Monday, February 6, 2017

Agile Myths

Agile Myths:      Some myths about Agile are debunked

All of the below are false

Not for operations
Not for regulatory projects
Not for Mainframe projects
Not for all projects
Not for BIG projects
Only for techies
Scope Creep
Lack of control
High risk
No discipline
No design
No planning
No architect needed
No documentation
No estimation
NO PM's needed

Distributed Agile!-   How do we do this distributed

1. Agreements
2. Standards
3. Tools
4. Processes

7 Rules of successfully distributed teams

1. Don't
2. Don't treat remotes as if they were locals
3.  Dont treat locals as if they were remote
4. Latitude hurts, longitude kills
5. Don't always be remote
6. Invest in the appropriate tools and environments
7. Establish standards and agreements

The DNA of success
1. Agile exposes capability gaps
2. Awesome Capability
3. Attitude
4. Aptitude

Agile helps create a great working culture

You don't want a toxic brilliant team not a happy dud one!
High performing teams are happy and highly capable!

Agile Pitfalls

1. Environment
    Wrong physical environment
    Lack of proper tools
    Funnel not managed - too much WIP
    Resources splintered and working on multiple projects

2.  Leadership

    Leaders don't walk the talk
    Wrong leadership style - command and control instead of servant leadership
    Lack of a clear shared purpose and strategy
    Lack of trust

3. Knowledge
    Lack of training or inaccurate material
    Teams don't know what Agile really is
    Leaders not trained and aware
    Lack of sharing
    No access to coaching
4. Capability
    Poor core capability
    Lack of capable Agile PMs and IMs
    Lack of critical thinking for problem solving
    Can't do attitude


Why change? Why Agile?

1. Happy people
2. Reduced risk and cost
3. Faster time to market
4. Improved quality
5. Increased Revenue
6. Happy customers

Increased Profitability and happy shareholders


7 Key impacts of going Agile

Resource allocation
Team structure
Work environment
Work prioritization
Leadership style
Making time to collaborate
Authentic Transparency

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Agile Program Pattern & Agile Operations Pattern

Agile Program Pattern

Program pattern used to launch and execute programs and projects


1.  Idea
    Strategic initiative
    New requirement
2.  Discover
    Understand and strategize
3.  Deliver
    Funding Gates
    Iteratively build
    Test and Deliver

Again goes back to the 5 phases
1. Mobilize
2. Understand
3. Explore/ Strategize
4. Build/ Test/ Implement (Prototype)
5. Manage/ Evolve

Leaders to evaluate and check the funnel management
Write a 'discovery brief'

Program Pattern - used to launch and execute programs and projects

Discovery Pattern:
1. Problem
2. Desired Outcome
3. Blockers
4. Epics
5. Solution Strategy
6. Estimate
7. Plan
8. Cost/ benefit

Collaborate to Elaborate
Iterate until done
Identify the cone of uncertainity-  Discovery or Delivery

Estimate- Solution Strategy - Epics  (Iterate till done)
Demand is always more than it is very important for proper funnel management

Agile Operations Pattern

Agile lifecycle of delivery
1. Discovery
2. Discovery (Optional)
3. Deliver (R1)-  Release or Phases

leads to
Iteration 0 -  is the set up iteration
Iteration 1 - Work
Iteration 2....n

At Start of Iteration
1. Iteration Planning
2. Daily standups
3. Work
4. Showcase
5. Retrospective (At the end of iteration)


Inputs -  From customers, team, managers, execs
> Product Owner
> Product backlog -  A priortized list of what is required, features, bugs to fix
> Team -  Sprint Planning meeting
- The team commits to as much high priority backlog as can be completed by the end of the sprint
> Sprint Backlog (Task breakout)
> Scrum Master
> 1-4 week Sprint (Sprint end date and deliverable do not change
> Daily Stand up meeting (15-30 minutes)
Sprint Review
> Finished Product (product increment)
> Sprint Retrospective

The Operations pattern used to effectively run and optimize any business process

The Business Canvas includes
1. VSM Practice (as-is)
2. Customer
3. prod services
4. process
5. People
6. Inputs/ Outputs
7. Metrics

Test Hypothisis for Agile Projects and
Manage / Evolve - Roll-out to all areas and evolve in Agile Project

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Agile Strategy

Agile as a way of working can be used HR, Managements, Projects, Sales etc

Across any business process:

Core Processes

Applying agile as a way of working at all levels
Used in project work and Operations work

Three Patterns

1. Strategy and Governance pattern
2. Program Execution Pattern
3. Operation Execution Pattern

Each pattern follows Five phases

1. Mobilize
2. Understand
3. Explore/ Strategize
4. Build/ Test/ Implement
5. Manage/ Evolve

The patterns interchange and rework as needed on iterations.

Managing the funnel helps tune strategy

1. Learn and adapt strategies
2.  Planning cycles become small
3.  Iterations after iterations for completion of work

Strategy Pattern :  Used to craft and execute organizational strategy
1. Strategy formulation
2. Strategy Execution

1.  Where are we now?
    Business model canvas
    Existing strategy
    Business metrics
    Work in progress
    Market Factors
    Current problems
    Root cause analysis
2.  Where do we want to be?
    Vision (Distant mountains)
    Mission (Purpose)
    Objective (Hills)
    BHAG (Big heavy ambitious Goal)
    SMART goals
3.  How did we get there?
    Design workshops
    Top 3-5 blockers to achieving the goals
    Foundational beliefts
    Strategic options
    Strategic choices
    Strategic initiatives
4.  What do we need to do?
    High level time line
    Short term (next 3 months) top 3 priorities
    Budget- Strategy alignment
5.  How do we execute?
    Strategic pipeline
    Start-Stop- Continue
    Integrated WIP
    Strategy Modality

Iterate through all levels down
Collaborate to Elaborate

Business Canvas:  The business model canvas

1. Key Partners
2. Key Activities
3. Key Resources
4. Value proposition
5. Customer Relationships
6. Channels
7. Customer Segments
8. Cost Structure
9. Revenue Streams

Created by 450 people from 45 countries ...

Using Agile Practices to 'Cascade' Strategy
1. Group Level
    Vision/ Mission
    Objectives/ Goals
2. Business Unit/ Profit Centre Level
3. Support functions - HR/Finance/ Legal etc

Source:  IBM Agile Academy

Friday, February 3, 2017

Agile for Leaders

Agile for leaders

What leaders have to do to enable, promote and support an Agile way of working-
and to ensure that teams are 'doing the right work'.

Challenges of today

1. Too  much work
2. Pressure to deliver
3. Stressed and/or disengaged teams
4.  Missed targets
5. Sub optimal results

''Growth is controlled not by the total of resources available but by the scarcest resource'' -  Dr. Liebig

''Every Organization has at any given point in time at least one constraint which limits the system's performance relative to its goal''- Dr. Eliyahu M.Goldratt
You can only deliver as fast as the slowest part of your process

Little's Law

Increase throughput by demand and production leveling

Work in progress (Reduce WIP)/ Average Completion rate (Increase completion time)= Total Cycle time (Managing the on-ramp / remove constraints/  Don't overburden

Minimize WIP-   Backlog, In Progress and Done

Switching loss-  productivity reduces when focus is shifted in multi tasking

Doing the right work:
1. Mission and Value
2. Strategic initiatives
3. Objectives and Goals
4. Manage the funnel of work
5. Visualize the work in progress
6. Program Delivery practices/ Strategic practices and Operations Practices
7. small, stable cross functional teams

Work and team structure fundamentals:

1. Small batch size
2. Single prioritized funnel of work
3. Pull work to match WIP limit
4. Small, stable cross functional team
5. Multiple teams are loosely coupled and tightly aligned

Work:  enhancements, new project work, bug fixes, 3rd line support
PM  - Product Owner
Team :  IM, BA, Designer, Customer SME, Dev, Tester, Cross functional core team

Work smarter than harder!  To do more and have fun while doing gets better

Customer-facing, end to end teams, as far as possible

1. Front end/ Bankend infrastruture
2. Analysts/ Designers/Developers/ Testers/ Compliance
3. Content Designers, Actuaries and Delivery support

Loosely coupled, tightly aligned!

Leaders or Managers:-

Organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal - Definition of leadership - wikipedia

1.  Clarity of purpose -   clear strategy
2.  Inspire purpose -  Mission, Vision and Goals
3.  Strategy is about choice.  Best choice comes with colloboration

Set up for Success:
1. Structure teams
    Right Resources/  Right Place and Right time
2.  Small and empowered teams
3.  Optimize value flow
    Remove bottlenecks
    Eliminate Waste
4. Leaders -visit the teams, see the walls and visualize the value stream mapping
5. Stop watermellon projects-  Green outside and Red inside.
6. Govern for greatness
    Doing the work right
    People management and guidance
7.  Drive innovation
    Sharing/ Learning / Innovate/ Improving
    Create exciting work environment

Summarizing Agile leadership

1. Inspire purpose
2. Set up for success
3. Optimize value flow
4. Govern for greatness
5. Innovation

Source:  IBM Agile Academy

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Agile Principles, Values and Behaviours & Practices

1. Begin with clarity about the outcome and let it guide every step along the way
2. Listen, iterate, learn and course correct rather than wait until its perfect
3. Encourage self direction for teams to unleash innovation, instead of concentrating leadership in the hands of a select few

  • Focus on the customer and business value
  • Iterative and Fast
  • Flexible, adaptive and continuously improving
  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Empowered and self directed teams
  • Don't control too much
  • Cant hold it total tight or too loose, and lose on innovation
  • Leadership is in the hands of everyone

Foundation Belief's and Values

1. Respect
2. Openness
3. Trust
4. Courage
5. Culture

Values are the values we walk past-   Australian General
Absence of trust leads to invulnerability
Fear of conflict -  Artificial harmony
Lack of commitment - Ambiguity
Avoidance of accountability - low standards
Inattention to results -  Status and Ego

Agile/ Lean/ DevOps/ Design thinking based on
1. Agile Practices
2. Agile Principles
3. Agile Values

leads to change in behaviors

1.  Do a standup
2. Retrospect

Agile Practices
-  an overview of some core agile practices, as well as the Japanese learning concept of Shuhari

Phil Abernathy -  Agile transformation coach

1. Social contract

team gets together - write short sticky notes on the acceptable and unacceptable behaviors of the team, that we go to live by
Social contract is owned by the entire team/  everyone is accountable
Gives the flavour of the culture, and changes needed
Penalties if you break the social contract
2. Scale of expectations
worst thing that you can give someone you love is trust
Trust is a box of expectations
Talk about the expectations to each other, be clear
what can you do and what you cant do
3.  Mood marbles
Red one's and Green One's-  Put the marble based on the mood in a jar
based on the color in the jar, we identify the mood of the team
Keep it simple...Agile is about simplicity
4. Stand up
Talking to the issue and not the person
Identify solutions for any problems or any blockers
Ask if you can help, tremendously supportive in agile
5. Retrospective
little action - 3 pieces of the emoticons on the board..
what is working well
what is not working well
I don't understand
-  Group the issues based on the 3 questions

As time, how are we going to fix the issue as a team
In the next iteration
In the next cycle

6.  Set of measures
a. Discovery +VSM
b. story cards
c. Wall of work
d. Showcase
e. Burn - up charts
f. Issue Bulls Eye
g. stand-up
h. Risk matrix

Practise name-  Scale of Expectations

More Blame-worthy towards More Praise-worty

1.  Deviance - deliberate violation of selfish purpose
2.  Inattention -  Inadvertent deviation
3.  Process in adequacy -  Faulty process
4.  Uncertainty- Lack of clarity
5.  Hypothesis Testing - Experimentation for the good of the company
Sanctions  leads to Rewards....

Failures are the way we learn
Fail fast is the new way of learning and recover
Intention should be good
Put up the prioritized list on the portfolio wall
Change the wall and columns of the notes - based on the situations
Visualize the process, the work and everyone to understand what is going on

Release plan -  has Release wall and Iteration Wall
Plan - Develop- Test-  deliver
Visualize the trends and mood understand the team work

The practices are like a buffet-  laid out to allow people to pick what suits them.
These practices ensure behavior is aligned to the values and principles

1.  Leadership Practices

Agile strategy pattern
Portfolio walls
Backlog prioritization
social contract
Kanban Board
Team environment
Team rotations
Leader Smashes

2.  Collaboration Practices

Agile discovery practice
Stand ups
Backlog grooming
Planning Poker
Team of teams
Design thinking practices

3. Delivery Practices

Agile Program/ Operations Patters
Automated Test-driven development
Burn down chart
Continuous integration and deployment
Design thinking practices
Dev-ops practices
Story cards
Value stream mapping


We don't use documentation to achieve shared understanding
We document shared understanding
Agile takes a lot of emphasis away from documentation.
It even gets the incorrect reputation that it is anti-documentation that doesn't provide value
More importantly, Agile recognizes that documentation isn't the best way to gain a shared understanding

In Agile, we talk, we converse and then we document the understanding

The Japanese concept of Shu-Ha-Ri

If you can make a curry, but cant make French pastry and someone asks you to make French pastry, what do you do?

You find the recipe, buy the ingredients and follow the recipe
You don't decide, without understanding the recipe, to boil the pastry instead of baking it in the over as instructed

It's the same with Agile or any new way of working.  In order to learn, we must follow the process as described.
Then once we have practiced it is a couple of times, we can adapt the receipe to make it better and finally when we are well
practiced and experienced, we can write our own recipe

Shu-  Follow
Ha-  Break
Ri-  Transcend

Source:  IBM Agile Academy

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Introduction to Agile Principles and Human Values

Agile Challenges-  Does anyone have a pencil?   

Principals of Agile
  • measure the process
  • thinking
  • practiced
  • borrowing brilliance
  • learn and watch
  • focused on outcome
  • listen and discuss
  • agreement on the process
  • self directed
  • self adjusted
  • Teams wisdom to do the things together
  • wisdom of crowd to get best solutions
  • show leadership by anyone in agile
  • leadership can be a first follower
  • all forms of leadership-  shared leadership
  • observed
  • between the iterations, evaluated results
  • How can I get better?
  • Iterated
  • ideas bounce in the group and innovation happens
  • having fun at work as well

Human values showed to each other
1. Respect
2. Trust
3. Courage - mother of all values
4. challenge processes and procedures
5. evaluate what helps or stops in getting better?
6. Openness and transparency

Agile - set of human values, practice at home and same values practiced at work

Agile Principles and Human values make Agile possible

Set of practices- behavior changes -  live the values- that becomes a habit and culture

Keep practices makes possible innovations
Create a great place to work and great culture


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Review of Tamil Play : NAAM ENDRUM ORUVAR from Mali's Stage

29 January 2017   :  Inauguration of the Tamil Play from Mali Stage – Naam Endrum Oruvar.
Venue :   Mylapore Fine Arts Club -   Karthik Fine Arts

Drama / Tamil Play:   Naam Endrum Oruvar
Story & Dialogues:   K.S. N. Sundar
Direction - Kudandhai Mali

Presented and produced by Mali Stage.

It was pleasant Saturday evening, the time for some good theatre experience, we went to MFAC, the stage that sets most of the inaugural shows sentimentally for most of the drama troupes in the city.   Karthik Fine Arts is known to have given great opportunities to talents and Mali Stage is one of the most pioneer drama groups in the City.   

Foreword:  Awesome concept, excellent acting, amazing coordination and great direction and dialogues.  

Plot & Review:    Advocate Meenakshi donned by none other than theatre star Sowmya Ramnarayanana, daughter in law of great Mr. Mali sir himself is the highly determined women feminist advocate.   She is popular and love the prestige as being called specialist lawyer in divorce cases.   She advocates the same theory and uses all the loopholes in the law to get divorce for her clients.  She ensures that her lady clients get divorce, no matter what and irrespective of whether the divorce reason is genuine or not.  She is also known as kayirasi divorce lawyer.    Her husband Mr. Sundaram, acted by Bhaskar is also an advocate who advocates against divorce.  His theory is that husband and wife should try to reconcile, realign and remove the differences and lead a happy life.   Bhaskar did an amazing job almost in every scene in the drama and needs great applause.  Baskar had been a real pillar of the show and awesome acting with his charismatic portrayal of the character.  Probably, he needs little more makeup to look older as a father and father-in-law.   

Their only son lives in USA and is married to a girl called Charu.   The plot goes around when Charu send a divorce notice to her husband and how the advocate Meenakshi fights between being a mother and an advocate.   Her version of divorce changes and takes twists and turns based on the events happening in her own life.   Sowmya acted very well as a professional lawyer and appreciate her way of dressing and changing of 7 sarees in 1.5 hours drama which is not an easy feat.   

Balaji who acted as the son did a neat job by showing emotions of a youngster caught between parents with two different attitudes towards life and his commitment to marriage and love for his wife Charu.   Sundar Sir did a wonderful script.   Arvind is another talent artist who performed well.   The Sambandhi to Meenakashi acted by Arun was a humble character showing real emotions and the Gumastha character shows how it actually operates in Indian courts and how the real Clerks feel and work. Well done Arun Sir for your modest and flawless acting .   Ramani Sir is an experienced artist who needs no recognition and did a wonderful character as a father showing his acting experience and emotions required of the play.   

Daughter in law Charu character did by debut actor Ramya to the Tamil Stage did a good job.   Her expressions were good and there is scope for lot of growth for her in the theatre arena.  Monaja acted as Jennifer, the foreign lady did a good acting though her part was only for one scene and did a neat job.  

The volume could have been better and mikes probably need to increase the volume as at places, the dialogues were not audible.   However, other than the minor initial issues, it was an excellent show.  The lighting effects and music was good and back stage support also need to be appreciated for their quick turnaround of the stage sets and wonderful coordination.  

The end to end credit goes to Mr. Mali for such a wonderful play.  For the theater lovers, this play gives you a good concept and relevant to the present day scenario.   Instead of opting for divorce, if our youngsters and their parents give some time for reconciliation, many a relationships would be saved.   

Divorce is not a wrong thing if there are genuine cases of harassment, dowry, betrayals and any other serious issues.   But today, the youngsters lose patience easily in relationships, opt for change, jump the guns at the fall of a hat, and take decisions hastily and regret later.   This drama is a lesson to all those people.      Though humor was not the objective of this play, you do get to laugh at the twists and turns of the play itself and Sundaram and Meenakshi steals the show.    Worth watching when played in stage. 

Congrats Baskar Balasubramanian & Soumya Ram and congrats team... enjoyed the evening! Well penned story with expert direction and action.     

Kudos to the entire cast and crew of NAAM ENDRUM ORUVAR.  

Sunday, January 15, 2017

One Day trek to Gudiyam Caves and Poondi Reservoir

Rock shelters of South India and known for pre-historic stone tools and culture. Trek with Rootwalkers. This ancient site situated in Thiruvallur district near Poondi reservoir. It is 60 kilometers away from Chennai, Tamil Nadu.

Gudiyam Caves Chennai transports you literally to a bygone era...

Looking for a day's trip out of Chennai and a journey into wilderness? Well then, Gudiyam Caves (about 60 km from the city) located in Thiruvallur District is a great bet. A place that's said to be used by Paleolithic man, just getting to the caves is an experience to savour.

There are several reasons why this is a must-visit if you're from Chennai. One, it gives you a chance to catch a flavour of rural life, combined with all of nature's beautiful elements. The trek to reach the caves, about five kilometres from the Gudiyam village, is an exciting one that will leave you wanting for more. If you're lucky, you'll be able to spot some rare birds on the picturesque route to this place.

The trek can be quite exhausting, thanks to the rugged road, but it can also be exciting due to the overgrowth of plant life in the side of the path. At some places, the plant life is so overgrown that you might have to crawl under it and at some other places, they form a neat canopy over your head, offering you some much-needed shade.

Once you reach the caves, savour the hugeness of the structure and the several bee-hives in the vicinity. For those who wish to catch a glimpse of the local tradition, a visit to the small temple (more like a sannadhi) situated at the caves is a must.

The trip to Gudiyam and back can be quite interesting otherwise as well; for you'll pass through Poondi reservoir on the way. This place is quite a sight to behold, especially in the evenings when the sun is about to set.

How to get there
- If you're going by car or private bus (the best option), start early in the morning and take the road to Poonamallee. Have your breakfast and pack some stuff to eat/drink there, for after that, shops are quite sparse in number.
- From there, head to Poondi reservoir.
- Equire with locals about the route to Gudiyam village and get set for an adventurous and picturesque countryside. At the end of the Gudiyam village, you'll spot a tall watch tower. Do inform the guard on duty there about your trek before you embark on it as the route could be unsafe at times. To be on the safer side, you could also check with the local authorities/achaeological department a few days in advance and inform them about your plans.

What to carry
- Loads and loads of water and anything that'll quench your thirst. While it's true that summer is the best time to go for this trek, (for, if you get caught in the rain during the trek, there's no respite) it's also that time of the year when the sun beats down mercilessly.
- A variety of eatables, as post Poondi, there're very little food options available.
- Spare footwear. Avoid shoes as there could be puddles on the way, but ensure you choose some sturdy footwear.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

#ClickArtMuseum Chennai - A Fun Trick visit in Chennai -celebrate the child in you

It was a lazy Saturday afternoon, when my daughter and I wanted a day out for ourselves and then we gathered another set of mother and sons and drove down on the ECR Road, in Chennai towards VGP Golden beach.

Adjacent to the Golden beach is the VGP Snow Kingdom and inside this snow kingdom is India's first Trick Art Museum ...and the admission fee is Rs 150 per head.   It is worth for the amazing art and the way the whole museum is displayed though it is small in size and lacks air conditioning.   what matters once you reach there is the amazing work of art and the way you can start clicking pictures playing like a child wanting to pose more and more with each work of art.

Weekends usually get crowded and especially works well with teens who come in big groups.   So make it on a weekday for a free time to take all pictures of your choice and then if you want, you can spend time and money in the snow world as well.   This particular museum has limited art pieces but amazing one's and carry a good camera will add to your advantage with good friends to pose with you.   Here are the few pictures, we have taken.