J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Personal Growth: 30 Days of Free Training for Getting Results in Work and Life

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    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

    1. Day 1 – Take a Tour of Getting Results the Agile Way
    2. Day 2 – Monday Vision – Use Three Stories to Drive Your Week
    3. Day 3 – Daily Outcomes – Use Three Stories to Drive Your Day
    4. Day 4 – Let Things Slough Off
    5. Day 5 – Hot Spots – Map Out What’s Important
    6. Day 6 – Friday Reflection – Identify Three Things Going Well and Three Things to Improve
    7. Day 7 – Setup Boundaries and Buffers
    8. Day 8 – Dump Your Brain to Free Your Mind
    9. Day 9 – Prioritize Your Day with MUST, SHOULD, and COULD
    10. Day 10 – Feel Strong All Week Long
    11. Day 11 – Reduce Friction and Create Glide Paths for Your Day
    12. Day 12 – Productivity Personas – Are You are a Starter or a Finisher?
    13. Day 13 – Triage Your Action Items with Skill
    14. Day 14 – Carve Out Time for What’s Important
    15. Day 15 – Achieve a Peaceful Calm State of Mind
    16. Day 16 – Use Metaphors to Find Your Motivation
    17. Day 17 – Add Power Hours to Your Week
    18. Day 18 – Add Creative Hours to Your Week
    19. Day 19 — Who are You Doing it For?
    20. Day 20 — Ask Better Questions, Get Better Results
    21. Day 21 – Carry the Good Forward, Let the Rest Go
    22. Day 22 – Design Your Day with Skill
    23. Day 23 — Design Your Week with Skill
    24. Day 24 – Bounce Back with Skill
    25. Day 25 – Fix Time. Flex Scope
    26. Day 26 – Solve Problems with Skill
    27. Day 27 – Do Something Great
    28. Day 28 – Find Your One Thing
    29. Day 29 – Find Your Arena for Your Best Results
    30. Day 30 – Take Agile Results to the Next Level

    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.

    Enjoy.

    BTW – If you do start with Day 27 and decide to do something great, I’d love to hear about what it is.

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    Alik Levin on Getting Results

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    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.

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    Steve Jobs Lessons Learned

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    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.

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    The Power of Annual Reviews for Personal Development

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

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

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

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

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

    Here’s the big idea:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Make this YOUR year.

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    Underutilized

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    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.

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    Jason Taylor on Getting Results the Agile Way

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    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:

    1. Focus on scenarios and stories. I'd always used scenarios and stories as a tool, but I hadn't used them correctly. They were something I considered, they were an input to my plan, just one more thing that mattered. What JD taught me is that they are the only thing that matters. If you get this one thing right you win. If you get it wrong you lose. Planning should be about determining the right scenarios and stories you want to enable. Execution is about making these scenarios and stories real. You know you are done, you judge your success, by measuring against these scenarios and stories. Everything else is a means to this end.
    2. Expose risk early, fail quickly. Planning is an exercise in risk discovery and mitigation. You plan so that you can create a path to success while imagining the pitfalls and avoiding them. Planning is a mental exercise, it is not doing, it is imagining. JD helped me realize that the world is too complex to plan for every possible problem and it is too complex for you to be able to plan the best possible path. I learned that I should be exploring and optimizing as I go instead of trying to do it all up front. If the price of failure is not extreme (lost lives, destroyed business) and I can afford the exploration, I discovered I am better off reducing my up-front planning and jumping into the 'doing' sooner. By 'doing' I can expose risks early and I can determine if my chosen path will fail so I can pick another. I think JD calls it "Prove the Path". I like to think that mistakes and failure are bound to happen and I'd rather discover it fast while I have the chance to correct than discover it too late when I'm over-committed.
    3. Ruthless effectiveness. I thought I was ruthless already. I thought I went after results like a Pit Bull and didn't let go till I'd chewed it to a pulp. I was right, but that's not the most effective path. Ruthless effectiveness isn't being a Pit Bull and never letting go. Ruthless effectiveness is knowing when something is good enough and knowing when it will never be good enough. Ruthless effectiveness is learning to let go. I am a perfectionist, I like things to be more than good. I want them to be great, exceptional even. I can forget the rule of diminishing returns once I have my teeth into something. JD taught me to let a project go, to ship the book, to release the software when you've maximized its value and when it will make the most impact. Let go when there are external reasons to let go, don't let your own internal attachment cause you to hang on to something too long. It felt crazy to me when I first saw it, almost irresponsible. But it works. Its a ruthless focus on results. Nothing personal.

    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.

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    Tim Ferriss Interview on The 4-Hour Chef

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    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:

    1. What is the story you use the most? (we all have them, the favorite story that we use to illustrate our core messages.)
    2. What’s one great technique that people can use to instantly change the quality of their life?
    3. What did you learn that surprised you in making the 4-hour chef?
    4. How do you make time, when you absolutely don’t have time?
    5. What is a simple way that anyone can start to experiment more with their life style?

    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

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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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    Cloud Scenarios at Your Fingertips

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

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

     

    Business and IT Scenarios for the Cloud

     

    Category Scenarios
    Business Scenarios

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

    IT Scenarios

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Key Links

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    Roles and Responsibilities on Microsoft patterns & practices Project Teams

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    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

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Portfolio Management

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    How do you manage your portfolio of IT investments?  Do you have a mental model for portfolio management?   Here is an example:

    image

    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:

    • Two dimensions:   Value Today vs. Value Tomorrow
    • Four Quadrants:  High-Potential, Strategic, Key Operational, and Support

    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:

    image

    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:

    1. Are you operating on the top half of the chart?
    2. Are you working on things that create business value for your future?

    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.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Team of Leaders

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    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.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    10 Big Ideas from XYZ

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    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.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    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.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Press Release for Getting Results the Agile Way

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    image

    Here’s the opening blurb …

    'Getting Results the Agile Way' -- A Timeless System for Changing Times -- Now Available in Print 

    Seattle, WA (PRWEB) October 26, 2010

    Author J.D. Meier is announcing that his new book ‘Getting Results the Agile Way’ is now available in print. The book shows readers the way to make the most out of work and life. Meier has come up with a simple system to achieve meaningful results that combines some of the best methods for improving one’s thinking, feeling, and doing.

    “The best way I can put it is, it helps you be the author of your life and write your story forward,” says Meier. “Basically, it’s a system that can support you in everything you do. It’s based on principles and patterns so you can tailor it for yourself or for any situation.”

    Read the rest on PRWeb at - http://www.prweb.com/releases/Getting-Results/Now-in-Print/prweb4636494.htm

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    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.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    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.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    No Slack = No Innovation

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    "To accomplish great things we must dream as well as act." -- Anatole France

    Innovation is the way to leap frog and create new ways to do things better, faster, and cheaper.

    But it takes slack.

    The problem is when you squeeze the goose, to get the golden egg, you lose the slack that creates the eggs in the first place.

    In the book The Future of Management, Gary Hamel shares how when there is a lack of slack, there is no innovation.

    The Most Important Source of Productivity is Creativity

    Creativity unleashes productivity.  And it takes time to unleash creativity.  But the big bold bet is that the time you give to creativity and innovation, pays you back with new opportunities and new ways to do things better, faster, or cheaper.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “In the pursuit of efficiency, companies have wrung a lot of slack out of their operations.  That's a good thing.  No one can argue with the goal of cutting inventory levels, reducing working capital, and slashing over-head.  The problem, though, is that if you wring all the slack out of a company, you'll wring out all of the innovation as well.  Innovation takes time -- time to dream, time to reflect, time to learn, time to invent, and time to experiment.  And it takes uninterrupted time -- time when you can put your feet up and stare off into space.  As Pekka Himanen put it in his affectionate tribute to hackers, '... the information economy's most important source of productivity is creativity, and it is not possible to create interesting things in a constant hurry or in a regulated way from nine to five.'”

    There is No “Thinking Time”

    Without think time, creativity lives in a cave.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “While the folks in R&D and new product development are given time to innovate, most employees don't enjoy this luxury.  Every day brings a barrage of e-mails, voice mails, and back-to-back meetings.  In this world, where the need to be 'responsive' fragments human attention into a thousand tiny shards, there is no 'thinking time.'  And therein lies the problem.  However creative your colleagues may be, if they don't have the right to occasionally abandon their posts and work on something that's not mission critical, most of their creativity will remain dormant.”

    Are People Encouraged to Quietly Dream Up the Future?

    If you want more innovation, make space for it.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “OK, you already know that -- but how is that knowledge reflected in your company's management processes?  How hard is it for a frontline employee to get permission to spend 20 percent of her time working on a project that has nothing to do with her day job, nor your company's 'core businesses'?  And how often does this happen?  Does your company track the number of hours employees spend working on ideas that are incidental to their core responsibilities? Is 'slack' institutionalized in the same way that cost efficiency is?  Probably not.  There are plenty of incentives in your company for people to stay busy.  ('Maybe if I look like I'm working flat out, they won't send my job offshore.')  But where are the incentives that encourage people to spend time quietly dreaming up the future?”

    Are you slacking your way to a better future?

    You Might Also Like

    Innovation Quotes

    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

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    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.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    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.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    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.

  • 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

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    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.

    You Might Also Like

    Microsoft Explained: Making Sense of the Microsoft Platform Story

    Satya Nadella is the New Microsoft CEO

    Satya Nadella is All About Customer Focus, Employee Engagement, and Changing the World

    Satya Nadella on Live and Work a Meaningful Life

    Satya Nadella on the Future is Software

    Satya Nadella on Everyone Has to Be a Leader

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    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.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    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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