Back from my mini retirement..

I wrote about “taking Sagmeister” in my earlier post last year. This is based on a book I read about two years back. In this book, Drive, author Daniel Pink talks about “taking Sagmeister”, inspired by designer Stefan Sagmeister. Essentially, it is about taking mini and micro retirements NOW rather than deferring the big retirement. 

This year, I took about two weeks off from routine life, and was on European vacation. We went on to Portugal-Spain tour, and it was amazing! I highly recommend visit to these two beautiful countries, filled with lots of history, architecture, and natural beauty.

Tree hugger in #Barcelona

A post shared by Nimesh Soni (@soni_nimesh) on

Now, snapping out of the vacation and back to work! Rather, start working towards the next mini-retirement!

Remember, we work for living, and not living for work. You got to have fun, so sprinkle the mini vacations in your year. Have fun!

No Hero

No Hero: The Evolution of a Navy Seal (New York: New American Library , November, 2015)

No Hero

No Hero: The Evolution of a Navy Seal

Just finished reading this book, and saw lot of similarities between ‘Agile culture’ that we seek to cultivate in an organization and what SEALs go through. The author mentions, Trust is the bedrock of any relation! For a team to function at its peak, they have to trust each other completely. It’s all about the TEAM and making the most of what has been dealt.

The author talks about AAR; the After Action Review, and it reminded me of the Retrospectives we do at the end of each sprint. He suggests:

Conduct AAR with an eye towards improving (the procedures, the team,..) and being honest and open at the AAR

Three Quotes from the book:

  • Only focus on your three-foot world,” he said. “Focus on what you can affect
  • When we make mistakes, we try again and again and again until we get it right. We’re not superheroes. We just commit doing what is right.
  • Rangers think and plan from the top down. The SEALs think and plan from the bottom up

Three Tips from the book:

  • Take what’s there, assess the situation, prioritize, and break it down into small tasks you know you can accomplish or eliminate or fix immediately.
  • Everyone has the right to bitch about a mission or job for five minutes. After those five minutes, you shut the f*** up and get to work.
  • You always want someone in your professional life who is going to be honest, who’s going to call you on your bullshit. [Who is your Swim buddy?]

Are you a SEAL or a Ranger? Are you an asset to your Team?

When we make mistakes, we try again and again and again until we get it right. We’re not superheroes.… Click To Tweet

True Catalysts of Change

True Catalysts of Change. At beginning of 2016, this was one of my goals. As we draw it to close, I am happy to look back to a list of books I have read. These are the true catalysts. They have the power to change your world!

When you review this list. Notice that I do not have agile/scrum related books on my list. That’s easier to learn. The harder part is shifting the mindset. These books will help you there. With the right mindset, you will go further than you can imagine now. You will surprise yourself!

I read about two books per month. And, spend almost $0 for reading those books. [Hit me if you want to know how]

For now, here are the top 5 books from my list with tremendous power to influence and change your world in 2017.

  1. Creativity Inc – Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
Creativity Inc - Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

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

2.Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Switch, Transformation,GetHyper, Agile, Get hyper

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

3.Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown 

Essentialism, Agile, transformation, getHyper

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

4.Onward: How to Starbucks Fought Its Life without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz 

agile, gethyper, transformation

Onward: How to Starbucks Fought Its Life without Losing Its Soul

5.The Rich Employee by James Altucher

True Catalysts of Change

The Rich Employee

Talent Code

The Talent Code (Canada: Bantam Books, May, 2009)

Talent Code

The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

The talent code author @DanielCoyle makes a case that practice can groomed a talent. And, with a deep practice that process can be accelerated. It is a simple process of learning on the edge of discomfort, making and identifying mistakes, fixing and learning from them to get better. And then, repeat this whole cycle again and again.

Ignition + Master Coaching + Deep Practice = Talent

Anything, from learning on how to play football to learning the social skills of interacting with individuals. Or navigating a group of people can be learned. And accelerated with this formula (need I remind you learning the skills of networking!). Deep practice helps build and increase mylein – the cellular wrapper and insulation that can turn your brain nerves into a T1 line, into a Broadband!

Skills is a cellular insulation that wraps neural circuits and that grows in response to certain signals – Daniel Coyle

As an Agilist, as a change agent, you are in the business of change. You are constantly pushing the boundary of what is comfortable to the individual or teams that you are training, coaching and mentoring. As Enterprise Transformation Coach and a Trainer, I often tell my class to the step of their comfort zone. You have to be comfortable with the notion of being uncomfortable.That’s the only way to learn new stuff. As coach wooden’s quote perfectly sums it up seek the small improvement, one day at a time; that’s the only way it happens and when it happens it lasts.

A must ready for you as a Change Agent!

Three Quotes from the book:

  • Experience where you are forced to slow down. Make errors and correct them = Deep Learning
  • Talent Whisperer use the formula {Examination + Diagnostics + Prescription}
  • Ignition + Master Coaching + Deep Practice = Talent

Three tips from the book:

  • Want to build Talent? Accelerate Deep Practice! Get your game of ‘Foosal’
  • “It’s not how fast you can do it. It’s how slow you can do it correctly.” Chunk it and slow it down.
  • Get a Mentor! Great Teachers are Key! They look for and offer small, targeted, highly specific adjustments.

 

The Art of getting MORE done with LESS

Can Agilists use Check Lists? Can checklists help them perform at a much better level? To answer this question, we will have to visit the two bookends of User Stories. Please grab copies of your team’s Definition of Ready (DoR) and Definition of Done (DoD).

Two book of end User Stories

Two books of end User Stories: DoR, DoD

A user story should not be allowed to go onto a sprint backlog unless it meets all the items listed on DoR; in order for it to be marked as READY. On the other end, teams are supposed to mark a user story as DONE only when it meets all the criteria a laid out in the DoD. Aren’t these checklists? Can we expand them to other areas of doing Agile?

Why use the Checklists?

If NASA can use checklists to send satellites into the outer space. If surgeons can use the checklist to eliminate contamination in the surgery room, why can’t we, the Agilists, use the checklists to eliminate the worst, minimize the waste, and improve our productivity? As Atul Gawande describes in his book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, the knowledge exists, but often times we fail to apply it correctly.

We need a different strategy for overcoming failure, one that builds on experience and takes advantage of the knowledge people have but somehow also makes up for our inevitable human inadequacies.
– Atul Gawande,  The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Listed below are some additional benefits of using Checklists.

  • Helps you analyze what you are doing, why you are doing and then eliminate unnecessary steps and optimize it by combining some of them.
  • Makes work results more predictable.
  • Helps you in making Repeatable, predictable process.
  • Helps in delivering consistent quality and results.

Outline path to Success

Checklists, in essence, can help you improve your performance. They outline the path to success, with minimal resistance, because they are infused with your experiences and learnings from the past.

As Edward Deming once said, “don’t look at the individual, look at the system.” You can start with a simple checklist, and infuse them with your experiences and learnings. Refine them as you use them by incorporating the lessons learned with each use.

checklists

make it-use it-refine it-agile checklists

You can create a checklist on pretty much anything! If I know that I’m going to be doing a specific activity more than once, I would create a checklist.

I follow a simple process to create them. Start with an outline of what tasks you would have to carry out to complete the activity. You don’t have to put in a lot of time and effort and come up with an elaborate checklist. Once you have the initial outline, just do ‘the thing’! And, as you do it, refine the list.

Yes, the initial list may not be complete. Yes, it may not be elaborate. But you have a checklist that you can improve on and make it better as you do it again and again. To ensure the ‘continuous improvement’, one of that last item that I almost always have is:
Is there any way I can improve this checklist?

Automate or Delegate

In his highly successful book The Four Hour Week, Tim Ferris suggests four simple steps to freedom:  Eliminate-Simplify-Automate-Delegate.

One of the side benefits of having checklists is that it helps you delegating the activity or individual tasks. It also helps you eliminate the unnecessary steps as you use them and optimize them. Once you have used a checklist to complete the activity couple of times, one of the three things could happen.

  • Automate:
    Find a way to automate the activity.
  • Delegate:
    If you cannot automate this process then find a way to delegate it to somebody who can follow your checklist.
  • Do It yourself:
    If you cannot delegate it and you are ‘forced’ to do it,  you should be able to finish it quickly and efficiently as you have optimized your checklist. This should allow you to finish the activity quickly, with a higher quality, minimizing, if not completely eliminating, the waste.

Enabling and Empowering

Checklists are enabling and empowering! They are ‘concentrated doses’ of experiences and learnings, acquired over multiple iterations. They help you in improving your Sprint Planning, the Backlog Refinement, Sprint Review, and many other events and activities.

Even the most expert among us can gain from searching out the patterns of mistakes and failures and putting a few checks in
– Atul Gawande,  The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Create one, use it, and you will realize how liberating they are! Let us know your experience in the comment below. And, don’t forget to share it with your peers and community.

Why reinvent the wheel? Get this booklet (containing various checklists) and get a jump start!

Add to Cart

Playbook for Scrum Teams – Get it Today!

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (New York: Penguin Group, December 29, 2009 )

In this book, author Daniel Pink (@DanielPink) makes a strong case for us to upgrade to Motivation 3.0 !
It’s time to #makeTheShift from Profit-driven (Motivation 2.0) to Purpose-driven (Motivation 3.0). He also talks about different types of personalities such as Type X, Type Y, and Type I. He goes onto providing us a toolkit if we want to #transform into Type I personality, along with the list of books that can help us on that journey.

A must-read!

Animate with purpose, don’t motivate with rewards

Three Quotes from the book:

  • Warning: Goals are Toxic! Goals may cause systemic problems to organizations due to narrowed focus, unethical behavior, increased risk taking, decreased cooperation, and decreased intrinsic motivation. Use care when applying Goals in your organization.
  • Sawyer Effect: practices that can either turn play into work or work into play
  • Motivation 3.0 doesn’t reject profits, but it places equal emphasis on purpose maximization. Employees are not Resources, Employees are Partners

Three tips from the book:

  • Replace IF…Then motivation with NOW…That.. motivation
  • Management is a Technology, and we need to update it to new operating system Motivation 3.0
  • Turn company-wide meetings to FedEx days

Tools/techniques mentioned in the book:

  • FedEx days
  • Goldilock Tasks
  • Now..That rewards
  • Autonomy Audit
  • ROWE
  • Sawyer Effect
  • 20% Time
  • Flow
  • Sagmeister / Take [365-day] Sabbatical
  • Brain Bombs
  • Take a Page from Webber and a card from your pocket
  • Make it ‘no competition’ zone
Type I personality draws on resources that are easily replenished, inflict little damage, inexpensive… Click To Tweet

TED Video

Type I toolkit

  • Flow Test
  • Ask BIG question
  • Ask Small Questions: Small Improvements, Was I better today than yesterday?
  • Sagmeister – Take [365 day] sabbatical
  • Performance review: Set smaller goals as well as larger goals
  • Unstuck by going oblique
  • Take a Page from Webber and a card from your pocket
  • Promote Goldilocks for Groups
  • Convert Offsite to FedEx days

Books for Type I

In summary, Type I personality draws on resources that are easily replenished, inflict little damage, inexpensive, and clean.

Question: Are you Type I, Type X, or Type Y?
You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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 on the top list. I admired all the movies made by Pixar; I admired the creativity and the storytelling 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 a 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:

  • Daily
  • 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

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

Book summary

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! Act now!

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

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! Act 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 this! Business is personal. People do business with people.

Three tips from the book