Visibility in Scrum

Last week couple of carpenters were working at my house. I was keenly observing their actions. There were five carpenters. The work was uninterrupted and everyone worked together to build wonderful interiors for the house. The head carpenter was mostly involved in understanding the requirements of the customer and help the team to plan. He along with the other carpenter did the measurement and got into action quickly. It was often iterative. Adapted to changes. They were truly agile. Rework was almost nil. It almost looked like a software project for me.

Everyone knew everything. Their flow goes something like this. One fellow cuts the plywood, two of them put it on a table and apply the gum and stick the laminates. The guy who was cutting the plywood joins these folks as soon as he was done. What I was observing was the sequence, the involvement of everyone and distribution of tasks. Carpenters jumping from one task to other without anyone asking them, help each other when there was a need. It was flawless.

As I work as a scrum master at work, I was thinking this is the perfect scrum team. The work should go as smooth as possible. And trying to learn some lessons from these folks. What we can learn from carpentry and carpenters to adapt in software development was my question in my mind. How could their work be so smooth but why do we (software engineers) struggle to complete a project? I know it is naive to compare software development to carpentry however carpentry is also a creation. It also starts with ideation and ends with implementation. I am trying to summarize some of the key observations from last week in this blog.

What needs to be done should be visible: Requirements come through backlog items to scrum teams. Quite often they would not be clear, this is the common situation in software development. Of course, we have design phase however if scrum members can imagine or can visualise what they need to do from a BLI would be of great input. This drives them and also makes it easier. We need to make our backlogs more descriptive, more informative and more intuitive.

What is next?: Carpenters used to switch the tasks so easily. Once they were done with one compartment they used to go to the next one. They switched between the tasks quickly. What I learned from this is they knew what is next. In software development, a few times we are clueless about future. It is important for the scrum team to know the next BLI or the task. This will certainly help the team to perform better.

Blockers should be highly visible: When someone is stuck other carpenter helped him in no time. So they progressed quickly. Though we have scrum meetings every day some of the blockers go unnoticed. Mostly because we don’t make them visible to everyone. It is highly important to make these blockers visible to the entire team. Make more noise about it. It helps.

Need help? ask for it. Soon the better: One evening a carpenter was struggling to fit the basket, he tried for a couple of times. He failed. He quickly called the other carpenter who was fitting the hinges and together fitted the basket in no time. Quite often we keep trying for something and spends a lot of time on it. It is always a good practice when it does not work for some tries it is better to seek help from peers. Quicker the better.

The customer availability matters: Whenever I was at home. They said it was quick for them to move ahead. When they had questions I quickly clarified them. Cleared their doubts. Asked them for suggestions. And made decision fastly. It is always important we have customers or product owners available all the time to answer team members questions or clear the confusion. How quick this is done will improve the progress of the project.

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Simple takeaways from experiences

Today, woke up little late as it is Saturday. Normally we go for cycling on Saturdays. Our cycling group is not as active as before hence I didn’t see much motivation to wake up and go for cycling all alone. After some time I made up my mind to go for a walk in the nearby park. As I had a meeting with my mentee at 9 AM, headed to a local cafe had two crispy idlies and a half glass of hot filter coffee and went for a walk in the park at 8 AM.  I am helping one rural student in his communication and to improve his confidence. He is the first person to get a degree in his entire family and belongs to the first generation to go to school. As a mentor, I meet him every Saturday morning at a park near my house and talk to him for an hour. As much as he learns from me, I learn equally from him.   Have been interacting with many rural students since a few years, the biggest challenge I see is their motivation level. Many of them think they are not smart, they can not speak English, they don’t look good, they are less than their friends, they can not clear their job interviews(because they had failed in few) and they feel inferior by comparing to many people around them.

That is one part of the story. I work in a software firm. Even here, with the best jobs on this planet, we see people with no motivation. we complain we hold grudges, we either feel superior or inferior, we are busy proving someone else wrong many times and pass on the problems. There is a common thing in both sets of people.

Today, I had my second meeting with my new mentee. My mentee was sad that some of his friends have told him that he looks ugly. Along with it, we discussed some challenges and watched a Ted talk by Richard Turere and dispersed. While coming back home, I was thinking why do people feel inferior, why do some people insult others, why do people feel insecure, why do some people act silly.

Some thoughts popped up from my mind. I try to give a shape to those thoughts here in few lines. I strongly believe that human being is an experiential animal. He is because of his past experiences. So, went on thinking and connecting the dots. How did experiences shape me? Did they really help me? Am I what I am today because of experiences? So, questionnaire continued. Took my phone and called up my friend Omprakash and told about my new finding. Our debate went on for a while. The question raised was how to gain this experience? What should we do to become more of us? Interesting, isn’t it? There are many ways to improve our experiences, I try to list a few.

Meet new people

At least once in a week meet a new person. Talk,  listen, observe, Debate and learn from the new person. Remember to be an open minded person when you meet a new person. Prejudices do not help us.

Read a book

If you are a book lover, fantastic! Books are great means of widening our experiences. They provoke and chuckle with our thoughts. Over years the books we read start giving us more perspectives about every situation.


There are a lot of books, blogs, and stories about travel. Yes, this is one thing which broadens our experiences. Take sometime travel to the new place. Travel need not be to a far off place it can be any place around you. Make an effort to know the significance of the place and any historical significance will definitely add value.

Break the routine

The modern world is built on routine. Often do something apart from your daily core. Go watch a play, attend a music concert, visit an art gallery, visit a nearby park, do whatever you want. Break the routine 🙂


We always see the return on investment(ROI) for everything. Volunteering helps us to see the world in a better manner. We start feeling positive and happy for it. try it!

This list can go on. These are very few as of now in my mind. Readers may think of much more. Feel free to put them in the comments section.  Ask this question. Am I what I am today because of experiences?

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People influence your life

It’s been a long time I had written on my blog. I was down with fever for a couple of weeks and could not come up with something creative since few weeks. I am writing a blog post on primary education; before I complete that I thought of sharing this wonderful story with all of you.

It’s really cold in Bangalore. On Sundays, our swimming sessions are only at morning 6. I was reluctant to go to swimming today. I thought of sleeping for some more time. Got up early; so walked till the swimming pool so that my body would be warmed up. The swimming pool is just 10 minutes walk from my house. I reached before 6 AM itself.  I was still reluctant to get into the swimming pool. There were only three people in the pool. I was thinking, thinking and thinking. Looking at the mirror, was inhaling and exhaling and was checking the size of my tummy while inhaling and exhaling. I was not willing to get into the pool.

Almost 5 minutes later, An uncle(he must be more than 50 in age) came to the dressing room. I said Namaskara uncle. He said namaskara. I told him it’s so difficult to get into the pool today.

He smiled and said it’s joy! After every 2 or 3 laps, he used to ask me are you not enjoying? Isn’t it joy?

The word ‘joy’ completely transformed my morning. I can quote few such examples. What I learn from this kind of situations or stories from my life is, people have the ability to influence us. The power of positive people is huge. Their impact on us would be much more than what we really think of. Surround yourself with positive people.

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How to pluck coconuts?

Reducing weight or burning body fat is a common goal for people everywhere. I am one of them. Our kick boxing trainer Navin tells me some of the wonderful stories about people, how they missed their training sessions and reasons for their absence. Very few come for muscle training and most just want to lose the weight/fat accumulated over years as quickly as possible. As we get talking after our sessions, I have been privy to some hilarious incidents that he has witnessed. I sometimes think that he tries to motivate me with those stories.


Everyone wants to burn their fat in a month or three, while it has been accumulating for more than five years. A poor trainer gives you a diet chart and instructs you to do all fat burning and cardio exercises. A very few sustain this for three months and further. Most quit in a month or so.

Does this story end only in gym or yoga or fitness studio? This lack of perseverance and dedication. No, it is everywhere. I was reading this wonderful short story. Thought of sharing this with you.

It’s an old story about two Greek islanders vying to become the strongest man on the island.

The first trainee brings a newborn calf. The second trainee laughed at him. How could a calf help him train? But every day the first trainee lifted it. Every day the calf got a little bigger and heavier but he could still lift it because it was only a little bit heavier than the previous day. After a year the first trainee saw the calf was now a bull but he could still lift it. Meanwhile the second trainee has been trying to lift a bull since the beginning. And quite predictably failing every day.

There is something similar to this, that my grandfather had once told me.

Ours is an agricultural family. We have a coconut farm. Coconut saplings take 5 to 7 years to yield coconuts and they grow very tall. The tallest trees we have are more than 50 feet. When my grandfather was a kid, they were growing ragi (finger millet) mainly. Later they started planting coconut trees, now most of the agricultural land is covered with coconut trees. We use a bamboo pole tied with a sharp semicircular hard iron sickle (Kudlu in Kannada) to pluck coconuts. One end of the bamboo is tied with sickle and the other side is held in hand. Coconuts are chosen and are then cut from the tree by pulling down the sickle on them. Size of the bamboo pole increases as the tree grows. It’s easy to pluck when the tree is small. As the tree grows it will be very difficult to balance the bamboo.

Not everyone can pluck coconuts from the tall trees today. I cannot pluck coconuts from any tree taller than 20 feet. When I was a kid, I had asked my grandfather as to why almost anyone from his generation could balance the bamboo with such finesse and pluck coconuts as if it wasn’t as difficult as it is, but a few from my father’s generation and none from my generation can. His answer was very simple. They saw the coconuts for the first time. They planted them and as they grew gradually, they took care of them. They grew a little taller every day. They used longer bamboos when they couldn’t reach the coconuts. They did not realize the growth of the trees each day. They started with a 5 feet tall tree, from which coconuts could be plucked by hand. Then at 10 feet, they used a smaller bamboo. At twenty feet, used a little longer bamboo. At forty feet they used a very long bamboo. But if they had tried to use a fifty feet long bamboo to pluck a coconut for the first time, it would’ve been almost impossible. They had to grow with coconut tree.


I never understood this incident till I read the Greek islanders’ story. Both stories give the same message. Everything in life takes time. Be it an hobby, a business, studies, nurturing a thought and anything else, needs ample amount of time to find something meaningful. We are living in highly competitive societies, where everybody wants to be the first person to grab the opportunity. But if you look closely, most of the achievers (sports, music, arts, business, academics etc.). They have all have the same common trait – perseverance.

We have too many distractions today. Identify what you really want to pursue. It can change over a time which is fine. Let’s say you want to run 10k marathon in 2016. You may want to do something else in 2018. It is perfectly fine. We all change over time. So if you want to run 10k Marathon by end of 2016. Plan for it, start with three kilo meters and slowly increase 100 meters a week. And see the change! The only formula for achieving what we want is we should grow with what we want to achieve. Incremental efforts towards an aim makes success seem more reachable.

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Failing is better than fear of failure

On a normal day at office, I told my friend and colleague Swarna that I kind of have the fear of losing a job. Swarna smiled at me and said that I was the most confident person she had ever seen in the company and I am the one having these fears. Then I told her I often got that feeling. She somewhat understood my state of mind and answered that even she got that feeling quite often. She presumed that most of our colleagues had this fear too. When I spoke to couple of my friends the truth is many have this fear. We went on discussing why is that fear in us? Most of the people have studied really well. They were toppers in their schools and colleges. They have been doing really well in corporate world but still we have a little fear inside our stomach!

After few days of above discussion, our house owner came to meet me. He stays in ground floor and we stay in first floor. His wife and kid were not in town. He got bored of watching tv and came up to talk to me. He looked at my personal library and exclaimed, “Oh you read so much? Are these your college or work related books?” I told, “No, none of them are related to my work or education. I just read it for time pass”, to which he replied, “I was not able to study so I discontinued my education and came to Bangalore”. He still had that astonishment how a person can read these many books.


Our conversation started.  He started with his education. He had completed his tenth class and did his Industrial training. Soon after his 2 year industrial training he came to Bangalore. He was not interested in studies and did not want to study, which was his motivation in coming to Bangalore.  At the age of 18, he came to Silicon Valley of India. Bangalore was not actually Silicon Valley when he came. He had no clue what to do when he landed up here. He did not even inform his parents about it. He had few relatives who assured him some help but did not help him when he was in Bangalore. After some days, he managed to find a job. The employer gave him accommodation, food and some money with which he could only watch couple of movies in a month. He had joined as a sales man in that company. That company sold kitchen utensils. They bought it in bulk from a supplier in Mumbai and sold these in Karnataka. He used to go from door to door and sell these articles. He did this for 4 and half years.  One day he got frustrated with the work and he decided to quit the job. He did quit the job and asked for some money from his employer. Employer did not even give bus fare to his village near Hassan. He managed to go to his village. He was in his village after four and a half years. His parents were happy to receive him.

He took bath and told them that he was visiting Dharmasthala and just made a visit here. His mother prepared a good lunch and he enjoyed a wonderful lunch after many years. He asked his father some money. His father told, “We thought you only would give us money because you were earning for all these years”. He repeated his entire story, took three thousand rupees, and came back to Bangalore.

From that three thousand he bought kitchen utensils and went to Kolar to sell them. He went door to door and sold them. He made five thousand rupees. He came back to Bangalore, bought materials for five thousand rupees, and went back to Kolar. He made eight thousand rupees. Soon after six months, he had rented a small space in Bangalore and had three more sales people.  After a year, he had eight sales people working for him. He was managing buying and distributing. After some days, there was a small rift between him and one of the sales person. He was unhappy and managed to brainwash other seven sales people. One fine day all eight sales people left his small company. He was really shocked and depressed. He was not getting sleep for some days. He sold off the materials in his godown by himself. He has travelled to almost all parts of Karnataka to clear his godown.  He was clueless for next 3 months. He thought of doing some other business. Moreover, he did not know anything apart from selling kitchen utensils.

Again, he hired four sales people and started the same utensils business. This time he applied the lessons he had learnt from his previous experience. His small company grew from four sales people to 50-employee Company in 3 years. He made enough money to buy his own space in Bangalore and built the house I am currently living in. He had bought enough property in Hassan and his village. He made enough money for his lifetime.

After few more years, again he got a setback. As many utensil providers went online. His business went down; it was on the verge of loss. This time he made a conscious decision of closing the business. He is 33 years now and fearless! He is planning for another venture in Hassan now.

I tried to think about him when Swarna told about fear of failure. Chandru, my house owner has failed many times. He has no fear of failure and many of us who have never failed have fear of failure. I think it will be there until we fail.

When I hear news that a few students have committed suicide just because they have failed in their exams I feel very sad for them. Our education system does not teach us the philosophy of life. It is okay to fail. If you fail early, you can learn lessons early in life. If we want to be strong, it is better to fail early.

I request you to share this story with your friends and relatives. If they have failed, console them. It is normal to fail in exams and it is good to fail early. Please do not humiliate them.


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Name and Identity

Last Sunday I had been to the hostel where I had stayed during my engineering. It was an annual fest. This time I was asked to be on stage with all the experienced trustees and honorable chief guest. I was representing alumni association of my hostel. I am one the core committee members of alumni association. Many thoughts were rushing through my mind. It has been 8 long years since I left this place. Eight years ago, I was leading this annual fest as a student.

I was remembering the fights, laughs, an accident, fund collection and so many other memories. These fests actually gave me some of the leadership, communication, networking and persuasive skills. These fests kept me awake until mid-night. These fests gave me a bunch of good friends. These fests gave me the fame in hostels and colleges! I learnt so many life skills through these events and fests.

Some of the incidents were significant. They create a mark in our life. While I was sitting on the stage looking at the students one of the incident moved me a little. I thought I should share that incident with all of you and write about its importance.

The inaugural program had to start at 10 30 AM. We had two guests to the program. It was almost 10:20 AM. One of the guest had not yet arrived. All the trustees and other guest were in president’s chamber. I was coordinating between president’s chamber and stage. Meanwhile I was preparing for my welcome speech. Our president asked me, where is the second guest? I said I had called him an hour ago, he had told me that he will be on time. He asked me, could you please call him up again and check the status. I took up the phone on his table and rang his number. It was that old landline. The mobile calls were too costly. Phones were connected. Hello Sir, One of the RBDGTC hostel student is speaking here. Where exactly are you sir? He answered; I am in the corner of the road I will be there in 2 minutes. He was on time. As soon as I kept the phone, I informed few friends to come to president’s chamber to receive dignitaries.

It’s just 50 meters walk to the stage. At 10 30 AM, I requested everyone to join our student’s welcome committee. The girls who came to delegate the guests were dressed up in sarees and they were looking amazing. Guests were in the front and trustees in the middle and president took the last line that day. I was accompanying our hostel president. He is a retired Director General Police (DGP) of Karnataka, An Indian State. As soon as the guests, trustees walked out of the room, he held my left hand and pulled me towards him. In a low tone, he asked me. Do you have a name? Yes Sir, I do. How long will you be in a shadow of your father or your college or your hostel? I was puzzled. He continued, when you call a person you should tell your name first. However, you introduced yourself, as you are one of the student. I did not like it. You should build your own identity and you should come out of any such shadows. I nodded silently.

I had interacted with him many times for many reasons, he had corrected me many times when I was wrong and appreciated me in front of everyone many times.  This incident made me think about it. It is so important to tell the world our name proudly. That carries an identity. I made it point to tell my name with full energy from that day. As soon as I start a fresh conversation I make sure I introduce about myself with proudness. I observe many of my friends forget to introduce themselves. we often demean ourselves. We really love when our name is called right, Don’t we? It is sweet for ourselves at least. So next time tell your name with profoundness, don’t be shy to tell your name. It carries you, you should be proud about it. If not you, who else?

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