Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
Decision making is a skill we get to practice every day. The surprise is that it's the key to either accelerate or limit your career. It's the backbone of judgment. Leaders need the ability to make decisions and take decisive action. Effective decision making is an art and science, and the best thing you can do is get the science on your side, while you practice the art of applying it. And, like I said, you get to practice decision making every day: What to wear? What's for breakfast? What to listen to? What are the top priorities for the day? Should we go with option A, B, or C? What's the next best thing to do? Which features do we cut? Which customer segment should we target? Which problem should we solve? ... etc.
Here is a good roundup of articles on decision making at Lean Decisions.com:
I've learned a lot about decision making over the years. I learned a lot from Peter Drucker, especially when he pointed out the power of judgment as a skill. I've learned how to use emotions as input, listen to my gut, do rapid pattern matching, use Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats and PMI techniques, use Michael Michalko's THINKERTOYS techniques, use criteria and weight for team decision, and how to faciliate decision making more effectively, while driving action.
The power of techniques is that they are like training wheels ... eventually you don't need them. But along the way, they help you eliminate bad habits, and learn more effective ones.
The most surprising insight for me is how intuition is rapid pattern matching + mental simulation, and more importantly, that our intuition is a powerful tool in scenarios … where we have experience. If you've wondered why sometimes you intuition serves you while other times it fails you, it's because it depends on the patterns you've filled your head with. What makes a surgeon a great decision makers isn't the books -- it's their trials-and-tribulations. It's their daily practice and the experience they draw from under the gun.
So read the articles about decision making. Then “do” effective decision making and practice your art of decisive action.
If you need help with taking action, then read Getting Results the Agile Way. You’ll be glad you did. It’s an industrial-strength system for making things happen, whether that means being a more effective leader, unleashing the “productive artist” in you, or simply flowing more value for yourself and others, while using the world’s best insight and action to think, feel, and be your best in any situation.
I wrote another book review: The Charge: Activating the 10 Human Drives that Make You Feel Alive
I've been reading a lot of books lately, looking for ones that I can use at Microsoft. Microsoft is a challenging environment that pits your skills against some tough challenges. When you're working in an arena that supports the world, the game gets tougher. As you move up the stack, there is no shortage of traps, pitfalls, and challenges to stretch and grow you in new ways.
The way I stay on top of the game is primarily through three things:
I read a lot of books, anything from project management, to business skills, to personal development, to leadership and strategy. It's not like you can ever be too good, and the game is always changing. Learning the right methodology, method, or technique can be the difference between success and failure. Some of the best tools are new ways of looking at the world.
People can show you things fast. Like “monkey see, monkey do”, great habits can rub off on you, if you surround yourself with great people. People really are the short-cuts. More precisely, mentors are the absolute short-cuts. They've been there, and done that, so they can save you a lot of pain and help you avoid dead ends. They can also light the path to a better way of doing things. People really are the way to achieve better, faster, cheaper results in the real-world. When you experience masters in action practicing their craft, you know exactly what I mean.
Practice is taking the science and applying it to the real world. That's the art part. While practice doesn't make perfect, it does build skill, and skills are the difference that makes the difference. Motivation and ability are one thing, but skills are the amplifier of what's possible. The greatest growth I have seen time and again is when somebody expands their capabilities with new skills. It's how they change their game, play at a new level, and transform what they are capable of. It's like a martial artist graduating through the belts.
Anyway, back to my point about books. The beauty of books is that they are a fast way to learn smarter ways for better days. One of the most insightful books I've read lately, is The Charge, by Brendon Burchard. It's a book about how to light your soul on fire and bring out your best in work and life. What I like about the book is that it introduces a new framework for motivation that goes beyond what we need, and puts a new spin on what we want, backed by the latest neuroscience and positive psychology.
I wrote a book review that gives you a guided tour of the book and what you'll learn:
Note – My book review format is evolving. I’m trying to develop a format and structure that helps you very quickly get a tour of the book, and really understand what problems the book is solving, and what’s really in it for you. It doesn’t replace book reviews on Amazon, but it should be a nice supplement in that it gives you a quick bird’s-eye view, as well as deep dives into the content of the book.
If you follow my blog, you know that Sources of Insight is my blog dedicated to personal effectiveness. It includes almost 900 articles on happiness, leadership, personal development, productivity, and more.
Sources of Insight also features special guest stars, including best-selling authors such as Al Ries of The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, Dr. Rick Kirschner of Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, Gretchen Ruben of The Happiness Project, and Jim Kouzes of The Leadership Challenge.
The goal of Sources of Insight is to empower you with skill to be YOUR best in any situation. It includes checklists, step-by-step How Tos, and 101 lists. In fact, if you haven’t read it all ready, be sure to read 101 of the World’s Best Insights and Actions for Work and Life. It’s a serious game changer.
One of the most significant features of Sources of Insight is the series on Great Books, Great People, Great Quotes. I’m a fan of timeless wisdom, and the idea here was to build a hall of heroes and put the wisdom of the ages and modern sages at your finger tips. For example, here is a collection of some of the world’s most inspirational quotes. If you’re a Seth Godin fan, you’ll definitely enjoy my Lessons Learned from Seth Godin. If you’re a Bruce Lee fan, my Lessons Learned from Bruce Lee will make your soul sing. Many people have made posters from that article.
My book lists are especially useful. First, I spend a lot of money on books every single month, and I actually test the books in action at Microsoft. Nothing is as revealing as applied use. I go through a lot of books looking for the best principles, patterns, and practices for leadership, personal development, time management, and more. Second, my book lists are not just flat lists. My book lists are organized into meaningful buckets so that you can find books that target the specific sub-topic that you care about. For example, there are a lot of leadership books out there. My list chunks up leadership books that I recommend into attitude, authenticity, change, character, communication, daily, leadership development, emotional intelligence, execution, excellence, failure, learning, practices, reflection, servant leadership, situational leadership, strengths, strategy, teamwork, and trust. See for yourself. Check out my Leadership Books page.
Sources of Insight also includes a lot of unique insights into extreme skills. For example, How To Think Like Bill Gates is a short and snappy article on how to emulate the thinking skills of Bill Gates in a way that you can use to improve your own thinking on a daily basis. Choice, an article by Michael Michalko, a former Disney imagineer and author of ThinkerToys, shows you how to shape the meaning of your life based on what you choose to do, and refuse to do. Discover Your Why, an article by Janine de Nysschen shows you how to find your purpose and lead a meaningful life. As an added bonus, at the end of the article, Janine shares her Purpose Pack which is an advanced toolkit for helping you find your purpose through question-driven techniques.
I also give away free eBooks on Sources of Insight. One of my most popular eBooks of all time is You 2.0. It’s a simple eBook to help you build a firm foundation. Within pages you find your one-liner purpose, your vision, your mission, and your values. You also create empowering metaphors for life .. and life becomes a dance, or an epic adventure … it’s up to you. In You 2.0, you also find your strengths, and you learn tools to improve your self-awareness. If you are ready to level up in life, You 2.0 may just be the catalyst you need.
What’s all this got to do with my Resources Page on Sources of Insight? Everything.
I made an attempt to do more justice to the profound knowledge base that I’ve built up over the past few years during my relentless pursuit of excellence. My previous Resources Page was just a simple list of the resources. I liked the simplicity of it, but enough folks told me that it wasn’t telling the story of what’s available. It was a tip-of-the-iceberg problem. With that in mind, I beefed up the page. Take my new Resources Page for a test-drive and tell me how you like it.
BEFORE This is what my Resources page looked like before the revamp. It was a simple list of the resources, organized by A- Z:
AFTER This is what my Resources page looks like now. It includes short descriptions and a few examples from each resource:
Be sure to share Sources of Insight with your friends, family, or colleagues to help them make the most of what they’ve got. Karma has a way of coming back around.
While it’s an open community, the site is optimized for people with a passion for more from life. Yes, there is a better way … if you “know-how.” Skills make the difference in life. Share them freely. Share them often. Lift others up – and help as many people as you can to “Stand on the shoulders of giants” … with insight and action for work and life.
To Do, Doing, Done is my favorite way to segment a Kanban. It’s where I start. It’s simple and intuitive. Another benefit is that it’s easy to glance at three segments. I’m a fan of “glance and go” vs. “stop and stare.”
In the Kanban above, the “To Do” segment has a set of work items yet to be started. The “Doing” segment has three things in progress. The “Done” segment shows three things completed. It’s simple, but visualizing the work helps declutter your head. It also helps you focus. It also gives you simple visual feedback. And, if you’re part of a team, it helps create a shared view of the work.
Corey Ladas introduced me to Kanban years ago. He kept it simple. He showed me a piece of paper, drew three lines to segment it, and wrote “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done.” He then walked me through the big ideas of pulling work through a Kanban. It stuck with me because one of my biggest challenges at the time was how to create a shared view of the work for the team. I liked the idea of using a Kanban as a backdrop for conversations and getting the team on the same page.
Whether I’m using my whiteboard, a wall in the hall, or a wall at home, I tend to start with “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done.” It’s served me well for years, whether it’s for a personal Kanban or a Kanban for the team.
I hope the simple visual above inspires you to manage your work in the simplest way possible, so you can spend more energy where it counts … the work itself. Nothing gets results like actually doing the work.
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With great pain comes great opportunities. I've seen a lot of people lose their jobs. I've been asked to do talks to help people get back on their feet again. I do. It helps. It's not enough.
The real challenge is how to help people make a living in today's world. What does that mean? It means things like this:
What are some key strategies we can anchor to?
It's time to learn new skills. It's time to learn how to be an infopreneur. Whether it's your first profession or your second profession, it's time to learn how to sell your experience, skills, and talents in the digital economy. Whether you are a project manager selling How To guides, or a doctor selling your apps, or a developer selling your books, or a teacher selling your songs ... now is the time.
But we need to be taught how to fish. Giving us fish won't work. But how do you learn the skills you need to create and sell information products online if you don't even know where to start?
One of the best primers I've been sharing with family, friends, and colleagues is The Six Figure Second Income. It shows you how to make money as an infopreneur and how to put it all together, end-to-end.
I think it has many of the answers for helping people find a way to survive and thrive in our ever-changing times.
The road is not easy, but you first need to know the path.