Q&A: Yashasree Barve, Author of 'Agile Mindset Ma.g.i.c.'

Yashasree Barve is an Agile Coach and Transformation Consultant at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), and has been working in the Information Technology industry since 1998, delivering enterprise solutions across the breadth of the technology landscape. Her work includes transformation consulting and coaching for customers and teams. She has led the agile transformation initiative for the HiTech Business unit of TCS comprising of 20,000+ associates for over five years. In this role, she has consulted, trained, and coached several teams and customers on agile transformation. She has recently come out with the book Agile Mindset Ma.g.i.c.: Stories from the Trenches, which unravels how to bring the change in mindset to be agile using a four-stage approach, and describes techniques for embracing agility.

I chat with Yashasree about her book, the research process that her book entailed, Agile Transformation, book recommendations, and much more.

Hello, Yashasree! Tell us a bit about yourself!

Hello there! My name is Yashasree Barve. A lot of my friends and colleagues refer to me as Yash since my college days. I have been born, brought up and settled in Mumbai, Maharashtra and love Aamchi Mumbai!

I graduated in Electronic engineering from K J Somaiya College of Engineering, Mumbai in 1998 and post that got into the Information Technology industry. My work allowed me to visit several countries and work with global customers, solving their challenges through innovative software solutions. At work, apart from being an agile coach and transformation consultant, I enjoy being a Diversity & Inclusion champion running ‘Circle of Women’ that aims at professional development of women at workplace as well as contributing to the social cause through various community initiatives. I am very proud to be a part of the Tata group that symbolizes community contribution and nation building in India.

On a personal front, I am married and a mother to two kids. Family comes as the first priority in my life, as it fills life with diverse experiences, care, love and empathy. Especially motherhood, which I regard as reliving my life as a child and growing up all over again with my children. I am an art lover and love to draw, paint, play harmonium, sing, draw rangolis, and much more. Like most Indians, I am a movie, music and cricket buff too!

Which authors and books were your early formative influences?

I studied in a Marathi (my mother-tongue) medium school, so majority of my early reading was from Marathi literature. I have been a voracious reader since childhood and would feast upon autobiographies, and novels based on mythological or historical characters, mostly fiction. Multi-talented Marathi writer Mr. P. L. Deshpande’s books formed my early formative influence. His writing was simple, natural, and sprinkled with light-hearted humour reflecting the middle class lifestyle that would leave the readers feeling good, apart from making them think.

While in corporate life, I have enjoyed a lot of self-help and leadership books that have helped me grow professionally. Some books that I treasure are The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't by Jim Collins, ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, and Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink, apart from a daily dose of Seth Godin’s blog!

How would you describe your book Agile Mindset Ma.g.i.c. in one sentence?

This book unravels how to bring the change in mindset to be agile using a four-stage approach.

'Agile Mindset Ma.g.i.c.: Stories from the Trenches', published by Notion Press

Now tell us a little more about the book! What can readers expect?

This book is about bringing in change in the mindset leading to agile transformation. As a leader or a coach or a scrum master, one realizes that bringing in mindset change is the key issue in transformation. Mindset drives behaviors and behaviors drive culture. Culture is the topmost obstacle to adopting and scaling agile practices in organizations consistently, as per the State of Agile report. Bringing in the right agile mindset in your organization is the right first step to bringing in an agile culture. However, it’s tough.

Readers can expect this book to take them through bringing change in mindset to be agile, using a four-stage approach along with real-life stories on projects. The book starts with ‘why one needs to change’ and then gets into ‘what and how’ through examples. I share what has worked and what did not in the journey of embracing agility, along with techniques that clicked.

What inspired you to write this book?

I love to read and write since my childhood. I used to write poems as a child, and later got into blogging on various topics such as parenting, diversity & inclusion, and life in general. I have been sharing my experience on several platforms within my organization as well as through conference talks in the industry. A few years back, I started blogging professionally on LinkedIn on the theme of agile mindset. I got a good response and feedback on LinkedIn blogs from colleagues. This basically inspired me to bring it together and publish this as a book. My family and friends were an excellent support, continuously nudging me to continue my efforts on completing the book.

Since you are an Agile Coach and Transformation Consultant, what was it like translating that consulting information into writing a self-help book? Did you have to do any additional research for this book?

The book is based on the experience gathered through my work as an Agile Coach and Transformation Consultant. My knowledge and expertise as an agile coach helped me to think about the various important aspects of expected behaviour and practices of agile transformation. The consulting experience of agile transformation brought the real-life stories that have been a crucial part of the book. I had to ensure that the various concepts are written in a simple language so that those make sense for a beginner as well as the stories are sanitized to ensure that no names of individuals or any other sensitive data gets published. It was a great experience to put it all together.

I invested quite some time for additional research for the book, especially in two parts, one was ensuring that I cover all aspects of the topic, and second was how to write a good book. First part was relatively simple as it was my area of expertise. However, the second part of understanding how to go about authoring a book, and what readers may look for into a book, needed a lot of time investment. As the content was created by me over time as LinkedIn blogs, it made sense for me to author the book with short chapters each, containing the concept explained with why, what and how, followed with real life examples. I also had to spend time researching the relevant pictures as well as cartoon strips to break the monotony of text. Looks like everything has come together well now as a book.

What is the message that you want readers to take away from this book?

I would like to tell my readers that agile methods are extremely relevant in the digital world of today which is VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous), as the agile mindset prepares one to embrace risks and change quickly. My book introduces a four-stage approach to embrace the agile mindset along with examples from my experience. Though the various concepts mainly relate to the software development, several of these as well apply to other industries as well as life.

How have you been coping with the current pandemic and what will be the new normal for you post it?

The current pandemic, like for everyone else, was definitely a big change that came my way. As I am part of the IT industry, I was already enabled to work remotely. Even pre-pandemic, I used to spend few hours of my work time at home, especially given the late evening calls with US customers. The pandemic brought its own challenges, such as spending a lot of time on daily household chores with no help available, apart from ensuring that my children are enabled for their studies from home. It was a great learning experience for all of us at home. We also started weekly zoom calls with extended family, something that we had never thought of earlier, and which now have become routine part of our lives. It also offered opportunity to bond better with my children as the pandemic saved my travel time.

My work life may continue as remote work for near foreseeable future and my family has also adjusted to this new normal. Getting locked down at home all the time was tough, but I took up “Walk at home” kind of exercises to make up for missing my morning walks. The lockdown also came as pretty handy in focusing and completing my book as I could spend my weekends dedicated to the same.

Lastly, are you currently reading anything and do you have any book recommendations for our readers?

I am currently reading Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley's Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle, on a recommendation by a colleague, and am enjoying it so far. It explains the Coach’s principles and illustrates them with stories from the many great people and companies with which Bill Campbell worked, based on interviews with over eighty people who knew and loved him.

The book ‘Agile Mindset Ma.g.i.c.: Stories from the Trenches’ is available online and at your nearest bookstore.

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