Author: Ananth Natarajan

CHOW #39– When the stakes are high

You are a senior project manager in a software start-up with around 100 engineers. The start-up has had an initial round of funding from a reputed VC. In terms of quality of work, it has been an enriching but demanding environment. Over the last two years, you have a built a reputation as a highly capable and professional manager and have responsibility for multiple projects. Your compensation has been above industry average and you have been awarded ESOP as well. One of the development projects in your care has been especially demanding and has numerous tight milestones and the...

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Leadership lessons from a warrior

I live in an apartment complex built for retired defence officers. I hear stories from them about engagements where their own life and lives of fellow men were at stake. While I could understand logically what they would have gone through, it was really difficult to relate to those stories emotionally.  All that changed recently after my wife, Rathiga, passed away after a battle with cancer. IT projects that we get stressed out about hardly involve such high stakes. However, we could learn valuable lessons from such survival battles. As I reflected on the past few months (that actually...

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CHOW #25– Difficult team member

You are coaching an agile team in India which has been practising agile for the last three releases. The team has been stable and has embraced agile with enthusiasm. Product management team is based out of the U.S. with a local product owner who worked with the team every day. Management is happy with the team’s progress and the results thus far.     The scrum master, Mary, wore a worried look on her face when you met her 1:1. She was concerned about the attitude of Vivek, a senior developer in the team – respected by the team for his technical skills. Vivek is a contractor and has been with this team for couple of years. Mary tells you, “Vivek’s enthusiasm has dropped and he picks up bare minimum work. He has told the contracting company that he would like change complaining about commute time to office. He is unhappy with not having rights to approve code baselines like permanent employees. What’s worse – he is negatively influencing some of the junior contractors and impacting their attitude. Overall Vivek’s productivity has dropped and other team members find him difficult to work with. I have spoken to him multiple times with no improvement. He is a critical technical resource and is important for this release. I don’t know what to do.” As a coach, you observe the behavior of...

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CHOW #15- “Tell them to behave” – A scrum master problem

You are a scrum master and you find that your team does not attend the daily stand-up on time and you also find that most of the team members do not update their tasks in the iteration tracker. Burn-down is never up to date. You see this as a culture issue and would like to fix it as soon as possible because the VP of the business unit from the Head Office overseas is visiting your location next week. In the stand-up, you announce the visit to the team and tell them to correct their behavior. You also tell...

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The “Mirage of mitigation” in project management

As Project Managers, we sooner or later learn the significance of managing risks in a project. We get good at identifying risks that impact project goals and figuring out mitigation/contingency actions. We plan these mitigation actions diligently and make sure that those are done. However, sometimes, we fall into a trap that I call the ‘Mirage of Mitigation’. Let me illustrate from my personal experience. Many years ago, I was leading a project to develop a marketing application for a retail bank on a mainframe. One of the requirements was that a cross-selling message be displayed on the PC...

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