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

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.

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