#agile #coaching #change: Making a small shift

As I re-read “The Power of Habit” I recall some incidents from life:

During the 90’s and upto the mid 2000’s we were heavy Soda drinkers. Our home was stocked with a minimum of 10  liters of Soda bottles and the family raced to finish them every week. We had the fear that there won’t be any left if we did not get to the soda first.  Children would check the levels of Soda bottles first thing in the morning, because it would have been consumed after their bed time. (And probably make a mental check of consuming them when they returned from school that evening)

During one visit to Costco, I got home a case of bottled water, though we were using Brita filter to purify water. This was something new. This led to a dramatic change in our consumption of Soda. Everybody in the household held onto bottled water. Since we did not consume alcohol at home, to keep the taste buds satisfied I bought cases of Fuse for the men in the house.  This led to a dramatic decline in us buying Soda itself.  We limited Soda consumption to restaurant visits or for special occasions / or when we had friends over.   To this day, this habit has stuck.

That is when I realized that everyone wanted to eat and drink healthy, but grabbing a cold soda was easier than pouring water from the Brita filter onto a cup (and the Brita water was not cold, so they had to add ice to it – or if it was the grownups they were so lazy that they always needed someone else to get them a cup of water filled with ice). We were inserting many reasons for not drinking water. But stocking water bottles or Fuse in the fridge was the answer. Now the choice of drinking healthy was easier.

To continue the thought process and discoveries of making a small shift, during  yesterday’s meet-up I suggested we discuss the power of shifting one small habit and identifying the ripple effects and unintended consequences.

This was the first time for my team to articulate in a sequence about a habit and both members present chose to discuss their need to drink Soda.


And we detailed about the Cue, Routine, Reward and Craving.


We discovered that they have been working on changing the habit by doing the following:

1. Limit stocking at home  2.  No impulsive buys 3. Drink colorless soda 4. Drink carbonated water.  5. Focus on health 6. Get noticed by not ordering soda at restaurants.

For one of them the unintended consequences were the following:  1. Her child has reduced her consumption of Soda.  2. Proudly talks about it, and is a cheerleader to her mom.

Thus my belief that “Make one small shift and the world will realign” continues to gain momentum.


#agile #scrum Finding connections and changing a habit

During the couple of years that I was involved in efforts that needed deep involvement with CMMI and SDLC. We “had” to get our CMMI in place. During the  appraisal, though the effort was long and intensive I realized the following: If we were not able to find an artifact or a process was not completed, we could trace it back to something else, that should have happened sometime ago / or some steps ago and done by someone else!  I like  to call this phenomenon: “the thin thread that united us”.   Yes! Even in intensive processes the lines are thin, fragile, and exposed.

Isn’t it the same in Agile today?  The lines that connect us or separate us are thin, fragile.

To quote Charles Duhigg from his book “The power of habit”  – There are 4 aspects that  are needed to create a habit: A cue, A routine, A reward and A craving.

The cue is the same (initiate work).  The reward is the same (complete work). We just changed the routine. (from legacy to Agile). And to change the routine we need a new craving

We are attempting to replace the  routine that allowed us to hide behind intensive documents by open conversations and collaborative work environment.  Achieving this act seems simple on paper (or while we speak and read) but in reality we need to peel layers and layers of masks that we have accumulated over time – gathered from various aspects of our lives.

Sometimes we change our routines by making new connections, letting go of what we have currently. The cue remains. The reward remains. We just get bored of existing routine. We just changed how we get to the reward. Maybe there was new craving that gets introduced.

What is the craving in Agile that makes us create new routines? new habits?

People don’t crave for change. Or crave to be vulnerable. For many being connected is not a craving.  Neither will they buy into an artificial craving of being special to someone, or be recognized. Then what is it?

In Agile the craving is self awareness. There has to be a craving for self worth. A sense of being whole. Of feeling valuable to oneself. We need to find paths to create that craving.  That is when I feel we as Agile Coaches are not really change agents! or personal transformation agents!  We are facilitators to enable self love, self worth and self awareness. And we help identify one habit. Change its routine. Identify the ripple effects and the unintended consequences – and help individuals and teams cope with the ripple effect that one small habit change causes.

#agile #dailyhuddle #scrum: How do I listen?

After about 2 weeks into coaching and getting to know each other, my tech lead finally approached me and asked, “I know we need to listen when someone is talking. But I am not able to.  I am either ready with a solution for his problem, or ready to defend why I was not able to respond to her immediately.  My mind is ready with answers”. “How do I listen?” “What is listening in Agile?”  “What is different with listening in Agile projects than other projects?”

“Yes” I responded and we headed to Starbucks to get our lattes and have a chat. I asked “How do you listen to your children?” “No that is not the issue”, he responded. “I can’t listen at work”.  I repeated “How do you listen to your children?”. “I know what they want when they cry. I know why they come to me. I know when they cannot finish their meal or homework”.   “How did that happen?” I asked.  “Well, I care about them. I pay attention. I know even before my child gets sick, that it is coming. I know when my child is going to fall. I know their sounds. The tone of their voice.”

Me: “Well then what is different here at work?” “Do you care less?”  “What is your expectation?”

He: “No no no no.  I care deeply”. “I want to help them”. “I want us to succeed.”

Me: “Then when should you listen?”


He: “All the time. By paying attention. By seeing the pattern of how the day emerges”. “I have to understand that the team is not different than my kids!”

YES!  Listening does not happen during the daily huddle or just during a meeting. It happens all the time.  These predetermined sessions are for “data sharing” or “data gathering” of what we have listened to between the two sessions. Changes that have happened. How to reorganize our thoughts. Enable listening to certain situations more than the others. We never have a conversation to justify a predetermined thought process or to validate a decision that we have already made. To me that is a form of cheating!  That is a fake conversation. Why have a conversation if you have made the decision?

Listening happens when we are genuine. Show interest. Pay attention. And have an open mind.  A closed mind will not want to listen. It doesn’t want to be proved wrong.

#coaching Mind vs Heart – Shifting our thinking

“I do know for sure this is just peanut butter on a slice of bread. And what a lousy photograph” said the mind.

IMG_1590  “Not really” says the heart.  “It is an owl. And it is so beautiful.”  “No! I don’t see the owl. It is peanut butter. You stupid. This is just some mushy stuff!”  The mind admonishes.  The heart is hurt. It whimpers. Hides.

Until some years ago, what we thought and felt were considered two different streams. Thinking and Logic became mainstream.  Logic ruled.  We needed to measure. We needed to repeat, without much additional thinking. So came amazing processes. Evaluations. Degrees. Schools. We evolved our lives around this maze. Built communities. Civilizations. That became mainstream.

Now being mainstream is not cool anymore. Well, it was never cool. We always needed Alternates. Rebels. Misfits. We have legacy vs new processes for building software. We have traditional vs non traditional education systems. We now have traditional allopathic vs alternate holistic healing.  Logic vs Heart. Managers vs Facilitators. Hero vs Co-creating.  Isolation vs Co-existing.

“Just the mind” is gone.  It is now “mind, body and spirit”. We say that in Agile. Bring your spirit to the team. Let us co-exist. Let us co-create.

How do we shift our thinking? Where do we start?

The first act is to : PAUSE. STOP. Ask Why? Identify alternates. Understand there is a choice for everything. Every thought. Every act. Are you following the crowd? Are you doing things out of fear? Are you doing them so that you can fit in? Are you doing them because you really don’t care anymore?

These questions help to uncover so many truths, and you can do them by yourself. Maintain a diary. A journal. Sometimes just writing down events that happen are a good start. I got myself a cute pink (first pink for me) bound journal  last year to write down stuff that was happening in my life. Some were not so good events, and they hurt. But I could cry in the comfort of knowing that I was there for me. I could introspect at my pace.  When I read what I had written, I couldn’t believe that I could feel like that. Think that way.  I did not want to feel like that any more.  I did not want to be in situations like that any longer. This helped me take care of those hurtful or painful situations, one at a time. Some slow. Some fast.

Then read. Blogs. Books. Articles. Listen to podcasts. TEDTalks. Something will catch your eye. Will appeal to you deeply.  We  really do not have to shift away from our mainstream interests to understand life. I am realizing that management gurus speak what scientific gurus write about. Scientific gurus refer to spiritual gurus.  It is now a cool trend for management and spiritual gurus to hold retreats and conferences together.

WHY?  It goes back to where we started. Mind and Heart. They need each other. They should not be in conflict. They should be in harmony.  Harmony is not a middle path. Nor it is negotiated at 50-50. Nor it is balance. There is no line that unites or divides. Harmony is union. We do not seek balance in union. We seek to be complete.  So let us allow our heart to talk; and allow our minds to listen; let them be in conflict. They will find harmony.


“Yeah” said the mind.  “I see an owl and two men”. “Really” said the heart. “Just kidding” came the reply!






Enlightenment is a state of mind…

I like the way he thinks and writes. Resonates with my current state of being.

MindMedicine Blog

Enlightenment is not a ‘destination’, and it is not something that you need to ‘work’ at.

Enlightenment is our natural state of mind when we are in harmony with who we really are…

Enlightenment is our natural state of mind when we are in harmony with the present moment…

Enlightenment is our natural state of mind when we are in harmony with life and the very essence of everything that exists…

Enlightenment is a state of mind when you live in acceptance and surrender to the present moment…

Enlightenment is stepping out of thinking in the illusion of past and future, and therefore, grounding yourself in the present moment, the here and now…

Therefore enlightenment cannot be understood with words and concepts.

In order to live in a state of enlightenment you have to surrender, you have to surrender completely to the present moment…

You have to surrender no matter…

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Take a few seconds to look at the link above and read the caption! I follow Paul Salopek’s walkathon with great interest and awe. I wonder : What is he in pursuit of?  What paths is he trying to redefine or figure out. Maybe he is an old soul that has come back to complete his journey 🙂

The camel’s nose is attuned to smell water. Smell life. That is their survival kit. Their survival mechanism. They smelt the packed alfalfa grass in Paul’s luggage.  Isn’t that beautiful. I have a smile lurking as I imagine how it would have been when they felt the Camel’s breadth on their sleepy faces!

This particular photograph that he tweeted made me think of my Scrum Masters. I would love our Scrum Masters to be intuitive. Focused on survival of the team. Always going where they know the solution exists. Or where there is a reasonable cause for a problem to start.

How do you smell trouble?

By being aware:  Developing awareness of team members success factors and what pulls them down. Knowing and helping them with their constraints. Being aware of unspoken language. Understand why certain events happen. Be attuned to events and people and know “why stuff happen”. By being patient, and practicing the art of delay. By negotiating. By taking steps to have meaningful conversations.

It takes time to develop this art of sniffing trouble! Weeks. Months. Maybe years. That is why in Agile teams we like our team members to work together as much as possible. It makes it easier for problems to be sniffed out. Make them go away. Or completely start from scratch.

These practices cannot be developed overnight when one is “given the role of a Scrum Master” or “Asked to be an Agile coach”.  These are formed as part of our individual persona that has developed over the years..maybe through friendly play in the neighborhood patch, or socializing with family and friends; Or just being aware of our own needs and wants;  Else sometimes “awareness” is thrown on to you like a Tsunami crashing on your sleepy soul.

#change #leadership: Personal Mastery #sanantonio

During our Meetup session yesterday,  I mentioned to my team mates that I was reading a book, and I would not reveal the author, title or the contents but that the book discusses 5 broad principles the author had discovered; these enable transformation for a learning organization.  They had to pen down 5 important topics that they need to possess to gain expertise (transformation) in their life.

My team mates do not work in a”regular” organization.. they volunteer, are small business owners, managing life with what the universe have given that at this point of time. This are the 5 things that are relevant to Linda:


1.  Have compassion and patience:  This is a basic need. Care for others, care for yourself. Being compassionate helps with understanding what is “really happening”. This helps with not making assumptions by what we hear at face value. Helps with understanding the whole picture.

2. Ambition / Drive for success:  Always strive to be   “THAT”!!!! Ambition and passion are not the same. But Ambition and passion must go together for success.

3.  Passion / Love for what you do:  Passion needs to be FED. Else it gets complacent. Don’t put your passion in the closet.  FEED passion through  continuing what you do, Learning, Doing all you can.

4.  Honesty / Integrity:  Build trust. No one will be involved with you if you are not honest.  (She doesn’t use Monsato products because they are not honest)

5. Knowledge / Research: Back up what you say. No hollow words.

I then showed them the 5th discipline and said if only they had more awareness of what is being discussed in corporate board rooms,  amidst educated and like minded people their vocabulary would have more clarity. Now Linda is probably not YET the type of management guru that you would invite into your boardrooms. But that does not make her less wise does it? Or less passionate about what she is doing right now. She accepted and lived her decisions whole heartedly, and is still discovering her life’s goal and determined to discover her “reason for being here”.

At 60, she is striving to find her purpose.  Way to go Linda and let good luck follow you