Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
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.
Dr. Jay Conger has a must see presentation on The Anatomy of a High-Potential:
The Anatomy of a High-Potential
I’m always on the hunt for insights and actions that help people get the edge in work and life. This is one of those gems. What I like about Dr. Jay Conger’s work is that he has a mental model that’s easy to follow, as well as very specific practices that separate high-potentials from the rest of the pack.
In a fast-paced world of extreme innovation, change, and transformation, it pays to be high-potential.
Anything you can do to learn how to perform like a high-potential, can help you leap frog or fast track your career path.
Here are some of my favorite highlights from Dr. Conger’s presentation …
High-potentials consistently out-perform their peer groups. Dr. Jay Conger writes:
“High potentials consistently outperform their peer groups in a variety of settings and circumstances. While achieving superior levels of performance, they exhibit behaviors reflecting their company's culture and values in an exemplary manner. They show strong capacity to grow and success throughout their careers -- more quickly and effectively than their peer groups do.”
According to Dr. Jay Conger, high-potentials distinguish themselves in the following ways:
High-potentials are game changers. Here is a snapshot of Dr. Jay Conger’s pyramid that illustrates how high-potentials move up the stack:
What I like the most about the model is that it resonates with what I’ve experienced, and that it frames out a pragmatic development path for amplifying your impact as a proven game changer.
Kanban: The Secret of High-Performance Teams at Microsoft
How To Lead High-Performance Distributed Teams
The Innovative Team
The Book that Changes Lives
The Guerilla Guide to Getting a Better Performance Review at Microsoft
Personas and scenario can be a powerful tool for driving adoption and business value realization.
All too often, people deploy technology without fully understanding the users that it’s intended for.
Worse, if the technology does not get used, the value does not get realized.
Keep in mind that the value is in the change.
The change takes the form of doing something better, faster, cheaper, and behavior change is really the key to value realization.
If you deploy a technology, but nobody adopts it, then you won’t realize the value. It’s a waste. Or, more precisely, it’s only potential value. It’s only potential value because nobody has used it to change their behavior to be better, faster, or cheaper with the new technology.
In fact, you can view change in terms of behavior changes:
What should users START doing or STOP doing, in order to realize the value?
Behavior change becomes a useful yardstick for evaluating adoption and consumption of technology, and significant proxy for value realization.
I’ve written about personas before in Actors, Personas, and Roles, MSF Agile Persona Template, and Personas at patterns & practices, and Microsoft Research has a whitepaper called Personas: Practice and Theory.
A persona, simply defined is a fictitious character that represents user types. Personas are the “who” in the organization. You use them to create familiar faces and to inspire project teams to know their clients as well as to build empathy and clarity around the user base.
Using personas helps characterize sets of users. It’s a way to capture and share details about what a typical day looks like and what sorts of pains, needs, and desired outcomes the personas have as they do their work.
You need to know how work currently gets done so that you can provide relevant changes with technology, plan for readiness, and drive adoption through specific behavior changes.
Using personas can help you realize more value, while avoiding “value leakage.”
When it comes to users, and what they do, we're talking about usage scenarios. A usage scenario is a story or narrative in the form of a flow. It shows how one or more users interact with a system to achieve a goal.
You can picture usage scenarios as high-level storyboards. Here is an example:
In fact, since scenario is often an overloaded term, if people get confused, I just call them Solution Storyboards.
To figure out relevant usage scenarios, we need to figure out the personas that we are creating solutions for.
In practice, you would segment the user population, and then assign personas to the different user segments. For example, let’s say there are 20,000 employees. Let’s say that 3,000 of them are business managers, let’s say that 6,000 of them are sales people. Let’s say that 1,000 of them are product development engineers. You could create a persona named Mary to represent the business managers, a persona named Sally to represent the sales people, and a persona named Bob to represent the product development engineers.
This sounds simple, but it’s actually powerful. If you do a good job of workforce analysis, you can better determine how many users a particular scenario is relevant for. Now you have some numbers to work with. This can help you quantify business impact. This can also help you prioritize. If a particular scenario is relevant for 10 people, but another is relevant for 1,000, you can evaluate actual numbers.
Let’s take Bob for example. As a product development engineer, Bob designs and develops new product concepts. He would love to collaborate better with his distributed development team, and he would love better feedback loops and interaction with real customers.
We can drill in a little bit to get a get a better picture of his work as a product development engineer.
Here are a few ways you can drill in:
Another approach is to focus on the roles, responsibilities, challenges, work-style, needs and wants. This helps you understand which solutions are appropriate, what sort of behavior changes would be involved, and how much readiness would be required for any significant change.
At the end of the day, it always comes down to building empathy, understanding, and clarity around pains, needs, and desired outcomes.
Here’s an example of a high-level process for persona creation:
Doing persona analysis is actually pretty simple. The challenge is that people don’t do it, or they make a lot of assumptions about what people actually do and what their pains and needs really are. When’s the last time somebody asked you what your pains and needs are, or what you need to perform your job better?
In one example I know of a large bank that transformed itself by focusing on it’s personas and scenarios.
It started with one usage scenario:
Connect with customers wherever they are.
This scenario was driven from pain in the business. The business was out of touch with customers, and it was operating under a legacy banking model. This simple scenario reflected an opportunity to change how employees connect with customers (though Cloud, Mobile, and Social).
On the customer side of the equation, customers could now have virtual face-to-face communication from wherever they are. On the employee side, it enabled a flexible work-style, helped employees pair up with each other for great customer service, and provided better touch and connection with the customers they serve.
And in the grand scheme of things, this helped transform a brick-and-mortar bank to a digital bank of the future, setting a new bar for convenience, connection, and collaboration.
Here is a video that talks through the story of one bank’s transformation to the digital banking arena:
Video: NedBank on The Future of Digital Banking
In the video, you’ll see Blessing Sibanyoni, one of Microsoft’s Enterprise Architects in action.
If you’re wondering how to change the world, you can start with personas and scenarios.
Scenarios in Practice
How I Learned to Use Scenarios to Evaluate Things
How Can Enterprise Architects Drive Business Value the Agile Way?
Business Scenarios for the Cloud
IT Scenarios for the Cloud
As technology and software change our world at a faster rate than ever before, we need to play a better game.
How do we play a better game?
By recognizing our conceptual blocks and removing them.
Here is how Satya Nadella told us to think about our mental game and conceptual blocks:
“It's really a mental game.
At this point, it's got nothing to do with your capability, at all. You're going to be facing stuff that you never faced before and it's all in the head. The question is how are you going to cope with it. It's all a conceptual block.
And if we can get rid of that, things get a lot easier.
You've got to really think about the conceptual block you have, be mindful of it, and remove it.
And then you can have a different perspective.”
When we change our perspective, we change our game.
That’s how we win, in work and in life.
Microsoft Explained: Making Sense of the Microsoft Platform Story
Satya Nadella is the New Microsoft CEO
Satya Nadella is All About Customer Focus, Employee Engagement, and Changing the World
Satya Nadella on Live and Work a Meaningful Life
Satya Nadella on the Future is Software
Satya Nadella on Everyone Has to Be a Leader
Here’s the opening blurb …
'Getting Results the Agile Way' -- A Timeless System for Changing Times -- Now Available in Print
Seattle, WA (PRWEB) October 26, 2010
Author J.D. Meier is announcing that his new book ‘Getting Results the Agile Way’ is now available in print. The book shows readers the way to make the most out of work and life. Meier has come up with a simple system to achieve meaningful results that combines some of the best methods for improving one’s thinking, feeling, and doing.
“The best way I can put it is, it helps you be the author of your life and write your story forward,” says Meier. “Basically, it’s a system that can support you in everything you do. It’s based on principles and patterns so you can tailor it for yourself or for any situation.”
Read the rest on PRWeb at - http://www.prweb.com/releases/Getting-Results/Now-in-Print/prweb4636494.htm
"People are known by the company they keep; companies are known by the people they keep." -- Bill Gates
I’ve revamped and swept my business books collection. My business books collection is a rich set of the best business books that you can use to change your game. They are especially important now with the cloud.
I find the cloud is a great chance to get back to your business, and get back to the basics. To do this, you have to figure out the role you want to play in the cloud (be the cloud, use the cloud, move to the cloud.) You also need to really figure out your strategy.
My strategy section of my business books includes:
Blue Ocean is your best friend when it comes to the strategy game. The idea is to compete where there is no competition. For example, how would you compete against a circus? Would you find cheaper or better animals? No, you change the game and create a new market. That’s what Cirque du Soleil did. The question then becomes, how do you do this at the personal level to stay competitive in the marketplace?
Business Model Generation is an amazing synthesis of business tools all rolled together into a simple approach. It’s a great way to sketch your business. It helps you think on paper so you can analyze your model more effectively. If I could only have one business book, this might be the one business book to rule them all.
Good to Great is a business book classic. In fact, this is one the main books we used to shape the early days of the Microsoft patterns & practices team. We spent a lot of energy asking the question, what can we be the best in the world at, with the people we’ve got? We put a lot of focus on making sure that people were giving their best where they have their best to give, and leveraging the power of the system. I think it was this ruthless focus on blending passion, purpose, and strengths that accelerated Microsoft patterns & practices through the early days, with a clear differentiation. As one of my colleagues put it, the power was having “architects who could write.”
The Well Timed Strategy is one of those books that really makes you think. You start to see things in new ways. It’s the business book that got me seeing things in cycles. I stopped looking at things in such a static way. I started paying more attention to the ups and downs and the cycles of things. It helps me better understand the mountains and the valleys of the business cycles. I stopped pushing rocks uphill and learned to ride the waves.
I’ll continue to tune and prune my business books collection. Smart people are constantly recommending great business books to me to help me get ahead of the curve and sharpen my business skills. In today’s world, business skills + technical skills are the way forward.
The cycle of change is short in the knowledge age and digital economy. Jobs end. We create new ones. Do we create new ones fast enough? Do we have the durable and evolvable skills to make it in our emerging landscape?
The cycle of change used to be longer. One reason is the cycle of resource technology change used to be slower. With a slower rate of change, you could go to school, learn a trade, do that job, maybe change jobs once or twice during your career, and then retire. That cycle fundamentally changes when jobs are anchored to a different backbone, and the rate of change outpaces the skills you learn in school.
A colleague sent a great article from Strategy + Business on The Jobs Engine. From the article, these are my favorite nuggets:
One of the things that’s always on my mind is the question, “What value can I create?” In parallel, I’m always asking, “What value am I flowing?” I hope the ideas or projects I work on, lead, or in some way contribute, to job creation. I like to be a springboard and a platform or a catalyst for business. In fact, several of the projects I’ve worked, have helped people grow or start businesses, create value, and create jobs. I like to be a platform that empowers.
Personally, the way I find my way forward in the changing landscape, is to anchor to skills that should serve me well for the foreseeable future: strategy, project management, and entrepreneurism. As a program manager at Microsoft, I actually see the job of a program manager as a technical entrepreneur, where the goal is to bring new ideas to life, make things happen, and shape user, business, and customer goals into high impact, high value, results. Strategy is a key skill because it’s about what I will do, won’t do, and why … along with how I’ll differentiate, while playing to strengths. Project management is a key skill because it’s about making things happen as you explore and execute an idea from cradle to grave, while orchestrating teams towards a vision, while dealing with risks, and playing within the boundaries and constraints of time, budget, and resources.
I share these thought because I’m finding myself mentor more and more people on the art and science of effective program management. I firmly believe that effective program managers (or technical entrepreneurs) play a key role in shaping the future.
In a new digital economy and a world of ultra-competition, it’s great to shape a smart organization.
We learned this long ago. Agile was part of the early Microsoft patterns & practices DNA. We embraced agile methods and agile management practices.
We learned that execution is king, and that shipping early and often gives you better feedback and a way to make changes in a customer-connected way.
Here is what Gartner says …
“Accepting higher project failure rates can help organizations become more efficient more quickly, according to Gartner, Inc. Gartner said project and portfolio management (PPM) leaders who take a "fail-forward-fast" approach that accepts project failure rates of 20 to 28 percent as the norm will help their organizations become more agile by embracing experimentation and enabling the declaration of success or failure earlier in a project's life.”
Check out the article, Gartner Says Smart Organizations Will Embrace Fast and Frequent Project Failure in Their Quest for Agility.
No, this isn't about "Once upon a time." There are ways to know and share yourself with skill. You can combine stories and branding to reveal the truths that help you stand out in the marketplace or workplace, and play to your competitive edge.
But the challenge is this -- unless you're a skilled marketer, how do you reveal the power of your brand in a more compelling way?
I'm not a marketer, and I don't play one on T.V., so I have to work at it. The way I work at it, is I pay attention to the people that are outstanding at what they do.
So what do the people that are outstanding at this do?
They focus on values. Finding shared values is the key to building brands and building stronger relationships in everything you do ... in work, and in life. Brand building is largely about creating clarity around the values the brand stands for.
A simple way is to start by just figuring out three attributes that you want your brand to be about. For example:
It needs to be believable. You need to believe it, in your heart of hearts and soul of souls.
Related to that, you need to know who your brand is for. What are the values they share? What are the boundaries of those values, and at what point, do you have polar opposites or create conflict?
Find the intersection.
That’s where the magic happens.
If you want to be relevant, you need to find the intersection of the values.
Values are the ultimate lightening rod.
From the Archives Rituals for Results – The bigger your bag of tricks is for getting results, the more you can choose the right tool for the job. Otherwise, it’s a one-size fits all deal. The more tools you have in your toolbox, the more you can respond to changing environments and situations. Rituals for Results is a collection of best practices for getting results that have served me well over time. I continue to learn from anyone and everyone I can, and I share many of my best practices for productivity, time management, and getting results at Getting Results.com.
Zen of Zero Inbox - This is an oldie, but goodie if you struggle with keeping up with email. Many years ago I decided that keeping an empty inbox would serve me better than fishing through an overflowing inbox of potential action items. It was one of the best moves I made and it kept my administration down to a minimum. I deal with a lot of email with distributed teams around the world, and I did not want to spend all my time in email. This is a short presentation that shares some of the most important concepts to managing your email and keeping your inbox down to zero. (Note – I often get more than 150 emails directly to me a day, and most of them are actions, and I limit myself to ~30 minutes a day in email administration.)
From the Web Inspirational Quotes – If you haven’t seen these before, this may become your new favorite quotes collection. These are many of the best of the best gems of timeless wisdom. The gang’s all here … Buddha, Lao-Tzu, Emerson, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Twain, Franklin, Churchill and more. That’s a powerful bunch to have in your corner. Use their words of wisdom to lift you up and help you “stand on the shoulders of giants.”
36 Best Business Books that Influenced Microsoft Leaders - I reached out to several Microsoft leaders, past and present, and up and down the ranks. The beauty of Microsoft is the extremely high concentration of smart people and I like to leverage the collective brain. In this case, I posed a simple question to find out which business books actually made a difference: “What are the top 3 books that changed your life in terms of business effectiveness?” This list of business books reflects the answers to that question.
Lists are your friend when it comes to productivity, focus, and personal effectiveness. If you’re a Program Manager, you already know the value of lists, whether it’s a list of scenarios, a list of features, a list of bugs, a list of milestones, a list of open work, etc.
I use lists of all kinds to collect, organize, and simplify all sorts of information. Here is my newly renovated Lists page on Sources of Insight:
Lists at a Glance
I have lists of books, movies, quotes, and more. I also have checklists that you can use to improve things like focus or leadership in work and life.
Here are a few of my favorite lists from the page:
If you only read one list, read 101 of the Great Insights and Actions for Work and Life. It might seem long but it’s a super consolidated list of things you can use instantly to make the most of what you’ve got and to apply more science to the art of work and life.
Here are a few examples from 101 of the Greatest Insights and Actions for Work and Life:
Job satisfaction — Autonomy, identity, feedback significance, and variety. If you want to truly enjoy your job, focus on the following characteristics: skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, feedback. See Social Psychology (p. 423)
“How does the story end?” – How the story ends, matters more than how it starts. A happy ending is a very powerful thing. The ending of the story is often more important than the beginning. Daniel Kahnenman says that a bad ending can ruin your overall experience or memory of the event.
“Doublethink” — Think twice to visualize more effectively. Think twice to succeed. Focus on the positive and the negative. You can visualize more effectively if you imagine both the positive side and the negative side. First, fantasize about reaching your goal, and the benefits. Next, imagine the barriers and obstacles you might face. Now for the “doublethink” … First, think about the first benefit and elaborate on how your life would be better. Next, immediately, think about the biggest hurdle to your success and what you would do if you encounter it. In 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, Richard Wiseman says that Gabriele Oettingen has demonstrated time and again that people who practice “doublethink” are more successful than those who just fantasize or those who just focus on the negatives.
Delphi Method — Use “Collective Intelligence” to find the best answers. The Delphi technique is a way to use experts to forecast and predict information. It’s a structured approach to getting consensus on expert answers. The way it works is a facilitator gets experts to answer questions anonymously. The facilitator then shares the summary of the anonymous results. The experts can then revise their answers based on the collective information. By sharing anonymous results, and then talking about the summary of the anonymous results, experts can more freely share information and explore ideas without being defensive of their opinions. See Delphi Method.
The Power of Regret — Reflect on your worst, to bring out your best. In 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, Richard Wiseman says, “research conducted by Charles Abraham and Paschal Sheeran has shown that just a few moments’ thinking about how much you will regret not going to the gym will help motivate you to climb off the couch and onto an exercise bike.”
10 Emotional Intelligence Articles for Improving Your Effectiveness in Work and Life
How Tos for Personal Effectiveness at a Glance
How To Use Monday Vision, Daily Wins, and Friday Reflection to Triple Your Productivity
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.”
If you are really behind, and want to dig yourself out, and get back on top things, then close the flood gate.
Don't take on new things.
Time management tips #22 is close the flood gates. It's all too easy to reopen the door, let things slip in, and keep taking on new things, without first finishing what's already on your overloaded plate. Closing the flood gate simply means stop randomizing and churning on new work that you don't have the time, capacity, bandwidth, attention, or energy to focus on. If you keep taking on more, it's not a service to anybody, especially yourself.
Whenever I find myself buried among a sea of open work, unfinished tasks, and things to do, I close the flood gate. I stand guard at the door of incoming requests, and I put all of my focus on the open work.
It's easy to stretch past capacity. You say yes to things you think will finish a little faster than they actually do. Things come up. You didn't have a buffer for when things go wrong. The key is to recognize when you're past your capacity, and to take decisive action.
No new work. Full focus on the work that is wearing you down, or blocking your ability to flow value.
The problem is work will still come your way. Have a place to put it. A simple list is fine. You can review it and prioritize it when you're read to take on more things. The trap to avoid is dabbling in new work, dabbling in unfinished work, and throwing more balls in the air, than you can possibly juggle.
Don't create your own problem by taking on work past your capacity. If somebody assigns work to you, do them a favor, and let them know you're at capacity, and when you expect to free up. If you see new work as higher value than what's already on your plate, consider trading up for it, and letting your open work go. If you have so much open work that you're spending more time managing it, than finishing it, then consider shelving the lower priority work. Put it on the shelf for another day. Temporary let it go, while you concentrate your focus on a vital few things to complete them.
You'll be surprised what you're capable of with focus and priorities and concentrated effort in small batches of time.
Close the flood gate, narrow your focus, flow your value.
For work-life balance skills , check out 30 Days of Getting Results, and for a work-life balance system check out Agile Results at Getting Results.com.
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People like to hear stories about how other people are adopting Getting Results the Agile Way. Meet Praveen Rangarajan. He’s a developer with a passion for more from life.
Praveen is not a "process" guy, but Agile Results gave him just enough structure to support his everyday things. Using Agile Results he learned to improve his results at both work and life in a more systematic way.
Here is Praveen telling his story of how he adopted Getting Results the Way …
For a majority of my life, I had never been a "Process" guy except when it came to work. I always believed order was meant for the military. I wanted to be a free bird - doing things my way at the time of my choosing.
When JD briefed me on his new book and the process he was working on, I volunteered and said I wanted to be a part of it. I am quite successful at work and wanted to improve it further. However, I wasn't too keen on adopting it for life. I thought it would restrict me a lot and clip my feathers. So, I adopted it at work and did a trial run for a month. It was much more successful than I thought. The Agile Results process has in more ways than one made me a responsible individual. The most important realizations for me at the end of it was
Starting with The Rule of Three I started by applying the Rule of 3. On the way to work, I decide on the three things I want to get done for the day. I restricted myself to one day only. I get distracted if I start thinking too far ahead. For the first week or so, I had trouble identifying the three best things for a day. I would either achieve it in the first hour of work or wouldn't be able to complete even 1 out of the 3. For example, I wanted to complete a module that would have been possible had it not been for a CR [change request] flowing in. Now, it would take me more than 2 days to finish it. My plan for the day went down the tube. Slowly, I began to realize that I had to be more granular. The granularity had to be such that it was independent enough to be completed in isolation and at the same time wasn't too small a puzzle to solve. For example, "complete and check-in functionality ABC in module XYZ". This way I'm assured of completing the three activities I want to perform. Also, I can add more if time permits.
Timeboxing to Get a Handle on Time Management The next most important pattern was the Timeboxing a week. In other words, scheduling results for a week. Its a pretty simple yet strong pattern. Again, I misunderstood its importance when I started off. I used it more like a calendar. A reminder of bucket lists of sorts. Although it helps, there is something more that this pattern offers. JD was kind enough to point it out to me. He said to think of it like a strengths and weaknesses chart. It triggered a new way of thinking in me. I was now also looking at a week gone by and identifying times of the day, or days of the week where I was strong or weak, and displayed efficiency vs. laziness. And if this behavior was repetitive, odds are you have just plotted a pattern map. Ultimately this chart helps you make better use of your "Best" time, and look to improve upon your "Idle" time. Complementing the pattern above is the Mindsets pattern. JD uses the term switching hats or changing personas. This basically allows you to maximize the returns on "Idle" time by using them effectively in other ways. For example, I would be annoyed when someone disturbed me with something really stupid when I was doing great work. I would lose 10 minutes in the conversation and another 20 cursing the moron who started it off. After using the Mindsets pattern, I now use the 20 minutes of previously wasted time to walk out of my cubicle and stretch and relax. What it has allowed me to do is to concentrate on my exercise rather than the worthless discussion. Also, both my mind and body get a mini-refreshment.
It’s How You Apply It I began to admire this [Agile Results] process because it was so flexible that I could take, leave or modify certain steps so that they fit my profile better. The goal is to understand the essence of the process and modify it to one's needs. I was pretty satisfied with the results and decided to do a trial run for life as well. A week later, the results came. It was a disaster. The worst part was when I couldn't figure out why it failed. I thought I must be doing something wrong and worked out the whole thing again. Another week went by and it was still not working. After giving it some thought and asking the right set of questions, I realized one fundamental part that I completely ignored in the application of this process to life - and that is setting minimum and maximum time to activities right from the most granular to the complete. Now, I re-did my strategy of application. In two weeks time I could see improvement. It was far from the final outcome. But bottom line, it had started to work. Now, it is unto me to make it successful. Like they say, success or failure lies in not what you have but how you apply what you have.
Changing the Game a Practice or Principle at a Time Like I had stated earlier, the process works well even if I pick 1 out 10 steps as long as I believe it is going to be my game changer. You can add/remove steps any time. At the end of the day, you want your life to be better. And only you know what's best for you. In my case, the most important game changers were:
Work Backwards from the End in Mind A very important by-product of this process is quick feedback. You get to know if you are on-track or tangential almost immediately. You can alter the course of your activities midway so long as you understand what you are doing and targeting. This is one of the very few processes that works its way backward, i.e. you look at the end and work your way back. This means you have a vision for what you want to achieve even before you start. This is a very positive way to look at things. The problem with thinking the other way is that my mind will give up very soon. It [Agile Results] is designed to choose the most optimal Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP) algorithm. And if the time to achieve is long, it will deem it unimportant and a waste of my time.
It Starts the Journey In summary, this process has not turned my life upside down in terms of effectiveness and efficiency. But it has paved a path. Adopting it has not been easy at all, at least for me. But the ROI has been well worth it so far. There's no denying that it will only improve as time goes by and I continue to keep doing things the right way. If there is one thing I have to tell others about this process, it is that do not follow it like a horse. It is a guide, a mentor. Like my mother always tells me, God will help you get you good grades in your exam only if you prepare well for it and put all your energy into it. You cannot expect him to perform miracles out of nothing. Same goes to this process as well. Put your best foot forward and the rest will follow.
My Related Posts
How you split the work is one thing. How you team up on work is another.
This is one of those patterns that can be counter-intuitive, but is one of the single-biggest factors for successful teams. I've seen it time and again, over many years, in many places.
When I compare the effectiveness of various organizations, there's a pattern that always stands out. It's how they leverage their capabilities in terms of teamwork. For the sake of simplicity, I'll simply label the two patterns:
In the One-Man Band scenario, while everybody is on a team, they are all working on seperate things and individual parts. In the Pairing Up scenario, multiple people work on the same problems, together. In other words ...
The Obvious Answer is Often the Wrong Answer The obvious choice is to divide and conquer the work and split the resources to tackle it. That would be great if this was the industrial age, and it was just an assembly line. The problem is it's the knowledge area, and in the arena of knowledge work, you need multiple skills and multiple perspectives to make things happen effectively and efficiently.
Teams of Capabilities, Beat Teams of One In other words, you need teams of capabilities. When you Pair Up, you're combining capabilities. When you combine capabilities, that means that people spend more time in their strengths. You might be great at the technical perspective, but then lack the customer perspective. Or you might be great at doing it, but not presenting it. Or you might be great at thinking up ideas, but suck at sticking with the daily grind to finish the tough stuff. Or you might be great at grinding through the tasks, but not so great at coming up with ideas, or prioritizing, etc.
The One-Man Band Scenario Creates Bottlenecks and Inefficiencies As the One-Man Band, what happens is everybody bottlenecks. They spend more time in their weaknesses and things they aren't good at. Worse, the person ends up married to their idea, or the idea represents just one person's thinking, instead of the collective perspective.
Crews Spend More Time in Strengths and Gain Efficiencies If you've had the benefit of seeing these competing strategies first hand, then it's easy with hind-sight to fully appreciate the value of Pairing Up on problems vs. splitting the work up into One-Man Bands. For many people, they've never had the benefit of working as "crews" or pairing up on problems, and, instead, spend a lot of energy working on their weaknesses and meanwhile, spending way less time on their strength.
When people work as teams of capabilities, and are Pairing Up on problems, the execution engine starts to streamline, people gain efficiencies, and get exponential results. Several by-products also happen:
There are Execution Patterns for High Performing Teams Of course there are exceptions to the generalization (for example, some individuals have a wide variety of just the right skills), and of course their are success patterns (and anti-patterns) for building highly effective teams of capabilities, and effectively pairing people up in ways that are empowering, and catalyzing. I learned many of these the hard way, through trial and error, and many years of experimenting while under the gun to bring out the best in individuals and simultaneously unleash and debottleneck teams for maximum performance and impact. I’ve also had the benefit of mentoring teams, and individuals in reshaping their execution. This is probably an area where it’s worth me sharing a more focused collection of patterns and practices on leading high performance teams.
If you have a favorite post or favorite write up that drills into this topic, please send it my way. In my experience, it's one of the most fundamental game changers to improving the execution and impact of any team, and especially, one that does any sort of knowledge work, and engineering.
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:
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?
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.
“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.
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
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.
"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:
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
You probably already know that emotional intelligence, or “EQ”, is a key to success in work and life.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of yourself, others, and groups.
It’s the key to helping you respond vs. react. When we react, it’s our lizard brain in action. When we respond, we are aware of our emotions, but they are input, and they don’t rule our actions. Instead, emotions inform our actions.
Emotional intelligence is how you avoid letting other people push your buttons. And, at the same time, you can push your own buttons, because of your self-awareness.
Emotional intelligence takes empathy. Empathy, simply put, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.
When somebody is intelligent, and has a high IQ, you would think that they would be successful.
But, if there is a lack of EQ (emotional intelligence), then their relationships suffer.
As a result, their effectiveness, their influence, and their impact are marginalized.
That’s what makes emotional intelligence such an important and powerful leadership skill.
And, it’s emotional intelligence that often sets leaders apart.
Truly exceptional leaders, not only demonstrate emotional intelligence, but within emotional intelligence, they stand out.
Outstanding leaders shine in the following 7 emotional intelligence competencies: Self-reliance, Assertiveness, Optimism, Self-Actualization, Self-Confidence, Relationship Skills, and Empathy.
I’ve summarized 10 Big Ideas from Emotional Capitalists: The Ultimate Guide to Developing Emotional Intelligence for Leaders. It’s an insightful book by Martyn Newman, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read on the art and science of emotional intelligence. What sets this book apart is that Newman focused on turning emotional intelligence into a skill you can practice, with measurable results (he has a scoring system.)
If there’s one take away, it’s really this. The leaders that get the best results know how to get employees and customers emotionally invested in the business.
Without emotional investment, people don’t bring out their best and you end up with a brand that’s blah.
10 Emotional Intelligence Articles for Effectiveness in Work and Life
Emotional Intelligence Quotes
Positive Intelligence at Microsoft
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.
“Another year over, And a new one just begun.” – John Lennon
Ready to get your game on?
January is a great time to focus on what you want out of this year. As you close out last year, you can reflect on what went well and what things you could improve. Focus on the growth.
January is also a great time to build some momentum. January and December are the bookends for your year. It’s interesting how they are both a month apart and a year apart.
What you fill that year with, is your opportunity.
If you’re having a hard time remembering what it means to dream big, I put together a collection of dream big quotes to rekindle your imagination.
I’ve also put together a set of posts to help you create goals with skill:
One of the most helpful things I’ve found with goal setting, is to start with 3 dreams or 3 wins for the year. I learned this while I was putting together Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life. As my story goes, I got frustrated and bogged down by a heavy goal process and lost in creating SMART goals. I finally stepped back and just asked myself, what are Three Wins or Three Outcomes that I want out of this year? The first things that came to mind were 1) ship my book, 2) get to my fighting weight, and 3) take an epic adventure.
It wasn’t scientific, but it was significant, and it was simple. But most of all, it was empowering.
In retrospect, it seems so obvious now, but what I was missing in my goals was the part that always needs to happen first: Dream big. We need to first put our dreams on the table because that’s where meaningful goals are born from. It’s the dreams that make our goals a force to be reckoned with. Really, goals are just a way to break our dreams down into chunks of change we can deal with, and to help guide us on our journey towards the end in mind. That’s why we have to keep pushing our dreams beyond our limits. That way we don’t try to push ourselves with our goals. Instead, we pull ourselves with our dreams.
If you want to know how to get started with Agile Results, before you get the book, you can use the Agile Results QuickStart guide. You can use it to create your personal results system. It’s a simple system, but a powerful one. Individuals, teams, and leaders use it to bring out their best and to make the mot of what they’ve got.
To give you a quick example, if you want to rise above the noise of your day, just take a quick pause, and write down Three Wins that you want out of today. If you’re day is pretty tough, you might say, “great breakfast, great lunch, great dinner.” We have those days. Or, if you’re feeling pretty good, you might say, “ship feature X” or “clear my backlog” or “finish my presentation” or “win a raving fan”, etc.
It sounds simple but by having Three Wins to hold onto for today, it helps you focus. It helps you prioritize. And it helps you get back on track, when you get off track. It also gives you a quick way to feel good about your achievements at the end of the day, because you can actually name them. They are your private victories.
So, if you want to practice Agile Results, just remember to think in threes: Three Wins for the Day, Three Wins for the Week, Three Wins for the Month, Three Wins for the Year. It will help you funnel and focus your time and energy on meaningful results that matter. And, you’ll build momentum a moment at a time, as you respond to challenges, exercises your choices, and drive your changes in work and in life.
I was talking with a colleague recently about the following question:
“How do you accelerate business value?”
One of the key challenges in today’s world is accelerating business value. If you’re implementing solutions, the value doesn’t start to get realized until users actually start to use the solution.
THAT’s actually the key insight to help you accelerate business value.
When you are planning, if you want to accelerate business value, then you need to think in terms of pushing costs out, and pulling benefits in. How can you start throwing off benefits earlier, and build momentum?
With that in mind, you have three ways to accelerate business value:
Before you roll out a solution, you should know the set of user scenarios that would deliver the most business benefits.
Keep in mind benefits will be in the eyes of the stakeholders.
If the sequence is a long cycle, and the adoption curve is way out there, and benefits don’t start showing up until way downstream, that’s a tough sell. And, it puts you at risk. These days, people need to see benefits showing up within the quarter, or you have a lot of explaining to do.
So one of the ways to accelerate business value is to accelerate adoption. There are many change frameworks, change patterns, strategies and tactics for driving change. Remember though that it all comes down to behavior change and changing behaviors. If you want to succeed in driving change in today’s world, then work on your change leadership skills.
This approach is about doing the right things, faster.
Another way to accelerate business value is to re-sequence the scenarios. If your big bang is way at the end (way, way at the end), no good. Sprinkle some of your bangs up front. In fact, a great way to design for change is to build rolling thunder. Put some of the scenarios up front that will get people excited about the change and directly experiencing the benefits. Make it real.
The approach is about putting first things first.
The third way to accelerate business value is to identify higher-value scenarios. One of the things that happens along the way, is you start to uncover potential scenarios that you may not have seen before, and these scenarios represent orders of magnitude more value. This is the space of serendipity. As you learn more about users and what they value, and stakeholders and what they value, you start to connect more dots between the scenarios you can deliver and the value that can be realized (and therefore, accelerated.)
This approach is about trading up for higher value and more impact.
If you need to really show business impact, and you want to be the cool kid that has a way of showing and flowing value no matter what the circumstances, keep these strategies and tactics in mind.
The landscape will only get tougher, so the key for you is to get smarter and put proven practices on your side.
People that know how to accelerate business value will float to the top of the stack, time and again.
10 Big Ideas from Getting Results the Agile Way
10 Ways to Make Agile Design More Effective
Agile Methodology in Microsoft patterns & practices
How We Adhered to the Agile Manifesto on the patterns & practices team
Sometimes you need to Just Start. Other times, you need to Just Finish.
One of the best ways never to finish something, is to spread it out over time. Time changes what's important. People lose interest. Changes of heart happen along the way. Spreading things over time or pushing them out is a great way to kill projects.
Open items, open loops, and unfinished tasks compound the problem. The more unfinished work there is, the more task switching, and context switching you do. Now you're spending more time switching between things, trying to pick up where you left off, and losing momentum.
This is how backlogs grow and great ideas die. This is how people that "do" become people that "don't."
Time management tips #19 is just finish. If you have a bunch of open work, start closing it down. Swarm it. Overwhelm your open items with brute force. Set deadlines: - Today, I clear my desk. - Today, I decide on A, B, or C and run with it. - Today, I close the loop. - Today, I solve it. - Today, I clear my backlog.
If you want to finish something, then “own” it and drive it. To finish requires ruthless prioritization. It requires relentless focus. It requires putting your full force on the 20% of the things that deliver 80% of the value. It requires deciding on an outcome and plowing through until you are done.
Stop taking on more, until you finish what's on your plate. If you want to take on more, then finish more. The more you finish, the better you get.
The more you finish, the more you will trust yourself to actually complete things.
The more you finish, the more others will trust you to actually take things on.
The more you finish, the more you build your momentum for great results.
For time management skills , check out 30 Days of Getting Results, and for a time management system check out Agile Results at Getting Results.com.