Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
Early in my patterns & practices days, each time I built a new team, we had a hard time figuring out what level to cater our writing for because we had such a variety of audience, even among architects.
After a lot of pain, we finally adopted a three-level system that serves us very well. It helped us focus our writing and nail problems in an incremental way. You’ll never see this in our docs, but it shaped how we prioritize our docs. We used three levels …
Three Levels of Guidance Here is the behind-the-scenes look at how we talked about these three levels of guidance on the team:
Prioritizing Guidance As a rule of thumb, we decided that we would focus on first addressing Level 1 – “My Arm’s Broke, Fix Me.” This way, we could at least leave a trail of proven practices and pave a path of success. As a result, many of the guides I shipped from patterns & practices are heavy on “How Tos.” In fact, the guides are really “action guides.” The first half of the guide, sets the stage by sharing mental models, key concepts, and principles. This is optimized for reading in a sequential flow, but still modular so you can hop around. The second half of the guides is a focus on “action” and is a set of action modules (Cheat Sheets, Checklists, Guidelines, How Tos). It’s optimized for random access, and the individual modules link back to the related items.
This simple way to think about the majority of our guidance helped us significantly priorities the work we did for the following projects:
"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will." -- Mahatma Gandhi
When people ask me what my biggest game changer was in terms of producing more in less time, I have to say that it’s a combination. It’s a combination of 1) spending more time in my strengths, and 2) finding my power hours.
This was the biggest key to getting more done in less time, and keeping my energy strong. Imagine doing the work you do in 40 hours in four hours. That’s what it’s like.
Hands down, this accelerated my learning and growth the fastest way possible. Imagine taking something that you could already do all day, and honing that. Imagine sharpening this blade to cut through any problem that comes your way, in the most effective and efficient way. That’s what it’s like.
It’s now my edge. I’ve found ways to use this edge in any job I do. You can do so too.
Here is a blurb from my 30 Days of Getting Results on Day 10 – Feel Strong All Week Long:
Get on Your Strengths Path What if there was one thing you could focus on that would help you get exponential results in all areas of your life? Well there is. It’s getting on your strengths path. When you are spending more time in the activities that make you strong, you automatically do great work, you renew and rebuild your mind, body, emotions, and spirit, and you dramatically accelerate your learning and growth. Fighting to get on your strengths path is one of the highest ROI (Return on Investment) battles you will ever win. It pays you back daily.
If there are so many benefits to being on your strengths path, and spending more time in your strengths, then why doesn’t everybody just do it? Because it requires self-awareness and you have to own it. Nobody comes along and puts you on your strengths path. YOU have to own it. YOU have to continuously find ways to spend more time in your strengths. Only you know truly what makes you strong and what makes you weak. You have to decide you want to spend more time in your strengths and you have to be deliberate about spending less time in your strengths.
That really is the key message here. You have to own it. When you choose to give your best, where you have your best to give, you empower yourself up to operate at a higher level. Your edge is at your finger tips.
Just a quick note -- I'm out of the office through December. Here's what I'm up to:
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, you can follow along the Application Architecture Guide 2.0 project at the following sites:
Are your management practices long in the tooth?
I think I was lucky that early on, I worked in environments that shook things up and rattled the cage in pursuit of more customer impact, employee engagement, and better organizational performance.
In one of the environments, a manufacturing plant, the management team flipped the typical pyramid of the management hierarchy upside down to reflect that the management team is there to empower and support the production line.
And when I was on the Microsoft patterns & practices team, we had an interesting mix of venture capitalist type management coupled with some early grandmasters of the Agile movement. More than just Agile teams, we had an Agile management culture that encouraged a customer-connected approach to product development, complete with self-organizing, multi-disciplinary teams, empowered people, a focus on execution excellence, and a fierce focus on being a rapid learning machine.
We thrived on change.
We also had a relentless focus on innovation. Not just in our product, but in our process. If we didn’t innovate in our process, then we got pushed out of market by becoming too slow, too expensive, or by lacking the quality experience that customers have come to expect.
But not everybody knows what a great environment for helping people thrive and do great things for the world, looks like.
While a lot of people in software or in manufacturing have gotten a taste of Agile and Lean practices, there are many more businesses that don’t know what a modern learning machine of people and processes that operate at a higher-level looks like.
Many, many businesses and people are still operating and looking at the world through the lens of old world management principles.
In the book The Future of Management, Gary Hamel walks through the principles upon which modern management is based.
Hamel gives us a nice way to frame looking at the modern management principles, by looking at their application, and their intended goal.
Via The Future of Management:
Most people aren’t aware of the principles behind the management beliefs that they practice or preach. But before coming up with new ones, it helps to know what current management thinking is rooted in.
“Have you ever asked yourself, what are the deepest principles upon which your management beliefs are based? Probably not. Few executives, in my experience, have given much thought to the foundational principles that underlie their views on how to organize and manage. In that sense, they are as unaware of their management DNA as they are of their biological DNA. So before we set off in search of new management principles, we need to take a moment to understand the principles that comprise our current management genome, and how those tenets may limit organizational performance.”
It really comes down to a handful of core principles. These principles serve as the backbone for much of today’s management philosophy.
“These practices and processes of modern management have been built around a small nucleus of core principles: standardization, specialization, hierarchy, alignment, planning, and control, and the use of extrinsic rewards to shape human behavior.”
It’s not by chance that the early management thinkers came to the same conclusions. They were working on the same problems in a similar context. Of course, the challenge now is that the context has changed, and the early management principles are often like fish out of water.
“These principles were elucidated early in the 20th century by a small band of pioneering management thinkers -- individuals like Henri Fayol, Lyndall Urwick, Luther Gullick, and Max Weber. While each of these theorists had a slightly different take on the philosophical foundations of modern management, they all agreed on the principles just enumerated. This concordance is hardly surprising, since they were all focusing on the same problem: how to maximize operational efficiency and reliability in large-scale organizations. Nearly 100 years on, this is still the only problem that modern management is fully competent to address.”
If your management philosophy and guiding principles are nothing more than a set of hand me downs from previous generations, it might be time for a re-think.
Elizabeth Edersheim on Management Lessons of a Lifelong Student
How Employees Lost Empathy for their Work, for the Customer, and for the Final Product
No Slack = No Innovation
The Drag of Old Mental Models on Innovation and Change
The New Competitive Landscape
The New Realities that Call for New Organizational and Management Capabilities
Who’s Managing Your Company
It’s always interesting to see where people put their focus, as well as how their patterns show up. Here are some patterns of focus, which reveal how people show their values on the job:
… some focus on giving their best where they’ve got their best to give, finding their flow, lifting others up, and changing the game.
Of course, we’re all hybrids, but it’s interesting to see where some people dominate and drive from.
Knowing the patterns makes it easier to bridge and switch perspectives, spot problems, and uncork potential.
I’m trying out a new way to do book reviews, to share more value in a better, faster, and easier way, with a predictable experience.
My new approach is to focus on 10 big ideas.
Here’s an example:
10 Big Ideas from BRIEF
Side note – BRIEF is a powerful book with hard-core techniques for getting to the point and cutting through fluff. If you struggle with being verbose, or rambling, this book will help you master the art of “Lean Communication.”
In my book reviews in the past, I shared the challenges the book solved, the structure of the book, and some “scenes” from the book, sort of like a “movie trailer.” While that was effective in terms of really doing a book justice, I thought there was room for improvement.
I figured, Sources of Insight is all about, well, “insight.” So then my best approach would be to focus on the big ideas in the books I read, and share that unique value in a simple to consume fashion. I considered “3 Big Ideas” and “5 Big Ideas”, but they both seemed too small. And more than 10 seemed too big.
10 Big Ideas seems like a healthy dose of insights to draw from a book.
I had actually considered this approach a long time ago, but I was worried that it would water things down too much. Instead, I’m finding that it’s doing the exact opposite. Using 10 Big Ideas as a constraint is a great forcing function to help me really synthesize and distill the essence of a book, and to really hone in on the most valuable takeaways.
And it’s a great way to turn insight into action in a very repeatable way.
I already read and review books at a fast pace, but I think this new approach is going to help me get even better and faster at rapidly sharing insight and action.
I’m in the early stages, so if you have ideas or feedback on the 10 Big Ideas approach for my book reviews, please let me know.
Take 10 Big Ideas from BRIEF for a spin. Kick the tires. It will be worth your time. If you master Big Idea #7, alone, you'll be ahead of the game when it comes to making your pitch, or presenting your ideas.
Lean Communication can be your differentiator in a noisy, crowded, information overloaded world.
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.
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
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:
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:
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.
Cloud Security Threats and Countermeasures at a Glance
Windows Azure Security Notes
Microsoft Cloud Case Studies at a Glance
How Microsoft IT Does Cloud Computing
Move to the Cloud, Use the Cloud, or Be the Cloud
I wrote a post on A Language for Strengths on Sources of Insight. It's my attempt to consolidate and share the best information I've found for learning and talking about strengths and talents. I'm a big believer in focusing on your strengths. I know that when I spend more time in my strengths, I have more energy, I get more done, and I improve my impact. It's about giving my best where I have my best to give. It sounds simple and obvious, yet, before I had a lens for strengths and talents it was more hit or miss. Now, I can more effectively zoom in on my strengths because I have a vocabulary for them.
As I've been helping people find jobs, write their resumes, find their passions, and unleash their best, I've been relying heavily on first helping them find their natural strengths and talents. This gives them the drive and the staying power to deal with whatever life throws at them, as well as gives them a competitive edge. The key in today's landscape, is to bring your unique combination of strengths to the table. I think that while it's a skills-for-hire economy for the short-term, it's a play-to-your-strengths life for the long term.
To learn the map of the 34 strengths and get started on your strengths quest, read my post, A Language for Strengths.
“You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away and know when to run.” – Kenny Rogers
Dealing with setbacks is tough. Sometimes we get knocked down so hard, we wonder if we’ll get up again. Such is life.
But why do some people rise and triumph from their trials and tribulations, while others stay down for the count? I believe a lot of it has to do with the way we program our minds. It’s the sayings we say, it’s the thoughts we think and it’s words we use to express our condition. In other words, it’s not what happens to us … It’s how we respond. It’s how we frame it. It’s how we think about it. It’s what we do about it.
Just like a picture is worth a 1,000 words, the right quote is worth a 1,000 books.
The best way I’ve found to bounce back, or to find a way forward, or to make the most of the unthinkable, is to fill our mental toolbox with a cornucopia of the world’s best wisdom at our finger tips. Quotes are a powerful way to lift us, inspire us, and keep on keeping on.
Here is a hand-crafted collection of some of the best quotes on moving on:
You can use them for work, when you need a reminder of how to stand strong when tested. You can use them for life, when you need a firm foundation for rolling with the punches, and dealing with the setbacks that hold you back, or try to knock you down. It is a serious and significant collection. You will recognize many of the moving on quotes and hopefully find some new ones.
It’s a living collection so please feel free to share any of the best quotes on moving on that have served you well in work and life. When the going gets tough, the tough get going, and tough minds get built from the sayings we say, and the beliefs we adopt.
Enjoy and please share with whoever needs a little lift in life.
I updated my Motivational Quotes page.
I’ve got more than 100 motivational quotes on the page to help you find your inner-fire.
It’s not your ordinary motivational quotes list.
It’s deep and it draws from several masters of inspiration including Bruce Lee, Jim Rohn, and Zig Ziglar.
Here is a sampling of some of my personal favorite motivational quotes ..
“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee
“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Kites rise highest against the wind; not with it.” – Winston Churchill
“To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.” – Bruce Lee
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius
“There is no such thing as failure. There are only results.” – Tony Robbins
“When it’s time to die, let us not discover that we have never lived.” -Henry David Thoreau
“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” – Anonymous
“Motivation alone is not enough. If you have an idiot and you motivate him, now you have a motivated idiot.” – Jim Rohn
“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” – Bruce Lee
For more quotes, check out my motivational quotes page.
It’s a living page and at some point I’ll do a complete revamp.
I think in the future I’ll organize it by sub-categories within motivation rather than by people.I think at the time it made sense to have words of wisdom by various folks, but now I think grouping motivational quotes by sub-categories would work much better, especially when there is such a large quantity of quotes.
“Xbox One is designed to deliver a whole new generation of blockbuster games, television and entertainment in a powerful, all-in-one device” -- Don Mattrick, president, Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft
Microsoft Secret Stuff
The Microsoft Story
Microsoft Explained: Making Sense of the Microsoft Platform Story
Microsoft Developer Platform at a Glance
Office 365 at a Glance
Windows Azure at a Glance
While putting together lessons learned from our Cloud-related Enterprise Strategy engagements, we consolidated a set of recurring IT drivers.
The improvement of IT services and operations can deliver benefits such as improved service levels and cost savings. The Cloud offers numerous routes to IT optimization.
10 IT Drivers for the Cloud Some of the key IT drivers for the Cloud include:
My Related Posts
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:
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.
2012 Year in Review
Anatomy of a High-Potential
Mid-Year Review, Career, and Getting Ahead
Performance Review Template
The Guerilla Guide to Getting a Better Performance Review at Microsoft
This is a story of a person, who started a new chapter in their life. They decided to follow their dream and write their story forward.
Meet Alik Levin. Talk about changing your life. Earlier this year, Alik came to the U.S. with his family in search of his dream job. Not only did he land his job, but he's been making amazing impact on his new team and driving change in powerful ways. He's in his element and truly unleashed. Alik is now a successful Microsoft programming writer. He's living his passion while he’s helping customers succeed on our platform, by sharing success patterns with customers around the world.
Every now and then, somebody does something that just blows your mind. I've known Alik for a long time, but When Alik first told me that he was coming to the U.S. to find a job and make his dreams happen, I was in disbelief. It was the type of thing you read about or watch in the movies, but to see it unfold right before my eyes was nothing short of spectacular. You see, this was not a story of somebody simply hopping from one mountain peak to another. It was a story of personal triumph. I got to watch Alik climb a mountain from scratch, based on his conviction and courage for a better life. Watching him uproot his family and start a new life, in this new world, has been one of the most amazing transformations I’ve seen in a long time.
While I'm happy that the story had a happy ending, and a wonderful new beginning, I'm truly proud of this guy. In a world of turbulence, he decided to take the bull by the horns and live life on his terms. He's no shadow of his former self. Instead, he is a model for leading a life of action and making the most of what he’s got. He truly is the author of his life. Wow.
You can imagine how ecstatic I was when Alik offered to share his story of how he uses Getting Results the Agile Way, as his secret weapon for getting results ...
You can find the original video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2creyf13eVI. If you know somebody who needs a lift in their day, feel free to share Alik’s story with them. It just might make their day. I know a lot of people who could use a shoulder to lean on or a helping hand, or even just a story of hope.
What a terrible loss for the world. Steve Jobs was one of my personal heroes. He was an amazing blend of engineer, entrepreneur, and designer. He knew how to bring ideas to life, and he lived with zest. In fact, that’s what I liked most … he had a crazy drive to live life to the max, and push people to new heights.
I’m always a fan of people that take life to a new level, and raise the bar on what’s possible. I have to respect how Steve Jobs made design a first class citizen and baked beauty into the user experience.
Even though he is gone, he has left an amazing legacy and there is much that I will continue to learn from him and the examples he’s set.
It’s old post, but I’ll be reading through my Steve Jobs Lessons Learned. There’s no way I can do the legend justice, but I tried to capture some of the key insights that Steve Jobs shared with the world. I’ll be reading through the post and remembering his contributions, his ideas, and how he influenced our little world in big ways. Most of all, I’ll be reflecting on how he influenced me.
Personal growth is one of the best ways to get more from life. How do you achieve personal growth? Well, one way is to take on big, hairy challenges. Personal growth is what happens to you in the process of testing your skills and experience against the real world.
I like to think of personal growth as expanding your capabilities.
You can grow deeper in a particular domain, or you can grow your cross-cutting abilities. Sometimes, the best way to grow deeper in a domain, is to focus on cross-cutting concerns like focus, setting goals, motivation, productivity, time management, etc. For example, when I was working in security, I had to do a lot of stakeholder management across teams. It required a great deal of influence without authority. I had to deal with extreme conflict, and negotiate for win-wins in a number of highly-competitive scenarios. I had to practice emotional intelligence under high-stress scenarios. I had to stay focused, and use goals to help drive the team forward. I had to achieve our security goals, while making sure the team was highly productive. I had to improve my own personal productivity. All of these skills, helped me learn about security in a much broader way, from a much wider set of people, and in a way that was much more profound that if I simply focused on the principles, patterns, and practices of security. It was through personal growth, that I expanded my abilities to be effective at driving security changes in a much wider range of scenarios and situations.
Personal growth is powerful. It’s the backbone of personal empowerment. For example, sometimes when you wonder what’s holding you back … it’s you. Whether it’s limiting beliefs, or having a limited toolset, or simply having a limited perspective or experience. The key is to expand your capabilities, along the journey of work and life.
My 30 Days of Free Training for Getting Results, is a collection of self-paced modules to help you achieve personal growth. When I originally ran the self-paced training, I did it as a daily release for 30 days. It was highly effective for many people because they liked the little daily actions, and the focus for the month. Since that original series, I’ve made the 30 Days of Free Training for Getting Results available here:
It’s a highly-focused set of personal growth exercises at your finger tips. It’s also a very simple system for time management. I’ve tried to keep the layout as simple and as clean as possible. If you’ve seen the earlier version, then this should be a marked improvement. I put each day on the sidebar, so that you can easily hop around. For convenience, I’ve listed the days below, and provided a link to each lesson. This way you can get the bird’s-eye view and quickly explore any lessons that might interest you. (Personally, if this is your first time, I would check out Day #27 – Do Something Great.)
30 Days of Getting Results
Note that just because it says 30 days, that doesn’t mean you can’t flip through at your own pace. Find what works for you. Explore the ideas that you find the most interesting.
If you experience a breakthrough, be sure to share it with others. Even though this is free, it’s pretty intense. Folks have told me about their amazing breakthroughs … somehow dots have connected, and they’ve gotten over hurdles they’ve faced for years.
BTW – If you do start with Day 27 and decide to do something great, I’d love to hear about what it is.
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 ...
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.
Enterprise Library 5.0 Product Backlog Prioritization Survey
Portfolios Programs and Projects
Spend $100 to Prioritize Your Opportunities
Scrum Flow at a Glance
Structuring Your Personal Backlog to Make Things Happen
When it comes to people, underutilized does not mean squeeze out more hours, it means unleash more strengths.
When people have the chance to give their best where they have their best to give, this has an automatic way of taking care of utilization, motivation, impact, etc. When somebody is in their element, effective managers co-create the goals and get out of the way. It’s among the best ways to get the best results from teams or individuals. If you want to optimize a team, then unleash the strengths of each individual.
The power of people in a knowledge worker world is that you get exponential results when people are playing to their strengths. The simplest way to do this is have people in roles where they spend more time in their strengths and less time in their weaknesses. Another way to unleash their strength is pair them up with people that compliment their strengths or balance out their weaknesses.
On the flip side, the simplest way to create low-performing teams is to have people spend more time in their weaknesses and very little time in their strengths. While this is simple and obvious, the real trick is looking for it and finding ways to bring out people’s best.
While it’s not always easy, and you often have to get creative, one of the best things you can do for you, your company, the world, is to spend more time in your strengths and help others do the same. It’s the fittest and the flexible that survive, and it’s your unique strengths that crank up your fit factor.
Getting Results the Agile Way is a personal results system for making the most of what you’ve got. As the book cover says, it helps you focus and prioritize, manage time and information, and balance work and life, to achieve meaningful results. People have been using the approach for anything from shipping software to home improvement to renovating their restaurants. Leaders have been using it to improve the productivity, passion, and performance of their teams. By having people work on the right things, at the right time, the right way, with the right energy, it brings out the best in people. It’s a way to amplify impact and get exponential results.
… But what makes it real is when you hear from the people that are using the system.
Meet Jason Taylor. Jason is CTO (Chief Technology Officer) at Security Innovation, and here is his story of using Getting Results the Agile Way …
I came to Getting Results with a history of effectiveness and success. I had a solid sense of what I felt were the best ways to get things done, a set of process and principles that had worked well for me over many years. I am a process guy, a details guy and a lover of great strategy. I sweat the small stuff and I look at the big picture in order to guide myself and my organization to maximum results. Then I met JD...
I started with JD on a project to build security guidance for the ASP.NET development platform. A huge undertaking that involved discovering, consuming, and analyzing a huge amount of information from a huge amount of sources both written and verbal and then turning that into specific, contextual, prescriptive guidance for Microsoft developers. The goal was nothing less than to change the way in which web applications were written on the Microsoft platform. In order to make consumers more secure, the applications needed to be more secure. In order to make the applications more secure, developers needed to know what to do. That's where JD and team came in. What I saw in the course of this project, changed my view on how to get things done. JD accomplished the seemingly impossible. In too little time, with too little resources, with a staggering amount of chaos to deal with, JD coaxed the team into writing a masterpiece. I couldn't see how it was done, but I was curious. Luckily for me I had to opportunity to work with JD on a number of other projects over the course of several years. I learned the process as it was developed and maybe even had a chance to contribute to it a little here and there. Whether I had any impact on it or not, it had a huge impact on me. Before I explain what I learned, I want to set some context to explain how I used to get results. I was a huge believer in up-front planning. For a new project I would spend a lot of time designing and planning what needed to get done, how it would get done, when it would get done, who would do it and in what order. I was a master of this style. I could plan a complex project with a dozen team members and have an 18 month plan with all of the tasks laid out to the day and then we could execute to that plan so that 18 months from the start we had accomplished exactly what I had laid out at the start. Impressive right? Well, not really. I learned, the hard way, that I was focusing on the wrong things. I was focusing on tasks and activities. I was focusing on what got done, which I thought were the results, but I was neglecting the real results. Most importantly, I had the wrong assumptions. I assumed that a rigorous planning process could remove risk. I assumed that I knew up-front what I wanted to accomplish. I assumed that my plan was helping me when it was actually a prison.
So what did I learn from JD and how did it change how I do things? What kind of a difference did it make? Here are the key lessons I learned, my most important take-aways:
I'm sure your take-aways from Getting Results will be different from mine. We are all different, have different goals and are all in different places in regards to our abilities and motivations to be effective. There is so much in this guide, it has so much to offer, that I think anyone who reads it will get something out of it. If you are lucky, it may even change your life like it did mine.
My interview with Tim Ferriss on The 4-Hour Chef is now live. Tim Ferriss it the best-selling author of The 4-Hour Work Week and The 4-Hour Body. The 4-Hour Chef is Tim’s newest book on how to make the most of life.
Before my interview, I asked some colleagues and friends what questions they would like me to ask. I included their questions as well as my own. Here are the key questions I asked during my interview with Tim Ferriss:
In the interview, you will learn a few things that you can instantly used, as well as get an inside look at why Tim Ferriss does what he does.
I focused on questions that I thought would help you in terms of personal effectiveness, productivity, and time management. I especially liked asking Tim Ferriss question #4, “How do you make time, when you absolutely don’t have time?” Lack of time is an issue that comes up a lot in all sorts of contexts to the point where it becomes an excuse for why so many things don’t happen. I thought it would be great to get Tim’s definitive answer on how to think about a lack of time and what to do about it.
If you shy away from the 4-Hour Chef, because you think cooking should be left up to Chef Boyardee, you’re in for a surprise. The 4-Hour Chef is all about changing your quality of life, and improving your ability to rapidly learn. The full title of The 4-Hour Chef is: The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life. If you are a lifelong learner or simply want to bring out the continuous learner in you, you will enjoy the deep focus on extreme learning throughout the book. It’s all about getting over fears, building momentum, breaking a new learning topic down to size, and learning from the best of the best, in record time.
Enjoy the interview
Tim Ferris on The 4-Hour Chef
I’m always on the lookout for the best insight and action you can use for work and life. I especially enjoy when I find somebody who is truly a thought leader, a giant in their space.
After all, I’m a big fan of helping everyone “stand on the shoulders of giants.”
Elizabeth is a giant (actually, more like a Titan) in the field of management. She brings to the table more than 30 years of experience in the art and science of management. She’s a former McKinsey partner, a holds a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, and she is the author of McKinsey’s Marvin Bower, and The Definitive Drucker.
She knows her stuff.
So I asked her to share her stuff.
Elizabeth has written a powerful guest post for me on her best lessons learned in the art and science of management:
Management Lessons of a Lifelong Student, by Elizabeth Edersheim.
She reveals the secrets of the best managers and best leaders, and puts it right at your fingertips. Every now and then you read something that changes your breadth or depth on a topic. This is one of those posts.
It’s a wealth of insight and action.
Keep in mind that Elizabeth operates at multiple levels of management, so whether you are a line-leader or a CEO, Elizabeth has distilled some key insights you can immediate apply, or refine your thinking, or perhaps lead to a new “ah-ha” moment.
Enjoy, and may the best practices for management serve you well, whether you’re shaping your own business or the business around you.
One of the most common things I get asked, wherever I go is, “What were the team roles and responsibilities on your Microsoft patterns & practices project teams?”
Effectively, there were a set of repeatable roles that people signed up for, or covered in some way. In this case, a role is simply a logical collection of tasks. The role is the label for that collection of tasks.
As an Agile bunch, we were self-organizing. In practice, what that means is the team defined the roles and responsibilities at project kickoff. As the project progressed, people would shuffle around responsibilities among the team, to produce the best output, and to find ways to get people spending more time in their strengths, or learning new skills. It's all about owning your executing, playing well with others, and making the most of the talent you have at hand.
Here is a simple list of the team roles and responsibilities each team generally had to cover:
Roles Architect Lead Writer Developer Development Lead Product Manager Program Manager Test Test Lead Subject Matter Expert
Responsibilities Architecture and Design Budget Business Investment Collateral (screen casts, blogs, decks, demo scripts) Content structure Customer connection Design Quality Development Evangelism (screen casts, web presence, road shows, conferences, customer briefings, press & analysts) Feedback Product Group Alignment Product Planning Project Planning Quality (technical accuracy, consumability, readability) Release Requirements Scope Schedule Simplicity Support / Sustained-Engineering Team and People Test execution Test planning Usability
I have a very special guest post about leadership and how to build a team of leaders. It’s by Bob and Gregg Vanourek, the authors of Triple Crown Leadership.
It’s special because it reminds me of the leadership culture we created in the early days of the Microsoft patterns & practices team – where everybody was expected to demonstrate leadership. Everybody up and down the chain was expected to influence without authority, drive for results, be accountable, take ownership of issues, strive for excellence, etc. It was a culture of empowerment, excellence, and growth.
This management philosophy, where everybody is a leader, created a culture of learning and execution that I just hadn’t seen, heard of, or experienced anywhere else before that. To put wood behind the arrow, management significantly invested in each of the members of the team, up and down the chain, so that they could operate and be effective as individual leaders, regardless of their position. As individual leaders, they could lead themselves with skill, as well as influence across organizational boundaries more effectively. The impact was a high-performing team of federated leaders that shared common values, while driving the mission and vision, and embracing the operating principles of the culture at large.
Our training included learning how to influence without authority, how to ask precise question and give precise answers (especially when dealing with executives), how to have crucial conversations, and how to manage crucial confrontations. Our training also included balancing connection and conviction, and knowing how to better relate with conflicting interpersonal communication styles. People learned rapidly from each other and accelerated each other’s growth. People also had deep respect for each other because the leadership skills shined through. People were skilled at looking at the bigger picture and focusing on the tactics within the strategies to realize the future and take bold action.
The “team of leaders” is a powerful concept. I would say it’s actually transformational. One way to grow a group is to decide that there is a leader, and of course, behind the leader are followers. If you’re a follower, even a good one, you aren’t necessarily expected to demonstrate strong leadership skills. After all, you have a leader for that. If on the other hand, everyone is a leader, then everyone is expected to bring out their best. You now have a team of forward looking, fully engaged, people asking better questions, and using influence, not coercion, to get things done. The motivational philosophy that drives the team is to win the heart, and the mind follows … so you now have an inspired band of leaders, ready to take on big challenges, and make things happen.
You get what you expect. You can choose to set the stage of whether to lead a team of leaders, or lead a band of followers. In today’s hyper-competitive world, I think you set yourself up for success when you leverage the full capacity of what your teams and people are capable of.
I forgot just how important this little idea was until I was reading the guest post. It’s a great example of how little things like attitudes and beliefs, truly shape the reality in ways that become self-fulfilling.
"Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships." -- Michael Jordan
I've been asked recently about competitive talent acquisition strategies. I'm not a recruiter and I don't play one on T.V., but I thought I would share what I've seen work in the real world.
People are the life-blood of any company. They generate new ideas and find new ways to create value. I’ve seen teams, orgs, and companies grow or die based on the people they acquire, and their talent management strategies. Brain drain, as we call it when top talent leaves, is a very real threat to any otherwise big, bold, goals and initiatives.
Here is my five-minute brain dump on what works when it comes to attracting top talent:
Note, I didn’t plan on 21, but I’m glad I landed there. How lucky.
How do you manage your portfolio of IT investments? Do you have a mental model for portfolio management? Here is an example:
While there are a lot of ways to manage a portfolio, I find the frame above to be highly effective. It’s from the Cranfield School of Management in the UK. It’s a very simple frame:
The key is to know where your investments are in terms of this map. A common path for investments is to move through the quadrants in this order: High-Potential, Strategic, Key Operational, and Support.
Example Investment Ratios Here is an example of a common investment spread:
Above the Line A cutting question to ask about your portfolio management is, “Are you operating above the line?” This cuts to the chase to answer two key questions:
You can use this frame to look at cloud investments … your current business investments … how you spend your time … etc. It can be a lens for a life, and a lens for learning … and a way to shape your path forward by flowing more value and staying in the game for the road ahead.
Here is a nice distillation of IT Portfolio Management and how to think about it as it relates to the cloud.