Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
This is a story of a person, who started a new chapter in their life. They decided to follow their dream and write their story forward.
Meet Alik Levin. Talk about changing your life. Earlier this year, Alik came to the U.S. with his family in search of his dream job. Not only did he land his job, but he's been making amazing impact on his new team and driving change in powerful ways. He's in his element and truly unleashed. Alik is now a successful Microsoft programming writer. He's living his passion while he’s helping customers succeed on our platform, by sharing success patterns with customers around the world.
Every now and then, somebody does something that just blows your mind. I've known Alik for a long time, but When Alik first told me that he was coming to the U.S. to find a job and make his dreams happen, I was in disbelief. It was the type of thing you read about or watch in the movies, but to see it unfold right before my eyes was nothing short of spectacular. You see, this was not a story of somebody simply hopping from one mountain peak to another. It was a story of personal triumph. I got to watch Alik climb a mountain from scratch, based on his conviction and courage for a better life. Watching him uproot his family and start a new life, in this new world, has been one of the most amazing transformations I’ve seen in a long time.
While I'm happy that the story had a happy ending, and a wonderful new beginning, I'm truly proud of this guy. In a world of turbulence, he decided to take the bull by the horns and live life on his terms. He's no shadow of his former self. Instead, he is a model for leading a life of action and making the most of what he’s got. He truly is the author of his life. Wow.
You can imagine how ecstatic I was when Alik offered to share his story of how he uses Getting Results the Agile Way, as his secret weapon for getting results ...
You can find the original video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2creyf13eVI. If you know somebody who needs a lift in their day, feel free to share Alik’s story with them. It just might make their day. I know a lot of people who could use a shoulder to lean on or a helping hand, or even just a story of hope.
What do Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Walt Disney teach us about building a culture of innovation?
I put together a comprehensive collection of innovation quotes. And by comprehensive, I mean more than 100 of the greatest thoughts on innovation, all at your finger tips. You’ll hear from Edison, Mozart, Michael Porter, Peter Drucker, Seth Godin, and more.
And, to make the innovation quotes more meaningful, I’ve grouped them into useful categories, so you can flip through the sections you care about the most. There’s a section on Action, Birthing Ideas, and Continuous Learning and Growth. You’ll also find a section on Fear and Failure. After all, success in innovation is often a numbers game. Remember what Edison taught us.
Just because it’s a comprehensive collection of innovation quotes, doesn’t mean it’s complete, or that it’s a done deal. There’s always room for improvement (and innovation.) So if you have some favorite innovation quotes that I’ve left out, please let me know. I want this collection to be truly insightful, and most importantly, actionable.
After all, what good are good ideas, if you can’t turn them into results.
And that’s the truth about innovation.
Don’t try to turn all of your traditional IT into a digital unit.
You’ll break both, or do neither well.
Instead, add a Digital Unit. Meanwhile, continue to simplify and optimize your traditional IT, but, at the same time, add a Digital Unit that’s optimized to operate in a Cloud-First, Mobile-First world.
This is the Dual-Speed IT approach, and, with this way, you can choose the right approach for the job and get the best of both worlds.
Some projects involve more extensive planning because they are higher-risk and have more dependencies.
Other projects benefit from a loose learning-by-doing method, with rapid feedback loops, customer impact, and testing new business waters.
And, over time, you can shift the mix.
In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share some of their lessons learned from companies that are Digital Masters that created their digital visions and are driving business change.
You can grow one of your existing business units into a Digital Unit. For example, marketing is a pretty good bet, given the customer focus and the business impact.
Via Leading Digital:
“Changing the IT-business relationship is well worth the effort, but doing so takes time. Your company may not have the time to wait before starting your digital transformation. Rather than improving the IT unit, some companies try to build digital skills into another unit, such as marketing. They try to work around IT rather than with it.”
Don’t throw away your existing IT or break it by turning it into something it’s not, too quickly. Instead, leverage it for the projects where it makes sense, while also leveraging your new Digital IT unit.
“Although building digital skills is useful, trying to work around IT can be fraught with challenges, especially if people do not understand the reasons for IT's systematic, if sometimes ponderous, processes. This kind of flanking action can waste money, make the digital platform more complex, and even worse, open the company to security and regulatory risks.”
You can have the best of both worlds, while both evolving your traditional IT and growing your Digital Unit to thrive at Cloud speed.
“A better approach is to create a dual-speed IT structure, where one part of the IT unit continues to support traditional IT needs, while another takes on the challenge of operating at digital speed with the business. Digital activities--especially in customer engagement--move faster than many traditional IT ones. They look at design processes differently. Where IT projects have traditionally depended on clear designs and well-structured project plans, digital activities often engage in test-and-learn strategies, trying features in real-life experiments and quickly adding or dropping them based on what they find.”
Your Digital Unit needs to be very different from traditional IT in terms of the mindset and the approaches around the people, processes, and technology.
“In a dual-speed approach, the digital unit can develop processes and methods at clock-speeds more closely aligned with the digital world, without losing sight of the reasons that the old IT processes existed. IT leaders can draw on informal relationships within the IT department to get access to legacy systems or make other changes happen. Business leaders can use their networks to get input and resources. Business and IT leaders can even start to work together in the kind of two-in-a-box leadership method that LBG and other companies have adopted.”
To make it work and to make it work well, it takes partnerships on both sides. The business and IT both need skin in the game.
“Building dual-speed IT units requires choosing the right leadership on both sides of the relationship. Business executives need to be comfortable with technology and with being challenged by their IT counterparts. IT leaders need to have a mind-set that extends beyond technology to encompass the processes and drivers of business performance. Leaders from both sides need to be strong communicators who can slide easily between conversations with their business- or IT-focused people.”
With both options at your disposal, Great IT Leaders know how to choose the right approach for the job. Some programs and projects will take a more traditional life-cycle or require heavier planning or more extensive governance and risk management, while other projects can be driven in a more lightweight and agile way.
“Dual-speed IT also requires perspective about the value of speed. Not all digital efforts need the kind of fast-moving, constantly changing processes that digital customer-engagement processes can need. In fact, the underlying technology elements that powered LBG's new platform, Asian Paints' operational excellence, and Nike's digital supply chain enhancements required the careful, systematic thinking that underpins traditional IT practices. Doing these big implementations in a loose learning-by-doing method could be dangerous. It could increase rework, waste money, and introduce security risks. But once the strong digital platform is there, building new digital capabilities can be fast, agile, and innovative. The key is to understand what you need in each type of project and how much room any project has to be flexible and agile. Great IT leaders know how to do this. If teamed with the right business leaders, they can make progress quickly and safely.”
It takes a shift in processes to do Dual-Speed IT.
“Dual-speed IT also takes new processes inside IT. Few digital businesses have the luxury to wait for monthly software release cycles for all of their applications. Digital-image hosting business Flickr, for example, aims for up to ten deployments per day, while some businesses require even more. This continuous-deployment approach requires very tight discipline and collaboration between development, test, and operations people. A bug in software, missed step in testing, or configuration problem in deployment can bring down a web site or affect thousands of customers.”
DevOps blends development and operations into a more integrated approach that simplifies and streamlines processes to shorten cycle times and speed up fixes and feedback loops.
“A relatively new software-development method called DevOps aims to make this kind of disciplined speed possible. It breaks down silos between development, operations, and quality assurance groups, allowing them to collaborate more closely and be more agile. When done properly, DevOps improves the speed and reliability of application development and deployment by standardizing development environments. It uses strong methods and standards, including synchronizing the tools used by each group.”
DevOps is the name of the game when it comes to shipping better, faster, cheaper and more reliably in a Cloud-First, Mobile-First world.
“DevOps relies heavily on automated tools to do tasks in testing, configuration control, and deployment—tasks that are both slow and error-prone when done manually. Companies that use DevOps need to foster a culture where different IT groups can work together and where workers accept the rules and methods that make the process effective. The discipline, tools, and strong processes of DevOps can help IT release software more rapidly and with fewer errors, as well as monitor performance and resolve process issues more effectively, than before.”
In order for your Digital Transformation to thrive, it takes building better bridges between the business leaders and the IT leaders.
“Whether your CIO takes it upon himself or herself to improve the IT-business relationship, or you decide to help make it happen, forging a strong link between business and IT executives is an essential part of driving digital transformation. Strong IT-business relationships can transform the way IT works and the way the business works with it. Through trust and shared understanding, your technology and business experts can collaborate closely, like at LBG, to innovate your business at digital speeds. Without this kind of relationship, your company may become mired in endless requirements discussion, filing projects, and lackluster systems, while your competitors accelerate past you in the digital fast lane.”
If you want to thrive in the new digital economy while driving digital business transformation without breaking your existing business, consider adding Dual-Speed IT to your strategies and shift the mix from traditional IT to your Digital Unit over time.
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Think in a Series of Sprints, Not Marathons
“You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away and know when to run.” – Kenny Rogers
Dealing with setbacks is tough. Sometimes we get knocked down so hard, we wonder if we’ll get up again. Such is life.
But why do some people rise and triumph from their trials and tribulations, while others stay down for the count? I believe a lot of it has to do with the way we program our minds. It’s the sayings we say, it’s the thoughts we think and it’s words we use to express our condition. In other words, it’s not what happens to us … It’s how we respond. It’s how we frame it. It’s how we think about it. It’s what we do about it.
Just like a picture is worth a 1,000 words, the right quote is worth a 1,000 books.
The best way I’ve found to bounce back, or to find a way forward, or to make the most of the unthinkable, is to fill our mental toolbox with a cornucopia of the world’s best wisdom at our finger tips. Quotes are a powerful way to lift us, inspire us, and keep on keeping on.
Here is a hand-crafted collection of some of the best quotes on moving on:
You can use them for work, when you need a reminder of how to stand strong when tested. You can use them for life, when you need a firm foundation for rolling with the punches, and dealing with the setbacks that hold you back, or try to knock you down. It is a serious and significant collection. You will recognize many of the moving on quotes and hopefully find some new ones.
It’s a living collection so please feel free to share any of the best quotes on moving on that have served you well in work and life. When the going gets tough, the tough get going, and tough minds get built from the sayings we say, and the beliefs we adopt.
Enjoy and please share with whoever needs a little lift in life.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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
I did a major cleanup of my post on lessons learned from John Maxwell:
Lessons Learned from John Maxwell
It should be much easier to read now.
It was worth cleaning up because John Maxwell is one of the deepest thinkers in the leadership space. He’s published more than 50 books on leadership and he lives and breathes leadership in business and in life.
When I first started studying leadership long ago, John Maxwell’s definition of leadership was the most precise I found:
“Leadership is influence.”
As I began to dig through his work, I was amazed at the nuggets and gems and words of wisdom that he shared in so many books. I started with Your Road Map for Success. I think my next book was The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Ironically, I didn’t realize it was the same author until I started to notice on my shelf that I had a growing collection of leadership books, all by John Maxwell.
It was like finding the leadership Sherpa.
Sure enough, over the years, he continued to fill the shelves at Barnes & Nobles, with book after book on all the various nooks and crannies of leadership.
This was about the same time that I noticed how Edward de Bono had filled the shelves with books on thinking. I realized that some people really share there life’s work as a rich library that is a timeless gift for the world. I also realized that it really helps people stand out in their field or discipline when they contribute so many guides and guidance to the art and science of whatever their specific focus is.
What I like about John Maxwell’s work is that it’s plain English and down to Earth. He writes in a very conversational way, and you can actually see his own progress throughout his books. In Your Road Map for Success, it’s a great example of how he doesn’t treat leadership as something that comes naturally. He works hard at it, to build his own knowledge base of patterns, practices, ideas, concepts, and inspirational stories.
While he’s created a wealth of wisdom to help advance the practice of leadership, I think perhaps his greatest contribution is The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. It’s truly a work of art, and he does an amazing job of distilling down the principles that serve as the backbone of effective leadership.
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.
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Just a quick note -- I'm out of the office through December. Here's what I'm up to:
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, you can follow along the Application Architecture Guide 2.0 project at the following sites:
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.
“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” — Publilius Syrus
Change is tough. Especially leading it.
Whether you are leading yourself, others, or organizations through a change, it helps to have tools on your side.
Recently, I read Leadership Transformed, by Dr. Peter Fuda.
It uses 7 metaphors to guide you through leadership transformation:
It might seem simple, but that's the point. Metaphors are easy to remember and easy to use.
For example, you can use the Movie metaphor to increase your self-awareness and reflection that allow you to first "edit" your performance, and then direct a "movie" that exemplifies your leadership vision.
The other benefit of simple metaphors is they allow both for creative interpretation and creative expression.
I appreciated the book the further I went along. In fact, what really clicked for me was the fact that I could easily remember the different metaphors and the big idea behind them. It was a nice brain-break from memorizing and internalizing a bunch of leadership frameworks, principles, and patterns.
Instead, it’s just a simple set of metaphors that remind us how to bring out our best during our leadership transformations.
The metaphors are actually well-chosen, and they really are helpful when you find yourself in scenarios where a different perspective or approach may help.
Even better, the author grounds his results in some very interesting data, and aligns it to proven practices for effective leadership.
Here is my book review: Book Review: Leadership Transformed: How Ordinary Managers Become Extraordinary Leaders
I included several highlights and “scenes” from the book, so you can get a good taste of the book, movie trailer style.
If you end up reading the book, I encourage you to really dive into the background and the anatomy of the Leadership Impact tool that Dr. Fuda refers to. It’s incredibly insightful in terms of leadership principles, patterns, and practices that are fairly universal and broadly applicable.
Cloud, mobile, social, and big data are changing the game of business.
But to play the game well, leaders need to grow new skills.
In order to create new customer experiences and market-leading operational capabilities, leaders need to invest in digital skills.
Our Cloud-First, Mobile-First world provides unprecedented possibilities in terms of connectivity and compute resources for changing customer experiences, transforming the workforce, and transforming operations, and creating new business models. Companies every day are building amazing solutions that integrate Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data capabilities as well as what the Internet of Things brings to the table. But to take advantage of these capabilities, you need leaders that grow and invest in a digital platform and in digital skills.
In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share how top leaders grow their digital skills.
Whether you want to reimagine your customer experience, or reimagine your operations, it takes new skills, and new ways of working. Companies that don’t have the right digital skills struggle. Worse, everybody is competing for the same skills, including social media analysts, mobile marketers, cloud architects, and data scientists.
“Creating great customer experiences or market-leading operational capabilities is more than technology challenge. It's also an organizational challenge requiring new skills and new ways of working. Yet, 77 percent of companies in our first year of research cited missing digital skills as a major hurdle to their digital transformation success. To compound the problem, most companies are chasing after similar skills--social media analysts, mobile marketers, cloud architects, or data scientists, to name a few.”
If you want to help your company become a Digital Master, or, if you want to be a high-performing leader, you need to invest in digital skills.
“So what are Digital Masters doing differently when it comes to skills? First, they are investing. Of the Digital Masters we surveyed, 82 percent are building the digital skills they need to support transformation efforts. Only 40 perce3nt of nonmasters are doing so.
Second, Digital Masters are accelerating and creating a gap. Our survey research shows that the masters had greater digital skills than nonmasters, reporting 31 percent higher social media skills, 38 percent higher mobile skills, and 19 percent higher analytics skills.
But Digital Masters did not start with higher skills. Burberry did not become excellent at digital marketing. and channels overnight. CEO Ahrendts hired a new, dynamic marketing team whose members mirrored the behaviors of the millennial customer. Nor did Caesars excel at delivering personalized customer experience solely because its CEO, Gary Loveman, has a PhD in economics from MIT. Caesars' executives actively incorporated quantitative skills into the marketing area. In these companies, like other Digital Masters, top executives worked hard to build the digital skills they needed.”
The gap is huge but the lines blur fast. There is a huge demand for people that are both business savvy and technology savvy.
“The skills difference extends beyond technology. Digital Masters report 36 percent higher skills in digital leadership than nonmasters. Digital transformation requires changes to processes and thinking--changes that span your internal organizational silos. 'The clear delineation between technical skills and leadership skills in blurring fast.
The impact of digital technologies is now felt not only in the IT and technical departments, but also across the entire organization. Digital transformation's need for cross-functional collaboration creates a huge demand for hybrid digital skills-- technical people who need to be more business savvy and businesspeople who need to be more technology savvy. A retail executive explained: 'We are trying for the first time to work across the company. That implies going through a new level of complexity in the organization, and requires people to manage and network differently. That, I think, is the most important skills that needs to be developed.'”
True hybrid professionals will be the leaders of tomorrow.
“The need for new skills can also result from the need to bridge the communication gap between digital and business competences. One executive said, 'I need a charismatic quant--somebody who's an influencer and can carry his weight in a senior meeting, but at the same time, someone who can roll up his sleeves and look at data tables and build models and enjoy it.'
These bridging roles may soon become the responsibility of every manager. 'I believe,' said Markus Nordlin, CIO of Zurich Insurance, 'that the successful leaders of tomorrow, in any business or industry, are going to be true hybrid professionals who have spent some time in IT but have shifted to operations and vice-versa.'”
To keep up and get ahead, you need to master Digital Skills and be able to use them in a business savvy way.
“Aspiring Digital Masters are all chasing the same technical skills. The shortage of digital skills is unprecedented. In Europe alone, forecasts point to nearly a million vacancies for IT-related roles by 2015. And globally, out of the 4.4 million big-data jobs to be created by 2015, only a third will be filled.
But by the same token, business professionals will increasingly need to be comfortable with digital tools and technologies to perform their core roles. By 2015, research firm IDC expects that 90 percent of all jobs will require IT skills. Some business functions are already adding technology skills to their mix. Gartner reports that 70 percent of the companies they surveyed have a chief marketing technologist to support the digitization of the function.
This skills race won't slow down anytime soon. Having the right digital skills is an important source of competitive advantage and a key enabler of digital transformation. Companies that build skills faster will get ahead.
To win at the digital skills race, you will need to tap into multiple approaches--hiring, partnering, incubating, and the like. It's not easy, as one executive explained: 'Our recruiters don't know where to go to find these people, and people with the right skills don't look to our kind of company for opportunities.' HR organization will need to get up to speed quickly. A recent Capgemini Consulting survey found that only 30 percent of HR functions were actively involved in digital skills development. This needs to change. Many Digital Masters have a carefully crafted plan to fight and win the talent race.”
All of the capabilities of Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data are right at your fingertips.
Using these capabilities in meaningful ways takes a combination of business and technical skills, as well as great organizational change leadership skills.
If you can master business skills and combine them with great technical skills, you can lead you, your team, your organization, and others to change the world.
Dual-Speed IT Drives Business Transformation and Improves IT-Business Relationships
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.”
This is a guest blog post from Martin Sykes. Martin has been involved with Enterprise Architecture and IT Strategy for 15 years and is today a coach in Microsoft Service’s Enterprise Strategy Centre of Excellence. He’s also known for his use of visual storytelling techniques and is one of the authors of Stories That Move Mountains: Storytelling and Visual Design for Persuasive Presentations. (watch his top rated session on storytelling from TechEd New Zealand if you want to improve your own presentations)
Without further ado, here’s Martin on Value Realization …
This week I was teaching a class for our Enterprise Architects where we covered some of the most important topics for success as an EA, with one of the sections focused on the identification and delivery of value. If “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” then I think it’s fair to say “Value is in the eye of the customer”, although depending on your perspective you might replace customer with stakeholder or shareholder. In this posting I will cover some of the things we talked about that can make a big difference when creating business cases, and ensuring you realize the value promised in the business case.
What’s the first thing you do when creating a business case? Some may start by clarifying the scope, some by identifying the real drivers for change, some the budget.
I recommend you should first think about who will care about the opportunity proposed in the business case. Who will be reviewing it? Who will be approving it? What do they care about? Every business case must have good numbers, let’s take that as a given. Those numbers must be correct for the business case (and your reputation) to be credible. But while a business case must have the numbers it is more than the numbers. Even for purely internal teams the business case is a proposal for someone to make an investment decision, or more bluntly, to buy something.
Let’s turn that last statement around, when you create a business case you are selling something. So before you start work on that business case spend some time really understanding the consumer of the business case to work out why they will ‘buy’ your ideas now. This is important even if your customer is your own management, who have asked you to write the business case.
Use the insight into your customer to work out what narrative (or story) needs to go into the business case to support the numbers, to ensure you focus on the aspects that are important to the goals of the stakeholder. This is where so many standard templates fail to inspire. They take a business case to the point where it has all the logical argument and can totally miss, or at least hide, why the proposal is important and relevant to the customer today.
If value is the difference between cost and benefit then let’s look at all the different types of benefit that can come from making a change. I like to use a benefits structure developed from ideas first published by the Information Systems Research Centre of Cranfield University School of Management back in the late 1990s. The desire to make a change, or create a business case often comes initially from a belief that there will some form of improvement or financial return. In most organizations belief is not good enough - that’s why we ask people to work on a business case – so the team at Cranfield defined four levels of benefit that be used to build a business case:
Observable – these are the benefits we can see, but have not worked out how to measure. These could be improvements in morale or changes in the culture of an organization.
Measurable – one step up from observable and we now have identified some way to measure the benefit. For a cultural change program you could start to survey staff members to understand their attitudes to work and track this over time. Unfortunately you may not know what the current value for your measure is, and the first task may be to go out and do an initial survey to set a baseline.
Quantifiable – if you already have some data for the measures you might use then we call the benefit quantifiable. The best case here would be that you have a trail of historic data to show not only the current position but the existing trend. If you have a trend showing a slow but steady increase in staff turnover then you may be doing well simply to make a change that levels things off. If the trend was already improving then you have to do better than the trend.
Financial – finally, can you turn your measurement into financial value? If you know the costs of recruitment and training to bring in a new staff member you can define a financial benefit to balance against the costs of your proposed changes. There are two kinds of financial benefit though, the first is where you can recognize the value, but in reality you can do nothing with the money. This is typically the case where a proposal has identified savings in time because of a new process, but in reality the saving does not allow you to reduce staff numbers. All you can really do is re-purpose that time for more work. The second is where you can realize the value and actually have real money in the bank (or avoid spending some). If a new process allows you to achieve the current workload with 3 people instead of 4 then you have a choice to reduce staff costs and realize the benefit.
All of these benefits can be included in a business case and contribute to the value of a project, but in reality only realized financial benefits can be used to provide a return on investment calculation. If you want to learn more about this approach then watch my TechEd New Zealand recording from earlier this year.
Most of the business cases I see developed are used to secure funding, then used simply as a baseline for the project costs. As benefits usually cannot be realized until something is delivered this part of the business case is often quietly forgotten about. When an IT project team complete a delivery there is usually some form of celebration, the solution is handed to operations and a small group might be left providing some user training. The benefits drift away, someone else’s problem.
Here’s an idea I have only ever seen implemented a few times around the world, and that’s because it challenges a few basic assumptions about the role of a project manager and a PMO.
Change the definition of success for a project manager to be about the realization of value. Delivery is just another milestone. The PM should be required to stay on the project until the ROI stated in the business case is achieved. This makes the PM responsible for user adoption and achieving the benefits defined in the business case. Achieving the value becomes the goal of the project, resources are planned to ensure adoption happens, and measures are implemented to show progress. It also changes the types of business cases produced. Inflated expectations are pushed down by the PM to more realistic levels so the project can be reach the ROI as quickly as possible and the PM can move on to their next project. For such a little idea it can take a big change in mindset and culture to make it happen – but the result can be projects that have a much more demonstrable impact on the business.
Mark Bestauros on Value Realization
Graham Doig on Value Realization
Strategy Must Be Dynamic
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.