J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Creating a Company Where Everyone Gives Their Best

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    “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” —Steve Jobs

    What does it take to create a company where everybody gives their best where they have their best to give?

    It takes empathy.

    It also takes encouraging people to be zestful, zany, and zealous.

    It takes bridging the gap between the traits that make people come alive, and the traits that traditional management practices value.

    In the book The Future of Management, Gary Hamel walks through what it takes to create a company where everyone gives their best so that employees thrive and companies create sustainable competitive advantage.

    Resilience and Creativity: The Traits that Differentiate Human Beings from Other Species

    Resilience and creativity are what separate us from the pack.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Ask your colleagues to describe the distinguishing characteristics of your company, and few are likely to mention adaptability and inventiveness.  Yet if you ask them to make a list of the traits that differentiate human beings from other species, resilience and creativity will be near the top of the list.  We see evidence of these qualities every day -- in ourselves and in those around us. “

    We Work for Organizations that Aren't Very Human

    People are adaptive and creative, but they often work for organizations that are not.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “All of us know folks who've switched careers in search of new challenges or a more balanced life.  We know people who've changed their consumption habits for the sake of the planet.  We have friends and relatives who've undergone a spiritual transformation, or risen to the demands of parenthood, or overcome tragedy.  Every day we meet people who write blogs, experiment with new recipes, mix up dance tunes, or customize their cars.  As human beings, we are amazingly adaptable and creative, yet most of us work for companies that are not.  In other words, we work for organizations that aren't very human.”

    Modern Organizations Deplete Natural Resilience and Creativity

    Why do so many organizations underperform?  They ignore or devalue the capabilities that make us human.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “There seems to be something in modern organizations that depletes the natural resilience and creativity of human beings, something that literally leaches these qualities out of employees during daylight hours.  The culprit?  Management principles and processes that foster discipline, punctuality, economy, rationality, and order, yet place little value on artistry, nonconformity, originality, audacity, and élan.  To put it simply, most companies are only fractionally human because they make room for only a fraction of the qualities and capabilities that make us human.  Billions of people show up for work every day, but way too many of them are sleepwalking.  The result: organizations that systematically underperform their potential.”

    Adaptability and Innovation Have Become the Keys to Competitive Success

    There’s a great big gap between what makes people great and the management systems that get in the way.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Weirdly, many of those who labor in the corporate world--from lowly admins to high powered CEOs--seem resigned to this state of affairs.  They seem unperturbed by the confounding contrast between the essential nature of human beings and the essential nature of the organization in which they work.  In years past, it might have been possible to ignore this incongruity, but no longer--not in a world where adaptability and innovation have become the sine qua non of competitive success.  The challenge: to reinvent our management systems so they inspire human beings to bring all of their capabilities to work every day.”

    The Human Capabilities that Contribute to Competitive Success

    Hamel offers his take on what the relative contribution of human capabilities that contribute to value creation, recognizing that we now live in a world where efficiency and discipline are table stakes.

     

    Passion 35%
    Creativity 25%
    Initiative 20%
    Intellect 15%
    Diligence 5%
    Obedience 0%
      100%

     

    Via The Future of Management:

    “The human capabilities that contribute to competitive success can be arrayed in a hierarchy.  At the bottom is obedience--an ability to take direction and follow rules.   This is the baseline.  Next up the ladder is diligence.  Diligent employees are accountable.  They don't take shortcuts.  They are conscientious and well-organized.  Knowledge and intellect are on the next step.  Most companies work hard to hire intellectually gifted employees.  They value smart people who are eager to improve their skills and willing to borrow best practices from others.  Beyond intellect lies initiative.  People with initiative don't wait to be asked and don't wait to be told.  They seek out new challenges and are always searching for new ways to add value.  Higher still lies the gift of creativity.  Creative people are inquisitive and irrepressible.  They're not afraid of saying stupid things.  They start a lot of conversations with, 'Wouldn't it be cool if ..." And finally, at the top lies passion.”

     

    The Power of Passion

    Passion makes us do dumb things.  But it’s also the key to doing great things.

    Via Via The Future of Management:

    “Passion can make people do stupid things, but it's the secret sauce that turns intent into accomplishment.  People with passion climb over obstacles and refuse to give up.  Passion is contagious and turns one-person crusades into mass movements.  As the English novelist E.M. Forster put it, 'One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.'”

    Obedience is Worth Zip in Terms of Competitive Advantage

    Rule-following employees won’t help you change the world.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “I'm not suggesting that obedience is literally worth nothing.  A company where no one followed any rules would soon descend into anarchy.  Instead, I'm arguing that rule-following employees are worth zip in terms of their competitive advantage they generate.  In a world with 4 billion nearly distributed souls, all eager to climb the ladder of economic progress, it's not hard to find billable, hardworking employees.  And what about intelligence?  For years we've been told we're living in the knowledge economy; but as knowledge itself becomes commoditized, it will lose much of its power to create competitive advantage.”

    Obedience, Diligence, and Expertise Can Be Bought for Next to Nothing

    You can easily buy obedience, diligence, and expertise from around the world.

    But that’s not what will make you the next great company or the next great thing or a great place to work.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Today, obedience, diligence, and expertise can be bought for next to nothing.  From Bangalore to Guangzhou, they have become global commodities.  A simple example: turn over your iPod, and you'll find six words engraved on the back that foretell the future of competition: 'Designed in California. Made in China.'  Despite the equal billing, the remarkable success of Apple's music business owes relatively little to the company's network of Asian subcontractors.  It is a credit instead to the imagination of Apple's designers, marketers, and lawyers.  Obviously not every iconic product is going to be designed in California, not nor manufactured in China. “

    You Need Employees that are Zestful, Zany, and Zealous

    If you want to bring out the best in people and what they are capable of, aim for zestful, zany, and zealous.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “The point, though, is this: if you want to capture the economic high ground in the creative economy, you need employees who are more than acquiescent, attentive, and astute--they must also be zestful, zany, and zealous.”

    If you want to bring out your best, then break our your zest and get your zane on.

    You Might Also Like

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    How Employees Lost Empathy for their Work, for the Customer, and for the Final Product

    No Slack = No Innovation

    The Drag of Old Mental Models on Innovation and Change

    The New Competitive Landscape

    The New Realities that Call for New Organizational and Management Capabilities

    Who’s Managing Your Company

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Success Articles for Work and Life

    • 2 Comments

    "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." -- Winston Churchill

    I now have more than 300 articles on the topic of Success to help you get your game on in work and life:

    Success Articles

    That’s a whole lot of success strategies and insights right at your fingertips. (And it includes the genius from a wide variety of sources including  Scott Adams, Tony Robbins, Bruce Lee, Zig Ziglar, and more.)

    Success is a hot topic. 

    Success has always been a hot topic, but it seems to be growing in popularity.  I suspect it’s because so many people are being tested in so many new ways and competition is fierce.

    But What is Success? (I tried to answer that using Zig Ziglar’s frame for success.)

    For another perspective, see Success Defined (It includes definitions of success from Stephen Covey and John Maxwell.)

    At the end of the day, the most important definition of success, is the one that you apply to you and your life.

    People can make or break themselves based on how they define success for their life.

    Some people define success as another day above ground, but for others they have a very high, and very strict bar that only a few mere mortals can ever achieve.

    That said, everybody is looking for an edge.   And, I think our best edge is always our inner edge.

    As my one mentor put it, “the fastest thing you can change in any situation is yourself.”  And as we all know, nature favors the flexible.  Our ability to adapt and respond to our changing environment is the backbone of success.   Otherwise, success is fleeting, and it has a funny way of eluding or evading us.

    I picked a few of my favorite articles on success.  These ones are a little different by design.  Here they are:

    Scott Adam’s (Dilbert) Success Formula

    It’s the Pebble in Your Shoe

    The Wolves Within

    Personal Leadership Helps Renew You

    The Power of Personal Leadership

    Tony Robbins on the 7 Traits of Success

    The Way of Success

    The future is definitely uncertain.  I’m certain of that.   But I’m also certain that life’s better with skill and that the right success strategies under your belt can make or break you in work and life.

    And the good news for us is that success leaves clues.

    So make like a student and study.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Are You Doing Agile Results?

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    If you already use Agile Results as your personal results system, you have a big advantage.

    Why?

    Because most people are running around, scrambling through a laundry list of too many things to do, a lack of clarity around what the end result or outcomes should be, and a lack of clarity around what the high-value things to focus on are.  They are using their worst energy for their most important things.  They are spending too much time on the things that don’t matter and not enough time on the things that do.   They are feeling at their worst, when they need to feel at their best, and they are struggling to keep up with the pace of change.

    I created Agile Results to deal with the chaos in work and life, as a way to rise above the noise, and to easily leverage the most powerful habits and practices for getting better results in work and life.

    Agile Results, in a nutshell, is a simple system for mastering productivity and time management, while at the same time, achieving more impact, realizing your potential, and feeling more fulfillment.

    I wrote about the system in the book Getting Results the Agile Way.  It’s been a best seller in time management.

    How Does Agile Results Work?

    Agile Results works by combining proven practices for productivity, time management, psychology, project management, and some of the best lessons learned on high-performance.   And it’s been tested for more than a decade under extreme scenarios and a variety of conditions from individuals to large teams.

    Work-Life balance is baked into the system, but more importantly Agile Results helps you live your values wherever you are, play to your strengths, and rapidly learn how to improve your results in an situation.  When you spend more time in your values, you naturally tap into your skills and abilities that help bring out your best.

    The simplest way to think of Agile Results is that it helps you direct your attention and apply your effort on the things that count.  By spending more time on high-value activities and by getting intentional about your outcomes, you dramatically improve your ability to get better results.

    But none of that matters if you aren’t using Agile Results.

    How Can You Start Using Agile Results?

    Start simple.

    Simply ask yourself, “What are the 3 wins, results, or outcomes that I want for today?.”   Consider the demands you have on your plate, the time and energy you’ve got, and the opportunities you have for today, and write those 3 things down.

    That’s it.   You’re doing Agile Results.

    Of course, there’s more, but that’s the single most important thing you can do to immediately gain clarity, regain your focus, and spend your time and energy on the most valuable things.

    Now, let’s assume this is the only post you ever read on Agile Results.   Let’s take a fast walkthrough of how you could use the system on a regular basis to radically and rapidly improve your results on an ongoing basis.

    How I Do Agile Results? …

    Here’s a summary of how I do Agile Results.

    I create a new monthly list at the start of each month that lists out all the things that I think I need to do, and I bubble up 3 of my best things I could achieve or must get done to the top.   I look at it at the start of the week, and any time I’m worried if I’m missing something.  This entire process takes me anywhere from 10-20 minutes a month.

    I create a weekly list at the start of the week, and I look at it at the start of each day, as input to my 3 target wins or outcomes for the day, and any time I’m worried if I’m missing anything.   This tends to take me 5-10 minutes at the start of the week.

    I barely have to ever look at my lists – it’s the act of writing things down that gives me quick focus on what’s important.   I’m careful not to put a bunch of minutia in my lists, because then I’d train my brain to stop focusing on what’s important, and I would become forgetful and distracted.  Instead, it’s simple scaffolding.

    Each day, I write a simple list of what’s on my mind and things I think I need to achieve.   Next, I step back and ask myself, “What are the 3 things I want to accomplish today?”, and I write those down.   (This tends to take me 5 minutes or less.  When I first started it took me about 10.)

    Each Friday, I take the time to think through three things going well and three things to improve.   I take what I learn as input into how I can simplify work and life, and how I can improve my results with less effort and more effectiveness.   This takes me 10-20 minutes each Friday.

    How Can You Adopt Agile Results?

    Use it to plan your day, your week, and your month.

    Here is a simple recipe for adopting Agile Results and using it to get better results in work and life:

    1. Add a recurring appointment on your calendar for Monday mornings.  Call it Monday Vision.   Add this text to the body of the reminder: “What are your 3 wins for this week?”
    2. Add a recurring appointment on your calendar to pop up every day in the morning.  Call it Daily Wins.  Add this text to the body of the reminder: “What are your 3 wins for today?”
    3. Add a recurring appointment on your calendar to pop up every Friday mid-morning.  Call it Friday Reflection.  Add this text to the body of your reminder:  What are 3 things going well?  What are 3 things to improve?”
    4. On the last day of the month, make a full list of everything you care about for the next month.   Alphabetize the list.  Identify the 3 most important things that you want to accomplish for the month, and put those at the top of the list.   Call this list  Monthly Results for Month XYZ.  (Note – Alphabetizing your list helps you name your list better and sort your list better.  It’s hard to refer to something important you have to do if you don’t even have a name for it.  If naming the things on your list and sorting them is too much to do, you don’t need to.  It’s just an additional tip that helps you get even more effective and more efficient.)
    5. On Monday of each week, when you wake up, make a full list of everything you care about accomplishing for the week.  Alphabetize the list.  Identify the 3 most important things you want to accomplish and add that to the top of the list.  (Again, if you don’t want to alphabetize then don’t.)
    6. On Wednesdays, in the morning, review the three things you want to accomplish for the week to see if anything matters that you should have spent time on or completed by now.  Readjust your priorities and focus as appropriate.  Remember that the purpose of having the list of your most important outcomes for the week isn’t to get good at predicting what’s important.  It’s to help you focus and to help you make better decisions about what to spend time on throughout the week.  If something better comes along, then at least you can make a conscious decision to trade up and focus on that.  Keep trading up.   And when you look back on Friday, you’ll know whether you are getting better at trading up or if you are just getting randomize or focusing on the short-term but hurting the long term.
    7. On Fridays,  in the morning, do your Friday Reflection.  As part of the exercise, check against your weekly outcomes and your monthly outcomes that you want to accomplish.  If you aren’t effective for the week, don’t ask “why not,” ask “how to.”   Ask how can you bite off better things and how can you make better choices throughout the week.  Just focus on little behavior changes, and this will add up over time.  You’ll get better and better as you go, as long as you keep learning and changing your approach.   That’s the Agile Way.

    There are lots of success stories by other people who have used Agile Results.   Everybody from presidents of companies to people in the trenches, to doctors and teachers, to teams and leaders, as well as single parents and social workers.

    But none of that matters if it’s not your story.

    Work on your success story and just start getting better results, right here, right now.

    What are the three most important things you really want to accomplish or achieve today?

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Principles of Modern Management

    • 3 Comments

    Are your management practices long in the tooth?

    I think I was lucky that early on, I worked in environments that shook things up and rattled the cage in pursuit of more customer impact, employee engagement, and better organizational performance.

    In one of the environments, a manufacturing plant, the management team flipped the typical pyramid of the management hierarchy upside down to reflect that the management team is there to empower and support the production line.

    And when I was on the Microsoft patterns & practices team, we had an interesting mix of venture capitalist type management coupled with some early grandmasters of the Agile movement.   More than just Agile teams, we had an Agile management culture that encouraged a customer-connected approach to product development, complete with self-organizing, multi-disciplinary teams, empowered people, a focus on execution excellence, and a fierce focus on being a rapid learning machine. 

    We thrived on change.

    We also had a relentless focus on innovation.  Not just in our product, but in our process.  If we didn’t innovate in our process, then we got pushed out of market by becoming too slow, too expensive, or by lacking the quality experience that customers have come to expect.

    But not everybody knows what a great environment for helping people thrive and do great things for the world, looks like.

    While a lot of people in software or in manufacturing have gotten a taste of Agile and Lean practices, there are many more businesses that don’t know what a modern learning machine of people and processes that operate at a higher-level looks like. 

    Many, many businesses and people are still operating and looking at the world through the lens of old world management principles.

    In the book The Future of Management, Gary Hamel walks through the principles upon which modern management is based.

    The Principles of Modern Management

    Hamel gives us a nice way to frame looking at the modern management principles, by looking at their application, and their intended goal.

    Via The Future of Management:

    Principle Application Goal
    Standardization Minimize variances from standards around inputs, outputs, and work methods. Cultivate economies of scale, manufacturing efficiency, reliability, and quality.
    Specialization (of tasks and functions) Group like activities together in modular organizational units. Reduce complexity and accelerate learning.
    Goal alignment Establish clear objectives through a cascade of subsidiary goals and supporting metrics. Ensure that individual efforts are congruent with top-down goals.
    Hierarchy Create a pyramid of authority based on a limited span of control. Maintain control over a broad scope of operations.
    Planning and control Forecast demand, budget resources, and schedule tasks, then track and correct deviations from plan. Establish regularity and predictability in operations; conformance to plans.
    Extrinsic rewards Provide financial rewards to individuals and teams for achieving specified outcomes. Motivate effort and ensure compliance with policies and standards.

    What are the Principles Upon Which Your Management Beliefs are Based?

    Most people aren’t aware of the principles behind the management beliefs that they practice or preach.  But before coming up with new ones, it helps to know what current management thinking is rooted in.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Have you ever asked yourself, what are the deepest principles upon which your management beliefs are based? Probably not.  Few executives, in my experience, have given much thought to the foundational principles that underlie their views on how to organize and manage.  In that sense, they are as unaware of their management DNA as they are of their biological DNA.  So before we set off in search of new management principles, we need to take a moment to understand the principles that comprise our current management genome, and how those tenets may limit organizational performance.”

    A Small Nucleus of Core Principles

    It really comes down to a handful of core principles.  These principles serve as the backbone for much of today’s management philosophy.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “These practices and processes of modern management have been built around a small nucleus of core principles: standardization, specialization, hierarchy, alignment, planning, and control, and the use of extrinsic rewards to shape human behavior.”

    How To Maximize Operational Efficiency and Reliability in Large-Scale Organizations

    It’s not by chance that the early management thinkers came to the same conclusions.  They were working on the same problems in a similar context.  Of course, the challenge now is that the context has changed, and the early management principles are often like fish out of water.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “These principles were elucidated early in the 20th century by a small band of pioneering management thinkers -- individuals like Henri Fayol, Lyndall Urwick, Luther Gullick, and Max Weber. While each of these theorists had a slightly different take on the philosophical foundations of modern management, they all agreed on the principles just enumerated. This concordance is hardly surprising, since they were all focusing on the same problem: how to maximize operational efficiency and reliability in large-scale organizations. Nearly 100 years on, this is still the only problem that modern management is fully competent to address.”

    If your management philosophy and guiding principles are nothing more than a set of hand me downs from previous generations, it might be time for a re-think.

    You Might Also Like

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    How Employees Lost Empathy for their Work, for the Customer, and for the Final Product

    No Slack = No Innovation

    The Drag of Old Mental Models on Innovation and Change

    The New Competitive Landscape

    The New Realities that Call for New Organizational and Management Capabilities

    Who’s Managing Your Company

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    How Employees Lost Empathy for their Work, for the Customer, and for the Final Product

    • 6 Comments

    “In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.” -- Tina Fey

    The Digital Revolution marked the beginning of the Information Age.

    The Information Age, or Digital Age, or New Media Age, is a shift away from the industrial revolution to an economy based on information computerization.  Some would say, along with this shift, we are now in a Knowledge Economy or a Digital Economy. 

    This opens the door to new ways of working and a new world of work to generate new business value and customer impact.

    But what did the Industrial Age do to employees and what paradigms could limit us in this new world?

    In the book The Future of Management, Gary Hamel walks through how industrialization and large Enterprises have created a disconnect between employees and their customers, their final product, and the big financial picture.  And in the process, he argues, this had led to disengaged employees, crippled innovation, and inflexible organizations.

    If you don’t know Gary Hamel, he’s been ranked the #1 influential business thinker by the Wall Street Journal.

    According to Hamel, what we traded for scale and efficiencies created gaps between workers and employees and gaps between employees and their customers, the product, the financial impact, and … a diminished sense of responsibility for quality and efficiency.

    Maybe We Have Managers Because We Have Employees

    Do managers exist because employees do?

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Here's a thought.  Maybe we need 'managers' because we have 'employees.'  (Be patient, this is not as tautological as it sounds.)  Think about the way computers are dependent on software.  PCs aren't smart enough to write their own operating instructions, and they sit idle until a user sets them to work.  Perhaps the same is true for employees.”

    Did We Manufacture a Need for Managers?

    When we manufactured employees, did we manufacture a need for managers?

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Earlier, I talked about the invention of 'the employee.' What happened in this process, at the dawn of the 20th century?  How did work life change as individuals left their farms and workshops to be absorbed into large-scale organizations?  In manufacturing employees, did we manufacture a need for managers as well?  I think so.  If we understood how this came about, we will gain clues into how we might learn to manage without managers -- or, at least, with a lot fewer of them.”

    Disconnected from the Customer

    As the size and scale of industrial organizations grew, so did the disconnect between employees and their final customers.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “In pre-industrial times, farmers and artisans enjoyed an intimate relationship with their customers.  The feedback they received each day from their patrons was timely and unfiltered.  Yet as industrial organizations grew in size and scale, millions of employees found themselves disconnected from the final customer.  Robbed of direct feedback, they were compelled to rely on others who were closer to the customer to calibrate the effectiveness of their efforts and to tell them how they could better please their clients.”

    A Diminished Sense of Responsibility for Producer Quality and Efficiency

    Without a connection to the customer, employees lose empathy for their work, for the customer, and for the final product.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “As companies divided themselves into departments and functions, employees also became disconnected from the final product.  As tasks became narrower and more specialized, employees lost their emotional bond with the end product.  The result? A diminished sense of responsibility for producer quality and efficiency.  No longer were workers product craftsmen, now they were cogs in an industrial machine over which they had little control.”

    Employees No Longer Have a System Wide View of the Production Process

    It’s hard to make changes to the system when you no longer have a system wide view.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Size and scale also separate employees from their coworkers.  Working in semi-isolated departments, they no longer had a system wide view of the production process.  If that system was suboptimal, they had no way of knowing it and now way of correcting it.”

    The Gap Widens Between Workers and Owners

    People at the top don’t hear from the people at the bottom.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Industrialization also enlarged the gulf between workers and owners.  While a 19th-century apprentice would have had the ear of the proprietor, most 20th-century employees reported to low-level supervisors.  In a large enterprise a junior employee could work for decades and never have the chance to speak one-on-one with someone empowered to make important policy decisions.”

    The Scoreboard is Contrived

    Scoreboards tell employees how they are doing their jobs, but not how the company is doing overall.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “In addition, growing operational complexity fractured the information that was available to employees.  In a small proprietorship, the financial scoreboard was simple and real time; there was little mystery about how the firm was doing.  In a big industrial company, employees had a scoreboard but it was contrived.  It told workers how they were doing their jobs, but little about how the company was doing overall.  With no more than a knothole view of the company's financial model, and only a sliver of responsibility for results, it was difficult for an employee to feel a genuine burden for the company's performance.”

    Industrialization Disconnects Employees from Their Own Creativity

    Standardizing jobs and processes limits innovation in the jobs and processes.  They are at odds.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Finally, and worst of all, industrialization disconnected employees from their own creativity.  In the industrial world, work methods and procedures were defined by experts and, once defined, were not easily altered.  No matter how creative an employee might be, the scope for exercising that gift was severely truncated.”

    The Pursuit of Scale and Efficiency Advantages Disconnected Workers from Their Essential Inputs

    With the disconnect between employees and their inputs, there was a natural need for the management class.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “To put it simply, the pursuit of scale and efficiency advantages disconnected workers from the essential inputs that had, in earlier times, allowed them to be (largely) self-managing -- and in so doing, it made the growth on an expansive managerial class inevitable.”

    Employees Don’t Lack Wisdom and Experience

    Employees don’t lack wisdom and experience.  They just lack information and context.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “To a large extent, employees need managers for the same reason 13-year-olds need parents: they are incapable of self-regulation.  Adolescents, with their hormone-addled brains and limited lie experience, lack the discernment to make consistently wise choices.  Employees on the other hand, aren't short of wisdom and experience, but they do lack information and context -- since they are so often disconnected from customers, associates, end products, owners, and the big financial picture.  Deprived of the ability to exercise control from within, employees must accept control from above.  The result: disaffection.  It turns out that employees enjoy being treated like 13-year-olds even less than 13-year-olds.”

    Disengaged Employees, Hamstrung Innovation, and Inflexible Organizations

    What is the result of all this disconnect?   Stifled innovation, rigid organizations, and disinterested employees.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Disengaged employees.  Hamstrung innovation.  Inflexible organizations.  Although we are living in a new century, we are still plagued by the side effects of a management model that invented roughly a hundred years ago.  Yet history doesn't have to be destiny -- not if you are willing to go back and reassess the time-forgotten choices that so many others still take for granted.  With the benefit of hindsight, you can ask: How have circumstances changed? Are new approaches possible? Must we be bound by the shackles of the past?  These are essential questions for every management innovator.”

    Does history have to be destiny?

    We’re writing new chapters of history each and every day.

    In all of my experience, where I’ve seen productivity thrive, people shine, and innovation unleashed, it’s when employees are connected with customers, they are empowered and encouraged to make changes to processes and products, and they are part of a learning organization with rapid feedback loops.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    100+ Motivational Quotes to Inspire Your Greatness

    • 4 Comments

    I updated my Motivational Quotes page.

    I’ve got more than 100 motivational quotes on the page to help you find your inner-fire.

    It’s not your ordinary motivational quotes list.  

    It’s deep and it draws from several masters of inspiration including Bruce Lee, Jim Rohn, and Zig Ziglar.

    Here is a sampling of some of my personal favorite motivational quotes ..

    “If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee

    “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    “Kites rise highest against the wind; not with it.” – Winston Churchill

    “To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.” – Bruce Lee

    “Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius

    “There is no such thing as failure. There are only results.” – Tony Robbins

    “When it’s time to die, let us not discover that we have never lived.” -Henry David Thoreau

    “People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” – Anonymous

    “Motivation alone is not enough. If you have an idiot and you motivate him, now you have a motivated idiot.” – Jim Rohn

    “If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” – Bruce Lee

    For more quotes, check out my motivational quotes page.

    It’s a living page and at some point I’ll do a complete revamp.

    I think in the future I’ll organize it by sub-categories within motivation rather than by people.I think at the time it made sense to have words of wisdom by various folks, but now I think grouping motivational quotes by sub-categories would work much better, especially when there is such a large quantity of quotes.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    No Slack = No Innovation

    • 5 Comments

    "To accomplish great things we must dream as well as act." -- Anatole France

    Innovation is the way to leap frog and create new ways to do things better, faster, and cheaper.

    But it takes slack.

    The problem is when you squeeze the goose, to get the golden egg, you lose the slack that creates the eggs in the first place.

    In the book The Future of Management, Gary Hamel shares how when there is a lack of slack, there is no innovation.

    The Most Important Source of Productivity is Creativity

    Creativity unleashes productivity.  And it takes time to unleash creativity.  But the big bold bet is that the time you give to creativity and innovation, pays you back with new opportunities and new ways to do things better, faster, or cheaper.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “In the pursuit of efficiency, companies have wrung a lot of slack out of their operations.  That's a good thing.  No one can argue with the goal of cutting inventory levels, reducing working capital, and slashing over-head.  The problem, though, is that if you wring all the slack out of a company, you'll wring out all of the innovation as well.  Innovation takes time -- time to dream, time to reflect, time to learn, time to invent, and time to experiment.  And it takes uninterrupted time -- time when you can put your feet up and stare off into space.  As Pekka Himanen put it in his affectionate tribute to hackers, '... the information economy's most important source of productivity is creativity, and it is not possible to create interesting things in a constant hurry or in a regulated way from nine to five.'”

    There is No “Thinking Time”

    Without think time, creativity lives in a cave.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “While the folks in R&D and new product development are given time to innovate, most employees don't enjoy this luxury.  Every day brings a barrage of e-mails, voice mails, and back-to-back meetings.  In this world, where the need to be 'responsive' fragments human attention into a thousand tiny shards, there is no 'thinking time.'  And therein lies the problem.  However creative your colleagues may be, if they don't have the right to occasionally abandon their posts and work on something that's not mission critical, most of their creativity will remain dormant.”

    Are People Encouraged to Quietly Dream Up the Future?

    If you want more innovation, make space for it.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “OK, you already know that -- but how is that knowledge reflected in your company's management processes?  How hard is it for a frontline employee to get permission to spend 20 percent of her time working on a project that has nothing to do with her day job, nor your company's 'core businesses'?  And how often does this happen?  Does your company track the number of hours employees spend working on ideas that are incidental to their core responsibilities? Is 'slack' institutionalized in the same way that cost efficiency is?  Probably not.  There are plenty of incentives in your company for people to stay busy.  ('Maybe if I look like I'm working flat out, they won't send my job offshore.')  But where are the incentives that encourage people to spend time quietly dreaming up the future?”

    Are you slacking your way to a better future?

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    3 Challenges to Help You Set New Benchmarks in Innovation

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    If you want to change your game, you need to know what the key challenges are.

    Innovation is a game that you can play much better, if you know where and how to debottleneck it.

    In the book The Future of Management, Gary Hamel shares 3 challenges that he believes can help you unleash your organization’s capacity for innovation.

    1. How can you enroll every individual within your company in the work of innovation, and equip each one with creativity-boosting tools?
    2. How can you ensure that top management's hallowed beliefs don't straightjacket innovation, and that heretical ideas are given the chance to prove their worth?
    3. How can you create the time and space for grassroots innovation in an organization that is running flat to deliver today's results?

    According to Hamel, "Make progress on these challenges and your company will set new benchmarks in innovation."

    If I think back through the various teams I’ve been on at Microsoft, one team that I was on was especially good at helping innovation flourish, and we were constantly pushing the envelope to “be what’s next.”   Our innovation flourished the most when we directly addressed the challenges above.  People were challenged to share and test their ideas more freely and innovation was baked into how we planned our portfolio, programs, and projects.

    Innovation was a first-class citizen – by design.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Fearless Speaking

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    “Do one thing every day that scares you.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

    I did a deep dive book review.

    This time, I reviewed Fearless Speaking.

    The book is more than meets the eye.

    It’s actually a wealth of personal development skills at your fingertips and it’s a powerful way to grow your personal leadership skills.

    In fact, there are almost fifty exercises throughout the book.

    Here’s an example of one of the techniques …

    Spotlight Technique #1

    When you’re overly nervous and anxious as a public speaker, you place yourself in a ‘third degree’ spotlight.  That’s the name for the harsh bright light police detectives use in days gone by to ‘sweat’ a suspect and elicit a confession.  An interrogation room was always otherwise dimly lit, so the source of light trained on the person (who was usually forced to sit in a hard straight backed chair) was unrelenting.

    This spotlight is always harsh, hot, and uncomfortable – and the truth is, you voluntarily train it on yourself by believing your audience is unforgiving.  The larger the audience, the more likely you believe that to be true.

    So here’s a technique to get out from under this hot spotlight that you’re imagining so vividly turn it around! Visualize swiveling the spotlight so it’s aimed at your audience instead of you.  After all, aren’t you supposed to illuminate your listeners? You don’t want to leave them in the dark, do you?

    There’s no doubt that it’s cooler and much more comfortable when you’re out under that harsh light.  The added benefit is that now the light is shining on your listeners – without question the most important people in the room or auditorium!

    I like that there are so many exercises and techniques to choose from.   Many of them don’t fit my style, but there were several that exposed me to new ways of thinking and new ideas to try.

    And what’s especially great is knowing that these exercise come from professional actors and speakers – it’s like an insider’s guide at your fingertips.

    My book review on Fearless Speaking includes a list of all the exercises, the chapters at a glance, key features from the book, and a few of my favorite highlights from the book (sort of like a movie trailer for the book.)

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Drag of Old Mental Models on Innovation and Change

    • 0 Comments

    “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” — Howard Aiken

    It's not a lack of risk taking that holds innovation and change back. 

    Even big companies take big risks all the time.

    The real barrier to innovation and change is the drag of old mental models.

    People end up emotionally invested in their ideas, or they are limited by their beliefs or their world views.  They can't see what's possible with the lens they look through, or fear and doubt hold them back.  In some cases, it's even learned helplessness.

    In the book The Future of Management, Gary Hamel shares some great insight into what holds people and companies back from innovation and change.

    Yesterday’s Heresies are Tomorrow’s Dogmas

    Yesterday's ideas that were profoundly at odds with what is generally accepted, eventually become the norm, and then eventually become a belief system that is tough to change.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Innovators are, by nature, contrarians.  Trouble is, yesterday's heresies often become tomorrow's dogmas, and when they do, innovation stalls and the growth curve flattens out.”

    Deeply Held Beliefs are the Real Barrier to Strategic Innovation

    Success turns beliefs into barriers by cementing ideas that become inflexible to change.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “... the real barrier to strategic innovation is more than denial -- it's a matrix of deeply held beliefs about the inherent superiority of a business model, beliefs that have been validated by millions of customers; beliefs that have been enshrined in physical infrastructure and operating handbooks; beliefs that have hardened into religious convictions; beliefs that are held so strongly, that nonconforming ideas seldom get considered, and when they do, rarely get more than grudging support.”

    It's Not a Lack of Risk Taking that Holds Innovation Back

    Big companies take big risks every day.  But the risks are scoped and constrained by old beliefs and the way things have always been done.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Contrary to popular mythology, the thing that most impedes innovation in large companies is not a lack of risk taking.  Big companies take big, and often imprudent, risks every day.  The real brake on innovation is the drag of old mental models.  Long-serving executives often have a big chunk of their emotional capital invested in the existing strategy.  This is particularly true for company founders.  While many start out as contrarians, success often turns them into cardinals who feel compelled to defend the one true faith.  It's hard for founders to credit ideas that threaten the foundations of the business models they invented.  Understanding this, employees lower down self-edit their ideas, knowing that anything too far adrift from conventional thinking won't win support from the top.  As a result, the scope of innovation narrows, the risk of getting blindsided goes up, and the company's young contrarians start looking for opportunities elsewhere.”

    Legacy Beliefs are a Much Bigger Liability When It Comes to Innovation

    When you want to change the world, sometimes it takes a new view, and existing world views get in the way.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “When it comes to innovation, a company's legacy beliefs are a much bigger liability than its legacy costs.  Yet in my experience, few companies have a systematic process for challenging deeply held strategic assumptions.  Few have taken bold steps to open up their strategy process to contrarian points of view.  Few explicitly encourage disruptive innovation.  Worse, it's usually senior executives, with their doctrinaire views, who get to decide which ideas go forward and which get spiked.  This must change.”

    What you see, or can’t see, changes everything.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The New Realities that Call for New Organizational and Management Capabilities

    • 0 Comments

    “The only people who can change the world are people who want to. And not everybody does.” -- Hugh MacLeod

    Is it just me or is the world changing faster than ever?

    I hear from everybody around me (inside and outside of Microsoft) how radically their worlds are changing under their feet, business models are flipped on their heads, and the game of generating new business value for customers is at an all-time competitive high.

    Great.

    Challenge is where growth and greatness come from.  It’s always a chance to test what we’re capable of and respond to whatever gets thrown our way.  But first, it helps to put a finger on what exactly these changes are that are disrupting our world, and what to focus on to survive and thrive.

    In the book The Future of Management, Gary Hamel shares some great insight into the key challenges that companies are facing that create even more demand for management innovation.

    The New Realities We’re Facing that Call for Management Innovation

    I think Hamel describes our new world pretty well …

    Via The Future of Management:

    • “As the pace of change accelerates more, more and more companies are finding themselves on the wrong side of the change curve.  Recent research by L.G. Thomas and Richard D'Aveni suggests that industry leadership is changing hands more frequently, and competitive advantage is eroding more rapidly, than ever before.  Today, it's not just the occasional company that gets caught out by the future, but entire industries -- be it traditional airlines, old-line department stores, network television broadcasters, the big drug companies, America's carmakers, or the newspaper and music industries.”
    • “Deregulation, along with the de-scaling effects of new technology, are dramatically reducing the barriers to entry across a wide range of industries, from publishing to telecommunications to banking to airlines.  As a result, long-standing oligopolies are fracturing and competitive 'anarchy' is on the rise.”
    • “Increasingly, companies are finding themselves enmeshed in 'value webs' and 'ecosystems' over which they have only partial control.  As a result, competitive outcomes are becoming less the product of market power, and more the product of artful negotiation.  De-verticalization, disintermediation, and outsource-industry consortia, are leaving firms with less and less control over their own destinies.”
    • “The digitization of anything not nailed down threatens companies that make their living out of creating and selling intellectual property.  Drug companies, film studios, publishers, and fashion designers are all struggling to adapt to a world where information and ideas 'want to be free.'”
    • The internet is rapidly shifting bargaining power from producers to consumers.  In the past, customer 'loyalty' was often an artifact of high search costs and limited information, and companies frequently profited from customer ignorance.  Today, customers are in control as never before -- and in a world of near-perfect information, there is less and less room for mediocre products and services.”
    • Strategy cycles are shrinking.  Thanks to plentiful capital, the power of outsourcing, and the global reach of the Web, it's possible to ramp up a new business faster than ever before.  But the more rapidly a business grows, the sooner it fulfills the promise of its original business model, peaks, and enters its dotage.  Today, the parabola of success is often a short, sharp spike.”
    • “Plummeting communication costs and globalization are opening up industries to a horde of new ultra-low-cost competitors.  These new entrants are eager to exploit the legacy costs of the old guard.  While some veterans will join the 'race to the bottom' and move their core activities to the world's lowest-cost locations, many others will find it difficult to reconfigure their global operations.  As Indian companies suck in service jobs and China steadily expands its share of global manufacturing, companies everywhere will struggle to maintain their margins.”

    Strategically Adaptive and Operationally Efficient

    So how do you respond to the challenges.   Hamel says it takes becoming strategically adaptable and operationally efficient.   What a powerful combo.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “These new realities call for new organizational and managerial capabilities.  To thrive in an increasingly disruptive world, companies must become as strategically adaptable as they are operationally efficient.  To safeguard their margins, they must become gushers of rule-breaking innovation.  And if they're going to out-invent and outthink a growing mob of upstarts, they must learn how to inspire their employees to give the very best of themselves every day.  These are the challenges that must be addressed by 21st-century management innovations.”

    There are plenty of challenges.  It’s time to get your greatness on. 

    If there ever was a chance to put to the test what you’re capable of, now is the time.

    No matter what, as long as you live and learn, you’ll grow from the process.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Who's Managing Your Company?

    • 0 Comments

    One of the best books I’m reading lately is The Future of Management, by Gary Hamel.

    It’s all about how management innovation is the best competitive advantage, whether you look through the history of great businesses or the history of great militaries.  Hamel makes a great case that strategic innovation, product or service innovation, and operational innovation are fleeting advantages, but management innovation leads to competitive advantage for the long haul.

    In The Future of Management, Hamel poses a powerful question …

    “Who is managing your company?”

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Who's managing your company?  You might be tempted to answer, 'the CEO,' or 'the executive team,' or 'all of us in middle management.'  And you'd be right, but that wouldn't be the whole truth.  To a large extent, your company is being managed right now by a small coterie of long-departed theorists and practitioners who invented the rules and conventions of 'modern' management back in the early years of the 20th century.  They are the poltergeists who inhabit the musty machinery of management.  It is their edicts, echoing across the decades, that invisibly shape the way your company allocates resources, sets budgets, distributes power, rewards people, and makes decisions.”

    That’s why it’s easy for CEOs to hop around companies …

    Via The Future of Management:

    “So pervasive is the influence of these patriarchs that the technology of management varies only slightly from firm to firm.  Most companies have a roughly similar management hierarchy (a cascade of EVPs, SVPs, and VPs).  They have analogous control systems, HR practices, and planning rituals, and rely on comparable reporting structures and review systems.  That's why it's so easy for a CEO to jump from one company to another -- the levers and dials of management are more or less the same in every corporate cockpit.”

    What really struck me here is how much management approach has been handed down through the ages, and accepted as status quo.

    It’s some great good for thought, especially given that management innovation is THE most powerful form of competitive advantage from an innovation standpoint (which Hamel really builds a strong case here throughout the entirety of the book.)

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    100 Articles to Sharpen Your Mind

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    Actually, it's more than 100 articles for your mind.  I've tagged my articles with "mind" on Sources of Insight that focus on increasing your "intellectual horsepower":

    Articles on Mind Power and the Power of Thoughts

    Here are a few of the top mind articles that you can quickly get results with:

    Note that if reading faster is important to you, then I recommend also reading How To Read 10,000 Words a Minute (it’s my ultimate edge) and The Truth About Speed Reading.

    If there’s one little trick I use with reading (whether it’s a book, an email, or whatever), I ask myself “what’s the insight?” or “what’s the action?” or “how can I use this?"  You’d be surprised but just asking yourself those little focusing questions can help you parse down cluttered content fast and find the needles in the haystack.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Agile and the Definition of Quality

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    “Quality begins on the inside... then works its way out.” -- Bob Moawad

    Quality is value to someone.

    Quality is relative.

    Quality does not exist in a non-human vacuum.

    Who is the person behind a statement about quality?

    Who’s requirements count the most?

    What are people willing to pay or do to have their requirements met?

    Quality can be elusive if you don’t know how to find it, or you don’t know where to look.  Worse, even when you know where to look, you need to know how to manage the diversity of conflicting views.

    On a good note, Agile practices and an Agile approach can help you surface and tackle quality in a tractable and pragmatic way.

    In the book Agile Impressions, by “the grandfather of Agile Programming”, Jerry Weinberg shares insights and lessons learned around the relativity of quality and how to make decisions about quality more explicit and transparent.

    Example of Conflicting Ideas About Software Quality

    Here are some conflicting ideas about what constitutes software quality, according to Weinberg:

    “Zero defects is high quality.”
    “Lots of features is high quality.”
    Elegant coding is high quality.”
    “High performance is high quality.”
    ”Low development cost is high quality.”
    “Rapid development is high quality.”
    “User-friendliness is high quality.”

    More Quality for One Person, May Mean Less for Another

    There are always trade-offs.  It can be a game of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

    Via Agile Impressions:

    “Recognizing the relativity of quality often resolves the semantic dilemma. This is a monumental contribution, but it still does not resolve the political dilemma:  More quality for one person may mean less quality for another.”

    The Relativity of Quality

    Quality is relative.

    Via Agile Impressions:

    “The reason for my dilemma lies in the relativity of quality. As the MiniCozy story crisply illustrates, what is adequate quality to one person may be inadequate quality to another.”

    Quality Does Not Exist in a Non-Human Vacuum

    So many

    Via Agile Impressions:

    “If you examine various definitions of quality, you will always find this relativity. You may have to examine with care, though, for the relativity is often hidden, or at best, implicit.

    In short, quality does not exist in a non-human vacuum, but every statement about quality is a statement about some person(s).  That statement may be explicit or implicit. Most often, the “who” is implicit, and statements about quality sound like something Moses brought down from Mount Sinai on a stone tablet.  That’s why so many discussions of software quality are unproductive: It’s my stone tablet versus your Golden Calf.”

    Ask, Who is the Person Behind that Statement About Quality?

    The way to have more productive conversations about quality is to find out who is the person behind a specific statement about quality.

    Via Agile Impressions:

    “When we encompass the relativity of quality, we have a tool to make those discussions more fruitful.  Each time somebody asserts a definition of software quality, we simply ask, “Who is the person behind that statement about quality.”

    Quality Is Value To Some Person

    Whose requirements count the most?

    Via Agile Impressions:

    “The political/emotional dimension of quality is made evident by a somewhat different definition of quality.  The idea of ‘requirements’ is a bit too innocent to be useful in this early stage, because it says nothing about whose requirements count the most. A more workable definition would be this:

    ‘Quality is value to some person.’

    By ‘value,’ I mean, ‘What are people willing to pay (do) to have their requirements met.’ Suppose, for instance, that Terra were not my niece, but the niece of the president of the MiniCozy Software Company.  Knowing MiniCozy’s president’s reputation for impulsive emotional action, the project manager might have defined “quality” of the word processor differently.  In that case, Terra’s opinion would have been given high weight in the decision about which faults to repair.”

    The Definition of “Quality” is Always Political and Emotional

    Quality is a human thing.

    Via Agile Impressions:

    “In short, the definition of ‘quality’ is always political and emotional, because it always involves a series of decisions about whose opinions count, and how much they count relative to one another. Of course, much of the time these political/emotional decisions– like all important political/emotional decisions–are hidden from public view. Most of us software people like to appear rational. That’s why very few people appreciate the impact of this definition of quality on the Agile approaches.”

    Agile Teams Can Help Make Decisions About Quality More Explicit Transparent

    Open processes and transparency can help arrive at a better quality bar.

    Via Agile Impressions:

    “What makes our task even more difficult is that most of the time these decisions are hidden even from the conscious minds of the persons who make them.  That’s why one of the most important actions of an Agile team is bringing such decisions into consciousness, if not always into public awareness. And that’s why development teams working with an open process (like Agile) are more likely to arrive at a more sensible definition of quality than one developer working alone. To me, I don’t consider Agile any team with even one secret component.”

    The "Customer" Must Represent All Significant Decisions of Quality

    The quality of your product will be gated by the quality of your representation.

    Via Agile Impressions:

    “Customer support is another emphasis in Agile processes, and this definition of quality guides the selection of the ‘customers.’ To put it succinctly, the ‘ customer’ must actively represent all of the significant definitions of ‘quality.’ Any missing component of quality may very likely lead to a product that’s deficient in that aspect of quality.”

    If You Don’t Have Suitable Representation of Views on Quality, You’re Not Agile

    It’s faster and far more efficient to ignore people and get your software done.  But it’s far less effective.  Your amplify your effectiveness for addressing quality by involving the right people, in the right way, at the right time.  That’s how you change your quality game.

    Via Agile Impressions:

    “As a consultant to supposedly Agile teams, I always examine whether or not they have active participation of a suitable representation of diverse views of their product’s quality. If they tell me, “We can be more agile if we don’t have to bother satisfying so many people, then they may indeed by agile, but they’re definitely not Agile.”

    I’ve learned a lot about quality over the years.  Many of Jerry Weinberg’s observations and insights match what I’ve experienced across various projects, products, and efforts.   The most important thing I’ve learned is how much value is in the eye of the beholder and the stakeholder and that quality is something that you directly impact by having the right views involved throughout the process.

    Quality is not something you can bolt on or something that you can patch.

    While you can certainly improve things, so much of quality starts up front with vision and views of the end in mind.

    You might even say that quality is a learning process of realizing the end in mind.

    For me, quality is a process of vision + rapid learning loops to iterate my way through the jungle of conflicting and competing views and viewpoints, while brining people along the journey.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Data Science is the Art of Asking Better Questions

    • 3 Comments

    I heard a colleague make a great comment today …

    “Data science is the art of asking better questions.

    It’s not the art of finding a solution … the data keeps evolving.”

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The New Competitive Landscape

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    "All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved." -- Sun Tzu

    If it feels like strategy cycles are shrinking, they are.

    If it feels like competition is even more intense, it is.

    If it feels like you are balancing between competing in the world and collaborating with the world, you are.

    In the book, The Future of Management, Gary Hamel and Bill Breen share a great depiction of this new world of competition and the emerging business landscape.

    Strategy Cycles are Shrinking

    Strategy cycles are shrinking and innovation is the only effective response.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “In a world where strategy life cycles are shrinking, innovation is the only way a company can renew its lease on success.  It's also the only way it can survive in a world of bare-knuckle competition.”

    Fortifications are Collapsing

    What previously kept people out of the game, no longer works.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “In decades past, many companies were insulated from the fierce winds of Schumpeterian competition.  Regulatory barriers, patent protection, distribution monopolies, disempowered customers, proprietary standards, scale advantages, import protection, and capital hurdles were bulwarks that protected industry incumbents from the margin-crushing impact of Darwinian competition.  Today, many of the fortifications are collapsing.”

    Upstarts No Longer Have to Build a Global Infrastructure to Reach a Worldwide Market

    Any startup can reach the world, without having to build their own massive data center to do so.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Deregulation and trade liberalization are reducing the barriers to entry in industries as diverse as banking, air transport, and telecommunications.  The power of the Web means upstarts no longer have to build a global infrastructure to reach a worldwide market.  This has allowed companies like Google, eBay, and My Space to scale their businesses freakishly fast.” 

    The Disintegration of Large Companies and New Entrants Start Strong

    There are global resource pools of top talent available to startups.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “The disintegration of large companies, via deverticalization and outsourcing has also helped new entrants.  In turning out more and more of their activities to third-party contractors, incumbents have created thousands of 'arms suppliers' that are willing to sell their services to anyone.  By tapping into this global supplier base of designers, brand consultants, and contract manufacturers, new entrants can emerge from the womb nearly full-grown.” 

    Ultra-Low-Cost Competition and Less Ignorant Consumers

    With smarter consumers and ultra-low-cost competition, it’s tough to compete.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Incumbents must also contend with a growing horde of ultra-low-cost competitors - companies like Huawei, the Chinese telecom equipment maker that pays its engineers a starting salary of just $8,500 per year.  Not all cut-price competition comes from China and India.  Ikea, Zara, Ryanair, and AirAsia are just a few of the companies that have radically reinvented industry cost structures.  Web-empowered customers are also hammering down margins.  Before the Internet, most consumers couldn't be sure whether they were getting the best deal on their home mortgage, credit card debt, or auto laon.  This lack of enlightenment buttressed margins.  But consumers are becoming less ignorant by the day.  One U.K. Web site encourages customers to enter the details of their most-used credit cards, including current balances, and then shows them exactly how much they will save by switching to a card with better payment terms.  In addition, the Internet is zeroing-out transaction costs.  The commissions earned by market makers of all kinds -- dealers, brokers, and agents -- are falling off a cliff, or soon will be.”

    Distribution Monopolies are Under Attack

    You can build your own fan base and reach the world.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Distribution monopolies -- another source of friction -- are under attack.  Unlike the publishers of newspapers and magazines, bloggers don't need a physical distribution network to reach their readers.  Similarly, new bands don't have to kiss up to record company reps when they can build a fan base via social networking sites like MySpace.”

    Collapsing Entry Barriers and Customer Power Squeeze Margins

    Customers have a lot more choice and power now.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Collapsing entry barriers, hyper efficient competitors, customer power -- these forces will be squeezing margins for years to come.  In this harsh new world, every company will be faced with a stark choice: either set the fires of innovation ablaze, or be ready to scrape out a mean existence in a world where seabed labor costs are the only difference between making money and going bust.”

    What’s the solution?

    Innovation.

    Innovation is the way to play, and it’s the way to stay in the game.

    Innovation is how you reinvent your success, reimagine a new future, and change what your capable of, to compete more effectively in today’s ever-changing world.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Time is The Great Equalizer

    • 0 Comments

    Time really is the great equalizer.

    I was reading an article by Dr. Donald E. Wemore, a time management specialist, and here’s what he had to say:

    "Time is the great equalizer for all of us. We all have 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week, yielding 168 hours per week. Take out 56 hours for sleep (we do spend about a third of our week dead) and we are down to 112 hours to achieve all the results we desire. We cannot save time (ever have any time left over on a Sunday night that you could lop over to the next week?); it can only be spent. And there are only two ways to spend our time: we can spend it wisely, or, not so wisely."

    Well put.

    And what’s his recommendation to manage time better?

    Work smarter, not harder.

    In my experience, that’s the only approach that works.

    If you find yourself struggling too much, there’s a good chance your time management strategies are off.

    Don’t keep throwing time and energy at things if it’s not working.

    Change your approach.

    The fastest thing you can change in any situation is you.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    How I Explained My Job to My Grandmother

    • 0 Comments

    Well, she wasn’t my grandmother, but you get the idea.

    I was trying to explain to somebody that’s in a very different job, what my job is all about.

    Here’s what I said …

    As far as my day job, I do complex, complicated things. 

    I'm in the business of business transformation

    I help large Enterprises get ahead in the world through technology and innovation.

    I help Enterprises change their capabilities -- their business capabilities, technology capabilities, and people capabilities. 

    It’s all about capabilities.

    This involves figuring out their current state, their desired future state, the gaps between, the ROI of addressing the gaps, and then a Roadmap for making it happen.  

    The interesting thing I've learned though is how much business transformation applies to personal transformation

    It's all about figuring out your unique service and contribution to the world -- your unique value -- and then optimizing your strengths to realize your potential and do what you do best in a way that's valued -- where you can both generate value, as well as capture the value -- and lift the world to a better place.

    Interestingly, she said she got it, it made sense, and it sounds inspiring.

    What a relief.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Introduction to Agile Presentation

    • 3 Comments

    I gave an Introduction to Agile talk recently:

    Introduction to Agile Presentation (Slideshow)

    I kept it focused on three simple things:

    1. What is Agile and the Agile Mindset (the Values and Principles)
    2. A rapid tour of the big 3 (Extreme Programming, Scrum, and Lean)
    3. Build a shared vocabulary and simple mental models so teams could hit the ground running and work more effectively with each other.

    The big take away that I wanted the audience to have was that it’s a journey, but a very powerful one.

    It’s a very healthy way to create an organization that embraces agility, empowers people, and ship stuff that customers care about.

    In fact, the most powerful aspect of going Agile is that you create a learning organization.

    The system and ecosystem you are in can quickly improve if you simply embrace change and focus on learning as a way of driving both continues improvement as well as growing capability.

    So many things get a lot better over time, if they get a little better every day.

    This was actually my first real talk on Agile and Agile development.  I’ve done lots of talks on Getting Results the Agile Way, and lots of other topics from security to performance to application architecture to team development and the Cloud.  But this was the first time a group asked me to share what I learned from Agile development in patterns & practices.

    It was actually fun.

    As part of the talk, I shared some of my favorite take aways and insights from the Agile World.

    I’ll be sure to share some of these insights in future posts.

    For now, if there is one thing to take away, it’s a reminder from David Anderson (Agile Management):

    “Don’t do Agile.  Embrace agility.”

    Way to be.

    I shared my slides on SlideShare at Introduction to Agile Presentation (Slides) to help you learn the language, draw the visuals, and spread the word.

    I’ll try to share more of my slides in the future, now that SlideShare seems to be a bit more robust.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Simplicity is the Ultimate Enabler

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    “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein

    Simplicity is among the ultimate of pursuits.  It’s one of your most efficient and effective tools in your toolbox.  I used simplicity as the basis for my personal results system, Agile Results, and it’s served me well for more than a decade.

    And yet, simplicity still isn’t treated as a first-class citizen.

    It’s almost always considered as an afterthought.  And, by then, it’s too little, too late.

    In the book, Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices), Roger Sessions shares his insights on how simplicity is the ultimate enabler to solving the myriad of problems that complexity creates.

    Complex Problems Do Not Require Complex Solutions

    Simplicity is the only thing that actually works.

    Via Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices):

    “So yes, the problems are complex.  But complex problems do not ipso facto require complex solutions.  Au contraire!  The basic premise of this book is that simple solutions are the only solutions to complex problems that work.  The complex solutions are simply too complex.”

    Simplicity is the Antidote to Complexity

    It sounds obvious but it’s true.  You can’t solve a problem with the same complexity that got you there in the first place.

    Via Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices):

    “The antidote to complexity is simplicity.  Replace complexity with simplicity and the battle is three-quarters over.  Of course, replacing complexity with simplicity is not necessarily simple.” 

    Focus on Simplicity as a Core Value

    If you want to achieve simplicity, you first have to explicitly focus on it as a core value.

    Via Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices):

    “The first thing you need to do to achieve simplicity is focus on simplicity as a core value.  We all discuss the importance of agility, security, performance, and reliability of IT systems as if they are the most important of all requirements.  We need to hold simplicity to as high a standard as we hold these other features.  We need to understand what makes architectures simple with as much critical reasoning as we use to understand what makes architectures secure, fast, or reliable.  In fact, I argue that simplicity is not merely the equal of these other characteristics; it is superior to all of them.  It is, in many ways, the ultimate enabler.”

    A Security Example

    Complex systems work against security.

    Via Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices):

    “Take security for example.  Simple systems that lack security can be made secure.  Complex systems that appear to be secure usually aren't.  And complex systems that aren't secure are virtually impossible to make either simple or secure.”

    An Agility Example

    Complexity works against agility, and agility is the key to lasting solutions.

    Via Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices):

    “Consider agility.  Simple systems, with their well-defined and minimal interactions, can be put together in new ways that were never considered when these systems were first created.  Complex systems can never used in an agile wayThey are simply too complex.  And, of course, retrospectively making them simple is almost impossible.”

    Nobody Ever Considers Simplicity as a Critical Feature

    And that’s the problem.

    Via Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices):

    “Yet, despite the importance of simplicity as a core system requirement, simplicity is almost never considered in architectural planning, development, or reviews.  I recently finished a number of speaking engagements.  I spoke to more than 100 enterprise architects, CIOs, and CTOs spanning many organizations and countries.  In each presentation, I asked if anybody in the audience had ever considered simplicity as a critical architectural feature for any projects on which they had participated. Not one person had. Ever.”

    The Quest for Simplicity is Never Over

    Simplicity is a quest.  And the quest is never over.  Simplicity is a ongoing pursuit and it’s a dynamic one.  It’s not a one time event, and it’s not static.

    Via Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices):

    “The quest for simplicity is never over.  Even systems that are designed from the beginning with simplicity in mind (rare systems, indeed!) will find themselves under a never-ending attack. A quick tweak for performance here, a quick tweak for interoperability there, and before you know it, a system that was beautifully simple two years ago has deteriorated into a mass of incomprehensibility.”

    Simplicity is your ultimate sword for hacking your way through complexity … in work … in life … in systems … and ecosystems.

    Wield it wisely.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Engineer Your Own Luck

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    “Chance favors the prepared mind.” - Louis Pasteur

    Are you feeling lucky?

    If you’re an engineer or a developer, you’ll appreciate the idea that you can design for luck, or stack the deck in your favor.

    How do you do this?

    As Harry Golden said, "The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work."

    While I believe in hard work, I also believe in working smarter.

    Luck is the same game.

    It’s a game of skill.

    And, success is a numbers game. 

    You have to stay in long enough to get “lucky” over time.   That means finding a sustainable approach and using a sustainable system.  It means avoiding going all in without testing your assumptions and reducing the risk out of it.   It means taking emotion out of the equation, taking calculated risks, minimizing your exposure, and focusing on skills.

    That’s why Agile methods and Lean approaches can help you outpace your failures.

    Because they are test-driven and focus on continuous learning.

    And because they focus on capacity and capability versus burnout or blowup.

    So if you aren’t feeling the type of luck you’d like to see more of in your life, go back to the basics, and design for it.

    They funny thing about luck is that the less you depend on it, the more of it you get.

    BTW – Agile Results and Getting Results the Agile Way continue to help people “get lucky.”  Recently, I heard a story where a social worker shared Getting Results the Agile Way with two girls living off the streets.  They are off drugs now, have jobs, and are buying homes.   I’m not doing the story justice, but it’s great to hear about people turning their lives around and these kinds of life changing things that a simple system for meaningful results can help achieve.

    It’s not luck. 

    It’s desire, determination, and effective strategies applied in a sustainable way.

    The Agile way.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Extreme Programming (XP) at a Glance (Visual)

    • 0 Comments

    “Each of the practices still has the same weaknesses as before, but what if those weaknesses were now made up for by the strengths of other practices? We might be able to get away with doing things simply." – Kent Beck

    Extreme Programming (XP) has been around a while, but not everybody knows “what it looks like.”

    What does it look like when you step back and take the balcony view and observe the flow of things?

    It might look a bit like this …

    image

    I put this view together to help some folks get an idea of what the “system” sort of looks like.  It didn’t need to be perfect, but they needed at least a baseline idea or skeleton so they could better understand how the various practices fit together.

    The beauty is that once you put a simple picture up on the whiteboard, then you can have real discussions with the team about where things can be improved.  Once again, a picture is worth 1,000 words.

    For reference, here are the 12 Practices of Extreme Programming

    1. Coding Standards
    2. Collective Ownership
    3. Continuous Integration
    4. On-Site Customer
    5. Pair Programming
    6. Planning Game
    7. Refactoring
    8. Short Releases
    9. Simple Design
    10. Sustainable Pace (40 Hour Week)
    11. System Metaphor
    12. Test-Driven Development

    The main idea here is to get simple visuals in your mind that you can easily draw on a whiteboard, and know the names of the various activities and artifacts. 

    If you nail this down, it helps you build a simple vocabulary. 

    This vocabulary will help you get others on board faster, and it will help you expand your own toolbox at a rapid rate, and you’ll soon find yourself composing new methods and creating interesting innovations in your process that will help you do things better, faster, and cheaper … on Cloud time.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    What is Agile?

    • 0 Comments

    “Becoming limitless involves mental agility; the ability to quickly grasp and incorporate new ideas and concepts with confidence.” -- Lorii Myers

    I was asked to give an Intro to Agile talk to a group in Microsoft, in addition to a talk on Getting Results the Agile Way.

    It worked out well.

    The idea was to do a level set and get everybody on the same page in terms of what Agile is.

    I thought it was a great chance to build a shared vocabulary and establish some shared mental models.   I believe that when people have a shared vocabulary and common mental models, they can take a look from the balcony.  And, it makes it a lot easier to move up the chain and take things further, faster.

    Anyway, here is how I summarized what Agile is:

    • Agile is a framework of values and principles to manage teams and projects.
    • Agile is an alternative approach to traditional project management. It embraces change while traditional project management fights change.
    • People across functional teams work together as one team, rather than different groups working in phases or stages.
    • More human communication, interaction, and face-to-face.
    • Continuous feedback from users and stakeholders.
    • Iterations, shorter development cycles, and more frequent releases.
    • Visibility of progress and transparency of process.

    That said, I need to find something a bit more pithy and precise, yet insightful.

    If I had to put it in a simple sentence, I’d say Agile is empowerment through flexibility.

    One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that some people struggle when they try to go Agile.

    They struggle because they can’t seem to “flip a switch.”  And if they don’t flip the switch, they don’t change their mindset.

    And, if they don’t change their mindset, Agile remains just beyond their grasp.

    Agile is like happiness, grow it right under your feet.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Why Agile?

    • 3 Comments

    I thought I had written about “Why Agile” before, but I don’t see anything crisp enough.

    Anyway, here’s my latest rundown on Why Agile?

    1. Increase customer involvement which can build empathy and avoid rework
    2. Learn faster which means you can adapt to change
    3. Improve quality through focus
    4. Reduce risk through shorter feedback loops and customer interaction
    5. Simplify by getting rid of overhead and waste
    6. Reduce cycle time through timeboxing and parallel development
    7. Improve operational awareness through transparency
    8. Drive process improvement through continuous improvement
    9. Empower people through less mechanics and more interaction, continuous learning, and adaptation
    10. Flow more value through more frequent releases and less “big bang”

    Remember that nature favors the flexible and agility is the key to success.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Capitalizing on the Internet of Things: How To Succeed in a Connected World

    • 0 Comments

    “Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” -- William Pollard

    The Internet of Things is hot.  But it’s more than a trend.  It’s a new way of life (and business.)

    It’s transformational in every sense of the word (and world.)

    A colleague shared some of their most interesting finds with me, and one of them is:

    Capitalizing on the Internet of Things: How To Succeed in a Connected World

    Here are my key take aways:

    1. The Fourth Industrial Revolution:  The Internet of Things
    2. “For many companies, the mere prospect of remaking traditional products into smart and connected ones is daunting.  But embedding them into the digital world using services-based business models is much more fundamentally challenging.  The new business models impact core processes such as product management, operations, and production, as well as sales and channel management.”
    3. “According to the research database of the analyst firm Machina Research, there will be approx. 14 billion connected devices by 2022 – ranging from IP-enabled cars to heating systems, security cameras, sensors, and production machines.”
    4. “Managers need to envision the valuable new opportunities that become possible when the physical world is merged with the virtual
      world.”
    5. “The five key markets are connected buildings, automotive, utilities, smart cities, and manufacturing.”
    6. “In order to provide for the IoT’s multifaceted challenges, the most important thing to do is develop business ecosystems comparable to a coral reef, where we can find diversity of species, symbiosis, and shared development.”
    7. “IoT technologies create new ways for companies to enrich their services, gain customer insights, increase efficiency, and create differentiation opportunities.”
    8. “From what we have seen, IoT entrepreneurs also need to follow exploratory approaches as they face limited predictability and want to minimize risks, preferably in units that are small, agile, and independent.”

    It’s a fast read, with nice and tight insight … my kind of style.

    Enjoy.

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