J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

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    Where the Focus Goes


    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 the process
    • Some focus on the thing/results/deliverables
    • Some focus on the impact
    • Some focus on the learning
    • Some focus on the journey
    • Some focus on the score
    • Some focus on the beans
    • Some focus on directing
    • Some focus on doing
    • Some focus on thinking
    • Some focus on creating and innovating
    • Some focus on completing
    • Some focus on policing
    • Some focus on correcting
    • Some focus on aligning
    • Some focus on schmoozing
    • Some focus on excuses
    • Some focus on solutions

    … 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.

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    Double-Loop Learning and How Agile Approaches Change the Game to Thrive in Times of Change


    All paths lead to the same town. 

    I love it when dots finally connect, or when we have a name, or label, or vocabulary to express a concept that’s been around for a while, that people intuitively know from experience.  It makes it easier to share with others that don’t.  Here’s a bit of interesting research that might explain why agile practices can have a profound impact on creating powerful, highly effective learning organizations, and high-caliber execution machines.

    In the article, Chris Argyris: Theories of Action, Double-Loop Learning and Organizational Learning, by infed, we learn about theories-in-action vs. espoused theory, and double-loop learning vs. single-loop learning.

    Single-Loop Learning vs. Double-Loop Learning
    If learning involves the detection and correction of error, then Single-Loop learning is about finding and fixing problems within a set of governing variables.  It simply looks to operationalize the values, goals, and plans.  That’s not a game changer.  Double-Loop Learning, on the other hands, looks to question the governing variables themselves.  Here is an elaboration from the article:

    • Single-Loop Learning – According to the article, “Single-loop learning seems to be present when goals, values, frameworks and, to a significant extent, strategies are taken for granted. The emphasis is on ‘techniques and making techniques more efficient.”
    • Double-Loop Learning – According to the article, “Double-loop learning, in contrast, ‘involves questioning the role of the framing and learning systems which underlie actual goals and strategies … Double-loop learning is necessary if practitioners and organizations are to make informed decisions in rapidly changing and often uncertain contexts.”

    Theories in Use vs. Espoused Theory
    Theories-in-use are what you actually use and do in practice.  On the other hand, espoused theory is what you say you do, which may be completely different.  Here is an elaboration:

    • Theories-in-Use – According to the article, theories-in-use are “those theories that are implicit in what we do as practitioners and managers … They govern actual behavior and tend to be tacit structures. Their relation to action 'is like the relation of grammar-in-use to speech; they contain assumptions about self, others and environment - these assumptions constitute a microcosm of science in everyday life'”
    • Espoused Theory – According to the article, espoused theory is “those on which we call to speak of our actions to others … The words we use to convey what we, do or what we would like others to think we do.”

    Model I and Model II – Theories-in-Use
    Theories-in-Use can either enhance or inhibit double-loop learning.  Model I inhibits.  Model II enhances.  Here’s a summary:

    • Model I – According to the article, “It involves ‘making inferences about another person’s behaviour without checking whether they are valid and advocating one’s own views abstractly without explaining or illustrating one’s reasoning’ (Edmondson and Moingeon 1999:161).  The theories-in-use are shaped by an implicit disposition to winning (and to avoid embarrassment). The primary action strategy looks to the unilateral control of the environment and task plus the unilateral protection of self and others. As such Model I leads to often deeply entrenched defensive routines (Argyris 1990; 1993) – and these can operate at individual, group and organizational levels.”
    • Model II – According to the article, “The significant features of Model II include the ability to call upon good quality data and to make inferences. It looks to include the views and experiences of participants rather than seeking to impose a view upon the situation. Theories should be made explicit and tested, positions should be reasoned and open to exploration by others. … Found in settings and organizations that look to shared leadership. It looks to: Emphasize common goals and mutual influence.  Encourage open communication, and to publicly test assumptions and beliefs, and combine advocacy with inquiry.”


    Model I – Theories-in-Use

    Model II – Theories-In-Use

    The governing Values of Model I are:

    • Achieve the purpose as the actor defines it
    • Win, do not lose
    • Suppress negative feelings
    • Emphasize rationality

    Primary Strategies are:

    • Control environment and task unilaterally
    • Protect self and others unilaterally

    Usually operationalized by:

    • Un-illustrated attributions and evaluations e.g.. "You seem unmotivated"
    • Advocating courses of action which discourage inquiry e.g.. "Lets not talk about the past, that's over."
    • Treating ones' own views as obviously correct
    • Making covert attributions and evaluations
    • Face-saving moves such as leaving potentially embarrassing facts unstated

    Consequences include:

    • Defensive relationships
    • Low freedom of choice
    • Reduced production of valid information
    • Little public testing of ideas

    The governing values of Model II include:

    • Valid information
    • Free and informed choice
    • Internal commitment
    Strategies include:
    • Sharing control
    • Participation in design and implementation of action
    Operationalized by:
    • Attribution and evaluation illustrated with relatively directly observable data
    • Surfacing conflicting view
    • Encouraging public testing of evaluations

    Consequences should include:

    • Minimally defensive relationships
    • High freedom of choice
    • Increased likelihood of double-loop learning

    What’s interesting in the article is that most people "say” they use Model II, but that’s simply “espoused theory”.

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    Praveen on Getting Results the Agile Way


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    What is the Meaning of Life


    I don’t know that I answered it for you, but you can check out my take on what is the meaning of life in my interview on Evolving Beings.

    The simple answer is – you make the meaning.

    The longer answer is that’s what the journey of life is all about.

    What is the meaning of life is a question that has plagued sages and fools and every one in between for a long time.  Some people find their answer too little, too late.  Some people never find their answer at all.  Don’t let that be you, and you can start right here, and start right now, if you haven’t figured it out already.

    At the end of the day, you are the author of your life and you write your story forward.  The truth is, you even re-write the stories of your past, as you learn more about yourself and as you gain perspective and insight on things.  Your lens on life, and your lens on YOU are two ways you actively unfold your story.  As you grow, your stories change, and that’s why fate can’t hold a candle to you.

    For me, I found that to answer the question to “What is the meaning of life?”, you actually have to ask a different set of questions.  In fact, that’s one of the secrets of life, the first or obvious question isn’t always the right question, and the trick is finding the right question to ask.  Our brains are powerful and resourceful things … we just have to put the right challenge or question in front of it.

    I’ll warn you up front that the interview is long, but I will tell you this that if you want to jump to the punch line, you can hop to the end of the article, and the answers are my gift to you.   They may not help you figure out what is the meaning of life, but they can help you figure out what is the meaning of YOUR life, and that my friends, is what life is really all about.

    Enjoy my long and winding tail of trials, tribulations, and triumphs as I write my story forward, and continue to explore, What is the Meaning of Life.

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    Life Quotes


    If you are an avid quote collector, as many continuous learners are, check out my collection of Life Quotes.

    I grouped the life quotes into key categories for easy browsing.  I used the following categories for my life quotes:

    • Challenges
    • Choices and Plans
    • Day to Day
    • Fun
    • Joy and Passion
    • How To Live
    • Learning and Growth
    • Life Is …
    • Mistakes and Regrets
    • Purpose and the Meaning of Life
    • The Good Life
    • The Value of Life

    I selected quotes from a variety of sources including Charles Shulz, Confucius, Emerson, Oprah, Tony Robbins, and more.  I’ll need to make another pass and find some life quotes from folks like Bruce Lee. 

    While there is always the idea of work and life, and the idea of work-life balance, I think that life is pervasive, and it permeates who we are and how we show up at work.  The line is a blur and I find the happiest people are those that can express their values on the job, and drive from their life style.  The opposite is also true.

    I rounded up the life quotes in a way that I think you will find to be very easy to scan and choose your favorites.  I do recommend first reading the the top 10, but then hopping around to find three that light your fire or wrinkle your brain in some way.  The best quotes hit a problem like a nail on the head.  The real beauty of life quotes though is that they take on meaning based on the meaning you give them.  It’s like when three people hear the same song, all have a different take away.  Quotes are like that.

    So please stop by, check out my Life Quotes collection, and share with me your favorite life quotes.  I’m always looking to fill my toolkit for life, and life really is better with the right words.

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    Personal Development Lessons Learned from Jariek Robbins


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

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

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

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

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

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    25 Strategies for Getting Results


    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." -- Albert Einstein

    What you don’t know can hurt you and knowing the right strategies is like knowing the playbook for getting results.

    Strategies are a big picture perspective while tactics are a small picture perspective. You can think of the strategies as guiding approaches: they guide your tactics while you pursue your goals. You can use strategies to help design effective approaches and to evaluate potential practices, methods or techniques. Mix and match strategies, but keep in mind that sometimes strategies support each other, while other times they are competing. Ultimately, you must map relevant strategies to your situation.  Rather than try to decide or buy into a strategy, find a way to test and judge it based on your results.

    Here is a collection of 25 Key Strategies for Results from the book, Getting Results the Agile Way

    • Strategy 1: Outcomes over Activities
    • Strategy 2: Goals Are Vehicles
    • Strategy 3: Know the System
    • Strategy 4: Know the Cycle
    • Strategy 5: Treat Time as a Valuable Resource
    • Strategy 6: Fix Time, Flex Scope
    • Strategy 7: Diversify Your Results
    • Strategy 8: Next Best Thing to Do
    • Strategy 9: Value Delivered over Backlog Burndown
    • Strategy 10: Make It a Project
    • Strategy 11: Have a Strong Week
    • Strategy 12: Know Yourself
    • Strategy 13: Team Up
    • Strategy 14: Factor Thinking from Doing
    • Strategy 15: Factor Practice from Performance
    • Strategy 16: Measure Against Effectiveness
    • Strategy 17: Know What You’re Getting
    • Strategy 18: Model the Best
    • Strategy 19: Test Your Results
    • Strategy 20: Ask Better Questions
    • Strategy 21: Enjoy the Process
    • Strategy 22: Link It to Good Feelings
    • Strategy 23: Make the Most of What You’ve Got
    • Strategy 24: Teach What You Need to Learn
    • Strategy 25: Pave the Way Forward

    You can read an explanation for each of these strategies at 25 Key Strategies for Results.

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    Move to the Cloud, Use the Cloud, or Be the Cloud


    Mental models can really help you simplify how you think about a problem.  One of the more useful mental models I’ve come across while working across cloud solutions is: 

    … Move to the Cloud, Use the Cloud, and Be the Cloud.

    It’s a simple way to think about the role you play in the cloud arena, or the role the cloud plays in your arena.  Here’s a quick rundown of each one  …

    Move to the Cloud
    A “move to the cloud” leverages the cloud by moving software or data to the cloud.   An example of this would be building out Software as a Service offerings.  

    Use the Cloud
    Using the cloud is taking advantage of the cloud through consumption of some cloud services. This could be using another company’s SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS offerings to take advantage of the cloud benefits. You can benefit from the elastic capacity and increased flexibility.

    Be a Cloud
    Be a cloud refers to building cloud offerings for consumption by other partners (internal or external), or consumers. This is can be a SOA implementation, or building out a Private Cloud and offering services internally to other organizations within the same company.

    It’s a simple model, but I think it helps bring clarity to the table when people are talking about their cloud strategy.

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    4x4 Sources of Strength


    “Success is how high you bounce when you hit the bottom.” -- General George S. Patton

    Life can have a lot of ups and downs and your ability to bounce back is one of the keys to your success.

    Here is a simple model I put together as part of my 30 Day Bootcamp on Getting Results to help you multiply your ability to bounce back in any situation:


    I wasn’t sure whether to call my model a 4×4 Force Multiplier Frame or 4×4 Sources of Strength.   For now, I’m going with 4x4 Sources of Strength.

    If you know somebody who’s been knocked down and needs help getting back up, share this frame with them as a way to help them get back on their feet and find their sources of strength from the inside out.

    I tried to keep the model as simple as possible and easy to remember, while giving you a variety of sources of strength and energy to draw from.  I wanted this frame to serve as an “at a glance” reminder of how you are a force of one, from the inside out, as well as from the outside in.  Change your frame to change your game.

    Here are some ways to bounce back with your mind:

    1. Focus on what you control and let the rest go.
    2. Like a rubber ball … Having the right mental model or metaphor is where it starts.  You can be like a rubber ball and bounce back from anything.
    3. Set limits on things.   If you let your body go until it crashes or runs out of steam, it can be too late.  You have to set limits either in terms of buffers or boundaries or timeboxes.
    4. Ask yourself, “What do you want your life to be about?”
    5. Turn resistance into your sparring partner.  Resistance is the enemy.  Respect it, but don’t let it wear you down.
    6. Visualize the prize.  If it works for Olympic athletes, it might just work for you.  Picture it, then make it so.
    7. Improve your self-talk.
    8. Change your beliefs.   Find a model or learn from others what some more empowering or useful beliefs might be.
    9. Change your focus.   You can change your focus by changing the question.
    10. Focus on what you control and let the rest go.
    11. Change your state.
    12. Know how to psyche yourself up.
    13. Don’t keep solving the same problems.  Burnout isn’t caused by working hard or working long hours.  It’s caused by working on the same problems or not making progress.
    14. Mentally prepare for it.   Simply resetting your own expectations can help you prepare for anything.  Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
    15. Choose to act strong
    16. Turn a setback into a defining moment.
    17. Take breaks.   Even little breaks interspersed can help you mentally, emotionally, or physically.
    18. Use your renewal patterns.   Maybe this means taking an afternoon siesta.  Find what works for you.
    19. Shake things up.   Sometimes the best way to break out of a rut is to shake things up.
    20. Shift to the future.
    21. Ask yourself, “Who’s in your corner?”
    22. Know that resistance is the enemy.
    23. Brace yourself and pace yourself.  You might have to chip away at the stone.
    24. Remember your heroes.
    25. Remember your shining moment.
    26. Play the right “head movies.”  If you keep playing the wrong scenes in your head, you wear yourself down.  Find a new scene or movie to play in your head that inspires you.

    Here are some ways to bounce back with your body:

    1. Allow for recovery.
    2. Take action.  Sometimes you have to take action first and then energy and motivation follow.  You can think of this as “fake it until you make it.”  This is especially true for me when I run.
    3. Play like a kid, sleep like a baby.   I heard Deepak Chopra say in an interview that children sleep like a baby because of their dynamic activity throughout the day. To know great rest, we need to know great activity and vice-versa.  I know for myself that if I don’t get my downtime, I go into a slump. I’m a fan of giving my all while I’m driving a project, and then taking a break after I ship.
    4. Avoid spiking your blood sugar.   Spiking your blood sugar is one of the worst ways to work against your body.  It creates higher highs, and lower lows.  You can reduce the roller-coaster effect by limiting your intake of things that have a high-glycemic index.  Another approach is to balance your ratios of fat, carbs, and protein, such as in the Zone Diet.
    5. Swap out starchy carbs for more fibrous ones.  This seems to be a pattern that helps a lot of people find more energy in a consistent way.
    6. Eat more frequent and smaller meals.   This is another way to balance your body’s needs throughout the day.   One pattern is to aim for having a small meal or snack throughout the day, such as every three hours.
    7. Respect your cycles.  We all have our up times and our downtimes, even throughout the day.   If you find you need more sleep, test giving yourself more sleep.   Know your peak energy cycles throughout the day and leverage those.
    8. Don’t bake bad habits in.  When Bruce Lee was “off” or he couldn’t practice a technique properly, he stopped.  The last thing he wanted to do was burn in a habit or practice that was ineffective.

    Here are some ways to better balance and bounce back with your emotions:

    1. Think the thoughts that serve you.  Your thoughts create your energy.
    2. Pull yourself forward by what you really want to do.
    3. Grow your compassion.  Keep your heart open.  One of the worst ways to kill your lust for life is to grow callous and cold.
    4. Hold yourself high.  Your physiology affects your emotions in a strong way.  Sometimes you need to smile before you feel happy.
    5. Believe in yourself.  This might mean as simple as deciding that you’ll “give it all you’ve got” and “whatever happens happens.”  You don’t have to put your focus on your ability.  You can put your focus on your effort or your determination.  Where you put your focus will change how you feel.
    6. Find your “why.”  This is how you light your fire from the inside out.  Don’t depend on external things to keep you going.  Root yourself firmly in your own foundation.
    7. Leverage your relationships and network.  There is strength in numbers or even just somebody who wants to listen.

    Here are some ways to bounce back with your spirit:

    1. Make it bigger than yourself.   Find a cause where you can put your focus on something you think is great.  Having a cause is a great way to get back on your horse or back up to bat.
    2. Do what you love or do what you were born to do.  Either way, you win.  If you can’t find your calling, then look for your unique contribution.
    3. Connect to your values.
    4. Immerse yourself in great literature or music.
    5. Find the synergy.  According to Stephen Covey, we unleash our spiritual intelligence when we combine meaning, integrity and contribution – by serving and lifting all stakeholders: customers, suppliers, employees and their families, communities, society — to make a difference in the world.
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    Why Some Companies Execute Better


    Execution is king.  That’s what one of my most seasoned mentors taught me, early on at Microsoft.

    I’m always on the hunt for principles, patterns, and practices that improve execution, whether at the individual, team, or organization level.  Since I’ve joined the Microsoft Enterprise Strategy team, I get to take more of a balcony view across companies, and see different success patterns for execution.  It’s been very revealing how technology can help a business thrive.  It’s also been revealing how technology decisions can be a distraction or get in the way, if a company doesn’t have clarity on its strategy.

    In the book, Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, by Jeane W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David C. Robertson, the authors share their perspective on why some companies execute better.

    You Do All the Right Moves, But You Still Can’t Get Ahead
    Competition is only getting tougher.  Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:

    “In short, you do everything the management literature says you should, but you still can’t get ahead.  And the signs aren’t encouraging for the future.  You see Chinese companies taking over manufacturing in industry after industry.  Indian companies providing more and more services.  Small, agile competitors from around the world picking off niche after niche in your markets.  Competition is only getting tougher.”

    Yet Some Companies Thrive
    Some companies thrive while others are lucky just to survive.  Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:

    “Yet some companies – some of your competitors – seem to be able not just to survive but to thrive.  In the face of tough global competition, companies like Dell, ING DIRECT, CEMEX, Wal-Mart, and others are growing and making money.  These companies have more-productive employees, get more from their investments, and have more success with their strategic initiatives.  What are they doing differently?

    They Have a Better Foundation for Execution
    They digitized operations and created a foundation for business agility.  Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:

    “We believe these companies execute better because they have a better foundation for execution.  They have embedded technology in their processes so that they can efficiently and reliably execute their core operations of the company.  These companies have made tough decisions about what operations they must execute well, and they’ve implemented the IT systems they need to digitize those operations.  These actions have made IT an asset rather than a liability and have created a foundation for business agility.”

    The question I think this brings to mind is, “Have you identified your core and critical operations, and clarified what to digitize?”

    This plays right into thinking about your cloud strategy.

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    Higher Profitability, Faster Time to Market, and More Value from their IT


    I’m an avid collector of proven practices for execution and getting results.  Execution is your best friend, among changing times and evolving landscapes, especially when you combine your execution with effective strategy.

    One of the key practices for successful companies is digitizing their core processes.  Digitizing your core processes can create higher profitability, reduce time to market, and get more value from your IT investments, while lowering your IT costs.  That may sound too good to be true, but that’s a taste of what some of the data is showing.  Regardless of the data, you may have experienced this yourself first-hand, if you’ve seen a company that really has it’s IT act together.

    In the book, Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, by Jeane W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David C. Robertson, the authors write about the difference that makes some companies survive and thrive, while others fold.

    Higher Profitability, Faster Time to Market, and More Value from their IT
    Digitizing your core processes can help you in multiple ways.  Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:

    “We surveyed 103 U.S. and European companies about there IT and IT-enabled business processes.  Thirty-four percent of those had digitized their core processes.  Relative to their competitors, these companies have higher profitability, experience a faster time to market, and get more value from their IT investments.  They have better access to shared customer data, lower risk of mission-critical systems failures, and 80 percent higher senior management satisfaction with technology.  Yet, companies who have digitized their core processes have 25 percent lower IT costs.  These are the benefits of an effective foundation for execution.”

    Leading Edge Companies Pull Further and Further Ahead
    A good foundation for execution can help you focus, invest wisely, and get ahead.  Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:

    “In contrast, 12 percent of the companies we studied are frittering away management attention and technology investments on a myriad of (perhaps) locally sensible projects that don’t support enterprise wide objectives.   Another 48 percent of the companies are cutting waste from their IT budgets but haven’t figured out how to increase value from IT.  Meanwhile, a few leading-edge companies are leveraging a foundation for execution to pull further and further ahead.”

    Companies with a Good Foundation for Execution Have an Increasing Advantage
    A good foundation for execution is an exponential advantage.  Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:

    “As such statistics show, companies with a good foundation for execution have an increasing advantage over those that don’t.  In this book, we describe how to design, build, and leverage a foundation for execution.  Based on survey and case study research at more than 400 companies in the United States and Europe, we provide insights, tools, and language to help managers recognize their core operations, digitize their core to more efficiently support their strategy, and exploit their foundation for execution to achieve business agility and profitable growth.”

    I’ve seen the force multiplier of strategy+execution, and it’s no surprise why that is the difference that makes the difference between companies that thrive, and ones that die.

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    Achieve Cost-Effective Business Continuity


    While putting together business scenarios for the cloud, one of the scenarios that came up is “achieve cost-effective business continuity.”  The business opportunity, solution, and benefits are summarized as follows:


    Business continuity risk can be transferred to vendors by leveraging cloud solutions. Cloud providers can provide robust and less expensive business continuity solutions than businesses can achieve alone.

    • Adopting a cloud service means the provider is responsible for disaster recovery. Cloud providers treat disaster recovery seriously as an outage impacts their bottom line.
    • Cloud services enable easy geo-availability. Applications can take advantage of datacenter geo-distribution without high investment or development overhead.
    • Cloud services provide capacity on demand. Utilizing cloud bursting helps address unpredictable usage spikes as systems resume operations after disaster recovery.
    • Reduce the cost of disaster recovery infrastructure. Replace parts of the dedicated disaster recovery infrastructure with cloud infrastructure.
    • Fast and SLA-based Recovery. Cloud capabilities provide a highly accessible disaster recovery infrastructure which can support near real-time recovery point and recovery time objectives when failing over from on-premises to cloud disaster recovery.
    • Boost Productivity. Any worker who can effectively telecommute can be productive in the cloud based disaster recovery scenario.
    • Lower Costs. Customers can maintain a hot-standby system for very little recurring cost and turn it up instantly in the event of a disaster.
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    Create New Revenue Streams from Existing Capabilities


    While putting together business scenarios for the cloud, one of the scenarios that came up is “create new revenue streams from existing capabilities.”  The business opportunity, solution, and benefits are summarized as follows:


    Monetize business capabilities as a revenue generator. Leveraging a cloud platform to achieve a business capability can prove profitable through extending the implementation for others to consume on a subscription basis.

    • New revenue streams. Monetize existing capabilities through new channels to offset the cost.
    • White label a business capability. Extend existing applications as a consumable service to generate revenue.
    • Expose internal content. Create API’s into core systems to use internal content as a revenue stream.
    • Leverage consumption based pricing. Use cloud based pricing models to lower costs, risks and time.
    • Additional revenue streams. Find new revenue streams from existing capabilities and data by providing them as a service.
    • Maximize capital investments. Distribute unused capacity of Dynamic Data Center to other departments or customers.
    • Lower investments for new opportunities. Pursue opportunities without costs and lead times required by a traditional data center.
    • Increase market share. Use the public cloud to access new markets in previously unattainable geographies.
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    Business Scenarios for the Cloud


    While putting together lessons learned from our Enterprise Strategy cloud engagements, we consolidated a set of recurring business scenarios and themes.  You may find these useful if you are thinking about cloud opportunities from a business perspective, and are looking for some common patterns and perspectives.

    The following business opportunities reflect common motivation for Cloud migration:

    • 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

    Achieve cost-effective business continuity
    Business continuity risk can be transferred to vendors by leveraging cloud solutions. Cloud providers can provide robust and less expensive business continuity solutions than businesses can achieve alone.


    • Adopting a cloud service means the provider is responsible for disaster recovery. Cloud providers treat disaster recovery seriously as an outage impacts their bottom line.
    • Cloud services enable easy geo-availability. Applications can take advantage of datacenter geo-distribution without high investment or development overhead.
    • Cloud services provide capacity on demand. Utilizing cloud bursting helps address unpredictable usage spikes as systems resume operations after disaster recovery.
    • Reduce the cost of disaster recovery infrastructure. Replace parts of the dedicated disaster recovery infrastructure with cloud infrastructure.


    • Fast and SLA-based Recovery. Cloud capabilities provide a highly accessible disaster recovery infrastructure which can support near real-time recovery point and recovery time objectives when failing over from on-premises to cloud disaster recovery.
    • Boost Productivity. Any worker who can effectively telecommute can be productive in the cloud based disaster recovery scenario.
    • Lower Costs. Customers can maintain a hot-standby system for very little recurring cost and turn it up instantly in the event of a disaster.

    Create new revenue streams from existing capabilities
    Monetize business capabilities as a revenue generator. Leveraging a cloud platform to achieve a business capability can prove profitable through extending the implementation for others to consume on a subscription basis.


    • New revenue streams. Monetize existing capabilities through new channels to offset the cost.
    • White label a business capability. Extend existing applications as a consumable service to generate revenue.
    • Expose internal content. Create API’s into core systems to use internal content as a revenue stream.
    • Leverage consumption based pricing. Use cloud based pricing models to lower costs, risks and time.


    • Additional revenue streams. Find new revenue streams from existing capabilities and data by providing them as a service.
    • Maximize capital investments. Distribute unused capacity of Dynamic Data Center to other departments or customers.
    • Lower investments for new opportunities. Pursue opportunities without costs and lead times required by a traditional data center.
    • Increase market share. Use the public cloud to access new markets in previously unattainable geographies.

    Decrease power consumption
    Reduce power costs and environmental impact through more efficient data center design and optimization. Leverage Cloud resources to outsource workloads gaining greater efficiencies and lower operating costs.


    • Move workloads to the Cloud. Cloud providers gain greater power efficiency through economies of scale.


    • Lower costs. Reduce CapEx with fewer servers and reduce OpEx by powering fewer servers with greater efficiency.
    • Meet legislative regulations. Avoid non-compliance penalties and earn financial incentives by meeting government targets.
    • Minimize the impact of rising energy costs. Reduce the effect of unpredictable energy costs to future budgets by lowering consumption and increasing efficiency.
    • Reduce waste. Lowered energy consumption reduces the waste power generation.

    Decrease the time to market for new capabilities
    With the Cloud, the time to implement applications for pilot projects or production deployments is drastically reduced because of the reduction of environment and infrastructure concerns.  This accelerates the time from concept to execution for projects and allows organizations to explore more opportunities overall with much lower cost and risk.


    • Quickly create new environments. Cloud-based Infrastructure enables organizations to create new environment in minutes instead of weeks.
    • Accelerate development efforts. The level of effort to develop applications is reduced as organizations can focus on functionality instead of plumbing.
    • Reduce the maintenance cost of new applications. Leveraging PaaS increases the consistency between applications and reduces the set of variables for troubleshooting and maintenance even when developed by 3rd parties.


    • Try more ideas more quickly. With the ability to deploy new capabilities at a much reduced cost, the customer can try out more ideas without fear of a costly failure. If the customer deploys five capabilities for the price of one, they dramatically increase their odds for success.
    • Quickly react to competitive threats. With the ability to quickly create and scale capabilities, the customer can quickly respond by launching a competitive offering.
    • Reduce costs. The new applications will have a reduced cost for maintenance and support because of the consistency provided by a common platform with IaaS/PaaS.

    Easily integrate new businesses into your organization
    Move people onto core systems with self-provisioning. Reduce business disruptions with flexible online business services. Accelerate speed to value by connecting across network and organizational boundaries to integrate acquired systems.


    • Integrate organizations with shared productivity tools.
    • Host commonly accessible productivity tools in the Cloud.
    • Securely store and expose business information. Use Cloud services and federated ID’s to expose data.
    • Integrate data and processes quickly. Expose disparate systems and data using the Cloud and federated security.
    • Integrate instead of migrate. Cloud services federated security helps avoid migrating systems and organizations.


    • Increase the speed of value realization. Time to value is greatly reduced from acquired business.
    • Quickly integrate staff. Reduce integration time for the staff from the acquired organization into the corporate systems and functions.
    • Shorten the transition period. Greatly reduce the time required to achieve organization and business stability.
    • Consumption-based pricing. Pricing of Cloud services allows better prediction of the operating cost of new business.

    Improve operational efficiency to enable more innovation
    Enable investment to be prioritized on strategic initiatives through efficient use of available budget. Enable the business to make informed decisions through cost transparency for each IT solution and increase the accuracy in business cases for new initiatives.


    • Sourcing strategy from the Cloud. Reduce complexity and operational spending by moving commodity services to the Cloud.
    • Gain efficiencies through shared services. Providing IaaS or PaaS provides standardization and scale while removing redundancy.
    • Increase automation of operational tasks. Create a dynamic data center that leverages shared infrastructure/platform and automated management.


    • Decrease headcount focus on operational tasks. Move commodity services to the Cloud. Increase use of shared services and automation so that fewer people are required for repetitive operational tasks.
    • Gain efficiencies: Latest technology without the need to upgrade, economies of scale, decreased deployment time.
    • Free up resources to focus on business innovation: More headcount available to work on innovation, strategic projects, and execution, more agility to better react on business requests / changes.

    Improve the connection with your customers
    Integrating systems through the use of Cloud services is often easier and lowers the barrier to entry compared with on-premises solutions. When integration is easier, organizations can provide more information to customers. This in turn increases satisfaction, loyalty and revenue.


    • Connect systems to provide a single view for customers. Technology deployed in the Cloud can bring together data easily and seamlessly.
    • Designed for external connectivity. Cloud services are designed for public consumption making it easy to expose information to customers.
    • Lower time to market.  Cloud integration is often easier to adopt which decreases the time to develop solutions.


    • Create new interfaces into business. The flexibility Cloud computing offers, provides opportunities to expose new data for customers.
    • Increase customer satisfaction. Making data available for customers.
    • Extend the reach of the business. Open new markets through global availability of data.
    • Increase the time employees spend with customers.  Readily available data empowers employees to spend less time searching and more time working with customers.

    Provide elastic capacity to meet business demand
    Leverage the on-demand consumption model of the Cloud to quickly provision and de-provision resources as needed. Increase agility by enabling your organization to react to an urgent business need quickly by applying Cloud-based resources.


    • Operate at a higher level and scale incrementally. Use Cloud services to right-size capabilities and focus on driving core business value.
    • Overflow capability. Use the Cloud as a pressure release valve for IT organizations that might have insufficient personnel or are out of power and space.
    • Elastic and scalable. Cloud computing’s ability to quickly provision and de-provision services creates an elastic, scalable resource. Pay only for the services used.


    • Respond more quickly to business needs. Additional capacity can be added rapidly as needed.
    • Effectively scale capability up and down. Scaling down prevents paying for unused capacity.
    • Reduce your IT infrastructure and management costs. Leverage a Cloud provider for infrastructure and management.
    • Cost of failure is minimized.  If the project is cancelled, wasted up front capital investment is not as significant.
    • Risk of unexpected growth is minimized. On demand capacity from the Cloud service.

    Provide Enterprise Messaging from Anywhere
    Secure, reliable, timely access to the latest enterprise class messaging from anywhere helps maintain and improve corporate based productivity and manage overall, per user messaging costs.


    • Migrate messaging to the Cloud. As appropriate, move workers from on-premises messaging to Cloud software services.
    • Self-provisioning. Provide self-provisioning for remote workers, suppliers, and partners.
    • Automatic upgrades. Avoid business disruption and allow IT to focus on higher value areas.
    • Segmentation of user types. Allow a more granular control of features per user group.


    • Rapid onboarding. Quick provisioning of external, temporary and new workers increases their productivity and reduces IT burden.
    • Resource elasticity. Enable growing or variable businesses to lower costs and the impact of changes.
    • Reliability. Negotiated and guaranteed uptime.
    • Predictable, reduced costs.  Reduce both upfront and ongoing cost and make costs more transparent and predictable.
    • Most recent features. Users can always take advantage of the latest features because of real time upgrades.

    Reduce Upfront Investment in New Initiatives
    Reduce the size of investment required to launch new initiatives and align the cash-flow requirements with actual solution adoption over time. Reduce the risk associated with upfront investments.


    • Software-as-a-Service. Replace existing software with a SaaS public Cloud offering.
    • Platform-as-a-Service. Use PaaS offerings to begin developing new solutions without new infrastructure.
    • Infrastructure-as-a-Service. Move existing infrastructure to the Cloud through IaaS offerings.


    • Reduction in capacity planning expense. This removes much of the complexity surrounding the planning of data centers, SKU management, and contract management.
    • Reduction in hardware, software, and real estate expense. The Cloud can reduce or eliminate the need for upfront investment in infrastructure for new initiatives.
    • Align cost with solution adoption. The cash-flow requirements of a new solution become directly tied to adoption of the solution.
  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    IT Scenarios for the Cloud


    “I think it is one of the foundations of the next generation of computing." -- Tim O'Reilly

    While putting together lessons learned from our Cloud-related Enterprise Strategy engagements, we consolidated a set of recurring IT scenarios and themes.  You may find these useful if you are thinking about cloud opportunities from an IT perspective, and are looking for some common patterns and perspectives.

    IT scenarios for the Cloud are technical scenarios that can ultimately be linked back to business scenarios. For any given business scenario, one or more IT scenarios can be defined that expose a clearer picture of how the enabling technologies can be used to reach a solution.

    The following are key scenarios to be aware of from an IT perspective. These highlight the alignment of Cloud opportunities with common growth, deployment and management trends.

    IT Scenarios for the Cloud

    Cloud IT scenarios are organized into the following categories:

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

    Business Intelligence
    The use of business intelligence is a recognized way to enable a company to make insightful choices and thereby improve effectiveness. The Cloud is a means to lower the barrier to entry for these technologies. In the Cloud, datacenter overhead is mitigated by a pay-as-you-go model and the total cost of ownership (TCO) for business intelligence is lowered.

    The primary tenants of this scenario are:

    • Empower your people with business insights
    • Improve organizational effectiveness
    • Enable IT efficiency

    Cloud Computing
    The Cloud enables customers to deliver connected experiences by delivering applications or solutions that leverage enterprise-class services of Cloud platforms.

    The primary tenants of this scenario are:

    • Trust in enterprise-class services
    • Deliver consistent, connected experiences
    • Harness the power of choice

    Consumerization of IT
    This scenario focuses on the evolution of corporate IT environments towards a user-centric computing model. User devices and personal devices entering the workplace are changing the IT landscape. Enabling these devices consequently enables the users and ultimately promotes an innovative workplace.

    The primary tenants of this scenario are:

    • Boost productivity with new ways of connecting and sharing
    • Stay competitive as an innovative company and workplace
    • Deliver IT flexibility while managing security

    Corporate Environmental Sustainability
    Green IT is a testament to the active rethinking of business practices throughout the industry. Beyond pure ecological impact, corporations are achieving significant savings through smart use of technology.

    The primary tenants of this scenario are:

    • Reduce energy demands
    • Manage energy and environmental footprint
    • Rethink business practices

    Innovation for Growth

    An investment in tools, processes, and culture can drive innovation and grow a business through new products, services, and/or processes. For nearly every enterprise, innovation is critical to long-term success. Investing to drive innovation can improve a business’s competitiveness and help it thrive in a challenging economy and shifting business landscape.

    The primary tenants of this scenario are:

    • Engage: Widen the idea pipeline
    • Evolve: Turn ideas into action
    • Evaluate and execute: Optimize return on investment (ROI) and business value

    Low-Cost Computing in the Enterprise
    This scenario is centered on IT efficiency and lowering the cost of business. Savings are achieved by reducing both capital expenditures and operating expenditures. Costs are cut out of IT infrastructure and operations through more efficient use of hardware and software, standardized configurations, and streamlined management.

    The primary tenants of this scenario are:

    • Maximize the efficiency of your IT infrastructure
    • Use technology to lower the cost of doing business
    • Take advantage of technology delivery innovation

    Common Scenario Patterns for the Cloud

    When reviewing successful Cloud implementations, the following patterns are common scenarios:
    • Growing Fast
    • On and Off Bursting
    • Unpredictable Bursting
    • Predictable Bursting

    In general you can think about the Cloud as an application that fits one of these patterns. Use these patterns to analyze and test potential Cloud scenarios for success. For example, the “On and Off Bursting” scenario is optimal for testing because you can run the application on premises and in the Cloud concurrently.

    Growing Fast



    • Startup companies
    • Viral applications and agents - Designed for 100, wanted by 20,000


    • Successful services that need to grow/scale
    • Keeping up with growth is a big IT challenge
    • Complex lead-time for deployment

    The Growing Fast pattern is typically represented by a startup company that begins with a minimal IT footprint, but quickly scales up their offerings as demand increases. Similarly, companies that might underestimate usage of their product might need to rapidly scale IT capabilities. Customers get to bypass the overhead costs of hardware and management, and focus on delivering business value.

    On and Off Bursting



    • Off-hours number crunching/computation jobs


    • On and off workloads (e.g. Batch jobs)
    • Over-provisioned capacity is wasted
    • Time to market can be cumbersome

    The On and Off Bursting pattern is commonly represented by a company needing batch processing or computation. For example, a big challenge for hedge funds is acting quickly on data or emerging events. Cloud computing offers the opportunity to come to book large numbers of machines for a short period of time to conduct analysis. The Cloud allows on-demand resource usage that removes the need for heavy capital expenditures on hardware that will sit idle for large portions of its lifespan.

    Unpredictable Bursting



    • Marketing campaigns


    • Unexpected/Unplanned peak in demand
    • Sudden spike impacts performance
    • Cannot over-provision for extreme cases

    The Unpredictable Bursting pattern occurs when scaling is not predictable. For example, an eCommerce site specialized in selling sporting goods for Spain’s soccer team after they won the World Cup. The Web site traffic surge due to this win was not predictable, and an inability to service the demand spike would cause a substantial loss in revenue opportunity. A site deployed in the Cloud could have additional servers provisioned in short order, or even be designed to dynamically scale server instances to follow the demand curve.

    Predictable Bursting



    • Seasonally driven eCommerce sites


    • Services with micro-seasonal trends
    • Peaks due to periodic increased demand
    • IT complexity and wasted capacity

    The Predictable Bursting pattern occurs when workload scales up and down based on a predictable pattern. An example of this might be a salary or payroll firm. On set intervals such as the 1st and 15th of each month, there is a spike in demand for computing power to process the payroll. By using the Cloud, the necessary computing power can be scaled to meet the demand, and then subsequently scaled back again to save expenses during the lower demand period.

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    IT Drivers for the Cloud


    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:

    1. A lack of internal skills, leading to increased external resource costs.
    2. Existing outsource refresh cycle points can generate the opportunity to consider alternative approaches.
    3. IT refreshes falling behind accelerating business-cycle demands.
    4. Joint collaboration, outsourcing and provisioning discussions that need more than transactional outsourcing models.
    5. The desire not to rely on specialists for commodity capabilities such as email.
    6. The desire to focus investments in core business areas and not IT – given IT is not what the business is about.
    7. The desire to move away from in-house development in order to lower cost.
    8. The desire to reduce the growing levels of external and internal resources needed to support day-to-day operations.
    9. The need to accelerate the improvement of infrastructure maturity to drive cost savings and to deliver new IT and business capabilities.
    10. The need to scale up and down IT to meet increased demands and changing markets, together with the introduction of new business organizations for example caused by mergers and acquisitions.

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    Tim Kropp on Getting Results the Agile Way


    Getting Results the Agile Way is a personal results system for work and life.   It’s about making the most of what you’ve got, and helping you get exponential results, by working on the right things, at the right time, the right way, with the right energy.  Most importantly, it’s about getting meaningful results, not simply doing more things.  It’s also the playbook I wish somebody gave me when I started.  It would have save me a lot of time, hard lessons, and accelerated my path in a more sustainable way.

    The heart of the system is three parts:

    1. The Rule of Three (A way to prioritize and focus, and deal with overload and overwhelm)
    2. Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection (A weekly system for results)
    3. Hot Spots (A way to see the forest from the trees)

    That’s the system.  But the system comes to life when you hear how people use it or how it changes their life.

    Meet Tim Kropp. 

    Tim is an Information Security Program Manager, and here is his story of using Getting Results the Agile Way …

    For the past 10 years I’ve been focused on two significant methods for getting results 1) Using Project Management methods (PMBOK) and 2) Franklin Covey’s “Habits”. In May of 2010 I began to apply the Agile Results process, and put simply, it has added completeness. While both Project Management, with its strong focus on planning correctly, and 7 Habits, with its foundation in values, are both effective - using Getting Results provides a few things that I hadn’t expected. You see, for several years I’ve been a big proponent of planning correctly, analyzing prior to implementing, long periods of thinking, and then implementing. My methods were incomplete. Agile Results provided completeness, agility, and flexibility to my approach. It’s not a matter of the PMBOK, or 7 Habits systems being better, or worse. It is a matter of the approach being different. It is now part of the big three methods right, not separate? So here is what I think is my “Big 3”:

    1. Project Management
    2. 7 Habits & Values
    3. Getting Results the Agile Way

    Agile Results allow you to make adjustments, immediately or over time, as you need them. It’s more than just a systematic way of doing things. JD provides insight, advice, through proven practices that he and others use. It is more than just a Project, or a Value, or a Habit. It’s a combination of them all, and they all work together synergistically. So, pick any given project or goal you might have. Just try starting with something simple from this large swath of information from JD (another thing I learned – keep it simple). Say like, the rule of 3, the reflection pattern and then after a few weeks of trying it out, look at the results. It’s amazing. I did it. And you’ll want more. I was completely overwhelmed, overworked, and behind in a huge project delivery. I needed a way to get it done, effectively. JD gave me a hint to read through “Getting Started”. Of course, the last thing you want is more workload, but I listened and tried applying it immediately. I haven’t stopped. Every day, every week, even monthly, quarterly, yearly, the rule of 3 is my foundation. And now that’s just the beginning……….imagine what’s next.  -- Tim Kropp, Information Security Program Manager

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    Jason Taylor on Getting Results the Agile Way


    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.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    .NET Rocks Interview on Getting Results the Agile Way


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

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

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

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

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

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

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Friday Links 08-19-2011


    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

    Choosing Where to Invest–Technical Uncertainty vs. Market Uncertainty


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


    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

    Friday Links 08-26-2011


    From the Archives
    Reference Models, Reference Architectures, and Reference Implementations – A reference model is is a model of something that embodies the basic goals or ideas, and you can use it at as a reference for various purposes.  It’s like having a topology map of the key concepts.  A reference architecture provides a proven template solution for an architecture for a particular domain.  A reference Implementation goes beyond a reference architecture and is an actual implementation.  The way to distinguish between a reference architecture and reference implementation is simple:  If it’s an exemplar of the architecture, it’s a reference architecture … If it’s an exemplar of the implementation, then it’s a reference implementation.  Each serve different purposes, and require different levels of detail or abstraction.

    40 Hour Work Week at Microsoft - One of the most important lessons at Microsoft was learning the value of a 40 hour work week.  I’ve been on time, on budget for 10 years on projects ranging from grass-roots or “best efforts” to $ million+ investments.  In my first few years, I was on time, on budget through heroic effort.  That’s not sustainable and folks don’t want to sign up for that more than once.  Luckily, I learned early on how to drive more effective results by fixing time and flexing scope, while flowing value, and optimizing team health.

    From the Web
    Productivity Personas - Personas are a simple way to share examples of the different types of behaviors. Anybody can be a mix of some or all of the various personas. No persona is good or bad. Some are more effective than others, depending on the situation. The key is to use the personas as a lens on behavior. You can analyze yourself, other people, and common interactions. We all have the capacity for the various behaviors. The trick is to know your preferences and the preferences of others. This is a set of personas relevant to the productivity space.

    Motivation - Motivation is the “Why” behind the goal. It’s your little engine that says you can, when the rest of you says you can’t. It’s also the same force that on a good day can help you move mountains. Motivation is a life-long skill that you can improve through self-awareness and proven strategies. The better you know your own drivers and levers, the more effective you’ll be at getting the results you want in your life.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Action Guidelines


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

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

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

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

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

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

    Why Teams Fail


    One of the questions I get asked is, “Why do teams fail?”

    While there are lots of reasons, here are some of the most common patterns I see:

    • Lack of clarity on the customer
    • Lack of priorities
    • Too much open work
    • Not enough doers (aka ... too many chiefs, not enough Indians)
    • Single points of failure
    • One-man bands vs. teams of capabilities (related to the previous point)
    • No mental models
    • No actionable feedback loops
    • Not flowing value (big bangs that are too little, too late)
    • Out of position
    • Lack of execution cadence or rhythm
    • Lack of pairing, sharing, and mentoring
    • Lack of clarity on the work
    • Lack of clarity on the roles
    • Spending too much time in weaknesses
    • Not spending enough time in strengths

    If those are the anti-patterns, what are the success patterns?  Here are some the main success patterns I’ve seen:

    • Teams of capabilities over one-man bands
    • Clarity of who’s doing what when
    • Clarity on the tests for success (what does good look like)
    • People sign up for work (versus assigned … their hearts are in it, and they are fully engaged)
    • People are living in their strengths and are in their element (They are giving their best where they have their best to give)

    On pairing up, I've seem magic happen with these combos:

    • Creatives and critics
    • Starters and finishers
    • Doers and describers
    • Maximizes and simplifiers
  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Structuring Your Personal Backlog to Make Things Happen


    Structuring your personal backlog of work you have to do, helps you in multiple ways:

    • It helps you see your work at a glance
    • It helps you batch and consolidate work to gain efficiencies
    • It helps you see deal with incoming flow, work in flight, and work to be done

    The process for a simple backlog is pretty simple.  Here are the keys:

    1. Make a list for each separate project or big activity you have on your plate.
    2. For each project or big activity, make a list of the big tasks or chunks of work.
    3. Split the tasks into Priority 1 and Priority 2 (P1 and P2.)

    The mental model for how you are structuring your backlog for each project is this:

    • To Do (in flight)
    • Backlog (P1, P2)
    • Done

    Here is an example of a list for project X:

    - Apples
    - Oranges (Orange you glad I didn’t say Banana)
    - Pears

    - Kiwi
    - Lemons
    - Mangos
    - Pineapples
    .. etc.

    - Blueberries
    - Cranberries
    - Grapes

    By keeping your lists flat and functional, they are easy to update, easy to store, and easy to share.  Whether you use OneNote, Excel, Workflowy, or EverNote, you have a list for each project, and each list has a simple map of the work to be done, at your finger tips.

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