J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

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    Making Sure Your Life Energy is Well Spent

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

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

    Are you spending your life energy on the right things?

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    Intelligence is More Than IQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Change the World by Changing Behaviors

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

    Software is a powerful way to change the world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Do New Behavior

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

    Do Familiar Behavior

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

    Increase Behavior

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

    Decrease Behavior

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

    Stop Doing a Behavior

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

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

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

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    Health Books

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

    Some of the new additions to the collection include:

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

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

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

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

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

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    Video–Ed Jezierski on Getting Results the Agile Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Here is Ed Jezierski on Getting Results the Agile Way …

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    Wearable Computing

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Security and performance are often unsung heroes.

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

    But more importantly, the reminder is this:

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

    Who knows what we’ll be wearing next?

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    Lists at a Glance

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    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.”

    Enjoy.

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    7 Metaphors for Leadership Transformation

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

    Change is tough.  Especially leading it.

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

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

    It uses 7 metaphors to guide you through leadership transformation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Enjoy.

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    Stephen Covey Quotes

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

    The themes include:

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

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

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

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

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    Connecting Business and IT

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

    image

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

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

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

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    Why Agile?

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    I thought I had written about “Why Agile” before, but I don’t see anything crisp enough.

    Anyway, here’s my latest rundown on Why Agile?

    1. Increase customer involvement which can build empathy and avoid rework
    2. Learn faster which means you can adapt to change
    3. Improve quality through focus
    4. Reduce risk through shorter feedback loops and customer interaction
    5. Simplify by getting rid of overhead and waste
    6. Reduce cycle time through timeboxing and parallel development
    7. Improve operational awareness through transparency
    8. Drive process improvement through continuous improvement
    9. Empower people through less mechanics and more interaction, continuous learning, and adaptation
    10. Flow more value through more frequent releases and less “big bang”

    Remember that nature favors the flexible and agility is the key to success.

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    Time Management Tips # 10 - Set Limits

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    Untitled

    I hate quotas.  For me, I'm about quality, not quantity.  And yet quotas have consistently helped me get the ball rolling, or find out what I'm capable of.

    Time management tips # 10 – set limits.  When we set a quota, we have a target.  It helps turn a goal into something we can count.  And when we can count it, we build momentum.

    In my early days of Microsoft, my manager set a limit that I needed to write two Knowledge Base articles per month.  I did that, and more.  Way more.  It turned out to be a big deal.  Before that limit, I didn't think I could do any or would ever do any.

    A few years back, I set a limit that my posts would be no longer than six inches (yeah, that sounds like a weird size limit, but I wanted to fill no more than where the gray box on my blog faded to white.)  My blog ended up in the top 50 blogs on MSDN, of more than 5,000 blogs, and my readership grew exponentially that month.  The reason I set the size limit is because my original limit was "write no more than 20 minutes."  The problem is, when I'm in my execution mode, I write fast, and my posts were getting really long, even if I only wrote for 20 minutes.

    Setting limits in time, size, or quantity can help you in so many ways.  Especially, if getting started is tough.  One great way to start, is simply to ask, "What's one thing I can do today towards XYZ?"  Limits also help us avoid from getting overwhelmed or bogged down.  If we’re feeling heavy or overburdened, start chopping at limits until your load feels lighter.

    Here are some example of some limits you can try:

    1. Write one blog post each day.
    2. Spend a maximum of 20 minutes each day on XYZ.
    3. Spend a minimum of 30 minutes on exercise every other day.
    4. Spend 30 days on XYZ.
    5. Read three books this month.
    6. Cut the time of your XYZ routine in half.
    7. Ship one phone app this month.
    8. Ship one eBook this month.
    9. Start one blog this month.
    10. Spend no more than 30 minutes on email a day.

    Once you set a limit, you suddenly get resourceful in findings new ways to optimize, or new ways to make it happen.  When there is no limit, it's tough to optimize because you don't know when you are done.

    While I'm a fan of quality, the trick is to first "flow some water through the pipe" so you can tune, prune, and improve it.

    If you're feeling rusty, try setting little limits to bootstrap what you're capable of.

    In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the time management exercises to be more effective and get exponential results on a daily and weekly basis.  You can also find more time management tips in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, and on Getting Results.com

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    Best-Selling Author on Mental Toughness

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

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

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

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

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

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    Time Management Tips #20 - Priorities List

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    “Action expresses priorities.” -― Mahatma Gandhi
    “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” -― Stephen R. Covey
    “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” -― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    Your priority list is not your To-Do list.  It's not your backlog. (Although, you should prioritize your lists.  But, how do you prioritize them?  Hint – this is where your priorities list comes in.)

    Your priorities list is your little list of what’s most important.  It’s your little list of the most important things to achieve.

    How important is your little priorities list?  Let's put it in proper perspective.  A lack of priorities, or the wrong priorities, are one of the leading causes of failure in management, leadership, and otherwise highly capable employees.

    Time management tips #20 is priorities list.  If you don't have one, make one now.  What else could be more important than having a list of priorities list at your finger tips? (If you had your priorities list you would know the answer to that.)

    When you have your little list of priorities, you can say "No" to things.  When you have your little list of priorities, you can check with your manager, or team, or your customers, or your spouse -- are these really the priorities?  Most importantly, you can check with yourself.

    Have you identified the little list of the things that are most important to YOU?  If you know you are working on the most important things, it's easier to focus.  It's easier to give your best.  It's easier to stop the distractions.  It's easier to say, "No" to all the little things that tug at your attention, or compete for your time.

    It's also where peace of mind comes from.  It's instant.  When you know you are working on the right things at the right time, you are on path.

    Conflict of priorities is one of the leading causes of churn, procrastination, and every other productivity killer you can think of.  The only thing worse is having nothing that's important.  And you know what they say, if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.

    Resolving conflicts in priorities has been known to part the clouds and make the sun shine brighter.

    In general, you can think of your priorities as your "Why" or "What", while other lists tend to be the "How."  That's a generalization since obviously things will bleed, but what's important is that you have a short, explicit list of your priorities.  When they swirl around in your head they get distorted, so get them out in the open.  When you are in the thick of things, be able to give them a glance, and know whether to about-face or march on.

    As Scott Berkun says, "Priorities are the backbone of progress."  It's true.  After all, if you are making progress against anything else, does it matter?

    Here is an example of a set of my priorities for a month:

    Three Key Wins

    1. High quality Service Description pages for Library
    2. “Run State” IP well defined
    3. “the platform” IA for IP – minimum critical set complete

    Pri Short-List

    1. Service Delivery of Services in Library
    2. IP Collection (Learning Lab Refresh)
    3. Project Plan with Milestones
    4. Sweep Timeline (convert existing to be right and useful)
    5. Knowledge Base Refresh
    6. User Stories – New / Existing (“3-Frame Set”)
    7. Cloud Vantage Framework Update

    We can ignore the details, and focus on the structure.   I had three wins I identified with my manager for the month, and a list of seven outcomes that were top priority.  Did I have a backlog a mile long, and a laundry list of hundreds (if not thousands) of things to do?  Yes.  Did I also have short lists of rated and ranked items for the month?  Yes, that's the list above.  Did I also have rated and ranked items for each week?  You bet.   And did I have short-lists of rated and ranked items each day?  Absolutely.

    While priorities aren't the silver bullet, they are your way to "push back."  They are your "push" when you need it most.  They also are your "pull", that you can ignore at your own peril.  They are also your "peace of mind."

    If you haven't prioritized your priority list, you're missing out.

    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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    Focus Checklist v2

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    It was time for an update.

    Here’s my Focus Checklist v2:

    Focus Checklist (v2)

    Here’s what’s new …

    I organized the checklist into more meaningful buckets.   It’s mostly the original list, but now they are grouped into better buckets to make it easier to turn into action.  After all, a great checklist is measured both by it’s value and how actionable it is.

    Focus is often the different that makes the difference when it comes to succeeding at work and succeeding in life.   Otherwise, we don’t see things to fruition, or we bi-furcate our potential in ways that undermines our effort.

    To make it easy to get to the Focus Checklist, I added a quick menu item to the feature menu:

    image

    You can still get to the checklists from Resources, but the saying “out of sight, out of mind”, tends to be true.

    By moving Checklists to the feature bar, it will remind me to continue to turn insight into action in the form of simple checklists.

    I’ve long been a fan of checklists for building better habits and sharing and scaling expertise.   I’ve used them for security, performance, application architecture, and for personal effectiveness in a variety of ways.   There’s actually a lot of research and science behind why checklists are effective, but I like to think of them as simple reminders and automation for the mind, so we can move up the mental stack and focus on higher-level issues.

    If you’re a fan of Personal Software Process (PSP) or Team Software Process (TSP), you’ll appreciate the fact that checklists are one of the best ways to quickly, efficiency, and effectively radically improve quality, for yourself or for the team.  Of course, that depends on the quality of the checklist, and your focus on actually applying it, and treating it like a living document, and keeping it updated with your latest insights and actions.

    If you adopt checklists as your tool of choice for continuous improvement, you’ll be in good company.  It’s how McDonald’s and Disney spread best practices.  It’s how the best hospitals reduce errors and raise the quality bar.   And, it’s even how the Air Force keeps fighter pilots from falling prey to task saturation.

    Like anything, the value of the checklists depends on the user and the usage, and if you treat it as a static thing, that’s when problems happen.   Use it as a baseline and adapt it to your needs, and update it based on your latest learnings.

    If you do that, and you treat your checklists as continuous learning tools, and you continue to evolve and adapt them, then your checklists will serve you well.

    Ugh … it looks like this post ran into some scope creep.  This was supposed to be just letting you know that I have a new version available of my focus checklist.

    Luckily, my 5-minute timebox in this case, reeled me back in.

    Enjoy.

    PS – It’s worth noting that the practices behind this focus checklist are industrial strength.   Folks with ADD and ADHD have used the practices in this checklist to retrain their brain to focus with skill.  They learned to direct and redirect their attention, and to enjoy the process of focusing their mind on meaningful results.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes

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    One of the smartest books I’ve read lately is Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes, by Maria Konnikova.  I wrote a deep review to include a bunch of my favorite highlights.

    It’s hard to believe I only scratched the surface in my review, but it’s a very deep book with tons of insight and proven practices for elevating your thinking to the highest levels.

    While I like the concepts and practices throughout the book, my favorite aspect was the fact that Konnikova references some great research and theories by name and illustrated how they apply in our everyday lives.  

    Some of the examples include:

    • Correspondence Bias
    • Scooter Libby effect
    • Attention Blindness
    • Selective Listening

    Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes includes plenty of surprising insights, too.  For example, we physically can see less when we’re in a bad mood.  We can do better on SATs simply by changing our motivation.  We can use simple meditation techniques to causes changes at the neural level, to increase creativity and imaginative capacity.

    If you’re a developer, you’ll appreciate the “system” view of how memory works.  Konnikova walks the mechanisms of the mind based on the latest understanding of how our brain works.  You’ll also appreciate the depth and details that Konnikova provides to help you really understand how to think and operate at a higher level.

    Basically, you’ll learn how to put your Sherlock Holme’s thinking cap on and apply more effective thinking practices that avoid common cognitive biases, pitfalls, and traps.

    By the time you’ve made it through the book, you’ll also better understand and appreciate how our mindset and filters dramatically shape what we’re able to see, and, as a result, how we experience the world around us.

    If you want a tour of the book in detail, check out my book review of Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes.

    It might just be one of the smartest books you read this year.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    30 Days of Getting Results Revisited

    • 0 Comments

    image

    Do you really know what you are truly capable of?  It’s time to get your game on and find out.  30 Days of Getting Results is revamped and ready for action.  With a new and cleaner look, each lesson brings you a memorable image, a quotable quote, an outcome, a lesson, and a set of exercises to put what you learn into practice.

    It’s time to get the wisdom of the ages and modern sages on your side.  The purpose of 30 Days of Getting Results is to give you the proven principles, patterns, and practices for time management.  It includes 30 self-paced lessons to help you find your purpose, find your passion, set goals, master motivation, and achieve work-life balance.

    The thing that’s really different about Agile Results as a time management system is that it’s focused on meaningful results.  Time is treated as a first-class citizen so that you hit your meaningful windows of opportunity, and get fresh starts each day, each week, each month, each year.  As a metaphor, you get to be the author of your life and write your story forward.

    I used a 30 Day Improvement Sprint, a practice in Agile Results, to create the lessons.  For 30 days, I took 20 minutes each day to write my best lessons down on paper on how to master productivity and time management.  It’s raw.  It’s real.  It’s hopefully some of the best insight and action you’ve ever experienced in terms of exponentially improving your results.

    It’s easy to dive in.  All of the time management lessons are there at your finger tips on the sidebar for easy exploration.  It’s timeless too.   Even if you’ve take the lessons already, they are there as a refresher.  

    If you test-drive just one lesson, check out Bounce Back with Skill.

    Share it with a colleague, a friend, or your family … or anybody you want to give an edge, in work and life.

    Key Links

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    100+ Motivational Quotes to Inspire Your Greatness

    • 4 Comments

    I updated my Motivational Quotes page.

    I’ve got more than 100 motivational quotes on the page to help you find your inner-fire.

    It’s not your ordinary motivational quotes list.  

    It’s deep and it draws from several masters of inspiration including Bruce Lee, Jim Rohn, and Zig Ziglar.

    Here is a sampling of some of my personal favorite motivational quotes ..

    “If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee

    “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    “Kites rise highest against the wind; not with it.” – Winston Churchill

    “To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.” – Bruce Lee

    “Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius

    “There is no such thing as failure. There are only results.” – Tony Robbins

    “When it’s time to die, let us not discover that we have never lived.” -Henry David Thoreau

    “People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” – Anonymous

    “Motivation alone is not enough. If you have an idiot and you motivate him, now you have a motivated idiot.” – Jim Rohn

    “If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” – Bruce Lee

    For more quotes, check out my motivational quotes page.

    It’s a living page and at some point I’ll do a complete revamp.

    I think in the future I’ll organize it by sub-categories within motivation rather than by people.I think at the time it made sense to have words of wisdom by various folks, but now I think grouping motivational quotes by sub-categories would work much better, especially when there is such a large quantity of quotes.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Principles of Modern Management

    • 3 Comments

    Are your management practices long in the tooth?

    I think I was lucky that early on, I worked in environments that shook things up and rattled the cage in pursuit of more customer impact, employee engagement, and better organizational performance.

    In one of the environments, a manufacturing plant, the management team flipped the typical pyramid of the management hierarchy upside down to reflect that the management team is there to empower and support the production line.

    And when I was on the Microsoft patterns & practices team, we had an interesting mix of venture capitalist type management coupled with some early grandmasters of the Agile movement.   More than just Agile teams, we had an Agile management culture that encouraged a customer-connected approach to product development, complete with self-organizing, multi-disciplinary teams, empowered people, a focus on execution excellence, and a fierce focus on being a rapid learning machine. 

    We thrived on change.

    We also had a relentless focus on innovation.  Not just in our product, but in our process.  If we didn’t innovate in our process, then we got pushed out of market by becoming too slow, too expensive, or by lacking the quality experience that customers have come to expect.

    But not everybody knows what a great environment for helping people thrive and do great things for the world, looks like.

    While a lot of people in software or in manufacturing have gotten a taste of Agile and Lean practices, there are many more businesses that don’t know what a modern learning machine of people and processes that operate at a higher-level looks like. 

    Many, many businesses and people are still operating and looking at the world through the lens of old world management principles.

    In the book The Future of Management, Gary Hamel walks through the principles upon which modern management is based.

    The Principles of Modern Management

    Hamel gives us a nice way to frame looking at the modern management principles, by looking at their application, and their intended goal.

    Via The Future of Management:

    Principle Application Goal
    Standardization Minimize variances from standards around inputs, outputs, and work methods. Cultivate economies of scale, manufacturing efficiency, reliability, and quality.
    Specialization (of tasks and functions) Group like activities together in modular organizational units. Reduce complexity and accelerate learning.
    Goal alignment Establish clear objectives through a cascade of subsidiary goals and supporting metrics. Ensure that individual efforts are congruent with top-down goals.
    Hierarchy Create a pyramid of authority based on a limited span of control. Maintain control over a broad scope of operations.
    Planning and control Forecast demand, budget resources, and schedule tasks, then track and correct deviations from plan. Establish regularity and predictability in operations; conformance to plans.
    Extrinsic rewards Provide financial rewards to individuals and teams for achieving specified outcomes. Motivate effort and ensure compliance with policies and standards.

    What are the Principles Upon Which Your Management Beliefs are Based?

    Most people aren’t aware of the principles behind the management beliefs that they practice or preach.  But before coming up with new ones, it helps to know what current management thinking is rooted in.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Have you ever asked yourself, what are the deepest principles upon which your management beliefs are based? Probably not.  Few executives, in my experience, have given much thought to the foundational principles that underlie their views on how to organize and manage.  In that sense, they are as unaware of their management DNA as they are of their biological DNA.  So before we set off in search of new management principles, we need to take a moment to understand the principles that comprise our current management genome, and how those tenets may limit organizational performance.”

    A Small Nucleus of Core Principles

    It really comes down to a handful of core principles.  These principles serve as the backbone for much of today’s management philosophy.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “These practices and processes of modern management have been built around a small nucleus of core principles: standardization, specialization, hierarchy, alignment, planning, and control, and the use of extrinsic rewards to shape human behavior.”

    How To Maximize Operational Efficiency and Reliability in Large-Scale Organizations

    It’s not by chance that the early management thinkers came to the same conclusions.  They were working on the same problems in a similar context.  Of course, the challenge now is that the context has changed, and the early management principles are often like fish out of water.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “These principles were elucidated early in the 20th century by a small band of pioneering management thinkers -- individuals like Henri Fayol, Lyndall Urwick, Luther Gullick, and Max Weber. While each of these theorists had a slightly different take on the philosophical foundations of modern management, they all agreed on the principles just enumerated. This concordance is hardly surprising, since they were all focusing on the same problem: how to maximize operational efficiency and reliability in large-scale organizations. Nearly 100 years on, this is still the only problem that modern management is fully competent to address.”

    If your management philosophy and guiding principles are nothing more than a set of hand me downs from previous generations, it might be time for a re-think.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Satya Nadella on How the Key To Longevity is To Be a Learning Organization

    • 0 Comments

    Everything should be a startup.

    Unless you’re a learning organization that actually uses what you learn to leapfrog ahead.

    But the paradox is you can’t hold on too tightly to what you’ve learned in the past.  You have to be able to let things go.  Quickly.  And, you have to learn new things fast.  And, if you can create a learning organization with tight feedback loops, that’s the key to longevity.

    Adapt or die.

    But the typical challenge in a big organization, is rejecting the new, and embracing the old.   And that’s how the giants, the mighty fall.

    Here is how Satya Nadella told us how to think about what longevity means in our business

    “What does longevity mean in this business? Longevity in this business means, that you somehow take the core competency you have but start learning how to express it in different forms.

    And that to me is the core strength.

    It's not the manifestation in one product generation, or in one specific feature, or what have you, but if you culturally, right, if you sort of look at what excites me from an organizational capacity building, ... it's that learning ... the ability to be able to learn new things ... and have those new things actually accrue to what we have done in the past ...  or what we have done in the past accrues to new learnings ... and that feedback cycle is the only way I can see scale mattering in this business ... otherwise, quite frankly you would say, everything should be a startup ... everything should be a startup ... you would have a success, you would unwind, and everything should be a startup ... and if you're going to have a large organization, it better be a learning organization that knows how to take all the learning that it's had today and make it relevant in the future knowing that you'll have to unlearn everything, and that's the paradox of this business and I think that's what I want us to be going for.”

    In my experience, if you don’t know where to start, a great place to start is get feedback.  If you don’t know who to get feedback from, then ask yourself, your organization, who do you serve?   Ask the customers or clients that you serve.

    But balance what you learn with vision.  And balance it with analytics and insight on behaviors and actions.   Customers, and people in general, can say one thing, but do another, or ask for one thing, but mean something entirely different. 

    Remember the words of Henry Ford:

    “If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse’.”

    Expressing pains, needs, opportunities, and desired outcomes leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

    Drive with vision, build better feedback loops, interpret well, and learn well, to survive and thrive in an ever-changing world.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Business Techniques in Troubled Times: A Toolbox for Small Business Success

    • 2 Comments

    "If you see a bandwagon, it’s too late." -- James Goldsmith

    I’m really focused on helping businesses large and small succeed.  Times are tough.  I’ve been reading a lot of books on business skills and techniques.  The latest book I read is pretty hard-core. 

    And exactly what I wanted to find.

    Here’s my review:

    Business Techniques in Troubled Times: A Toolbox for Small Business Success

    It puts more than 70+ business skills at your fingertips.

    What’s especially interesting is that the author is a turnaround artist.  He helps flailing and failing businesses get back on track.   Imagine having that kinds of ability – to help business rise from the ashes phoenix style.

    That’s cool stuff.

    Actually, it’s very powerful stuff.

    Business transformation is a great place to be in today’s world.

    After all, businesses are re-inventing themselves at a pace never before possible.

    Anyway, you’ll appreciate this book if you want to know …

    How to analyze the marketplace and do true competitive analysis and find your differentiation

    How to design a great product or service

    How to price your product or service more effectively

    How to create a roadmap for your product

    How to prioritize your product ideas

    How to create a more effective business plan

    How to avoid the most common mistakes when making a business plan

    How to analyze a business model

    How to create a financial plan

    I could go on, and on, because this book really packs a lot into it.   It’s an “all-in-one” guide that really covers creating and growing a business.   You’ll especially appreciate this book if you’ve struggled with the “money” part of business.   It’s one thing to have a good idea.  It’s another to fund that idea, and to make it economically viable.   This book actually shows you how.

    The thing I want to stress about this book though is that it’s written by somebody who helps owners save and grow their businesses for a living.

    Within the first fifteen minutes of reading the book, I had at least three new business skills I could immediately apply.

    If you want a deep dive into the book, including snippets and insight, check out my review:

    Business Techniques in Troubled Times: A Toolbox for Small Business Success

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Guy Kawasaki on Self-Publishing

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    I’m honored to have a guest post by Guy Kawasaki on Top Ten Reasons to Self-Publish.   Self-publishing is hot.   It’s a great path, especially if you can use writing as a way to share and scale what you know.  

    That said, there is a lot to know when it comes to the business of books, and that’s what Guy’s latest book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book, is all about.

    One of the big surprises I found in terms of self-publishing is that I made more in a month, than I made in a year, once I shipped the Kindle version.   I knew there would be a difference, but I didn’t really anticipate just how big that difference would be.

    The other thing I learned is that there is a big difference in what you can achieve if you look at self-publishing in terms of a longer-term play.   The best advice I got from a friend was to think of it more like a slow burn, than a fast flame.   This helped me experiment more and play around with everything from different covers, to different taglines, to different formats, etc.  As a result, it’s been a best-seller in Time Management on Amazon for many months, which is an extremely competitive niche.

    But I digress.  Check out Guy Kawasaki’s guest post for me on Top Ten Reasons to Self-Publish.  Who knows, it might just be your future career, or play a big role as we shift to a digital economy of information products and insight.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Extreme Goal Setting for 2014

    • 0 Comments

    When’s the last time you went for your personal Epic Win?   If it’s been a while, no worries.  Let’s go big this year.

    I’ll give you the tools.

    I realize time and again, that Bruce Lee was so right when he said, “To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.”  Similarly, William B. Sprague told us, “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.” 

    And, Peter Drucker said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”   Similarly, Alan Kay said, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

    Well then?  Game on!

    By the way, if you’re not feeling very inspired, check out either my 37 Inspirational Quotes That Will Change Your Life, Motivational Quotes, or my Inspirational Quotes.  They are intense, and I bet you can find your favorite three.

    As I’ve been diving deep into goal setting and goal planning, I’ve put together a set of deep dive posts that will give you a very in-depth look at how to set and achieve any goal you want.   Here is my roundup so far:

    Brian Tracy on 12 Steps to Set and Achieve Any Goal

    Brian Tracy on the Best Times for Writing and Reviewing Your Goals

    Commit to Your Best Year Ever

    Goal Setting vs. Goal Planning

    How To Find Your Major Definite Purpose

    How To Use 3 Wins for the Year to Have Your Best Year Ever

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

    What Do You Want to Spend More Time Doing?

    Zig Ziglar on Setting Goals

    Hopefully, my posts on goal setting and goal planning save you many hours (if not days, weeks, etc.) of time, effort, and frustration on trying to figure out how to really set and achieve your goals.   If you only read one post, at least read Goal Setting vs. Goal Planning because this will put you well ahead of the majority of people who regularly don’t achieve their goals.

    In terms of actions, if there is one thing to decide, make it Commit to Your Best Year Ever.

    Enjoy and best wishes for your greatest year ever and a powerful 2014.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Press Release for Getting Results the Agile Way on Kindle

    • 0 Comments

    The press release for Getting Results the Agile Way is now live at Time Management Tips and Time Management Strategies for Achievers.   I think the message hits a sweet spot – it’s a time management system for achievers.  (One interesting tidbit along those lines is that Getting Results the Agile Way was #2 on the Amazon best sellers list in Germany for “time management”.)

    Here are the opening paragraphs:

    Some say, “Time is all we have.” To master time is to master life. The secret of time management is to have a trusted system and a collection of time management tips and time management strategies to draw from.

    Getting Results the Agile Way, by J.D. Meier, now available on Kindle, is a time management system for achievers focused on meaningful results. The power of Getting Results the Agile Way is that it combines some of the best practices for thinking, feeling, and taking action into one simple system to help achievers make the most of what they’ve got.

    You can read the rest of the press release at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/10/prweb8914806.htm

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Value is the Short-Cut for Building Better Products

    • 0 Comments

    It's easy to build what's possible.  It's tough to build what's valued.

    If there's one thing I've learned from shipping stuff, doing competitive assessments, working closely with customers, and doing a lot of in-depth feature analysis ... it's that value is the short-cut for building better products.  If you know what's valued, then you can target that.  And, the surprise is, less is often more.  (A little gold, beats a lot of junk, every time.)

    I've also learned that value is in the eye of the beholder.

    What's valued can surprise you.  For example, one customer might value integration, while another customer might value, and pay for, simplicity.  One customer might value security, while another might value usability.  Value is a slider scale and there are always key trade-offs that impact the design.  That's the art part.

    It's easy to assume you know what's valued.  Here's the irony.  It's also easy to check your assumptions.  Customers are happy to tell you whether they prefer A over B.

    Missing the boat on what's valued is one of the worst mistakes.  It's easy to build the wrong thing.  It's also to build something irrelevant.  It's also easy to build “bloat”-ware, where the product is too many things to too many people, and master of none.  Less is more, especially when you solve the problems that people actually care about, and when you enable users to have a great experience achieving their goals.

    Here's the message:  "Do overs" are expensive (if you even get a second chance.)  You don't have to build things that people don't want.  You don't have to build things that people don't value.  You don't have to build things that people won't pay for. 

    You can test the value, early and often.  And, that's what some successful shippers do that other shippers don't.

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