Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
What if your work could be your ultimate platform? … your ultimate channel for your growth and greatness?
We spend a lot of time at work.
For some people, work is their ultimate form of self-expression.
For others, work is a curse.
Nobody stops you from using work as a chance to challenge yourself, to grow your skills, and become all that you’re capable of.
But that’s a very different mindset than work is a place you have to go to, or stuff you have to do.
When you change your mind, you change your approach. And when you change your approach, you change your results. But rather than just try to change your mind, the ideal scenario is to expand your mind, and become more resourceful.
You can do so with quotes.
In fact, you can actually build your “work intelligence.”
Here are a few ways to think about “intelligence”:
In Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki, says, “intelligence is the ability to make finer distinctions.” And, Tony Robbins, says “intelligence is the measure of the number and the quality of the distinctions you have in a given situation.”
If you want to grow your “work intelligence”, one of the best ways is to familiarize yourself with the best inspirational quotes about work.
By drawing from wisdom of the ages and modern sages, you can operate at a higher level and turn work from a chore, into a platform of lifelong learning, and a dojo for personal growth, and a chance to master your craft.
You can use inspirational quotes about work to fill your head with ideas, distinctions, and key concepts that help you unleash what you’re capable of.
To give you a giant head start and to help you build a personal library of profound knowledge, here are two work quotes collections you can draw from:
37 Inspirational Quotes for Work as Self-Expression
Inspirational Work Quotes
Let’s practice. This will only take a minute, and if you happen to hear the right words, which are the keys for you, your insight or “ah-ha” can be just the breakthrough that you needed to get more of your work, and, as a result, more out of life (or at least your moments.)
Here is a sample of distinct ideas and depth that you use to change how you perceive your work, and/or how you do your work:
For more ideas, take a stroll through my inspirational work quotes.
As you can see, there are lots of ways to think about work and what it means. At the end of the day, what matters is how you think about it, and what you make of it. It’s either an investment, or it’s an incredible waste of time. You can make it mundane, or you can make it matter.
Here’s another surprise about work. You can use work to live the good life. According to Martin Seligman, a master in the art and science of positive psychology, there are three paths to happiness:
In The Pleasant Life, you simply try to have as much pleasure as possible. In The Good Life, you spend more time in your values. In The Meaningful Life, you use your strengths in the service of something that is bigger than you are.
There are so many ways you can live your values at work and connect your work with what makes you come alive.
There are so many ways to turn what you do into service for others and become a part of something that’s bigger than you.
If you haven’t figured out how yet, then dig deeper, find a mentor, and figure it out.
You spend way too much time at work to let your influence and impact fade to black.
40 Hour Work Week at Microsoft
Agile Avoids Work About Work
How Employees Lost Empathy for Their Work, for the Customer, and for the Final Product
Satya Nadella on Live and Work a Meaningful Life
Personas and scenario can be a powerful tool for driving adoption and business value realization.
All too often, people deploy technology without fully understanding the users that it’s intended for.
Worse, if the technology does not get used, the value does not get realized.
Keep in mind that the value is in the change.
The change takes the form of doing something better, faster, cheaper, and behavior change is really the key to value realization.
If you deploy a technology, but nobody adopts it, then you won’t realize the value. It’s a waste. Or, more precisely, it’s only potential value. It’s only potential value because nobody has used it to change their behavior to be better, faster, or cheaper with the new technology.
In fact, you can view change in terms of behavior changes:
What should users START doing or STOP doing, in order to realize the value?
Behavior change becomes a useful yardstick for evaluating adoption and consumption of technology, and significant proxy for value realization.
I’ve written about personas before in Actors, Personas, and Roles, MSF Agile Persona Template, and Personas at patterns & practices, and Microsoft Research has a whitepaper called Personas: Practice and Theory.
A persona, simply defined is a fictitious character that represents user types. Personas are the “who” in the organization. You use them to create familiar faces and to inspire project teams to know their clients as well as to build empathy and clarity around the user base.
Using personas helps characterize sets of users. It’s a way to capture and share details about what a typical day looks like and what sorts of pains, needs, and desired outcomes the personas have as they do their work.
You need to know how work currently gets done so that you can provide relevant changes with technology, plan for readiness, and drive adoption through specific behavior changes.
Using personas can help you realize more value, while avoiding “value leakage.”
When it comes to users, and what they do, we're talking about usage scenarios. A usage scenario is a story or narrative in the form of a flow. It shows how one or more users interact with a system to achieve a goal.
You can picture usage scenarios as high-level storyboards. Here is an example:
In fact, since scenario is often an overloaded term, if people get confused, I just call them Solution Storyboards.
To figure out relevant usage scenarios, we need to figure out the personas that we are creating solutions for.
In practice, you would segment the user population, and then assign personas to the different user segments. For example, let’s say there are 20,000 employees. Let’s say that 3,000 of them are business managers, let’s say that 6,000 of them are sales people. Let’s say that 1,000 of them are product development engineers. You could create a persona named Mary to represent the business managers, a persona named Sally to represent the sales people, and a persona named Bob to represent the product development engineers.
This sounds simple, but it’s actually powerful. If you do a good job of workforce analysis, you can better determine how many users a particular scenario is relevant for. Now you have some numbers to work with. This can help you quantify business impact. This can also help you prioritize. If a particular scenario is relevant for 10 people, but another is relevant for 1,000, you can evaluate actual numbers.
Let’s take Bob for example. As a product development engineer, Bob designs and develops new product concepts. He would love to collaborate better with his distributed development team, and he would love better feedback loops and interaction with real customers.
We can drill in a little bit to get a get a better picture of his work as a product development engineer.
Here are a few ways you can drill in:
Another approach is to focus on the roles, responsibilities, challenges, work-style, needs and wants. This helps you understand which solutions are appropriate, what sort of behavior changes would be involved, and how much readiness would be required for any significant change.
At the end of the day, it always comes down to building empathy, understanding, and clarity around pains, needs, and desired outcomes.
Here’s an example of a high-level process for persona creation:
Doing persona analysis is actually pretty simple. The challenge is that people don’t do it, or they make a lot of assumptions about what people actually do and what their pains and needs really are. When’s the last time somebody asked you what your pains and needs are, or what you need to perform your job better?
In one example I know of a large bank that transformed itself by focusing on it’s personas and scenarios.
It started with one usage scenario:
Connect with customers wherever they are.
This scenario was driven from pain in the business. The business was out of touch with customers, and it was operating under a legacy banking model. This simple scenario reflected an opportunity to change how employees connect with customers (though Cloud, Mobile, and Social).
On the customer side of the equation, customers could now have virtual face-to-face communication from wherever they are. On the employee side, it enabled a flexible work-style, helped employees pair up with each other for great customer service, and provided better touch and connection with the customers they serve.
And in the grand scheme of things, this helped transform a brick-and-mortar bank to a digital bank of the future, setting a new bar for convenience, connection, and collaboration.
Here is a video that talks through the story of one bank’s transformation to the digital banking arena:
Video: NedBank on The Future of Digital Banking
In the video, you’ll see Blessing Sibanyoni, one of Microsoft’s Enterprise Architects in action.
If you’re wondering how to change the world, you can start with personas and scenarios.
Scenarios in Practice
How I Learned to Use Scenarios to Evaluate Things
How Can Enterprise Architects Drive Business Value the Agile Way?
Business Scenarios for the Cloud
IT Scenarios for the Cloud
An Enterprise Architect can have a tough job when it comes to driving value to the business. With multiple stakeholders, multiple moving parts, and a rapid rate of change, delivering value is tough enough. But what if you want to accelerate value and maximize business impact?
Enterprise Architects can borrow a few concepts from the Agile world to be much more effective in today’s world.
First, let’s take a brief look at traditional development and how it evolved. Traditionally, IT departments focused on delivering value to the business by shipping big bang projects. They would plan it, build it, test it, and then release it. The measure of success was on time, on budget.
Few projects ever shipped on time. Few were ever on budget. And very few ever met the requirements of the business.
Then along came Agile approaches and they changed the game.
One of the most important ideas was a shift away from thick requirements documentation to user stories. Developers got customers telling stories about what they wanted the future solution to do. For example, a user story for a sale representative might look like this:
“As a sales rep, I want to see my customer’s account information so that I can identify cross-sell and upsell opportunities.”
The use of user stories accomplished several things. First, user stories got the development teams talking to the business users. Rather than throwing documents back and forth, people started having face-to-face communication to understand the user stories. Second, user stories helped chunk bigger units of value down into smaller units of value. Rather than a big bang project where all the value is promised at the end of some long development cycle, a development team could now ship the solution in increments, where each increment was a prioritized set of stories. The user stories effectively create a shared language for value.
Third, it made it easier to test the delivery of value. Now the user and the development team could test the solution against the user stories and acceptance criteria. If the story met acceptance criteria, the user would acknowledge that the value was delivered. In this way, the user stories created both a validation mechanism and a feedback loop for delivering and acknowledging value.
In the Agile world, bigger stories are called epics, and collections of stories are called themes. Often a story starts off as an epic until it gets broken down into multiple stories. What’s important here is that the collections of stories serve as a catalog of potential value. Specifically, this catalog of stories reflects potential value with real stakeholders. In this way, Agile helps drive customer focus and customer connection. It’s really effective stakeholder management in action.
Agile approaches have been used in software projects large and small. And they’ve forever changed how developers and project managers approach projects.
But how does this apply to Enterprise Architects?
As an Enterprise Architect, chances are you are responsible for achieving business outcomes. You do this by driving business transformation. The way you achieve business transformation is through driving capability change including business, people, and technical capabilities.
That’s a tall order. And you need a way to chunk this up and make it meaningful to all the parties involved.
This is where scenarios come into play. Scenarios are a simple way to capture pains, needs and desired outcomes. You can think of the desired outcome as the future capability vision. It’s really a story that helps articulate the art of the possible. More precisely, you can use scenarios to help build empathy with stakeholders for what value will look like, by painting a conceptual scene of the future.
An Enterprise scenario is simply a chunk of organizational change, typically about 3-5 business capabilities, 3-5 people capabilities, and 3-5 technical capabilities.
If that sounds like a lot of theory, let’s step into an example to show what it looks like in practice.
Let’s say you’re in a situation where you need to help a healthcare provider change their business.
You can come up with a lot of scenarios, but it helps to start with the pains and needs of the business owner. Otherwise, you might start going through a bunch of scenarios for the patients or for the doctors. In this case, the business owner would be the Chief Medical Officer or the doctor of doctors.
If we walk the pains, needs, and desired outcomes of the Chief Medical Officer, we might come up with a scenario that looks something like this, where the CURRENT STATE reflects the current pains, and needs, and the FUTURE STATE reflects the desired outcome.
Here is an example of the CURRENT STATE portion of the scenario:
The Chief Medical Officer of Contoso Provider is struggling with increased costs and declining revenues. Costs are rising due to the Affordable Healthcare Act regulatory compliance requirements and increasing malpractice insurance premiums. Revenue is declining due to decreasing medical insurance payments per claim.
Here is an example of the FUTURE STATE portion of the scenario:
Doctors can consult with patients, peers, and specialists from anywhere. Contoso provider's doctors can see more patients, increase accuracy of first time diagnosis, and grow revenues.
It helps to be able to picture what the Future Capability Vision might look like. That’s where storyboarding can come in. An Enterprise Architect can paint a simple scene of the future with a storyboard that shows the Future Capability Vision in action. This practice lends itself to whiteboarding, and the beauty of a whiteboard is you can quickly elaborate where you need to, without getting mired in details.
As you can see in this example storyboard of the Future Capability Vision, we listed out some business benefits, which we could then drill-down into relevant KPIs and value measures. We’ve also outlines some building blocks required for this Future Capability Vision in the form of business capabilities and technical capabilities.
Now this simple approach accomplishes a lot. It helps ensure that any technology solution actually connects back to business drivers and pains that a business decision maker actually cares about. This gets their fingerprints on the solution concept. And it creates a simple “flashcard” for value. If we name the Enterprise scenario well, then we can use it as a handle to get back to the story we created with the business of a better future.
The obvious thing this does, aside from connecting IT to the business, is it helps the business justify any investment in IT.
And all we did was walk through one Enterprise Scenario.
But there is a lot more value to be found in the Enterprise. We can literally explore and chunk up the value in the Enterprise if we take a step back and add another tool to our toolbelt: the Scenario Chain.
The Scenario Chain is another powerful conceptual visualization tool. It helps you quickly map out what’s happening in the marketplace in terms of industry drivers or industry scenarios. You can then identify potential investment objectives. These investment objectives lead to patterns of value or patterns of solutions in the Enterprise, which are effectively Enterprise scenarios. From the Enterprise scenarios, you can then identify relevant usage scenarios. The usage scenarios effectively represent new ways of working for the employees, or new interaction models with customers, which is effectively a change to your value stream.
With one simple glance, the Scenario Chain is a bird’s-eye view of how you can respond to the changing marketplace and how you can transform your business. And, by using Enterprise scenarios, you can chunk up the change into meaningful units of value that reflect pains, needs, and desired outcomes for the business. And, because you have the fingerprints of stakeholders from both business and IT, you’ve effectively created a shared vision for the future, that has business impact, a justification for investment, and it creates a pull-through mechanism for additional value, by driving the adoption of the usage scenarios.
Let’s elaborate on adoption and how scenarios can help accelerate business value.
Driving adoption is a key way to realize the business value. If nobody adopts the solution, then that’s what Gartner would call “Value Leakage.” Value Realization really comes down to governance, measurement, and adoption.
With scenarios at your fingertips, you have a powerful way to articulate value, justify business cases, drive business transformation, and accelerate business value. The key lies in using the scenarios as a unit of value, and focusing on scenarios as a way to drive adoption and change.
Here are three ways you can use scenarios to drive adoption and accelerate business value:
One of the ways to accelerate business value is to accelerate adoption. You can use scenarios to help enumerate specific behavior changes that need to happen to drive the adoption. You can establish metrics and measures around specific behavior changes. In this way, you make adoption a lot more specific, concrete, intentional, and tangible.
This approach is about doing the right things, faster.
Another way to accelerate business value is to re-sequence the scenarios. If your big bang is way at the end (way, way at the end), no good. Sprinkle some of your bangs up front. In fact, a great way to design for change is to build rolling thunder. Put some of the scenarios up front that will get people excited about the change and directly experiencing the benefits. Make it real.
The approach is about putting first things first.
The third way to accelerate business value is to identify higher-value scenarios. One of the things that happens along the way, is you start to uncover potential scenarios that you may not have seen before, and these scenarios represent orders of magnitude more value. This is the space of serendipity. As you learn more about users and what they value, and stakeholders and what they value, you start to connect more dots between the scenarios you can deliver and the value that can be realized (and therefore, accelerated.)
This approach is about trading up for higher value and more impact.
As you can see, Enterprise Architects can drive business value and accelerate business value realization by using scenarios and storyboarding. It’s a simple and agile approach for connecting business and IT, and for shaping a more Agile Enterprise.
I’ll share more on this topic in future posts. Value Realization is an art and a science and I’d like to reduce the gap between the state of the art and the state of the practice.
3 Ways to Accelerate Business Value
6 Steps for Enterprise Architecture as Strategy
Cognizant on the Next Generation Enterprise
Simple Enterprise Strategy
The Mission of Enterprise Services
The New Competitive Landscape
What Am I Doing on the Enterprise Strategy Team?
Why Have a Strategy?
“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 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. “
People are adaptive and creative, but they often work for organizations that are not.
“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.”
Why do so many organizations underperform? They ignore or devalue the capabilities that make us human.
“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.”
There’s a great big gap between what makes people great and the management systems that get in the way.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
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.'”
Rule-following employees won’t help you change the world.
“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.”
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.
“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. “
If you want to bring out the best in people and what they are capable of, aim for zestful, zany, and zealous.
“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.
The Principles of Modern Management
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 Realities that Call for New Organizational and Management Capabilities
Who’s Managing Your Company
"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:
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.
If you already use Agile Results as your personal results system, you have a big advantage.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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?
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.
Hamel gives us a nice way to frame looking at the modern management principles, by looking at their application, and their intended goal.
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.
“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.”
It really comes down to a handful of core principles. These principles serve as the backbone for much of today’s management philosophy.
“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.”
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.
“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.
Elizabeth Edersheim on Management Lessons of a Lifelong Student
“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.
Do managers exist because employees do?
“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.”
When we manufactured employees, did we manufacture a need for managers?
“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.”
As the size and scale of industrial organizations grew, so did the disconnect between employees and their final customers.
“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.”
Without a connection to the customer, employees lose empathy for their work, for the customer, and for the final product.
“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.”
It’s hard to make changes to the system when you no longer have a system wide view.
“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.”
People at the top don’t hear from the people at the bottom.
“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.”
Scoreboards tell employees how they are doing their jobs, but not how the company is doing overall.
“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.”
Standardizing jobs and processes limits innovation in the jobs and processes. They are at odds.
“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.”
With the disconnect between employees and their inputs, there was a natural need for the management class.
“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. They just lack information and context.
“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.”
What is the result of all this disconnect? Stifled innovation, rigid organizations, and disinterested employees.
“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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