Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
What a terrible loss for the world. Steve Jobs was one of my personal heroes. He was an amazing blend of engineer, entrepreneur, and designer. He knew how to bring ideas to life, and he lived with zest. In fact, that’s what I liked most … he had a crazy drive to live life to the max, and push people to new heights.
I’m always a fan of people that take life to a new level, and raise the bar on what’s possible. I have to respect how Steve Jobs made design a first class citizen and baked beauty into the user experience.
Even though he is gone, he has left an amazing legacy and there is much that I will continue to learn from him and the examples he’s set.
It’s old post, but I’ll be reading through my Steve Jobs Lessons Learned. There’s no way I can do the legend justice, but I tried to capture some of the key insights that Steve Jobs shared with the world. I’ll be reading through the post and remembering his contributions, his ideas, and how he influenced our little world in big ways. Most of all, I’ll be reflecting on how he influenced me.
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:
Here are the Top 10 Stephen Covey quotes to start you off …
Read more at Stephen Covey Quotes, and share with friends, family, and colleagues that might enjoy Covey’s timeless wisdom for work and life.
Value Realization is hot. You can think of Value Realization as simply the value extracted from a process or project.
Business leaders want to understand the benefits they’ll get from their technology solutions. They also want to see the value of their investment deliver benefits and deliver real results along the way. And, of course, they also want to accelerate adoption so that they can speed up their value realization, as well as help avoid “value leakage".”
But how do you actually do Value Realization in the real world? …
This is a guest post by Blessing Sibanyoni. Blessing delivers advisory, IT architecture, and planning services to Microsoft’s top enterprise customers within the financial services sector. He has more than 17 years of experience in the IT field. He is currently an Enterprise Architect and Strategy Advisor on behalf of Microsoft Corporation.
As an Enterprise Strategy Advisor, Blessing helps organizations achieve challenging business and organizational goals. He does so by helping them leverage value from their current and future investments, enabled by technology. Blessing has a solid record of delivering large and complex initiatives within organizations while always doing this in a mutually beneficial way. You can connect with Blessing Sibanyoni on LinkedIn.
Without further ado, here’s Blessing on Value Realization …
Often we grapple with the notion of value. At first it seems like a very simple thing but when you really take time to consider it, you realize how complicated and multi-dimensional it becomes. Take a simple example of a person who follows a methodology, based on best practices, who crosses all the t’s and dots the i’s but at the end of the day experiences a failed project or is unable to reach goals that his customers appreciate. Or perhaps, what about the notion of another who is highly intelligent but working for someone far less “intelligent” from a credentials or even IQ perspective.
What has happened here?
Why do these paradoxes occur and how do you ensure you are not ending up experiencing the same?
I would argue that at the heart of these conundrums is the notion of value. Value is the worth of something in terms of the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged. Often it’s not about inputs but rather outcomes and many state that you cannot achieve it without effecting a transformation. The transformation itself can be virtual or manifested in the real world, but for true value to be derived, transformation in whatever form, must transpire.
For transformation to transpire a real pain must be felt.
After spending almost two decades in public and private enterprises, I’m still intrigued by why organizations decide to spend resources on some things and not others. Often it’s the thing that seem to make the least sense which these organizations decide to put all their resources into.
This curiosity is one that lingers on especially realizing that resources are often limited and logically, one would naturally be better positioned by focusing on projects or initiatives that offer more returns and deserve more attention. One could take the cynical view that common sense is not so common, or the perspective that organizations are made of people, and people are irrational and fallible beings that bring their own biases into every situation.
So the notion of value then or the expectation of what will bring value is often subjective and largely determined in the eye of the beholder.
I have met many stakeholders who are more interested in the qualitative rather than the quantitative. Surprisingly, this is true, even in financial services!
Giving such people a quantitative, seemingly logical justification is often destined to result in failure, and the converse is also true. So, knowing your stakeholders, what drives and resonates with them is more important that coming up with a definitive, objective, rational and quantitative hypothesis in order to convince them to take some action.
Recently I was fortunate to have worked with a senior executive who was very financially inclined with a major focus on bottom line impact. This stakeholder did so well in the organization that he was soon promoted. To my surprise the person who replaced him was much more people oriented and his biggest concerns were around how the changes proposed would impact people within the organization. The new stakeholder’s view was that people came first and happy employees result in a positive bottom line effect.
I believe both execs had a great view, even though it seemed that their perspectives were fundamentally different.
The key for me was to ensure that both qualitative and quantitative arguments were well prepared in advance so that we could tell compelling stories that drove the agenda regardless of the different concerns and viewpoints.
Knowing your industry and thinking ahead about what your stakeholders may not yet know that they need or desire, is also a very valuable thing to do.
Think about the world of tablet computers that nobody knew they needed just a few years ago, yet these things are now taking the world by storm...
At the beginning I spoke about blind implementation of a methodology being a less than great thing, I would argue that the following steps make great sense around realizing that value, in the eye of the beholder:
Paul Lidbetter on Value Realization
Martin Sykes on Value Realization
Mark Bestauros on Value Realization
Graham Doig on Value Realization
How do you manage your portfolio of IT investments? Do you have a mental model for portfolio management? Here is an example:
While there are a lot of ways to manage a portfolio, I find the frame above to be highly effective. It’s from the Cranfield School of Management in the UK. It’s a very simple frame:
The key is to know where your investments are in terms of this map. A common path for investments is to move through the quadrants in this order: High-Potential, Strategic, Key Operational, and Support.
Example Investment Ratios Here is an example of a common investment spread:
Above the Line A cutting question to ask about your portfolio management is, “Are you operating above the line?” This cuts to the chase to answer two key questions:
You can use this frame to look at cloud investments … your current business investments … how you spend your time … etc. It can be a lens for a life, and a lens for learning … and a way to shape your path forward by flowing more value and staying in the game for the road ahead.
Here is a nice distillation of IT Portfolio Management and how to think about it as it relates to the cloud.
One of the big ideas in my book Getting Results the Agile Way (a best-seller in time management, thank you everybody for your support) is the idea of The Productive Artist.
I’ve seen too many people with bunches of brilliant ideas that never see the light of day.
I also see too many people that are incredibly productive, but don’t use enough of their creative side.
I wanted to create a simple system that could help create more Productive Artists.
I wanted to debottleneck and unleash artists to flow more value to the world, and I wanted to unleash the creative side that many people have as a kid, but lose somewhere along the way.
They forget how to dream big.
They forget how to play with possibility.
They don’t operate anywhere near the level that they are capable of.
I want to reduce the Greatness Gap between what people are capable of, and what they share with the world.
There are a lot of powerful tools within Agile Results, but I want to hone in on two right here:
Your Creative Hours are really a state of mind—a state of daydreaming. It’s the mindset that’s important. Whereas your Power Hours may be focused on results, your Creative Hours are focused on free-form thinking and exploration. You might find thatCreative Hours are your perfect balance to Power Hours. You might also find that you thrive best when you add more Creative Hours to your week. Ultimately, you might find that your Power Hoursfree up time for your Creative Hours, or that your Creative Hours change the game and improve your Power Hours. Your power hours might also be how you leverage your ideas from your Creative Hours.
When you combine Power Hours + Creative Hours, not only will you be unleashing The Productive Artist in you, but you will also be creating a new model for working that will take your experiences, talents, and abilities to a new level of self-expression.
You will set your productivity on fire, catch more bursts of brilliance, create more breakthroughs, and generate new value at a whole new level.
Here’s to your greatness, and your fire within.
One of the most common things I get asked, wherever I go is, “What were the team roles and responsibilities on your Microsoft patterns & practices project teams?”
Effectively, there were a set of repeatable roles that people signed up for, or covered in some way. In this case, a role is simply a logical collection of tasks. The role is the label for that collection of tasks.
As an Agile bunch, we were self-organizing. In practice, what that means is the team defined the roles and responsibilities at project kickoff. As the project progressed, people would shuffle around responsibilities among the team, to produce the best output, and to find ways to get people spending more time in their strengths, or learning new skills. It's all about owning your executing, playing well with others, and making the most of the talent you have at hand.
Here is a simple list of the team roles and responsibilities each team generally had to cover:
Roles Architect Lead Writer Developer Development Lead Product Manager Program Manager Test Test Lead Subject Matter Expert
Responsibilities Architecture and Design Budget Business Investment Collateral (screen casts, blogs, decks, demo scripts) Content structure Customer connection Design Quality Development Evangelism (screen casts, web presence, road shows, conferences, customer briefings, press & analysts) Feedback Product Group Alignment Product Planning Project Planning Quality (technical accuracy, consumability, readability) Release Requirements Scope Schedule Simplicity Support / Sustained-Engineering Team and People Test execution Test planning Usability
It’s always interesting to see where people put their focus, as well as how their patterns show up. Here are some patterns of focus, which reveal how people show their values on the job:
… some focus on giving their best where they’ve got their best to give, finding their flow, lifting others up, and changing the game.
Of course, we’re all hybrids, but it’s interesting to see where some people dominate and drive from.
Knowing the patterns makes it easier to bridge and switch perspectives, spot problems, and uncork potential.
Your 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:
For example, here are my 3 outcomes that I want for today:
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.
Day 1 of 7 Days of Agile Results - Sunday (Getting Started)
Day 2 of 7 Days of Agile Results – Monday (Monday Vision)
10 Big Ideas from Getting Results the Agile Way
Agile Results on a Page
The Values of Agile Results
One of the first things to help a business to gain agility is to connect the product development to the actual user community. A simple way to do this is to connect the backlog to user input. If you can show the users your backlog of scenarios, and they can help you prioritize and validate demand, you just gained a great competitive advantage.
A picture is worth 1,000 words, so here it goes ...
The development team manages the backlog. Using input from users to help prioritize and identify gaps, the backlog is then used to drive the monthly development sprints.
It looks simple and it is, but it's not the knowing, it's the doing that makes the difference.
Enterprise Library 5.0 Product Backlog Prioritization Survey
Portfolios Programs and Projects
Spend $100 to Prioritize Your Opportunities
Scrum Flow at a Glance
Structuring Your Personal Backlog to Make Things Happen
My interview with Tim Ferriss on The 4-Hour Chef is now live. Tim Ferriss it the best-selling author of The 4-Hour Work Week and The 4-Hour Body. The 4-Hour Chef is Tim’s newest book on how to make the most of life.
Before my interview, I asked some colleagues and friends what questions they would like me to ask. I included their questions as well as my own. Here are the key questions I asked during my interview with Tim Ferriss:
In the interview, you will learn a few things that you can instantly used, as well as get an inside look at why Tim Ferriss does what he does.
I focused on questions that I thought would help you in terms of personal effectiveness, productivity, and time management. I especially liked asking Tim Ferriss question #4, “How do you make time, when you absolutely don’t have time?” Lack of time is an issue that comes up a lot in all sorts of contexts to the point where it becomes an excuse for why so many things don’t happen. I thought it would be great to get Tim’s definitive answer on how to think about a lack of time and what to do about it.
If you shy away from the 4-Hour Chef, because you think cooking should be left up to Chef Boyardee, you’re in for a surprise. The 4-Hour Chef is all about changing your quality of life, and improving your ability to rapidly learn. The full title of The 4-Hour Chef is: The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life. If you are a lifelong learner or simply want to bring out the continuous learner in you, you will enjoy the deep focus on extreme learning throughout the book. It’s all about getting over fears, building momentum, breaking a new learning topic down to size, and learning from the best of the best, in record time.
Enjoy the interview
Tim Ferris on The 4-Hour Chef
"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." -- Winston Churchill
I now have more than 300 articles on the topic of Success to help you get your game on in work and life:
That’s a whole lot of success strategies and insights right at your fingertips. (And it includes the genius from a wide variety of sources including Scott Adams, Tony Robbins, Bruce Lee, Zig Ziglar, and more.)
Success is a hot topic.
Success has always been a hot topic, but it seems to be growing in popularity. I suspect it’s because so many people are being tested in so many new ways and competition is fierce.
But What is Success? (I tried to answer that using Zig Ziglar’s frame for success.)
For another perspective, see Success Defined (It includes definitions of success from Stephen Covey and John Maxwell.)
At the end of the day, the most important definition of success, is the one that you apply to you and your life.
People can make or break themselves based on how they define success for their life.
Some people define success as another day above ground, but for others they have a very high, and very strict bar that only a few mere mortals can ever achieve.
That said, everybody is looking for an edge. And, I think our best edge is always our inner edge.
As my one mentor put it, “the fastest thing you can change in any situation is yourself.” And as we all know, nature favors the flexible. Our ability to adapt and respond to our changing environment is the backbone of success. Otherwise, success is fleeting, and it has a funny way of eluding or evading us.
I picked a few of my favorite articles on success. These ones are a little different by design. Here they are:
Scott Adam’s (Dilbert) Success Formula
It’s the Pebble in Your Shoe
The Wolves Within
Personal Leadership Helps Renew You
The Power of Personal Leadership
Tony Robbins on the 7 Traits of Success
The Way of Success
The future is definitely uncertain. I’m certain of that. But I’m also certain that life’s better with skill and that the right success strategies under your belt can make or break you in work and life.
And the good news for us is that success leaves clues.
So make like a student and study.
Before the Cloud, there was a lot of focus on deployment, as if deployment was success.
Once you shipped the project, it was time to move on to the next project. And project success was measured in terms of “on time” and “on budget.” If you could deploy things quickly, you were a super shipper.
Of course, what we learned was that if you simply throw things over the wall and hope they stick, it’s not very successful.
"If you build it" ... users don't always come.
It was easy to confuse shipping projects on time and on budget with business impact.
But let's compound the problem.
The big hump of software development was the hump in the middle—A big development hump. And that hump was followed by a big deployment hump (installing software, fixing issues, dealing with deployment hassles, etc.)
So not only were development cycles long, but deployment was tough, too.
Because development cycles were long, and deployment was so tough, it was easy to confuse effort for value.
Now, let's turn it around.
With the Cloud, deployment is simplified. You can reach more users, and it's easier to scale. And it's easier to be available 24x7.
Add Agile to the mix, and people ship smaller, more frequent releases.
So with smaller, more-frequent releases, and simpler deployment, some software teams have turned into shipping machines.
The Cloud shrinks the development and deployment humps.
So now the game is a lot more obvious.
Deployment doesn't mark the finish. It starts the game.
The real game of software success is adoption.
If you picture the old IT project hump, where there is a long development cycle in the middle, now it's shorter humps in the middle.
The big hump is now user adoption.
It’s not new. It was always there. But the adoption hump was hidden beyond the development and deployment humps, and simply written off as “Value Leakage.”
And if you made it over the first two humps, since most projects did not plan or design for adoption, or allocate any resources or time, adoption was mostly an afterthought.
And so the value leaked.
But the adoption hump is where the business benefits are. The ROI is sitting there, gathering dust, in our "pay-for-play" world. The value is simply waiting to be released and unleashed.
Software solutions are sitting idle waiting for somebody to realize the value.
All of the benefits to the business are locked up in that adoption hump. All of the benefits around how users will work better, faster, or cheaper, or how you will change the customer interaction experience, or how back-office systems will be better, faster, cheaper ... they are all locked up in that adoption hump.
As I said before, the key to Value Realization is adoption.
So if you want to realize more value, drive more user adoption.
And if you want to accelerate value, then accelerate user adoption.
In a Cloud world, the original humps of design, development, and deployment shrink. But it’s not just time and effort that shrink. Costs shrink, too. With online platforms to build on (Infrastructure as a Service, Platforms as a Service, and Software as a Service), you don’t have to start from scratch or roll your own. And if you adopt a configure before customize mindset, you can further reduce your costs of design and development.
Architecture moves up the stack from basic building blocks to composition.
And adoption is where the action is.
What was the afterthought in the last generation of solutions, is now front and center.
In the new world, adoption is a planned spend, and it’s core to the success of the planned value delivery.
If you want to win the game, think “Adoption-First.”
Continuous Value Delivery the Agile Way
How Can Enterprise Architects Drive Business Value the Agile Way?
How To Use Personas and Scenarios to Drive Adoption and Realize Value
Jariek Robbins, son of Tony Robbins, shares his personal development lessons learned. I asked Jariek to write a guest post for me on his best lessons learned in personal development, and he slammed it home. In his article, “How to Take the Ordinary and Turn it into EXTRAORDINARY!”, he shares how to deal with mundane, boring, and routine tasks, as well as draining activities, and turn them into sources of power and strength.
I’ve long been a fan of Tony Robbins and his ability to “design” life and shape destiny with hard-core thinking skills. I actually first learned about Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) from Tony Robbins which is basically a methodology for modeling excellence. If you’re a developer, you’ll appreciate the idea of programming your mind by design, and changing your thoughts, feelings, and actions for your best results. A lot of the Microsoft execs use NLP skills to improve their interpersonal effectiveness, from building rapport, to changing their inner-game, and reframing problems into compelling challenges.
The other thing that Tony Robbins excels at his ability to ask the right questions. Many people can just ask questions. But there’s an art to asking the right questions, and getting deep insights with precision and accuracy.
Jariek Robbins learned many of these skills from his father and uses them to shape his path forward, as well as to coach people and businesses to bring out their best. By asking better questions and modeling success he can speed up results.
Check out Jariek’s article and learn how to turn the ordinary into extraordinary.
I wrote a post on A Language for Strengths on Sources of Insight. It's my attempt to consolidate and share the best information I've found for learning and talking about strengths and talents. I'm a big believer in focusing on your strengths. I know that when I spend more time in my strengths, I have more energy, I get more done, and I improve my impact. It's about giving my best where I have my best to give. It sounds simple and obvious, yet, before I had a lens for strengths and talents it was more hit or miss. Now, I can more effectively zoom in on my strengths because I have a vocabulary for them.
As I've been helping people find jobs, write their resumes, find their passions, and unleash their best, I've been relying heavily on first helping them find their natural strengths and talents. This gives them the drive and the staying power to deal with whatever life throws at them, as well as gives them a competitive edge. The key in today's landscape, is to bring your unique combination of strengths to the table. I think that while it's a skills-for-hire economy for the short-term, it's a play-to-your-strengths life for the long term.
To learn the map of the 34 strengths and get started on your strengths quest, read my post, A Language for Strengths.
I have a very special guest post about leadership and how to build a team of leaders. It’s by Bob and Gregg Vanourek, the authors of Triple Crown Leadership.
It’s special because it reminds me of the leadership culture we created in the early days of the Microsoft patterns & practices team – where everybody was expected to demonstrate leadership. Everybody up and down the chain was expected to influence without authority, drive for results, be accountable, take ownership of issues, strive for excellence, etc. It was a culture of empowerment, excellence, and growth.
This management philosophy, where everybody is a leader, created a culture of learning and execution that I just hadn’t seen, heard of, or experienced anywhere else before that. To put wood behind the arrow, management significantly invested in each of the members of the team, up and down the chain, so that they could operate and be effective as individual leaders, regardless of their position. As individual leaders, they could lead themselves with skill, as well as influence across organizational boundaries more effectively. The impact was a high-performing team of federated leaders that shared common values, while driving the mission and vision, and embracing the operating principles of the culture at large.
Our training included learning how to influence without authority, how to ask precise question and give precise answers (especially when dealing with executives), how to have crucial conversations, and how to manage crucial confrontations. Our training also included balancing connection and conviction, and knowing how to better relate with conflicting interpersonal communication styles. People learned rapidly from each other and accelerated each other’s growth. People also had deep respect for each other because the leadership skills shined through. People were skilled at looking at the bigger picture and focusing on the tactics within the strategies to realize the future and take bold action.
The “team of leaders” is a powerful concept. I would say it’s actually transformational. One way to grow a group is to decide that there is a leader, and of course, behind the leader are followers. If you’re a follower, even a good one, you aren’t necessarily expected to demonstrate strong leadership skills. After all, you have a leader for that. If on the other hand, everyone is a leader, then everyone is expected to bring out their best. You now have a team of forward looking, fully engaged, people asking better questions, and using influence, not coercion, to get things done. The motivational philosophy that drives the team is to win the heart, and the mind follows … so you now have an inspired band of leaders, ready to take on big challenges, and make things happen.
You get what you expect. You can choose to set the stage of whether to lead a team of leaders, or lead a band of followers. In today’s hyper-competitive world, I think you set yourself up for success when you leverage the full capacity of what your teams and people are capable of.
I forgot just how important this little idea was until I was reading the guest post. It’s a great example of how little things like attitudes and beliefs, truly shape the reality in ways that become self-fulfilling.
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 …
The Value conversation serves two main purposes in IT:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
On the tactical and execution level the Value practitioner needs to:
The three technical challenges are primarily:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
How To Use Six Thinking Hats
Idea to Done: How to Use a Personal Kanban for Getting Results
Workshop Planning Framework
When it comes to people, underutilized does not mean squeeze out more hours, it means unleash more strengths.
When people have the chance to give their best where they have their best to give, this has an automatic way of taking care of utilization, motivation, impact, etc. When somebody is in their element, effective managers co-create the goals and get out of the way. It’s among the best ways to get the best results from teams or individuals. If you want to optimize a team, then unleash the strengths of each individual.
The power of people in a knowledge worker world is that you get exponential results when people are playing to their strengths. The simplest way to do this is have people in roles where they spend more time in their strengths and less time in their weaknesses. Another way to unleash their strength is pair them up with people that compliment their strengths or balance out their weaknesses.
On the flip side, the simplest way to create low-performing teams is to have people spend more time in their weaknesses and very little time in their strengths. While this is simple and obvious, the real trick is looking for it and finding ways to bring out people’s best.
While it’s not always easy, and you often have to get creative, one of the best things you can do for you, your company, the world, is to spend more time in your strengths and help others do the same. It’s the fittest and the flexible that survive, and it’s your unique strengths that crank up your fit factor.
What's the best way to do it?
Time management tips #9 is pair up. Paring up simply means find somebody that will work with you on something, rather than go it alone. When you pair up, you create a team of capabilities and you learn how to love the things you might otherwise hate. Worst case, you at least make doing what you don’t enjoy, more fun. Best case, you find a new passion for something you didn’t know you had.
We all have things to do that we're not great at, or slow us down. Maybe it's because we don't have talent for it. Maybe it's because we hate doing it. Maybe it's because we just don't know a few tricks of the trade. (Sadly, I find the that it’s missing the tricks of the trade, that holds us back the most … and learning the tricks, actually unleashes a passion in us, because we no longer suck at it … it’s such a chicken and an egg scenario time and time again.)
Chances are you know somebody who is great at whatever it is that you need to do, or at least better than you. Just because you might hate to do something, doesn't mean that somebody else does not live for it. One person's trash is another's treasure. And that's a good thing.
Pairing up is the fastest way to transfer tribal knowledge. It’s visceral. You *feel* it. You immerse yourself in it. You get to see how somebody that likes doing this activity, actually goes about it. It's your chance to learn everything from the mindset they have, to the questions they ask, to the short-cuts they use, or how they make it fun.
One of my favorite phrases at work is, "Show me how."
So many experts love to show and share how they do their magic. It puts them in their element. Sometimes they will genuinely want to help you succeed. Other times, it's just so they can show off. Either way, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you make the most of it.
One of the best pairing situations is where you find a "workout buddy" for work. Maybe you are good at doing slides, and maybe they are good at technical details. When you pair up, you can both look good, and you both have something to gain.
Pairing works best when it's a mutual gain, so it's always helpful to bring something to the table. Sometimes, all you bring to the table is appreciation for their amazing skill, and sometimes that is enough.
Another great pattern for pairing is if you are a "starter" -- you like to start things, but you aren't a strong "finisher." A strong "starter" and "finisher" pair is like a dynamic duo in action that amplify each other's success. One's strength is another's weakness, and your goal is to build a mini-team of capabilities over a one-man band.
It's not just effective, it's strategic. By doing what you do best, and supplementing where you are not, you maximize your ability to make things happen in the most effective way, while staying true to you.
In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the time management exercises to be a more effective starter or finisher and get exponential results on a daily and weekly basis. You can also find more time management tips in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, and on Getting Results.com
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Getting Results the Agile Way is a personal results system for making the most of what you’ve got. As the book cover says, it helps you focus and prioritize, manage time and information, and balance work and life, to achieve meaningful results. People have been using the approach for anything from shipping software to home improvement to renovating their restaurants. Leaders have been using it to improve the productivity, passion, and performance of their teams. By having people work on the right things, at the right time, the right way, with the right energy, it brings out the best in people. It’s a way to amplify impact and get exponential results.
… But what makes it real is when you hear from the people that are using the system.
Meet Jason Taylor. Jason is CTO (Chief Technology Officer) at Security Innovation, and here is his story of using Getting Results the Agile Way …
I came to Getting Results with a history of effectiveness and success. I had a solid sense of what I felt were the best ways to get things done, a set of process and principles that had worked well for me over many years. I am a process guy, a details guy and a lover of great strategy. I sweat the small stuff and I look at the big picture in order to guide myself and my organization to maximum results. Then I met JD...
I started with JD on a project to build security guidance for the ASP.NET development platform. A huge undertaking that involved discovering, consuming, and analyzing a huge amount of information from a huge amount of sources both written and verbal and then turning that into specific, contextual, prescriptive guidance for Microsoft developers. The goal was nothing less than to change the way in which web applications were written on the Microsoft platform. In order to make consumers more secure, the applications needed to be more secure. In order to make the applications more secure, developers needed to know what to do. That's where JD and team came in. What I saw in the course of this project, changed my view on how to get things done. JD accomplished the seemingly impossible. In too little time, with too little resources, with a staggering amount of chaos to deal with, JD coaxed the team into writing a masterpiece. I couldn't see how it was done, but I was curious. Luckily for me I had to opportunity to work with JD on a number of other projects over the course of several years. I learned the process as it was developed and maybe even had a chance to contribute to it a little here and there. Whether I had any impact on it or not, it had a huge impact on me. Before I explain what I learned, I want to set some context to explain how I used to get results. I was a huge believer in up-front planning. For a new project I would spend a lot of time designing and planning what needed to get done, how it would get done, when it would get done, who would do it and in what order. I was a master of this style. I could plan a complex project with a dozen team members and have an 18 month plan with all of the tasks laid out to the day and then we could execute to that plan so that 18 months from the start we had accomplished exactly what I had laid out at the start. Impressive right? Well, not really. I learned, the hard way, that I was focusing on the wrong things. I was focusing on tasks and activities. I was focusing on what got done, which I thought were the results, but I was neglecting the real results. Most importantly, I had the wrong assumptions. I assumed that a rigorous planning process could remove risk. I assumed that I knew up-front what I wanted to accomplish. I assumed that my plan was helping me when it was actually a prison.
So what did I learn from JD and how did it change how I do things? What kind of a difference did it make? Here are the key lessons I learned, my most important take-aways:
I'm sure your take-aways from Getting Results will be different from mine. We are all different, have different goals and are all in different places in regards to our abilities and motivations to be effective. There is so much in this guide, it has so much to offer, that I think anyone who reads it will get something out of it. If you are lucky, it may even change your life like it did mine.
In Motley Fool Stock Advisor, David Gardner writes about a idea from 1970 that changed the business culture at large:
“In 1970, Noble Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman wrote a famous article for The New York Times Magazine, decrying the idea that businesses should have any sense of social responsibility. Their responsibility, he said, is to increase shareholder wealth to the greatest extent possible – pure and simple. It was an incredibly influential idea that became common wisdom and is in large part responsible for much of the business culture we see today. The problem is it was completely and transparently wrong.”
David then follows up with words of wisdom from Jack Welch, Former General Electric CEO.
Here’s what Jack said in an interview back in 2009:
“On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world. Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy … Your main constituencies are your employees, your customers, and your products. Managers and investors should not set share price increase as their overarching goal.”
It’s a great reminder to set overarching goals that matter.
Then great results are a by-product.
Everybody has too much to do, too little time. Yet, some people have a way of spending their time on things in a way that yields better results.
What’s the key to crushing an overwhelming list of things to do and getter better results?
3 simple steps:
I elaborate on this approach in 3 Steps to Crushing Your Overwhelming List of Things To Do.
Why does this work?
It dumps what’s on your mind. We tend to think better on paper. At least, it’s easier to be more objective when you are looking at your list of things to do on paper, right in front of you. Instead of swirling it around in your mind, you can look at each item and ask better questions, whether it’s worth it, and whether it’s the right thing to be working on now.
When you bubble up Three Wins, you’ve identified the three most valuable outcomes that you want to achieve. These instantly help you focus and prioritize all of your other efforts. If it feels off, then you carved out the wrong things. You have to get real and be honest with yourself about what you want to achieve (or can achieve) with the time and energy you’ve got for the rest of the day. Given the time you’ve got left for today, and the energy you’ve got left, what are the three most valuable things you could possibly achieve?
The beauty is you can do this at any time in the day, whenever you are overwhelmed. Simply stop, and remind yourself what your Three Wins will be for today, and refocus on those. It takes practice to get the level-right, and to not confuse outcomes, wins, or results with tasks, but you’ll get the hang of it, the more you do it.
With your wins at the top of the list, you can then prioritize the rest of your list, to support your wins. It’s perfectly acceptable to have a bunch of tasks and reminders, whatever you need to help you take better action, but do yourself the favor, and guide all your actions with Three Wins.
You’ll be amazed by how much better you can trim an overwhelming mound of things to do, down to size, and how easily you can focus and stay motivated, even when you are doing the heavy lifting. If you know you are going for a win, and not just doing a bunch of stuff, you will inspire yourself with skill, and bring out your best, time and again.
If You're Afraid of Your To-Do List, It’s Not Working
My Personal Approach for Daily Results
This is a simple visual of a frame we used for helping choose which projects to invest in in patterns & practices.
The main frame is “Technical Uncertainty” vs. “Market Uncertainty.” We used this frame to help balance our portfolio of projects against risk, value, and growth, against the cost.
One of my mentees was looking for ways to grow her prowess in “Inspiring a Vision.”
Here are some of the ways I shared with her so far:
The key with vision is, when possible –
And, a powerful tool we use at Microsoft is a Vision / Scope document.