J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

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    Personal Development Lessons Learned from Jariek Robbins

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    Jariek Robbins, son of Tony Robbins, shares his personal development lessons learned.   I asked Jariek to write a guest post for me on his best lessons learned in personal development, and he slammed it home.  In his article, “How to Take the Ordinary and Turn it into EXTRAORDINARY!”, he shares how to deal with mundane, boring, and routine tasks, as well as draining activities, and turn them into sources of power and strength.

    I’ve long been a fan of Tony Robbins and his ability to “design” life and shape destiny with hard-core thinking skills.  I actually first learned about Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) from Tony Robbins which is basically a methodology for modeling excellence.   If you’re a developer, you’ll appreciate the idea of programming your mind by design, and changing your thoughts, feelings, and actions for your best results.  A lot of the Microsoft execs use NLP skills to improve their interpersonal effectiveness, from building rapport, to changing their inner-game, and reframing problems into compelling challenges.

    The other thing that Tony Robbins excels at his ability to ask the right questions.  Many people can just ask questions.  But there’s an art to asking the right questions, and getting deep insights with precision and accuracy.

    Jariek Robbins learned many of these skills from his father and uses them to shape his path forward, as well as to coach people and businesses to bring out their best.  By asking better questions and modeling success he can speed up results.

    Check out Jariek’s article and learn how to turn the ordinary into extraordinary.

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    Inspiring a Vision

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    One of my mentees was looking for ways to grow her prowess in “Inspiring a Vision.”  

    Here are some of the ways I shared with her so far:

    • Future Picture - One of the best ways that the military uses to create a shared vision rapidly and communicate it down the line is “Future Picture”  (See How To Paint a Future Picture.)

    The key with vision is, when possible –

    1. Draw your vision – make it a simple picture
    2. Use metaphors – metaphors are the fastest way to share an idea
    3. Paint the story - what’s the current state, what’s the future state
    4. Paint the ecosystem – who are the players in the system, what are the levers, what are the inputs/outputs
    5. Paint the story over time … how does time change the vision … and chunk up the vision into 6 month, 1 year, 3 year, five year

    And, a powerful tool we use at Microsoft is a Vision / Scope document.

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    Choosing Where to Invest–Technical Uncertainty vs. Market Uncertainty

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    This is a simple visual of a frame we used for helping choose which projects to invest in in patterns & practices.

    image

    The main frame is “Technical Uncertainty” vs. “Market Uncertainty.”  We used this frame to help balance our portfolio of projects against risk, value, and growth, against the cost.

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    Business Books

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    image

    "People are known by the company they keep; companies are known by the people they keep." -- Bill Gates

    I’ve revamped and swept my business books collection.   My business books collection is a rich set of the best business books that you can use to change your game.  They are especially important now with the cloud.

    I find the cloud is a great chance to get back to your business, and get back to the basics.  To do this, you have to figure out the role you want to play in the cloud (be the cloud, use the cloud, move to the cloud.)  You also need to really figure out your strategy.

    My strategy section of my business books includes:

    • Blue Ocean Strategy
    • Business Model Generation
    • Competitive Strategy
    • Delivering Happiness
    • Doing Both
    • Good to Great
    • Rework
    • Strategy Maps
    • The Answer to How is Yes
    • The Art of War
    • The Well Timed Strategy

    Blue Ocean is your best friend when it comes to the strategy game.  The idea is to compete where there is no competition.  For example, how would you compete against a circus?   Would you find cheaper or better animals?  No, you change the game and create a new market.  That’s what Cirque du Soleil did.   The question then becomes, how do you do this at the personal level to stay competitive in the marketplace?

    Business Model Generation is an amazing synthesis of business tools all rolled together into a simple approach.   It’s a great way to sketch your business.   It helps you think on paper so you can analyze your model more effectively.  If I could only have one business book, this might be the one business book to rule them all.

    Good to Great is a business book classic.  In fact, this is one the main books we used to shape the early days of the Microsoft patterns & practices team.  We spent a lot of energy asking the question, what can we be the best in the world at, with the people we’ve got?   We put a lot of focus on making sure that people were giving their best where they have their best to give, and leveraging the power of the system.  I think it was this ruthless focus on blending passion, purpose, and strengths that accelerated Microsoft patterns & practices through the early days, with a clear differentiation.  As one of my colleagues put it, the power was having “architects who could write.”

    The Well Timed Strategy is one of those books that really makes you think.  You start to see things in new ways.  It’s the business book that got me seeing things in cycles.   I stopped looking at things in such a static way.  I started paying more attention to the ups and downs and the cycles of things.   It helps me better understand the mountains and the valleys of the business cycles.  I stopped pushing rocks uphill and learned to ride the waves.

    I’ll continue to tune and prune my business books collection.   Smart people are constantly recommending great business books to me to help me get ahead of the curve and sharpen my business skills.   In today’s world, business skills + technical skills are the way forward.

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    Visual - Backlogs with User Input

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    One of the first things to help a business to gain agility is to connect the product development to the actual user community.  A simple way to do this is to connect the backlog to user input.  If you can show the users your backlog of scenarios, and they can help you prioritize and validate demand, you just gained a great competitive advantage.

    A picture is worth 1,000 words, so here it goes ...

    image

    The development team manages the backlog.  Using input from users to help prioritize and identify gaps, the backlog is then used to drive the monthly development sprints.

    It looks simple and it is, but it's not the knowing, it's the doing that makes the difference.

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    Job Creation

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    The cycle of change is short in the knowledge age and digital economy.  Jobs end.  We create new ones.   Do we create new ones fast enough?  Do we have the durable and evolvable skills to make it in our emerging landscape?

    The cycle of change used to be longer.  One reason is the cycle of resource technology change used to be slower.   With a slower rate of change, you could go to school, learn a trade, do that job, maybe change jobs once or twice during your career, and then retire.  That cycle fundamentally changes when jobs are anchored to a different backbone, and the rate of change outpaces the skills you learn in school.

    A colleague sent a great article from Strategy + Business on The Jobs Engine.   From the article, these are my favorite nuggets:

    • “… the most important consequence of global entrepreneurship: job creation. Without the initiative and energy of entrepreneurs, the job engine sputters.”
    • “Humans used to desire love, money, food, shelter, safety, peace, and freedom more than anything else. The last 30 years have changed us. Now people want to have a good job, and they want their children to have a good job.”
    • “A great question for leaders to ask is: “Why is knowing that the whole world wants a good job everything to me?” Leaders of countries and cities must make creating good jobs their No. 1 mission and primary purpose because good jobs are becoming the new currency for all world leaders.”
    • “Until rather recently in human evolution, explorers were looking for new hunting grounds, cropland, territories, passageways, and natural resources. But now, the explorers are seeking something else.”
    • “When the talented explorers of the new millennium choose your city, you attain the new Holy Grail of global leadership — brain gain, talent gain, and subsequently, job creation.”

    One of the things that’s always on my mind is the question, “What value can I create?”   In parallel, I’m always asking, “What value am I flowing?”    I hope the ideas or projects I work on, lead, or in some way contribute, to job creation.  I like to be a springboard and a platform or a catalyst for business.   In fact, several of the projects I’ve worked, have helped people grow or start businesses, create value, and create jobs.  I like to be a platform that empowers.

    Personally, the way I find my way forward in the changing landscape, is to anchor to skills that should serve me well for the foreseeable future:   strategy, project management, and entrepreneurism.     As a program manager at Microsoft, I actually see the job of a program manager as a technical entrepreneur, where the goal is to bring new ideas to life, make things happen, and shape user, business, and customer goals into high impact, high value, results.  Strategy is a key skill because it’s about what I will do, won’t do, and why … along with how I’ll differentiate, while playing to strengths.   Project management is a key skill because it’s about making things happen as you explore and execute an idea from cradle to grave, while orchestrating teams towards a vision, while dealing with risks, and playing within the boundaries and constraints of time, budget, and resources.

    I share these thought because I’m finding myself mentor more and more people on the art and science of effective program management.   I firmly believe that effective program managers (or technical entrepreneurs) play a key role in shaping the future.

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    Friday Links 08-19-2011

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    From the Archives
    Rituals for Results – The bigger your bag of tricks is for getting results, the more you can choose the right tool for the job.  Otherwise, it’s a one-size fits all deal.  The more tools you have in your toolbox, the more you can respond to changing environments and situations.  Rituals for Results is a collection of best practices for getting results that have served me well over time.  I continue to learn from anyone and everyone I can, and I share many of my best practices for productivity, time management, and getting results at Getting Results.com.

    Zen of Zero Inbox -  This is an oldie, but goodie if you struggle with keeping up with email.  Many years ago I decided that keeping an empty inbox would serve me better than fishing through an overflowing inbox of potential action items.  It was one of the best moves I made and it kept my administration down to a minimum.  I deal with a lot of email with distributed teams around the world, and I did not want to spend all my time in email.  This is a short presentation that shares some of the most important concepts to managing your email and keeping your inbox down to zero.  (Note – I often get more than 150 emails directly to me a day, and most of them are actions, and I limit myself to ~30 minutes a day in email administration.)

    From the Web
    Inspirational Quotes – If you haven’t seen these before, this may become your new favorite quotes collection.  These are many of the best of the best gems of timeless wisdom.  The gang’s all here … Buddha, Lao-Tzu, Emerson, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Twain, Franklin, Churchill and more.  That’s a powerful bunch to have in your corner.  Use their words of wisdom to lift you up and help you “stand on the shoulders of giants.”

    36 Best Business Books that Influenced Microsoft Leaders - I reached out to several Microsoft leaders, past and present, and up and down the ranks.  The beauty of Microsoft is the extremely high concentration of smart people and  I like to leverage the collective brain.  In this case, I posed a simple question to find out which business books actually made a difference: “What are the top 3 books that changed your life in terms of business effectiveness?”  This list of business books reflects the answers to that question.

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    Engineer Your Own Luck

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    “Chance favors the prepared mind.” - Louis Pasteur

    Are you feeling lucky?

    If you’re an engineer or a developer, you’ll appreciate the idea that you can design for luck, or stack the deck in your favor.

    How do you do this?

    As Harry Golden said, "The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work."

    While I believe in hard work, I also believe in working smarter.

    Luck is the same game.

    It’s a game of skill.

    And, success is a numbers game. 

    You have to stay in long enough to get “lucky” over time.   That means finding a sustainable approach and using a sustainable system.  It means avoiding going all in without testing your assumptions and reducing the risk out of it.   It means taking emotion out of the equation, taking calculated risks, minimizing your exposure, and focusing on skills.

    That’s why Agile methods and Lean approaches can help you outpace your failures.

    Because they are test-driven and focus on continuous learning.

    And because they focus on capacity and capability versus burnout or blowup.

    So if you aren’t feeling the type of luck you’d like to see more of in your life, go back to the basics, and design for it.

    They funny thing about luck is that the less you depend on it, the more of it you get.

    BTW – Agile Results and Getting Results the Agile Way continue to help people “get lucky.”  Recently, I heard a story where a social worker shared Getting Results the Agile Way with two girls living off the streets.  They are off drugs now, have jobs, and are buying homes.   I’m not doing the story justice, but it’s great to hear about people turning their lives around and these kinds of life changing things that a simple system for meaningful results can help achieve.

    It’s not luck. 

    It’s desire, determination, and effective strategies applied in a sustainable way.

    The Agile way.

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    Shareholder Value is a Result, Not a Strategy

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    In Motley Fool Stock Advisor, David Gardner writes about a idea from 1970 that changed the business culture at large:

    “In 1970, Noble Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman wrote a famous article for The New York Times Magazine, decrying the idea that businesses should have any sense of social responsibility.  Their responsibility, he said, is to increase shareholder wealth to the greatest extent possible – pure and simple.  It was an incredibly influential idea that became common wisdom and is in large part responsible for much of the business culture we see today.  The problem is it was completely and transparently wrong.”

    David then follows up with words of wisdom from Jack Welch, Former General Electric CEO. 

    Here’s what Jack said in an interview back in 2009:

    “On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world.  Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy … Your main constituencies are your employees, your customers, and your products.  Managers and investors should not set share price increase as their overarching goal.”

    It’s a great reminder to set overarching goals that matter.

    Then great results are a by-product.

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    Power Hours + Creative Hours = The Productive Artist

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    One of the big ideas in my book Getting Results the Agile Way (a best-seller in time management, thank you everybody for your support) is the idea of The Productive Artist.

    I’ve seen too many people with bunches of brilliant ideas that never see the light of day.

    I also see too many people that are incredibly productive, but don’t use enough of their creative side.

    I wanted to create a simple system that could help create more Productive Artists.

    I wanted to debottleneck and unleash artists to flow more value to the world, and I wanted to unleash the creative side that many people have as a kid, but lose somewhere along the way.

    They forget how to dream big.

    They forget how to play with possibility.

    They don’t operate anywhere near the level that they are capable of.

    I want to reduce the Greatness Gap between what people are capable of, and what they share with the world.

    There are a lot of powerful tools within Agile Results, but I want to hone in on two right here:

    1. Power Hours - A Power Hour is a way to turn ordinary hours into extraordinary ones.  You can use Power Hours to set your productivity on fire.  A Power Hours is when you’re “in the zone.”  It’s when you’ve got your “groove on.”  You can use Power Hours to bring more zest into what you do, as well as find more “flow.”
    2. Creative Hours - A Creative Hour is simply an hour where you explore ideas from your most creative mindset.  Creative Hours are a powerful tool for performing creative exploration and creative synthesis.

    Your Creative Hours are really a state of mind—a state of daydreaming. It’s the mindset that’s important. Whereas your Power Hours may be focused on results, your Creative Hours are focused on free-form thinking and exploration. You might find thatCreative Hours are your perfect balance to Power Hours. You might also find that you thrive best when you add more Creative Hours to your week. Ultimately, you might find that your Power Hoursfree up time for your Creative Hours, or that your Creative Hours change the game and improve your Power Hours. Your power hours might also be how you leverage your ideas from your Creative Hours.

    When you combine Power Hours + Creative Hours, not only will you be unleashing The Productive Artist in you, but you will also be creating a new model for working that will take your experiences, talents, and abilities to a new level of self-expression.

    You will set your productivity on fire, catch more bursts of brilliance, create more breakthroughs, and generate new value at a whole new level.

    Here’s to your greatness, and your fire within.

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    Time Management Tips #9 - Pair Up

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    Untitled

    What's the best way to do it?

    Together.

    Pair up.

    Time management tips #9 is pair up.  Paring up simply means find somebody that will work with you on something, rather than go it alone.   When you pair up, you create a team of capabilities and you learn how to love the things you might otherwise hate.  Worst case, you at least make doing what you don’t enjoy, more fun.  Best case, you find a new passion for something you didn’t know you had.

    We all have things to do that we're not great at, or slow us down.  Maybe it's because we don't have talent for it.  Maybe it's because we hate doing it.  Maybe it's because we just don't know a few tricks of the trade. (Sadly, I find the that it’s missing the tricks of the trade, that holds us back the most … and learning the tricks, actually unleashes a passion in us, because we no longer suck at it … it’s such a chicken and an egg scenario time and time again.)

    Chances are you know somebody who is great at whatever it is that you need to do, or at least better than you.  Just because you might hate to do something, doesn't mean that somebody else does not live for it.  One person's trash is another's treasure.  And that's a good thing. 

    Pairing up is the fastest way to transfer tribal knowledge.  It’s visceral.  You *feel* it.  You immerse yourself in it.  You get to see how somebody that likes doing this activity, actually goes about it.  It's your chance to learn everything from the mindset they have, to the questions they ask, to the short-cuts they use, or how they make it fun.

    One of my favorite phrases at work is, "Show me how."

    So many experts love to show and share how they do their magic.  It puts them in their element.  Sometimes they will genuinely want to help you succeed.  Other times, it's just so they can show off.  Either way, it doesn't matter.  What matters is that you make the most of it.

    One of the best pairing situations is where you find a "workout buddy" for work.  Maybe you are good at doing slides, and maybe they are good at technical details.  When you pair up, you can both look good, and you both have something to gain.

    Pairing works best when it's a mutual gain, so it's always helpful to bring something to the table.  Sometimes, all you bring to the table is appreciation for their amazing skill, and sometimes that is enough.

    Another great pattern for pairing is if you are a "starter" -- you like to start things, but you aren't a strong "finisher."  A strong "starter" and "finisher" pair is like a dynamic duo in action that amplify each other's success.  One's strength is another's weakness, and your goal is to build a mini-team of capabilities over a one-man band.

    It's not just effective, it's strategic.  By doing what you do best, and supplementing where you are not, you maximize your ability to make things happen in the most effective way, while staying true to you.

    In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the time management exercises to be a more effective starter or finisher 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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    Satya Nadella on How Success is a Mental Game

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    As technology and software change our world at a faster rate than ever before, we need to play a better game.

    How do we play a better game?

    By recognizing our conceptual blocks and removing them.

    Here is how Satya Nadella told us to think about our mental game and conceptual blocks:

    “It's really a mental game.

    At this point, it's got nothing to do with your capability, at all.  You're going to be facing stuff that you never faced before and it's all in the head.  The question is how are you going to cope with it.  It's all a conceptual block. 

    And if we can get rid of that, things get a lot easier.

    You've got to really think about the conceptual block you have, be mindful of it, and remove it.

    And then you can have a different perspective.”

    When we change our perspective, we change our game.

    That’s how we win, in work and in life.

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    Gartner Says Smart Organizations Will Embrace Fast and Frequent Project Failure in Their Quest for Agility

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    Beautiful.

    In a new digital economy and a world of ultra-competition, it’s great to shape a smart organization.

    We learned this long ago.   Agile was part of the early Microsoft patterns & practices DNA.   We embraced agile methods and agile management practices.

    We learned that execution is king, and that shipping early and often gives you better feedback and a way to make changes in a customer-connected way.

    Here is what Gartner says …

    “Accepting higher project failure rates can help organizations become more efficient more quickly, according to Gartner, Inc. Gartner said project and portfolio management (PPM) leaders who take a "fail-forward-fast" approach that accepts project failure rates of 20 to 28 percent as the norm will help their organizations become more agile by embracing experimentation and enabling the declaration of success or failure earlier in a project's life.”

    Check out the article, Gartner Says Smart Organizations Will Embrace Fast and Frequent Project Failure in Their Quest for Agility.

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    One-Man Band vs. Pairing Up On Problems

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    How you split the work is one thing.  How you team up on work is another.

    This is one of those patterns that can be counter-intuitive, but is one of the single-biggest factors for successful teams.  I've seen it time and again, over many years, in many places. 

    When I compare the effectiveness of various organizations, there's a pattern that always stands out.  It's how they leverage their capabilities in terms of teamwork.  For the sake of simplicity, I'll simply label the two patterns:

    1. One-Man Bands (or Teams of One)
    2. Pairing Up (or Crews of Capabilities)

    In the One-Man Band scenario, while everybody is on a team, they are all working on seperate things and individual parts.  In the Pairing Up scenario, multiple people work on the same problems, together.  In other words ...

    • One-Mand Band -- One person works on problem 1, one person works on problem 2, etc.
    • Pairing Up -- 5 people work on problem 1, then problem 2, then problem 3, etc.

    The Obvious Answer is Often the Wrong Answer
    The obvious choice is to divide and conquer the work and split the resources to tackle it.  That would be great if this was the industrial age, and it was just an assembly line.  The problem is it's the knowledge area, and in the arena of knowledge work, you need multiple skills and multiple perspectives to make things happen effectively and efficiently.

    Teams of Capabilities, Beat Teams of One
    In other words, you need teams of capabilities.  When you Pair Up, you're combining capabilities.  When you combine capabilities, that means that people spend more time in their strengths.  You might be great at the technical perspective, but then lack the customer perspective.  Or you might be great at doing it, but not presenting it.  Or you might be great at thinking up ideas, but suck at sticking with the daily grind to finish the tough stuff.  Or you might be great at grinding through the tasks, but not so great at coming up with ideas, or prioritizing, etc.

    The One-Man Band Scenario Creates Bottlenecks and Inefficiencies
    As the One-Man Band, what happens is everybody bottlenecks.  They spend more time in their weaknesses and things they aren't good at.  Worse, the person ends up married to their idea, or the idea represents just one person's thinking, instead of the collective perspective.

    Crews Spend More Time in Strengths and Gain Efficiencies
    If you've had the benefit of seeing these competing strategies first hand, then it's easy with hind-sight to fully appreciate the value of Pairing Up on problems vs. splitting the work up into One-Man Bands.  For many people, they've never had the benefit of working as "crews" or pairing up on problems, and, instead, spend a lot of energy working on their weaknesses and meanwhile, spending way less time on their strength.

    When people work as teams of capabilities, and are Pairing Up on problems, the execution engine starts to streamline, people gain efficiencies, and get exponential results.  Several by-products also happen:

    • Individuals end up with shared goals instead of bifurcating effort and energy
    • Collaboration increases because people have shared goals
    • Individuals start to prioritize more effectively because it's at the "system" level vs. the "individual" level
    • Individuals grow in their core skills because they spend more time in strengths, and less time in weaknesses
    • Employee engagement goes up, and work satisfaction improves, as people find their flow, grow their strengths, and make things happen

    There are Execution Patterns for High Performing Teams
    Of course there are exceptions to the generalization (for example, some individuals have a wide variety of just the right skills), and of course their are success patterns (and anti-patterns) for building highly effective teams of capabilities, and effectively pairing people up in ways that are empowering, and catalyzing.  I learned many of these the hard way, through trial and error, and many years of experimenting while under the gun to bring out the best in individuals and simultaneously unleash and debottleneck teams for maximum performance and impact.  I’ve also had the benefit of mentoring teams, and individuals in reshaping their execution.  This is probably an area where it’s worth me sharing a more focused collection of patterns and practices on leading high performance teams.

    If you have a favorite post or favorite write up that drills into this topic, please send it my way.  In my experience, it's one of the most fundamental game changers to improving the execution and impact of any team, and especially, one that does any sort of knowledge work, and engineering.

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    Crush Your Overwhelming List of Things to Do

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    Everybody has too much to do, too little time.  Yet, some people have a way of spending their time on things in a way that yields better results.

    What’s the key to crushing an overwhelming list of things to do and getter better results?

    3 simple steps:

    1. Write down all the things you need to do
    2. Bubble up Three Wins to the top
    3. Prioritize the list

    I elaborate on this approach in 3 Steps to Crushing Your Overwhelming List of Things To Do.

    Why does this work?

    It dumps what’s on your mind.  We tend to think better on paper.  At least, it’s easier to be more objective when you are looking at your list of things to do on paper, right in front of you.  Instead of swirling it around in your mind, you can look at each item and ask better questions, whether it’s worth it, and whether it’s the right thing to be working on now.

    When you bubble up Three Wins, you’ve identified the three most valuable outcomes that you want to achieve.   These instantly help you focus and prioritize all of your other efforts.  If it feels off, then you carved out the wrong things.   You have to get real and be honest with yourself about what you want to achieve (or can achieve) with the time and energy you’ve got for the rest of the day.   Given the time you’ve got left for today, and the energy you’ve got left, what are the three most valuable things you could possibly achieve?

    The beauty is you can do this at any time in the day, whenever you are overwhelmed.   Simply stop, and remind yourself what your Three Wins will be for today, and refocus on those.   It takes practice to get the level-right, and to not confuse outcomes, wins, or results with tasks, but you’ll get the hang of it, the more you do it.

    With your wins at the top of the list, you can then prioritize the rest of your list, to support your wins.  It’s perfectly acceptable to have a bunch of tasks and reminders, whatever you need to help you take better action, but do yourself the favor, and guide all your actions with Three Wins.

    You’ll be amazed by how much better you can trim an overwhelming mound of things to do, down to size, and how easily you can focus and stay motivated, even when you are doing the heavy lifting.    If you know you are going for a win, and not just doing a bunch of stuff, you will inspire yourself with skill, and bring out your best, time and again.

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    Leadership Books Sweep

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    I finished sweeping my Leadership Books list.  It took a while to update it, but I think it reflects a good set of leadership books by key categories now. 

    I added a few new books to my leadership books list including The 5 Levels of Leadership, by John Maxwell, and StandOut, by Marcus Buckingham, which weren’t available when I first put my list of leadership books together.I also added some books to the list based on feedback from different folks.  For example, I added 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class, by Steve Siebold, Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO, by Harrison Monarth, and The Leadership Test, by Timothy Clark.

    This is my current list of top 10 Leadership Books:

    1. Emotional Capitalists: The New Leaders, by Martyn Newman
    2. Leadership Gold, by John C. Maxwell
    3. Principle-Centered Leadership, by Stephen R. Covey
    4. The 5 Levels of Leadership, by John Maxwell
    5. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, by John C. Maxwell
    6. The Art Of War, by Sun Tzu
    7. The Effective Executive, by Peter F. Drucker
    8. The Essential Wooden, by John Wooden
    9. The Leadership Challenge, by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner
    10. The Leadership Test, by Timothy Clark

    Enjoy and explore the list of leadership books.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Time Management Tips #22 - Close the Flood Gates

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    UntitledIf you are really behind, and want to dig yourself out, and get back on top things, then close the flood gate.

    Don't take on new things.

    Time management tips #22 is close the flood gates.  It's all too easy to reopen the door, let things slip in, and keep taking on new things, without first finishing what's already on your overloaded plate.  Closing the flood gate simply means stop randomizing and churning on new work that you don't have the time, capacity, bandwidth, attention, or energy to focus on.  If you keep taking on more, it's not a service to anybody, especially yourself.

    Whenever I find myself buried among a sea of open work, unfinished tasks, and things to do, I close the flood gate.  I stand guard at the door of incoming requests, and I put all of my focus on the open work.

    It's easy to stretch past capacity.  You say yes to things you think will finish a little faster than they actually do.  Things come up.  You didn't have a buffer for when things go wrong.  The key is to recognize when you're past your capacity, and to take decisive action.

    No new work.  Full focus on the work that is wearing you down, or blocking your ability to flow value. 

    The problem is work will still come your way.  Have a place to put it.  A simple list is fine.  You can review it and prioritize it when you're read to take on more things.  The trap to avoid is dabbling in new work, dabbling in unfinished work, and throwing more balls in the air, than you can possibly juggle.

    Don't create your own problem by taking on work past your capacity.
    If somebody assigns work to you, do them a favor, and let them know you're at capacity, and when you expect to free up.
    If you see new work as higher value than what's already on your plate, consider trading up for it, and letting your open work go.
    If you have so much open work that you're spending more time managing it, than finishing it, then consider shelving the lower priority work.  Put it on the shelf for another day.  Temporary let it go, while you concentrate your focus on a vital few things to complete them.

    You'll be surprised what you're capable of with focus and priorities and concentrated effort in small batches of time.

    Close the flood gate, narrow your focus, flow your value.

    For work-life balance skills , check out 30 Days of Getting Results, and for a work-life balance system check out Agile Results at Getting Results.com.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Start Your Journey of Innovation and Build a Culture of Great Innovation

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    In todays world, the mantra is innovate or die.

    You’re either climbing ahead or falling backward … there’s no hanging out in the middle.

    And some folks are actually leap frogging ahead.

    Disruptive innovation is keeping everybody on their toes.

    Whether you are re-imagining you or your company, or you are driving innovation in your process, product, or capabilities, there are skills you can learn to be a lot more effective in your innovation efforts.

    It’s a crazy world where a One-Man Band can write an app, serve it up on the Cloud, and change the world.  It’s also a strange world where a little idea can be a big shot heard round the world.   It’s a scary thing for businesses when a handful of developers can spin up a new service in the Cloud and instantly make a business obsolete.

    What can you hold on to in this crazy world?   What can you latch on to, if you want to rise above the noise, and instead of getting washed out by a wave, be the one that makes the waves?

    There are several things, but I’ll boil them down to this:

    1. Use your customer as the North Star (and remember that some customers are better for you than others)
    2. Share and scale your unique value to the world
    3. Adapt or die

    What happens to a super successful business or a super effective person when the landscape changes under their feet?

    It depends on how they adapt Smile

    Nature favors the flexible.  Darwin taught us that.

    You have to get your bold on, and embrace innovation as your shiny sword to do battle against challenge and change, but most importantly, to create the change that serves you, and those you serve.

    I’m taking a fresh look at innovation, as well as going back through hard, expensive lessons I’ve learned in the past.  Whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, so my battle scars are a healthy reminder of the lessons I’ve learned on how we can use innovation to leap frog ahead, as well as change the playing field (heck with changing the game, change the field and be the disruptor.)

    Believe it or not, Peter Drucker was a wealth of wisdom when it comes to innovation.  Many of you know him as the wise and wonderful professor of business and guru of management.   But when you read through a lot of his work, he was incredibly insightful and pragmatic when it comes to creating a culture of innovation.

    Innovation Nuggets to Get You Started on Your Innovation Journey

    I’ve got a ton of innovation books, but one that I’m really liking lately is Out Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes, by G. Shawn Hunter.   I’ve been sharing some nuggets from the book, and it’s been reminding me what it takes to build a culture of innovation.

    If you want to start your innovation journey, and create a culture of innovation, here are a few posts to help you on your way:

    3 Key Questions to Challenge Yourself to Innovate

    3 Keys for a Successful Innovation

    A Superior Product is Not Built from It’s Features

    Beware of Benchmarking Your Way to Mediocrity

    Energized Differentiation Separates Brands from the Pack

    High-Leverage Strategies for Innovation

    How Great Leaders Build a Culture of Innovation and Change

    Incremental Changes or Disruptive Innovation?

    Innovate in Your Approach

    Innovation Life Cycle

    Innovation, Quantification, and Orchestration

    The Innovative Team: Unleashing Creative Potential for Breakthrough Results

    The Role of Process in Driving Reliable Innovation

    Great Innovation Quotes to Inspire the Art of the Possible

    If you need to remind yourself what innovation feels like or what’s possible, be sure to soak up some powerful words of wisdom:

    Innovation Quotes

    In my Innovation Quotes, I’ve also included a special section to light up what Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Walt Disney teach us about building a culture of innovation.

    Let’s boldly go where we have not gone before.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Time Management Tips #19 - Just Finish

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    Sometimes you need to Just Start.  Other times, you need to Just Finish.

    One of the best ways never to finish something, is to spread it out over time.  Time changes what's important.  People lose interest.  Changes of heart happen along the way.  Spreading things over time or pushing them out is a great way to kill projects.

    Open items, open loops, and unfinished tasks compound the problem.  The more unfinished work there is, the more task switching, and context switching you do.  Now you're spending more time switching between things, trying to pick up where you left off, and losing momentum.

    This is how backlogs grow and great ideas die.  This is how people that "do" become people that "don't."

    Time management tips #19 is just finish.  If you have a bunch of open work, start closing it down.  Swarm it.  Overwhelm your open items with brute force.  Set deadlines:
    - Today, I clear my desk.
    - Today, I decide on A, B, or C and run with it.
    - Today, I close the loop.
    - Today, I solve it.
    - Today, I clear my backlog.

    If you want to finish something, then “own” it and drive it.  To finish requires ruthless prioritization.  It requires relentless focus.  It requires putting your full force on the 20% of the things that deliver 80% of the value.  It requires deciding on an outcome and plowing through until you are done.

    Stop taking on more, until you finish what's on your plate.  If you want to take on more, then finish more.  The more you finish, the better you get.

    The more you finish, the more you will trust yourself to actually complete things.

    The more you finish, the more others will trust you to actually take things on.

    The more you finish, the more you build your momentum for great results.

    For time management skills , check out 30 Days of Getting Results, and for a time management system check out Agile Results at Getting Results.com.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Life Lessons from the Legend of Zelda

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    A fellow Softie, and performance improvement architect extraordinaire, Walter Oelwein, wrote a fantastic article on Life Lessons from The Legend of Zelda and Zelda Theory.

    It’s all about how to apply what we learn from The Legend of Zelda to real life.   If you are a gamer, you will especially appreciate this insightful piece of prose.  Even if you are not a gamer, you will appreciate Walter’s wit and wisdom, as well as his systems thinking.  If you are a continuous leaner and you find yourself always on a path of exploration and execution, this article will directly speak to your heart.

    Check out Life Lessons from the Legend of Zelda and get your game face on for life.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Praveen on Getting Results the Agile Way

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    People like to hear stories about how other people are adopting Getting Results the Agile Way.    Meet Praveen Rangarajan.  He’s a developer with a passion for more from life.

    Praveen is not a "process" guy, but Agile Results gave him just enough structure to support his everyday things. Using Agile Results he learned to improve his results at both work and life in a more systematic way.

    Here is Praveen telling his story of how he adopted Getting Results the Way …

     


    For a majority of my life, I had never been a "Process" guy except when it came to work. I always believed order was meant for the military. I wanted to be a free bird - doing things my way at the time of my choosing.

    When JD briefed me on his new book and the process he was working on, I volunteered and said I wanted to be a part of it. I am quite successful at work and wanted to improve it further. However, I wasn't too keen on adopting it for life. I thought it would restrict me a lot and clip my feathers. So, I adopted it at work and did a trial run for a month. It was much more successful than I thought. The Agile Results process has in more ways than one made me a responsible individual. The most important realizations for me at the end of it was

    • do not misuse time or take it for granted.
    • your mind is your best friend and your worst enemy.
    • the ideal world does not exist. You cannot achieve the best. There is always room to make it better. But the trick lies in identifying what works best for now. Be agile in determining the best.

    Starting with The Rule of Three
    I started by applying the Rule of 3. On the way to work, I decide on the three things I want to get done for the day. I restricted myself to one day only. I get distracted if I start thinking too far ahead. For the first week or so, I had trouble identifying the three best things for a day. I would either achieve it in the first hour of work or wouldn't be able to complete even 1 out of the 3. For example, I wanted to complete a module that would have been possible had it not been for a CR [change request] flowing in. Now, it would take me more than 2 days to finish it. My plan for the day went down the tube. Slowly, I began to realize that I had to be more granular. The granularity had to be such that it was independent enough to be completed in isolation and at the same time wasn't too small a puzzle to solve. For example, "complete and check-in functionality ABC in module XYZ". This way I'm assured of completing the three activities I want to perform. Also, I can add more if time permits.

    Timeboxing to Get a Handle on Time Management
    The next most important pattern was the Timeboxing a week. In other words, scheduling results for a week. Its a pretty simple yet strong pattern. Again, I misunderstood its importance when I started off. I used it more like a calendar. A reminder of bucket lists of sorts. Although it helps, there is something more that this pattern offers. JD was kind enough to point it out to me. He said to think of it like a strengths and weaknesses chart. It triggered a new way of thinking in me. I was now also looking at a week gone by and identifying times of the day, or days of the week where I was strong or weak, and displayed efficiency vs. laziness. And if this behavior was repetitive, odds are you have just plotted a pattern map. Ultimately this chart helps you make better use of your "Best" time, and look to improve upon your "Idle" time. Complementing the pattern above is the Mindsets pattern. JD uses the term switching hats or changing personas. This basically allows you to maximize the returns on "Idle" time by using them effectively in other ways. For example, I would be annoyed when someone disturbed me with something really stupid when I was doing great work. I would lose 10 minutes in the conversation and another 20 cursing the moron who started it off. After using the Mindsets pattern, I now use the 20 minutes of previously wasted time to walk out of my cubicle and stretch and relax. What it has allowed me to do is to concentrate on my exercise rather than the worthless discussion. Also, both my mind and body get a mini-refreshment.

    It’s How You Apply It
    I began to admire this [Agile Results] process because it was so flexible that I could take, leave or modify certain steps so that they fit my profile better. The goal is to understand the essence of the process and modify it to one's needs. I was pretty satisfied with the results and decided to do a trial run for life as well. A week later, the results came. It was a disaster. The worst part was when I couldn't figure out why it failed. I thought I must be doing something wrong and worked out the whole thing again. Another week went by and it was still not working. After giving it some thought and asking the right set of questions, I realized one fundamental part that I completely ignored in the application of this process to life - and that is setting minimum and maximum time to activities right from the most granular to the complete. Now, I re-did my strategy of application. In two weeks time I could see improvement. It was far from the final outcome. But bottom line, it had started to work. Now, it is unto me to make it successful. Like they say, success or failure lies in not what you have but how you apply what you have.

    Changing the Game a Practice or Principle at a Time
    Like I had stated earlier, the process works well even if I pick 1 out 10 steps as long as I believe it is going to be my game changer. You can add/remove steps any time. At the end of the day, you want your life to be better. And only you know what's best for you. In my case, the most important game changers were:

    1. Rule of 3.
    2. Monday, Friday reflection pattern.
    3. Timeboxing a week.
    4. Weekly results.
    5. Reward for results.

    Work Backwards from the End in Mind
    A very important by-product of this process is quick feedback. You get to know if you are on-track or tangential almost immediately. You can alter the course of your activities midway so long as you understand what you are doing and targeting. This is one of the very few processes that works its way backward, i.e. you look at the end and work your way back. This means you have a vision for what you want to achieve even before you start. This is a very positive way to look at things. The problem with thinking the other way is that my mind will give up very soon. It [Agile Results] is designed to choose the most optimal Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP) algorithm. And if the time to achieve is long, it will deem it unimportant and a waste of my time.

    It Starts the Journey
    In summary, this process has not turned my life upside down in terms of effectiveness and efficiency. But it has paved a path. Adopting it has not been easy at all, at least for me. But the ROI has been well worth it so far. There's no denying that it will only improve as time goes by and I continue to keep doing things the right way. If there is one thing I have to tell others about this process, it is that do not follow it like a horse. It is a guide, a mentor. Like my mother always tells me, God will help you get you good grades in your exam only if you prepare well for it and put all your energy into it. You cannot expect him to perform miracles out of nothing. Same goes to this process as well. Put your best foot forward and the rest will follow.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Anatomy of a High-Potential

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    Dr. Jay Conger has a must see presentation on The Anatomy of a High-Potential:

    The Anatomy of a High-Potential

    I’m always on the hunt for insights and actions that help people get the edge in work and life.   This is one of those gems.  What I like about Dr. Jay Conger’s work is that he has a mental model that’s easy to follow, as well as very specific practices that separate high-potentials from the rest of the pack.

    In a fast-paced world of extreme innovation, change, and transformation, it pays to be high-potential.

    Anything you can do to learn how to perform like a high-potential, can help you leap frog or fast track your career path.

    Here are some of my favorite highlights from Dr. Conger’s presentation …

    High-Potential Defined

    High-potentials consistently out-perform their peer groups.  Dr. Jay Conger writes:

    “High potentials consistently outperform their peer groups in a variety of settings and circumstances.  While achieving superior levels of performance, they exhibit behaviors reflecting their company's culture and values in an exemplary manner.  They show strong capacity to grow and success throughout their careers -- more quickly and effectively than their peer groups do.”

    Baseline Requirements

    According to Dr. Jay Conger, high-potentials distinguish themselves in the following ways:

    1. Deliver strong results credibly and not at other's expense
    2. Master new types of expertise
    3. Behave in ways consistent with the company's values and culture

    Moving Up the Stack – From Value Creator to Game Changer

    High-potentials are game changers.   Here is a snapshot of Dr. Jay Conger’s pyramid that illustrates how high-potentials move up the stack:

     

    image

    What I like the most about the model is that it resonates with what I’ve experienced, and that it frames out a pragmatic development path for amplifying your impact as a proven game changer.

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    The Innovative Team

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Sinofsky on How To Analyze the Competition

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    Sometimes the best way to do something well, is to know what to avoid.  In Ex-Windows Boss Steve Sinofsky: Here's Why I Use An iPhone, Nicholas Carlson shares some tips from Steve Sinofsky on analyzing the competition:

    1. Don't use the product in a lightweight manner
    2. Don't think like yourself
    3. Don't bet competitors act similarly (or even rationally)
    4. Don't assume the world is static

    Sinofsky elaborates, and says to use the product deep, and use it over time.  Use the product like it was intended by the designers.  Wrap yourself around the culture, constraints, resources, and more of a competitor.  And, don't take a static view of the world -- the competitor can always update their product based on feedback, or weaknesses you call out.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    How To Be Ready for Any Emergency

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    “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin

    I know a lot of people have had their lives turned upside down.   Hurricane Sandy and the follow up Noreaster, really created some setbacks and a wake of devastation.

    Disasters happen.  While you can’t prevent them, what you can do is prepare for them and improve your ability to respond and recover.

    I’m not the expert on disaster preparation, but I know somebody who is.  I’ve asked Laurie Ecklund Long to write a guest post to help people prepare for the worst.  Here it is:

    Disaster Proof Your Life: How To Be Ready for Any Emergency

    The goal of the post is to help jumpstart anybody who wants to start their path to planning and preparation for emergencies. 

    Laurie is an emergency specialist.  She is a best-selling author, national speaker, and trainer that helps individuals, businesses, and the military survive natural disasters and family emergencies, based on her book, My Life in a Box…A Life Organizer.  On a personal level, Laurie’s inspiration came from losing 12 people close to her, including her Dad, within the span of five years.   She learned a lot during 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, and she’s on a mission to help more people be able to answer the following questions better:

    Do you have a personal emergency tool box?  Can you quickly locate your legal, financial and personal documents within minutes and be able to rebuild your life if something happens to your home?

    Check out Laurie’s guest post Disaster Proof Your Life: How To Be Ready for Any Emergency, and start your path of planning and preparation for emergencies, and help others to do the same.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Day 3 of 7 Days of Agile Results – Tuesday (Daily Outcomes)

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    imageYour Outcome:  Learn how to use Daily Outcomes to identify 3 outcomes or 3 Wins for today.  By identifying your best 3 Wins for the day, you’ll be able to focus and prioritize throughout the day to achieve better results.

    Welcome to Day 3 of 7 Days of Agile Results.  Agile Results is the productivity system introduced in my best-selling time management book, Getting Results the Agile Way.

    Just to do a quick recap, here’s what we’ve done so far:

    Now, for today, let’s get started.

    It’s a fresh start.  This is your chance to choose the best things to focus on that will help you make the most impact today.

    Here’s a simple process you can use to get started:

    1. Scan your calendar so you can get a good picture of the key events in your day.  You want to get a good sense of the priorities.
    2. Write down a simple list of the key tasks you have on your plate for today.
    3. Now, at the top of your list, identify 3 outcomes that would make this a great day.   Think of these as your 3 Wins for today, to help you focus and prioritize throughout your day.

    For example, here are my 3 outcomes that I want for today:

    1. People in the meeting buy into the Scenarios + Architecture + Value approach
    2. Review meeting of the Devices + Services story leads to closure of open issues
    3. Sync up leads to a breakthrough I can apply to our production process

    Those then act as my “tests for success” for the day.  Do I have a lot of tasks on my plate for the day?  You bet.

    Do I have a lot of meetings to attend?  Yep.

    Will I be trying to use some of the little time slices in my day to try and complete many of my tasks?  Of course.

    Will I be dealing with interruptions throughout the day, as well?  Yes, to that, too.

    I will be dealing with chaos while riding the dragon.  And throughout the day, I’ll be driving to my 3 outcomes.

    They are my North Star, while I deal with whatever comes my way throughout the day.

    May your 3 Wins guide you and provide you with clarity, conviction, and calmness among the chaos – TODAY.

    You Might Also Like

    Day 1 of 7 Days of Agile Results - Sunday (Getting Started)

    Day 2 of 7 Days of Agile Results – Monday (Monday Vision)

    10 Big Ideas from Getting Results the Agile Way

    Agile Results on a Page

    The Values of  Agile Results

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