Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
"We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done." -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Happy holidays and best wishes for 2012!
I'm looking forward to a fresh start in the New Year. I want to make the most of January. Rather than a New Year's Resolution, I'll identify three wins that I want for the year. I'll also start January off with a 30 Day Improvement Sprint.
I know a lot of folks that are also planning on doing a 30 Day Improvement Sprint in January as a way to bootstrap their year. They have Getting Results the Agile Way, and they have the free eBook 30 Days of Getting Results. For many of them, they are going to focus their 30 Day Improvement Sprint on Getting Results. For others, they are focusing on fitness, or personal development, or a habit they want to change, or a new skill they want to learn.
For me, so far I am thinking that I am going to do a 30 Day Improvement Sprint on Self-Awareness. I figure it's a great way really make the most of the year, by really diving deep on self-awareness.
Here are some of the self-awareness tools that I think are useful to “know thyself”:
I’ve found the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the strengths profile, the Insights Discovery, and Vision, Mission, and Values to be very insightful, practical, and useful for everyday experience. In terms of the most surprising and revealing, I found the Golden Circle to be a great tool for really getting on path and making work and life more meaningful. A lot of executives use it and it’s great for anybody who wants to find their purpose, and connect that with their daily work.
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As we get ready to turn the page for a new year, it's a great time to reflect on what you achieved, and an ever better time to set fresh goals.
This is a short story on how I changed my approach for goals and New Year's Resolutions. A few years back, as New Years was approach, I decided that I would do a deep dive on how to set and achieve goals.
I wanted absolute clarity on goals. I wanted to know the distinction between goals and objectives. I wanted to really understand how to create SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely.) I wanted to know how to really use goal setting as an effective tool to guide my focus, and to move me forward, while reaching for the stars.
So I studied goals. I learned a lot. I found useful metaphors for goals and objectives. For example, one way to think of them is that the goal is the touchdown, while the objectives are the milestones and yards you gain along the way. The objectives are like the mini-goals and the stepping stones. Of course, then I wanted to know whether it made more sense to set SMART goals or SMART objectives, or both.
By the time I figured out how to write goals well, I lost the most important part. Somewhere, along the way, I lost the "Why" behind the goal. I spent so much energy on structuring the goals, that the SMARTER I got about them, the less I wanted to do them.
Since New Year's was coming, and I wanted to start the year with a fresh focus, I pushed my goals aside, and asked a simple question:
“What are three wins I want for the year?” …
Instantly, I responded with three things:
I was surprised by how clear and compelling those answers were. What I realized is that when I was first working my goals, they were based heavily on things I thought I should do, or things that I thought were important. And maybe they were important, but they weren't compelling. But, my new set of three wins for the year was.
I then designed my year, with those three goals in mind. I picked a specific month where each one would be the main focus. Meanwhile, I would do little things along the way, throughout the year, to support hitting my goals.
The most significant thing was that now I had compelling goals, I had clarity in priorities, and I had wins that I could look back on, if the year were over, and find fulfillment. If those three wins weren't enough for a compelling year, then I would have to do a rethink and find new ones to inspire and drive me throughout the year.
In the end, what I learned was that the most important thing about goals is the "Why" behind the goals. Instead of a "push", it's a "pull." Your goals lift you. They inspire your daily action, and they get you back on track, when you lose your way. But if, and only if, you have a compelling "Why" behind them.
So I do things a little differently now. When it comes to New Years, instead of a New Year's resolution per se, I come up with three compelling wins for the year. And to really make things happen, I use 30 Day Improvement Sprints from Getting Results the Agile Way to pull it off. And if it's a really tough challenge, or a tough habit to change, I can throw multiple 30 Day Improvement Sprints at it, until I find my breakthrough.
This little recipe so far has been the most effective way I've found to make big things happen, by taking little actions along the way.
If you really want this year to be different, identify three wins you want for the year, and pick a 30 Day Improvement Sprint to do in January. It's a simple way to bootstrap your success for the New Year.
I love one-liners that really encapsulate ideas. A colleague asked me how work was going with some new projects spinning up and a new team. But she prefaced it with, “Your book is all about making sure your life energy is well spent. Are you finding that you are now spending your energy on the right things and with the right people?” (She was referring to my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.)
I thought was both a great way to frame the big idea of the book, and to ask a perfectly cutting question that cuts right through the thick of things, to the heart of things.
… Are you spending your life energy on the right things?
“No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.” -- Voltaire
With New Years, coming, I think it's a good time to remind you of a technique you can use to increase your success exponentially.
It's 30 Day Improvement Sprints. If you have a goal in mind that you seriously want to nail, then 30 Day Improvement Sprints might be exactly what you need to help you knock it out of the park. I've talked about 30 Day Improvements Sprints here on this blog, but I've also shared them in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.
What You Need to Know About 30 Day Improvement Sprints Here's what you need to know about 30 Day Improvement Sprints
Born Out of Necessity I originally created 30 Day Improvement Sprints as a way to deal with the fact that I had competing priorities. I had a lot of things I wanted to focus on, but then I was constantly hopping back and forth, and not making enough progress on any one thing. Then I stepped back and look at my year as a portfolio of possibility. I have 12 months to invest and play around with. I then asked the question, what if I used each month as a way to focus on something I really wanted to learn or improve? Then each month, I could either pick the same thing again, or choose something new. Finally, rather than do everything at once, I could focus on one key theme for the month, knowing that next month, I could then focus on my next big thing. The side benefit of this is peace of mind. When you have a time or a place for things, you can put them to rest. Otherwise, they keep competing for your attention, until you finally say, next month is when I’ll focus on XYZ.
Benefits of 30 Day Improvement Sprints 30 Day Improvement Sprints turned out to be one of my biggest game changers. Here are some of the benefits I experienced:
Examples of 30 Day Improvement Sprints I used 30 Day Improvement Sprints for everything from learning Windows Azure to improving roller blading to experimenting with eating living foods and getting 10 years younger. One of my most memorable 30 Day Improvement Sprints was a focus on 30 Days of Getting Results. Each day, for 30 days, I took 20 minutes to write about one thing that really helped me achieve better, faster, and simpler results. The results was a large body of insight and action with mini-lessons for getting your groove on and changing your game. (I ended up creating a free 30 Days of Getting Results eBook to put it all at your finger tips. If there’s enough interest, I’ll figure out how to put it on the Kindle too. It’s the perfect thing to help you start the New Year with some of the best patterns and practices for getting results on your side.)
Results at Work I’ve also used 30 Day Improvement Sprints to focus and energize teams at Microsoft. For example, when I first joined the Enterprise Strategy team at Microsoft, I made one of the themes a focus on “simplicity.” This theme caught on, and soon our General Manager was driving action and focus on simplicity. This helped us take a fresh look at one of our products and find ways to dramatically simplify the experience. As the simplicity focus gained momentum, more and more breakthroughs started to show up, all in the name of a simplified experience.
Use 30 Day Improvement Sprints as Your Unfair Advantage in the New Year I’m a fan of Voltaire’s original quote, but I would twist it a little … “Few challenges withstand the assault of sustained action.” Using 30 Day Improvement Sprints really does put the advantage of time on your side, as well as the power of focus and motivation. It also creates an incredible learning loop. Your little actions and feedback loops each day teach you distinctions you can use each new day to keep improving and getting over the humps.
Here are a couple ways you can use 30 Day Improvement Sprints to get exponential results in the New Year:
Think about it … A New Year. A fresh start. Twelve months in which you can choose a new theme or focus each month. Maybe you learn a new language? Maybe you learn the Tango? Who knows. There are a lot of opportunities and potential when you have a system on your side.
If you’ve used 30 Day Improvement Sprints, I’d love to hear how you’ve used them. I’ve had various folks send me their stories on their breakthroughs and changes. I always enjoy reading the stories, so keep sending my way.
I finished sweeping my Leadership Books list. It took a while to update it, but I think it reflects a good set of leadership books by key categories now.
I added a few new books to my leadership books list including The 5 Levels of Leadership, by John Maxwell, and StandOut, by Marcus Buckingham, which weren’t available when I first put my list of leadership books together.I also added some books to the list based on feedback from different folks. For example, I added 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class, by Steve Siebold, Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO, by Harrison Monarth, and The Leadership Test, by Timothy Clark.
This is my current list of top 10 Leadership Books:
Enjoy and explore the list of leadership books.
I’ve put together a comprehensive collection of leadership quotes. It took me a bit longer than I expected, but I wanted a lot of things to be right. I wanted to choose the best quotes. I wanted to organize them in useful and meaningful categories. I wanted this particular collection to really say something on the art of leadership from a variety of perspective and people, drawing from the wisdom of the ages and modern sages.
There’s always room for improvement, but I think you enjoy the richness, breadth, and depth of the collection. To bring you the best insights, I draw from a number of folks that have something to say about leadership, including Gandhi, John Maxwell, George Patton, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Sun Tzu. It puts a lot of wisdom right at your fingertips with a wealth of perspective and depth on the art of leadership.
To make the collection fast and easy to skim or to read in depth, I've organized the leadership quotes collection across a variety of categories, including boldness, challenges, communication, connection, conviction, credibility, encouragement, fear, heart, influence, inspiration, learning, self-leadership, servant-leadership, teamwork, and vision.
To give you a taste of the collection, here are the top ten leadership quotes from the leadership quotes collection …
For more words of wisdom on the art of leadership, check out the full collection of leadership quotes.
I’ve done a major overhaul and sweep of my Best Business Books list.
I use business books to get the edge and get ahead. In fact, in addition to quotes and people, books are one of my greatest sources of knowledge. My book recommendations are hand-crafted indexes of the books that I’ve found to be the most useful. I spend a lot of money on books each month. By a lot, I can safely say that there have been several extended periods in my life where I’ve spent a few hundred dollars on books each month.
I’ve included new gems as well as timeless classics. The most important aspect of the list though, is that I organized the books by meaningful business topics. One of the issues I usually find with book lists is that they are just flat lists, and it’s hard to know what topic they cover. While I like the simplicity of a flat list, I think it’s way more valuable to have a list that organizes the books by categories so that you know what the focus is.
Here are the topics I used for my best business books list:
As you can probably tell, it’s a pretty comprehensive list. I’m not a fan of piece-meal lists. I wanted this list to reflect many of the best business books that I actually use at work that make a difference. For example, Blue Ocean got me focused on whitespace opportunities, Go Put Your Strengths to Work helped me refocus on playing to my strengths, and The Spider and the Starfish taught me the power of using principles and values in a federated way to create meaningful change and empower people and teams.
This is a serious list for the avid business book reader.
Please enjoy my Best Business Books list and may it serve you as it has served me.
By the way, if there is a great business book that you have read, that I need to know about, please be sure to share with me. I’m always on the prowl for the next best business book that will change the game.