J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

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    Roles and Responsibilities on Microsoft patterns & practices Project Teams

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    One of the most common things I get asked, wherever I go is, “What were the team roles and responsibilities on your Microsoft patterns & practices project teams?”

    Effectively, there were a set of repeatable roles that people signed up for, or covered in some way.  In this case, a role is simply a logical collection of tasks.  The role is the label for that collection of tasks.

    As an Agile bunch, we were self-organizing.  In practice, what that means is the team defined the roles and responsibilities at project kickoff.  As the project progressed, people would shuffle around responsibilities among the team, to produce the best output, and to find ways to get people spending more time in their strengths, or learning new skills.  It's all about owning your executing, playing well with others, and making the most of the talent you have at hand.

    Here is a simple list of the team roles and responsibilities each team generally had to cover:

    Roles
    Architect
    Lead Writer
    Developer
    Development Lead
    Product Manager
    Program Manager
    Test
    Test Lead
    Subject Matter Expert


    Responsibilities
    Architecture and Design
    Budget
    Business Investment
    Collateral (screen casts, blogs, decks, demo scripts)
    Content structure
    Customer connection
    Design Quality
    Development
    Evangelism (screen casts, web presence, road shows, conferences, customer briefings, press & analysts)
    Feedback
    Product Group Alignment
    Product Planning
    Project Planning
    Quality (technical accuracy, consumability, readability)
    Release
    Requirements
    Scope
    Schedule
    Simplicity
    Support / Sustained-Engineering
    Team and People
    Test execution
    Test planning
    Usability

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    Underutilized

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    When it comes to people, underutilized does not mean squeeze out more hours, it means unleash more strengths.

    When people have the chance to give their best where they have their best to give, this has an automatic way of taking care of utilization, motivation, impact, etc.  When somebody is in their element, effective managers co-create the goals and get out of the way.  It’s among the best ways to get the best results from teams or individuals.  If you want to optimize a team, then unleash the strengths of each individual.

    The power of people in a knowledge worker world is that you get exponential results when people are playing to their strengths.   The simplest way to do this is have people in roles where they spend more time in their strengths and less time in their weaknesses.  Another way to unleash their strength is pair them up with people that compliment their strengths or balance out their weaknesses.

    On the flip side, the simplest way to create low-performing teams is to have people spend more time in their weaknesses and very little time in their strengths.   While this is simple and obvious, the real trick is looking for it and finding ways to bring out people’s best.

    While it’s not always easy, and you often have to get creative, one of the best things you can do for you, your company, the world, is to spend more time in your strengths and help others do the same.  It’s the fittest and the flexible that survive, and it’s your unique strengths that crank up your fit factor.

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    Portfolio Management

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

    image

    While there are a lot of ways to manage a portfolio, I find the frame above to be highly effective.  It’s from the Cranfield School of Management in the UK.   It’s a very simple frame:

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

    The key is to know where your investments are in terms of this map.  A common path for investments is to move through the quadrants in this order:  High-Potential, Strategic, Key Operational, and Support.

    Example Investment Ratios
    Here is an example of a common investment spread:

    image

    Above the Line
    A cutting question to ask about your portfolio management is, “Are you operating above the line?”   This cuts to the chase to answer two key questions:

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

    You can use this frame to look at cloud investments … your current business investments … how you spend your time … etc.   It can be a lens for a life, and a lens for learning … and a way to shape your path forward by flowing more value and staying in the game for the road ahead.

    Here is a nice distillation of IT Portfolio Management and how to think about it as it relates to the cloud.

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    Personal Development Lessons Learned from Jariek Robbins

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

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

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

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

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

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    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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    Innovation Quotes

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    What do Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Walt Disney teach us about building a culture of innovation?

    A lot.

    I put together a comprehensive collection of innovation quotes.   And by comprehensive, I mean more than 100 of the greatest thoughts on innovation, all at your finger tips.   You’ll hear from Edison, Mozart, Michael Porter, Peter Drucker, Seth Godin, and more.

    And, to make the innovation quotes more meaningful, I’ve grouped them into useful categories, so you can flip through the sections you care about the most.   There’s a section on Action, Birthing Ideas, and Continuous Learning and Growth.  You’ll also find a section on Fear and Failure.  After all, success in innovation is often a numbers game.  Remember what Edison taught us.

    Just because it’s a comprehensive collection of innovation quotes, doesn’t mean it’s complete, or that it’s a done deal.  There’s always room for improvement (and innovation.)  So if you have some favorite innovation quotes that I’ve left out, please let me know.  I want this collection to be truly insightful, and most importantly, actionable.

    After all, what good are good ideas, if you can’t turn them into results.

    And that’s the truth about innovation.

    Enjoy.

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    Cognizant on the Next Generation Enterprise

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    As a strategist, I need to stay on top of how the world of business is changing, especially from an IT perspective. 

    The world of business is changing faster than ever.  

    Changes are happening in the ways we work, business models and processes are evolving, customers are changing what they value and how they buy, and technology is transforming and shaping the next generation Enterprise.

    Likewise, the smart CIOs and IT organizations are significant shapers of the next generation Enterprise.  They are doing so by rethinking business models, reinventing the organization, and rewiring operations.

    In their whitepaper, Making the Shift to the Next-Generation Enterprise, Cognizant shares 8 future-of-work enablers you can evaluate against to help you build a strategy to future-proof your business.

    Key Challenges Shaping the Next Generation Enterprise

    According to Cognizant, the following are unprecedented, relentless and perplexing challenges that organizations of today face:

    • Economic volatility
    • Globalization
    • Changing consumers
    • Changing workplace
    • Technology advancement

    The 3 R’s:  Reinvent, Rethink, and Rewire

    According to Cognizant, the following are the 3 R’s of corporate model transformation to future-proof your business:

    1. Reinvent: Updating the Business Model.   Cognizant says: “In some cases, companies are putting customer opinions and ideas at the center of their R&D model to ensure new products and services will succeed in the market. In others, business-to-business suppliers are using social networking to improve their delivery and replenishment models. In all these cases, moving to a collaborative business model opens new channels of talent, knowledge, expertise and capability.”
    2. Rethink: Creating New Process Models.  Cognizant says: “Next-generation enterprises will master these two elements — breaking up the value chain in core and non-core activities and orchestrating a virtual network of service providers for the latter. The idea is to leverage virtual teams of talent and knowledge wherever they exist geographically, rather than relying on what is embedded in the organization.”
    3. Rewire: Focusing on a New IT Architecture.  Cognizant says: “The challenge for IT is to undertake significant shifts in its traditional thinking to support the new areas of focus. This includes customer-facing core competencies; intuitive user interfaces inspired by consumer-facing mobile applications; collaborative business models involving customer and supplier co-creation; and virtual, globally dispersed teams focused on executing knowledge-intensive business processes.”

    8 Future-of-Work Enablers

    According to Cognizant, the 8 future-of-work enablers are as follows:

    1. Community Interaction.  Interacting/engaging with users through social media.
    2. Innovation.  Creation of an environment to breed and enable innovation of products and services, in the form of open, closed and virtual innovation.
    3. Worker empowerment.  Empowering the workforce to be location-agnostic through communication-rich mobile devices and enabling a culture of collaboration and creativity for millennial employees.
    4. Virtual collaboration.  Building platforms of collaboration to enable the virtual environment.
    5. Customer empowerment.  Empowering customers by providing cutting-edge tools and media to improve the customer experience.
    6. Commercial model flexibility.  Flexibility to choose between being asset heavy vs. asset light (Cap-Ex vs Op-Ex; buy vs. lease), as appropriate.
    7. Value chain flexibility.  Flexibility to choose and source value chain elements from anywhere; disaggregating people from functions.
    8. Flexible service delivery.  Flexibility to choose and source infrastructure from anywhere (e.g., cloud, mainframe, client/server, etc.).

    Mapping the 8 Future-of-Work Enablers to the 3 Areas of Transformation

    According to Cognizant, you can map the 8 future-of-work enablers to the 3 R’s of corporate model transformation as follows:

    Future-of-Work Enabler Business Model Business Processes Technology
    Community Interaction     X
    Innovation X X  
    Worker empowerment X X X
    Virtual collaboration   X X
    Customer empowerment X X X
    Commercial model flexibility X   X
    Value chain flexibility X X  
    Flexible service delivery   X X

    Hot Spots for Future of Work Maturity

    According to Cognizant, you can evaluate against a specific set of KPIs within each area of corporate model transformation:

    Business Model Business Processes Technology
    1. Global marketing effectiveness
    2. Supply chain optimization
    3. Value chain optimization
    4. Millennial channel focus
    5. Talent acquisition and retention
    6. Virtual teaming policy
    7. Facility footprint optimization
    8. Customer interaction through systems of engagement
    1. Business process agility
    2. Process regional adaptability
    3. Process componentization
    4. Process standards management
    5. Customer engagement and involvement
    6. Potential for personal development
    7. Process virtualization pervasiveness
    8. Collaboration effectiveness
    9. Remote operational effectiveness
    10. BPaaS adoption rate (or "as a service" adoption rate)
    11. Adoption potential of systems of engagement
    1. Application portfolio extendibility
    2. Workload asset optimization
    3. Infrastructure management globalization
    4. Customer empowering application portfolio
    5. Worker empowering application portfolio
    6. Degree of "any device, anytime, anywhere" realization
    7. Enabling virtual collaboration
    8. Mobile and remote device communications
    9. Data storage and processing agility
    10. Social architecture development

    Outperforming the Competition

    According to Cognizant, there is a prescription for outperforming the competition:

    Tomorrow’s corporate winners have already started to adapt their corporate operating models. Based on a survey of 25 Fortune 500 companies, we have found that, on average, organizations are aware of future-facing concepts and capabilities, and they have begun enabling these capabilities in pockets of the organization. However, the initiatives are inconsistent and not always focused on the strategic business agenda.”

    The Role of the CIO and the IT Organization is Evolving

    According to Cognizant, CIOs and IT organizations are shapers of the next generation Enterprise:

    “Woven into this trend, we are seeing that the most mature adoption is happening at the technology layer of the corporate operating model. This suggests that the IT organization, and perhaps the role of the CIO, are evolving as drivers and shapers of the next-generation enterprise. This is not all that surprising, given that a large aspect of this work is underpinned by technology that powers long overdue business process transformation. We believe the real opportunities will present themselves as the business models are rethought and the operations/ processes are reinvented, along with this trend to rewire the technology.”

    Additional Resources

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    Shareholder Value is a Result, Not a Strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Then great results are a by-product.

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

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

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

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

    Now, for today, let’s get started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    10 Big Ideas from Getting Results the Agile Way

    Agile Results on a Page

    The Values of  Agile Results

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

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    I’m still learning about Satya Nadella, our new CEO at Microsoft (but a very seasoned Softie.)

    He’s been around here a while, but I never really got to meet him.

    So far, I really like his style.  He’s a quiet leader.  He focuses on three things that matter a lot to me:

    1. Customer Focus – Satya focuses on the end-to-end customer experience and wants to light up experiences that matter to make life better.
    2. Employee engagement – Satya wants people to have passion and purpose and to do work that matters.
    3. Changing the world -- As I was listening to Satya talk to us, it was all about “the future we're going to invent together” and how we’ll “express ourselves in the most creative ways.”   It’s about building a better world and software is our way.

    So then, let’s invent the future together

    And, in an Enterprise Social world, that includes Softies working with fellow Softies, in a “One Microsoft” way, and it also, includes working with our customers to co-create our future.

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    Inspiring a Vision

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

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

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

    The key with vision is, when possible –

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

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

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    Time Management Tips #9 - Pair Up

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    Untitled

    What's the best way to do it?

    Together.

    Pair up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the time management exercises to be a more effective starter or finisher and get exponential results on a daily and weekly basis.  You can also find more time management tips in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, and on Getting Results.com

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    Mark Bestauros on Value Realization

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    This is a guest post by Mark Bestauros on what he’s learned about Value Realization at Microsoft.   You can think of Value Realization as simply the value extracted from a process or project.  Mark is the Microsoft IT Principal Business Value Realization manager, and a member of the Microsoft IT Portfolio Management Team, where he is responsible for the optimization of a significant IT spend across the Microsoft businesses.   Mark is also responsible for the Value Tracking for projects in scope, and that has led to some big breakthroughs in terms of reporting the value of IT investments back to the business, and demonstrating the power of Value Realization.

    I’ve asked Mark to share some of his key insights and lessons learned from his adventures at Microsoft in the art and science of Value Realization.

    Without further ado, here is Mark Bestauros on Value Realization …

    Two Main Purposes of the Value Conversation

    The Value conversation serves two main purposes in IT:

    1. Objective and Value Driven Portfolio Planning
    2. Provide Evidence to the argument that IT is not a cost center, but a corporate Propulsion Engine enabling it to reach its objectives through: Informate, Transformate and Automate processes and businesses within the company.

    To accomplish the first goal, the organization need to have the Value conversation tied to the Personal Commitments for all those involved in IT work, and equally importantly, making sure that the a mutual understanding of priority positioning of the “Value” focus in the Conditions of Satisfaction conversations that usually take place between IT organizations and the benefiting business partners from the IT effort.

    Without having the Value activities reflected in the commitments and missing in IT native processes, almost all involved in project work automatically de-prioritize the Value work, starting with turning a blind eye on a missing business case analysis at the inception point and ending with walking away immediately after a project Pre-deployment sign off meeting, washing their hands from any commitment to measure and evaluate the actual benefits hoped for at the Envision or “Plan” phase.

    Planning and Prioritizing with Value Experts at the Business and IT Borders

    The key to success is to embed Value experts at the business and IT border checkpoints.  You need Value experts who are well versed in understanding how to sell the Value argument.  You also need professionals who can guide the average IT professional through estimating effectively (versus guestimating).   You also need to embed the most cost effective, and time effective, means to measure baselines and project logical improvement deltas at the business and IT border checkpoints.  This will help you facilitate effective Portfolio Planning and  prioritize demand more effectively, prior to having the all up IT/Business Leadership Team Planning marathons.

    “Tests for Success” for Value Realization

    Evidencing the argument about the viability of the IT organization in any company with actual Realized Value is very compelling only if the Value reported passes these tests:

    1. Executive Support.  Wins the support of the executives who will benefit from the IT effort in the organization through proven and measureable results.
    2. Simple and Executable.  Uses “Simple to Understand and Execute” measures and algorithms.
    3. Logical Correlations to the Intangibles.  Exhibited logical correlations between intangible results (e.g. Customer Satisfaction) and monetary KPIs (or P&L report line items).
    4. Conservative.  It needs to be conservative in nature (not bullish and not overly bearish either, but provides a credible range of the benefit that aligns with a proven proxy measure).
    5. Sustainable.  It needs to be a sustainable approach.  It can’t be a one-off, or a heroic work effort. 

    Characteristics of a Successful Value Realization Practitioner

    There are few characteristics or knowledge areas that makes a value practitioner successful in changing the culture and move the Value Organizational Maturity in the right direction:

    1. Financial Intelligence.  Financial, able to understand the common financial metrics a CFO can relate to, able to shine the light on merits and risks using the common financial terms acceptable by the Finance community.
    2. Measuring and Estimating.  Understand the measuring and estimating techniques and able to reach deals with ultra-busy business teams (who typically consider IT organizations as suppliers or order takers), to provide reliable data, and know who to substitute the lack of reliable, large sample size data for example, with conservative measures factoring in an agreed on discounted deltas for lack of higher confidence levels.
    3. Interpersonal Skills.  A seller and artist in the art of crucial conversations, since Planning is a very competitive arena, and convincing those involved in Envision phase to dedicate time to obtain reliable data, not planned for in the original budgeting.
    4. Expertise in the Art and Science of Value Realization.  A person who can hit the ground running in quickly earning the “Trusted Adviser” title by all stakeholders due to his/her knowledge of the tools, methodologies, and acting as the defense attorney with the business case versus the classic perception of the “Auditor” or “Critic” of the spend!
    5. The Value Lens.  Understanding the role of Business Architect and being ready to provide the Value Lens cut to architectural analysis through “Value Stream Mapping”, and capturing measureable problem statements round the process bottle necks in addition to translating a Premise of benefit to a measureable ROI.

    A value practitioner can’t achieve that alone, while overcoming organizational undisciplined Value approaches if any exist at all, lacking individuals Value commitments and the unwillingness of the business customers to engage in meaningful Value (BCA, VRF or BVR efforts), he/she needs air cover and a value sponsors (usually are found in the Finance Community or if lucky, a CIO or a member of two of the senior leadership) to facilitate the conversation and help open the doors.

    Executing Value Realization

    On the tactical and execution level the Value practitioner needs to:

    1. Make it simple. Use technology to share the “Know How” in a very hands on, simple to understand and direct way.
    2. Train the Trainer. Spread the gospel of Value through providing visual illustrations, visually appealing training modules making it easier to grasp the concepts by non-financial individuals. Etc.
    3. Lead by example.  Show willingness to roll the sleeves and help.. show them by doing.
    4. Lean the process. BCA, BVR (VRF) and ROI are the “Trinity of Value”, explain the meaning of each, and how they relate to one another. Lean the process part and standardize the ROI estimation approaches to make it easier for them to improve their Gage “R&R”: Repeatability and Reproducibility in doing the process for every engagement they have and produce the same sustainable results.
    5. Stay Connected to Decision Makers.  Stay connected to the decision makers, they are ultimately the benefactors of the Value work… they are the ones who will have the crucial conversations with their CEO, CFO and senior leaderships.. explain the approach, by simple and clear about it and be upfront in earnestly stating the time commitment. Be sensitive to the politics in each organization, for the last thing you want is to lose support and endorsement you desperately need for something that is totally unrelated to the Value work.

    Three Technical Challenges to Be Aware Of

    The three technical challenges are primarily:

    1. Isolating the effect of the IT project.  When there are multiple efforts going side by side, one of which happens to be the project in question for Value, to achieve a preset goal.
    2. Monetizing the intangibles.   For example, how to quantify and put a dollar amount to customer satisfaction.
    3. How to sell Soft Dollar.  For example, how do you sell the soft dollar (soft savings, potential cost and risk avoidances) side by side with the hard dollars, without over-selling, inflating the estimates, or creating audience rejection?

    There are known techniques that address each, and there are some that I had to improvise to make them fit the maturity stage of the target organization. In all cases, getting stakeholder agreement to the assumptions, transferring functions, and using the Dollar as an IT solution provide horse power to go a long way.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Crush Your Overwhelming List of Things to Do

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

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

    3 simple steps:

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

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

    Why does this work?

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

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

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

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

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

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Press Release for Getting Results the Agile Way

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    image

    Here’s the opening blurb …

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

    Seattle, WA (PRWEB) October 26, 2010

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

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

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

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Satya Nadella on How Success is a Mental Game

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

    How do we play a better game?

    By recognizing our conceptual blocks and removing them.

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

    “It's really a mental game.

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

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

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

    And then you can have a different perspective.”

    When we change our perspective, we change our game.

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

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Blessing Sibanyoni on Value Realization

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    Value Realization is hot.  You can think of Value Realization as simply the value extracted from a process or project. 

    Business leaders want to understand the benefits they’ll get from their technology solutions.   They also want to see the value of their investment deliver benefits and deliver real results along the way.   And, of course, they also want to accelerate adoption so that they can speed up their value realization, as well as help avoid “value leakage".”

    But how do you actually do Value Realization in the real world? …

    This is a guest post by Blessing Sibanyoni.   Blessing delivers advisory, IT architecture, and planning services to Microsoft’s top enterprise customers within the financial services sector.  He has more than 17 years of experience in the IT field.  He is currently an Enterprise Architect and Strategy Advisor on behalf of Microsoft Corporation. 

    As an Enterprise Strategy Advisor, Blessing helps organizations achieve challenging business and organizational goals.  He does so by helping them leverage value from their current and future investments, enabled by technology.  Blessing has a solid record of delivering large and complex initiatives within organizations while always doing this in a mutually beneficial way.  You can connect with Blessing Sibanyoni on LinkedIn.

    Without further ado, here’s Blessing on Value Realization …

    Value in the Eye of the Beholder

    Often we grapple with the notion of value.  At first it seems like a very simple thing but when you really take time to consider it, you realize how complicated and multi-dimensional it becomes.  Take a simple example of a person who follows a methodology, based on best practices, who crosses all the t’s and dots the i’s but at the end of the day experiences a failed project or is unable to reach goals that his customers appreciate.  Or perhaps, what about the notion of another who is highly intelligent but working for someone far less “intelligent” from a credentials or even IQ perspective. 

    What has happened here?

    Why do these paradoxes occur and how do you ensure you are not ending up experiencing the same?

    The Notion of Value

    I would argue that at the heart of these conundrums is the notion of value.  Value is the worth of something in terms of the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged.  Often it’s not about inputs but rather outcomes and many state that you cannot achieve it without effecting a transformation.  The transformation itself can be virtual or manifested in the real world, but for true value to be derived, transformation in whatever form, must transpire. 

    For transformation to transpire a real pain must be felt.

    Fiercely Competing Alternatives

    After spending almost two decades in public and private enterprises, I’m still intrigued by why organizations decide to spend resources on some things and not others.  Often it’s the thing that seem to make the least sense which these organizations decide to put all their resources into. 

    Why?

    This curiosity is one that lingers on especially realizing that resources are often limited and logically, one would naturally be better positioned by focusing on projects or initiatives that offer more returns and deserve more attention.  One could take the cynical view that common sense is not so common, or the perspective that organizations are made of people, and people are irrational and fallible beings that bring their own biases into every situation. 

    So the notion of value then or the expectation of what will bring value is often subjective and largely determined in the eye of the beholder. 

    Quantitative or Qualitative?

    I have met many stakeholders who are more interested in the qualitative rather than the quantitative.  Surprisingly, this is true, even in financial services! 

    Giving such people a quantitative, seemingly logical justification is often destined to result in failure, and the converse is also true.  So, knowing your stakeholders, what drives and resonates with them is more important that coming up with a definitive, objective, rational and quantitative hypothesis in order to convince them to take some action.

    Recently I was fortunate to have worked with a senior executive who was very financially inclined with a major focus on bottom line impact.  This stakeholder did so well in the organization that he was soon promoted.  To my surprise the person who replaced him was much more people oriented and his biggest concerns were around how the changes proposed would impact people within the organization.  The new stakeholder’s view was that people came first and happy employees result in a positive bottom line effect. 

    I believe both execs had a great view, even though it seemed that their perspectives were fundamentally different. 

    The key for me was to ensure that both qualitative and quantitative arguments were well prepared in advance so that we could tell compelling stories that drove the agenda regardless of the different concerns and viewpoints.

    Know Thy Foe

    Knowing your industry and thinking ahead about what your stakeholders may not yet know that they need or desire, is also a very valuable thing to do. 

    Think about the world of tablet computers that nobody knew they needed just a few years ago, yet these things are now taking the world by storm...

    A Few Lessons Learned in the Trenches

    At the beginning I spoke about blind implementation of a methodology being a less than great thing, I would argue that the following steps make great sense around realizing that value, in the eye of the beholder:

    1. First, seek to understand (Analyze the situation, the pains, problems being experienced and clearly identify who is being impacted – empathy is an important quality!)
    2. Take time to synthesize, communicate back the pain at its essence and color your findings with different perspectives
    3. Ensure you leave behind each interaction, always having taught something new to your customer - even if it’s a small thing. 
    4. Make your plan of action ensuring you focus on what will be high impact and high value to your stakeholder without losing sight of the bigger picture and remaining realistic  
    5. Take action, early and often whilst being nimble and adaptable as necessary
    6. Always endeavor to be mutualistic.  The power of reciprocity really goes a long way!

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Anatomy of a High-Potential

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

    The Anatomy of a High-Potential

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

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

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

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

    High-Potential Defined

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

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

    Baseline Requirements

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

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

    Moving Up the Stack – From Value Creator to Game Changer

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

     

    image

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

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Stephen Kell on Value Realization

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    This is a guest post by Stephen Kell on Value Realization and how it can help IT organizations stay relevant through changing times, as well as become a strategic partner within the organization.  For background, Stephen is a Microsoft Enterprise Architect with extensive experience in Telecoms, Manufacturing, Financial Services and government sectors.  Over the course of his career, he has played various roles including CTO, IT Director, Enterprise Architect, and Principal Consultant.

    Without further ado, here’s Stephen on lessons learned in Value Realization …

    IT: Valued Partner or Costly Infrastructure Provider?

    During my time working within IT, I have found that business value is something that project teams worry about at the beginning of the project in order to justify initial investment but then is often forgotten as the project goes into the build and implementation phases. During these phases the emphasis is placed on the budget and timescales of the project. Scope changes are made to fit in with the budget and timescales without any thought as to the effect on the business value delivered. ‘On-time and on-budget’ is the project managers’ mantra whereas it should be ‘on-time, on-budget and business value delivered’.

    A Lack of Business Value Results in Side-Lined IT

    This lack of emphasis on business value delivered gives the business the view that IT is a cost center which provides an essential service rather than seeing IT as a valued business partner. This view is reflected in the position of IT departments under the CFO rather than as a valued member of the board reporting into the CEO or even as part of a business strategy group. The way technical people tend to communicate does not help. Often there is a long explanation of the technical merits of a solution followed by ‘it will save the user 2 hours per day’. This is where value models come in which allow the conversation to have some structure in order to attract and hold the attention of the business community.

    IT is so important to the business but they often get frustrated with the IT department’s perceived inability to deliver and thus set up their own Business Unit IT departments, side-lining the IT department to acting as the provider of infrastructure only. This trend was highlighted in the recent MIT CISR 2013 Annual Research Forum in Boston.

    Know What the Business Values, Measures, and Reports to Stay Relevant

    In order to be able to communicate the value of IT to the business, the CIO and his team need to know what the business values and how these are measured and reported:

    • Financial – what are the financial measures that need to be met?
    • Business strategy – what aligns to the current business strategy? Is there an IT based disruptor that needs to be factored into the business strategy such as enterprise social?
    • Market and industry trends – what are the trends and how can the organization exploit them using technology?
    • Regulatory changes – what regulatory changes are coming to which the organization needs to adhere?
    • People – what are the values of the organization and what will attract, retain and engage staff? Will using 10 year old technology on a system that takes 10 minutes to boot up attract and retain the right staff, or do they want the latest technology similar to the technology they use at home?
    • Social responsibility – does IT align to the social responsibility and ethical business agenda of the company?
    • Business Decision Maker’s personal drivers – what is important to the internal customer? What is he/she measured on: Revenue, margin, market penetration, expanding to new markets, acquiring new companies, changing the demographics of the customer base, other?
    • Ability to execute – can the organization put the necessary changes in place to realize the value? Has the required change management been taken into account in the project costs and plan?
    • Time to value and windows of opportunity – how long does it take before the value starts being realized and is there a window of opportunity which needs to be hit?

    Use Value Models to Bring a Level of Maturity to the Value Discussion

    How many people in the IT department know and understand the above value dimensions? Most of this information is readily available internally (and often externally). Taking time to understand what the organization values will mean that the IT department becomes much more relevant to the business and the business will start to listen and value the insights that the CIO and his team can bring, enabling them to be at the core of the decision making process and not side-lined.

    By using value models the CIO can bring a level of maturity to the value discussion which might well be missing from the business. The CFO will have some financial models but these will not necessarily cover all of the dimensions of value. This can also be a challenge for the CIO; if there are not mature value models within the business then it is difficult to articulate the value of IT.

    It’s Difficult to Model and Measure Value

    Having said that, it is difficult to model and measure value. Other blog entries on this subject have covered the Observable, Measurable, Quantifiable and Financial categorization of value so I won’t go into detail here but would point out that financial models do not cover all the goals and drivers of certain organizations. Public sector organizations and charities are about delivering social value to the countries/communities that they serve and therefore the Social Impact has to be taken into account as well as the financial aspects and indeed the Social Impact can be much more important than the financial measures. Even commercial companies are now putting emphasis on value other than pure financial such as environmental impact, or helping the unemployed back into work.

    Whereas there are some fairly mature models for modeling the financial side of a business, there are very few models for modeling the Social Impact of an organization. I have discussed this in more detail in the following blog post:

    Understanding How To Measure the Value of Public Sector Projects

    Learn Value Models and Frameworks to Play a Strategic Role Within the Organization

    So in conclusion, business value to the organization is a very important concept for IT leadership teams to get their head around if they want to play a strategic role within the organization. Without a good understanding of business value there is the risk that they will be relegated to the side-lines as the provider of the infrastructure whilst the business units set up their own IT departments. Researching the different value models and frameworks should be a priority for IT leaders who have not already done so. Understanding what the business values and delivering to increase that business value keeps the IT department at the heart of the organization as a valued partner.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Business Books

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

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

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

    My strategy section of my business books includes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Success Articles for Work and Life

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    "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." -- Winston Churchill

    I now have more than 300 articles on the topic of Success to help you get your game on in work and life:

    Success Articles

    That’s a whole lot of success strategies and insights right at your fingertips. (And it includes the genius from a wide variety of sources including  Scott Adams, Tony Robbins, Bruce Lee, Zig Ziglar, and more.)

    Success is a hot topic. 

    Success has always been a hot topic, but it seems to be growing in popularity.  I suspect it’s because so many people are being tested in so many new ways and competition is fierce.

    But What is Success? (I tried to answer that using Zig Ziglar’s frame for success.)

    For another perspective, see Success Defined (It includes definitions of success from Stephen Covey and John Maxwell.)

    At the end of the day, the most important definition of success, is the one that you apply to you and your life.

    People can make or break themselves based on how they define success for their life.

    Some people define success as another day above ground, but for others they have a very high, and very strict bar that only a few mere mortals can ever achieve.

    That said, everybody is looking for an edge.   And, I think our best edge is always our inner edge.

    As my one mentor put it, “the fastest thing you can change in any situation is yourself.”  And as we all know, nature favors the flexible.  Our ability to adapt and respond to our changing environment is the backbone of success.   Otherwise, success is fleeting, and it has a funny way of eluding or evading us.

    I picked a few of my favorite articles on success.  These ones are a little different by design.  Here they are:

    Scott Adam’s (Dilbert) Success Formula

    It’s the Pebble in Your Shoe

    The Wolves Within

    Personal Leadership Helps Renew You

    The Power of Personal Leadership

    Tony Robbins on the 7 Traits of Success

    The Way of Success

    The future is definitely uncertain.  I’m certain of that.   But I’m also certain that life’s better with skill and that the right success strategies under your belt can make or break you in work and life.

    And the good news for us is that success leaves clues.

    So make like a student and study.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

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

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    Beautiful.

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

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

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

    Here is what Gartner says …

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

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

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Friday Links 08-19-2011

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

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

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

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

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Job Creation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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