Letter from Managing Director, PMI India   |   Download a PDF version     

Developing an Agile Community of Practice
— Rahul Sudame, agile program manager, Persistent Systems

Rahul Sudame made a presentation on his experience of setting up a Community of Practice (CoP) around agile approaches to project management in his organization. He called it a great way to bring together people in an organization who wanted to share their knowledge and experiences of practicing agile approaches to project management.

But before deciding on whether to adopt the CoP or Center of Excellence (CoE) approach, he advised practitioners to consider the objectives behind the move. Service organizations are known to have CoEs to develop capabilities; a CoP, on the hand, is a “coming together of like-minded people.”

In Mr. Sudame’s organization. the CoP has a core group and volunteers to get together on this platform to advocate and advance the use of agile approaches to project management. Some special features are a portal in which members share their ideas, suggestions and queries; a repository of standards, guidelines and other resources; and templates to track project status.

Holistic Management of Project
— Sanyukta Sinha, senior subsidiary product manager, Microsoft India

Calling for a holistic management of projects with the combination of the latest software tools, Sanyukta Sinha cautioned project managers about the information overload which came with responsibilities and risks.

“Long project cycles are the things of the past. Now while launching a new project, we are also launching its update,” she said and added, “Communication is not only on email and phone, now it is social collaboration. It is traditional workplace versus tele-community.” She pointed out that technology was changing lives to the extent that there was no need to go to office.

She added that one of the challenges was to handle the information overload, which was wasting 25 percent of the time of employees, calling for a proper objective judgement.

“The tools for holistic management of a project are time management, demand management, program management, and business intelligence,” she said, adding that Project and Profile Management (PPM) on the Cloud helped project management. She also stressed on innovation, alignment, and execution while implementing a project to achieve better results.

Treat an Employee like a Customer
— Vishwanath Joshi, practice head, Great Place to Work India

It is important to develop and improve relations among team members, and consider feelings as data, said Vishwanath Joshi.

He said that a Chief Executive Officer was also a Chief Experience Officer, willing to provide great experiences to his people. “Trust is a key driver, a mere pat on the back is not enough,” he said, recalling an incident in which he was talking to a person whose boss patted him on the back and said he had done a great job. When Mr. Joshi congratulated the person, the latter said he suspected what was coming, indicating that the pat on the back was a precursor to a heavy workload. This he said showed how the development of trust was essential between the manager and the junior.

He said that people were asking for credibility, respect, fairness, pride, and camaraderie at the workplace. It is time that line manager learned how to manage people and not just projects.

Mr. Joshi cited several examples of experiments done by organizations to provide employees a unique experience, which went into making it a great place to work. Like having a “no mail day” every week to encourage face-to-face discussions; involving families of employees in ‘Hum Saath Hein’ gatherings; one-to-one talks called ‘Aur Sunao’ in which employees are encouraged to talk and not just listen to the senior; and a bank’s ‘8 is too late’ initiative to make the staff (which worked after office hours) to finish early.

He emphasized the need to build a culture of performance, collaborative work environment, and improve customer experience.

Focus on Behavioral Aspects
— Mandaar Pande, global practice head, WIPRO

Citing behavioral aspects of project management to be as important as its technical aspects, Mandaar Pande said that the most important aspect was the behavioral mindset of the project manager. He emphasized on having a digital mindset for project managers, and defined digital mindset characteristics as design thinking and learning agility.

“The factors influencing today’s business landscape are globalization, flatter/leaner organizations, technology, innovation, restructuring, and market disruptions,” he said, urging project managers to be keep pace with the fast changingworld.

Citing several examples, including Uber, Alibaba, and Google, he pointed out that Uber was operating the largest taxi service without owning one; Alibaba was the world’s most valuable retailer without inventory; and Google was the largest software vendor without writing it. He said that going digital had become a lifestyle and had not remained just technology.

He called for inculcating the ability to work with different kinds of people, getting feedback, adapting a human centered approach, and examine desirability, viability, and feasibility.

Focus on Behavioral Aspects
— Ranjan Banerjee, dean, S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research

Project teams today stretch beyond a department or function, involving working with people over which the manager may not have power. So the question arises: how does one exert influence without power? One way to do it is by developing a strong understanding of why humans behave and respond in a particular way and not another.

Over the next 45 minutes, Dr. Banerjee used several examples of marketing offers that applied behavioral economics for better outcomes. Through a number of such examples, he established why customers respond better to one offer and not another, when in actual terms both offers were similar. In all these instances, marketers effectively used human psychology to get a favorable response.

Some key learnings from the engaging session were: change your attitude from problem orientation to solution orientation, change your mindset from a “judger” to a “learner” (where you don’t judge others for a problem but look for learnings in it), and when creativity and execution come together, we can create magic in a project.

Overcome ‘Sab Chalta Hai’ attitude
— Satish Modh, director, Vivekanand Institute of Management, and former chairperson, Aeronautical Society of India

Taking a holistic view of keeping our country united as there were vested interests trying to exploit its diversities like caste, religion, religion, language, etc. Satish Modh urged delegates to overcome the ‘Sab Chalta Hai’ attitude, to create a united and developed India.

“We need two abilities for a leader: handling contradictions and conflicts which a leader must understand and solve; and the other is managing uncertainties, because the world is changing,” he said, pointing out that in absence of these qualities in a leader, there emerges an informal leader in the team, who becomes popular in the team. He urged delegates to discover their true nature and self-motivate to become better managers.

He stressed the need to share the vision with the team and motivate all those involved in the project not just to be better in their jobs, but also inculcate good values of life. “Design the process and then evolve the strategy, structure,” he said and added, “The core team has to sit together, find experts and solve issues.”

Design Thinking
— Suranjan Das, professor, S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research

Design thinking is an innovative method of problem solving that has created a buzz everywhere. Suranjan Das took delegates through the basic ideas behind design thinking and where it is used. “Design thinking uses insights from information, and not just the information, to solve a problem. It is about thinking about the process through which a product comes together,” explained Prof. Das.

An example of design thinking: many poor children in Mumbai go to bed hungry every night and a lot of food that goes into people’s tiffin-boxes go waste every day. Now a new initiative has been introduced through Mumbai Dabbawallah by which people who do not finish their lunch can put a ‘share’ sticker on the tiffin-box and that leftover food can then be fed to poor children. This is design thinking at work.

Prof. Das and his team from the institute gave the delegates a contest to further explain the concepts.

Innovation through Project-based Learning
— Anuja Agarwal, associate dean, Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management and Engineering

Design thinking can be used effectively to learn concepts taught in the classroom and foster creative thinking to solve common problems. Anuja Agarwal explained how students at her institute came up with innovative ideas in a project-based module on smart cities.

The business case was to create a city in which students would like to live in. Inspiration came from the idea of building a futuristic city. A multi-disciplinary team used analytical and design thinking to come up with a solution that was new, had a clear purpose, and was impactful, feasible, and sustainable.

In this module, students were encouraged to develop concepts and prototypes for smart cities around urban design, utilities, housing, mobility, and technology. For example, to design a smart mobility prototype, students used design thinking to identify the core challenges around mobility, developed a set of key performance indicators for an ideal transport system, and identified the gaps in thecurrent system. Some ideas generated were driverless cars, electric bicycles, and speedy mass rapid transport.

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