J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Create New Revenue Streams from Existing Capabilities

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    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:

    Opportunity

    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.

    Solution
    • 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.
    Benefits
    • 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.
  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Business Scenarios for the Cloud

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    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.

    Solution

    • 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.

    Benefits

    • 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.

    Solution

    • 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.

    Benefits

    • 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.

    Solution

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

    Benefits

    • 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.

    Solution

    • 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.

    Benefits

    • 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.

    Solution

    • 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.

    Benefits

    • 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.

    Solution

    • 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.

    Benefits

    • 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.

    Solution

    • 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.

    Benefits

    • 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.

    Solution

    • 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.

    Benefits

    • 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.

    Solution

    • 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.

    Benefits

    • 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.

    Solution

    • 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.

    Benefits

    • 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

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    “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

    clip_image002

    Archetype(s):

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

    Characteristics:

    • 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

    clip_image004

    Archetype(s):

    • Off-hours number crunching/computation jobs

    Characteristics:

    • 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

    clip_image006

    Archetype(s):

    • Marketing campaigns

    Characteristics:

    • 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

    clip_image008

    Archetype(s):

    • Seasonally driven eCommerce sites

    Characteristics:

    • 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

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    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

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    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

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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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    .NET Rocks Interview on Getting Results the Agile Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Friday Links 08-19-2011

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

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

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

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

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    Choosing Where to Invest–Technical Uncertainty vs. Market Uncertainty

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

    image

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

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    Friday Links 08-26-2011

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    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.

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    Action Guidelines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    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
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    Structuring Your Personal Backlog to Make Things Happen

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    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:

    P1
    -----------------
    - Apples
    - Oranges (Orange you glad I didn’t say Banana)
    - Pears

    P2
    ----------------
    - Kiwi
    - Lemons
    - Mangos
    - Pineapples
    .. etc.

    Done
    ---------------
    - 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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    Interpersonal Skills Books

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    As part of the Great Books to Read Collection, I put together a collection of the best books on Interpersonal Skills.

    When it comes to building software, shipping stuff, or just plain making things happen, interpersonal skills are a key to success.  With interpersonal skills, you can better deal with the following scenarios:

    • Dealing with different communication styles and needs
    • Coping with difficult bosses or dealing with difficult people
    • Surviving personality clashes
    • Appreciating and understanding different motivation patterns and drivers
    • Reflecting on your own personal patterns and using for growth
    • Creating lenses to understand difficult behaviors and tough situations
    • Dealing with conflict in terms of values or goals or styles
    • Fostering effective teamwork and collaboration in the toughest scenarios
    • Having the tough conversations that count

    What makes these the best books on interpersonal skills?  They are books you can use to solve real problems.  They are ones that have made an actual difference for many people in tough scenarios.  (Of course, best is all relative, so only you know which books are best for you, by testing what works for your specific scenarios.)

    While there are so many books that are truly useful, there is one in particular that I know many people have found to be insanely useful.  It’s the book, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner.  Here’s why … the book gives you a “lens of human understanding” that helps you see what drives people to act a certain way.  Once you understand this, it’s like knowing how the magic trick was done … all is revealed.  The other reason why people like this book so much is because it gives you a language for bad behaviors.  Having a language for bad behaviors makes it easy to identify them, understand them, and deal with them, in an actionable way.

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    Friday Links 07-08-2010

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    From the Archives
    40 Hour Work Week at Microsoft - If you want to be more effective, limit the time you spend.  It’s a forcing function that fixes a lot of underlying execution issues that you just cannot see if your organization throws time at problems.

    Patterns and Practices for New Hires - These are from the school of hard knocks.  Whether you're a new hire or taking on a new job, I share some principles, patterns and practices to be more effective.

    From the Web
    A Language for Software Architecture - An article I wrote for The Architecture Journal on how to map out the software architecture space, so we can organize and share knowledge more effectively.

    You 2.0 – A free e-Book I wrote to help you unleash a version of your best self.  Find your purpose, live your values, play to your strengths.

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    Weekly Reminders for Changing Your Habits and Adopting New Practices

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    “Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going.”  -- Jim Ryun

    One of the best moves I use to change habits and adopt new practices is very simple, but very effective:

    I schedule a recurring Friday appointment on my calendar.  On that appointment, I list reminders, habits, and practices that I want to work on.   It’s the art of applied reflection.

    I tend to use bulleted questions, because they make a great checklist and I find that questions work better than statements for reflection.  Here are a couple of examples to show what I mean:

    • Am I leading by example and setting a personal example of what to expect?
    • Am I describing a compelling image of the future?
    • Am I bringing out the best in everybody and leveraging their strengths?

    You get the idea.

    This works extremely well for baking in new practices, especially after taking a new course or training.  It helps turn the training into action, because it forces you to turn the insights you learned into simple test cases (For example, the questions above.)   It also works well, simply because it’s making you mindful of your choices, and it’s reminding you to check your thinking, feeling, or doing against your goals.

    I’ve been using this practice for several years, and it’s worked like a champ.  It’s part of the Friday Reflection pattern in Getting Results the Agile Way.

    If there is a new pattern or practice you want to adopt, simply add a Friday reminder and see how easily you can adopt a new habit.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    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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    How To Set Goals and Achieve Them

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    "I love deadlines.  I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."  -- Douglas Adams

    I wrote a step-by-step How To on How To – Set Goals and Achieve Them on Getting Results.com.

    I find setting goals and achieving them is a blend of art and science.  The art part is knowing how to frame the goal in a way that inspires you to action on a regular basis.  The science part is breaking the goal down into actionable steps that you can measure against targets.

    Over the years, the three most important things I learned about goals are:

    1. Factor the inspiration from the perspiration.
    2. The "Why" behind the goal is everything.
    3. You can achieve big goals by taking little steps over time.

    Factor the Inspiration from the Perspiration
    Dream big.  Don’t hack up your dream into little insignificant parts right off the bat.  Inspire yourself with skill.  Find your buttons and push them until that little part of you that wants more from life wakes up and says, I want me some of that.

    Goals are among the best way to change your life or change the world or simply move forward versus slide back.   Create inspirational goals, the kind that light your fire.  That’s your starting point.  That gets you ready for the tough part.

    The perspiration of the goal, or the tough part, is translating the end-in-mind into action.   This is the part where you break the goal down into sub-goals, steps, and actions.  This is the part where you make the goal SMART – specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and timely.  This is the part where you get clarity on what success looks like along the way, and how you will map out your path to get to your destination.

    The simple lesson here is, dream up compelling goals first and get excited before you start applying the rigor and discipline of making them happen.  Then use the rigor and discipline of making them happen to inspire you along the way, as you make progress toward your goal.

    The Why Behind the Goal is Everything
    There are many ways to kill a dream or kill a goal.  The longer it’s spread out over time and space, the more hurdles and challenges you might have to deal with along the way.  But some goals are dead right out of the gate.

    If your goal lacks life and has no compelling “Why” to drive it, it’s dead in the water.  It doesn’t stand a fighting chance.  If you want your goal to stand the test of time and to help you stay the course, then you need to have a compelling “Why” behind it.  The “Why” is the generator of your juice that makes you go.  You know it’s working when you simply remember “Why” and you are back on track.

    You Can Achieve Big Goals by Taking Little Steps Over Time
    The surprise is that consistent action really does pay off.  It’s a case of slow and steady wins the race.  The trick here is not to go intentionally slow and not to depend on baby steps.  Instead, it’s to find the way forward, and to keep taking action.  Sometimes that means taking little steps.  Those little steps add up over time.

    I integrated these lessons into my How To – Set Goals and Achieve Them to stack the deck in your favor and to help set you up for success in achieving your goals.

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    Visualizing Roadmaps for Execution Excellence

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    One of the first things I do to get a handle on execution is to map out the work in flight in the form of a roadmap.

    When there are multiple teams shipping stuff, one of the best ways to improve coordination, collaboration, and planning is to make a simple roadmap.

    image

    Just even putting the roadmap together is an exercise in clarity.

    The simple roadmap of key events is a great way to set expectations and communicate what’s going on.  When there is a lot going on, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose track of the various trains leaving the station.  A simple one-page view helps you stay on top of the trains and anticipate where focus and energy will be.

    When you have multiple workstreams and dependencies, such as with vTeams and initiatives, it’s also helpful to put together a simple roadmap of the workstreams to illustrate the interactions.

    image

    One of the key points of creating effective visualizations of roadmaps is to keep them simple.   You can always drill into details with detailed schedules or detailed Gant charts.  The point of the visualization in this case is to have a very simple, “at a glance” of the work in flight across multiple teams.

    You know you’ve done a good job when you can “glance and go” vs. “stop and stare.”

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    Leadership Checklist

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    I created a Leadership Checklist to distill and share practices for effective leadership.

    I created this checklist a little bit differently to try something out.  I used a “user story” approach and I wrote each checklist item as a mini-story you can use for self-reflection.  In a way, they can act as unit tests for leadership.  Here are some examples:

    • As a leader, I surround myself with people that balance my weaknesses and amplify my strengths.
    • As a leader, I focus on leading myself first before I take on leading others (self-leadership, team leadership, organizational leadership, etc.)
    • As a leader, I ask solution-focused questions, such as “How might we solve that?”

    It’s a work in progress, but so far the feedback has been positive.  Feel free to share your favorite leadership practice as a one-liner reminder in the comments on the leadership checklist page.

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    Portfolios, Programs, and Projects

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    Execution excellence as a one-man band is one thing.  Execution excellence for a team or group is another.

    One of the best ways to improve execution excellence for a team or group is to map out the portfolio, programs, and projects.

    image

    Having clarity on the portfolio, programs, and projects is a starting point for mastering execution.

    In patterns & practices, what we did is create a visual roadmap to share the big ticket items.  This helped set expectations with stakeholders in terms of what would ship when.  It also helped build awareness for our internal teams to improve coordination and alignment.

    The Portfolio
    We managed our portfolio in a very simple way.  We simply kept a backlog of projects and initiatives grouped by themes and programs.  At this level, we would do two key things:

    1. Prioritize the projects against demand and commitments.  This would inform our roadmap.
    2. Estimate the size of the project with T-Shirt sizing and do ballpark estimates of people, time, and budget.

    In general, we could manage budgets and resources at the program level, as program level investments.   This helped simplify planning.

    The Programs
    We used programs as organizing themes to group related projects, streamline planning, and simplify communication.  For example, in patterns & practices, we organized our projects into the following programs:

    • Client – We used this program to organize and plan our rich desktop and Web application projects.
    • Engineering Practices – We used this program to organize and plan any security, performance, team development, and application architecture projects.
    • Enterprise Library– We used this program to organize and plan our full Enterprise Library releases, as well as any sustained engineering, and any “Application Blocks.”
    • Mobile – We used this program to organize our projects related to mobile phone scenarios.
    • Web Services – We used this program to organize and plan any of our SOA and Web Services projects.

    By having a backlog of programs and projects, we could establish our “cut line.”  The “cut line” was the line where we’d need more resources and budget in order to execute.  This made it easier to both share what we were working on, as well as push back on demands that exceeded our capacity.  It also facilitated discussions with stakeholders in terms of priorities.  The impact of prioritizing one project over another made it very easy to see the impact in terms of the Roadmap or what would be pushed below the cut line.

    At the program level, we could use high-level user stories and scenarios to get a sense of the size and scope of key projects.  We kept the scenarios high-level so that it was easy to tell the story and paint a quick picture of why the particular project, program, or initiative was important, in a way that stakeholders could relate to.

    The Projects
    At the project level, we got way more specific.  At the project level, we had to get clarity on the demand and the scope.  To do so, we would map out the user stories.  The user stories were collected and prioritized with customers and stakeholders.   The user stories were important because they created a very specific way to scope the project.  They also helped see what skills and experience were crucial to project success.  They also created a way to cut scope at a more atomic level.  They also created a way to flow incremental value throughout the project life cycle.

    As you can imagine, when you have clarity on your portfolio, both in terms of a backlog of programs and projects, as well as expressed as roadmap, and you have clarity on your programs in terms of big bucket investments and themes of work, and you have clarity on your projects, in terms of priorities as well as the actual user demand and how the projects relate to one another, you are moving up the stack in terms of execution excellence, organizational maturity, and most of all, simplicity.

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    Performance Review Template

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    It’s that time of year when folks are busy with reviews.  Here is a time-tested template for writing your results in a way that’s easy to defend, while making both your results and your approach shine through:

    This is no ordinary template, and don’t let the simplicity fool you.  It’s evolved over time under the collective scrutiny of many reviewers and people that have used this template to better articulate their impact in a more objective and holistic way.  Here’s why.  It explicitly frames out the following:

    • Results
    • How
    • Evidence
    • Analysis

    “Results” creates space to write about your bottom line results.  This answers the question, “What did you deliver?”, but more importantly, frames it in the context of outcomes and impact.  It’s less about whether you did X, Y, or Z, and more about the actual impact you delivered.  Your results.

    “How” creates space to write about how you achieved your results.  This is especially important if you are trying to highlight and show how your approach demonstrates skills or competencies at a higher level.   This is where you can highlight things like teamwork, cross-group collaboration, leadership skills, etc.

    “Evidence” creates space to share all the quotes, quantities, and qualitative feedback about your impact.  This is the place where you can truly make it obvious that your results and impact are more than just your subjective view.  Nothing speaks stronger than a few powerful quotes from a few of the right people.

    “Analysis” creates space for you to write about the highs and lows.  A simple way to target and frame this is to think in terms of three things going well, and three things to improve.

    Check out the Performance Review Template and I’ll be interested to know what tips or tricks you have for articulating your impact and making your review do justice to the work you’ve done throughout the year.

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    How To–Achieve Peaceful Calm

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    I wrote a simple step-by-step How To on How To – Achieve a Peaceful Calm

    It’s a simple way to achieve a peaceful calm state of mind.  When your mind is relaxed, you can take in information with less distortion. You’re connected to your emotions, but rather than being overwhelmed or randomized, it’s more like using your emotions as input. When your mind is ready, you are responsive. You are able to easily see the situation and respond with skill instead of react out of fear or anxiety. When your mind is resourceful, you are able to easily think the thoughts that serve you. Your creative mind is ready to solve problems with you instead of work against you.

    If your mind has been buzzing, you haven’t felt centered in a long time, and it feels like you’ve been building up, as Scott Hanselman would say, “Psychic Weight”, then you are in for a treat.

    Take How To – Achieve Peaceful Calm for a test drive and let me know if it helps you get back in your zone.

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    How To–Design Your Week with Skill

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

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

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

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

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

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

    … So what is?

    Design your time with skill.

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

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

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

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    Focus is the Key to Success at Microsoft

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    "You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." -- Mark Twain

    Focus is the key to success at Microsoft for many people.  I put together proven practices for how to focus in a comprehensive set of “Focus Guidelines”. 

    One of my mentors, a seasoned manager at Microsoft, once told me that the difference that makes the difference – why some people succeed and others do not – is focus. Those that lack focus spread themselves too thin, or never finish what they start. They have a lot of dreams, ambition, and ideas but they never spend enough time working on any one thing to make it happen. On the flip side, those with focus, know what they want to accomplish, and they apply concentrated effort, and see it through to completion. They also focus on less, yet achieve more.

    I set out to nail a set of proven practices that could help anybody improve their ability to focus.   I gave myself a timebox of four hours to see what I could put together for a v1 release.  I sanity checked the results with a few folks that said it very much echoed what they thought were the keys to improving focus, so now I’m sharing with a broader audience.  (If you’re wondering why I gave myself a timebox of four hours for this it was to help me focus Winking smile   Focus is a complex topic and deserves attention, but I also have other priorities I’m working on.  I was willing to spend 2 hours Saturday and 2 hours Sunday to chip away at this stone, if it could help the greater good to have a robust set of practices that actually work for achieving the highest levels of focus.  I expect my four hour investment to help many others get exponential results and help them take their game to a new level, by expanding their mental toolbox.  Even if that’s not the case, spending four hours to work on such a key cross-cutting skill for life is still a good investment.)

    These practices are time-tested and Softie approved.  As you can imagine, with all the bright and shiny objects that go flying around, it takes skill and discipline to stay focused.  The beauty though is that if you know the key strategies and tactics for improving your focus, then it actually gets a lot easier to focus where it counts and enjoy the ride.

    Explore my “Focus Guidelines” and learn how to focus with skill.

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