Monday, August 17, 2020

Sunday, June 21, 2020

10 Negotiation Techniques for your daily life

5:11:00 PM

Negotiation is an integral part of one’s life, whether one realizes it or not, you need to negotiate in professional as well as in personal life. Last week I published a book called UN-WEDDING on handling court and personal life during divorce. There is a whole chapter on negotiation and what strategies were practically used

This triggered me to write this post on certain aspects of negotiation which could help you in your professional life


1.Be clear on your negotiation goals

Understand what is your ultimate goal for the negotiation. For example, if you are looking for a change in role at your workplace and want to negotiate it with your boss, be clear on why you want the change and whether the change in role is what you really want. Once you are clear on this, you will be in a better position to trade, which we will discuss a little later


2. Understand the other party’s goal 

Try to put yourself in the other party’s shoes and think through the situation from their point of view. Understanding this is critical, as this will elevate your understanding on why the other party is coming to the negotiating table and what their perceptions & beliefs are

In the earlier example, think through what the implications of your role change would be for your boss. Is it going to put him at an advantage or is it going to be a set back for him? If it is the latter, understanding this can help you think of solutions where you can guide him towards handling the setback. He probably isn’t worried about your role change but is worried on who can fill your shoes. So that’s where you could focus on in helping him find solutions


3. What is your BATNA

BATNA is the acronym for Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. What this means is, suppose your negotiation fails, then what alternative are you left with? Is that alternative a good enough one to live with or will this alternative be worse off?

If your BATNA is the former, then you may have a higher ground on the negotiating table, as you can walk away from the negotiating table, if the negotiation isn’t meeting your goals


4. Understand the other party’s BATNA

The key to negotiation is to understand the other party as much as you understand your own stance. Do the groundwork to understand what could be the other party’s BATNA. This knowledge will help you assess how much of a leverage you have


5. What is your reservation price?

Reservation price is the least price point at which you will accept the negotiated agreement. Anything below that, you may walk off. Understanding this will help you see how much leg room you have in the negotiation and what anchor price (more on that later) you may want to anchor on. If you are a buyer, your reservation price would be the maximum price at which you would be ready to buy; if you are a seller, then the reservation price is the least price at which you are ready to sell

In the previous example, the reservation price for the employee could be; “I’ll do the current role for another 3 months by which time a replacement should be found - anything beyond this time frame is unacceptable”


6. What is ZOPA

ZOPA stands for Zone Of Possible Agreement. This is the zone of common ground that both parties may have to reach an agreement. This common ground is only possible if there is an overlap between the  reservation price of both parties​


7. Anchor price

Anchor price is the price point around which the negotiation will usually revolve. For example if you want to buy an item for Rs. 100,000/- and you are aware that the seller wants to sell it for Rs. 150,000/-. If you first quote a price, of say Rs. 90,000/- the chances are the seller will get anchored to Rs. 90,000/- and would be negotiating to raise the price from Rs. 90,000/- upwards

On the other hand, if the seller quotes the price first as Rs. 170,000/-, you may get anchored to Rs. 170,000/- and would be trying to bring it down from that level

When you walk into a negotiation and if you are aware of the market value or what the other party would quote, then you can anchor the negotiation to a price of your benefit


8. Trading things of unequal value

Once you have worked on the above points, you are better informed on your levers & what works for you. This would prevent you from making an emotional decision and regretting  later

The next exercise for you is to find those that the other party values more which doesn’t have as much of a value to you. Trading them off will get you to reach an agreement without compromising on your objectives

For example, in our earlier example, you may want the change in role because the current role needs you to maintain strict login timing. While this could be a company rule, your manager may be ready to relax this for you, as what could be important for him could be to get things done rather than the punch-in & punch-out timing. So here you obtained the needed freedom, while your manager could continue keeping his star employee and get the work done


9. Framing

Framing is how you put your sentence through to the other party such that the choice that you offer is inviting. Research has shown that the way we frame a sentence can influence the other person's risk appetite i.e. when a positive choice is given, people tend to become risk averse

For example, if people are given a choice of two options, where-in in one, you are given Rs. 1000/- but there is a probability of losing Rs. 750/- and in the other option, you are given Rs. 1000/- but you are guaranteed that you can keep Rs. 250/- (positive choice), most tend to choose the second option, although numerically both options are the same!


10. Incremental asks

Now that you understand all the above nine tools, while negotiating it is wise to keep in mind to have incremental asks wherever possible rather than demanding for the sky and collapsing the deal. Incremental asks works when you have long negotiations or when your relationship with the negotiator spans across a longer time-frame, where you can reach a milestone and then ask for more. A good example of this could be salary hikes, where the employee can take up higher responsibilities, prove his/her work and then ask for a raise

While negotiation is a vast subject, the above 10 are ready to use techniques which you can use in your daily life

If this article interests you, you could read a few books on negotiations. I recommend Getting More by Stuart Diamond, Negotiating for Success by George Siedel and Never split the difference by Chriss Voss as good reads. You could also read my latest book UN-WEDDING on how some of these techniques were used in real life


If you like this article, do comment & share it. If you want me to dive into other aspects on negotiations, do leave a comment


Monday, March 23, 2020

How to manage teams remotely

12:45:00 AM


With the whole world coming to a standstill due to corona, many responsible organisations have declared work from home for their employees. Unlike the challenge of managing projects across geography, this situation is unique, where each team member is working remotely from their homes and each of them would have their own challenges and distractions. If you are a project manager or a program manager, here are some tips on how you can manage your project’s remotely



1. Setup a recurring online standup meeting. This could be the same as what you used to do in office, except that people are joining remotely and your standup time may go a little longer than earlier. Initially you could have one in the morning and another at the end of day, to assess the progress. You may need the two standup, at least initially, unless your team members are used to regular WFH. Google hangout is a useful tool to collaborate

2. Have clear communications, by that I mean, have clearly defined tasks, owners with planned completion time. If a task needs more than one person to collaborate, identify an owner, who will tie-up the loose ends. You will not be able to individually track everything. List the tasks in a google sheets or any tool where people can collaborate

3. Create a virtual room like a hangout meeting, the same link that you used for standup, and let that be active throughout the day. So the hangout link becomes like the virtual room where all of you are present and any random communication is shared osmotically to everyone else. If multiple people needs to discuss on diverse topics simultaneously, they could create another link, finish the discussion and come back to this link. Just like how you physically go to a meeting room, finish the discussion and come back to your place

4. Use communication tools such as Slack, Hangout group, WhatsApp group for cross team communication. You may have two types of communication, one as information for others, the other as specific communication or action item. For the latter, ensure you tag those who need to take action

5. Share everyone’s contact numbers in a common location. Not having this will be a productivity killer. With people working from home, they are open to many distractions and when one team member pings for an info and doesn’t get a response, they should be oriented to call up and check, rather than wait indefinitely losing precious time

6. Ensure business continuity i.e. if you are in that part of the world, where you have power shut downs, invest in a UPS which can take the light load of the router, so that you are continuously connected to your VPN

7. Have a specific place at home where you would work everyday. This will help you mentally to switch on and off, just like office space and home space

8. Take planned breaks and encourage your team members to also take planned breaks. Have specific lunch break timings and end of work timing. The major problem with WFH is indiscipline, we get so much flexibility that we may take fewer breaks or more breaks and have calls planned even during late in the night. Initially it may look productive however eventually you and your team members will burn out and you would start losing productivity


These are just a few points that would help you and your teams to work more productivity considering the prolonged WFH. If you have any more suggestions, do add them in the comments for the benefit of others

Monday, January 29, 2018

9 steps on how to transition a multisite organisation to Agile

10:33:00 PM


Here are 9 steps on how to transition a multisite organisation to agile development


Feeling lazy? watch the below 5 min video, rather than reading




1. Identify Agile coaches for each of the deployment centres
They are going to be the torch bearers of Agile, who will train, coach & be the eyes and ears for your Agile deployment. Pick your Agile coaches who have hands-on experience on what you are developing, who understand the local dynamics of the organisation & most importantly those who can influence their peers

2. Understand the existence of Cross Cultural differences
It may be subtle or more prominent but it is something that you should take care off. Cross cultural differences could be in terms of leadership styles, where some center’s maybe used to only command & control style; if so, you will need to put in more work in allaying the leadership concerns in these sites. Further you need to look for the underlying ‘politics’, within and between the sites & handle them appropriately. A big organisational change such as this will affect status-quo

3. Communication
Agile is all about communication. Communication between people and communication between people and code. You may need to set-up two types of meetings
a. Setup a regular Scrum of Scrum meeting, where the teams discuss project related dependency status - start with weekly once or twice and then increase or reduce based on need
b. Setup a regular Agile transition meeting, where the Agile coaches sync up and discuss issues, learnings & solutions. When you start it off, you may need to meet at least once a week and keep tweaking the agreed process or find new ways to handle program level issues. As you progress across sprints, the need for this meeting becomes less frequent

4. Architecture
An architecture that supports feature level ownership cannot be emphasised more. Such an architecture or design will help you vertically slice the product, where the distance between developers & users is at the minimum. However for legacy products this may not be always possible, in such cases evaluate possibilities of complete ownership of a set of features by one centre & another set of features by another centre. You will need a mature agile team & agile practices to have features spread across locations, so when you start out new, look out for clear boundaries

5. Slicing PBIs vertically
Get the teams to understand on how to slice the Product Backlog Items vertically. Since progress is measured through working code, PBI slicing is the key to measure progress. If they aren’t sliced properly, early integration of code will not be possible

6. Identify dependency and acceptance test cases
Identify dependency between PBIs and share acceptance test cases for cross-site dependencies. The acceptance test cases will ensure that the team delivering the dependency is clearly aware of what is expected of their delivery. This will save a lot of effort & bugs for the entire program

7. Single Mainline branch
Work on a single mainline branch where everyone commits code irrespective of the location. The build should always pass on this integrated branch. If your Continuous Integration system isn’t mature enough or doesn’t have automated testing, you can temporarily have a team level scrum branch for each team, which is the mirror of the Main line during start of every sprint. Each of the scrum team develops on this branch and merges the changes on the Mainline, after testing in the latest context, at least once at the end of the Sprint. This though not an optimal approach, will initially help the team to maintain the integrity of the Mainline thus not impacting other teams

8. Joint Sprint Reviews
Have joint sprint reviews. Plan it on the last day of the Sprint & choose a convenient time considering the time difference. During the sprint review, each of the scrum teams, across the centre’s will demonstrate their Sprint output from the same Mainline build. This will ensure that the product is continuously maturing, sprint on sprint

9. Tooling
All the above is only possible through proper cross-site unified tooling - for both project, configuration & build management. There are many free tools available on the internet. Choose and deploy them globally

Monday, July 17, 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

How different is SAFe from SCRUM?

1:01:00 AM

A question that change agents often mull over is - should we steer the organisation the Scrum way or the SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) way. In this short video, I run you through the difference between the two frameworks and which could best suite your organisation



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