Monday, February 28, 2011

Tipping point by Malcolm Gladwell

Just completed reading 'Tipping Point: How little things can make a big difference' by Malcolm Gladwell.

The book primarily covers three basic rules that apply to spread of any epidemic. Those are [sic]:
  1. Law of the few: There are always Early adopters for any new idea. Success of the idea depends on the work and influence of the Early adopters. Typically Early adopters can be one of the following categories a) Mavens - One who accumulates knowledge b) Connectors- Who knows a lot of people c) Salesmen - People who can influence others 
  2. Stickiness Factor: There is a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible. All you have to do is to find it.
  3. Power of Context: Human beings are a lot more sensitive to their environment than they may seem.
While the author discusses the above mentioned points in the context of epidemics in general, in hindsight, these laws have profound application in Managing Organizational Change. I would certainly apply these rules, when I plan next to introduce a new process in the organization. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

When Agile becomes Anarchy

I have seen successful agile teams innovating on process front..and quite successfully so. While I am in favor of such evolution in Agile ecosystem, what bothers me is the resulting lack of discipline.

One of our high performing project teams has successfully implemented Kanban processes into Scrum framework, but to my surprise, in the process the team has lost focus on some key agile processes. For example, there is neither any sprint commitment (Scrum CTQ*) nor any limit on WIP items of each workflow state (Kanban CTQ*). While the team continues to measure sprint velocity, the complete lack of predictability is equally puzzling (i.e Avg Sprint velocity assumed to be 40 SP**, where as, for last number of quarters team is consistently maintaining a higher velocity). To the credit of this particular project team, it's successful in meeting sponsor expectations (The process works!? it seems.)

While some teams can get away with such transient process implementation (like the aforesaid team), in order to be successful over a long run, I would strongly recommend to bring in process rigor.

Agile is already lean on processes, but it requires a disciplined approach towards maximizing value from it's limited set of processes. Keeping with the ethos of 'Inspect and Adapt' if you plan to change any of the existing processes, consider this simple approach:
  • Make sure the process changes doesn't break any of the agile values or practices
  • As a project team, discuss and agree on the new set of processes to be adopted (if possible share with others as well - make it public)
  • As a team commit to the new processes with utmost discipline
Agile without discipline would result in Anarchy.
It may work for you today but you can never be sure how it turns up tomorrow.

Thoughts? Reactions?

*CTQ - Critical To Quality
**SP - Story Points

Monday, February 14, 2011

If Powerpoint were designed today..

Check out SlideRocket - Enables development of sleek presentations powered with
- Online polling
- Rich Media
- RealTime data
- Online sharing

Which feature(s) do you find to be useful?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Recommended Reading: The Big Short

The fall of 'Lehman Brothers' in the later half of 2008 was a defining moment for me. Not as much for what Lehman stood for as for the resulting job losses in Lehman India (where some of my dear friends were proud employees once).

What I did not realize then, pretty obvious in hindsight, is the fall of Lehman Brothers had a more profound effect on wall street. This event marked the demise of high leverage Investment banking that was a hallmark of USA's capitalistic economy.

How did then this well oiled machine go so wrong? How come top notched financial innovations got punished by the very market they created?

Michael Lewis's 'The Big Short' takes throws light on what caused this catastrophe (biggest recession since 1930s'). A must read for all to understand how the fundamental weaknesses of the system (allowing esoteric high-leveraged deals), action (or rather inaction) of credit rating agencies such as Moody's S&P and above all the greed of Capitalist world joined hands to derail world's biggest economy.

Michael Lewis's deft treatment of such a prosaic topic is commendable. The sensitive handling of key protagonist coupled with thoughtful explanation of exotic financial instruments, makes the book, a compelling read.

Highly recommended.