Friday, June 10, 2016

Why does Agile work ?

Why does Agile work ?  Yesterday I missed a session on 'why Agile' works in Agile Dev (West) conference.  (

Just wanted to share my thoughts on "why Agile works". 

Waterfall Assumes and expects "perfection"

Waterfall model assumes 'perfection'. It expects perfect requirements, then perfect design, then perfect code. Usually that doesn't happen but going back and correcting becomes difficult because of this expectation of 'perfection'.

Agile assumes and expects "mistakes will happen"

Agile assumes that 'mistakes will happen'. So all Agile practices focus on 'detecting mistakes early and fixing them as required'. It assumes that requirements will change. Hence Agile practitioners advise that  "don't spend time on big upfront requirement and design". If requirements change then this big upfront requirement spec and design is a 'waste'. To minimize such waste all Agile practices are use some kind 'fail fast' mechanism. This implementation of 'fail fast' mechanisms reduces waste and hence cost at the same time it improves the quality of outcome. Because of this 'mistakes will happen' mindset, Agile works better than waterfall in practice. Remember Toyota production systems is also based on implementing 'Fail Fast' mechanisms

So what is the 'guaranteed' way of ensuring 'Agile failure' ?  

Bring the 'perfectionist' mindset of Waterfall to Agile. Managers and teams who try to bring this 'perfectionist mindset' to Agile ensure that Agile/Scrum do not work for them.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fast track programs for managers and developers - Selection and First Quarter

When we announced the program we got almost 150 applications for this program. We wanted about 20 participants in this program. So we have to short list our 20 selected candidates from 150 applications.  We used following selection process
  • Online test composed of General Intelligence Test, Analytical ability test, English comprehension test.
  • About 50 candidates were selected from the online test. 
  • These 50 candidates have to write an essay about 'things they will like to change' in the organization.
  • These candidates have to undergo an interview by 2 interview panels. 
  • About 25 candidates were selected based on interviews and their essay.
  • These candidates had to  undergo final interview and in the end we selected 18 candidates.
First quarter was difficult. Participants were also somewhat confused and we were also learning about how to run such program.

First quarterly meeting changed lot of things. The participants started to gel into a team. We did sessions on basics of business finance, mind-mapping, creativity techniques, software design principles, basics of PLM systems, etc. 

They have also started on online management certification program by McIntire School of Commerce.  This program covered the theory while the candidates were getting a hands-on experience of all the concepts that they were learning.

One key component of Quarterly Meet was 'lunch with senior management'. Every quarter we arranged a lunch with CFO, COO, Head of HR and other senior management team members. This way candidates were getting direct access to senior management team and they were able to ask questions/discuss and understand their thoughts behind various company initiatives and ideas.

Every quarter we evaluated the candidates on various parameters. Anyone with C grade in two consecutive quarterly is to be removed from the program. So far (almost 6 quarters are done) we have not removed anyone and every quarter we are increasing the baseline

Part 1 of this article

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Fast track programs for managers and developers - Background

Last nine months I am mentoring/working with a team of 17 extremely enthusiastic people in a program we call 'Accelerated Techno Manager' program. It is an amazing experience/journey. Hence I thought I will write about these experiences.

Many companies have 'fast track' programs for their employees. Usually it means company identifies potential 'high performers' and then groom them someway. Nine months back we started a fast track program in Geometric Ltd. I took initiative in defining the program and I am now mentoring 17 potential candidates for last 9 months. I thought, I will write about general structure of program, how the program started, what benefits I see. I hope it will help others in starting/running similar program. If you have similar programs in your company, please share your experiences.

The fast track program is called 'Accelerated Technical Manager' program (ATM program, pun unintended).  Program is inspired by Google APM program or TAS (Tata Administrative Services) program in Tata Group. The content and structure and especially scale is lot different than these programs. 

As the name suggests the program is designed to develop 'technical project manager'. Manager who are experts in project management but also understand software development and technology and can teach a thing or two to engineers/developers working with them. They are multi-talented managers who are good at all aspects of project management, (customer communication, tracking, estimation techniques, negotiations) but are also good at problem solving, leadership, critical thinking and innovation techniques, strategy, strong software development and/or engineering fundamentals, etc etc. 

It is designed to be 'tough program' of 2 years. It is targeted towards 2-3 year experienced employees. The selection criteria is tough. There is an evaluation at every quarter. Every quarter based on performance evaluation some participants can be eliminated. It is expected that about 50-60% will get eliminated at various stages and only 40-50% will pass. The participants who pass will become Managers (i.e. they will get promotion in 2 years that usually takes 8 to 10 years ).

The program includes one year online Management Certification Course by McIntire School of Commerce paid by the company. The program includes a 3 day meet every quarter. There are class room sessions by internal and external faculty. During these 3 days participants get a chance to meet and interact with senior management team (e.g COO, CFO, Head of HR, etc).  Overall program consists of four Phases. Each phase consist of ‘on-job’ mentoring and formal class room trainings

  1. Phase 1 (6 months) - Focused on Problem Solving and Software development skills
  2. Phase 2 (3 months) - Demonstrating Fast learning skills in a new domain or role
  3. Phase 3 (9 months) - Project management skills and Mentoring from Sr. Mgmt team and rotation in various functions.
  4. Phase 4 (6 months) - Deputation as 'assistant project manager' in some project.
We selected 17 participants from different locations and domains from over 150 applications. We have completed the Phase 1 & 2. And I can see serious positive change in the thinking of all participants.

In the next part, I am going to write about preparation for program and selection process, experience of first six months.