • Do I feel more passionate and productive about investing my time and energy on this right now?

As I write this blogpost - I am asking these questions on whether sharing my thoughts by blogging, is valuable enough?
The answer that immediately pops up is: "I have a good feeling about it and I feel happier, passionate and productive when such ideas are shared. Long term value is unquestionable as this enables me to improve my authoring skills by writing regularly."

What do you think?

Reference: HBR - The art of letting go

Root cause vs symptom resolution

Change programmes often come to a painful challenging state. 

Sometimes, the root cause is completely hidden from the apparently visible symptoms. At the start of such initiatives, some passionate team members commits to the improvement mind-set. They generated great and numerous ideas and want to address many challenges at once. Unfortunately - this approach is neither sustainable nor fruitful in the long run.

Instead of tackling many of the challenges at once, visibly enlist all the things you would change and choose the one with maximum net positive effect.
Take a good look at the list and think about the one thing (root cause) that would impact several things (symptoms) on the list. Make it short and simple. Perhaps you need to be more aggressive, or maybe you need to slow down, or speak up for yourself more often.  Revisit this list iteratively and incrementally. 

If you're not sure, try something for a few weeks and see if it's working.
Then, each morning, remind yourself of your one thing (daily team stand-up). Soon it will become second nature as the results reinforce your team's commitment to change.

Relative re-prioritization of a list of high level ideas on a regular basis could be the key to a sustainable change programme. Whether it is successful or not is another story - only time will tell...

Paving the way to programme delivery


Programmes are challenged quite often throughout their life cycle. On one side - there is a feeling of aiming for the impossible while the need for an appropriate time to market keeps pushing us back in the timeline.
Consider a programme as a huge pile of snow on a mountain. The uncertainty is too high for us to feel confident in choosing a reasonable path. With the wisdom from knowledge of the past endeavor and a bit of hit and trial in short iterations is a fundamentally sound and proven methodology in almost all aspects of life.

All we have to do is to stay focused on only the 'musts' (really necessary stuff) and keep paving the path towards success. What remains is 'shoulds' and 'coulds' on both sides of the road. The product ownership team has to keep making the tough calls on throwing away the unnecessary stuff (non-musts) iteratively and incrementally.

What awaits is a project completion focus and potential delivery that the customer really 'needs', instead of what they express as 'wants'.

Team




  • Ever wondered why some teams don't perform as they should?
  • Ever seen a star studded group fails to deliver!


Coordination, competition, and motivation can undermine even the most well-designed and expertly-managed team. The initial failures to deliver might be the storming and forming phase. Once the team passes that chasm - rest is just the norming phase.

The following recommendations might help things to move positively.

  • Identify and agree a calm, yet authentic devil's advocate.
  • Ideal team size is 7 + or - 2. 
  • Keep the team identity intact for long.



Handle the unexpected! [Be it end of the project or a code freeze]

Handle the unexpected!
[Be it end of the project or a code freeze]


Forecasting, budgeting, time to market and all that jargon on one side and actually reaching the near end and yet control the emotions is an experience of its own. Some of you might have felt being inside a pressure-cooker.

If multiple teams have been working on a project for more than a year - it is quite a challenge to agree on drawing a line on the backlog and agreeing to 'code freeze' on a specific date. This is in anticipation that the release will be ready, fully tested and golden disk ready.

Especially near the last 5% of the project - things seem to start dragging as a majority of the team has completed their due stories . At this crucial stage - the most important leadership decision is to help the team see the end and refocus towards it. The customer (or product ownership team) needs further priming of what is worth delaying this release for. 

"Many a times, what appears to be completely unacceptable to the delivery team - is actually agreeable by the customer". e.g. petty user interface issues (for rarely used workflows) or even extremely rare crashes are not considered as 'show stoppers' if the customer is really engaged with the vision of 'end' in mind. You have to ask the right questions though.

Some of the lessons to learn from decision making under pressure:

1) When the unexpected arrives at your door, try to 'STOP' - think and don't make a hasty decision in reaction to an apparently big barrier.

2) Don't act like an ostrich that hides its head in the sand, in anticipation of a problem to go away without any action.  Think about the best outcome in the given situation, the information you have at hand, and the available resources. Regroup and scrum to assess outcomes as a team.

3) Assess and make an informed/ engaged decision and commit. Even if the decision isn't ideal, accept that it's the best under the circumstances.

[Part 2 of 2] Six Thinking Hats - applied to my 5 year old son's shopping list

If you haven't read the Part 1 of this post - please visit the short summary [Part 1 of 2] Six Thinking Hats - my new summary of classic lateral thinking. This will help you gain proper context of the following article

After going through the key concepts in the book [Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono], again (thanks to an agile asynchronous book brigade) - the following picture was produced. This helps us illustrate how a simple practice can be kept simple and applied to a very basic idea and still generates tremendous output.

The picture in the middle shows a basic list that my five year old son wrote as his first shopping list. As you can notice - he is learning how to write and is using all his knowledge of phonics and alphabets to the best of his currently evolving abilities in writing.
Many lessons can be extracted from the list and I have used it for a basic practice of applying the newly acquired yet classic technique of lateral thinking.


In case the above process, mind-map, case study is not readable the following text will help.

Start


Spend ‘2’ minutes on each hat.
We have to use all the hats at least once.
Follow the sequence of hats shown with the arrows






L The spellings are all wrong.
List is useless.
Hard to understand.
We will struggle with getting the right stuff.
We have to spend a lot of time in trying to comprehend it.








12 Items in the list.
1 item has correct spellings.
The data is not numbered.
Written with a drying purple marker.
Handwriting of a young child.





The items in the list are understandable with little effort.
Some spellings are right.
It was a good try to a young leaner.
Young person’s writing it quite good according to the age.
Spellings are phonics based and are fun to understand



Writing is very bad
11 out of 12 spellings are wrong
List is not in a sequence
Products are not listed according to the category groupings.
It will take extra time to try and comprehend the list.



New and fun naming of existing household products.
Phonics based experimentation of existing product names can be a good learning game for the kids.
Good engaging activity

Your suggestions and comments are most welcome.

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