J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Carve Out Time for What’s Important

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    This is one of the rules that has served me well, as a Program Manager at Microsoft:  Carve out time for what’s important.

    You don’t have time, you make time. If you don’t make time for what’s important, it doesn’t happen. This is where The Rule of Three helps. Are you spending the right amount of time today on those three results you want to accomplish? The default pattern is to try and fit them in with all your existing routines. A more powerful approach is to make time for your three results today and optimize around that. This might mean disrupting other habits and routines you have, but this is a good thing. The more you get in the habit of making time for what’s important, the more you’ll get great results. If you’re not getting the results you want, you can start asking better questions. For example, are you investing enough time? Are you investing the right energy? Are you using the right approach? Or, maybe a different thing happens. Maybe you start accomplishing your results but don’t like what you get. You can step back and ask whether you’re choosing the right outcomes for The Rule of Three.

    Here are some things to think about when you’re carving out your time:

    • How much time minimum should you spend today for each of your three outcomes?
    • How much time maximum should you spend today for each of your three outcomes?
    • Are you spending too much energy in below the line activities? (This is where you’re just treading water and making it through each day, but not actually getting ahead.)
    • Are you spending enough time in above the line activities? (This is where you feel you’re on top of your day and investing your time where you get the most impact.)
    • Are you investing time in the most important Hot Spots in your life: mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, fun?

    This is a tip from my book, Getting Results the Agile Way (now on a Kindle), a time management system for achievers.  You can test drive the system by taking the 30 Day Boot Camp for Getting Results, a free time management training course.

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    Driving Business Transformation by Reenvisioning Your Customer Experience

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    You probably hear a lot about the Mega-Trends (Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data), or the Nexus of Forces (the convergence of social, mobility, cloud and data insights patterns that drive new business scenarios), or the Mega-Trend of Mega-Trends (Internet of Things).

    And you are probably hearing a lot about digital transformation and maybe even about the rise of the CDO (Chief Digital Officer.)

    All of this digital transformation is about creating business change, driving business outcomes, and driving better business results.

    But how do you create your digital vision and strategy?   And, where do you start?

    In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share some of their lessons learned from companies that are digital masters that created their digital visions and are driving business change.

    3 Perspectives of Digital Vision

    When it comes to creating your digital vision, you can focus on reenvisioning the customer experience, the operational processes, or your business model.

    Via Leading Digital:

    “Where should you focus your digital vision? Digital visions usually take one of three perspectives: reenvisioning the customer experience, reenvisioning operational processes, or combining the previous two approaches to reenvision business models.  The approach you take should reflect your organization’s capabilities, your customer’s needs, and the nature of competition in your industry.”

    Start with Your Customer Experience

    One of the best places to start is with your customer experience.  After all, a business exists to create a customer.  And the success of the business is how well it creates value and serves the needs of the customer.

    Via Leading Digital:

    “Many organizations start by reenvisioning the way they interact with customers.  They want to make themselves easier to work with, and they want to be smarter in how they sell to (and serve) customers.  Companies start from different places when reenvisioning the customer experience.”

    Transform the Relationship

    You can use the waves of technologies (Cloud, Mobile, Social, Data Insights, and Internet of Things), to transform how you interact with your customers and how they experience your people, your products, and your services.

    Via Leading Digital:

    “Some companies aim to transform their relationships with their customers.  Adam Bortman, chief digital officer of Starbucks, shared this vision: 'Digital has to help more partners and help the company be the way we can ... tell our story, build our brand, and have a relationship with our customers.' Burberry's CEO Angela Ahredts focused on multichannel coherence. 'We had a vision, and the vision was to be the first company who was fully digital end-to-end ... A customer will have total access to Burberry across any device, anywhere.'  Mare Menesquen, managing director of strategic marketing at cosmetics gitan L'Oreal, said, 'The digital world multiples the way our brands can create an emotion-filled relationship with their customers.’”

    Serve Your Customers in Smarter Ways

    You can use technology to personalize the experience for your customers, and create better interactions along the customer experience journey.

    Via Leading Digital:

    “Other companies envision how they can be smarter in serving (and selling to) their customers through analytics.  Caesars started with a vision of using real-time customer information to deliver a personalized experience to each customer.  The company was able to increase customer satisfaction and profits per customer using traditional technologies.  Then, as new technologies arose, it extended the vision to include a mobile, location-based concierge in the palm of every customer's hand.”

    Learn from Customer Behavior

    One of the most powerful things you can now do with the combination of Cloud, Mobile, Social, Big Data and Internet of Things is gain better customer insights.  For example, you can learn from the wealth of social media insights, or you can learn through better integration and analytics of your existing customer data.

    Via Leading Digital:

    “Another approach is to envision how digital tools might help the company to learn from customer behavior.  Commonwealth Bank of Australia sees new technologies as a key way of integrating customer inputs in its co-creation efforts.  According to CIO Ian Narev, 'We are progressively applying new technology to enable customers to play a greater part in product design.  That helps us create more intuitive products and services, readily understandable to our customers and more tailored to their individual needs.”

    Change Customers’ Lives

    If you focus on high-value activities, you can create breakthroughs in the daily lives of your customers.

    Via Leading Digital:

    “Finally, some companies are extending their visions beyond influencing customer experience to actually changing customers' lives.  For instance, Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez wrote of this potential: ‘The technologies we use in our daily lives, such as smart phones and tablet devices, could make a real difference in helping patients to manage their own health.  We are exploring ways to use these tools to improve compliance rates and enable health-care professionals to monitor patient progress remotely.’”

    If you want to change the world, one of the best places to start is right from wherever you are.

    With a Cloud and a dream, what can you do to change the world?

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    50 Life Hacks Your Future Self with Thank You For

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    I’ve put together 50 life hacks to help you get ahead in work and life:

    50 Life Hacks Your Future Self with Thank You For

    This is a serious set of game changing strategies you can use to level up in life.   These aren’t your ordinary life hacks.   These are 50 of the best life hacks that go beyond and help you adopt proven practices for life for key topics, including:

    • Finding your purpose
    • Living your values
    • Measuring your life
    • Dealing with perfectionism
    • Continuous improvement
    • Finding true short-cuts in life
    • Building better habits

    I’ve included one of my favorite life hacks here to give you a taste …

    Do the Opposite

    Sometimes the best thing you can do is to “do the opposite” of what you’d normally do, to periodically surprise people and have them see you in a new way.

    It’s easy in life to fall into routines that don’t serve us.

    The fastest way to change our game is to rattle our own cage and shake things up.

    If you’re always late, try being early.

    If you’re always slow, try changing your pace.

    If you’re always fast, then try slowing down.

    If you’re the person that always says, “No” to things, try saying more “Yes.”

    If you always find what’s wrong with things, try finding what’s right.

    If you lack your confidence, try strutting more of your stuff.

    Doing the opposite of what you normally do, might lead to your next best breakthrough.

    Worst case, you’ll learn more about you, you’ll learn more about balance, and you’ll put more options under your belt for how you show up or how you respond in life.

    For more life hacks, check out 50 Life Hacks Your Future Self with Thank You For.

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    .NET Rocks Interview on Getting Results the Agile Way

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    I don’t do a lot of interviews, but I like what Carl and Richard do for the .NET developer community at large, so I agreed to shoot the breeze … Check out the .NET Rocks Interview on Getting Results the Agile Way.

    Carl and Richard were curious to learn more about the system and what it’s all about.  I warned them up front that it’s not about agile development, and that it’s actually a system that anybody can use to get better, faster, simpler results. 

    That said, if you are a developer, you can appreciate the full extent of the system and how it’s based on Evergreen principles, patterns, and practices for  time management, productivity, energy management, and meaningful results.  (Note – it’s the same approach I used to be on time, on budget for more than ten years, leading distributed teams around the world, so it’s industrial strengths, but I designed it to be simple enough that my Mom can use it.)

    Some users of the system like to think of it as “Agile for Life” or “Scrum for Life.”

    My ultimate goal was to give as many people possible, an extreme advantage in achieving results, but bringing together proven practices from positive psychology, sports psychology, project management, software development, and other disciplines into an integrated, simple system.  To bottom line it, it’s a simple system for meaningful results. 

    It’s the playbook I wish somebody gave me when I started out in life, and I’m hoping that it saves many people a lot of painful lessons and helps them leapfrog and make the most of what they’ve got.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Why Agile?

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

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

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

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

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    Program Management Tip - Save Time by Working on What Actually Counts

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    One of the most valuable lessons I learned early on in Program Management at Microsoft, is that value is in the eye of the beholder.

    One common pitfall is throwing a lot of time and effort at things, only to find that when you’re done, nobody cares. If you keep feeling a lack of appreciation, then ask yourself, “Who was I doing it for?” If it was for yourself, was it what you most cared about, or could you have invested the same time in something else and felt like you made a more important impact. If you were doing it for somebody else, ask them whether what you’re working on is really the most important thing to them. If you’re working on a lot of low-priority items, don’t expect to get the rewards. In fact, a pattern is that the more you work on low-priority items, the more you become a dumping ground. The more you become a dumping ground, the busier you get; the busier you get, the more overloaded you will feel. Now the worst happens—you’re overworked, underappreciated, and no fun to be around. By failing to work on what’s valuable and by failing to understand and reset expectations, you’ve worked yourself into an unrewarding, high-stress scenario.

    On the flip side, working on the things that you value, inspires your passion, keeps you engaged, and builds momentum.  Balance that with things that are valued by others, and be deliberate.  Sometimes you have to choose you.  Sometimes you have to flex and bend.  Sometimes it’s “meet me in the middle.”  Sometimes it’s simply reframing what you’re doing in a way that speaks to others, or vice-versa.  Simply making mindful choices can help you dial up your passion where it counts.  It’s a force multiplier.

    To be a more effective Program Manager, start asking the question, “Who’s it for?” or “Who’s asking for that?” or “How important is that?” (and everything is always a trade-off.)

    Note -- This tip is from my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, a simple time management system,  and you can find more free time management tips in the Getting Results Knowledge Base.

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    Why So Many Ideas Die or Don't Get Adopted

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    I didn’t know whether to call this why adoption fails, or why ideas die, but regardless, they are deeply related. After all, one of the main reasons ideas die is that they don’t get adopted, so they fizzle out. It’s usage that gives an idea enough legs to blossom and bloom.

    I see the same recurring patterns again and again around why ideas don’t get adopted, so I thought I’d share some.

    You Didn’t Share It

    One of the most common patterns is somebody thinks up an idea. That’s as far as they get.

    You Didn’t Test It

    This is related to the first pattern. You thought up a potentially neat idea, but you didn’t try it out or test it to find out where, or if, the rubber actually meets the road. This is where some Agile approaches have had an advantage in bridging the reality gap. I’m a fan of “spiking” and exploration. Why “spiking”? Because, you can focus on the high-risk, and test it end-to-end with a thin slice (and thin slices reveal a lot.)

    You Threw it Over the Wall

    The pattern I see here is somebody or some team comes up with a great idea. Then somebody decides that it’s another person or team’s job to implement it. So the idea gets “thrown over the wall.” Sure, people might write up a bunch of specs or a bunch of docs about how somebody is supposed to adopt it, but that just about never works in the early stages of an idea. It’s the startup stage. That only works when you’ve matured an idea to the point where it’s a “transaction.” In the early stages, the idea usually requires a “relationship” play, because you have to transfer a lot of tribal knowledge. You have to get the kinks out. You have to learn what you didn’t know, and you have to build some empathy around the adoption pains. This is how ideas flourish.

    Not Invented Here

    There is a surprise here. Usually what I see is somebody or some team comes up with the best thing since sliced bread. Then they want others to adopt it. Others don’t adopt it. So the person or team with the idea, concludes, oh, they won’t use it because, it’s “not invented here.” What I see behind the scenes though is that other people or teams would love to adopt the idea, but they don’t know how. The person or team with the idea threw it over the wall. They expect the other people or teams to figure it out, because it’s such a good idea, that it speaks for itself. The devil is in the details, and the friction or barriers to adoption wear most people out. People don’t have all the time in the world to keep playing with other people’s ideas until they figure them out.

    It’s sad, but that’s how so many ideas idea.

    The lesson I learned long ago is that if you want somebody to adopt your ideas is that you have to do it for them or with them. It’s a small price to pay for getting over the humps of adoption. It’s not an ongoing thing either. Once people “get it” they run with it, but only if you’ve helped them get that far to begin with.

    And that’s how ideas flourish and bloom.

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    Satya Nadella on Everyone Has to Be a Leader

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    Satya Nadella, the new CEO for Microsoft, is all about employee engagement and employee empowerment.

    Here is how Satya reminded us that we all need to be a leader:

    “We express that core identity, being the company that allows every individual to be more empowered and get more out of every moment of their lives as things get more digital.
    I want each of us to give ourselves permission to be able to move things forward.
    Each of us sometimes overestimate the power others have to do things vs. our own ability to make things happen.
    Everyone in the company has to be a leader.”

    Here is a great video that a colleague sent me on how to embed the capacity for greatness in the people and practices of an organization.

    Video:  Greatness, by David Marquet

    If you see a problem, fix it. 

    If you see an opportunity take it.

    Don’t wait for somebody else to do it.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    How To Have Your Best Year Ever

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    There’s a little trick I learned about how to have your best year ever:

    Commit to Your Best Year Ever

    That’s it.

    And, it actually works.

    When you decide to have your best year ever, and you make it a mission, you find a way to make it happen.

    You embrace the challenges and the changes that come you way. 

    You make better choices throughout the year, in a way that moves you towards your best year ever.

    A while back, our team, did exactly that.   We decided we wanted to make the coming year our best year ever.  We wanted a year we could look back on, and know that we gave it our best shot.  We wanted a year that mattered.  And we were willing to work for it.

    And, it worked like a champ.

    In fast, most of us go our best reviews at Microsoft.  Ever.

    It’s not like it’s magic.  It works because it sets the stage.  It sets the stage for great expectations.  And, when you expect more, from yourself, or from the world, you start to look for and leverage more opportunities to make that come true.

    It also helps you role with the punches.   You find ways to turnaround negative situations into more positive ones.  You find ways to take setbacks as learning opportunities to experience your greatest growth.  You look for ways to turn ordinary events into extraordinary adventures.

    And when you get knocked down.  You try again.  Because you’re on a mission.

    When you make it a mission to have your best year ever, you stretch yourself a little more.  You try new things.  You take old things to new heights.

    But there’s a very important distinction here.   You have to own the decision. 

    It has to be your choice.   YOU have to choose it so that you internalize it, and actually believe it, so that you actually act on it.

    Otherwise, it’s just a neat idea, but you won’t live it.

    And if you don’t live it, it won’t happen.

    But, as soon as you decide that no matter what, this will be YOUR best year ever, you unleash your most resourceful self.

    If you’ve forgotten what it’s like to go for the epic win, then watch this TED talk and my notes:

    Go For the Epic Win

    Best wishes for your best year.

    Ever.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Action Guidelines

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    "Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often." -- Mark Twain

    I created a consolidated set of Action Guidelines on Getting Results.com.   Taking action is one of the most important skills you can master in this lifetime.  It’s the secret sauce of making things happen at work.   It’s also the secret sauce of making things happen in all areas your life, whether it’s a personal project or personal development.  It’s also how you go from idea to done.

    If there’s one attribute that has served me well at Microsoft, it’s having a bias for action.

    Smart people with great ideas and great intentions get passed by with people that take action.  When you take action, you put your ideas to the test, you find what works, you scrap what doesn’t, and you carry the good forward.  When you take action, you produce results.  If you don’t like the results, you change the approach, and the fastest thing you can always change is you.

    Action Guidelines explains each guideline, and here is the list of guidelines at a glance:

    1. Ask Yourself, “What actions have I taken?
    2. Balance "good enough for now" with "perfection."
    3. Balance your buckets.
    4. Build a library of reference examples.
    5. Build feedback loops.
    6. Build a system of profound knowledge.
    7. Carve out time for what's important.
    8. Check your ladder.
    9. Chunk It Down.
    10. Decide and Go.
    11. Deliver incremental value.
    12. Do a Dry Run.
    13. Do It, Review It, and Improve It.
    14. Do more, think less.
    15. Don't spend $20 on a $5 problem
    16. Establish a rhythm of results.
    17. Expand your toolset.
    18. Get the Ball Out of Your Court.
    19. Have a compelling "what."
    20. Have a compelling "why."
    21. Improve your network.
    22. Just Start.
    23. Know the sum is better than the parts.
    24. Know what you're optimizing for.
    25. Make it work, then make it right.
    26. Manage energy for results.
    27. Model the best.
    28. Play to your strengths.
    29. Put in Your Hours.
    30. Reduce friction.
    31. Reduce your context switching.
    32. Schedule It.
    33. Scrimmage Against Results.
    34. Set a Quantity Limit.
    35. Set a Time Limit.
    36. Start with Something Simple.
    37. Stay flexible in your approach.
    38. Think in terms of a portfolio of results.
    39. Use checklists.
    40. Use focus as your weapon for results.
    41. Work backwards from the end in mind.
  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Meaningful Work

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    Meaningful outcomes are the backbone of meaningful work. Meaningful outcomes help guide and shape your meaningful work.

    If you have a vision for the end in mind, then you have something to work towards. To figure out meaningful outcomes, you ask yourself what you want to accomplish.   Another simple way to do this is to ask yourself, “What will the wins be?”

    One of the challenges is when it feels like your work has no meaning. Keep in mind that you are the ultimate filter for everything that happens in your life. You assign the meaning to your work. Make the work meaningful. One way to create meaning is to master your craft. Do so by focusing on continuous learning and improvement. Teaching your craft and being a mentor for others is another way to both amplify your learning and your impact.

    Work on stuff that’s valued, and remember that value is in the eye of the beholder. This makes work more meaningful. You should be aware whether it’s valued by you, by your employer, or by your customer. It’s fine if it’s valuable to you but nobody else, but be aware of it, and make it a mindful choice. You may be in the wrong line of work or working on the wrong thing.


    This is a tip from my book, Getting Results the Agile Way (now on a Kindle), a time management system for achievers.  You can test drive the system by taking the 30 Day Boot Camp for Getting Results, a free time management training course.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Time Management Tips #5 - Reduce the Friction in Your Day

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    Untitled

    Little things that get in our way, wear us down.  By creating a few glide paths in our day, we can jumpstart and maintain our momentum.  Daily momentum is a key ingredient to making things happen.

    Time management tips #5 is -- reduce the friction in your day.  Friction is the resistance we feel, when we go to do something.  It might be extra steps in our process.  It might be clutter that gets in our way.  It might be the inconvenience of where we put things.  All these little friction points add up.

    The goal is to reduce the bottlenecks in your day, and give yourself a handful of friction-free experiences.  For example, paths in your house should not be an obstacle course over laundry or toys.  Your computer desktop should have fast access to your most common apps.  You shouldn't have to do awkward moves whether it's reaching for shampoo, or getting a glass, or throwing out the garbage (and finding the garbage should not be a game of hide and go seek.)

    Your key measure is how you feel, and whether you have to work too hard, to do something simple.  The more you have to do something each day, the simpler you should make it.

    Here are a few examples that have worked for me.

    1. I stuck my sneakers next to my bed, so I could waked up, throw my sneakers on, and hit my elliptical machine.
    2. I keep the path to my desk clear, so I can throw my bag down, slap my laptop into position, and hop on, in seconds.
    3. I keep a zero inbox, so when I check my mail, it's only new stuff.
    4. I keep my desktop empty, so I always have a clutter-free experience.
    5. I made space on my shelves, so I can easily add books, without having to squish them in.
    6. I keep my vitamins lined up in a simple way, so I can grab and go.
    7. I keep notepad open, so I always have a fast dumping ground for ideas, tasks, or notes.
    8. I use sticky notes in my books, so that I can put them back on the shelf and quickly find my placeholders.
    9. I keep the space in front of my whiteboards clear, so it's easy to huddle the team around the board on the fly.
    10. I double up on things if it helps to have them handy, such as a water bottle at work and home, a sticky pad at my desk, and in the car, etc.

    If you get creative, you can find a lot of ways to simplify your daily moves and experiences. Some of the main ideas are:

    1. Allow for fast and simple moves.
    2. Have a place for things, so you can put things in their place.
    3. If something bugs you, see if you can deal with it.  Don't just let it bug you every day.
    4. Keep space available on your desk, on your shelves, on your bookcases, in your laptop bag, etc.
    5. Make your worst chores, the easiest things to do.

    The mantra is … the more friction free you can be, the more momentum you can build.   Don’t let things break your stride, and don’t let things slow you down.

    In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the exercise and Reduce Friction and Create Glide-Paths for Your Day to get exponential results on a daily and weekly basis.

    You can also find more time management tips in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, and on Getting Results.com

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    Advice is for Winners

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    One of the best books I've read recently is Advice is for Winners, by Raul Valdes-Perez.   It's all about how to get advice for better decisions in work and life.  I’ve written a deep review on it:

    Book Review: Advice is for Winners

    It's a great book whether you are an advice seeker, or serve in a trusted advisor role.   It helps you with either role, because the author shares an in-depth look at what holds back people from taking advice, as well as the qualities that make an advisor more effective.

    On a personal note, I've had to learn how to seek advice with skill, back when I first joined Microsoft.  I started out in Developer Support and it really was a team sport.  It was rare for any individual to have all the knowledge to address the complex issues that came our way.  Instead, the key was to be very good at finding the answers and expertise around the world.   It’s true that two-heads are better than one, and there is a lot of power in the collective perspective – if you know how to use it.

    When I joined the Microsoft patterns & practices team, I had to learn how to be good at both seeking out experts as well as giving deep advice about how to put our platform together and make the most of it.   One of the biggest challenges I faced on a daily basis was conflicting advice from qualified experts.

    At the end of the day, I learned how to use test cases to find and validate the answers and solutions.   To do this well, I need to use scenarios and context both to weed out generic or irrelevant advice, and to be able to test advice.  Interestingly, the key to finding a solution often involved being able to "repro" (reproduce) the problem or challenge.

    Once you could "repro" the problem, you could share it with others and get their heads in the game.  Also, often while trying to create a repro, you would find out what the real problem was, or at least, get clarity in the decisions and assumptions.

    Sometimes, trying to reproduce the problem wasn't practical, so instead, the goal would be to understand the context or scenario as best you could, and construct a skeletal solution in incremental steps.   This way, when somebody tries to duplicate the solution, if something doesn't work along the way, you can usually backtrack to the basic steps.  Effectively, you can gradually build up from a working foundation, and when a part of it, doesn't work, you can isolate it, and troubleshoot what's different about the particular context (such as security context, or configuration, etc.)

    Back to the book … in Advice is for Winners, Raul provides a great distillation and synthesis on the art of getting advice with skill.  What I especially like about the book is that it very much matches what I’ve learned the hard way about giving and getting advice.   Raul does a fantastic job of helping you get over any limiting beliefs or mindset that might hold you back from seeking advice.   He also does a great job of articulating what holds us back from getting the advice we need.  

    The backbone of the book is an actionable framework for getting advice that’s principle-based and easy to personalize.  If you aren’t sure how to approach people to ask for help, this framework will help you get over that.  If you aren’t sure how to deal with conflicting advice, the guidance will help you get over that, too.  If you aren’t sure what scenarios to even seek out advice, Raul provides very specific examples and stories.  To bottom line it, what you don’t know, can hurt you, and building your advice seeking skills can be a powerful investment that pays you back for the rest of your life in exponential ways that you can’t yet predict.

    For a "movie-trailer” style book review of Advice is for Winners, see Book Review: Advice is for Winners.

    Becoming a skilled advice seeker might be one of the best capabilities you can build to improve your personal effectiveness.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Creating Career Opportunities

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    How do you create career opportunities?   You reinvent yourself.

    While you can always hope for things to land in your lap, there are specific patterns I see successful people do.  Among those that continuously create the best career opportunities, here are the key success patterns:

    1. They invest in themselves.  They’re always learning, and taking some sort of training, beyond their day job.
    2. They reinvent themselves.  As a result of investing in themselves, they grow new capabilities.   With their new capabilities, they expand the opportunities they can easily plug themselves into.  For example, a few of my friends started to focus on data science in anticipation of big data, as one of the key trends for 2013 and beyond.  As part of re-inventing themselves, they re-brand themselves to better showcase what they’re bringing to the table.
    3. They build connections before they need them.  It’s always been a game of who you know and what you know, but now more than ever, your network can be the difference that makes the difference when it comes to finding out about relevant opportunities.
    4. They know who’s job they want.   They have a role-model or two that already does the job they want.  The role-model exemplifies how they want to show up, how they want to spend their time, and through that role-model they learn the types of challenges they want to take on, and they get better perspective on what the life-style is actually like.  This not only helps them get clarity on the type of job they want, but it helps when they tell other people the kind of job they want, and can point to specific examples.
    5. They know the market.   They pay attention to where the action is.   They don’t just follow their passion.  They follow the money, too, to know where the growth is, and where there’s value to be captured.  As the saying goes, every market has niches, but not every niche has a market.
    6. They have a mentor, and a “board of directors.”   They use a circle of trusted advisors that can help clue them into where to grow their strengths, and how to find better opportunities, based on what they’re capable of.   It might be their “wolf pack”, but more often than not, it’s a seasoned mentor or two that has great introspection, and can see what they can’t, and they can help them to see things from a balcony view.  Most importantly, the sharp mentors, the wise and able ones, help them to know their Achilles heal, and get past glass ceilings, and avoid career limiting moves.
    7. They have a sponsor.  Like a game of Chutes and Ladders, skilled sponsors help them find the short-cuts, avoid the dead ends, and avoid sliding backwards.

    If you’re wondering where the best career opportunities are, sometimes it’s the job you’ve already got, sometimes you have to go find them, and sometimes, you have to make them.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Be the Next Microsoft Employee Finale

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    Here’s a little fun …

    … Are you the next Microsoft employee?

    Here is the final episode of Be the Next Microsoft Employee, where the winner gets the grand prize -- a job at Microsoft.   It really happens too – the winner started July 30th, 2012.  Check out the finale episode of Be the Next Microsoft Employee:

    (Note – If the video doesn’t play for you, try watching directly on YouTube at Be the Next Microsoft Employee.)

    It’s a great little video.   One of the contestants even poses the question – “To Azure? … or Not to Azure?”

    If you think just being technically strong is the name of the game, that’s not so.

    I couldn’t help but think of shtick by comedian Mitch Hedberg where he complains that to be a comedian, you have to be more than a comedian to be successful. “So you're a comedian, but can you act? … It's like asking a cook, OK, so you're a chef, but can you farm?”

    I liked this comment by judge, Tim DiMarco:

    “In addition to technical skills, your ability to communicate your ideas effectively, collaborate across teams, and be able to sell your ideas is critical to long term success at Microsoft.”

    I also liked these other comments and pointers by the judges:

    • Have an explicit tie-in between WHY you do something, so people can follow WHAT you want to do.
    • Don't make big bold claims or guarantees in a technical conversation.   And watch for technical accuracies.
    • Start with the positive.  If you lead with the negative of the technology, you lose people.
    • Review and summarize what you're doing and why up front to set the stage, and keep it simple.
    • Actually show the priority in how you want to address the requirements.
    • Connect what you are doing back to what the customer wants or needs.   Make it relevant, and don’t’ make them have to make the connection.   Make the connection between your solution, and their problem, for them.

    Here are some of the folks involved in making this happen:

    • Creator/Executive Producer - Mark Protus
    • Host/Director - Fred Northup, Jr.
    • Judges:  Buck Woody, Tim DiMarco
    • Guest Judges: Karen Lopez, Pete Harris

    You can explore the Microsoft Learning team’s Be the Next Microsoft Employee Home Page where all of the episodes are available, as well as more information about the show.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Value is in the Eye of the Beholder

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    One common pitfall is throwing a lot of time and effort at things, only to find that when you’re done, nobody cares. If you keep feeling a lack of appreciation, then ask yourself, “Who was I doing it for?” If it was for yourself, was it what you most cared about, or could you have invested the same time in something else and felt like you made a more important impact. If you were doing it for somebody else, ask them whether what you’re working on is really the most important thing to them. If you’re working on a lot of low-priority items, don’t expect to get the rewards. In fact, a pattern is that the more you work on low-priority items, the more you become a dumping ground. The more you become a dumping ground, the busier you get; the busier you get, the more overloaded you will feel. Now the worst happens—you’re overworked, underappreciated, and no fun to be around. By failing to work on what’s valuable and by failing to understand and reset expectations, you’ve worked yourself into an unrewarding, high-stress scenario.

    Browse more tips on getting results at http://GettingResults.com

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    How To–Design Your Week with Skill

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    I wrote a how to on How To Design Your Week.  It’s all about mastering time management.

    Let me first say that mastering your time is one of the most challenging things you can do in life.  It’s a topic that folks like Peter Drucker have filled books with.  Let me also say that, while it is tough, it’s also one of the best things you can do to lead a better life.  And the beauty is, the moment you start spending your time in more meaningful ways, you get immediate payback. 

    What if right now, you were working on your next best thing to do?  (It’s a simple question, but it cuts to the chase.)

    This How To is based on helping many folks inside and outside of Microsoft design a schedule that helps them simplify their work, free up more time, get more done in the same amount of time, spend more time where it counts, and use their best energy for their best results.  The trick in today’s world is that you don’t get more hours in a day – but you can amplify your results by improving your energy.

    I prioritized creating this how to because I need to scale.  Lately I’ve been helping a lot more fellow Microsoft colleagues design a schedule that brings out their best results and helping them get a handle on their work-life balance.  The bottom line is, they wanted to spend less time, but get better, faster, simpler results.  Most importantly, they wanted to stop thrashing and start thriving.

    Just about everybody I know is feeling the pain of an increasingly competitive, increasingly connected, “always on” world.  There’s always more to do, than you can possibly get done, but throwing more time at the problem isn’t the answer. 

    … So what is?

    Design your time with skill.

    If you let your week just happen, it’s very easy for your weekly schedule to erode to a point where it works against you in every possible way:  your best energy gets wasted on the least impactful things, it takes ten times longer to get things done, the faster you go, the more behind you get, you wear yourself down emotionally, mentally, physically.  Perhaps the worst thing though is, without carving out time for what’s important, you never have the time for the things that mean the most to you.

    If you can design a week, you can create repeatable patterns that serve you throughout the year.  The key is spending the right time, on the right things, with the right energy, the right way.  This is the magic formula for getting exponential results from time you already spend.  This is how you unleash your best, time and again, get more done in the same amount of time, feel strong all week long, and free up more time for the things you really want to spend your time on.

    If you’re ready to exponentially make the most of what you’ve got and unleash yourself, take How To – Design Your Week for a test drive.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Dual-Speed IT Drives Digital Business Transformation and Improves IT-Business Relationships

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    Don’t try to turn all of your traditional IT into a digital unit.  

    You’ll break both, or do neither well.

    Instead,  add a Digital Unit.   Meanwhile, continue to simplify and optimize your traditional IT, but, at the same time, add a Digital Unit that’s optimized to operate in a Cloud-First, Mobile-First world.

    This is the Dual-Speed IT approach, and, with this way, you can choose the right approach for the job and get the best of both worlds.

    Some projects involve more extensive planning because they are higher-risk and have more dependencies.

    Other projects benefit from a loose learning-by-doing method, with rapid feedback loops, customer impact, and testing new business waters.

    And, over time, you can shift the mix.

    In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share some of their lessons learned from companies that are Digital Masters that created their digital visions and are driving business change.

    Build Digital Skills Into One of Your Existing Business Units

    You can grow one of your existing business units into a Digital Unit.  For example, marketing is a pretty good bet, given the customer focus and the business impact.

    Via Leading Digital:

     

    “Changing the IT-business relationship is well worth the effort, but doing so takes time.  Your company may not have the time to wait before starting your digital transformation.  Rather than improving the IT unit, some companies try to build digital skills into another unit, such as marketing.  They try to work around IT rather than with it.”

    Don’t Mix Your Digital Unit with Your Traditional IT

    Don’t throw away your existing IT or break it by turning it into something it’s not, too quickly.   Instead, leverage it for the projects where it makes sense, while also leveraging your new Digital IT unit.

    Via Leading Digital:

    “Although building digital skills is useful, trying to work around IT can be fraught with challenges, especially if people do not understand the reasons for IT's systematic, if sometimes ponderous, processes.  This kind of flanking action can waste money, make the digital platform more complex, and even worse, open the company to security and regulatory risks.”

    Create a Dual-Speed IT to Support Both Traditional IT and Faster-Speed Digital Transformation

    You can have the best of both worlds, while both evolving your traditional IT and growing your Digital Unit to thrive at Cloud speed.

    Via Leading Digital:

    “A better approach is to create a dual-speed IT structure, where one part of the IT unit continues to support traditional IT needs, while another takes on the challenge of operating at digital speed with the business.  Digital activities--especially in customer engagement--move faster than many traditional IT ones.  They look at design processes differently.  Where IT projects have traditionally depended on clear designs and well-structured project plans, digital activities often engage in test-and-learn strategies, trying features in real-life experiments and quickly adding or dropping them based on what they find.”

    Optimize the Digital Unit for Digital World

    Your Digital Unit needs to be very different from traditional IT in terms of the mindset and the approaches around the people, processes, and technology.

    Via Leading Digital:

    “In a dual-speed approach, the digital unit can develop processes and methods at clock-speeds more closely aligned with the digital world, without losing sight of the reasons that the old IT processes existed.  IT leaders can draw on informal relationships within the IT department to get access to legacy systems or make other changes happen.  Business leaders can use their networks to get input and resources.  Business and IT leaders can even start to work together in the kind of two-in-a-box leadership method that LBG and other companies have adopted.”

    Choose the Right Leadership Both in the Business and in IT

    To make it work and to make it work well, it takes partnerships on both sides.   The business and IT both need skin in the game.

    Via Leading Digital:

    “Building dual-speed IT units requires choosing the right leadership on both sides of the relationship.  Business executives need to be comfortable with technology and with being challenged by their IT counterparts.  IT leaders need to have a mind-set that extends beyond technology to encompass the processes and drivers of business performance.  Leaders from both sides need to be strong communicators who can slide easily between conversations with their business- or IT-focused people.”

    Great IT Leaders Know When to Choose Traditional IT vs. the Digital Unit

    With both options at your disposal, Great IT Leaders know how to choose the right approach for the job.   Some programs and projects will take a more traditional life-cycle or require heavier planning or more extensive governance and risk management, while other projects can be driven in a more lightweight and agile way.

    Via Leading Digital:

    “Dual-speed IT also requires perspective about the value of speed.  Not all digital efforts need the kind of fast-moving, constantly changing processes that digital customer-engagement processes can need.  In fact, the underlying technology elements that powered LBG's new platform, Asian Paints' operational excellence, and Nike's digital supply chain enhancements required the careful, systematic thinking that underpins traditional IT practices.  Doing these big implementations in a loose learning-by-doing method could be dangerous.  It could increase rework, waste money, and introduce security risks.  But once the strong digital platform is there, building new digital capabilities can be fast, agile, and innovative.  The key is to understand what you need in each type of project and how much room any project has to be flexible and agile.  Great IT leaders know how to do this.  If teamed with the right business leaders, they can make progress quickly and safely.”

    Dual-Speed IT Requires New Processes within IT

    It takes a shift in processes to do Dual-Speed IT.

    Via Leading Digital:

    “Dual-speed IT also takes new processes inside IT.  Few digital businesses have the luxury to wait for monthly software release cycles for all of their applications.  Digital-image hosting business Flickr, for example, aims for up to ten deployments per day, while some businesses require even more.  This continuous-deployment approach requires very tight discipline and collaboration between development, test, and operations people.  A bug in software, missed step in testing, or configuration problem in deployment can bring down a web site or affect thousands of customers.”

    DevOps Makes Dual Speed IT Possible

    DevOps blends development and operations into a more integrated approach that simplifies and streamlines processes to shorten cycle times and speed up fixes and feedback loops.

    Via Leading Digital:

    “A relatively new software-development method called DevOps aims to make this kind of disciplined speed possible.  It breaks down silos between development, operations, and quality assurance groups, allowing them to collaborate more closely and be more agile.  When done properly, DevOps improves the speed and reliability of application development and deployment by standardizing development environments.  It uses strong methods and standards, including synchronizing the tools used by each group.”

    DevOps Can Help IT Release Software Better, Faster, Cheaper, and More Reliably

    DevOps is the name of the game when it comes to shipping better, faster, cheaper and more reliably in a Cloud-First, Mobile-First world.

    Via Leading Digital:

    “DevOps relies heavily on automated tools to do tasks in testing, configuration control, and deployment—tasks that are both slow and error-prone when done manually.  Companies that use DevOps need to foster a culture where different IT groups can work together and where workers accept the rules and methods that make the process effective.  The discipline, tools, and strong processes of DevOps can help IT release software more rapidly and with fewer errors, as well as monitor performance and resolve process issues more effectively, than before.”

    Driving Digital Transformation Takes a Strong Link Between Business and IT Executives

    In order for your Digital Transformation to thrive, it takes building better bridges between the business leaders and the IT leaders.

    Via Leading Digital:

    “Whether your CIO takes it upon himself or herself to improve the IT-business relationship, or you decide to help make it happen, forging a strong link between business and IT executives is an essential part of driving digital transformation.  Strong IT-business relationships can transform the way IT works and the way the business works with it.  Through trust and shared understanding, your technology and business experts can collaborate closely, like at LBG, to innovate your business at digital speeds.  Without this kind of relationship, your company may become mired in endless requirements discussion, filing projects, and lackluster systems, while your competitors accelerate past you in the digital fast lane.”

    If you want to thrive in the new digital economy while driving digital business transformation without breaking your existing business, consider adding Dual-Speed IT to your strategies and shift the mix from traditional IT to your Digital Unit over time.

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    Think in a Series of Sprints, Not Marathons

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    30 Day Improvement Sprints Revisited

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    “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

    1. Chip away at any stone.  30 days is a great way to chip away at any stone.
    2. Use them as a force multiplier.  By doing a little something each day toward your goal, it adds up.  It's a force multiplier.
    3. It’s easier to sustain, because it’s not forever.  It's a sprint, meaning you can apply extra force and focus, since you don't have to sustain it forever.   This is especially helpful for experiments and changing behaviors or habits.
    4. Get a fresh start each month.  You get to choose a focus each month.  Each month is a new page.  A fresh start.  A do-over.
    5. Meaningful months.  Rise above the noise.  When you have a theme for the month, you have something bigger you are working towards.

    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:

    1. Monthly Themes.  I had a specific focus or theme for the month.  This alone was worth it's weight in gold.
    2. Breakthroughs.  I was suddenly having breakthroughs because I was spending enough time on a problem.
    3. Exponential learning.   Because it was a longer stretch of time, I started taking on new challenges, and learning new things.
    4. Changing habits.  Changing habits became easier because I could easily set a theme and focus for the month, and just do a little each day.
    5. Domain deep dives.  The distinctions and insights that I learned from focusing on a goal for the month, lead to some deep discoveries and self-awareness.

    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:

    1. Use January to go through 30 Days of Getting Results.
    2. Turn your New Years Resolution into a 30 Day Improvement Sprint.
    3. Choose one of your most self-defeating habits and go up against it in a 30 Day Improvement Sprint.

    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.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    5 of the Best Books I’ve Read Recently on Getting Jobs, Doing Leadership, and Presenting with Skill

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    I read a lot.  I read fast.  I go through a lot of books each month.  Books help give me new ideas and ways to do things better, faster, and cheaper.   Books are one of the best ways I get the edge in work and life.

    Here are the 5 of the best books I’ve read recently, along with links to my reviews:

    1. When Can You Start? How to ACE the Interview and Win the Job, by Paul Freiberger
    2. Advice is for Winners: How to Get Advice for Better Decisions in Life and Work, by Raul Valdes-Perez
    3. The Power of Starting Something Stupid: Make Dreams Happen, and Live without Regret, by Richie Norton
    4. Stories that Move Mountains: Storytelling and Visual Design for Persuasive Presentations, by Martin Sykes, A. Nicklas Malik, and Mark D. West
    5. It’s Already Inside: Nurturing Your Innate Leadership for Business and Life Success, by Robert Murray

     

    When Can You Start?, as the name implies, is all about turning interviews into job offers.   It’s a quick read and it tackles many of the common pitfalls you can run into during the interview process.  Best of all, it provides a methodical approach for preparing for your interviews, by using your resume as a platform for telling your story in a relevant way.   If you’re trying to find a job, this is a great book for helping you get your head in the game, and stand out from the crowd, during the interview process.

    Advices is for Winners is a cornucopia of insights and actions for creating an effective board of advisors to help you in work and life.   I thought it would be a fluff book, but it was actually a very technical guide.  It's written by an engineer, so the advice is very specific, and very data-driven.  It includes a lot of lists, such as 6 benefits of getting advice, 22 questions for scoring a scenario, and 28 reasons why people resist advice.  Mentors are the short-cuts and getting better advice is how you get ahead.

    The Power of Starting Something Stupid is all about how to crush fear, make dreams happen, and live without regret.   In the forward, Stephen Covey wrote: "It reminds each of us that all things are possible, that life is short, and to take action now."

    Stories that Move Mountains introduces the CAST system for creating visual stories.  It’s a powerful book about how to improve your presentation skills using storytelling and visuals.  I ended up using some of the ideas in one of my presentations recently to senior leadership, and it helped me prioritize and sequence my slides in a far more effective way.

    It's Already Inside directly addresses the question, "Are leaders born or made?"  The book is a really great synthesis of the leadership habits and practices that will make you a more productive and more effective leader.

    Each of these books has something for you in it.  Of course, the challenge for you is to dive inside, find the gems that ring true for you, and apply them.

    Happy reading.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Time Management Tips #8 - Power Up with Purpose

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    Untitled

    Nothing helps you stay the course, or pick up the pace, or deal with setbacks like purpose.  One of the best ways to focus, get your groove on, and make things happen is the power of purpose.

    Time management tips #8 is power up with purpose.  Purpose is they "why" behind what you do.  It gives you a meaningful mission to apply your strengths, experience, and talent.  In the absence of purpose, you lose your drive.  After all, it's hard to bring out your best when there's no motivating mission.

    Purpose comes in all shapes and sizes.  Some say, "Go big or go home."  For many, that's a way to step up to the plate.  A way to swing with all their might.  A way to dream big dreams.  Here's what this might look like:

    - I’m the researcher who finds the truth.
    - I’m the developer who writes the code to change the world.
    - I’m the coach who helps make others great.
    - I’m the musician who makes people feel alive.
    - I’m the poet who makes people think.

    Purpose doesn't have to be grandiose to be effective. For others, a simple meaningful purpose is all they need. Heres' what this might look like:

    - I’m the technical specialist who helps customers succeed on the platform.
    - I’m the Program Manager who helps customers share cool experiences.
    - I’m the glue who connects the UI to the developers.

    Roles and goals are a simple way to find purpose.  Take your role, line it up with the goal, and make that your mission or your purpose.  Here are some that I have used:

    - I am the PM who shapes the cloud story for end-to-end engagements in the Enterprise.
    - I am the PM who shapes the Microsoft application story for customer success.
    - I am the Pm who shapes the security and performance story for LOB apps.

    You can make the purpose for the day, the week, the month, the year, etc.  You know you nailed it when it inspires you to action, and it helps you get out of bed in the morning.

    Create a one-liner reminder of your purpose that you can use today, to make your mission more meaningful.

    In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the time management exercises to find your purpose and get exponential results on a daily and weekly basis.  You can also find more time management tips in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, and on Getting Results.com

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Cloud Scenarios at Your Fingertips

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    If you don’t know the scenarios for the Cloud, it’s hard to make the case for the Cloud.  Whether you’re a Solution Architect, Enterprise Architect, Business Leaders, IT Leaders, CIO, analyst, etc., you need to know the pains, needs, and desired outcomes so that you can rationalize the technology more effectively.

    What you’ll find below are collections of scenarios large and small that will help you see the full landscape of the Cloud within the Enterprise landscape.  When you have the scenarios at your fingertips, you can better evaluate business strategies or technical strategies, as well as create more effective business cases, because you understand the pains, needs, desired outcomes, as well as the benefits that go along with each scenario.

     

    Business and IT Scenarios for the Cloud

     

    Category Scenarios
    Business Scenarios

    Achieve cost-effective business continuity
    Create new revenue streams from existing capabilities
    Decrease power consumption
    Decrease the time to market for new capabilities
    Easily integrate new businesses into your organization
    Improve operational efficiency to enable more innovation
    Improve the connection with your customers
    Provide elastic capacity to meet business demand
    Provide Enterprise messaging from anywhere
    Reduce upfront investment in new initiatives

    IT Scenarios

    Business Intelligence
    Cloud Computing
    Consumerization of IT
    Corporate Environmental Sustainability
    Innovation for Growth
    Low-Cost Computing in the Enterprise

    For details on each of the scenarios, including a description and key benefits, see:

     

    Cloud User Stories for Business Leaders, IT Leaders, and Enterprise Architects

    Here is a robust collection of User Stories for Cloud Enterprise Strategy.

    To do a deep dive on the pains, needs, and desired outcomes from around the world, I created a round up of user stories for the Cloud, from the perspective of business leaders, IT leaders, and Enterprise Architects.  I included many CIOs from several large companies in different industries to get a broad perspective.    I ended up with more than 50 user stories of the pains, needs, and desired outcomes for the Cloud in the Enterprise.  Note that while the list is a bit dated, many of the core user stories are still highly relevant and actually evergreen.

    With a prioritized list of the user stories for the Cloud, I then grouped them into a simple set of categories:

    • Awareness / Education
    • Architecture
    • Availability
    • Competition
    • Cost
    • Governance and Regulation
    • Industry
    • Integration
    • Operations
    • People
    • Performance
    • Planning
    • Risk
    • Security
    • Service Levels / Quality of Service
    • Solutions
    • Sourcing
    • Strategy
    • Support

    Cloud Scenarios Hub on TechNet (Public and Private Cloud Scenarios)

    If you haven’t seen it, TechNet has a Cloud Scenarios Hub.

    I like the focus on scenarios – it’s a great way to bring together a problem and a solution in context, while pulling together all the relevant guidance.  It’s a focusing anchor-point in action.

    I created a simple index to the Public and Private Cloud Scenarios.

    Key Links

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Emotional Intelligence is a Key Leadership Skill

    • 1 Comments

    You probably already know that emotional intelligence, or “EQ”, is a key to success in work and life.

    Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of yourself, others, and groups.

    It’s the key to helping you respond vs. react.  When we react, it’s our lizard brain in action.  When we respond, we are aware of our emotions, but they are input, and they don’t rule our actions.  Instead, emotions inform our actions.

    Emotional intelligence is how you avoid letting other people push your buttons.  And, at the same time, you can push your own buttons, because of your self-awareness.  

    Emotional intelligence takes empathy.  Empathy, simply put, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. 

    When somebody is intelligent, and has a high IQ, you would think that they would be successful.

    But, if there is a lack of EQ (emotional intelligence), then their relationships suffer.

    As a result, their effectiveness, their influence, and their impact are marginalized.

    That’s what makes emotional intelligence such an important and powerful leadership skill.

    And, it’s emotional intelligence that often sets leaders apart.

    Truly exceptional leaders, not only demonstrate emotional intelligence, but within emotional intelligence, they stand out.

    Outstanding leaders shine in the following 7 emotional intelligence competencies: Self-reliance, Assertiveness, Optimism, Self-Actualization, Self-Confidence, Relationship Skills, and Empathy.

    I’ve summarized 10 Big Ideas from Emotional Capitalists: The Ultimate Guide to Developing Emotional Intelligence for Leaders.  It’s an insightful book by Martyn Newman, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read on the art and science of emotional intelligence.   What sets this book apart is that Newman focused on turning emotional intelligence into a skill you can practice, with measurable results (he has a scoring system.)

    If there’s one take away, it’s really this.  The leaders that get the best results know how to get employees and customers emotionally invested in the business.  

    Without emotional investment, people don’t bring out their best and you end up with a brand that’s blah.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Power of Annual Reviews for Personal Development

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    Talk about taking some things for granted.  Especially when it’s a love-hate relationship.  I’m talking about Annual Reviews. 

    I didn’t realize how valuable they can be when you own the process and you line them up with your bigger goal setting for life.  I’ve done them for so long, in this way, that I forgot how much they are a part of my process for carving out a high-impact year.

    I know I might do things a big differently in terms of how I do my review, so I highlighted key things in my post:

    The Power of Annual Reviews for Achieving Your Goals and Realizing Your Potential

    Note that if you hate the term Annual Review because it conjures up a bunch of bad memories, then consider calling it your Annual Retrospective.  If you’re a Scrum fan, you’ll appreciate the twist.

    Here’s the big idea:

    If you “own” your Annual Review, you can use taking a look back to take a leap forward.

    What I mean is that if you are pro-active in your approach, and if you really use feedback as a gift, you can gain tremendous insights into your personal growth and capabilities.

    Here’s a summary of what I do in terms of my overall review process:

    1. Take a Look Back.  In December, I take a look back.   For example, this would be my 2013 Year in Review.   What did I achieve?  What went well? What didn’t go well?  How did I do against my 3-5 key goals that really mattered.   I use The Rule of 3, so really, I care about 3 significant changes that I can tell a story around for the year (The value of a story is the value of the change, and the value of the change is the value of the challenge.)
    2. Take a Look Forward.  Also in December, I take a look ahead.  What are my 3-5 big goals that I want to achieve for this year?  I really focus on 3 wins for each year.  The key is to hone in on the changes that matter.  If it’s not a change, then it’s business as usual, and doesn’t really need my attention because it’s already a habit and I’m already doing it.
    3. Align Work + Life.  When the Microsoft mid-year process starts, I figure out what I want to achieve in terms of themes and goals for the year at work.  I’ve already got my bigger picture in mind.   Now it’s just a matter of ensuring alignment between work and life.  There’s always a way to create better alignment and better leverage, and that’s how we empower ourselves to flourish in work and life.

    It’s not an easy process.  But that’s just it.  That’s what makes it worth it.  It’s a tough look at the hard stuff that matters.  The parts of the process that make it  a challenge are the opportunities for growth.   Looking back, I can see how much easier it is for me to really plan out a year of high-impact where I live my values and play to my strengths.  I can also see early warning signs and anticipate downstream challenges.  I know when I first started, it was daunting to figure out what a year might look like.  Now, it’s almost too easy.

    This gives me a great chance up front to play out a lot of “What If?” scenarios.  This also gives me a great chance right up front to ask the question, if this is how the year will play out, is that the ride I want to be on?  The ability to plan out our future capability vision, design a better future, and change our course is part of owning our destiny.

    In my experience, a solid plan at the right level, gives you more flexibility and helps you make smarter choices, before you become a frog in the boiling pot.

    If you haven’t taken the chance to really own and drive your Annual Review, then consider doing an Annual Retrospective, and use the process to help you leap frog ahead.

    Make this YOUR year.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Blessing Sibanyoni on Value Realization

    • 7 Comments

    Value Realization is hot.  You can think of Value Realization as simply the value extracted from a process or project. 

    Business leaders want to understand the benefits they’ll get from their technology solutions.   They also want to see the value of their investment deliver benefits and deliver real results along the way.   And, of course, they also want to accelerate adoption so that they can speed up their value realization, as well as help avoid “value leakage".”

    But how do you actually do Value Realization in the real world? …

    This is a guest post by Blessing Sibanyoni.   Blessing delivers advisory, IT architecture, and planning services to Microsoft’s top enterprise customers within the financial services sector.  He has more than 17 years of experience in the IT field.  He is currently an Enterprise Architect and Strategy Advisor on behalf of Microsoft Corporation. 

    As an Enterprise Strategy Advisor, Blessing helps organizations achieve challenging business and organizational goals.  He does so by helping them leverage value from their current and future investments, enabled by technology.  Blessing has a solid record of delivering large and complex initiatives within organizations while always doing this in a mutually beneficial way.  You can connect with Blessing Sibanyoni on LinkedIn.

    Without further ado, here’s Blessing on Value Realization …

    Value in the Eye of the Beholder

    Often we grapple with the notion of value.  At first it seems like a very simple thing but when you really take time to consider it, you realize how complicated and multi-dimensional it becomes.  Take a simple example of a person who follows a methodology, based on best practices, who crosses all the t’s and dots the i’s but at the end of the day experiences a failed project or is unable to reach goals that his customers appreciate.  Or perhaps, what about the notion of another who is highly intelligent but working for someone far less “intelligent” from a credentials or even IQ perspective. 

    What has happened here?

    Why do these paradoxes occur and how do you ensure you are not ending up experiencing the same?

    The Notion of Value

    I would argue that at the heart of these conundrums is the notion of value.  Value is the worth of something in terms of the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged.  Often it’s not about inputs but rather outcomes and many state that you cannot achieve it without effecting a transformation.  The transformation itself can be virtual or manifested in the real world, but for true value to be derived, transformation in whatever form, must transpire. 

    For transformation to transpire a real pain must be felt.

    Fiercely Competing Alternatives

    After spending almost two decades in public and private enterprises, I’m still intrigued by why organizations decide to spend resources on some things and not others.  Often it’s the thing that seem to make the least sense which these organizations decide to put all their resources into. 

    Why?

    This curiosity is one that lingers on especially realizing that resources are often limited and logically, one would naturally be better positioned by focusing on projects or initiatives that offer more returns and deserve more attention.  One could take the cynical view that common sense is not so common, or the perspective that organizations are made of people, and people are irrational and fallible beings that bring their own biases into every situation. 

    So the notion of value then or the expectation of what will bring value is often subjective and largely determined in the eye of the beholder. 

    Quantitative or Qualitative?

    I have met many stakeholders who are more interested in the qualitative rather than the quantitative.  Surprisingly, this is true, even in financial services! 

    Giving such people a quantitative, seemingly logical justification is often destined to result in failure, and the converse is also true.  So, knowing your stakeholders, what drives and resonates with them is more important that coming up with a definitive, objective, rational and quantitative hypothesis in order to convince them to take some action.

    Recently I was fortunate to have worked with a senior executive who was very financially inclined with a major focus on bottom line impact.  This stakeholder did so well in the organization that he was soon promoted.  To my surprise the person who replaced him was much more people oriented and his biggest concerns were around how the changes proposed would impact people within the organization.  The new stakeholder’s view was that people came first and happy employees result in a positive bottom line effect. 

    I believe both execs had a great view, even though it seemed that their perspectives were fundamentally different. 

    The key for me was to ensure that both qualitative and quantitative arguments were well prepared in advance so that we could tell compelling stories that drove the agenda regardless of the different concerns and viewpoints.

    Know Thy Foe

    Knowing your industry and thinking ahead about what your stakeholders may not yet know that they need or desire, is also a very valuable thing to do. 

    Think about the world of tablet computers that nobody knew they needed just a few years ago, yet these things are now taking the world by storm...

    A Few Lessons Learned in the Trenches

    At the beginning I spoke about blind implementation of a methodology being a less than great thing, I would argue that the following steps make great sense around realizing that value, in the eye of the beholder:

    1. First, seek to understand (Analyze the situation, the pains, problems being experienced and clearly identify who is being impacted – empathy is an important quality!)
    2. Take time to synthesize, communicate back the pain at its essence and color your findings with different perspectives
    3. Ensure you leave behind each interaction, always having taught something new to your customer - even if it’s a small thing. 
    4. Make your plan of action ensuring you focus on what will be high impact and high value to your stakeholder without losing sight of the bigger picture and remaining realistic  
    5. Take action, early and often whilst being nimble and adaptable as necessary
    6. Always endeavor to be mutualistic.  The power of reciprocity really goes a long way!

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