J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

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    Sinofsky on How To Analyze the Competition

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    Sometimes the best way to do something well, is to know what to avoid.  In Ex-Windows Boss Steve Sinofsky: Here's Why I Use An iPhone, Nicholas Carlson shares some tips from Steve Sinofsky on analyzing the competition:

    1. Don't use the product in a lightweight manner
    2. Don't think like yourself
    3. Don't bet competitors act similarly (or even rationally)
    4. Don't assume the world is static

    Sinofsky elaborates, and says to use the product deep, and use it over time.  Use the product like it was intended by the designers.  Wrap yourself around the culture, constraints, resources, and more of a competitor.  And, don't take a static view of the world -- the competitor can always update their product based on feedback, or weaknesses you call out.

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    How To Be Ready for Any Emergency

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    “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin

    I know a lot of people have had their lives turned upside down.   Hurricane Sandy and the follow up Noreaster, really created some setbacks and a wake of devastation.

    Disasters happen.  While you can’t prevent them, what you can do is prepare for them and improve your ability to respond and recover.

    I’m not the expert on disaster preparation, but I know somebody who is.  I’ve asked Laurie Ecklund Long to write a guest post to help people prepare for the worst.  Here it is:

    Disaster Proof Your Life: How To Be Ready for Any Emergency

    The goal of the post is to help jumpstart anybody who wants to start their path to planning and preparation for emergencies. 

    Laurie is an emergency specialist.  She is a best-selling author, national speaker, and trainer that helps individuals, businesses, and the military survive natural disasters and family emergencies, based on her book, My Life in a Box…A Life Organizer.  On a personal level, Laurie’s inspiration came from losing 12 people close to her, including her Dad, within the span of five years.   She learned a lot during 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, and she’s on a mission to help more people be able to answer the following questions better:

    Do you have a personal emergency tool box?  Can you quickly locate your legal, financial and personal documents within minutes and be able to rebuild your life if something happens to your home?

    Check out Laurie’s guest post Disaster Proof Your Life: How To Be Ready for Any Emergency, and start your path of planning and preparation for emergencies, and help others to do the same.

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    10 Big Ideas from XYZ

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

    My new approach is to focus on 10 big ideas.

    Here’s an example:

    10 Big Ideas from BRIEF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Expert Access Radio Interview on Getting Results the Agile Way

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    image

    You can listen to the Expert Access Radio Interview on Getting Results the Agile Way.   It’s available as a podcast and on iTunes.

    I'm honored to be interviewed by Expert Access Radio on Getting Results the Agile Way.   

    Expert Access Radio is a weekly talk radio show that features live, in-depth interviews with business leaders and best-selling authors from around the world.  Some of their featured guests include Guy Kawasaki, Robert Kiyosaki, and Steven Pressfield. 

    On the show, Jay McKeever  and Steve Kayser have their guests share their ideas, information, insights and inspirational stories to help listeners in their life of business, or their business of life.

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    Adam Grocholski on Timeboxing

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    Adam Grocholski has a great post on timeboxing.  In his post, he shares his secrets of how he’s applied Getting Results the Agile Way to take control of his time.  One of my favorite parts is where he explains how he made a business case with his customers to spend less time in meetings, and more time producing results.

    Check out Adam’s post on Timeboxing.

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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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    If You Can Differentiate, You Have a Competitive Monopoly

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    In the article, The Strategy Accelerator, Alfred Griffioen shares his thoughts on competitive monopoly and how the only way outperform your competitors is through differentiation.

    Griffioen writes:

    “The question "how to be successful in the market" is among the most relevant for business economics, but only a few researchers and authors have formulated directive rather than descriptive answers.  A better direction can be found in basic economy researchers: if you can differentiate yourself from the competitors, you have a sort of monopoly.  In a monopoly you can choose your own price and quantity optimum on the demand curve.  As soon as you encounter competitors, the power shifts to the customer: the price is set by the market and you can only follow.  The only way outperform your competitors is through differentiation.”

    I think Griffioen raises some good points and the best way to differentiate is by building a better brand for whoever you serve.

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    Life Hacks on Sources of Insight

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    I now have a life hacks category on Sources of Insight.   It includes strategies and tactics for hacking life and how to live a little better.  It includes posts on life, life quotes, lessons learned in life, and what is the meaning of life.

    My latest addition to my life hacks bucket is 37 Inspirational Quotes That Will Change Your Life (or at least your mind.)

    There are more than 120 articles in the life hacks bucket as of today.

    Where to start?

    If you’re not sure where to start, start with That Moment Where the World Stops.

    If you’re feeling ambitious then read 50 Life Hacks Your Future Self Will Thank You For.

    If you want to dive deep, read Happy vs. Meaningful: Which Life Do You Want?

    Enjoy and in the words of Bruce Lee, “It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”, and “Simplicity is the key to brilliance.”

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    Making Sure Your Life Energy is Well Spent

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    I love one-liners that really encapsulate ideas.  A colleague asked me how work was going with some new projects spinning up and a new team.  But she prefaced it with, “Your book is all about making sure your life energy is well spent.   Are you finding that you are now spending your energy on the right things and with the right people?”  (She was referring to my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.)

    I thought was both a great way to frame the big idea of the book, and to ask a perfectly cutting question that cuts right through the thick of things, to the heart of things.

    Are you spending your life energy on the right things?

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    Time Management Tips #6 - Schedule the Big Rocks

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    Untitled

    Have you heard of the big rocks story?  If not, the idea is that if you don't first make room for your big rocks, all the fillers of life will fill up your day for you.

    Time management tips #6 is -- schedule the big rocks.  If you don't have an appointment on your calendar for XYZ, it's not going to happen.  If you don't have a recurring appointment called, "Write Your Book," it won't happen.  If you don't have a recurring appointment called, "Workout," it won't happen.

    Maybe you want to build an app to change the world.  Do you have a recurring appointment on your calendar called, "Build an App to Change the World"?  I know some people that do.  And even if they don't change the world, they are making the time for it, and that's exactly the point.

    You don't have time for this.  You don't have time for that.  You only have time for the things you make time for.  Carve out time for what's important.  Schedule it, and make it happen.

    What are you making time for?

    In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the time management exercises to Carve Out Time for What's Important 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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    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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    Strategic Talent Acquisition

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    "Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships." -- Michael Jordan

    I've been asked recently about competitive talent acquisition strategies.  I'm not a recruiter and I don't play one on T.V., but I thought I would share what I've seen work in the real world.

    People are the life-blood of any company.  They generate new ideas and find new ways to create value.  I’ve seen teams, orgs, and companies grow or die based on the people they acquire, and their talent management strategies.  Brain drain, as we call it when top talent leaves, is a very real threat to any otherwise big, bold, goals and initiatives.

    Here is my five-minute brain dump on what works when it comes to attracting top talent:

    1. Be the company people want to work for.  You’re effectively building a tribe whether that’s Amazonians, Googlers, Softies, etc.  People want to belong to something that’s worth it.
    2. Have leaders that people want to work for.  People really do “follow the leader.”  In fact, a career strategy for many smart people is to “ride the coat tails” of people that make things happen.
    3. Live the values that create compelling work environments and world-class leadership.
    4. Do work that matters.  People spend way too much of their life at work to work on things that don’t matter in some way, shape or form.  Nobody likes to be a cog, unless it’s a meaningful cog for a wheel that matters.
    5. Map to business strategy, objectives, priorities, and outcomes.  When you get a bunch of smart people on the bus, with nowhere to go, people get used or abused or neglected.  Aligning talent to the future business is a great way to skate to where the puck will be.
    6. Evaluate against ROI.  This forces thinking through the value and what good looks like and how to measure, which are all good things.
    7. Recruit from academia and try-before-you-buy with internships and temps.
    8. Provide flexible work styles so anybody can work from anywhere, anytime.  It’s a digital economy and there’s a new world of work.
    9. Set a high bar.  Top talent likes to work with top talent.  People love the chance to work with other great people.   Just watch how many great directors and actors stick together, or how many actors took a role for the chance to work with XYZ.
    10. Surround them with smarties.  Smart people are addictive.
    11. Provide competitive compensation, but differentiate through the promise of unique work experience and by working on the world's top problems for your niche in the market.
    12. Co-involve hiring managers reduces surprises on both ides.
    13. Do pro-active sourcing.
    14. Work with top talent recruiters.  They’re tapped in.  It’s a business where capability, results, and reputation shine through.
    15. Make employment branding more than lip service.
    16. Draw from a holistic talent pool.
    17. Reach around the world to find the world's best at what they do.
    18. Drive from an integrated talent management technology platform.
    19. Dive deep on marketing intelligence and leverage smart social networking.
    20. Connect to succession and workforce planning to align to growth plans.
    21. Make on-boarding as hassle-free as possible, whether that includes relocation, or whatever.

    Note, I didn’t plan on 21, but I’m glad I landed there. 
    How lucky.

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    Time Management Tips #4 - Three Wins for the Day

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    Getting Results the Agile Way on Kindle

    "What are your three wins for today?"

    That's the one very simple test I ask myself and my team, on a daily basis.  It instantly helps focus and prioritize our massive backlog, our incoming requests, and competing demands.  It's how to cut "Crazy Busy" down to size with one simple question ...

    “What are your three wins for today?”

    It’s a way to carve out and shine the spot light on the value we will create today.  It sets a target to aim for.  It flips the haystack.  Instead of finding the needles of value lost among the hay stack of stuff, we start with the needles.  Clarity of value, trims the To-Do tree down to size.

    After all, no matter what's coming your way, and what's on your plate, you can only do so much.  The trick is to figure out what's the next best thing to spend your time and energy on.  When you answer that question, you give yourself peace of mind, knowing that you are working on the smarter things you can for the day.  You also give yourself creative freedom to achieve your goals, rather than get stuck in “the how trap.”  (To-Do lists have a nasty habit of making you slaves to administration and getting stuck in tasks instead of focused on goals and value.)

    Just by identifying your three wins for the day, you give yourself a way to succeed.  You've just identified your personal tests for success.  At the end of the day, it's easy to check your progress against your goals.  It's also easy to use your wins throughout the day, as a way to stay focused or to re-prioritize.

    My three wins for today are:

    1. Map of IT scenarios validated.
    2. A simple heat map of the pains and needs of the program.
    3. Rob up to speed.

    I keep the wins, simple and punchy.  The key is saying them out loud.  Actually verbalize your wins.  This simplifies them.  Then write them down.  Say them out loud first, as if saying your wins for the day to your manager, and then write them down.  The simpler you can say your wins, the easier they are to remember.  The simpler you can say your wins, the easier it is for your manager to follow, and to actually appreciate your contribution.  The simpler you can say your wins, the easier it is for other people to follow or help you achieve your goals.  The simpler you can say your win, the easier it is to get others on the same page, whether that's your team, your allies, or winning over the forces of evil, by setting a shared goal.

    This is an extremely key habit for unstoppable you.  Whether you want a better review, or to be a better leader, or to simply be more effective at time management, focus, and setting priorities ... this is a daily habit for success.

    In Time Management Tips #3 -- Three Wins for the Week, I shared how you can use your three wins to shape your focus and priorities for the week, as well as give yourself a way to acknowledge your impact.  Otherwise, it's easy to have another week fly by, do a bunch of stuff, and yet not even be able to articulate the value you delivered or the way you change your world. even in some small way.  The wins accentuate the positive, focus on what counts, and rise above the noise.

    By using Three Wins for the Day and Three Wins for the Week, you have a way to zoom in on your day, or zoom out to the week, so you can see the forest for the trees, and take the balcony view.  It also gives you an easy way to readjust your priorities if the focus is off.  This two-pronged approach also helps you connect your daily work toward weekly impact.  It also helps you see what's right in front of you, and lean in, knowing that you are spending the right time, on the right things, with the right energy.

    Say your three wins for today and write them down, and see if you can nail them.

    In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the exercise and three stories to drive 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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    The Mission of Microsoft Enterprise Services

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    I've heard it before, but it's good to put down on paper.

    The mission of Microsoft Enterprise Services:

    “Our mission is to lead and serve our customers and partners as they realize their full potential through software and services.”

    It sounds like servant leadership in action.

    I found this blurb that describes Microsoft Enterprise Services:

    “Microsoft Enterprise Services is the consulting, support and customer service arm of the world’s leading software company. Microsoft Services focus on top enterprise customers in each of the 82 countries where we operate. The organization includes 17.300 employees in Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) and Microsoft Premier Services (Premier).”

    What's your company's mission? 

    Does it inspire you to give your best where you have your best to give?

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    Change the World by Changing Behaviors

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    If you have an understanding of types of behavior change, you can design more effective software.

    Software is a powerful way to change the world.

    You can change the world with software, a behavior at a time.

    Think of all the little addictive loops, that shape our habits and thoughts on a daily basis. We’re gradually being automated and programmed by the apps we use.

    I’ve seen some people spiral down, a click, a status update, a notification, or a reminder at a time. I’ve seen others spiral up by using apps that teach them new habits, reinforce their good behaviors, and bring out their best.

    To bottom line is, whether you are shaping software or using software on a regular basis, it helps to have a deep understanding of behavior change. You can use this know-how to change your personal habits, lead change management efforts, or build software that changes the world.

    We know change is tough, and it’s a complicated topic, so where do you start?

    A great place to start is to learn the 15 types of behavior change, thanks to Dr. BJ Fogg and his Fogg Behavior Grid.   No worries.  15 sounds like a lot, but it’s actually easy once you understand the model behind it.  It’s simple and intuitive.

    The basic frame works like this.   You figure out whether the behavior change is to do a new behavior, a familiar behavior, increase the behavior, decrease the behavior, or stop dong the behavior.   Within that, you figure out the duration, as in, is this a one-time deal, or is it for a specific time period, or is it something you want to do permanently.

    Here are some examples from Dr. BJ Fogg’s Behavior Grid:

    Do New Behavior

    • Install solar panels on house.
    • Carpool to work for three weeks.
    • Start growing own vegetables.

    Do Familiar Behavior

    • Tell a friend about eco-friendly soap.
    • Bike to work for two months.
    • Turn off lights when leaving room.

    Increase Behavior

    • Plant more trees and local plants.
    • Take public bus for one month.
    • Purchase more local produce.

    Decrease Behavior

    • Buy fewer boxes of bottled water.
    • Take shorter showers this week.
    • Eat less meat from now on.

    Stop Doing a Behavior

    • Turn off space heater for tonight.
    • Don't water lawn during Summer.
    • Never litter again.

    When you know the type of behavior change you’re trying to make, you can design more effective change strategies.

    If you want to change the world, focus on changing behaviors.  If you want to change your world, focus on changing your behaviors. (And, remember, thoughts are behaviors, too.)

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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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    Health Books

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    imageI did a revamp and sweep of my health books collection.  The focus of my collection of health books and fitness books is to help you get healthy, get in shape, get lean, and get strong.   I’ve collected and tested many books to find patterns and practices for health and fitness that actually work.

    Some of the new additions to the collection include:

    • Body by Science
    • Super Immunity
    • Your Body as Your Gym

    Your Body as Your Gym is the most recent addition.  It’s an incredible system.  Here’s the deal.  As a Navy Seal instructor, Mark Lauren needed to find a way to get more people in better shape in record time.  He’s refined what he’s learned over years to get rapid results.  The best part is it’s using your own body so you can do it anywhere.  He wanted everyone to be able to get in the best shape of their lives and leverage what he’s learned from the special forces.  It’s all about building lean, functional muscle, and using interval training.  His routine is four times a week, 30 minutes a day.

    I added Super Immunity to the collection.   Dr. Fuhrman is a doctor that gets results.  I know several Microsofties that have followed his approach to get in the best shape of their lives.   What I like about Dr. Fuhrman is that he focuses on principles, patterns, and practices.  His specialty is “nutritional density.”  He focuses on the food that have the highest nutritional value per calories.  Super Immunity is all about building up your immune system by eating the right foods to get your body on your side.  In a world where we can’t afford to be sick anymore, this book is in a class all its own.

    One of the books in my health books collection is Better Eyesight without Glasses, by William Bates.  This book is near and dear to my heart.   I used this approach to avoid getting glasses.   A long story short is that I failed my eye test back in 7th grade, and I was determined not to wear glasses.  I intercepted the letter that went to my parents and that bought me time.  I then used the exercises from Better Eyesight without Glasses to get to 20/20 vision.  As you can imagine, I saved a lot of money and a lot of inconvenience over many years, thanks to this one book.

    Another book I should mention is Stretching Scientifically.  This is the book I used to be able to do splits for Kick-boxing.  I’ve never come across a better book on how to improve your flexibility in record time.

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    Intelligence is More Than IQ

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    “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change” -- Charles Darwin

    That's one of my all-time favorite quotes because it's surprising.  It's not the smartest or the strongest, or even the fastest that survive ... it's the most flexible.

    That says a lot about the value of agile and agility in today's world.  I think of agility as the ability to effectively respond to change.

    Intelligence is valuable too, but not just raw smarts.  It's what you do with what you've got.  There are multiple flavors of intelligence, and they can help you survive and thrive in today's world.  Maybe you've heard of emotional intelligence, social intelligence, positive intelligence, or multiple intelligences?

    I think how we look at our own intelligence can limit or enable us.  For example, if you don't think you're intelligent, then you might not try to do intelligent things.  For example, if you've defined intelligence in your own mind to mean something along the lines of "the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria", that singular view of intelligence might put a damper on how your view your own abilities (depending on how you scored on your IQ test.)

    I wrote a post on What is Intelligence to elaborate and share what I've learned from Howard Gardner and his definition of intelligence.

    I’d be curious on how your thoughts about intelligence have evolved and changed over the years, given how much of a premium people put on how smart you are.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    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

    7 Metaphors for Leadership Transformation

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    “Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” — Publilius Syrus

    Change is tough.  Especially leading it.

    Whether you are leading yourself, others, or organizations through a change, it helps to have tools on your side.

    Recently, I read Leadership Transformed, by Dr. Peter Fuda. 

    It uses 7 metaphors to guide you through leadership transformation:

    1. FIRE
    2. SNOWBALL
    3. MASTER CHEF
    4. COACH
    5. MASK
    6. MOVIE
    7. RUSSIAN DOLLS

    It might seem simple, but that's the point.   Metaphors are easy to remember and easy to use. 

    For example, you can use the Movie metaphor to increase your self-awareness and reflection that allow you to first "edit" your performance, and then direct a "movie" that exemplifies your leadership vision.

    The other benefit of simple metaphors is they allow both for creative interpretation and creative expression.

    I appreciated the book the further I went along.  In fact, what really clicked for me was the fact that I could easily remember the different metaphors and the big idea behind them.   It was a nice brain-break from memorizing and internalizing a bunch of leadership frameworks, principles, and patterns. 

    Instead, it’s just a simple set of metaphors that remind us how to bring out our best during our leadership transformations.

    The metaphors are actually well-chosen, and they really are helpful when you find yourself in scenarios where a different perspective or approach may help.

    Even better, the author grounds his results in some very interesting data, and aligns it to proven practices for effective leadership.

    Here is my book review:  Book Review: Leadership Transformed: How Ordinary Managers Become Extraordinary Leaders

    I included several highlights and “scenes” from the book, so you can get a good taste of the book, movie trailer style.

    If you end up reading the book, I encourage you to really dive into the background and the anatomy of the Leadership Impact tool that Dr. Fuda refers to.  It’s incredibly insightful in terms of leadership principles, patterns, and practices that are fairly universal and broadly applicable.

    Enjoy.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Video–Ed Jezierski on Getting Results the Agile Way

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    It’s always great to see how technology can help make the world a better place.

    You might remember Ed Jezierski from his Microsoft days.  In his early years at Microsoft, he worked on the Microsoft Developer Support team, helping customers succeed on the platform.    These early experiences taught Ed the value of teamwork and collaboration, extreme customer focus, and the value of principles, patterns, and proven practices for addressing recurring issues, and building more robust designs.

    From there, Ed was one of the early members of the patterns & practices team.  As one of the first Program Managers on the patterns & practices team, Ed was the driving force behind many of the first guides from patterns & practices for developers, including the Data Access guide, and the early Application Architecture guide.  He was also the master mind behind the first application blocks (Exception Management Block, Data Access Block, Caching Block, etc.) , which forever changed the destiny of patterns & practices.  The application blocks helped transition patterns & practices from an IT and system administrator focus,  to a focus on developers and solution architects.  In his role as an Architect, on the patterns & practices team, Ed played a significant role in shaping the technical strategy and orchestrating key design and engineering issues across the patterns & practices portfolio.  One of his most significant impacts was the early design and shaping  of the Microsoft Enterprise Library.

    In his later years, Ed worked on incubation and innovation teams, where he learned a lot about streamlining innovation, making things happen, and how to create systems and processes to support innovation, in a more organic and agile way, to balance more formal engineering practices for bringing ideas and innovation to market.

    But, just like James Bond, “the world is not enough.”  Ed’s passion was always for helping people around the world in a grand scale.  His strength and amazing skill is applying technology to change the world and making the world a better place, by solving solve real-world problems.  (I still remember the day, Ed showed up in his bullet proof armor, ready to deploy technology in some of the most dangerous places in the world.)

    Now, as CTO at InSTEDD, Ed hops around the globe helping communities everywhere design and use technology to continuously improve their health, safety and development.  As you can imagine, Ed has to make things happen in some of the most extreme scenarios, responding to natural disasters and health incidents.  And he uses Getting Results the Agile Way as a system for driving results for himself and the teams he leads.

    Here is Ed Jezierski on Getting Results the Agile Way …

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Wearable Computing

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    I was watching a video on Google Glass with Robert Scoble, and I couldn’t help but wonder about all the possibilities that technology can bring to the table.

    Wearable computing bridges the gap between the real world and the things we see in Sci-Fi movies.

    Of course, when we overlay information on our world, the key will be turning information into insight and action.  All change isn’t progress, and the market will flush out things faster than ever before.  And, to the victor go the spoils.

    In the video, you can see how the Google Glass does a few basic things so far:

    1. Take a picture
    2. Record a video
    3. Get directions to ...
    4. Send a message to ...
    5. Make a call to ...

    The big limit in what it’s capable of, so far, seems to be the batter power.  And of course, a key concern was security.  It’s another reminder how in the software space, security and performance always play a role, even if they are behind the scenes.  In fact, that’s the irony of software security and performance, they are at their best when you don’t notice them.

    Security and performance are often unsung heroes.

    The big take away for me is that the game is on warp speed now.  By game, I mean, the business of software.  You can go from idea to market pretty fast.   So the big bottlenecks range from the right ideas, to the right people, to the right strategy, to the right execution.

    But more importantly, the reminder is this:

    Companies with smart people, data-driven insights, a culture of innovation, great software processes, customer focus, and reach around the world, can change the world -- at a faster pace than ever before.

    Who knows what we’ll be wearing next?

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Stephen Covey Quotes

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    If you are a Stephen Covey fan, I think you will like my latest edition to my Great Quotes Collection.  In tribute of Stephen Covey, I have put together a comprehensive set of Stephen Covey quotes, organized into key themes:

    The themes include:

    • Choice and Change
    • Continuous Learning
    • Efficiency and Effectiveness
    • Empowerment and Freedom
    • Habits
    • Happiness
    • I Believe ...
    • Integrity
    • Interpersonal Skills
    • Leadership
    • Personal Development
    • Perspective
    • Principles
    • Time Management
    • Trust
    • Vision and Values

    Here are the Top 10 Stephen Covey quotes to start you off …

    1. “As long as you think the problem is out there, that very thought is the problem”
    2. “Be a light, not a judge. Be a model, not a critic”
    3. “Live, love, laugh, leave a legacy.”
    4. “Live out of your imagination, not your history.”
    5. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
    6. “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
    7. “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities”
    8. “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.
    9. ”The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
    10. ”Your economic security does not lie in your job; it lies in your own power to produce – to think, to learn, to create, to adapt. That’s true financial independence. It’s not having wealth; it’s having the power to produce wealth.”

    Read more at Stephen Covey Quotes, and share with friends, family, and colleagues that might enjoy Covey’s timeless wisdom for work and life.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Best-Selling Author on Mental Toughness

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    I’m honored to have a guest post by Jason Selk, Ed.D., on patterns and practices for mental toughness.  Jason is the best-selling author of 10-Minute Toughness and Executive Toughness.  As a trainer of executives, world-class athletes, and business leaders, Jason shares proven practices for mental toughness.  

    Jason is a rock-star in the mental toughness arena in business and in sports.  He is a regular contributor to ABC, CBS, ESPN, and NBC radio and television and he has been featured in USA Today, Men’s Health, Muscle and Fitness, Shape and Self Magazine.

    Mental toughness is what gets you back on your feet again.  Mental toughness is what helps you keep your cool when a bunch of hot air blows your way.  Mental toughness is the stuff that unsung heroes are made of.  Mental toughness is the breakfast of champions.  The beauty is that you can learn and leverage the same proven practices that work for business and for life.

    I think of the tools that Jason shares as the fundamentals.   They may sound like common sense, and yet, they are the ways the work.  The trick is not just knowing what to do, but doing what you know.  I find it much easier to do something that I can believe in, and what I like about Jason’s patterns and practices for mental toughness is that they are tested in action, and they stand the test of time.

    Check out Jason’s post on patterns and practices for mental toughness and get results.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Connecting Business and IT

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    This is a mental model we often use when connecting business and IT.

    image

    The big idea is that IT exposes it’s functionality as “services” to the business.   When speaking to the business, we can talk about business capabilities.  When talking to IT, we can talk to the IT capabilities.  

    In this model, you can see where workloads sit in relation to business and IT capabilities. Business capabilities (i.e. “what” an individual business function does) rely on IT capabilities. The IT capabilities, together with people and processes, determine “how” the business capability is executed.

    The beauty of the model is how quickly and easily we can “up-level” the conversation, or drill-down … or map from the business to the IT side or from IT to the business.

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