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Tag: Learning

Life Lessons From Daily Stand Ups

Everybody on the face of the earth knows about Agile right? No?

Okay, not everybody knows about Agile, but everybody, at some point or the other, has heard about Agile yeah? Nope? Really? Okay, if you haven’t heard of Agile before, let me take a minute or two to introduce Agile to you, starting right from what Agile is, and what it is not.

AGILITY is the ABILITY to balance STABILITY with FLEXIBILITY. For a second, forget the line you just read. Agile is an iterative method of delivering incremental products and values to customers faster. Widely popular within the software development circle, but definitely not limited to software or product development. Agile is being used in lots of other industries and domains aside from IT. It focuses on constantly producing valuable incremental products to customers.

In the early 2000s, a group of 17 thought leaders and practitioners gathered together somewhere in Utah and created what is popularly known as the AGILE MANIFESTO, speaking to what the practice sees more values in, against other concepts.

Agile has so many methods such as Scrum, Kanban, Xtreme Programming, Lean etc. Surely, there are lots of articles and resources online about Agile principles and values. As Agile is not the focus of this article, I will like to take us back to the focus of the article
Scrum, arguably the most popular and widely used method in the Agile Practice has a set of roles, artefacts and ceremonies. One of the ceremonies (events) is called DAILY STAND UP (also known as daily scrum or daily hurdle), a daily meeting of the Scrum team typically time boxed between 5 and 15 minutes, depending on the flexibility and choice of the team. During the stand-up, the team holds the meeting standing up (hence the name Daily Stand Up) and three important and inter-related questions are asked:

  • What did you do (accomplish) yesterday
  • What do you plan to do(accomplish) today
  • What are the impediments in your way

From participating in Daily Stand up, and my understanding of the practice, I have been able to draw three life lessons, which every professional should adopt.

  1. Where you are now: A very popular Management philosophy states that the first step towards progress is an understanding of where one is, and this is by all means similar to the practice in Daily Stand Up. During a Daily Stand Up, the first question and/or report given by every team member is what they have achieved till date (what did you do yesterday). Said in another way, what the current state is. For those involved in Strategy Analysis/Management, the first step in any initiative is to conduct an analysis of the current state. Why is this important? It gives a professional an understanding of the Strength and Weaknesses, and a sense of achievement so far. At every point in one’s life, it is best to access the current state. I often find professionals get too busy that they forget to “take stock”, but I have come to understand the importance of this task from Daily Stand Up to Life as it is
    Interestingly, I have witnessed organizations adopt this same practice. I recall participating in several retreats and strategy sessions at the beginning of the year/quarter/month etc, and during those sessions, the usual practice is to assess the position of the organization and its business units. The Management asks every unit head to give a report of their current achievement and standing. Also, during performance appraisals, every business unit gives a report of what they have achieved so far.

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  3. Where do you want to be: During Daily Stand Up, the second question answered by the team is “What do you plan to do today”. More like “what’s your target? Where do you want to be? What is your future state? In Strategy Analysis, this can be said to be the “Define Future State” stage. It is expected of every professional to set a target as to what they would like to achieve. Without a target, a goal or a future you are working towards, it becomes increasingly difficult to measure achievement or result. Again, this practice from Daily Stand Up should be imbibed by all professionals. At every point, always set a target, create a future state, baseline and re-baseline your future state. Ability to define your future state or your goal and objectives will influence the way a professional leads his/her, this target will shape almost every aspect of ones’ life. Given that, as it is, now imagine a life without a target or a goal. One good tool to validate how authentic your goal or target is, is to use the SMART checklist. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. But since we are talking scrum, I will make the “T” time-boxed) checklist.
    During those retreats and strategy sessions, the management and business units then set a target, an objective or goal that the business will aim to achieve. Every other strategy or initiative of the organization will have to be aligned to the target. Now imagine an organization without a set target or goal.
  4. What are the risks in your way: Things don’t go as smoothly as we plan/want. There are always internal and external factors and forces to contend with along the journey to the future. There are always obstacles, inhibitors towards the attainment of a desired target or goal. Not identifying them, and adequately planning for them is like setting one’s self up for troubles (failure came to mind). This practice, from Daily Stand Up, is also applicable to real life scenarios. The objective of this practice is to identify the forces you need to contend with, along the journey to the future, identify what you would need, and how you would manage them. More like what Project Managers and Business Analysts do in Risk Management.

As professionals, we should make this practice and lessons from Daily Stand Up a way of life towards attaining our goals. We should do this periodically (daily, just like we do in Scrum, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually). Anyhow, just do it and see you on the part to achieving your desired future state.

Is Certification Worth It?

There has been a constant debate in the professional world that is certification worth it or not?

Let me add my two cents on this very interesting topic, which might help you to decide to go for your dream certification or not.

Birth Of Professional Certifications

The professional market realized that the skill set which they required for their specific jobs were not being met by the educational institutions (colleges and universities) all across the globe because of different course structures and learning objectives. A standard body of knowledge that was applicable to many different industries did not exist.

Organizations were looking for a standard in that two people from different parts of the world will be aware of same concepts, terminology, tools, and techniques. When hiring for the role of project manager, organizations wanted individuals with the same core skill sets and wanted assurance those core skill sets were verified or tested.

This led to the birth of different professional certifications and professional bodies which offer these certifications. Organizations began using these certifications as criteria for hiring.

Certification: A Money Making Model Or Continued Education?

I hear this lot of time that why do we have to renew our certifications in every few years by paying the professional body. Is it just a money making model? I do understand the resistance to paying for renewing a certification you did long back every 5 years.

The Body of Knowledge for the profession, with techniques, and required skills are enhanced year over year through project management research and the ever-changing environments in which companies operate. A good example fo this is the “Cloud.” This concept of storing data and applications outside of the company wasn’t something that existed 10 years ago. Utilization of “Cloud” computing takes a different set of skills and techniques to deliver a project successfully. Enhancements to existing areas of knowledge are also expected as the career of Project Management change and evolve.

The reason is most of these professional bodies which offer these certifications are nonprofits. They need to have a revenue model to provide you with free webinars, free journals, and free e- journals access throughout. Certification Bodies focus on keeping it as a continued education model where you are always updated with the most recent topics of that particular certification. The sad part is most of the people access their website only when they have to renew.

Certifications Cannot Beat Experience But Can Add Value

Experience is certainly very important, and there is no replacement for experience. You will need some experience prior to obtaining Certification. Another viewpoint is that in this constantly changing environment techniques, tools, and methodologies get obsolete quickly. Recent research has indicated that techniques used just 3 years ago are no longer used because they are no longer considered effective in the organization.

Experience helps but keeping yourself updated with the professional certifications is very helpful in maintaining your “street cred.” Greater value is achieved by combining your experience with newer and more innovative techniques. Certification shows you understand the core skills required for the role and continuing education allows you to keep your core skill sets current and sharp.

Certifications Are Marketing Gimmicks

In this competitive era where recruiter spends less than 45 seconds on screening a resume, there needs to be something that catches their attention and force them to make a cold call to you for the dream opportunity you have been waiting for a very long time. Certifications solve this purpose and make you stand out from your contemporaries. Apart from this, it shows the recruiter/employer that you are passionate about this particular field and you are trying your best to stay updated and conquer that field.

Gaining certification shows a strong commitment to your career. You are showing you are dedicated to your career by going through the certification process and being successful. Your knowledge and experience are verified as part of the certification process. Organizations value the certification because if demonstrates not only your commitment but your experience to the Project Management career.

Certifications For New Hire Screening

Most jobs have prerequisites for certifications. For example PMP for Project Managers, CBAP for BA lead and CSM for Scrum Masters and CSPO for Product Owners. A lot of contractual positions also need their consultants to be certified by renowned professional bodies. All these encourage the job seekers to polish their skills with the in-demand certifications. The organization by requesting a certification is demonstrating its desire to acquire top rated and high successful individuals in their career areas.

With that said, certification is the not the final word in obtaining the right candidate. Even with certification, the individual might not be good a good fit due to personality. Additionally being certified isn’t a guarantee the individual will be successful in their role. Hiring managers still need to review references and past projects to ensure the the candidate is a good fit for the organization.

Certifications are great assets to have in the current era. It separates you from the crowd and helps you get more opportunities which lead to the realization of your dreams and goals. It helps to show your determination and commitment towards a specific area of study. It keeps you updated with the latest trends in that specific area of study, and you are aware of the best practices which make you a good pick for an opportunity than others. Certifications act as important milestones in your professional journey.

Go ahead and pursue the certification you are passionate about because it will help you to chase your dreams and dreams do come true.