I want to “change”

“I want to change” is one of the most common endeavours for people.  For most people, the journey of self-improvement starts with the notion “things are changing fast, I need to adapt to survive and thrive” to “I need to change to improve”.

You might have come across many people who resist change, they prefer the status quo. They are in the comfort zone, there might be some underlying fear, that even they may not be aware of it. Unless they see a benefit of change, they may not even try.

Next are people who don’t want to change because they have given up after many unsuccessful attempts to change. Showing them the benefits of change will not work these people. They might benefit from a method or a technique.

This blog is for those people who have given up the hope of changing, to give them some alternate method to try out. This method is simple and others also might find value in this.

People who think “change is not possible”, mostly they have given up “trying to change”. They belong to the family of Parmenides School. The Parmenides, a great Greek Philosopher (515-450 BC) and founder of the Eleatic school of philosophy (universal unity of being) taught that change is not impossible.

If you think “change is possible” then you belong to the family of Heraclitus. Heraclitus, another great Greek Philosopher (535-475 BC) taught that there is an ever-present change in the universe. You also think that change is possible. 

For many years I was trying to ‘fix’ myself (after being motivated by the Self-Help books ) and failed miserably. I kept shuttling between Heraclitus and Parmenides schools.  

Earlier as soon as I realise that I need to change, I used to jump into action immediately. Suppose If I have to take care of my health. 

 I used to say “Ok, from tomorrow, I will go for running”, buy some expensive shoes with the justification “Yes, I’m buying for a good cause, it is not a waste of money”. Go for two days then order a Fitbit to track my progress. 

Take a break till the Fitbit is delivered but by the time it was delivered there was no motivation. Then I used to get some new insight that used to become my new area to “Change”. After a few failed attempts, I used to get upset and declare “change is not possible”.  This continued for many years. 

I used to think I’m becoming a zen master -like “accept what is and what is not” but in reality, I used to be frustrated.

Now my new approach to change is like this. 

First is the belief that “change is possible”. 

The proof is you can observe things changing around you. Look around and start watching. You are also changing but you are not noticing. Change is happening some desired and some undesired change. Next step is to bring the desired change. 

This can be broadly put into the following phases. 

Awareness 

The first phase is being aware that you want to create change in some aspect of your life. Usually, this comes in the form of a thought, an idea or feedback. Avoid the temptation to get into action. If it is critical, then the only step you should take is to write it down as clearly as possible. Nothing more. 

Acknowledge

The next phase is to acknowledge the change, it is an act of admitting the existence of that thought or that need. Suppose you realise that “I should lose weight”. You just acknowledge that I have a view or there a need for me to lose weight. 

Accept 

This is a significant phase, you should spend time and analyse before accepting it. You exercise your choice in accepting that thought. You might realise that the need for change has come out of some reaction, in that case, you can choose not to accept it. You need to be mindful of your arrogance/ego coming in your way to look at things objectively. It is better to accept the changes that arise out of your will than those coming from external sources. 

Act 

This is nothing but getting into action. It ultimately depends on the results you want to have in your life. Results come from taking actions. 

This is summarised beautifully by my favourite leader/guru Werner Erhard. 

“In life you wind up with one of two things – the results or the reason why you don’t have the results. Results don’t have to be explained. They just are.”

Award 

This is the one more important part, as you are taking actions, it is vital to have some award mechanisms to keep you going. Be generous, small rewards, but they do the trick. 

Yes. You deserve the reward for your efforts. 

Use these steps and evaluate and most likely that you have created the desired result and successfully implemented that change. 

Conclusion

Once you take actions consistently, the “change” becomes part of you. Then you are ready to take the game to the next level. 

I have found that jumping into actions is not sufficient, giving time for self has helped me tremendously. 

Consider you are already doing your best, don’t try to better your best.  

COVID-19 … Fever, Fear and Freedom

Yes, I’m in a hurry.
I’m in a hurry to live with the intensity that only maturity can give.
I do not intend to waste any of the remaining desserts.
I am sure they will be exquisite,
much more than those eaten so far.
My goal is to reach the end satisfied
and at peace with my loved ones and my conscience.
We have two lives
and the second begins when you realize you only have one.

Mário de Andrade

The sun was shining brightly outside and it felt like an invitation for a long walk. I was feeling fresh after my shower. I got ready quickly knowing that in the UK, weather changes faster than the mood swings of cyclothymiac.

I was feeling a slight weakness as I was putting my shoes but the excitement of going out after 38 days to enjoy the fresh air was irresistible. There was no fever from the last 14-15 days, no headache and cough as well. It was my first day out since my recovery from illness with COVID* like symptoms.

Unfortunately after struggling for more than three weeks with all the symptoms, it remained a mystery to me and my family, if I ever had the COVID or not. Here in the UK/London, there is no way to get tested for COVID. For the vast majority of people like me, there is no option to get tested unless it is very severe or you are some important personality. (Prince Charles was tested positive for Covid, UK Prime minister Boris Johnson was hospitalised due to COVID)

I was reading about the COVID from early Feb and started taking precaution before it became widespread. I was observing the exponential rise in the number of cases. I was trying to analyse the data and thinking about the distribution that the data fits into. I was washing my hands frequently, avoiding crowded places. I knew that very soon it is going to reach UK.

On Saturday, March 14th 2020 and I had a fever around 38.2 C (100.76 F). As a precaution I did self-isolation, The fever lasted for about 2-3 days. Then my wife also had fever and I was really worried. She recovered within 2-3 days. We both were relieved that nothing serious happened to us but we were conscious of not going out and put ourselves or others at risk. Luckily we had the essential things at home and there was no need to step out. (The number of cases worldwide at that point was 142,439, In the UK it was 1,140, in India 82 and US 1,678).

The media was full of negative news, the panic buying of toilet rolls was flooding the social media. There was a speculation that in a few days the lockdown will be imposed. My only panic buying was a laptop (I ordered online) and later it proved to be a wise decision. Overall there was a sense of fear all around.

After 4-5 days one afternoon, I was feeling very uncomfortable with an intense headache. I had a sudden rise in temperature and did not realise it. I was also not ready to accept that I’m getting the fever a second time. my wife tried to convince me that I’m worrying unnecessarily. That afternoon, I had a cup of tea and then went to wash my hands and I suddenly felt dizzy and blacked out. I regained my consciousness quickly. As I was trying to comprehend the situation I observed thousands of thoughts bombarding in all directions, few were reassuring me but most of them were alerting some danger. My wife started calling the NHS as we wanted some guidance about what to do? What medications to take etc.

Luckily the previous day we had arranged a room for self-isolation and I quickly moved there with my books and phone. The lines at NHS were extremely busy; the line was on hold for a few hours. I took some paracetamol and waited for the NHS line to connect but it was in vein. I had some food and slept off.

Next day though I had fever, I was feeling much better and to my surprise, I had a call from the NHS, a volunteer spoke to me and advised me to speak with the member of the medical staff.  He connected me to the NHS, this time it was fast. I had to be on the line for less than an hour. But the call was worth the wait, the NHS staff was calm and listened to me patiently and asked me to watch out for two things: breathlessness and constant high temperature.
Then he also mentioned a few precautions to protect others in the family. The only medication was to continue with the paracetamol and nothing for the cough. After the call I felt relieved but at that time I had no clue that it was going take me a few weeks to recover.

I kept taking paracetamol and monitoring my temperature and also kept myself hydrated. The following graph shows my temperature, headache and cough levels over a period of 4 weeks. (Headache and Cough are approximated to fit the graph).

Few distinct symptoms.
The cough was very distinct, I never had that kind of dry cough, I used to have few bouts of cough once in a few hours initially that reduced over a period of time. The cough was very dry and it used last for some time (once it lasted for few hours but normally around 20-30 minutes). The intensity, duration and frequency came down over a period. There was always fear about this cough. I tried to control it through ginger, honey and warm water and I’m not sure if it had any impact on it but at least I used to feel like I was doing something.

The headache was also unique. Normally I feel ache on the front side towards my forehead during the common cold. This time it was on the backside.

Initially, I was expecting the fever to come down after 3-4 days. I was really worried when it continued in week 2. During this time I realised how restless my mind was, I could identify the fear of the unknown and the fear of something bad happening.

The conflict between “What is ..” and “What can be ..” the series of thoughts around “What if …?”. These thoughts were so powerful thatI used to feel helpless.

After about 9-10 days, I got used to the routine but fear of the unknown was creating the stress. It was not clear how long this phase was going to last. I had the question “I’m I missing something?”. I was not sure whether to take it easy or take it seriously. On the internet and social media, I was finding only about the number of cases and the death rates but no details about people who recovered, about their symptoms while recovering and how long it takes to recover etc. (after some time I totally stopped reading any news around Covid or news in general, also avoided social media to a large extent). Started listening to podcasts and audio books.

When I completed two weeks (on the 14th day), I said to myself “it is enough now!!” and decided “let me accept what is happening and surrender completely”. That was the beginning of my experiencing freedom. I really felt liberated. Though I had fever, the freedom from fear was very liberating.

I had a new laptop to explore. I started experimenting with mixing music, coding, reading (and listening) books and tidying up my table.I started enjoying the care, space, and the time.

I have observed as humans we have this duality, sometimes we are confident and say “I’m in control my destiny” and march forward and other times when there are obstacles, we say “I’m helpless” and behave like a mouse in the mousetrap. Most of the time we are on this continuum but there is a third option in a different space and that is “operating from the space of surrender”. It is like the teachings of the Gita – “You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction.”

My intention of writing this blog was to share my experience and to communicate that COVID is not life threatening but it is contagious. With patience and right information it can be managed. If you can control your mind then you can control any situation, by default the mind goes into the negative mode and it up to you to handle it.

If you are worried about COIVID and it’s fatality then have a look at some data. Globally 800,000 people die from suicide every year* compared to total deaths from COVID till now 345,991. (also there were 1.25 million road traffic deaths globally in 2013 as per WHO)

COVID is dangerous because it spreads (contagious) and not because it is fatal (the death ratio is small compared to many diseases). This can be fatal for people with underlying medical conditions. So we need to be careful to protect the vulnerable people around us.

If you are still worried about COVID then talk to someone or drop a note to me. The intention of writing this blog was to help you to observe the world from a different perspective.

Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draw it.

Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves.

Easwaran, Eknath. The Dhammapada (Easwaran’s Classics of Indian Spirituality) (p. 107). Nilgiri Press.

I’m grateful for my family, friends and all the people who cared and helped me during this challenging time.

If you have come across any good resources/idea to deal with COVID please mention them in the comments below.

The Goal Question Context

This time of the year when the maximum number of people give up on their new year resolutions. I know many of my friends have made a resolution that they will not make any resolution. I’m glad that some of them are at least keeping that resolution. I have gone through my cycle of failures, denial and many years of “no resolution” and I have finally cracked the code of the new year resolutions. The answer is in using the framework called the Goal Question Context (GQC).

I find the framework useful to set, revise and reset goals annually and track them on a weekly basis. Some years like 2020 are special where you can make goals for the next 20, 10 or 5 years.

To have these new year resolutions and goals is a personal choice. If you have a goal then you will at least try some actions towards achieving it. The chance of achieving your goal is higher if you have one.

What is the Goal Question Context (GQC) ?

The Goal Question Context (GQC) is inspired by Victor Basili’s work on Software Metrics called GQM (Goal Question Metric).

The GQC consists of three parts.

Goal – It is the desired state. This should be unambiguous, verifiable or measurable.

Question – Mechanism to clarify the goal and refine it and derive the context

Context – Your personal context within which you want to accomplish this goal.

Broadly we can say Goal is the end toward which effort is directed: aim. One clear distinction of a goal is at any point in time you can assess whether you have achieved your goal or not. If you have not yet achieved your goal you should be able to determine are your efforts are towards achieving the goal or not.

Characteristics of a Good Goal

  • Goal should be measurable and timeboxed.
    Example 1: I should lose 5kgs in 3 months.

If this is the goal, you should make a note of your current weight (78kgs), start and end dates (01-Jan-2020 to 31-Jan-2020).

Then the goal can be written as: By 31st March 2020, I will bring my weight under 73 kgs

  • The goal should be personal.
    Unfortunately many goals most people chase are derived out of comparing with others or trying to maintain a certain level of acceptance in the society. If the goal comes out of your intrinsic desire and not due to some external source then the commitment towards the goal will be very high.

“Dont let fears of what others might think of you stand in your way” –
Ray Dalio – “Principles”

  • The goal should be important.

Though it sounds obvious, many times you have goals that are more like fashion accessories than something you need to achieve. Do not confuse your goals with your desires. In fact, desires are things that you want that will come in your way of accomplishing your goals. In life, though anyone can almost achieve anything in life, you should remember that you can not achieve everything in life. It is important that you choose wisely.

The questions and context
These two help in refining and aligning to your goals.

Let’s explore the above example

  • Goal: By 31st March 2020, I will bring my weight under 73 kgs
    Then the question to ask is

Why do you want to bring your weight under 73kgs?

I have realised that I’m feeling a bit lethargic these days, I’m also thinking of participating in a marathon, that was always my dream. I was inspired by my friend Martin, who completed a half marathon last year. I can also do it if I prepare myself.

How are you planning to achieve this goal?

I’m planning to use a two-pronged strategy. Watch out on my food intake: control my sugar intake, the quantity of food, snacking etc. and a bit of exercise. I will also start running at least twice a week.

What will or might come in your way? And what are you going to do about it?

First one is my laziness. I’m going beyond this. I really enjoy going out and in the fresh air. My travel and work schedules are big constraints. I can use them as an opportunity. Use the hotel Gym facilities, use public transport and walking.

Also, focus on eating healthy. I will also take support from Martin as my accountability buddy.

Based on these questions and answers a context can be created.

The context for my goal is to feel energetic and be a person full of energy. My mantra is “Just Do It !”

End note

The biggest benefit of doing this activity is that you slowly start knowing and understanding about yourself, your body and your mind. You will start noticing the effect of environment, space and people on you and also how you are impacts others around you.

One important final note about Goals, actions and consequence is that the goals can be achieved only through actions. When you take action you will have a first-order consequence, second-order consequence and so on.

If you decide to go for a morning jog. The first-order consequences are, getting up from the bed and sacrificing the sleep time, initial days you might also experience body/muscle pain and lack sleep.

Second-order consequence – you will feel better, health improves, you look fit. It might take a couple of days.

Another example, you might decide to take it easy and focus on enjoying life now!

First-order consequence: You experience happiness and joy, you are having a good time now. Second-order consequence: In a few years you might end up spending all your savings, may or may not have the motivation to work hard and earn.

Normally most first-order consequences which give you instant pleasure, happiness will have a negative consequence in the long run. Those which are difficult, not interesting will give long-lasting happiness later (for example learning a musical instrument).

For many years I also explored by not having goals but just enjoying the journey (the process towards achieving the goal rather than the goal itself), I did not bother about the results. The only drawback of that approach was, your full potential is not understood and most importantly there is no learning. With the Goal Question Context approach, it ensures that you enjoy the journey and also achieve the goals. Through this approach, the chances of achieving the goals are enhanced. In the worst case this framework will provide data points to analyse (through questions and context) and learn. Sometimes the learning from these experiments is as important or more important than the original goal itself.

So all ready to set new goals? What are some goals in life that you want to achieve?

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
Paolo Coelho, The Alchemist.

If you need any support with setting your long term goals do not hesitate to contact me.

Inspiration / Credits 

Principles – Ray Dalio

GQM  – Vistor Basili

 

The monk who built his own Ferrari

 

In search of a leader 

This is a fascinating story of a servant leader’s journey in creating a company on a foundation of strong values and principles. Personally, for me, it is a completion of a “gestalt” about leadership and my search for a leader and a role model. 

Finding inspiration is difficult these days, some authentic real-life stories like these bring back the sense of direction and purpose. 

It has been a journey of 20 years of exploring various dimensions of Leadership. It was also a search for a role model, whom I can admire, relate to and learn from.

My interest in leadership was ignited during my first job at Wipro when my friend Manju, mentioned about Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. That book was fascinating and mentions about leaders, leadership and various dimensions around it. Since then I have explored various sources on leadership and their styles from Gandhi to Hitler, Dalai Lama to Steve Jobs, Read many books in the Warren Bennis series on Leadership, studied various views from Ayan Rand to some Indian mythology, attended many courses and workshops as well. 

My search came to an end when I came across the fascinating story of this Leader.

The leader is Sridhar Vembu founder and CEO of Zoho.  He started Zoho with other co-founders about 20 years back in Chennai, now it is one of the most successful software product/SAS company from India with 40 plus applications used by more than 13 million users globally. It also competes with global giants like Salesforce.

In fact, Forbes described in an article Sridhar as the “Smartest Unknown Indian Entrepreneur”. 

This finding was for me like the Santiago Shepherd boy, the protagonist of The Alchemist finding his treasure.  

Blog-SV-001

About Sridhar Vembu 

The journey of Sridhar is not a story of a bold vision and then driving it relentlessly till it is realized nor a story of breakthrough innovation and creating a billion-dollar company, or about rags to riches. But this is a story of failures and learning from those failures, it is about entrepreneurship, starting small and focusing on serving customers, this is a story of self-realization, principles, values and trust, it is about finding the reason for existence, this is about redefining the meaning of business itself.

The best part of this discovery is most people in India can relate to it.  Personally, I could relate to most of his experiences and principles.  

Sridhar did his degree in electrical engineering from IIT Madras and PhD from Princeton, it sounds like typical success formula right? But after all these qualifications he realised the real value of “education”. He concluded that the context-free education has very less value. That realisation helped Zoho in creating the Zoho University (ZU), which takes underprivileged students from the local schools and provides them the relevant training. Once the students finish their training, they are given a job in the company.  

Entrepreneurship 

There many interesting stories around Sridhar and Zoho, like not focusing on profit but focusing on delivering value, not focusing on formal qualifications while hiring etc. 

Sridhar values freedom over money, this is one of the reasons it is not externally funded.  His suggestion for entrepreneurs is also inspiring, The first, one is around bootstrapping and not taking external funding.  He gives the example of the neighbourhood vegetable vendor and how they manage their business. 

Next suggestion is starting with year -5 years, yes it takes about 5 years to learn about the business. 

The final point I noted down was around success and survival.  If you have a clear set of values and principles then if you can survive then you will succeed

My inspiration 

What I liked the most about Sridhar is, he is not perfect, his presentation style is not great, his appearance is also not stylish and he is perfectly fine with it. You can not miss the authenticity in his eyes and voice. This is what makes him special. 

After completing his PhD, he went through a phase of deep reflection, confusion and transformation. That is the genesis of his journey.  It started with a small group of people trying to start a company. In the last 20 years, the company has grown from a small company into a major corporation with more than 40 products and more than 13 million users and more than 9000 employees across the globe.   

Final note 

Sridhar has interesting views on Leadership, culture entrepreneurship, building a company, innovation, role of education. I can write a series of blogs (maybe I will do that) but let me complete this blog with the message he had shared with students of Sastra University on their 31st convocation. 

“… you have 24 hours in a day. As you grow older you realize how valuable the time is, I sometimes feel my life is over and have I done enough with it? Time is the only thing you have actually. Money can buy lots of things but it can not buy time. The quality of thinking is the only thing that separates from successful from not successful. Quality of thinking means that. What type of thoughts going on in your head? You can spend 3 hours getting angry at another person. You can spend an entire day being disappointed by something….  Those are also thoughts in our head. But those thoughts are useless thoughts….. Some good thoughts might spark some ideas and from those ideas, the actions happen. Those actions can lead you somewhere. … purge all the unproductive thoughts. Angry thoughts, resentful thoughts or sad thoughts all of these. Fill your head with quality thoughts. Learn to use your time wisely… Thank you”.  

Epilogue

The title Monk who built his own Ferrari is inspired by Robin Sharm’s Monk who sold his Ferrari.  Though Sridhar doesn’t live like a monk. He has spent millions of dollars on a team for designing and developing an indigenous microprocessor chip. That is his Ferrari. 

Personal Note:

  1. I take full responsibility for any errors, omissions and misrepresentation. As a reader, if you find any mistakes please bring it my notice and I will correct them. 
  2. Source of all the information is from the Internet. My apologies for not keeping track of all the references.
  3. If you have any other question and feedback please write to me at mithare@gmail.com  
  4. If you liked this post then please share with others. 

End quote 

“ A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says is never accurate because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something that he can understand”  – Bertand Russell 

By Raghavendra (Raghav) Mithare

———————————————————————————-

Raghavendra (Raghav) Mithare is Regional Head for ProcessWhirl Management Consulting, UK and he is based in London, he is a professional coach, Agile consultant, Speaker and aspiring writer. His interests include Leadership, Philosophy, Economics and engineering.  You can reach him at rmithare@processwhirl.com

 

Nudge

Steve is very shy and withdrawn, invariably helpful but with little interest in people or in the world of reality. A meek and tidy soul, he has a need for order and structure, and a passion for detail.

Is Steve more likely to be a librarian or a farmer?

Before you proceed, pause for a moment and make your choice – A for librarian and B for farmer and also make a mental note for your reasoning. The point is not about finding the right answer but to understand your own decision making process.   

This above example is from Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. This is an interesting example of a heuristic bias. While making the decision we forget to consider the overall population of farmers and librarians. The description “a meek and tidy soul, he has a need for order and structure” flips the decision towards librarian for most people.  If you have chosen A as the answer then it is wrong but the main point is to understand why it is wrong?

When I came across this example few years back for the first time, I was blown away by its simplicity and realised  how and why we (humans) make these types of mistakes and keep repeating them. During the same time I was also revising Don Norman’s classic The Design of Everyday Things, I was working on a Process Architecture to define a lean-agile processes for my assignment with Jaguar.  I could see some common patterns around design as well as bias.

As technical people sometimes we are biased around some basic operations and we tend to forget some of the obvious things. The same things are difficult for non technical people or the end users of the system.  

Finally I came across Richard Thalers work on Nudge and choice architecture. It is a bridge between avoiding errors due to cognitive bias and human centric design approach.

Now coming back to the above example most people will vote for Steve as a librarian (option A), even a group people with good background in statistics.

Now let’s brush some basics — The classical definition of probability theory states that – probability of an event (likelihood of –  occurrence of an event) is the number of outcomes favorable to the event, divided by the total number of possible outcomes, where all outcomes are equally likely.

If you toss a coin, the probability of getting a heads is 0.50  (or 50%).

the number of outcomes favorable to the event  = 1 (getting a heads)

total number of possible outcomes  = 2 ( heads, or tails)

the probability of a getting heads = ½  (50%)

Now coming back to the above example, as per the occupational data, there are more than 20 male farmers for each male librarian in the United States. The ratio of farmers to librarian is 20:1 this translates to a huge difference of 0.95 and 0.05.  (95% and 5%). The likelihood of Steve being a farmer is much higher than he being a librarian.

Same example in visual form, if you have to pick at random in the first case both green and red have equal probability whereas in the second case the probability of picking green is higher.

Nudge-Raghav-13.15-14.00 AS Data-01

This understanding is crucial in the era of Social media and mobile apps, just few incidents are enough to create a strong view against an individual and/or institution.

In the book Kahneman describes about System 1 and System 2 and explains how most human beings make decisions without being aware of the inherent bias.

System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.

System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations.  The normal tendency is to take the path of least resistance.

The reason most people choose Steve as a farmer is it fits the mental model or stereotype of a librarian. For brain (using System 1) it is easy and faster.

In the next part the concept of Nudge and Choice Architecture will be covered.

Note:

Reference (Partial list)

Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow. Penguin Randon House, 2011.

Mithare, Raghavendra. “NUDGE – ROLE OF ECONOMICS IN ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN.” presented at the Agile Tour London 2018 Conference, London, October 19, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t hire a coach if you need a consultant.

Don’t hire a coach if you need a consultant.

Smith: “Well, you have a good experience of coaching and working with big brands. Will you be interested in coming on board and coaching our team ?”

Anna: “Sure, can you please share some more detail about the role ?”

Smith: “ I’m creating a community of practice for Business Excellence, formed by a team of coaches, You will be training and coaching the people on the floor on best practices, processes and tools. Especially, I want you bring your expertise and solve the efficiency issues raised by the senior leadership. By the way,do you have experience of coaching senior leadership ?”

Anna: “Yes, Thanks for giving the background about the role but I think you need a good consultant not a coach”

…..

These days many companies are busy hiring coaches for various requirements though there is a real requirements for coaches,  many companies are not clear about the role. There is a need to build awareness about coaching and it’s benefits.  

“ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential.”

The focus of Professional coaching is on

  • setting goals
  • creating outcomes and
  • managing personal change

The skills required for coaching have significant overlap with skills required for other personal or organisational support professions like mentoring, therapy and consulting.  

Mentoring

A mentor is an expert who provides wisdom and guidance based on his or her own experience. Mentoring may include advising, counselling and coaching. The coaching process does not include advising or counselling, and focuses instead on individuals or groups setting and reaching their own objectives.

Models like People Capability Maturity Model have given frameworks to implement organisational level mentoring programs.   

Therapy

Therapy deals with healing pain, dysfunction and conflict within an individual or in relationships. The focus is often on resolving difficulties arising from the past that hamper an individual’s emotional functioning in the present, improving overall psychological functioning, and dealing with the present in more emotionally healthy ways.

In contrast to coaching, therapy focuses on the past whereas coaching is focused towards future, based on self initiated change process.    

Consulting

Individuals or organisations retain consultants for their expertise. While consulting approaches vary widely, the assumption is the consultant will diagnose problems and prescribe and, sometimes, implement solutions.

Peter Block mentions in his book Flawless consulting the definition of consultant as

“a consultant is person in a position to have some influence over an individual, a group, or an organisation, but who has no direct power to make changes or implement programs.”

The credit for starting consulting as a profession goes to Marvin Bower, founder of  McKinsey & Company, who is considered as father of Management Consulting. He insisted on impeccable professional standards in substance, ethics, and style; that gave the credibility and an identity to the profession of consulting.

Organisations like International Coach Federation (ICF) are doing their best to make the profession of coaching to maintain it’s credibility and value in the industry through developing and enforcing code of ethics and Standards of Ethical Conduct for the community of professional coaches.

In the HBR research report on coaching, “What Can Coaches Do for You?” by Diane Coutu and Carol Kauffman,

The management guru Ram Charan says

“ The industry badly needs a leader who can define the profession, the way Marvin Bower did for management consulting.”


 

SEMAT, Essence, “being” Agile

In my previous blog on retrospective, I mentioned that this year my focus will be on some exciting developments in the field of Software Engineering. Currently, the field of software development is led by the Agile software development, It has made sufficient contribution to the whole paradigm of software development. It has made it very clear that “…the sole purpose of software development is to develop software” though it might sound like a Zen koan(1), it is explicitly stated in one of the principles in Agile Manifesto – Working software is the primary measure of progress. The shift in focus from planning, estimating, contract negotiation, hardware, technology to delivering software has made a huge difference.

“…the sole purpose of software development is to develop software”

The last couple of years I have spent studying, practicing, studying, practicing, studying …..  various agile methods and the current state of agile development, there are many new developments happening but in my view, the current challenges faced in the industry can’t be solved by the direction in which agile development is heading. Maybe it is worthwhile to pause and connect the dots with some fundamentals and then build new solutions, frameworks, and methods.

In this article, I will introduce some interesting developments that I found useful. In the later articles, I will share more details about the work we are doing at ProcessWhirl about using behavioral economics, analytics, and Lean Product Development.

SEMAT

It stands for Software Engineering Method and Theory, the initiative was launched in December 2009 by Ivar Jacobson, Bertrand Meyer, and Richard Soley with a call for action statement and a vision statement.

The purpose of SEMAT is to bring the rigor of engineering discipline back into software development. If the project involves developing a driverless car or a health monitoring systems based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) it is important that failure modes are considered as part of the design, the boundary conditions, reliability and critical to quality (CTQ) parameters.

SEMAT can help in bridging the gap between current methods and theory.

Essence

The most interesting part that caught my attention while studying SEMAT was “Essence” – it is the kernel or a foundation on top which any method or framework can be expressed. Essence aims to find the common ground across various methods. It is based on three principles. it is actionable; it is extensible, and it is practical.

Essence aims to find the common ground across various methods.

The kernel provides a simple language to express methods and practice, in line with the three principles.

“being” and Agile

This is the topic close to my heart, exploring the world of being. I’m exploring the “being” part of “being Agile”

This takes me back to study of Ontology (I have written blogs and spoken at Global Scrum Gathering and in Capability Counts conference on this topic), It is a branch of philosophy(in particular meta-physics) focusing on study and nature of ‘being’, this term is also widely used in social science, computer science /artificial intelligence, information science and in many other fields.

The term is derived from Greek words, “Onto” for existence and “logia” for study, science. The Latin derivative ontologia means the science of being.

In general, ontology focuses on nature of ‘being’. For example, let’s consider an apple. The existence of apple can be experienced by sight, touch, smell, and taste. In an apple juice, though the form is changed the existence can be experienced in the form of smell and taste. The “essence” or the being of an apple can be experienced.

In the case of living beings the concept of “being” is different, especially for human beings. Human beings have a wide range of ‘beings’ in which they express themselves. Normally they are expressed as emotions like “being happy”, “being sad”, “being angry”, “being enthusiastic” and so on. The being is not just the emotional state but it is much more than that. It is a combination of mental state (attitude and state of mind), emotional state (feelings and emotions), bodily state (body sensation), thoughts and thought process (logic and memory) in a given moment of time or in a given situation.

This also includes mind-set (frame of reference) and worldview (model of reality).

In fact, one can’t write/read about “being” then it becomes “knowing”.

Endnote

There is a work to be done to express all these ideas as well to study the existing methods and theory. The concept of common ground and Kernel is fundamental and fascinating, it helps to connect the dots with so many interesting topics.

This year also marks 50 years of Software Engineering, time to celebrate as well as take the developments further.

A proper understanding and complete knowledge will help in building effective solutions for businesses and for the society.

Finally, I will end this article with quote from Bhagavadgita(2)

” The impermanent has no reality, reality lies in the eternal. Those who have seen the boundary between these two have attained the end of all knowledge”

Further study

SEMAT

http://semat.org/

Essence

https://queue.acm.org/detail.cfm?id=2389616

(1) Zen Koan

Koans (pronounced KO-ahns) are cryptic and paradoxical questions/ridles asked by Zen teachers that defy rational answers. Teachers often present koans in formal talks, or students may be challenged to “resolve” them in their meditation practice.

The above example can be framed like “What is the purpose of developing software? “https://www.thoughtco.com/introduction-to-koans-449928

(2) Bhagavadgita – Eknath Eshwaran

Conference Slides

  1. CMMI and AGILE – Ontological Perspective – Capability Counts 2017, May 2017 VA, USA
  2. Ontological Constraints in coaching agile teams – Global Scrum Gathering, Jun 2016, Banaglore, India

 

Principles

IMG_20180421_074813.jpg

Principle is a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning. The Cambridge dictionary defines this as a  basic idea or rule that explains or controls how something happens or works. Principles are more basic than policy and objectives and are meant to govern both.

Principles help organisations and individuals in navigating in the “right” direction. They are different than values. Values are subjective whereas principles are objective. They help you to navigate towards your “ true north”.

“Rather than thinking, ‘I’m right.’ I started to ask myself, ‘How do I know I’m right?’”.

Ray Dalio says “ Principles are ways of successfully dealing with reality to get what you want out of life.”  “Rather than thinking, ‘I’m right.’ I started to ask myself, ‘How do I know I’m right?’”. Ray Dalio is no ordinary man, founder of Bridgewaters one of the most successful and largest hedge fund management company.  

He has published the principles of life and work in his book “Principles”, here is the list my favorites from his book.

  1. Trust in Truth
  2. Realize that you have nothing to fear from the truth
  3. Be extremely open
  4. Have integrity and demand it from others
  5. Be radically transparent
  6. Don’t tolerate dishonesty
  7. Create a culture in which it is OK to make mistakes but unacceptable not to identify, Analyse and learn from them
  8. Don’t worry about looking good – worry about achieving your goals.
  9. When you experience pain, remember to reflect.
  10. Teach and reinforce the merits of mistake based learning.
  11. Be assertive and open-minded at the same time.
  12. Remember that almost everything good comes from having great people operating in a great culture.
  13. Recognize that people are built differently.
  14. Hire Right, because the penalties of hiring wrong are huge.
  15. Understand the difference between managing, micromanaging, and not managing,
  16. Put things in perspective
  17. Go back before going forward.
  18. Recognize the Power of Knowing How to deal with Not Knowing.
  19. Remember that the Root cause is the reason, not the action.
  20. Understand and connect the dots.
  21. Don’t try to please everyone.

Out of the above #1 and #12 are my favorites. What principles resonate with you?

————————————————————————————————————

Here are the selected References.

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/

http://www.businessdictionary.com/

https://www.bridgewater.com/

https://www.principles.com/

Raghavendra (Raghav) Mithare is a consultant and coach at ProcessWhril Management Consulting, based in London.  (rmithare@processwhirl.com)

 

 

Why do we have brakes?

As we were stepping out after our weekly 8D* meeting, Gireesh asked me “Raghav, Tell me why do cars have brakes?”, I responded with a smile “of course to stop the car.”

Gireesh, functional specialist, manager for the verification team, smart and good people’s manager,responded back with a smile “No, we have ‘brakes’ so that we can go fast !!”. I could sense the shift in my perspective. “Is it not true that brakes help us to drive faster?”

This is one of the reasons you should put a brake to your routine and spend time for retrospection,so that you can go faster.

In this blog I will share few points on personal retrospection. The personal retrospection is effective when it spread across few sessions but it is also important that it is done with some planning.

People in the Agile Community are familiar with the doing retrospection with teams. The following points might help you in your personal retrospection.

Step 1. Preparation

Block about 1–2 hours of your time.

Decide on a place that has less distraction and comfortable to sit and contemplate.

Have all your source of information including your phone, laptop, i-pad, Notebooks etc.

Supplies — Notepad, pens, Sharpies plus pack some light snacks/coffee/tea (optional).

Step 2. Making lists

List all the major events of the year.

Write down your accomplishments.

List of your failures.

List of down your incomplete/ work in progress initiatives.

List down people who helped you in your journey.

List down people who let you down.

List down your regrets.

Revisit your goals (if you have one).

Step 3: The process

Go through your lists in the following order.

First, take the List of failures and make note of lessons for the future. If you are feeling bad about the failure, this is the time to let it go. Feel good that at least you got a chance to try many people will not get that opportunity. Finally, failures are not the end but are intermediate milestones.

Next, take the list of “incomplete/ work in progress initiatives” — go one by one and decide the next action. It can be “drop the item” or noting down the next action required or mentioning a revisit required.

Next is to look at people related lists

“List of people who helped you in your journey” — Make a plan in your calendar either to send a thank you note or small gift or time to speak etc.

Next, it is important to look at the list of “people who let you down” — In this is list if there is any unresolved issue or incomplete communication set-up a time in your diary to complete the conversation. If you don’t want to do any of these simply you can forgive and let go any negative emotions that you carry.

Take a moment to wish well for all people on your list.

Then look at your list of regrets.

As you are going through the list ask yourself these two questions

“What I could have done?” — Note down your response.

“What I can do now?” — Note down your response. If there is something you can do now then note down the action in your diary.

Then look at your previous year’s goal and assess your performance, Make notes for your planning exercise (Don’t try to do both retrospective and planning together), make a summary of your retrospection.

Celebrate

Finally look at your accomplishments. Note down the motivation and factors that helped you to achieve these objectives. Make a plan to celebrate your achievements.

Step 4: Completion

Finally take moment absorb all your experience, complete the retrospection process.

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. – Lao Tzu

Summary of my retrospection

Overall the year 2017 was good. In terms of experience it gave me lot of time to think and contemplate about my future direction. Made some good friends and connections. Read some extraordinary books !! It was a good year 2017.

Last few years I have spent enough time and money on acquiring new skills, experience and qualifications. Now it is time to put all these back into practice and help others to grow especially our team in ProcessWhirl.

I will continue to share and help people to grow. Personally, I will stop focusing more on “Agile” (not that I will stop working on any Agile assignments) but go beyond and focus on core software engineering.

I will do some research and experiments on SEMAT/Essance and also sharpen my coaching skills along with study of “Ontology” (“being”)/philosophy.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

* 8D : The eight disciplines (8D) model is a problem solving approach typically employed by quality engineers or other professionals and commonly used by the automotive industry.

Raghavendra (Raghav) Mithare, (rmithare@processwhirl.com)

Consultant and coach at ProcessWhirl based in London.

How many colors are there in the rainbow?

How many colors are there in the rainbow?

Did the number seven come to your mind?  Think again and look at the image clearly, can you see it has millions of colors? Still, If you are not convinced,  you can validate this from the data of Spectrophotometer.  

Rainbow-01

Number seven is also not totally wrong, you can call them as seven primary predominant blocks of color. The seven primary colors are RED, ORANGE, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, INDIGO, VIOLET, and from these primary colors we can create millions of colors.

But, Why did the number seven come to your mind when you think of the rainbow?

The reason is due to the working of the brain. In order to processes, large amounts of data and information the brain simplifies the input and stores them as concepts. These concepts are linked by categories and patterns (in this case Colours is a concept and the primary colors are patterns).

This complex processing can be demonstrated as below.

Slide2

Input :

Brain simplifies the representation of the complex world and stores as (mental) models

World    —————-> induction   ———-> Simplification

In the same way, the brain uses deduction to interpret the world using its models or simplifications.

Similarly, the reverse happens through deduction.

Slide3

Output:

To interpret the world the brain converts the simplifications through deduction and creates a sense of reality.  

Simplifications ———> Deduction ———-> World

Your view of the world (Simplifications) is a constructed based on the context and the mental models, beliefs, and values.

The real world (Reality) is given (it exists as it is), it is complex, uncertain, unstable, and contains a vast amount of information and data. The brain balances/limits the amount of information that it can process.

But it is important to note that, you have a sense of the reality or your interpretation of the real world. Hence two people react differently to the same situation.

So all the Models are the simplification of the real world. It is an abstraction from the past and sometimes a base to build the future.A proper structure and a language will help in developing robust models and interpretation of the real world.

UML is a good example of a notation that helped in developing models and developing software systems. The whole concepts of Object Oriented Analysis and Design is a mechanism for simplification of the real world.

This understanding of models, simplification, and deduction helps in analyzing and implementing models and framework like CMMI, Scrum, SAFe or LeSS.  The initiatives sometimes don’t yield expected results due to our inability process these models and convert them into useful practices, structures for the organization.  

This phenomenon is elegantly summarized by statistician George Box

 “Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful”.


Some interesting links

All models are wrong

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_models_are_wrong


Raghavendra (Raghav) Mithare  – rmithare@processwhirl.com