7 Traits of Superstars @ Work

7 Traits of Superstars @ Work

Do you have someone in your team who seems to be a superstar? Someone who gets a lot done in much less time? Someone who is always looking for challenges? Such highly productive people are an asset to any organization. Over the past few years, I have been observing the common traits, habits, and characteristics of such people around me.

 

The 7 traits that are most common in these superstars are listed below:

Focusing on ONE thing:

A super-productive person always seems to focus on the ONE thing at a time. As rightly written by Gary Keller, "Extraordinary results happen only when you give the best you have to become the best you can be at your most important work."

Multitasking is a myth. Research suggests that productivity can be reduced by 40% by the mental blocks created when people switch tasks. Super-stars focus their energies on the most important thing. They also tend to minimize the number of different things to work on at a given time.

Setting High Goals

Superstars set stretch goals for them and are always keen to challenge themselves. They aim to achieve the highest possible reward and recognition in their organization. They think BIG and are often self-motivators.

Building expertise

A super-productive person continuously learns new skills and builds his or her expertise. He appreciates the need for continuous learning and believes in the concept, 'What got you here, Won’t get you there’.

Collaborating with others

The star performers know the power of networking within and outside the organization. They tend to collaborate with like-minded people and share their knowledge freely with them. They empower others around them and help them to be more productive and successful in their careers.

Having Self-Discipline

Superstars are highly disciplined in life. They tend to resist temptations, adhere to the guidelines, and follow the goals that they set for themselves. With high self-discipline, they consistently drive great results.

Being Positive

Superstars have a positive mindset for work and for life in general. They like to read new books, attend inspirational seminars, volunteer their time to local charities, etc. They surround themselves with positive like-minded people.

Innovate

Star performers tend to be more creative than others around them. They look for opportunities to pioneer innovations in business processes and technical practices. They thrive better in a team that fosters a culture of innovation in an open and transparent environment. 


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Kanban Boards – Practical Examples

Kanban Boards - Practical Examples

Applying Kanban

What Is a Kanban Board?

A Kanban board is a visual tool for enabling Kanban to manage work for any business. The board helps the team to track each of their work items, minimize idle time, improve predictability, increase quality, and reduce time-to-market.

 

Sample Kanban Boards

Let's dive-in into a few practical examples when teams manage their work via Kanban:

 

Consider a scenario that a DevOps team receives several requests each day to automate build process in Jenkins, resolve test environment issues, onboard new applications onto the hybrid cloud, and so on. Here’s a sample Kanban board for such a scenario.

DevOps Kanban

 

Consider a scenario that an operations team receives several calls during the day from its customers and works together to analyze reported issues, provide real-time guidance, and execute fixes to a customer-facing application. Here’s a sample Kanban board for such a scenario.

 

Consider a scenario that a software development team receives new requests on a regular basis to build new capabilities and enhance existing application features. This team targets to deliver a quality code and invests time in peer code reviews and application testing. Here’s a sample Kanban board for such a scenario.

 

Consider a scenario that an organization’s legal team receives requests on a regular basis from different portfolios in the organization to review content on their sites, campaigns, offers, etc. from a legal point of view. Here’s a sample Kanban board for such a scenario.

 

Consider a scenario that a platform team receives multiple requests from different application teams every day to onboard their applications onto the new platform. Here’s a sample Kanban board for such a team.

 

Consider a scenario that you are buying a new home. In order to track the various tasks and reduce distractions, you create a personal Kanban Board with a WIP limit of 2 home viewings. Here’s a sample Kanban board for such a scenario. 

 

Consider a scenario that you need to sort your house over the weekend. You decide to organize your work and reduce task-switching by creating a personal Kanban board. Here’s a sample Kanban board for such a scenario. 

 

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5 Expert Tips for Agile Teams

5 Expert Tips for Agile Teams

Being Agile

Here are the 5 relevant tips for agile teams. You can use these valuable insights to create effective, self-organizing Scrum teams. These tips are in no particular order, so feel free to skim down the list and read the ones that are most suitable for you.

 

Agile Tip # 1: Discipline is the key ingredient in achieving extraordinary results. It brings stability and structure to one’s work or personal life. It takes discipline to attend scrum ceremonies, meet sprint commitments, and continually learn. As Jim Rohn rightly stated, “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”

 

Agile Tip # 2: In Scrum, the entire development team is responsible to ensure that sprint commitments are met. A team member who has completed his assigned tasks should look to assist other team members who need help. The team should practice empathy towards others, learn new skills, and meets their commitments.

 

Agile Tip # 3: Story points are a relative unit of measure for estimating user stories. A team’s story point estimate should include: 1) the amount of work 2) the complexity of the work 3) any risks or unknowns in doing the work 4) must-have items on your definition of done.

 

Agile Tip # 4: Split your stories into small stories. Resist the temptation to group items together to avoid the management overhead. Smaller stories flow better through the sprint. Imagine 1,000 marbles working their way down a chute rather than 100 basketballs working their way down the same chute. Smaller stories are easy to estimate and have less variability than large stories.

 

Agile Tip # 5: Define personas for your product and write persona-based user stories. A persona is a fictional character that you create based on your user research to represent different users that might use your product. Understanding the characteristics, experiences, behaviors, and needs of your personas will help you to write valuable user stories.

Also, read my agile tips on Medium.

 

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What is a Sprint Burndown Chart?

What is a Sprint Burndown Chart?

The Sprint Burndown or the Iteration Burndown chart is a powerful tool to communicate daily progress to the stakeholders. It tracks the completion of work for a given sprint or an iteration. The horizontal axis represents the days within a Sprint. The vertical axis represents the hours remaining to complete the committed work.

The below table shows the number of hours remaining at the end of each day within a Sprint to create a sample Sprint burndown chart. The ideal remaining hours are calculated by assuming a uniform rate of task completion each day.

 

Sprint Burndown Chart Table

The Scrum Master creates a Sprint Burndown chart using such data. The below diagram depicts a sample Sprint Burndown chart with ‘Date’ represented on the horizontal axis and ‘Remaining Effort (Hours)’ represented on the vertical axis.

Sample Sprint Burndown Chart

Learn all about Agile Scrum with my book, The Basics Of SCRUM.

 

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5 Habits that Successful Leaders Have

5 Habits that Successful Leaders Have

The 5 significant habits of successful leaders are listed below:

  • Having a Positive Mindset

Great leaders have a positive mindset and they radiate positive energy to others. They strongly believe that they are they are confident, successful, and loved. They read inspirational books, listen to motivational speakers, attend personal development workshops, and surround themselves with positive like-minded people. Leaders hire right people on their teams, who not only have the right skills but also possess a positive mindset. Such positive minded people are self-motivated to perform at their best.

Check out my inspirational book, Think Positive, Speak Positive, Act Positive to embrace positivity and change your life.

  • Communicating Effectively

Effective communication is vital to the success of an organization. In 1938, Chester Barnard, the author of pioneering work in management theory and organizational studies, concluded that effective communication is the most important responsibility of leaders. Great leaders listen effectively and encourage their team members to provide feedback. They keep an open mind, encourage collaboration, and promote consensus.

  •  Empowering Others

Great leaders with a positive mindset empower the team. They target to create more leaders than followers.

The best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution, Bill Gates stated, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”

Great leaders inspire their team, appreciate their work, help their team members to grow their visibility, connect them with right opportunities, and encourage them to fulfill their dreams. One of the richest American and successful industrialist, Andrew Carnegie, once said, “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.”

  • Continuous Learning

Great leaders always look forward to read inspirational books, listen to motivational speakers, read the autobiographies of other great leaders, and learn from successful self-development coaches. They often listen to audiobooks while driving to work. Leaders set aside some percentage of their earnings to invest in their learning.

John F. Kennedy once stated, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

  • Networking

Great leaders spend their time and energy to build strong relationships with others. They like to connect with like-minded people. They attend seminars, workshops, meetings, conferences, and any other public events not only to build their expertise but to meet new people who share their passion and purpose.

There’s a famous quote, Birds of the same feather flock together.”

 

Read about High Ambition and Purpose Driven Leadership, Goal Setting, and Successful Habits in my book, Think Big.

 

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15 differences between Waterfall and Agile Scrum

15 differences between traditional Waterfall and Agile Scrum approach

Here's a quick comparison of the plan-driven Waterfall methodology and Agile Scrum approach:

 

Core Waterfall Features:

  • Encourages conformance to processes and tools
  • Needs comprehensive documentation
  • Restricts new ideas
  • Promotes a process-centric environment
  • Depends on contract negotiation
  • Conforms to a plan
  • Requires continuous effort to motivate the team members
  • Require a huge rework to accommodate late changes
  • Results in a high cost of change
  • Encourages a detailed project plan
  • Leaves a large possibility of a mismatch between requirements and the final product
  • Is likely to have unhappy customers
  • Supports late customer feedback
  • Requires upfront decisions
  • Does not encourage regular interaction with business sponsors

Core Scrum Features:

  • Encourages people interactions
  • Promotes working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Encourages experimentation and new ideas
  • Promotes a people-centric environment
  • Encourages customer collaboration
  • Embraces change
  • Creates high performing, self-organizing, and motivated teams
  • Adapts late changes with minimal rework
  • Has a low cost of change
  • Is based on just-in-time planning principles
  • Reduces mismatch between initial business requirements and the final product
  • Is likely to produce delighted customers
  • Encourages fast and frequent customer feedback
  • Decisions wait till the last responsible moment (LRM)
  • Promotes high collaboration with the Product Owner

Learn Agile Scrum with my complete handbook, The Basics of SCRUM.

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Bitcoins

Bitcoins

Emerging Technology Trends

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a virtual currency created in 2009 by an unknown person or group of people with alias Satoshi Nakamoto. The main difference between real money and virtual currency is that virtual currency transactions don’t have any transaction fees. Moreover, they are not subject to bank regulations.

How can I purchase Bitcoins?

A user must install a virtual wallet onto a personal computer or a mobile device to purchase Bitcoins. The wallet keeps track of all Bitcoin transactions for the user. The user then deposits the real money to an account that allows the user to buy or sell Bitcoins. The transactions are like trading stocks through an exchange such as Bitstamp or MtGox. Bitcoins can also be purchased from third parties who deposit Bitcoins directly into the virtual wallet.

Where are my Bitcoins?

Bitcoins are stored in a virtual bank account or a digital wallet, which either exists in the cloud or on user’s computer. Unlike bank accounts, Bitcoin digital wallets are not insured by the FDIC.

What is the identity of a Bitcoin owner?

Bitcoin owners are identified by a string of characters such as a digital address. This digital address is also known as Bitcoin address.

Is your identity linked to your Bitcoin address?

Yes, your identity can be associated with your Bitcoin address. If you post your Bitcoin address and your name online, then your name gets associated with your Bitcoin address on the internet. If you create any content online, for example, post comment on an online forum, create a new blog etc. and provide your Bitcoin address, your personal details get tied to your Bitcoin address. Moreover, if you trade Bitcoins on an exchange or transact with Bitcoin, your personal details that you provide to the exchange or merchants will be associated with your Bitcoin address.

What are the risks from Bitcoin Transactions?

Since Bitcoin transactions don’t record buyer’s and seller’s name or physical location, these transactions can be used to buy or sell illegal products or services anonymously. Law enforcement agencies don’t like the anonymity with Bitcoins.

 

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How to manage estimate inflation?

How to manage estimate inflation?

What is estimate inflation?

Estimate inflation is the term used when team estimates start growing over time. If a product backlog item was earlier estimated as 3 story points and a similar item is now estimated as 5 story points, this is referred to as estimate inflation.

What causes estimate inflation?

Higher management, often, mistakes high velocity as high productivity and put a tremendous pressure on the scrum teams to increase their velocity. In order to achieve a target velocity, the team then starts inflating their story point estimates. This inflation has a ripple effect on other product backlog items that have not yet been estimated. During planning poker, when team estimates a product backlog item, they compare their story to an already inflated story and provide another inflated estimate. 

How to limit estimate inflation?

Mike Cohn recommends comparing the product backlog item being estimated to two or more other items to ensure consistency among estimates. When you compare the item with two or more backlog items during planning poker, the probability to compare against inflated estimates is reduced. 

What are the challenges to this approach? 

Time is the biggest challenge. The development team does not like to spend additional time during planning poker to compare the item against multiple backlog items. 

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Fishbone Diagram

What Is Fishbone Diagram?

Fishbone or Ishikawa diagrams were created in 1968 by Kaoru Ishikawa who was a Japanese Professor at the University of Tokyo and was famous for his inventions for quality management.

The fishbone diagram is a pictorial representation and categorization of possible known causes to a problem, usually gathered during brainstorming. The fishbone diagram is being used across several software and manufacturing organizations as a simple visualization tool to depict various potential causes to a problem. It provides a structured way to organize and represent data in a meaningful manner.

This technique can be used whenever there are many possible causes to a problem or whenever there is a need to identify causes to a complex problem. One can apply the fishbone diagram method in solving day-to-day problems as well. This technique is mostly conducted in a group with people from different fields of expertise. However, this method can also be used by an individual as a tool to structure one’s thoughts and identify root causes.

To learn more about Fishbone Diagram with examples, read my book, An Expert Guide to Problem Solving, available at Amazon.

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What is Technical Debt?

What Is Technical Debt?

Learn Agile

Ward Cunningham introduced the concept of technical debt in 1992. He defined it as follows:

“Shipping first-time code is like going into debt. A little debt speeds development so long as it is paid back promptly with a rewrite…. The danger occurs when the debt is not repaid. Every minute spent on not-quite-right code counts as interest on that debt. Entire engineering organizations can be brought to a stand-still under the debt load of an unconsolidated implementation, object-oriented or otherwise.”

 

Cunningham used the ‘Technical Debt’ metaphor to emphasize the benefits and limitations of speedy development. The metaphor was well received by both business and technical people as it resonates with financial debt. Like financial debt, technical debt accumulates interest with late repayment.
In 2004, Joshua Kerievsky describes ‘design debt’ in his article ‘Refactoring to Patterns” and the associated costs. Then again in 2014, Grady Booch compared evolving cities to evolving software and described how lack of refactoring can lead to technical debt. He stated:

“The concept of technical debt is central to understanding the forces that weigh upon systems, for it often explains where, how, and why a system is stressed. In cities, repairs on infrastructure are often delayed and incremental changes are made rather than bold ones. So, it is again in software-intensive systems. Users suffer the consequences of capricious complexity, delayed improvements, and insufficient incremental change; the developers who evolve such systems suffer the slings and arrows of never being able to write quality code because they are always trying to catch up.”

 

Get the answers to the below questions in my management book, The Basics of SCRUM: A Simple Handbook to the Most Popular Agile Scrum Framework, available exclusively at Amazon.

  • What is a Technical Debt?
  • What are the main causes of Technical Debt?
  • What are the consequences of Technical Debt?
  • How do you manage Technical Debt?
  • What are some of the practical examples of Technical Debt?
  • What are some of the practical techniques to manage Technical Debt?
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