J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

November, 2010

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Windows Azure Developer Guidance Map

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    image

    If you’re a Windows Azure developer or you want to learn Windows Azure, this map is for you.   Microsoft has an extensive collection of developer guidance available in the form of Code Samples, How Tos, Videos, and Training.  The challenge is -- how do you find all of the various content collections? … and part of that challenge is knowing *exactly* where to look.  This is where the map comes in.  It helps you find your way around the online jungle and gives you short-cuts to the treasure troves of available content.

    The Windows Azure Developer Guidance Map helps you kill a few birds with one stone:

    1. It show you the key sources of Windows Azure content and where to look (“teach you how to fish”)
    2. It gives you an index of the main content collections (Code Samples, How Tos, Videos, and Training)
    3. You can also use the map as a model for creating your own map of developer guidance.

    Download the Windows Azure Developer Guidance Map

    Contents at a Glance

    • Introduction
    • Sources of Windows Azure Developer Guidance
    • Topics and Features Map (a “Lens” for Finding Windows Azure Content)
    • Summary Table of Topics
    • How The Map is Organized (Organizing the “Content Collections”)
    • Getting Started
    • Architecture and Design
    • Code Samples
    • How Tos
    • Videos
    • Training

    Mental Model of the Map
    The map is a simple collection of content types from multiple sources, organized by common tasks, common topics, and Windows Azure features:

    image

    Special Thanks …
    Special thanks to David Aiken, James Conard, Mike Tillman, Paul Enfield, Rob Boucher, Ryan Dunn, Steve Marx, Terri Schmidt, and Tobin Titus for helping me find and round up our various content collections.

    Enjoy and share the map with a friend.

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    Developer Guidance Maps Roundup for ADO.NET, ASP.NET, Silverlight, Windows Azure and Windows Phone

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    Developer Guidance Maps are treasure maps and guided tours of our developer content collections.  They are consolidated and organized views of content collections spanning Channel9, MSDN Developer Centers, MSDN Library, Code Gallery, CodePlex, the All-in-One Code Framework, www.ASP.net, www.Silverlight.net, WindowsClient.net, etc.  I’m creating these as part of our “IA” effort.  One of the things I’ve been tasked with is creating an IA, or "information architecture," for the developer guidance ecosystem at Microsoft.  As part of that effort, I have to map out what we already have as well as identify the various sources of content and clearing houses.   Rather than simply do this behind the scenes, I’ve decided to share the maps with you as I go so that you benefit … thus Developer Guidance Maps were born. 

    Each map basically provides a map of the technology (common categories, features, scenarios), sources of where to look for key content, a Getting Started section of content, an Architecture and Design section of content, and then extensive content collections for Code Samples, How Tos, Videos, and Training, organized by scenarios and common tasks.

    Benefits of Developer Guidance Maps

    1. Show you the key sources of developer content and where to look (“teach you how to fish”)
    2. Provide an index of the main content collections (Code Samples, How Tos, Videos, and Training)
    3. Use the map as a model for creating your own map of developer guidance to streamline your learning and ramp up.

    Developer Guidance Maps Available for Download
    Here is a roundup of the current Developer Guidance Maps:

    Mental Model for the Maps
    Here is a simple mental model for the Developer Guidance Maps:

    image

    The Approach
    Rather than boil the ocean, I’ve used a systematic and repeatable approach.  I’ve focused on common categories and features for key technologies and simple content types.   Here is how we prioritized our focus:

    1. Content Collections: Code, How Tos, Videos, Training
    2. Building Apps: Cloud, Data, Desktop, Phone, Service, Web
    3. Technology Building Blocks:  ADO.NET, ASP.NET, Silverlight, WCF, WPF, Windows Azure, Windows Client, Windows Phone

    The Maps are Works in Progress
    Keep in mind these maps are works in progress and they help us pressure test our simple information architecture (“Simple IA”) for developer guidance at Microsoft.  Creating the maps also helps me test the model, create a catalog of developer guidance, and easily find the gaps and opportunities.   While the maps are incomplete, they may help you find content and sources of content that you didn’t even know existed.  For example, the All-In-One Code Framework has more than 450 code examples that cover 24 Microsoft development technologies such as Windows Azure, Windows 7, Silverlight, etc. … and the collection grows by six samples per week.

    Here’s another powerful usage scenario.  Use the maps as a template to create your own map for a particular technology.  By creating a map or catalog of content for a specific technology, and  organizing it by topic, feature, and content type, you can dramatically speed up your ability to map out a space and leverage existing knowledge. (… and you can share your maps with a friend ;)

    My Related Posts

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    Pragmatic Patterns

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    As Ward Cunningham taught me, the value of patterns is simply having a shared language for sharing strategies.  I would add though, that “visual” is key … visual languages change the game.

    I’m very much a fan of pragmatic patterns.  Here are some of my lessons learned for making patterns more useful.  I recommend keeping patterns super simple and contextualized.  Here’s what I’ve learned …

    • Application Patterns – higher-level and end to end.  See Azure App Patterns and App Pattern – Four Tier (Table Module)
    • App Scenarios and Solutions – to show concrete examples.  See WCF Intranet Sample.
    • Deployment Patterns - to show end to end layout of the physical + logical layers (runtime patterns).  See Physical Tiers and Deployment and Deployment Patterns.
    • Pattlets - for all the good little nuggets of insight – simple problem/solution pairs.  See Pattlets.
    • Pattern Language – Create a pattern language by creating a constellation of key patterns for a given domain.  To keep it simple, just think of your pattern language as a simple map that shows how the patterns connect.

    I also recommend …

    • Don’t mix the pattern with the implementation -- Keep patterns factored from implementation.  This helps keep the patterns simple and elegant to express (a good pattern shares a principle or strategy.)
    • Connect to Code Samples and How Tos.  Rather than bake implementation into the pattern, keep the pattern lean and connect the pattern to code samples and “How Tos” to make them real and to keep the pattern durable, while the implementation changes or varies for the context (one pattern to many code samples, how tos.)  See examples of How Tos and App Scenarios.  Think in terms of a constellation, both in connecting to other content as well as to other patterns.
    • Create a language for the space.  Focus on creating a language by framing and naming the space using patterns.  Here is an example with A Language for Architecture.

    Pattern Languages as Maps of the Space
    Below is an example of Enterprise Solution Pattern using a map to express it as a pattern language in a brutally simple way…

    clip_image001

    Patterns when done well are actually the short-cut to sharing expertise for a given domain.

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    ADO.NET Developer Guidance Map

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    image

    If you’re interested in Microsoft data access (ADO.NET, Entity Framework, etc.), this map is for you.   Microsoft has an extensive collection of developer guidance available in the form of Code Samples, How Tos, Videos, and Training.  The challenge is -- how do you find all of the various content collections? … and part of that challenge is knowing *exactly* where to look.  This is where the map comes in.  It helps you find your way around the online jungle and gives you short-cuts to the treasure troves of available content.

    The Windows ADO.NET Developer Guidance Map helps you kill a few birds with one stone:

    1. It show you the key sources of data access content and where to look (“teach you how to fish”)
    2. It gives you an index of the main content collections (Code Samples, How Tos, Videos, and Training)
    3. You can also use the map as a model for creating your own map of developer guidance.

    Download the ADO.NET Developer Guidance Map

    Contents at a Glance

    • Introduction
    • Sources of Data Access Developer Guidance
    • Topics and Features Map (a “Lens” for Finding ADO.NET Content)
    • Summary Table of Topics
    • How The Map is Organized (Organizing the “Content Collections”)
    • Getting Started
    • Architecture and Design
    • Code Samples
    • How Tos
    • Videos
    • Training

    Mental Model of the Map
    The map is a simple collection of content types from multiple sources, organized by common tasks, common topics, and ADO.NET features:

    image

    Special Thanks …
    Special thanks to Chris Sells, Diego Dagum, Mechele Gruhn, Paul Enfield, and Tobin Titus for helping me find and round up our various content collections.

    Enjoy and share the map with a friend.

    My Related Posts

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    Windows Phone Developer Guidance Map

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    image If you’re interested in development with the Microsoft Windows Phone, this map is for you.   Microsoft has an extensive collection of developer guidance available in the form of Code Samples, How Tos, Videos, and Training.  The challenge is -- how do you find all of the various content collections? … and part of that challenge is knowing *exactly* where to look.  This is where the map comes in.  It helps you find your way around the online jungle and gives you short-cuts to the treasure troves of available content.

    The Windows Phone Developer Guidance Map helps you kill a few birds with one stone:

    1. It show you the key sources of Windows Phone content and where to look (“teach you how to fish”)
    2. It gives you an index of the main content collections (Code Samples, How Tos, Videos, and Training)
    3. You can also use the map as a model for creating your own map of developer guidance.

    Download the Windows Phone Developer Guidance Map

    Contents at a Glance

    • Introduction
    • Sources of Windows Phone Developer Guidance
    • Windows Phone Architecture
    • Topics and Features Map (a “Lens” for Finding Windows Phone Content)
    • How The Map is Organized (Organizing the “Content Collections”)
    • Getting Started
    • Architecture and Design
    • Code Samples
    • How Tos
    • Videos
    • Training

    Mental Model of the Map
    The map is a simple collection of content types from multiple sources, organized by common tasks, common topics, and Windows Phone features:

    image

    Special Thanks …
    Special thanks to Adam Grocholski, Allison Kent, Constanze Roman, Dan Reagan, Dragos Manolescu, Georgia Pettigrove, Kevin Lam, Mark Chamberlain, Paul Enfield, Pete Brown, Srinivas Iragavarapu, and Will Clevenger for helping me find and round up our various content collections.

    Enjoy and share the map with a friend.

    My Related Posts

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    Code Sample Collections Roundup for ADO.NET, ASP.NET, Silverlight, WCF, Windows Azure, and Windows Phone

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    Code Sample Collections are a simple way to gather, organize, and share code samples.  Rather than a laundry list, each collection is organized by a set of common categories for that specific technology.  The collections of code samples are created by mapping out the existing code samples from various sources including MSDN Library, Code Gallery, Channel9, and CodePlex.

    Here is a roundup of my most recent Code Sample Collections:

    My Related Posts

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    Windows Phone Code Samples Collection

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    image

    The Microsoft Windows Phone Code Samples Collection is a roundup and map of Windows Phone code samples from various sources including the MSDN library, Code Gallery, CodePlex, and Microsoft Support.

    You can add to the Windows Phone code examples collection by sharing in the comments or emailing me atFeedbackAndThoughts at live.com.

    Common Categories for Windows Phone Code Samples
    The Windows Phone Code Samples Collection is organized using the following categories:

    image

     

    Windows Phone Code Samples Collection

    Category

    Items

    Accelerometer *

    Application Bar *

    Control Tilt Effect *

    Data Access *

    General *

    Globalization and Localization *

    Location Service *

    Maps *

    Media *

    Orientation

    Panorama / Pivot *

    Settings Page *

    Splash Screen *

    WebBrowser Control *

    Web Services *

    XNA

    * Download links were updated on 9/24/2012

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    Customer-Connected Engineering (CCE)

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    I’ve originally shared this in other places and other ways, but I’m consolidating here to make it easier to share a link.  As more teams ask me about Customer-Connected Engineering (CCE), it’s easier to just point them here for a quick overview.

    Customer Connected Engineering is a practice we’ve used across our patterns & practices teams for engaging customers throughout the life cycle. We involved customers during the planning, development, and release of our deliverables. Basically, it’s a way of baking customers into the product and project cycle.  This is a slide set that shares how we’ve done Customer Connected Engineering inside patterns & practices, including our key practices and guiding principles.

    Download the PDF
    You can download the slides (38 slides) as a PDF:

    Key Activities
    The following is a visual overlay of key Customer Connected Engineering practices on top of our existing product life cycle in patterns & practices: 

    CustomerConnectedEngineering
     
    Here’s a summary of the key activities in Customer Connected Engineering:

    • Customer Advisory Board. The Customer Advisory Board is a set of customers that act as a sounding board for the project.
    • Stories / Scenarios. Customers share stories and scenarios. Stories and scenarios are narratives that capture and share usage scenarios for your product. The scenarios help show requirements in context.
    • Prioritization. Customers help prioritize by providing input for the product backlog, the sprint backlogs and iteration planning sessions.
    • Feedback. Customers provide feedback during iterations and for release.
    Guiding Principles
    One of the ways to successfully adopt a practice is to focus on the principles. The principles help you avoid getting stuck on implementation details. Implementation will vary from project to project, but the core concepts will stay the same. Here are some principles we’ve found to improve Customer Connected Engineering:
    1. Set the frame. A frame is how you look at things. You need to frame the discussion and create something that people can react to. The more thoughtful the frame, the higher the quality feedback you get. You create the frame by figuring out the customers, their needs, and the business goals. You use the frame to help focus feedback and dialogue. For example, one frame could be an architectural overview. Another frame can be your product backlog.
    2. Shared problems. The customers you select for the Customer Advisory Board need to have first-hand experience with the problem. They need to care and be involved in the solution.
    3. Have an opinion. Without an opinion, you’ll get randomized. Have an opinion so you can rationalize the feedback and priorities from various customers. Each customer will be coming from different perspectives. It’s your job to frame the feedback and understand the perspectives. You should also know your own assumptions. When people challenge your assumptions, you understand why you are changing your opinion. For example, you might have an idea on a user experience. Your customers then provide their reaction, which leads to you revising your design.
    4. Synthesize the feedback. Step back and look across the scenarios and requirements. Look for common denominators. Prioritize across your highest ROI items.
    5. Scenarios are King. Scenarios are the backbone of Customer Connected Engineering. The end-to-end scenarios are one of the most important outcomes. It’s one thing to look at a list of scenarios in a document. It’s another to walk through stories and scenarios with customers. Customers can share their goals and their stories in detail. We suggest having a set of straw man scenarios, before you engage with the advisory board.
    6. Transparency. Transparency is letting customers see inside your process to understand how things work. It’s sharing your decision making approach so that customers understand how trade-offs are made. It’s also about sharing design goals as you know them. It’s also about making customers aware of important changes along the way, instead of at the very end when you ship. It’s opening up the door to the workshop and letting customers watch and participate as you build your deliverables. When they understand why you made a decision / tradeoff, you are more likely to have a satisfied customer, even if they disagreed with a specific decision.
    7. Incremental value. Find a way to flow value. As the project progresses, customers should get a sense that you are delivering value along the way.
    8. Fail early, fail often. Share releases with your customers so they can share feedback. You don’t want to be surprised when you’re ready to ship. Share early and share often. Use the feedback to improve.
    9. Timely feedback. A big benefit of Customer Connected Engineering is timely feedback.
    10. Stay flexible. Be responsive to feedback. Acting on feedback will show customers you value their input and that it makes a difference. The more they see the impact, the more they’ll engage.
    11. Real world solutions. If you have a working implementation, you have a significant starting point. Where you can, find examples of specific customer solutions that solve some of the same scenarios and challenge you are facing. For example, to speed up your success, rather than chase your competition, you can look to working solutions.
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    Great Books, Great People, Great Quotes

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    One of the main things Sources of Insight, my personal effectiveness blog, draws from is books, people, and quotes.  By drawing from books, people, and quotes, you can leverage the wisdom of the ages and stand on the shoulders of giants.  It’s a recipe for results.

    When it comes to effectiveness, I find that there’s a big gap between the state of the art and the state of the practice.  The way to bridge the gap is to turn insight into action and continuously learn and test both timeless patterns and practices, as well as emerging practices.   Whether it’s a model, a map, a lens, a principle, a pattern, a practice, or a technique, all these distinctions help you build your personal knowledge base of profound knowledge.  Knowledge alone isn’t enough though.  It' takes action.  Nothing beats applied research and you need the wisdom that comes from the rubber meeting the road.

    To help share the information, I’ve created three focused pages on Sources of Insight:

    I’ve also created a Resources hub to share some key resources, such as Free E-Books and Free Productivity Training.  If you do stop by, be sure to grab your free copy of You 2.0.   It’s a very special guide to helping you find your core and build a firm foundation.  It’s very simple to flip through, but if you do the exercises, you might find that they are exactly what you need to find your way forward.  It’s all about helping you unfold and unleash a better version of yourself.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

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    Visuals for Getting Results the Agile Way

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    I included a lot of visuals in my book Getting Results the Agile Way.    You can easily browse and share the visuals from the Getting Results Knowledge Base.   I’m a fan of turning information into visuals where possible. I think this helps share mental models faster, and once you have a mental model for something, it makes learning about it faster and easier.  Getting Results the Agile Way is a personal results system for work and life, so the visuals tend to be about time management, focus, motivation, etc.

    Example – Conceptual Framework for Getting Results the Agile Way
    This image is a conceptual map of the framework behind the system:

    image

    • Time as a First Class Citizen.  As you can see from the image above, the system is pinned against time �� daily, weekly, and monthly results (and that’s extensible.) 
    • Hot Spots as a Heat Map or Portfolio.  The Hot Spots are like a Heat Map of what’s important or what’s on your plate.  I actually think of it as a portfolio to check my investments in my work projects, my home projects, and the bigger picture called “life.”
    • Results Frame as a Lens for Principles, Patterns, and Practices.  The Results Frame is a set of categories within the personal productivity, personal effectiveness, and results space.  It’s a way to chunk up the space and make it more actionable.  Each category represents actionable buckets within that domain.   For example, there are several principles, patterns, and practices for improving your “Focus” or improving your “Task Management.”  The Results Frame makes it easy both to hunt down other principles, patterns, and practices or to organize your own collections.
    • Principles, Patterns, and Practices as Durable Strategies and Tactics.  The principles, patterns, and practices are the strategies and tactics we can use to turn insight into action and find better ways to fire on all cylinders.
    • Lenses for Getting Results.  What you see in action are effectively lenses.  Hot Spots lets us look at work and life as a portfolio of investments, and to make sense of priorities.  Time is a lens where we can look at a day, a week, a month, or a year and ask ourselves, “What’s our next best thing to do?” …. or “What do I want to accomplish given the energy, time, and resources I have today?”, etc.  The Results Frame gives us a lens we can use to look at places to improve to get our game on and get the best synergy possible.

    Browse the visuals and take a visual tour of Getting Results the Agile Way.

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    MSDN Library Home Mockup to Simplify Finding the Product Docs

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    The MSDN Library is the primary showcase of our Microsoft product documentation.  It’s a treasure trove of gems.  The problem is, if you don’t know where to look, sometimes finding the documentation you’re looking for can be a challenge.   Part of your success hinges on finding the right information, so let’s see what we can do about that.

    I put together a mockup of the MSDN Library Home for the MSDN Library team as an example of one way to showcase some key starting points for some popular technologies on the MSDN Library Home.   Here is the model:

    Category

    Items

    Cloud

    Desktop

    Games

    Phone

    Services

    Web

    Data

    Here are some key points about the model:

    1. App Hubs / Pillars.  The model is organized around higher-level buckets: Cloud, Desktop, Games, Phone, Services, Web, and Data.
    2. Key Technologies.  The App Hubs/Pillars group key technologies.  For example, Cloud includes Windows Azure, SQL Azure, and the Windows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio.
    3. Home Page, API Reference, How Tos, and Walkthroughs.  Rather than exhaustive, it’s a focus on a subset of the content.  In this case, it’s optimized around helping you find the starting point in the product documentation as well as some of the most popular content, including the API reference and code samples.

    Special Thanks …
    Special thanks to the following people for helping me find the main starting points and put the frame together:  Alik Levin, Eric Peterson, Jesse Liberty, Joe Stagner, Jon Galloway, Paul Enfield, Pete Brown, Rey Bango, Rob Boucher, Sam Landstrom, Scott Hanselman, Tim Teebken, Wade Pickett 

    If you have thoughts on the model, send my way.

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    Leadership Books A-Z

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    "Leadership is influence." — John Maxwell

    Here is my latest list of leadership books.    While I don’t know if it’s the ultimate leadership book list, it’s pretty exhaustive.

    I have an enormous library of books.  For many months, I’ve spent around $300 a month on books.  I read fast but I also have a technique for reading faster and turning insight into action, that I’ll share in a future post, if there’s interest.

    What makes this list special is that it’s based on accumulated knowledge over time and applying various leadership books at work, to real problems.  I find out about many of the most effective books to try based on asking colleagues what books they use to get results.  So it’s like distilled wisdom of the crowds.  My main measure for the books is what problems they solve, what insights they have, and how actionable they are.

    I put the list in A-Z format, so that you can quickly scan and compare the list to your existing leadership books.  I stripped out the descriptions of the books because it significantly bulked up the list.  I may add some terse descriptions back in, but I’m not sure yet.  The main value is having a list of useful leadership books organized A-Z, with what’s new up front, followed by a vital few.

    When I think of leadership, I think of vision, forward-thinking, clarity, decision-making, connection and conviction, networking, driving results, empowerment, confidence, influence, impact, etc.  With that in mind, it’s an eclectic set including timeless classics as well as some of the latest leadership books.

    You’ll most likely recognize many of the books, but hopefully, many you won’t.  For example, if you don’t know Emotional Capitalists, it’s one of the best books I know that distills Emotional Intelligence down into pragmatic  and actionable insight.  If you don’t know Get Them On Your Side, it’s an systematic process for making change happen, from both a people and a system perspective.  If you don’t know Flawless Execution, it includes a 12-point approach for creating a sharing a vision, based on military approaches, but that you can apply for your business or team.

    Browse my leadership books collection and if you have a favorite leadership-oriented book I should know about, please let me know.  I’m always expanding my library and I consider this a living list of leadership books.

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    Getting Results Knowledge Base v2

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    I significantly revamped the Getting Results Knowledge Base this past weekend.  The Knowledge Base (KB) is a rich collection of principles, patterns, and practices for getting better, faster, simpler results.  It’s the companion to my book on getting results, Getting Results the Agile Way, which is a personal results system for work and life.

    The strategy is to have a “thin guide” + “thick KB”.  The guide is the size of a thin playbook, while the KB is a growing repository of checklists, templates, step-by-step How Tos, etc.

    Features of the Knowledge Base
    The KB is designed to be easy to browse, and has the following features:

    • Getting Started – Browse the Getting started section.
    • Popular – This is a short-list of some of the most commonly used items.
    • Featured – This is a showcase of some key assets within the knowledge base.
    • Topics - Browse by topics (Action, Focus, Goals, Motivation, etc.)
    • Content Types - Browse by content types (Articles, Checklists, How Tos, etc.)
    • Multimedia - Browse by multimedia (Posters, Slides, etc.)

    Topics
    Here are some of the topics addressed in the Getting Results Knowledge Base:

    I know I drove some people crazy asking them for feedback to improve the usability, but I think it paid off.   While the KB has a long ways to go, I think it’s a strong foundation to build on.

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    Alik Levin on Getting Results

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    This is a story of a person, who started a new chapter in their life.  They decided to follow their dream and write their story forward.

    Meet Alik Levin.  Talk about changing your life.  Earlier this year, Alik came to the U.S. with his family in search of his dream job.  Not only did he land his job, but he's been making amazing impact on his new team and driving change in powerful ways.  He's in his element and truly unleashed.  Alik is now a successful Microsoft programming writer.  He's living his passion while he’s helping customers succeed on our platform, by sharing success patterns with customers around the world.

    Every now and then, somebody does something that just blows your mind.  I've known Alik for a long time, but When Alik first told me that he was coming to the U.S. to find a job and make his dreams happen, I was in disbelief.  It was the type of thing you read about or watch in the movies, but to see it unfold right before my eyes was nothing short of spectacular.  You see, this was not a story of somebody simply hopping from one mountain peak to another.  It was a story of personal triumph.  I got to watch Alik climb a mountain from scratch, based on his conviction and courage for a better life.  Watching him uproot his family and start a new life, in this new world, has been one of the most amazing transformations I’ve seen in a long time.

    While I'm happy that the story had a happy ending, and a wonderful new beginning, I'm truly proud of this guy.  In a world of turbulence, he decided to take the bull by the horns and live life on his terms.  He's no shadow of his former self.   Instead, he is a model for leading a life of action and making the most of what he’s got.  He truly is the author of his life.  Wow.

    You can imagine how ecstatic I was when Alik offered to share his story of how he uses Getting Results the Agile Way, as his secret weapon for getting results ...

    You can find the original video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2creyf13eVI.  If you know somebody who needs a lift in their day, feel free to share Alik’s story with them.   It just might make their day.  I know a lot of people who could use a shoulder to lean on or a helping hand, or even just a story of hope.

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