Thursday, August 10, 2017

A daily stand up team prayer meeting

 "The family that prays together stays together" and "A world at prayer is a world at peace". If we extend this to teams and organizations, then what can be expected?. Yes, I have come across some organizations who starts the day with a stand up prayer meeting. To be precise three of them. The first one is still continuing as a leader in it's segment during the last four decades. The second one has flourished from a one man industry to a highly profit making company, with operations in multiple countries..within the last ten years of inception. The third one also is on an upward spiral. They are all very graceful people. The happiness quotient and the optimism is very high. Work is considered as sacred. Have seen this happening in some hospitals as well. Before the start of the day, the team prays together. When the spiritual quotient is high...what happens...

"For it was not with their own sword that they conquered the land, nor were they victors by their own hand; but it was your right hand and arm and by the light of your countenance; for you truly loved them. Psalm 44:4"

If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 

They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." Jeremiah 

Saint Francis Assissi's prayer - A team prayer ?

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Dreaming of teams starting their day praying together this prayer..or a tailored version of it. Professional life can be much easier and enjoyable. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

About the 'Sir' Culture

Saturday, August 5, 2017

From Drucker to the Apostles

At the end of one of my agile workshops, a participant wanted to talk to me about some of the professional problems he was facing at the workplace. Recently, their management promoted him as  manager, and from that day on wards some of his peers had to report to him, and the problems started. There was an internal rift within his team. He wanted an instant solution for this from me,  because he was almost on the verge of giving up and quitting. Whether we like it or not, at some point in time, majority of the professionals will have to shoulder managerial responsibilities. As Individual contributors, it was all about doing work independently where as as managers, we are supposed to get work done through others. That calls for a new mindset. Whatever that helped you to achieve things as an individual contributor will not help you to succeed as a manager. As we grow in the managerial path, very often we may have to get things done through external stakeholders as well. Some flourish, some perish and many just hang out there with lot of insecurity and dissatisfaction. 

When this guy explained his problem at the workplace, about the non-cooperating team members, Emotional bank account and  'Bible' were the answer sprouted in me. 

Stephen Covey, in his book 7 habits of highly effective people talks about emotional bank accounts (EB). When I do something good for you, I make a deposit. When I do something bad for you I make a withdrawal. As long as my deposits are more than the withdrawals we will not have any serious inter-personal relationship issues. The case is different, the moment the withdrawals surpasses the deposits. 

The associated bible verses ; 

"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who treat you badly. Do not be a judge of others and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned, forgive and you will be forgiven, give and it will be given to you, and you will receive in your sack good measure, pressed down, full and running over. For the measure you give will be the measure you receive back". Can a blind person lead another blind person?. Surely both will fall into a ditch. So, why do you pay attention to the speck in your brother's eye, while you have a log in your eye, and we are not conscious of it. 

So, it is all about 'Do to others, what you want others to do to you'. Continuous streaming of deposits to the emotional bank accounts of others whom we encounter every day. When I lack, how can I give?. Continuous communication with Lord almighty. 

Why should your colleagues like and respect you?. There should be some reasons for that. 

As professionals we have;
  • Expert power; people respect you for our ability to contribute 
  • Reward power; people shows respect, because you can reward them
  • Positional power; your job title, stature 
  • Reference power; If you have access or connections at powerful circles, people will respect you
Of these, the best is expert power. The ability to contribute to the common objective of the team. If a person is only judgmental about others, that itself is reason enough for them to hate that person. Very often, the solution lies in our ability to introspect, to find the problems with ourselves first (logs in our eyes), before trying to remove the specs from others eyes. 

Yes, I am serious about it. After starting to  read bible to understand it (not as a Holy exercise), I stopped buying and reading the managerial quick fix, self help books. Bible has the answer for all life situations, which include professional life as well. 

  • Honest (dishonest)
  • Trustworthy (unreliable) 
  • Optimistic (pessimistic)
  • Self driven (lethargic)
  • Motivated (demotivated)
  • Committed (uncommitted) 
These are the key words those are coming to my mind, when I think about great teams. These are captured in the scrum values, agile principles and in the professional ethics of managers. Many write it off as impractical to have teams based on these.. They get sarcastic about it. They do not even believe that it is possible.  Then I challenge them to apply the opposites (given within brackets). Can we achieve anything with a dishonest, unreliable, pessimistic, lethargic, demotivated, uncommitted team, which include the manager (lead) as well. That will be a disaster.  You may have great strategies and plans on paper and without a good team you are bound to fail. Great managers work on improving the production capability of their teams and they end up getting production. Lousy managers focus only on production, and they get variance reports (Courtesy Seven habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey). There Stephen Covey talks about P/PC balance (production Vs production capability). 

If it was only talent that counts, none of the projects of good companies who have the financial power to attract the best in the industry would have failed. . In risk management we have;
  • Known knowns 
  • Known unknowns 
  • Unknown unknowns 

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know. Donald Rumsfeld

How do we manage these unknown unknowns? 

"When they call to me, I will answer; in time of trouble I will be with them, I will deliver and honor them. I will satisfy them with long life and show them my salvation."

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praise to your name, O Most high, to proclaim your grace in the morning, to declare your faithfulness at night, accompanied by the music from the lyre and the melody of lute and harp. 

Come to me, all you who work hard and who carry heavy burdens, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest. For my yoke is good, and my burden is light. 

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but nothing shall befall you, his faithfulness is your shield. 

We have a great helper, the Holy Spirit. For God, everything is possible. 

Those who have ears, listen...

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Applied project management #16. The control chart

The Control chart and the rule of seven

One of the contractual clauses of a project is strict adherence to a schedule variance within +- 10 percentage. The customer will do the review of the project every fortnight, and if the schedule variance is above 10% then there is a penalty clause. That is the customer specification limit. Will you go for that project or not?, that is the question.

If the supplier's capability limits (UCL - Upper control limit, LCL - Lower control limit) is within the customer's specification limit, then there is no risk involved. If the suppliers capability is below the customer specification limit, then there is a risk. We may still go ahead with the project, by taking appropriate risk response planning, and contingency planning.

Once the project starts, the fortnightly reviews start and we get data points a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i,j,k. Data points a and b are within the customer specification limits and within the organisations capability limits (LCL, UCL). So the customer and the quality control department will not complain. The data point 'C' is outside the organisations capability limit, so the QA department will complain. Since it still within the customer specification limit, the customer will not complain. In this case we have to perform a root cause analysis (RCA) to understand the root causes leading to this deviation, in order to correct it.

The data point 'D' is surely an outlier. It is lying beyond the customer specification limit. The customer will complain. Again we have to perform a root cause analysis to understand the real root causes and correct them. The root causes can be random or assignable. For random causes we will not be able to take corrective / preventive actions, where as for assignable causes we can.

After the corrective action, the subsequent data points e,f,g,h,i,j,k are within the customer specification limits, hence there wont be any customer complaints. Of these f,g,h,i,j,k are happening next to each other. Whenever we see a cluster of seven data points happening next to each other we call it as 'Rule of seven'. A rule of seven can happen anywhere on the control chart. Whenever we observe a rule of seven, we must perform a root cause analysis to find out why it is happening. If the rule of seven is happening within the UCL and the LCL, then we can infer that something good (best practices) are happening, and we must investigate so that we can institutionalise them. If the rule of seven is happening outside the LCL and UCL, then it could be because of some bad practices. In this case, we must correct and prevent them from future occurrence.

All the quality gurus like Deming, Juan, Crosby were dead against slogans of improvement. They always believed in measurements. Without a control chart , no reliable and sustainable improvement is possible. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Applied project management #15. Enterprise environmental factors and organisational process assets

Enterprise environmental factors and Organisational process assets

Enterprise environmental factors

Before embarking on a project, the project manager and the team must have an in depth understanding of the enterprise environmental factors, failing which the project risk can be very high, leading to even cancellation of the project and huge losses to the key stakeholders. The following is a sample list of enterprise environmental factors that may have a major impact;

Availability of resources (man, machine, material) to execute the project
Pollution norms laid out by the government and the environment protection groups
Waste disposal norms
Legal system
Political climate
Climatic conditions
Labour laws of the country
Culture of the land
Festivals of the land
National holidays of the countries which has an impact on the key stakeholders of the project
Local business ethics

Watch this video about enterprise environmental factors;

Organisational process assets

Any reusable component from any of the key stakeholders, that must / can be used for the project falls under the organisational process assets. This include, but not limited to;

Proprietary intellectual property of the customer, supplier
Historical data
Project management information system

Both enterprise environmental factors and organisational process assets have major impact on the planning and execution of projects.

Watch this video about Organizational process assets

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Applied project management #14 Developing the project management plan

Through the project charter, the project manager for the project is identified. Now, the designated project manager leads the project into the planning phase, which comprises of developing the integrated project plan. Project teams comprises of multiple sub teams like;

Engineering team
Planning team
Procurement teams
Quality assurance team
Risk management team
Human resource management team
Communication team
Documentation team etc

Unless and until these sub-teams complete their individual plans, the project manager cannot complete the integrated project plan.

The project management plan is the document that describes how the project will be executed, monitored, and controlled. It integrates and consolidates all of the subsidiary plans and baselines from the planning processes.

The project baselines
Scope baseline
Schedule baseline
Cost baseline

The subsidiary plans include;
Scope management plan
Requirements management plan
Schedule management plan
Cost management plan
Quality management plan
Process improvement plan
Human resource management plan
Communications management plan
Risk management plan
Procurement management plan
Stakeholder management plan

The project management plan may include;
Life cycle selected for the project
Details of the tailoring decisions
Description of how work will be exceuted to accomplish the project objectives
Change management plan
Configuration management plan
Key management reviews for content
Requirements and techniques for communication among stakeholders