J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Why So Many Ideas Die or Don't Get Adopted


    I didn’t know whether to call this why adoption fails, or why ideas die, but regardless, they are deeply related. After all, one of the main reasons ideas die is that they don’t get adopted, so they fizzle out. It’s usage that gives an idea enough legs to blossom and bloom.

    I see the same recurring patterns again and again around why ideas don’t get adopted, so I thought I’d share some.

    You Didn’t Share It

    One of the most common patterns is somebody thinks up an idea. That’s as far as they get.

    You Didn’t Test It

    This is related to the first pattern. You thought up a potentially neat idea, but you didn’t try it out or test it to find out where, or if, the rubber actually meets the road. This is where some Agile approaches have had an advantage in bridging the reality gap. I’m a fan of “spiking” and exploration. Why “spiking”? Because, you can focus on the high-risk, and test it end-to-end with a thin slice (and thin slices reveal a lot.)

    You Threw it Over the Wall

    The pattern I see here is somebody or some team comes up with a great idea. Then somebody decides that it’s another person or team’s job to implement it. So the idea gets “thrown over the wall.” Sure, people might write up a bunch of specs or a bunch of docs about how somebody is supposed to adopt it, but that just about never works in the early stages of an idea. It’s the startup stage. That only works when you’ve matured an idea to the point where it’s a “transaction.” In the early stages, the idea usually requires a “relationship” play, because you have to transfer a lot of tribal knowledge. You have to get the kinks out. You have to learn what you didn’t know, and you have to build some empathy around the adoption pains. This is how ideas flourish.

    Not Invented Here

    There is a surprise here. Usually what I see is somebody or some team comes up with the best thing since sliced bread. Then they want others to adopt it. Others don’t adopt it. So the person or team with the idea, concludes, oh, they won’t use it because, it’s “not invented here.” What I see behind the scenes though is that other people or teams would love to adopt the idea, but they don’t know how. The person or team with the idea threw it over the wall. They expect the other people or teams to figure it out, because it’s such a good idea, that it speaks for itself. The devil is in the details, and the friction or barriers to adoption wear most people out. People don’t have all the time in the world to keep playing with other people’s ideas until they figure them out.

    It’s sad, but that’s how so many ideas idea.

    The lesson I learned long ago is that if you want somebody to adopt your ideas is that you have to do it for them or with them. It’s a small price to pay for getting over the humps of adoption. It’s not an ongoing thing either. Once people “get it” they run with it, but only if you’ve helped them get that far to begin with.

    And that’s how ideas flourish and bloom.

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    Program Management Tip - Save Time by Working on What Actually Counts


    One of the most valuable lessons I learned early on in Program Management at Microsoft, is that value is in the eye of the beholder.

    One common pitfall is throwing a lot of time and effort at things, only to find that when you’re done, nobody cares. If you keep feeling a lack of appreciation, then ask yourself, “Who was I doing it for?” If it was for yourself, was it what you most cared about, or could you have invested the same time in something else and felt like you made a more important impact. If you were doing it for somebody else, ask them whether what you’re working on is really the most important thing to them. If you’re working on a lot of low-priority items, don’t expect to get the rewards. In fact, a pattern is that the more you work on low-priority items, the more you become a dumping ground. The more you become a dumping ground, the busier you get; the busier you get, the more overloaded you will feel. Now the worst happens—you’re overworked, underappreciated, and no fun to be around. By failing to work on what’s valuable and by failing to understand and reset expectations, you’ve worked yourself into an unrewarding, high-stress scenario.

    On the flip side, working on the things that you value, inspires your passion, keeps you engaged, and builds momentum.  Balance that with things that are valued by others, and be deliberate.  Sometimes you have to choose you.  Sometimes you have to flex and bend.  Sometimes it’s “meet me in the middle.”  Sometimes it’s simply reframing what you’re doing in a way that speaks to others, or vice-versa.  Simply making mindful choices can help you dial up your passion where it counts.  It’s a force multiplier.

    To be a more effective Program Manager, start asking the question, “Who’s it for?” or “Who’s asking for that?” or “How important is that?” (and everything is always a trade-off.)

    Note -- This tip is from my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, a simple time management system,  and you can find more free time management tips in the Getting Results Knowledge Base.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Action Guidelines


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

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

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

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

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

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

    Meaningful Work


    Meaningful outcomes are the backbone of meaningful work. Meaningful outcomes help guide and shape your meaningful work.

    If you have a vision for the end in mind, then you have something to work towards. To figure out meaningful outcomes, you ask yourself what you want to accomplish.   Another simple way to do this is to ask yourself, “What will the wins be?”

    One of the challenges is when it feels like your work has no meaning. Keep in mind that you are the ultimate filter for everything that happens in your life. You assign the meaning to your work. Make the work meaningful. One way to create meaning is to master your craft. Do so by focusing on continuous learning and improvement. Teaching your craft and being a mentor for others is another way to both amplify your learning and your impact.

    Work on stuff that’s valued, and remember that value is in the eye of the beholder. This makes work more meaningful. You should be aware whether it’s valued by you, by your employer, or by your customer. It’s fine if it’s valuable to you but nobody else, but be aware of it, and make it a mindful choice. You may be in the wrong line of work or working on the wrong thing.

    This is a tip from my book, Getting Results the Agile Way (now on a Kindle), a time management system for achievers.  You can test drive the system by taking the 30 Day Boot Camp for Getting Results, a free time management training course.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Be the Next Microsoft Employee Finale


    Here’s a little fun …

    … Are you the next Microsoft employee?

    Here is the final episode of Be the Next Microsoft Employee, where the winner gets the grand prize -- a job at Microsoft.   It really happens too – the winner started July 30th, 2012.  Check out the finale episode of Be the Next Microsoft Employee:

    (Note – If the video doesn’t play for you, try watching directly on YouTube at Be the Next Microsoft Employee.)

    It’s a great little video.   One of the contestants even poses the question – “To Azure? … or Not to Azure?”

    If you think just being technically strong is the name of the game, that’s not so.

    I couldn’t help but think of shtick by comedian Mitch Hedberg where he complains that to be a comedian, you have to be more than a comedian to be successful. “So you're a comedian, but can you act? … It's like asking a cook, OK, so you're a chef, but can you farm?”

    I liked this comment by judge, Tim DiMarco:

    “In addition to technical skills, your ability to communicate your ideas effectively, collaborate across teams, and be able to sell your ideas is critical to long term success at Microsoft.”

    I also liked these other comments and pointers by the judges:

    • Have an explicit tie-in between WHY you do something, so people can follow WHAT you want to do.
    • Don't make big bold claims or guarantees in a technical conversation.   And watch for technical accuracies.
    • Start with the positive.  If you lead with the negative of the technology, you lose people.
    • Review and summarize what you're doing and why up front to set the stage, and keep it simple.
    • Actually show the priority in how you want to address the requirements.
    • Connect what you are doing back to what the customer wants or needs.   Make it relevant, and don’t’ make them have to make the connection.   Make the connection between your solution, and their problem, for them.

    Here are some of the folks involved in making this happen:

    • Creator/Executive Producer - Mark Protus
    • Host/Director - Fred Northup, Jr.
    • Judges:  Buck Woody, Tim DiMarco
    • Guest Judges: Karen Lopez, Pete Harris

    You can explore the Microsoft Learning team’s Be the Next Microsoft Employee Home Page where all of the episodes are available, as well as more information about the show.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Time Management Tips #5 - Reduce the Friction in Your Day



    Little things that get in our way, wear us down.  By creating a few glide paths in our day, we can jumpstart and maintain our momentum.  Daily momentum is a key ingredient to making things happen.

    Time management tips #5 is -- reduce the friction in your day.  Friction is the resistance we feel, when we go to do something.  It might be extra steps in our process.  It might be clutter that gets in our way.  It might be the inconvenience of where we put things.  All these little friction points add up.

    The goal is to reduce the bottlenecks in your day, and give yourself a handful of friction-free experiences.  For example, paths in your house should not be an obstacle course over laundry or toys.  Your computer desktop should have fast access to your most common apps.  You shouldn't have to do awkward moves whether it's reaching for shampoo, or getting a glass, or throwing out the garbage (and finding the garbage should not be a game of hide and go seek.)

    Your key measure is how you feel, and whether you have to work too hard, to do something simple.  The more you have to do something each day, the simpler you should make it.

    Here are a few examples that have worked for me.

    1. I stuck my sneakers next to my bed, so I could waked up, throw my sneakers on, and hit my elliptical machine.
    2. I keep the path to my desk clear, so I can throw my bag down, slap my laptop into position, and hop on, in seconds.
    3. I keep a zero inbox, so when I check my mail, it's only new stuff.
    4. I keep my desktop empty, so I always have a clutter-free experience.
    5. I made space on my shelves, so I can easily add books, without having to squish them in.
    6. I keep my vitamins lined up in a simple way, so I can grab and go.
    7. I keep notepad open, so I always have a fast dumping ground for ideas, tasks, or notes.
    8. I use sticky notes in my books, so that I can put them back on the shelf and quickly find my placeholders.
    9. I keep the space in front of my whiteboards clear, so it's easy to huddle the team around the board on the fly.
    10. I double up on things if it helps to have them handy, such as a water bottle at work and home, a sticky pad at my desk, and in the car, etc.

    If you get creative, you can find a lot of ways to simplify your daily moves and experiences. Some of the main ideas are:

    1. Allow for fast and simple moves.
    2. Have a place for things, so you can put things in their place.
    3. If something bugs you, see if you can deal with it.  Don't just let it bug you every day.
    4. Keep space available on your desk, on your shelves, on your bookcases, in your laptop bag, etc.
    5. Make your worst chores, the easiest things to do.

    The mantra is … the more friction free you can be, the more momentum you can build.   Don’t let things break your stride, and don’t let things slow you down.

    In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the exercise and Reduce Friction and Create Glide-Paths for Your Day to 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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    Time Management Tips #8 - Power Up with Purpose



    Nothing helps you stay the course, or pick up the pace, or deal with setbacks like purpose.  One of the best ways to focus, get your groove on, and make things happen is the power of purpose.

    Time management tips #8 is power up with purpose.  Purpose is they "why" behind what you do.  It gives you a meaningful mission to apply your strengths, experience, and talent.  In the absence of purpose, you lose your drive.  After all, it's hard to bring out your best when there's no motivating mission.

    Purpose comes in all shapes and sizes.  Some say, "Go big or go home."  For many, that's a way to step up to the plate.  A way to swing with all their might.  A way to dream big dreams.  Here's what this might look like:

    - I’m the researcher who finds the truth.
    - I’m the developer who writes the code to change the world.
    - I’m the coach who helps make others great.
    - I’m the musician who makes people feel alive.
    - I’m the poet who makes people think.

    Purpose doesn't have to be grandiose to be effective. For others, a simple meaningful purpose is all they need. Heres' what this might look like:

    - I’m the technical specialist who helps customers succeed on the platform.
    - I’m the Program Manager who helps customers share cool experiences.
    - I’m the glue who connects the UI to the developers.

    Roles and goals are a simple way to find purpose.  Take your role, line it up with the goal, and make that your mission or your purpose.  Here are some that I have used:

    - I am the PM who shapes the cloud story for end-to-end engagements in the Enterprise.
    - I am the PM who shapes the Microsoft application story for customer success.
    - I am the Pm who shapes the security and performance story for LOB apps.

    You can make the purpose for the day, the week, the month, the year, etc.  You know you nailed it when it inspires you to action, and it helps you get out of bed in the morning.

    Create a one-liner reminder of your purpose that you can use today, to make your mission more meaningful.

    In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the time management exercises to find your purpose 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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    Cloud Scenarios at Your Fingertips


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

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


    Business and IT Scenarios for the Cloud


    Category Scenarios
    Business Scenarios

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

    IT Scenarios

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Key Links

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    How To Rapidly Brainstorm and Share Ideas with Method 635


    So, if you have a bunch of smart people, a bunch of bright ideas, and everybody wants to talk at the same time ... what do you do?

    Or, you have a bunch of smart people, but they are quiet and nobody is sharing their bright ideas, and the squeaky wheel gets the oil ... what do you do?

    Whenever you get a bunch of smart people together to change the world it helps to have some proven practices for better results.

    One of the techniques a colleague shared with me recently is Method 635.  It stands for six participants, three ideas, and five rounds of supplements. 

    He's used Method 635 successfully to get a large room of smart people to brainstorm ideas and put their top three ideas forward.

    Here's how he uses Method 635 in practice.

    1. Split the group into 6 people per table (6 people per team or table).
    2. Explain the issue or challenge to the group, so that everybody understands it. Each group of 6 writes down 3 solutions to the problem (5 minutes).
    3. Go five rounds (5 minutes per round).  During each round, pass the ideas to the participant's neighbor (one of the other participants).  The participant's neighbor will add three additional ideas or modify three of the existing ones.
    4. At the end of the five rounds, each team votes on their top three ideas (5 minutes.)  For example, you can use “impact” and “ability to execute” as criteria for voting (after all, who cares about good ideas that can't be done, and who cares about low-value ideas that can easily be executed.)
    5. Each team presents their top three ideas to the group.  You could then vote again, by a show of hands, on the top three ideas across the teams of six.

    The outcome is that each person will see the original three solutions and contribute to the overall set of ideas.

    By using this method, if each of the 5 rounds is 5 minutes, and if you take 10 minutes to start by explaining the issue, and you give teams 5 minutes to write down their initial set of 3 ideas, and then another 5 minutes at the end to vote, and another 5 minutes to present, you’ve accomplished a lot within an hour.   Voices were heard.  Smart people contributed their ideas and got their fingerprints on the solutions.  And you’ve driven to consensus by first elaborating on ideas, while at the same time, driving to convergence and allowing refinement along the way.

    Not bad.

    All in a good day’s work, and another great example of how structuring an activity, even loosely structuring an activity, can help people bring out their best.

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    Creating Career Opportunities


    How do you create career opportunities?   You reinvent yourself.

    While you can always hope for things to land in your lap, there are specific patterns I see successful people do.  Among those that continuously create the best career opportunities, here are the key success patterns:

    1. They invest in themselves.  They’re always learning, and taking some sort of training, beyond their day job.
    2. They reinvent themselves.  As a result of investing in themselves, they grow new capabilities.   With their new capabilities, they expand the opportunities they can easily plug themselves into.  For example, a few of my friends started to focus on data science in anticipation of big data, as one of the key trends for 2013 and beyond.  As part of re-inventing themselves, they re-brand themselves to better showcase what they’re bringing to the table.
    3. They build connections before they need them.  It’s always been a game of who you know and what you know, but now more than ever, your network can be the difference that makes the difference when it comes to finding out about relevant opportunities.
    4. They know who’s job they want.   They have a role-model or two that already does the job they want.  The role-model exemplifies how they want to show up, how they want to spend their time, and through that role-model they learn the types of challenges they want to take on, and they get better perspective on what the life-style is actually like.  This not only helps them get clarity on the type of job they want, but it helps when they tell other people the kind of job they want, and can point to specific examples.
    5. They know the market.   They pay attention to where the action is.   They don’t just follow their passion.  They follow the money, too, to know where the growth is, and where there’s value to be captured.  As the saying goes, every market has niches, but not every niche has a market.
    6. They have a mentor, and a “board of directors.”   They use a circle of trusted advisors that can help clue them into where to grow their strengths, and how to find better opportunities, based on what they’re capable of.   It might be their “wolf pack”, but more often than not, it’s a seasoned mentor or two that has great introspection, and can see what they can’t, and they can help them to see things from a balcony view.  Most importantly, the sharp mentors, the wise and able ones, help them to know their Achilles heal, and get past glass ceilings, and avoid career limiting moves.
    7. They have a sponsor.  Like a game of Chutes and Ladders, skilled sponsors help them find the short-cuts, avoid the dead ends, and avoid sliding backwards.

    If you’re wondering where the best career opportunities are, sometimes it’s the job you’ve already got, sometimes you have to go find them, and sometimes, you have to make them.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Advice is for Winners


    One of the best books I've read recently is Advice is for Winners, by Raul Valdes-Perez.   It's all about how to get advice for better decisions in work and life.  I’ve written a deep review on it:

    Book Review: Advice is for Winners

    It's a great book whether you are an advice seeker, or serve in a trusted advisor role.   It helps you with either role, because the author shares an in-depth look at what holds back people from taking advice, as well as the qualities that make an advisor more effective.

    On a personal note, I've had to learn how to seek advice with skill, back when I first joined Microsoft.  I started out in Developer Support and it really was a team sport.  It was rare for any individual to have all the knowledge to address the complex issues that came our way.  Instead, the key was to be very good at finding the answers and expertise around the world.   It’s true that two-heads are better than one, and there is a lot of power in the collective perspective – if you know how to use it.

    When I joined the Microsoft patterns & practices team, I had to learn how to be good at both seeking out experts as well as giving deep advice about how to put our platform together and make the most of it.   One of the biggest challenges I faced on a daily basis was conflicting advice from qualified experts.

    At the end of the day, I learned how to use test cases to find and validate the answers and solutions.   To do this well, I need to use scenarios and context both to weed out generic or irrelevant advice, and to be able to test advice.  Interestingly, the key to finding a solution often involved being able to "repro" (reproduce) the problem or challenge.

    Once you could "repro" the problem, you could share it with others and get their heads in the game.  Also, often while trying to create a repro, you would find out what the real problem was, or at least, get clarity in the decisions and assumptions.

    Sometimes, trying to reproduce the problem wasn't practical, so instead, the goal would be to understand the context or scenario as best you could, and construct a skeletal solution in incremental steps.   This way, when somebody tries to duplicate the solution, if something doesn't work along the way, you can usually backtrack to the basic steps.  Effectively, you can gradually build up from a working foundation, and when a part of it, doesn't work, you can isolate it, and troubleshoot what's different about the particular context (such as security context, or configuration, etc.)

    Back to the book … in Advice is for Winners, Raul provides a great distillation and synthesis on the art of getting advice with skill.  What I especially like about the book is that it very much matches what I’ve learned the hard way about giving and getting advice.   Raul does a fantastic job of helping you get over any limiting beliefs or mindset that might hold you back from seeking advice.   He also does a great job of articulating what holds us back from getting the advice we need.  

    The backbone of the book is an actionable framework for getting advice that’s principle-based and easy to personalize.  If you aren’t sure how to approach people to ask for help, this framework will help you get over that.  If you aren’t sure how to deal with conflicting advice, the guidance will help you get over that, too.  If you aren’t sure what scenarios to even seek out advice, Raul provides very specific examples and stories.  To bottom line it, what you don’t know, can hurt you, and building your advice seeking skills can be a powerful investment that pays you back for the rest of your life in exponential ways that you can’t yet predict.

    For a "movie-trailer” style book review of Advice is for Winners, see Book Review: Advice is for Winners.

    Becoming a skilled advice seeker might be one of the best capabilities you can build to improve your personal effectiveness.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Xbox One


    image“Xbox One is designed to deliver a whole new generation of blockbuster games, television and entertainment in a powerful, all-in-one device” -- Don Mattrick, president, Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft

    Key Features of Xbox One

    • Integrates the cloud, voice control and gesture technology.
    • All-in-one entertainment solution: Live TV + video-on-demand + web chat.
    • Measure your heartbeat
    • Recognize your voice
    • Voice activation, motion, and facial recognition control the Xbox One
    • A new set of universal gestures to control your TV
    • Improved Kinect sensor will track wrist and shoulder rotations
    • TV on Xbox One“Navigate and watch live TV from your cable, telco or satellite set-top box through your Xbox One. Microsoft is committed to bringing live TV through various solutions to all the markets where Xbox One will be available.”
    • Snap Mode.   Offers a second screen and allows users to run two activities – such as watching TV and browsing the internet, or using Skype – simultaneously.
    • Home. Turn on your entertainment system with two powerful words, “Xbox On,” and a custom-tailored Home dashboard welcomes you with your favorite games, TV and entertainment.”
    • Skype for Xbox One. “Specially designed for Xbox One, talk with friends on your TV in stunning HD, or for the first time ever, hold group Skype calls on your TV.”
    • Trending“Stay on top of what is hot on TV by discovering the entertainment that is popular among your friends, and see what is trending within the Xbox community.”
    • OneGuide  “Find your favorite entertainment easily, searching by network or name, all with the sound of your voice and presented in a tailored program guide.”
    • Content maker + platform provider
    • Main camera can record 1080P RGB video at 30 frames per second.
    • Powered by 300,000 servers (more than the entire world's computing power in 1999)
    • 8 gigs of RAM, 8-core CPU and GPU SoC, and a substantial 500GB HDD
    • A Blu-ray drive as well as USB 3.0 and integrated 802.11n Wi-Fi.

    Microsoft Summary of New Generation of Xbox Live

    • Smart Match. “A new Smart Match matchmaking system virtually eliminates waiting in lobbies by estimating wait times and finding people you want to play with while you are enjoying other activities — reputation fundamentally matters and helps find best matches.”
    • Game DVR. “A dedicated Game DVR captures and accesses your magic moments, all saved to the cloud. Along with sharing tools, you will have the most amazing bragging rights with Xbox Live.”
    • Living Games. “Dynamic, living worlds evolve and improve the more you play, and advanced artificial intelligence can learn to play like you, so friends can play against your shadow.”
    • Expanded achievements. “A new and expanded achievements system captures video of your epic moments, continues to grow a game’s achievements over time and rewards you in new ways, and your Gamerscore carries over from Xbox 360.”
    • Xbox SmartGlass.“Xbox SmartGlass is natively part of the Xbox One platform, built in from the beginning with the ability to quickly render content directly onto your device, and now more devices can connect at one time for multiplayer and shared entertainment.”

    Microsoft Summary of Xbox One Look and Feel

    • “New Xbox One hardware is sleek and modern and complements any décor. The console is shaped in the 16:9 aspect ratio and employs a horizontal orientation optimized for its high-speed Blu-ray™ disc player. It is molded in a deep and rich liquid black color and includes a distinctive beveled edge.”
    • The completely redesigned, revolutionary 1080p Kinect is more precise, more responsive and more intuitive.”
    • “Xbox controller is refreshed with more than 40 technical and design innovations. Updated directional pad, thumb stick and ergonomic fit immerse all gamers in ways that are uniquely Xbox, and precision and control have been dramatically increased with all new vibrating impulse triggers.  The Xbox One Wireless Controller is designed to work in concert with the new Kinect, allowing the two to be paired automatically to create seamless player syncing.”

    Interesting Deals for Xbox One

    • NFL Deal - Integrate coverage of the sport with game-like elements such as a Fantasy Football app, allowing viewers to manager their own fantasy sides while watching the real thing in action.
    • Stephen Spielberg Deal - Stephen Spielberg will be producing a TV series based on the best-selling Halo game, exclusively available to Xbox One.
    • EA Games - Four new titles exclusive to Xbox:  FIFA 14, NBA Live, UFC and Madden.

    Analysts on Xbox One

    • Gartner: "The Xbox One really looks to advance the state of video game technology and entertainment in a way that we haven't seen before," said Brian Blau, a director of Gartner Research."
    • Greenwich Consulting: "The Xbox One is set to mark the beginning of a new generation of games, TV and entertainment." -- Fred Huet, a managing partner at Greenwich Consulting

    Key Links for Xbox One

    You Might Also Like

    Microsoft Secret Stuff

    The Microsoft Story

    Microsoft Explained: Making Sense of the Microsoft Platform Story

    Microsoft Developer Platform at a Glance

    Office 365 at a Glance

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    30 Day Boot Camp for Getting Results: Free Time Management Training for Achievers


    Getting Results the Agile Way is a time management system for achievers.  It combines some of the best practices for thinking, feeling, and taking action into one simple system to help you make the most of what you’ve got, and master your time management skills.  It draws from software development, project management, positive psychology, and sports psychology.

    Free Time Management Training
    As an introduction to the system, I created a free 30 Day Boot Camp for Getting Results.   It's called a boot camp because it's hard-core.  It's a 30 day, self-paced time management training course.  If you want to take your time management skills to the next level, then take the 30 Day Boot Camp for Getting Results.   Keep in mind that because it’s self-paced, you could do all 30 lessons in a day, if you choose to.  This may be one of the best time management training courses you ever take, and the price is tough to beat.

    Time Management Skills
    Here are some of the time management skills you will learn, tune, and improve as part of the time management training:

    • How to manage your time
    • How to focus and direct your attention with skill
    • How to spend more time on the things that really matter to you
    • How to be the author of your life and write your story forward
    • How to make the most of your your moments, days, weeks, months, and years
    • How to use a simple system to achieve meaningful results
    • How to achieve work-life balance
    • How to play to your strengths and spend less time in weaknesses
    • How to motivate yourself with skill and find your drive
    • How to change a habit and make it stick
    • How to improve your personal productivity and personal effectiveness

    You will learn time management tips and strategies as part of a system, each lesson can be used by itself or “better together” with other lessons.

    Time Management Training Lessons at a Glance
    Here are the 30 Lessons at a Glance that make up the time management training:

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

    Key Links

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    How To–Design Your Week with Skill


    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.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    5 of the Best Books I’ve Read Recently on Getting Jobs, Doing Leadership, and Presenting with Skill


    I read a lot.  I read fast.  I go through a lot of books each month.  Books help give me new ideas and ways to do things better, faster, and cheaper.   Books are one of the best ways I get the edge in work and life.

    Here are the 5 of the best books I’ve read recently, along with links to my reviews:

    1. When Can You Start? How to ACE the Interview and Win the Job, by Paul Freiberger
    2. Advice is for Winners: How to Get Advice for Better Decisions in Life and Work, by Raul Valdes-Perez
    3. The Power of Starting Something Stupid: Make Dreams Happen, and Live without Regret, by Richie Norton
    4. Stories that Move Mountains: Storytelling and Visual Design for Persuasive Presentations, by Martin Sykes, A. Nicklas Malik, and Mark D. West
    5. It’s Already Inside: Nurturing Your Innate Leadership for Business and Life Success, by Robert Murray


    When Can You Start?, as the name implies, is all about turning interviews into job offers.   It’s a quick read and it tackles many of the common pitfalls you can run into during the interview process.  Best of all, it provides a methodical approach for preparing for your interviews, by using your resume as a platform for telling your story in a relevant way.   If you’re trying to find a job, this is a great book for helping you get your head in the game, and stand out from the crowd, during the interview process.

    Advices is for Winners is a cornucopia of insights and actions for creating an effective board of advisors to help you in work and life.   I thought it would be a fluff book, but it was actually a very technical guide.  It's written by an engineer, so the advice is very specific, and very data-driven.  It includes a lot of lists, such as 6 benefits of getting advice, 22 questions for scoring a scenario, and 28 reasons why people resist advice.  Mentors are the short-cuts and getting better advice is how you get ahead.

    The Power of Starting Something Stupid is all about how to crush fear, make dreams happen, and live without regret.   In the forward, Stephen Covey wrote: "It reminds each of us that all things are possible, that life is short, and to take action now."

    Stories that Move Mountains introduces the CAST system for creating visual stories.  It’s a powerful book about how to improve your presentation skills using storytelling and visuals.  I ended up using some of the ideas in one of my presentations recently to senior leadership, and it helped me prioritize and sequence my slides in a far more effective way.

    It's Already Inside directly addresses the question, "Are leaders born or made?"  The book is a really great synthesis of the leadership habits and practices that will make you a more productive and more effective leader.

    Each of these books has something for you in it.  Of course, the challenge for you is to dive inside, find the gems that ring true for you, and apply them.

    Happy reading.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    30 Day Improvement Sprints Revisited


    “No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.”  -- Voltaire

    With New Years, coming, I think it's a good time to remind you of a technique you can use to increase your success exponentially.

    It's 30 Day Improvement Sprints.  If you have a goal in mind that you seriously want to nail, then 30 Day Improvement Sprints might be exactly what you need to help you knock it out of the park.  I've talked about 30 Day Improvements Sprints here on this blog, but I've also shared them in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.

    What You Need to Know About 30 Day Improvement Sprints
    Here's what you need to know about 30 Day Improvement Sprints

    1. Chip away at any stone.  30 days is a great way to chip away at any stone.
    2. Use them as a force multiplier.  By doing a little something each day toward your goal, it adds up.  It's a force multiplier.
    3. It’s easier to sustain, because it’s not forever.  It's a sprint, meaning you can apply extra force and focus, since you don't have to sustain it forever.   This is especially helpful for experiments and changing behaviors or habits.
    4. Get a fresh start each month.  You get to choose a focus each month.  Each month is a new page.  A fresh start.  A do-over.
    5. Meaningful months.  Rise above the noise.  When you have a theme for the month, you have something bigger you are working towards.

    Born Out of Necessity
    I originally created 30 Day Improvement Sprints as a way to deal with the fact that I had competing priorities.  I had a lot of things I wanted to focus on, but then I was constantly hopping back and forth, and not making enough progress on any one thing.  Then I stepped back and look at my year as a portfolio of possibility.   I have 12 months to invest and play around with.  I then asked the question, what if I used each month as a way to focus on something I really wanted to learn or improve?  Then each month, I could either pick the same thing again, or choose something new.  Finally, rather than do everything at once, I could focus on one key theme for the month, knowing that next month, I could then focus on my next big thing.  The side benefit of this is peace of mind.   When you have a time or a place for things, you can put them to rest.  Otherwise, they keep competing for your attention, until you finally say, next month is when I’ll focus on XYZ.

    Benefits of 30 Day Improvement Sprints
    30 Day Improvement Sprints turned out to be one of my biggest game changers.  Here are some of the benefits I experienced:

    1. Monthly Themes.  I had a specific focus or theme for the month.  This alone was worth it's weight in gold.
    2. Breakthroughs.  I was suddenly having breakthroughs because I was spending enough time on a problem.
    3. Exponential learning.   Because it was a longer stretch of time, I started taking on new challenges, and learning new things.
    4. Changing habits.  Changing habits became easier because I could easily set a theme and focus for the month, and just do a little each day.
    5. Domain deep dives.  The distinctions and insights that I learned from focusing on a goal for the month, lead to some deep discoveries and self-awareness.

    Examples of 30 Day Improvement Sprints
    I used 30 Day Improvement Sprints for everything from learning Windows Azure to improving roller blading to experimenting with eating living foods and getting 10 years younger.   One of my most memorable 30 Day Improvement Sprints was a focus on 30 Days of Getting Results.   Each day, for 30 days, I took 20 minutes to write about one thing that really helped me achieve better, faster, and simpler results.   The results was a large body of insight and action with mini-lessons for getting your groove on and changing your game.   (I ended up creating a free 30 Days of Getting Results eBook to put it all at your finger tips.  If there’s enough interest, I’ll figure out how to put it on the Kindle too.   It’s the perfect thing to help you start the New Year with some of the best patterns and practices for getting results on your side.)

    Results at Work
    I’ve also used 30 Day Improvement Sprints to focus and energize teams at Microsoft.   For example, when I first joined the Enterprise Strategy team at Microsoft, I made one of the themes a focus on “simplicity.”   This theme caught on, and soon our General Manager was driving action and focus on simplicity.    This helped us take a fresh look at one of our products and find ways to dramatically simplify the experience.   As the simplicity focus gained momentum, more and more breakthroughs started to show up, all in the name of a simplified experience.

    Use 30 Day Improvement Sprints as Your Unfair Advantage in the New Year
    I’m a fan of Voltaire’s original quote, but I would twist it a little … “Few challenges withstand the assault of sustained action.”   Using 30 Day Improvement Sprints really does put the advantage of time on your side, as well as the power of focus and motivation.   It also creates an incredible learning loop.   Your little actions and feedback loops each day teach you distinctions you can use each new day to keep improving and getting over the humps.

    Here are a couple ways you can use 30 Day Improvement Sprints to get exponential results in the New Year:

    1. Use January to go through 30 Days of Getting Results.
    2. Turn your New Years Resolution into a 30 Day Improvement Sprint.
    3. Choose one of your most self-defeating habits and go up against it in a 30 Day Improvement Sprint.

    Think about it … A New Year.  A fresh start.  Twelve months in which you can choose a new theme or focus each month.   Maybe you learn a new language?   Maybe you learn the Tango?   Who knows.    There are a lot of opportunities and potential when you have a system on your side.

    If you’ve used 30 Day Improvement Sprints, I’d love to hear how you’ve used them.  I’ve had various folks send me their stories on their breakthroughs and changes.   I always enjoy reading the stories, so keep sending my way.

    My Related Posts

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Mark Bestauros on Value Realization


    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

    Satya Nadella on Live and Work a Meaningful Life


    There's a quote in Ferris Bueller's Day Off:

    ”Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

    It’s true.

    Satya gets it.

    Sayta reminds us to individually think about our broader impact, our deeper meaning, and the significance of everything we do, even the little things. 

    Here is how Satya reminded us to focus on our significance and impact:

    “I want to work in a place where everybody gets more meaning out of their work on an everyday basis.

    We spend far too much time at work for it not to have a deeper meaning in your life.

    The way we connect with that meaning is by knowing the work we do has broader implications, broader impact, outside of work.

    The reality is every feature, everything you do, or every marketing program you do, or every sales program you do is going to have a broader impact.

    I think that us reminding ourselves of that, and taking consideration from that, matters a lot.  And I that's a gift that we have in this industry, in this company, and I think we should take full advantage of that.  Because when you look back, when it's all said and done, it's that meaning that you'll recount, it's not the specifics of what you did, and I think that's one of the perspectives that's important.”

    My take away is, if you’re not making your work matter, to you, to others, you’re doing it wrong.

    You Might Also Like

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    Satya Nadella is the New Microsoft CEO

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

    Satya Nadella on the Future is Software

    Satya Nadella on Everyone Has to Be a Leader

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    My Arm’s Broke, Fix Me - Three Levels of Guidance in patterns & practices


    Early in my patterns & practices days, each time I built a new team, we had a hard time figuring out what level to cater our writing for because we had such a variety of audience, even among architects.

    After a lot of pain, we finally adopted a three-level system that serves us very well.  It helped us focus our writing and nail problems in an incremental way.  You’ll never see this in our docs, but it shaped how we prioritize our docs.  We used three levels …

    Three Levels of Guidance
    Here is the behind-the-scenes look at how we talked about these three levels of guidance on the team:

    1. Level 1 - “My Arm’s Broke, Fix Me” – This is where a customer is in pain, and just wants the fix.  You’re in the emergency room, and you just want the doctor to do their job and just fix it.  Sure, there might be lots of ways to fix it, but for now, just give me one that works.  Make it step by step.  Don’t’ make me think.  Level 1 – “My Arm’s Broke, Fix Me” guidance is great for scenarios where you are either under the gun, don’t have the time, or just don’t care about the intimate details and just want to make it work.  (If you’ve ever been presented with a bunch of options and can’t figure out a single path, you can especially appreciate this.  This was our answer to, just give me a proven practice and be done with it.)  We turned this level of prescriptive guidance into How Tos.  Here are examples of Security How Tos.  We also turned these into whiteboard solutions, or "Application Scenarios.”  Here are some examples of Application Scenarios.
    2. Level 2 –“Show Me All the Options” – This is where you want the options on the table.  Don’t just give me a recommendation, give me the options, and I’ll pick my path.  Or if you are going to give me a recommendation, lead up to it.  Give me all the options, then suggest what might work for me.  Level 2 – “Show Me All the Options” is good for scenarios where, the reader is smarter than the canned solution, or is a skeptic, has the time to think through the options, or wants to be involved in the solution.  It’s about exposing the thinking.   Here is an example of Level 2 – “Show Me All the Options” where we exposed Authentication and Authorization patterns in ASP.NET.  Eventually we found a way to combine the benefits of Level 1 – “My Arm’s Broke, Fix Me” with Level 2 – “Show Me All the Options” by creating a matrix of options + adding scenario-based recommendations.  Here is an example of a matrix of options with scenario-based recommendations, with our Cheat Sheet – Data Access Technology Options.
    3. Level 3 - “I Live for this Stuff” – This is where I’ve got all the time in the world and I love reading about this stuff on the weekends.  Throw all the “blah, blah, blah” my way and the intimate details and I will happily engulf it to no end.  You can’t overload me with too much minutia and I want all the stories or elaboration you can muster.  Your knowledge of the nooks and crannies is my amusement.  Explained – Forms Authentication in ASP.NET and Explained – Windows Authentication in ASP.NET are good examples of this level of guidance.  Security Fundamentals for Web ServicesThreats and Countermeasures for Web Services, and Authentication, Authorization, and Identities in WCF is another good example of this level of guidance.

    Prioritizing Guidance
    As a rule of thumb, we decided that we would focus on first addressing Level 1 – “My Arm’s Broke, Fix Me.”  This way, we could at least leave a trail of proven practices and pave a path of success.  As a result, many of the guides I shipped from patterns & practices are heavy on “How Tos.”  In fact, the guides are really “action guides.”  The first half of the guide, sets the stage by sharing mental models, key concepts, and principles.  This is optimized for reading in a sequential flow, but still modular so you can hop around.  The second half of the guides is a focus on “action” and is a set of action modules (Cheat Sheets, Checklists, Guidelines, How Tos).  It’s optimized for random access, and the individual modules link back to the related items.

    This simple way to think about the majority of our guidance helped us significantly priorities the work we did for the following projects:

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Value is in the Eye of the Beholder


    One common pitfall is throwing a lot of time and effort at things, only to find that when you’re done, nobody cares. If you keep feeling a lack of appreciation, then ask yourself, “Who was I doing it for?” If it was for yourself, was it what you most cared about, or could you have invested the same time in something else and felt like you made a more important impact. If you were doing it for somebody else, ask them whether what you’re working on is really the most important thing to them. If you’re working on a lot of low-priority items, don’t expect to get the rewards. In fact, a pattern is that the more you work on low-priority items, the more you become a dumping ground. The more you become a dumping ground, the busier you get; the busier you get, the more overloaded you will feel. Now the worst happens—you’re overworked, underappreciated, and no fun to be around. By failing to work on what’s valuable and by failing to understand and reset expectations, you’ve worked yourself into an unrewarding, high-stress scenario.

    Browse more tips on getting results at http://GettingResults.com

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Power of Annual Reviews for Personal Development


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

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

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

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

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

    Here’s the big idea:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Make this YOUR year.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

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


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

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

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

    Now, for today, let’s get started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    You Might Also Like

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Santa Lands on a Virgin Atlantic Plane with 4D Technology


    Microsoft and Virgin help land Santa on top of a plane at 30,000 feet.  If you’ve been wondering where Santa’s been, he landed on top of a Virgin Atlantic plane and did a photo shoot with the passengers.

    Microsoft teamed up with Richard Branson and Virgin Atlantic to bring the magic of Christmas to life.  In the world’s first 4D experience in flight, Santa Claus appears to land on top of a Virgin Atlantic plane at 30,000 feet. 

    How’s that for some fancy flying with modern technology?!

    Each passenger was also given a Windows tablet so they could track Father Christmas and chat with him during the flight.

    Here’s the video of Santa landing on top of the plane and visiting with the passengers:

    Video: Santa Lands on Top of a Virgin Atlantic Plane at 30,000 Feet

    Here are a few scenes that show Santa in action …

    Here’s one of Santa’s reindeer peering down into the cabin from on top of the plane:


    Here’s Santa peering down into the cabin from above the plane before he goes inside:


    Santa sees somebody he recognizes:


    Santa boards the plane and walks the cabin:


    The kids are excited to see Santa:




    Adults are happy, too:



    Santa has time for some photo shoots:



    Santa leaves to get back to his sleigh on top of the plane:


    Virgin Atlantic and Microsoft wish everybody a very, merry Christmas:


    Here’s Richard Branson’s post on the story:

    Santa Lands on Virgin Atlantic Plane at 30,000 Feet

    Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.


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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    My Story of Personal Transformation


    Everybody has a story.   I thought I would share mine at Sources of Insight:

    My Story of Personal Transformation

    It’s the story of how I figured out how to do more of what makes me come alive, and how to share my unique value with the world.

    It’s a journey, but this story is a look backwards, and how it helped me shape my path forward.

    I included some of the key questions I asked, as well as some of the key resources I used to get a new lens on work and life. 

    Life can really be a game of chutes and ladders, depending on the questions you ask, the choices you make, and the actions you take.

    I think one of the biggest challenges we have in life, is a very personal one.  It’s the challenge of finding our voice.   It’s the challenge of finding our passion, our purpose, and our talents.  It’s the challenge of becoming all that we’re capable of.  And, it’s the challenge of how to make the most of what we’ve got, while helping others in our unique way.

    The other big challenge is avoiding regret, learning to live with regret, or learning how to live without regret.  What we regret the most, are the things we have a chance to change.  It’s our opportunities lost.  Or, to put it another way, we regret the things we didn’t do.   That can include things like not being true to ourselves, not expressing our feelings, not staying in touch with friends, or not letting ourselves be happier.

    The top regrets in life based on research are: education, career, romance, parenting, self-improvement, leisure, finance, health, friends, spirituality, and community.  Education is the top regret because it impacts so many areas of our life, and it’s within our control.

    The way I learned to write my story forward is to combine a combination of answering the following questions on an on-gong basis:

    1. Who do I want to be and what experiences do I want to create?
    2. Am I giving my best where you have my best to give?
    3. Am I  living my values?
    4. Am I saying “Yes” to opportunities?
    5. Am I sharing what I think and feel to the people in my life?

    Transformation is a journey of challenges and changes.  And that’s where our greatest growth comes from.

    Best wishes for your best year, ever.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    10 Big Ideas from XYZ


    I’m trying out a new way to do book reviews, to share more value in a better, faster, and easier way, with a predictable experience.  

    My new approach is to focus on 10 big ideas.

    Here’s an example:

    10 Big Ideas from BRIEF

    Side note – BRIEF is a powerful book with hard-core techniques for getting to the point and cutting through fluff.  If you struggle with being verbose, or rambling, this book will help you master the art of “Lean Communication.”

    In my book reviews in the past, I shared the challenges the book solved, the structure of the book, and some “scenes” from the book, sort of like a “movie trailer.”   While that was effective in terms of really doing a book justice, I thought there was room for improvement.

    I figured, Sources of Insight is all about, well, “insight.”   So then my best approach would be to focus on the big ideas in the books I read, and share that unique value in a simple to consume fashion.   I considered “3 Big Ideas” and “5 Big Ideas”, but they both seemed too small.  And more than 10 seemed too big.

    10 Big Ideas seems like a healthy dose of insights to draw from a book.

    I had actually considered this approach a long time ago, but I was worried that it would water things down too much.  Instead, I’m finding that it’s doing the exact opposite.  Using 10 Big Ideas as a constraint is a great forcing function to help me really synthesize and distill the essence of a book, and to really hone in on the most valuable takeaways.  

    And it’s a great way to turn insight into action in a very repeatable way.

    I already read and review books at a fast pace, but I think this new approach is going to help me get even better and faster at rapidly sharing insight and action.

    I’m in the early stages, so if you have ideas or feedback on the 10 Big Ideas approach for my book reviews, please let me know.

    Take 10 Big Ideas from BRIEF for a spin.  Kick the tires.   It will be worth your time.  If you master Big Idea #7, alone, you'll be ahead of the game when it comes to making your pitch, or presenting your ideas.

    Lean Communication can be your differentiator in a noisy, crowded, information overloaded world.

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