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“Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.”

- Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa

While the world is trying to comprehend the activities in Newtown, CT about the inhumane incident, the first thought that crossed my mind was about the quote above. Lots of thoughts and emotions surfacing but I will refrain from expressing them.

Prayers and thoughts for everyone affected by this evil act.

“Safety and security..”

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Musings

 

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A good sign

image

See those white spots on my fingers? Skin peeling off. That’s a good sign for a guitar practitioner. It’s a sign I’ve been practicing.

When I started learning guitar, just before college, and was practicing regularly it started same, then it gets harder and blackish as one keeps playing with the strings regularly.

It’s a feeling, a sign, I had been missing since few years. It’s time to prioritize the activities and do more of what you love.

An inspired lesson from a nice conversation with Mike Cottmeyer (@mcottmeyer) in March. Better late than never.

Practice, Practice.. More Practice!

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Music

 

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Link

Abhijeet Deshmukh (@_abhijeet_d) and I are more than childhood friends, we’re family. We’ve grown up together – shared our success, fears, crushes, tears, lunch boxes and stayed up late night studying together.

We were each other’s worst enemies in sports – cricket and table tennis – and we were the nightmare for others when we teamed up. He has been the brighter one for most of the things, except when I beat him in cricket, round the legs – one of the 5 victims of 6 balls (pitches) in an over. (Yes, you read that right).

Music was another thing that brought us together. So, when he joined the guitar class, he talked me into joining it too (Till date I still feel I want to learn drums). After we completed our apartment move, I found recently on one of my old cassettes lying in “what’s that stuff box”. Played it and found there are so many memories recorded in it!

Memories should be cherished, forever – and this one for me is a precious one. So, I used “Audacity” to convert the track into digital format.

Setting:

This recording was done at my home in Nagpur, India via a simple microphone and recorded using a very old tape recorder/cassette recorder we had in our home (or was that the music system?). Mic was placed on a wooden stool/table between Abhijeet and me. Abhijeet was on the lead, I was on rhythm guitar.

I had a acoustic, Givson guitar. Abhijeet might have had a Hobner.

Note: It’s not a very clear recording and sounds distorted. That’s the way I could record/revive it.

Special thanks to: @jitterted (Ted Young) for suggesting SoundCloud option.

I hope it works! :) Herez the recording: Sharing an experiment from past (Guitar recording)

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2011 in Music

 

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User Stories: My knowledge bank of “value”able reads

I have been writing user stories for more than couple of years now. I am still learning and improving. And every story I write next – I try to improve it: Bring “value” to it. As a group manager of few online agile/scrum groups, I see many experienced people struggling to understand the concept of user stories.

Even met people who claim to have quite some experience in writing user stories – but when you hand them a card and pen, they go blank.

With respect to user stories few points need to be remembered:

1) They are from “users” perspective – So PLEASE involve the customer/user of the system while writing (Better let THEM write, if your org allows that)

2) A user story w/o an acceptance criteria is like a human w/o spinal cord.

3) There’s NO such thing as a PERFECT story – the dev team with product owner and customer have to come to an agreement to say the story is GOOD to go and can be used by development team for breaking down into tasks.

With all that said which can be debated as EVERYONE has a opinion, I started putting together some knowledge base for user stories. If you can help contribute to these links, PLEASE feel free to comment on this post and help point to valuable content related to user stories:

What are user stories? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_story

INVEST: http://xp123.com/xplor/xp0308/index.shtml

@mikewcohn: http://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/topics/user-stories

@scottwambler: http://www.agilemodeling.com/artifacts/userStory.htm

@agilescout: http://agilescout.com/presentation-writing-better-user-stories/

http://agilescout.com/agile-guide-estimating-user-stories-in-agile/

http://agilescout.com/agile-user-stories-specific-role-names/

@mlevison http://agilepainrelief.com/notesfromatooluser/2010/09/story-slicing-how-small-is-enough.html

http://agilepainrelief.com/notesfromatooluser/2010/12/more-notes-on-story-splitting.html

@peterstev: http://www.scrum-breakfast.com/2008/02/explaining-story-points-to-management.html

@davidjbland: http://www.scrumology.net/tag/story-points/

There’s a LOT of information out on internet that can help you learn about user stories – if you’re a member of scrum alliance, there are valuable reads on their site submitted by agile practitioners. But NOTHING can get you the experience unless u start writing them yourself.

So, what are you waiting for: Grab a index card, a pen (or go the digital way) and collaborate with your customer team, product owner and developers to start writing – then scratch few, negotiate, refine some more, scratch again and come up with a user story that is ready for your product backlog.

Disclaimer: The only idea regarding this post is a centralized page for me to reference valuable content on User stories. If you have pointers and suggestions, please feel free to comment.

05/13/2011: Got a GREAT read from Martin Fowler that needs to be added to this list: Conversational Stories. I am so very happy to share that I AM practicing this with my team as a Proxy PO!

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2011 in Agile

 

Plight of a volunteer..

Everyday requests pour in to the queue of Scrum Alliance Inc., and Certified Scrum Masters Linked In groups – from across the world.

I have been helping with the group management activity since quite some time and have received help from few more volunteers on the groups.  Even after having 6 to 8 group managers the requests still keep piling up. After a long time of wait and watch, I decided to email the group mgmt team today.  This is the first step towards my journey to settle things after the Scrum Alliance restructuring that kind of left these groups – Orphan (just in the custody of volunteers).

===========================================================================================================================================

Hello everyone,

In last one month – couple of group management team members decided to leave the group. We appreciate their contribution and thank them for their involvement.

To the ones who are still interested to help out, recently there have been lots of requests piling up in both CSM and SA groups. Especially SA group – today I processed around 60 odd requests from both the groups.

Till past month, I did have a little bandwidth to pickup the load but that’s not the case now.

I know this we agreed to be a VOLUNTEER: for a good cause. Let me take a moment to give you all a clearer picture:

1) These groups were started by a (then) Scrum Alliance employee or the Product Owner

2) Group loads increased so they requested volunteers to help. We had 5 volunteers working at a sustained pace and improving on management activities and setting processes

3) Scrum Alliance decided to LET GO of the original Product Owner and asked them to transition the product (i believe including the management of these groups) to a independent company

4) Neither SA, NOR that independent company has acknowledged the existence of these groups, which keep GROWING every minute

5) Few of the original management team members decided they could not continue helping the groups, so I called in for additional volunteers

6) Rest of you heard my call and am glad you have provided your valuable time.

So why the story?

1) I wanted everyone to know the actual history about this part

2) Think about all the ASPIRING members who keep sending their requests to join these groups (from world wide) and are completely ignorant about this situation

(That the groups are actually orphan and Scrum Alliance is NOT really managing the groups – VOLUNTEERS like US are)

3) Remind us all about the commitment we made (few hours a week) to help out with the management activity of this group.

4) After getting you all on the same page, I now would like to bring this issue to light with someone from Scrum Alliance Inc. (the “Owner” of this group has been unresponsive)

5) Because – if SA does not treat these groups as their product, the policies and operation for these need to change.

6) The efforts we put in as volunteers are otherwise going unnoticed

Let us look at the PENDING requests as our BACKLOG, and think of ourselves as an agile team:

  1. If everyone can help pick up a few requests every week, that will help distribute the load for EVERYONE
  2. Will provide a chance for everyone on group management team to be a active participant in discussions on group

I would really appreciate your honest feedback and response on this issue of how can we deal better with managing this backlog?

We can have at the most 10 managers on 1 group. If the management team keeps growing shorter, I will have to opt for re-opening the volunteer call and re-training them.

This is our chance for a retrospective of this team – if you truly believe in agile values, I know you will understand my concern.

I personally appreciate everyone’s involvement and volunteering for this effort and hope to hear from you soon.

Have a great week end.

===================================================================================================================================================================================

As I mentioned, my next step will be getting in touch with one or more people from Scrum Alliance leadership team – regardless of how the current volunteer managers react to my email.


 
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Posted by on February 19, 2011 in Volunteering

 

Agile & Music: Suggestion for an experiment

Instruments

Who doesn’t love music? We all have different choices, tastes – but we all listen and have our favorites. I like listening to variety of music and play guitar (Disclaimer: I am not a music major or a pro).

There’s been this one thing on my mind since a long time and could not resist this post when I saw David Bland’s tweet about “Kanban-Agile Jazz“. [Don't forget to check out the trackback link at the bottom of that article by Olaf Lewitz].

I have observed one strange coincidence when I met, read about and researched some famous agilists. Many of them play guitar (or a music instrument.

To name a few (on twitter): @mcottmeyer, @howardsublett, @dennisstevens (if I am not wrong), Dave Minor, @darianrashid (drums) and the list goes on..(you get the point).

Most importantly, the experiment that I have in mind is on the lines of what Olaf mentioned in his post:

  1. In next agile (or scrum or kanban or XP) get-together event, invite the attendees WITH their instruments
  2. Ask the attendees at the gathering to form a band by choosing among themselves
  3. Create a tune or select a song of their choice
  4. Practice for a few times and then
  5. Present for few minutes in front of the get-together audience

Yep, you’re thinking right; something like the “YouTube Symphony Orchestra” on a very small-scale.

Why do this?

  1. Fun & Entertainment
  2. Interactive and engaging
  3. Something different/Innovative than just doing “hands-on” sessions, open space, games
  4. Displaying agile principles/values: Collaboration, Self-organizing teams, Improvisation, Iterating, Practicing and Delivering

 

Jazz

As you can see from Olaf’s “White Night..” post few passionate people have used the Jazz experiment to get their point across to the audience about improvisation. After all, people get-together to discuss what they are passionate about (agility) and in that people form  small groups, get engaged in discussing topics of their interest. If people don’t find the topic interesting they use the “law of two feet” from open space in search of discussion that engages them.

So, why not meet with like-minded music (agile) enthusiasts at such events and jam?

Note of caution: Please make sure you don’t get lost in music so much that you forget the main purpose of being at the (agile) event :)


 
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Posted by on December 27, 2010 in Agile, Music, Musings

 

Customer engagement – The hard stuff

Dealing with difficult customers

Dealing with difficult customers

Customer involvement in any project is very important. But customers also are humans and you can rest assured that with every new project – the way it is unique, your customer experience WILL be unique; either pleasant or unpleasant. Things can get very challenging, if you meet a customer who is controlling and/or unwilling to commit. Even worse: sways the users/team to “rollback” their decisions.

In recent past, we started to have problems with scope definition with our customer and the initial sessions turned unproductive. So our project management team got together internally to assess the problem and possibly rectify it. It was necessary to identify the “type” of customer and I started looking for some answers/similar experiences. I came across Mike’s post on customer engagement. As Mike suggests, customer engagement will get productive if your customers can be identified by “CRACK” acronym – that stands for:

  • Collaborative
  • Representative
  • Accountable
  • Committed
  • Knowledgeable

In our case, the controlling customer manager was just a R (Representative of the team) but missing everything else. The users were afraid and unwilling to express their needs, decisions and concerns in front of the manager. And we were expected to understand and rectify the business problem. IT team tried few tricks like JAD sessions, One-on-one discussion with the manager to help the individual understand importance of scope finalization and moving ahead. Things went 1 step ahead, but 2 step back.

Direct communication was not successful and we were not in a position to bypass the manager. In this case, the one trick that worked for us was:  Questions/Surveys. We developed a 2 page survey and distributed it to the whole customer team, including the manager to define the scope.

The statistics that came back from the survey helped us show the manager the actual needs and to arrive at the scope for the project.  This experience reminded us that: It is not just your analytical skills and technical expertise that are important. Dealing with difficult individuals and especially customers can test your people skills. You will need to reach deep down in your bag of techniques and experience to handle such situations.

Your patience, collaboration and interaction skills will be tested. Only experience can help you successfully navigate such situations. Connect, talk and try finding the answers with people who have been through such situations.

Because –  Soft stuff (skill) is the  hard stuff.

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2010 in Business Analysis, Project Management

 

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