Nimesh with Pigeons
Time to recharge

In the book, Drive, author Daniel Pink talks about “taking Sagmeister”, inspired by designer Stefan Sagmeister. He goes on to explain Sagmeister taking an entire year off every seven years, essentially sprinkling retirement years within the working years.

Well! I could not take a Sagmeister and go off on vacation for 365-days. Instead, I decided to take two weeks off to recharge and reinvigorate. I am off to Europe with my Family & Friends.

See you all soon!

10 Apps for 10x Productivity

Increase Productivity on the Go with these Apps

I introduced you to my top three apps in my earlier post. Let’s continue where we left off, and let me introduced you to remaining apps on my list.

4. Google Photos

10 appsBeing Agilist who loves art and doodling, I take a lot of pictures. And, the limited storage space on my mobile devices could be a problem! This is where Google Photos comes to my rescue!

You can configure Google Photos to sync pictures from your mobile device automatically to your Google Drive. With auto sync configured, I can take a picture and my mobile device automatically uploads that to my Google account. Oh! by the way, Google gives you unlimited storage space for this auto sync!

The advantage is that you don’t need to keep on all those pictures on your mobile device. You can take as many picture as you want, and they are always available to you from any device, anywhere, anytime!

5. iTalk

iTalkI use this app to record audio on my mobile when I have the sudden burst of creativity, when you don’t have paper and pencil handy. You don’t want to slow down in those moments, you want to take notes at the Speed of thoughts! iTalk is my go-to app when I am having these bursts of creativity! All you have to do is talk into your mobile and capture those thoughts.

This app also connects to your Dropbox account allowing you to ‘extend’ storage on your mobile device. You record and it pushes it to your Dropbox! Once recorded, you can hire someone else to transcribe it. This way you could be ‘writing’ your article on the go, while waiting at the airport lounge or while stuck in the traffic. Record your thoughts using iTalk, push it to Dropbox, and get more Done!

I use this work flow a lot! I record my  thoughts, push the audio recording to my Virtual Assistant (VA) and he transcribe those notes yielding initial draft for my article.

Record your thoughts + Upload to Dropbox + Push to VA = First draft of your article

6. Trello

TrelloWith Trello, you can create your own Kanban board and use them to collaborate with your teams. Create different cards and move them around based on the priorities. There are no emails to send back and forth. You can add notes, checklists, as well as documents. You can even filter your cards based on specific tags or labels.

Essentially, Trello can become your work hub, where you organize your backlog, communicate with your team members, and orchestrate the development of your Minimum Marketable Product (MMP). And, you can be doing all these on the Go as well!

I use the mobile app all the time on my iPhone. This allows me to stay in touch with my team members constantly. As I mention earlier, I push my audio notes to my virtual assistant (VA) all the way to the other side of the world; using a Trello card on a board that I have shared with my team members.

7. Expensify

ExpensifyThis app have been my savior many time. Benefits of Using this app are manyfold:

  1. Minimize the use of the paper
  2. Often times I’m traveling for work and need to capture all the expenses. Just capture them quickly with this app, with picture of the paper receipt and few details to categorize them appropriately. At the end of the week (or month),  Expensify can generate a report and that becomes your expense report.
  3. It also helps me at the end of the year when it is Tax time! The first thing I do for tax filing is go to my Expensify account and download all the expenses for that year. All I you have to do is download a report that gives you all the expenses, categorized and ready to go into your Tax form.

8. Key Ring

KeyringWe all have ‘fat’ wallets! Unfortunately, instead of money, they are filled with all the plastic cards :-Did you know, an average american carries 17 plastic cards in his/her wallet. You can move all those cards to electronic world as well, using Key Ring app. Just add your cards into Key Ring and trash all those physical plastic cards, unflatten your wallet, and get rid of that back pain!

9. Google Drive (Google Docs)

Google Drive / Google DocsI use Google Docs extensively for all my notes, documents, and spreadsheets. As we all know Google Docs is all cloud based solution and allows you to collaborate with your team members. Google gives you considerable amount of space for free that is more than enough for most of us

10. IFTTT (If This Then That)

IFTTT-If this Then thatIFTTT allows me to get rid of some of the repetitive task from my day. It allows me to delegate and automate some of those mundane task. Using simple recipes, you can automate most of the routine tasks. Use it and you will fall in love with it!

To Summarize..

Here is my list of 10 apps that can launch you in to world of Hyper Productivity.

  1. Evernote and One Note
  2. Scannable
  3. Office Lens
  4. Google Photos
  5. iTalk
  6. Trello
  7. Expensify
  8. Key Ring
  9. Google Drive
  10. IFTTT
Get yourself on hyper Productivity lane with these apps… Click To Tweet

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Just Enough Documentation with an App?

Can Office Lens help you with Just In Time documentation?

As an Agilist, as a change agent, you are almost always playing the role of a “Facilitator” as you interact with your business stakeholders as well as members of your teams. I like these sessions to be interactive and collaborative. I encourage you all to use Post Its and White boarding as you go through these sessions.

documentation

Office Lens for Just Enough Documentation

And, some of you have already heard me say this multiple times: Just Enough and Good Enough! As we do the white boarding sessions, taking a picture of it and attaching it to your Feature/Story might be good enough documentation, at that point in time.

To take the picture of white boarding session, I highly recommend an app called Office Lens by Microsoft. All you have to do is to point your mobile to the wall where the whiteboard is. The app automatically  identifies the whiteboard and takes pretty good, clear picture of the content. You don’t have to worry about getting it in frame properly, nor do you have to worry about the lighting and reflections.  Check out the details of the app here.

documentationAs mentioned in his CIO article, The app is good at detecting edges and cropping automatically, and both features save you a few steps.

I have used Scannable from Evernote as well, and I am a big fan of that app too!  However, Office Lens beats it when it comes to taking pictures of the White board. Here is a picture from one of my white boarding session, taken with Office Lens.

Documentation in Agile - Whiteboarding and Just Enough Documentation - Nimesh Soni

White boarding session – picture taken using Office Lens

Question: What other apps you have used? Share your findings in comments below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

Book-Creativity Inc

Creativity Inc – Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration


If you want to emulate anybody’s success, especially if you in the business of creating things, Pixar has to be at the top list. I admired all the movies made by Pixar; I admired the creativity and the story telling chops they showcase through these movies. But, after reading this book my admiration for this company have grown many folds.

Being an Agilist, I saw many parallels between the creative world of Pixar and my world of Agile. I was surprised and inspired to see that they have been practicing lot of the Agile principle that we talk about. For example, they use ‘real day’ which is essentially what we call (Sprint) Review or the Demo.

This is one company worth emulating! This could be the ‘bible’ that you are looking for to build and sustain a creative company! This book definitely would be in the front of all the books on my bookshelf.

If Pixar is the hospitals, and movies are the patients, Brain Trust is all the trusted doctors.

Three Quotes from the book:

  • To be truly creative company, you must start things that will fail
  • Our people’s intentions are good and they want to solve the problems. Give them the responsibilities, let the mistakes happen, and let the people fix them
  • Mistakes are inevitable consequences of doing something new, without having them there is no originality

Three tips from the book:

  • Managers should loosen the control, accept risks, and trust their people
  • Pull up a chair (and start having conversations, ask open ended questions)
  • Ask yourself what happens when a mistake is found? Whose fault is this? [If this happens, your company is vilifying the failure]

Tools/techniques mentioned in the book:

  • Dailys
  • Research Trips
  • Limits
  • Notes Day
  • Person week
  • Bonus check, that is hand written and hand delivered
  • Pull up a chair (and start having conversations)
  • Brain Trust
  • Good Note
  • Poet’s Loft
  • 5 year social compact
  • Strategy Pyramid
Find, develop, and support good people and they will find, develop, and support good ideas! Click To Tweet

10 Apps for 10x Productivity

Increase Productivity on the Go with these Apps

10 Apps for 10x productivity

10 Apps for 10x Productivity

Like it or not, Accept it, we are a mobile society driven by mobiles in our hands and our pockets. Is your mobile device a ‘sink hole’ for your time and productivity? Can we actually use them to increase 10x productivity, on the go!?

Are you ‘wasting’ lot of time on your mobile with Facebook likes and updates, with What’s app and Instagram? Turn the tables! Convert your mobile devices into a productivity magnet, using some of the best productivity apps that I regularly use and highly recommend.

Mobile devices are major part of the strategy for industry leaders like Google, Microsoft and Facebook. We do more and more work on the go using our mobile devices. As you walk to your car, as you walk in the mall, and so on. How many of you have bumped into a person who is so engrossed in his/her phone that doesn’t even care to look at where s/he is headed.

No Texting while Walking!

Use of phone while driving is already illegal in most of the states, if not all of the states. But, now, there are some states which are considering banning the phone use while walking. In New Jersey for example, in a town called Fort Lee police have written hundreds of citations for texting while walking. So make no mistake we are a mobile society. Driven by the mobile, getting more and more work done on the go using mobile devices.

I am guilty of this as well 🙂 I use mobile to get more and more work done from my daily routine. I have used several apps and constantly experiment with new ones.

10 for 10x Productivity

Let’s talk about the 10 apps that can get you to 10x productivity: apps that help you get more done with minimal effort involved, and of course on the go!

1.Evernote and OneNote

10 Apps for 10x productivity-Evernote10 Apps for 10x productivity-OneNote

Start with moving your world to Electronic world, and what better way to do that is getting this electronic note taking apps.

I use Evernote for managing my professional life while the OneNote keeps my personal life organized. And in the digital world once in there my notes are available from any device, anywhere. It also helps you reduce the use of paper, in return you are helping to save some trees!

Your back will also thank you as these two note taking apps will help you reduce the size of your backpack! I introduced OneNote to my son also to help him reduce the weight he carries in his backpack. He in fact extended the functionality and use of it even further. He uses OneNote on his Microsoft Surface, and he can capture hand written notes with the electronic pen!

Very easy to search, and highly collaborative, these note taking apps will take your productivity to next level, almost immediately!

2.Scannable

As you can see, I do a lot of doodling on post-it. I like to draw and doodling allows me to bring two of my passions together: the art and the agile.

10 Apps for 10x productivity-scannableI use Post It extensively while explaining concepts or brainstorming on new product offering.  I use doodling and sketch when I’m having one on one conversations or explaining new concepts on paper. I can take a picture of these Post It notes, with doodles or my handwritten notes. All you have to do is put them on a contrasting background, load up your Scannable app, aim and snap!

This app gives you crisp and clear image by automatically eliminating glare and flattening the image. Check some of my doodles here which have been brought to the electronic world using Scannable app.

3.Office Lens

From Microsoft, this app does similar job as Scannable but I use it for specific purpose other than those scanning of documents.

10 Apps for 10x productivity-Office LensBeing an Agilist I’m highly collaborative and often I am at whiteboard explaining various concepts to a team or group of people. I’m using drawings while using different color sharpie pens! Office Lens does a great job of taking white board pictures.

Again, all you do is aim and snap. This app is smart to figure out what is the actual whiteboard area, and automatically pans to get the area appropriately while eliminating glare. The end result is crisp and clear image!

Collaboration + White boarding + Office Lens = Just in Time, Just Enough documentation
Collaboration + White boarding + Office Lens = Just in Time, Just Enough documentation Click To Tweet

3 down, and more to come!

I explained the Top 3 of my 10x productivity apps. I will explain the remaining apps in the next installment of this blog post. Until then, experiments with these apps and #getHyper!

Increase Productivity on the Go with these Apps http://www.nimeshsoni.com/10-apps-10x-productivity/ Click To Tweet

To get more productivity hacks Like us in our Facebook pages: getHyper and mentorMe

Dependency Wheel with Scrum team

See how easily you can minimize the impact of dependencies to ensure Success on your project

Can dependencies derail your project? What is the impact of these dependencies on your initiative?

In today’s hyper connected world, it will be difficult to have a project that did not have any dependencies, internal or external, upstream or downstream on other projects or initiatives, vendors, tools, or functionality.

Impacts of Dependencies

If you are not careful about the dependencies, if you do not put any effort in identifying them, they will sneak up on you and derail your initiative:

  • The later you identify, the more costly it will be to address them, the more time it will add to your delivery time, the more negative impact it will have on the quality of work you can deliver.
  • You will be dealing with hot heads! The stakeholders will not be happy to hear you that ‘it will take more time!’
  • Your estimates will be way off, if you ignored the dependencies

So, why not be intentional about them as you start on an initiative and through the execution of it; why not spend some time upfront talking about potential dependencies.

Dependencies will sneak up on you and derail your initiative! Identify them upfront with Dependency… Click To Tweet

Dependency Wheel

I use this simple tool with the teams I coach. It is a simple, intuitive, easy to use, yet very effective tool.

Start this session with your team by drawing a circle at the center of whiteboard or flip chart sheet. Put your program/team name in the center. All the spikes on this wheel are the dependencies that are known at the time. As you identify new dependency, just draw another spike.

The more rims you have on the dependency wheel, the more air it has to cut through, the more friction it has to push through. Similarly, your program/project will have to cut through more of the red carpet and push through more friction from other projects if you have more rims on your dependency wheel.

The more rims you have on this dependency wheel, the more difficult and complex the project will be. It also helps you in setting the expectations with you stakeholders, it also helps team when they are providing their estimation.

Here is a sample, from a team I coached in the past at a client.

dependency wheel

Why identify Dependencies?

As you can see, it is of paramount importance to spend some time on thinking about them and identify them upfront. Granted that you will not know all the dependencies. But, mere fact that you are putting some time to think about them upfront is a huge win. It gives you a gauge as to how much additional force you will need to push through the friction.

Above all, it helps you in setting the expectations of all the parties. It helps you ground the expectations of stakeholders. It also helps ground the team and provide more realistic estimates.

As I mentioned, it adds tremendous value and increases your chances of success on a program or initiative. You can start reaching out to those partier (on whom you are dependent, or who are dependent on you). The cross functional team, works on the initial version of this wheel as they go through the planning activity (Release planning, Sprint planning.) And, then it can be a good artifact to take to your Scrum of Scrum.

Put this wheel on your backlog, or else your program will derail (for sure, at some point in future) Click To Tweet

Book Summary: Linked to Influence

7 Powerful Rules for Becoming a Top Influencer on Linked In

Linked to Influence: 7 Powerful Rules for Becoming a Top Influencer in Your Market and Attracting Your Ideal Clients on LinkedIn

Linked to Influence

You will find at least a few tips that you can implement right away to maximize your presence on Linked In. And, if you are not on LI, you better get started now!

You should not ignore this book if you want to build and strengthen relationship with your client, if you want to share your knowledge and experience with the world, and in the process build your influence over the community you are serving.

You will find at least a few tips that you can implement right away to maximize your presence on Linked In. And, if you are not on LI, you better get started now! You should not ignore this book if you want to build and strengthen relationship with your client, if you want to share your knowledge and experience with the world, and in the process build your influence over the community you are serving.

In this book, @stephsammons provides 7 powerful rules that can serve as guide posts as you work towards building your influence. You will find at least a few tips that you can implement right away to maximize your presence on Linked In. And, if you are not on LI, you better get started now!

You should not ignore this book if you want to build and strengthen relationship with your client, if you want to share your knowledge and experience with the world, and in the process build your influence over the community you are serving.

In this book, @stephsammons provides 7 powerful rules that can serve as guide posts as you work towards building your influence.

Three Quotes from the book

  • Linked In is a global, virtual, perpetual networking event!
  • Influencers do not try to help everyone. They know exactly whom they can help.
  • Remember, business is personal. People do business with people.

Three tips from the book

Burnup looking like a Hockey Stick?

When was the last time you looked at the burnup chart? This burnup chart draws a good portrait of how the team is handling the work and creating value. Are you worried that your burnup chart is morphing into a Hockey stick? Go ahead.. grab a copy of the burnup chart!

Burn up chart-Hockey Stick-individual sprint

Burnup Chart – Hockey Stick for an individual sprint

Burn up chart-Hockey Stick-for a release

Burnup chart-Hockey Stick for a release

Burn up chart-Stepping Stone-for a release

Burn up chart-Stepping Stone-for a release

Let us pause for a moment and look at your Story Burnup chart. This chart can take on many forms, as beautifully described by ScrumDesk in this article. How does it look? Does it look like a straight horizontal line (showing no progress)? Does it look like a Hockey stick as depicted in the two charts above, or Stepping Stones as depicted in the last chart? Or, perhaps, in between!

You have to pay close attention to this chart on a regular basis. The Story burnup chart can tell you a lot about your teams’ mentality and mode of operation.

If your chart looks like a hockey stick, then it is telling that the teams are scrambling to close the stories and burning midnight oil. This hockey stick can hurt you, a lot!

Quality is the first one to take the hit!

It hurts you in multiple ways! To begin with, I would question the quality of work completed (or at least, marked as completed) as a result of this 11th hour scrambling. Apart from quality, you have several other issues such as:

  • overworked team members
  • frustrated teams
  • frustrated business and Product Owner (PO) becuse they are not getting what they want.  They are giving acceptance at the last minute and not satisfied with the quality
  • dejected, demoralized teams

Burnup and Root Causes

There are several reasons why your Burnup morphs into a Hockey Stick, such as:

  • Team members working in silos
  • having too much stuff open or too many User Stories open and in progress,
  • team is spread too thin across many User Stories, too many balls in the air!
  • Team not clearly about the end state for the stories. Do they have Acceptance Criteria listed?
  • Missing definitions of READY (DoR)  and DONE (DoD)
  • This hockey stick is an indicator of poor quality (or absence) of Backlog grooming activity.

Product Owner (PO) should be able to give you clear Acceptance Criteria. You can also focus on improving the quality of backlog grooming sessions, to come out with better stories, with better understanding of the functionality sought and the end state, the validation criteria.

Red Pill and Blue Pill

burnup

 

The hockey stick chart also suggests that there are lot of delays in closing the stories. These delays could also be caused by impediments not being reported or not being worked on agressively. Trade this hockey stick for stepping stones that lead you to the top line!

Pick your Pill! Hockey stick or Stepping Stone style Story Burnup Chart… Click To Tweet

If this Hockey stick is so painful for the team, then what can we do to change it to turn into more favorable Stepping Stone chart (on the right above)? We can approach this in multiple ways. Below are the Top 5 ways you can prevent your burnup chart from morphing into a Hockey stick.

1. Change the question

It starts with mindset change, shift in the thinking, shift in the way team approaches the work. We have to shift our focus from completing tasks to completing and getting acceptance on the User Stories that deliver Value to our customers.

(Accepted) User Story = You serving up slice of VALUE to your CUSTOMER 🙂

If we tweak the questions a little bit, it will help us shift the mindset. At the After Party (after Daily Scrum has just finished), ask the team: What stories can we drive to completion and Product Owner Acceptance? What is stopping us from getting acceptance on the stories?

This will help you shift the focus to completing the stories. As you discuss this at the After Party, ask for volunteers to own and act as steward for individual user stories. The steward is someone whose primary job is to continue to drive that user story to PO acceptance.

2. Story Swarming

Encourage the Story Steward to use Story Swarming to drive the story to completion and acceptance.

Swarming: A small teamlet, smaller sub group within the team to swarm on the story and drive it to acceptance.

Remember, just completing story is not enough, you want to get PO acceptance on them for you to mark it as DONE.

3. WIP limits:

Ensure that the WIP limits are adhered to, and adjust WIP limits (with team’s consensus) that ‘forces’ team to focus on User Story acceptance, before that start working on another story.
Restrict your team to few stories open at a time and challenge them to finish the story before they start working on new one. Ask them to stop starting and start finishing!

4. Visible Progress (or lack there of)

Above all, make and regularly update the Story burnup chart. This chart can be an invaluable tool for the team to showcase their progress. Make it visible to the team, and discuss it with the team at a regular frequency. Even if you are using electronic tool (such as Rally or Version One), ensure that you have a printed copy of the chart displayed prominently to the team.

5. Impediment List

Encourage team members to report any impediments as soon as they are known. Keep a running list of these Impediments, and aggressively work towards resolution or alternatives to ensure that the team can continue to make progress. Make the list itself visible to the team, as well as the progress being made on resolution of them.
These steps will help you slowly bend the hockey stick into the shape of steps leading you towards the top line. It is a chart that shows that team is getting small number of stories accepted every few days during the sprint. It is a proof that there is no 11th hour scramble. It is a proof that team is swarming and working collaboratively towards closing the User Stories.

5 things to do before this hockey stick hurts you. Warning: This hockey stick can hurt YOU!… Click To Tweet
Switch, Transformation,GetHyper, Agile, Get hyper

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Involved in any kind of transformation effort? Be it Personal or Profession, trying to influence behavior of any person is hard. You have to work with both sides of the brain: Emotional as well as Analytical side, of the person as well as the herds/he belongs to.

This book is a MUST read if you are involved in any kind of transformation effort.

Three Quotes from the book
  • Change = People behaving in new way
  • Resistance = (often happens due to ) lack of clarity
  • Direct the Rider, Motivate the Elephant, Shape the path
Three Tips on the book Switch
  • Three steps to any Transformation: Change the Situation (provide them new environment) + Address their Hearts + Address their Minds (emotional and Rational side)
  • Find the Bright Spot = successful efforts worth emulating, identify successes and figure out how to clone them / What is working and how can we replicate it
  • Script Critical move
Put the first two stamps (highlight on what progress has already been made to instill sense of… Click To Tweet

Scrum Team and Standard of Work

Standardized work is a collection and implementation of the best practices known at that moment. We discussed Standard of Work for Product Owner  and Scrum Master  in earlier articles. I also gave you a template of checklist with activities for these two important players of Scrum.

Third leg of Scrum stool

As we all know, Scrum is often referred to as three legged stool. The three legs being the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and the Team. The third leg, the Scrum Team, is charged with responsibility to build and deliver the product functionality. Everyone on the Scrum team must be rowing in one direction to deliver this in a timely fashion to the customers.

Scrum team

Rowing Team – every effort in one direction

Let’s look at the typical activities that the team must carry out.

Daily

  • Attend the daily Scrum, on time and in person.
  • Come prepared at the daily scrum with your updates.
  • Provide you updates at daily scrum and listen to others’ updates.
  • All team members should answer “the three questions”.
  • If, for some reason, you can not attend the daily scrum, please reach out to a ‘buddy’ and ask her to take your updates to the team. [Do not send you updates in an email, that should be the last resort! ]
  • Adhere to the Office Hours agreed upon as a Team. Let the team know if you are unavailable during those office hours for any reason.
  • Work (swarm) on the highest priority stories.
  • Show all work on the Scrum board.
  • Update tasks with hours remaining.
  • Seek out opportunities to help your team members and/or swarm on driving the Stories to completion.
  • Ensure development standards are followed.
  • As soon as a Story is Done, demonstrate it to Product Owner to get her Acceptance and mark it as ‘DONE’.
  • Adhere to DoD before marking a Story as Done.
  • Learn to say ‘No’. Use the ‘No’ repertoire.
  • Ensure that the WIP limits are followed.
  • Make it Fun 🙂

Weekly

  • Identify ways to get better. Collect ideas for Sprint Retrospective or create improvement stories. Seek out opportunities to get that 1% improvement [ The Rich Employee by James Altucher ]
  • If required, represent your team at the Scrum of Scrum event, bringing team’s updates and challenges to the community.

Each Sprint

  • Participate in Sprint Planning. Push back if the Story is not READY; not allowing it to get into a Sprint.
  • Participate in Backlog Refinement.
  • Avoid the group thinking and provide your honest, unbiased estimate based on your knowledge and experience. Be comfortable with confrontation and agree to disagree.
  • Participate in the Demo and Retrospective.
  • Identify opportunities for improving how work is done.
  • Create stories for improvements to be undertaken by the team.
  • Communicate improvements to Agile Coach or Process Owner for improvements beyond control of the team.
  • Ensure all stories & tasks have a good description and validation.
  • Ensure all stories/features/epics have sizes.
  • Make a sprint commitment that you believe in. Work to achieve the commitment.

Each Release

  • Participate in the Release planning activities
  • Identify enabling work.
  • Provide estimates for all work
  • Identify dependencies and risks.
  • Collaborate on the “Definition of Done” for the team.
Standardized work answers the 5W+1H of a process – the who, what, when, where, why, and how Click To Tweet

Is your scrum team following this checklist? What is your team doing differently, that is working for them? Share your thoughts and comments below.

checklist-round iconSend me PDF version of this Checklist!