Saturday, December 15, 2012

What is There in a Certification?

I have rarely applied anything in real life from what I have learned theoretically in my school or college. Rather, concepts which I found trivial and quick to learn; helped me more than hard core theories.

Like, we all know that

Impulse = Mass * (Change in Velocity)

And I learned it as a kid while going with my father to the local market. In school days, whenever I come across heavy speed breakers, I have used this principle to my advantage. I take my bi-cycle in a slightly tangential direction in place of a straight one. Or, for that matter, I have applied it while taking catches in cricket matches with lowering my hands to reduce the impulsive force of the ball. However, I have learned 18 phase inverters (do not get put off - it is a boring concept in power electronics) after two painstaking days, and I never had a chance to apply it.

Conventional education and certifications, per se, are not useful if you can not apply them in real life. I have read 48 papers in my 4 years of investment in Electronics and Communication Engineering. Though I remember some of them, they never had any practical value for me. And I doubt if it would have for anyone.

Now for professionals, the industry seeks professional certifications. And they are dime a dozen. Like in programming in Java (Sun/Oracle sells many types). In Project Management, there are many, like PMP, Prince 2, Scrum, etc.

I remember my first job interview when I appeared without any educational certificate or professional course certificate. My interviewer was furious and asked "Do you think interview is a joke?” I informed that how useless I find them and importance of myself and my knowledge in the process, rather than the printed papers. And being naive and young, I also quoted Vinoba Bhave! (He put his school and college certificates in fire). You can imagine the subsequent discussion.

However, in real world, what one should do? There will be always an HR interview and HR people are very particular about certificates.

I believe one should look for something which gives true value and enriches knowledge. Like when I tried my hand at PMP, the main goal was never to pass; rather to know the practices, methodologies as I was a newbie into management, and above all, how to apply them in my daily professional life. And in the process I learned a lot. Similarly, for Sun Java technology certification, the main goal was to learn, not because I was pressured. And for that matter while going for any certification, I look forward the same way. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

What is The Most Important Trait You Look for In a Leader?

In last six/seven months, I was forced to think on a number of things. Primarily when faced with certain challenges, you question everything about yourself and your capabilities and why people are with you or not with you. 

And they lead to a series of questions internally. I have questioned almost everyday on what is the most important trait you would look for in a human being, when you go for any truthful and sincere relationship:

- Is it honesty, integrity, truthfulness?
- Is it loyalty, faithfulness, sticking along, staying the course?
- Is it love, affection, regard?
- Is it high energy level, impulsiveness, desire?
- OR Is it any other thing?

When I asked many times, it slowly focuses on one thing, which is TRUST (or rather TRUSTWORTHINESS). TRUSTWORTHINESS is THE most important quality a human being will look for in another human being.

Why and how?

A Policeman is Trusted with a Gun:

Or for that matter, an army personnel is trusted with a rifle. If an army man walks around with a rifle in 5 star hotel crowded with affluent people or even a crowded mall, nobody turns around and questions. Why? Because, he is entrusted with the rifle and is entrusted that he will do no harm with that. That is not true for just another person.

A Hotelier is Trusted with the Food that is served:

A number of people from all walks of life walk into many hotels as they trust that the food that is served is not poisoned or at least will not do any harm while eating.

A Wife is Trusted with Keeping the Home together:

It is never the man (please forgive me here, though I belong to man species), it is the wife who keep a family together during a rough time, not the man. It is the wife who with her love, care and constant affection towards her family binds the family together. For no other reason, we say Earth as our Mother, or the country where you stay as your Motherland or the language one speaks as his/her Mother-tongue (not father-tongue!). Because, they care and they have the ability to nurture, bind all together.

A Doctor is Trusted with a Scalpel or Needle:

Nobody will allow a person to insert a needle, how much clear or sterilized it may be, to his flesh unless the person in question is a doctor. A heart patient goes to sleep peacefully thinking that the Doctor holding the scalpel will not do any harm knowingly while his heart is operated upon.

And a mother being trusted by the infant child on everything, a father being trusted about preserving the life of an infant child and so on . . .

Similarly, a Leader's no. 1 attribute will be "To be trusted by his team members". I can not think of any other term. For a team to work with a leader, it must trust its leader. Without trust also it can work by power, coercion etc., but somewhere along the way it is going to fall apart. In a highly volatile environment considering today, trust works with real people with real and sincere ambitions. If you are straight, honest and sincere - your team knows and feels it. Everyday you are on a stage and they are watching you and checking you.  

But then, trust is also very brittle. Trust which takes years to build upon, breaks in seconds when things are not done properly. Just one action (sometimes even one word), is enough to break someone’s trust. No matter how strong the trust may be and how stronger the bond that has developed due to a number of painstaking steps or actions brick by brick, it can break instantly. So trust is priceless, but has to be handled very carefully as well.

TRUST is considered to be the most important human trait, is also due to the fact that:

- It is trust that breeds loyalty, getting along with people, staying together
- It is trust that breeds fidelity, honesty, truthfulness
- It is trust that breeds love, affection, regard

In the corporate world, it is important that we trust people, but also verify them. And to certain extent, in modern days, this applies to various circles of relationships that we have. Also, in corporate world, a leader need not act omnipresent, omnipotent. People reporting to you are not fools. If there are bad news or job cuts or salary freeze to happen, be genuine and truthful with your team members. A real person will always feel if you are telling it with all sincerity. If the person does not reciprocate and sometimes that do happen, he was not be within your trust circle in anyway, in the 1st place! Also, there will be certain people who have a chronic problem of not trusting anyone. Just ignore them, they are not worth it at all. 

Finally, a number of different opinion might come, but TRUSTWORTHINESS, as a matter of fact, is the most important quality of all that you can look for in a human being in any kind of relationship.

As they say: "To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved".

In fact, I would say:

“To be trusted is actually a greater compliment than any other thing, be it about love or honesty or faithfulness or loyalty, as all of them start with Trust!”

Monday, September 24, 2012

Beating The Rain God In Bangalore

I recently concluded a session in Bangalore on Management program (PMP). It was raining heavily the second day and to my bad luck, the cab driver did not show up! What to do? My vehicle was taken up for maintenance. Commitment is a commitment and it is non-negotiable in this case. My entire team will be waiting. So be it. I took a bike (No Auto was available early morning in Bangalore either!) and in the process was drenched thoroughly. 

What made up for the frustrations was the session. The team was lively and very collaborative. It was deep into the discussion, passionately asked questions and participated. You guys made my day! Thank you!

Monday, August 20, 2012

In God's Own Country - From Kochi With Love

Landed in Kochi and of course Kerala for the 1st time. The first impression that I got about Kerala is that it is amazingly clean. I was at WIPRO campus on management system related talk. The session was full hall with around 25 participants.

As a policy, WIPRO does not allow photos inside the campus for any session. Could only take a photo from outside. The event was conducted by Wipro and Integr8IT.

Their joy knew no bounds when they did the practical part of the sessions. This city is to watch out for in future and has tremendous potential to grow.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Value of Being a PMI-PMP

We constantly get this question when we talk with any prospect and here we would like to summarize the information. 
P.S.: We constantly say that it is not important to have a degree in Engineering or Medicine, but to know and see how they can be applied in the real word. This also applies to being a PMI-PMP, you need to know how to apply them in real world and bring value to the organization in which you are working with. 

To extend the conventional wisdom of “What can not be measured, can not be improved”; we would say that “What can not be measured, can also not be planned, controlled or monitored as well”. 

1. 99.99% complete – OR –
it will take exactly 2 more days to complete the task 

How many times you have seen team members reporting in terms of % age of completion and what does not convey? In two words – “Actually Nothing.” 

But, if you say that the EV is X USD and PV is Y USD and based on the above data, we can safely say that the task will take 2 more days to complete, no one can deny the value of it. 

2. "Project A" looks good as it has endorsement from Tom Cruise – OR –
Between "Project A" and "Project B", "Project A" is good as it has a higher NPV

Well Tom Cruise may not be funding or acting in your project; rather what we meant to say that a project being selected based on a X Factor or “It” factor or the senior management is very passionate about it (a la Iridium). As we have seen in such cases the project is not exactly a success.

However, if you have clearly quantifiable data by saying that Project A has more NPV than Project – B or the BCR of Project A is more that Project – B, it is clear to identify the success of a project. 

3. A lot of Risks are there and we need to be careful – OR –
impact of X Risk on our project has 0.95 probability

How will you react when someone says that we have a lot of risks in this project as it is being developed by an international team separated by time zones, new recruits for our team, potential chances being interrupted by low funding etc. There are many risks like that and sometimes a lot of trivial risk has the possibility to derail a project. 

However, to really inform the probability and impact of a risk or to strategize for minimal risk, they have to quantified and qualified, strategically viewed for counter measures and consistently monitored. 

4. Activity A, B, C are dependent as the team members are working together
- OR –
Activity A has a F-2-S dependency with B with MFO constraint and a S-2-S dependency with C with ASAP constraint. 

Managers frequently work on triple constraints and try to maintain the symbiotic 
relationship between them. 

Here as well, when information is available in clearly quantified terms and the impact of it is well understood by the major stakeholders, the odds against a failure for the project remain very low. 

5. Project is Over Budget and we need more fund – OR –
The value of VAC and AC are these and hence we need to be more cautious in our spending

In one of my earlier blogs, we have mentioned the value of EVM, which gives the health of the project.

There are many aspects to project management, rather than just status reporting and sending FYI/FYA mails (we have seen to be used sometimes in a feverish way by many managers) to a team of developers every day or saying that the project is on track (verbally). They do not help you to know the actual status from various different dimensions for a project. 

However, PMI-PMP, as being very scientific and methodical in its approach, helps to bring the best ROI for the investment on a particular project. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Is it 6 Sigma (6σ) or 4.5 Sigma (4.5σ)?

Time and again, I have come across this question – does Six Sigma (6σ) really translate to 3.4 defects per million opportunities (DPMO)? Is there any shift which is not known to us and hence it is actually 4.5σ? We will check what it actually is and hence put it to rest. 

Whether you are following DMAIC or DMADV methodologies of Six Sigma, you have to be familiar with the below terms and gather metrics such as DPMO to calculate the final process improvement. These are addressed as part of the Critical to Quality or CTQ. Below are certain terms to have a better understanding. 

Certain Terms:
1. Defects: Anything that does not meet the customer requirement. 

2. Units: Something which is measurable by the customer. It is measurable and observable. 

3. Opportunities: Total chances of having a defect in an Unit. Like Unit, it is also measurable and observable. 

4. Total Opportunities = Total Number of Units * Opportunities 

5. Defects per Unit (DPU): Number of defect in 1 Unit

6. Defects per Opportunities (DPO): Number of defects in 1 Opportunity = Total number of Defects / Total Number of Opportunities

7. Defects per Million Opportunities (DPMO): 

= DPO * 1 million

= DPO * 1,000,000

We will take an example to understand it. 

A quality professional for web development has been assigned the work of performance improvement for a website. His job is to improve the response time of the website. Below are the identifications done by the Quality Team as part of the CTQ.

Area of Work: Web Development
Customer Voice: "I am seeing a very slow performance in the page for more than 1 mil objects in the user interface and sometimes it takes over 5 minutes." It is also known as Voice of Customer. And it is much note for any project. 

CTQ Name: Responsiveness of the web page

CTQ Measure: Time to load the page when it has 1 mil object (in seconds)

CTQ Specification: Less than 10 seconds

Defect: If the page takes more than 10 seconds to load

Unit: Every Page Hit

Opportunity: 1 per Hit. (As every page may or may not take below 10 seconds to load)

And the Quality Professional took samples for 1,000,000 = 1 million page hits. After applying the aforementioned terms of Six Sigma for DMAIC methodology, he found out that:

Defects = 3.4 

Units = 1,000,000

Opportunities = 1

Total Opportunities = 1 * 1,000,000 = 1,000,000 

Note: I have kept the sample as 1 million as it will enable a quick understanding. Also the defect is kept at 3.4 defects for a million opportunities (or DPMO) to validate the claim. 

Now, we will find out the sigma value for this activity by using NORMSINV function. One can check the NORMSINV value via a scientific calculator or on a Microsoft Excel sheet.

Process Sigma 

= NORMSINV (1 – (Total Defects/ Total Opportunities)) 

= NORMSINV (1 – 3.4/1,000,000) 

= 4.50005

= 4.5 sigma or 4.5 σ!

Yes, it is 4.5 when you put the formula for 3.4 defects per million opportunities. 
But then, the big question is - Why it is called Six Sigma (or 6 σ)?
Reason: A process in the longer run is not expected to perform at 4.5 sigma level. It means even though you make corrections, there are good chances that variations will be present in the process. Hence, seasoned professionals, while going by a methodology to implement Six Sigma (DMAIC or DMADV), generally mention that the goal is "to have long term sigma of 4.5". Now there is a gap of 1.5 and this is known as a shift, or more specifically Z-Shift. 

As a matter of fact, when Six Sigma professional state that the process is following six sigma, it actually means:

Short team capability of the process is 4.5 σ and long term capability is 6 σ. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Collaboration, Courage and Candor in Chennai

I was in Chennai for around 5 years and this is the city where I started my software career. In-spite of its shortcomings, there is a strong emotional attachment to this city and I feel it whenever I come here. 

This city loves education and is passionate about it. True to its stand, my fellow mates in the session, though initially skeptical, participated in an intense discussion on MS Project. Everyone of them came forward to work as a team doing practicals. Never felt so good! 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Japanese Terms Which Managers Need To Know!

Some of the terms which are truly interesting, applicable, and above all timeless. Though all of them are Japanese, the beauty of it is this – they are applicable to all industries and also in life. 
Below are some of the terms which I have come across while discussing with some of great managers I have come across. They are practiced by many, most notably, Toyota and have been the cornerstone for many other companies, irrespective of verticals. 

The terms are Japanese. And my experience with Japanese terms – they are broad, not narrowly defined to a particular meaning. You may find them to be used somewhere in a different context – here it is with respect to industries and day-to-day life. 

1. Doryoku:-
Visible demonstration of hard work and commitment, which is rewarded over achievement. 

The best example is of course the Baseball team of Japan, itself. They practiced long and hard, in brutal summer, each player throwing endless pitches to others, which may be meaningless or irritating to others. 

And though Baseball is not the national game of Japan, they won the fist baseball classic championship in 2006. 

2. Kaizen:-
Continuous Improvement 

I think it has been used to the hilt by many. But then, it comes up again and again! Kaizen means continuous improvement, which is done in “small measures”. The beauty is however small it is, there is an improvement and it is emphasized. 

This has been now a fundamental principle in modern Quality Management. 

3. Genchi Genbutsu:-
Go see yourself to thoroughly understand the problem – the hands-on approach. 

How many times you have come across people sitting in GM/PM/DM roles in a hi-tech company who have no idea of how technology works, forget if they written any single line of code in their life. 

I am NOT saying they need to code, but do they know the eco-system. Well, these will be first companies who will be wiped out fast in the information age. 

To understand a problem, you have to have your hands dirty. 

4. Jidoka:- 
Stop when there is a Quality Problem

As they say “Quality is always planned, designed, and built in – NEVER inspected in.”

Reason is simple, the Cost of Quality is higher when the defect is found later. Hence, the best possible strategy is to stop and check, whenever there is a quality problem. 

5. Heijunka:-
Level out the workload or schedule

In modern management, as a Project Manager, you have to look for ways to level the workload or schedule. If the load is NOT evenly balanced, there is a disaster waiting to happen. 

6. Nemawashi:-
Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options, and implement rapidly. 

I think Google will be very good example of it. There decisions are very scientifically analyzed, very patiently planned, and during execution the speed is break-neck. 

7. Hansei:- 
Let us stop and reflect. 

In Japan, parents usually tell their children “Please do the hansei”. 

In industry, it can be – let us go through the design again, let check completely the acceptance test cases so that we do not miss out any, let us review the architecture of the system again.

Reference source: The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer by Jeffrey K. Liker 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Percentage of completion - An Innovative Approach

As we have earlier discussed, it is meaningless to ask how much percentage of work is complete in your project deliverables to team members, in my earlier piece. Here is one more technique to handle it more effectively. 

1. 30-70 Rule:
It means when someone starts the work, it is 30% complete, already! Yes, when s/he starts it is 30% complete. 

The remaining 70% weight-age will be given when it is fully complete. It means if the person has done more work than 30% or less work than 30%, it is actually 30%, unless s/he completes the work. 

2. 50-50 Rule:
It means when the work is started it is 50% complete. And when it is completed, then rest 50% will be added to it. It will work with many of the employees. However, please ensure that you have mandate of your customer, senior management etc. 

3. 0-100 rule:
No weight-age will be given till it the work 100% complete. Whatever you have done, it will still be 0%, if the work is not fully complete. It will NOT work with most. However, in fixed price projects, you need a staff of performers. And I am sure they will accept it. 

Bottom line: You need to have a template for your progress reports or status reports within your company and get it verified by the major stakeholders. As I know, if the sponsors/customers are serious, they will never accept %-age of completion. The above few rules may help you in place going around and getting responses like 96% complete or 99.8% complete. It normally drives a genuine project manager crazy.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Bangalore Experience

I was the speaker on a PMP event in Bangalore, India. It was exhilarating, rewarding and also, very tiring! Team participated exceptionally well and by the end of the program, it is the team which was talking about processes, knowledge areas - Not myself!

A great team to coach and to be part of. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Seven Steps to Achieve the PMI-PMP Certification

Takeaway: Learn how to get certified with PMP. Also, in the market, there are a lot of myths running and learn what exactly is the fact.
Step – 1: Prerequisites
Minimum 3 years of unique non overlapping "Project Management Experience", in which you have spent 4,500 hours in management activities. 

For details, please visit: 

Please note that by "Project Management Experience", it does not mean you should be a Project Manager or a Product Manager or a Program Manager. If you are Lead Engineer, or a Team Lead/Project Lead/Module Lead etc. and you have done management work, you are eligible. 

Step – 2: Membership
Once you are sure of prerequisites, then go ahead. If not, please be careful. PMI does not tolerate any kind of malpractice. 

If sure, it is better to get a PMI membership. For it, you have to pay an amount to PMI. Have an account at and pay the amount.

P.S.: You may NOT be a member, but still can get PMI certified. However, if you are a member, then the overall cost is somewhat less and you also get the benefit of various journals and magazines from PMI. 

Step – 3: 35 Contract Hour Program

You need to have 35 contact hour programs to take the test in addition to the criteria in "1". This is in addition to the Project Management Experience, and is termed as Project Management Education. And this is mandatory. 

Step "1" and "3" are with respect to professionals with a Bachelor's degree or equivalent. 

Step – 4: Experience Validation
PMI validates your claim of experience and hence requires you to put the experience in detail at their website. You have to prove that you have 4500 hours of Project Management Experience. 

If it is found to be fake (they will have the contact details of your previous company, managers etc), your application is rejected. And PMI strictly follows it. 

Step – 5: After the Validation
After your experience is validated (normally within a week), you will be invited to take the exam. PMI randomly selects application for validation. If you are not selected, you will be immediately informed. 

For the final exam you have to a pay the exam fee. 

After paying, you will have an ID, which will be required to schedule via Prometric. You can schedule in advance at a Prometric center near to your locality. ( 

Ideally you should take the exam after 3/4 weeks of getting the contact program. One normally looses motivation.

Step – 6: At the Exam

You have to take a print out of the invitation for the exam and valid government issued identity proof. The exam is of 4 hours with 200 multiple choice questions. 

If you have understood the PMBOK, time is never a constraint. 

You will be notified on your pass or failure at the exam center itself by PMI. It will be reflected on your computer screen. You can take a print out of your certificate. 

The final certificate will reach at your snail mail address afterward. 

Step – 7: If you fail
You can go for another attempt and you have to pay additional fee.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

What is the Health of your Project?

Takeaway: I have seen a number of status reports in my one of my earlier organizations. And mostly it is % of completion of each feature. However, does it really convey the status? I am sure, it does not. Here, we will have a simple question to know the status of the project. 

To know the status of the project, you need to simply ask only these two:

1. What is the SPI for your project?
2. What is the CPI for your project?

If SPI and CPI are below 1.0, then the project is not in good health, i.e., not performing well. 

The calculation for these is also known as EVM, i.e, Earned Value Measurement. 

SPI: Schedule Performance Index
CPI: Cost Performance Index

To understand it, we will use a simple example. 

Example: Say you have a project, which will have to complete 6 modules. Cost of each module is $10,000. And you have to complete the project in 6 months. After 3 months, you find that 2 modules have been completed and the current cost for the project is at $35,000. Now find out the values of SV, CV, SPI, and CPI. 

Answer: We will use EVM here to calculate. 

BAC = Budget At Completion - The planned budget for the entire project 
EV = Earned Value - The value being earned by the project with the current work completed till date. 
PV = Planned Value - The expected value of work to be completed till date. 
AC = Actual Cost - The actual cost incurred for this project till date.

And all will be calculated in terms of money. This will somewhat difficult to understand initially. However, it will be clear shortly. 

These are basic EVM metrics. 

BAC = 6 modules and each of $10,000 = 6 * $10,000 = $60,000
EV = 2 modules completed = 2 * $10,000 = $20,000
PV = [(6 modules/ 6 months) * 3 months] * $10,000 = $30,000 
AC = $35,000

The performance indices are:

SPI = Schedule Performance Index = EV/PV = $20,000 / $30,000 = 2/3 = 0.667 
CPI = Cost Performance Index = EV/AC = $20,000 / $35,000 = 4/7 = 0.557


With SPI as 0.667, it means that for every 1 day effort I am getting a return of 0.667 day of work. 

With CPI as 0.557, it means that for every 1 dollar spent on the project, I am getting a return of 0.557 dollar. 

With these indices, it means that the project is under schedule and over budget. And it needs remedial actions.