Thursday, 29 May 2014

Ssshhhhhhh... What did he say?

Listening is an art and meeting room is the Gridiron where you can actually see the masters of this art. Any and every meeting has always got me new learning. As an active or passive participant a meeting can teach you a lot and not all of it would be from the content of the meetings. People, Environment, Attitudes and flow contribute a big chunk. While in the last few months we religiously started pulling scrums, requirement meetings, technical calls and other project discussions and each of them called for a a few meetings. For few of these meetings I just attended as passive participant and took time to observe and notice a few things. I tried but could not resist myself from putting this over....

How do you identify who is not listening or been attentive in the meeting?

I noticed a pattern, a pattern that speaks when people are not listening, understanding or don't care. Here are a few of them...

1. Eye Contact
Participants that are not making eye contact are most times not listening. Although this is not a hard and fast rule, I have noticed that non listeners are usually found looking in Zero or most times at objects. 

2. Reaction
If they don't react to situations they are not listening. The funniest thing I observed was when a spontaneous joke is cracked you would notice the non listeners to burst into laughter or smile when everyone is done or midway. An absurd thing said in the meeting would also go unnoticed by the non listeners.

3. Body Language
Folded Hands, raised eyebrows, blank face and consistently moving / shaking legs also display that the focus is not meeting. People who are attentive or listening can be found either leaning forward to speak or listen.

4. Questions, Replies and endorsements
You would always notice non listeners raising or asking questions that are already answered. Easiest way to track them. If a person endorses everything it "can" mean he/she was not listening.

5. The Zero Effect
Participants that are standing with absolutely no emotions, words and actions are probably thinking of what they are wearing for their date in the evening. I have also noticed some of the non listeners to be drawing things.

6. Interjections
If they consistently use interjections like "Yeah" "Yes" "hmm" without any changing patterns.. they are probably not listening.

7. All the Gadgetry Goofs
Fiddling phones, Nails, keys are signs of no interest in discussions.

Do you see any disconnected meeting participants? What do you think they do?

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Things I miss.....

Things I miss....

1. A display of committed vs achieved.
2. A view to what is blocking.
3. An integration that happens on every logical point as opposed to complete story point.
4. An ambiguous requirement that you encountered mid way.
5. A design that evolves with audit.
6. A user story that is sliced enough to know what is achievable and when.
7. A glimpse to non-availability that is blocking.
8. A list of leftovers every 2 weeks
9. A list of leftover gulped every 2 weeks.
10. An impediment found early
11. A build that says all is right and ready to go.
12. Board that truly reveals the work in progress.
13. A retrospective that truly reveals the good, the bad and the ugly
14. A loud shout of "Yes I have done it"
15. A call to review small things that build up large blocks
16. A scrum where huddling is allowed
17. A demonstration that comes with high value feedback
18. A contribution of how best it can be done.
19. A list we call "Technical Debt"
20. A process that is looked to be improved and evolved.
21. An estimate that cuddles the requirement
22. A practice that cares for User experience more than technology
23. An attitude that says "Customers are not Gods"
24. A High Five
25. A WOW
26. A Great Idea
27. A "That's Kewl"
28. A "Why not?"
29. Clarity of what is to be achieved and why
30. A Goal, that's just not completing a story point
31. A pat for an orthodox approach
32. A non traditional success pattern

I miss "Agile...." I really do.....

From the old books... Curated a list of things that a agile developer would always miss. My part is here.. what is yours?

Thursday, 24 April 2014


How well do you understand a requirement? More importantly How well do you understand a requirement when it is only documented? How well do you understand a requirement when no discussions have happened on it? Do you compare your initial understandings to the final outcome? Do you find a difference in what you thought and what is was meant to be?

Today I wish to touch base on a critical element that we experience in the day to day work. In one of the product development cycles we received a clarification from our team, on a feature request from one of our customer saying "I don't think it should delete the document". Now while I would want you to continue reading this, why don't you just take a pencil and scribble what does the statement mean and you can refer to it later. The developer chose to build the feature around the clarification and the outcome was deleting a document by said process was not possible. A few days later this came in as a bug from the same customer saying "There is a bug", iterations happened,  O Fish. Our iterations increased and we ended up throwing things at each other and who said what. A few moments into this we read through the statement again and realized we can fairly derive different meanings depending on which word we stress.

I don't think it should delete the document.
Meaning : Others do/may think that it should delete the document.

I dont think it should delete the document.
Meaning: It is not true that I think it should delete the document.

I don't think it should delete the document.
Meaning: I am not sure if it should delete the document.

I don't think it should delete the document.
Meaning: Maybe it should delete something else?

Go on and you would realize, what you thought about it, may or may not be same as you scribbled, depending on the word stressed. 

But then how would you understand which word is stressed, specially when it is written? What do you do to ensure you don't build a minaret instead of a hut?

Communication plays an important role and no "QUESTION" is not an answer to it, You may end up questioning every sentence killing the whole thing called "Intelligence". A few ways to sort this out:

1. Brainstorm : A group discussion would always help you understand the right meaning.

2. Read - UNREAD - RE-READ : Many don't know how to do this. But I am sure you have played "Find the Path" game that usually shows up in newspapers? Once you find the path, the next time doing the same is not very difficult. It means your brain gets used to making or building that pattern. Un-reading is wiping off the previous understanding and reading it from a fresh perspective.

3. Communicate : Remember the stages of communication. CONFIRM is one of them.

4. Ask : Just DON'T ASK. Also share what you think.

5. Don't stick to it : Once clarified, get used to the new perspective. IF YOU STICK to what you think is RIGHT. You are going to dig a grave for yourself and others.

Now while I wont keep barging about this, I would let you stress each word in the sentence that you see in the picture linked to the post and comment with the meanings. Enjoy UNDERSTANDING.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Are you serious?

There is a very fine line between easy going and laid-back. A lot of times it is not very difficult to jump from one side to other. Laid-back attitude can really spoil a lot of things nevertheless the results that can have long lasting impacts. Over the last few days we had several situations where the most easy going team members switched to the other side and with ease, most without realising that it is happening. The biggest problem of been laid-back is that you never know you are. In my long career as a development manager I ended up with several Ninja developers who happen to switch side failing to realise they did. Result was clear buggy code, technical debts, backlogs and dirty future. The laid-back attitude really kills the sincerity and potentially kills the winning attitude. I have been at times switch the side myself, specially when the teams get along well, work is smooth paced, people help each other etc. That is when you can start NOT BEEN SERIOUS.

Well its not very difficult to find out if you really are serious about your work or not, a few questions and that's it...While I don't want to discuss the why part in this post, I would certainly talk about the How part here as it is an important step in identifying if you are travelling the laid-back attitude or worthy one.

Do you ask right questions?
In meetings, discussions or otherwise? When I say right questions, I mean questions that are sensible, right and effective enough to fetch an important, valuable answer? If you don't, I can tell you that you are seriously not serious. A person who doesn't ask questions moreover right questions often bring the risk of understanding it all or none. If you never have any questions, it also means that you don't care.

Do you finish what you started?
If you do not finish what you started or things you are a part of, its time you think about the attitude. Unfinished tasks usually pile up to change the runaway attitude. It also puts a question on your ability to be a finisher.

Are you curious?
If you ain't, it speaks a lot. Curious minds want to know more, discover and then bring the improvement. If you are not getting enough curious, it also means you are loosing the weight of discoveries, Innovations are killed and you live a routine.  

Do you remember things? Do you take notes?
The most laid-back people will always be found in meetings unprepared, without notepads and more importantly without mental presence.

Are you confident?
Your confidence will always reveal your knowledge about what you do. If you are not confident, it also means you are not serious with it. Confidence is key and the consequence of low confidence is often failure.

Is that your best?
A question one should ask all the time. Is the output you just delivered the best you can do? If not its time to get more serious.

Do you convince?
If you cant articulate it, speaks you cant handle it. Its critical to be able to speak about what you so, explain others , debate, question and query.

Well if you are not able to get some positive answers from the questions above, then I guess you need some serious thinking My Friend. Go figure out if you are on what side and what can help you get corrected. If you are not serious about BEEN SERIOUS, then you read a wrong thing anyways.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Look Beyond Clouds....

I have seen Russell Crowe starrer Gladiator n times, and while I write this I am just about watching it for another time, same passion, same thrill. Just the very same wrath and power. While astonishingly Maximus inspires you, the contributions and work of Juba and Hagen cannot be forgotten. But do you think Juba and Hagen would be of any help had they not known who the Spaniard was and what he wished to do? Ofcourse not, it took looking beyond clouds for the 2 to let Maximus achieve his ultimate vengeance.

Looking beyond cloud is interesting,  but not so easy, I wouldn't mix it here calling it as "Looking at the Big Picture" cause it's just not that. Looking beyond the cloud is understanding on WHY than WHAT. And if the clarity exists I am sure the vision would be a mere effort to Reality. Leaders put through their vision and executors of those vision items need to have this ability of looking beyond the clouds. Do they? What are these clouds that block them from understanding the WHY?

Well the answer is NOT black and white. Very recently one of our customers found a bug in our system, reported it, we escalated it and managed to work over a fix. A developer was asked to fix the issue. The issue was found, fixed and released, the process however revealed the looking beyond cloud efficiency. A lesson we ought to take and submerge in our teams. At the same time it is important that the symptoms are verified and figured out before they damage. The course of fix revealed we knew the bug existed bug never asked ourselves if it would cause a problem to the user or not, We knew what caused it but never cared to detail on how it would impact, After it was raised we knew how to fix it, but we took time to resolve it as we never wanted to put that as a FIRST PRIORITY. So many failures in just one line of action. Fairly easy to guess now what these clouds are...

The cloud comes in various forms...

Laziness : The biggest blocker. If one just doesn't want to know why, he would never make an attempt to know WHY.
Fear : Most times the fear of having to do it or failures block one from wanting to look beyond.
Inability : Ability to understand and prioritise can be easy cause.
Visibility : If you don't know about it, you will never look for it.

Of course many more... Writing it down may give you a list you would want to miss.. Do you see beyond the clouds? The clouds of routine, vagueness, mediocrity, lousiness and at times inability? Do you know if they exists? Do you know what is beyond those clouds? Do you wish to know what is beyond those clouds?

If the answer is YES. Start asking questions to yourself and then to others.. look for answers and not just questions...