Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
This is a guest post by Graham Doig on Value Realization applied to Enterprise Social software projects. You can think of Value Realization as simply the value extracted from a process or project.
Graham is a Business Strategy Consultant (BSC) at Microsoft. He helps Microsoft’s global customers to realize their investment in Microsoft products. He does that by working with them to align their business and technology strategies and achieve successful adoption. Graham works with both customer business and IT groups to help them develop a strategy to realize change and drive productivity within their organizations.
Graham holds an MBA and PhD from Loughborough University. He is a regular presenter at conferences and contributor to the academic press. He also regularly lectures on a range of information technology topics to MBA courses at leading UK universities.
I’ve asked Graham to share some of his key insights and lessons learned in the art and science of Value Realization from his adventures in the field, across real-world customer engagements.
Without further ado, here is Graham Doig on how to realize value from Enterprise Social software projects …
Today Value Realization is a critical element of any effective IT enabled business change. It consists of the set of activities that are required to ensure the delivery of the value that is expected from a business investment. But before value can be realized some important things have to happen:
Once all of these things have happened then Value Realization can start to take place. The essence of Value Realization is that over a period of time the value being attained from the change is monitored and measured by the benefit owner. The objective is to ensure that the full projected value is attained within the expected timescales.
Social computing has become commonplace in the range of personal communication tools that are available today. Almost everyone who has access to a computer and the internet is familiar with Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In to one degree or another. It is estimated that Facebook now has over a billion engaged users and Twitter has more than 350 million tweets per day. These applications now provide ordinary people with enormous power to communicate, to converse, to comment, and to criticize or praise. So can this capability be transferred to the enterprise and can it be done in a manner that delivers business value? Well the most recent statistics suggest that most businesses believe that it can. In a recent MIT Sloan report the response was that the importance of social business to the organization had increased significantly between 2011 and 2012. This increase was identified in all industry sectors and the increase in importance ranged mainly between 10 and 20 percent. The challenge for all enterprises now is to translate this recognized importance of social computing into uses that deliver business value.
The first challenge that is encountered when trying to identify how social computing can be used to deliver business value is that Enterprise Social does not take the form of a traditional app that supports the day to day operation of the business. Neither does it deliver the capabilities required for measuring the performance of the business. On the face of it you could conclude that there is no clear role for social computing to play that can directly deliver value to a business organization. This would be wrong! Although identifying the value that Enterprise Social can deliver might be harder that with more conventional IT apps, business value can still be identified if you look in the right places.
Today there are two major forms of Enterprise Social emerging. The internal view which focuses on Social Productivity and topics such as Employee Engagement and Team Collaboration, and the external view that is focused on Social Marketing such as Marketing Campaigns and Social Media Monitoring. Both Social Productivity and Social Marketing have the potential to deliver business value. Being linked more closely to more mature business activities such as marketing and CRM, Social Marketing provides clearer opportunities for generating business value. This can include increasing the speed of customer adoption of new products and delivering increases in customer satisfaction. Being less mature, the opportunities for Social Productivity to delivery business value are harder to identify but they do exist. Social Productivity can lead to value being realized such as reduced staff attrition rates, and improved speed to market with new products.
So if business value can be generated by the use of Enterprise Social how can this value be identified, quantified, measured and realized? This is arguably the biggest question of all. A key tool that is available for addressing this challenge is the ACME model:
By applying the four steps of the ACME model business value can be identified and Value Realization can then be used to track the attainment of this value. The first step in the ACME model is Activate; a social network must be activated before anything can be done to generate or realize value. Activation assumes identifying and defining a purposeful network i.e. the network has to support a recognizable community that share a common interest, pain or need. Effective activation means that the community adopt and use the social network and that they participate by engaging in quality interaction. It is the interaction that takes place in the social network that generates mineable information.
The second step, Cultivate is a critical activity that must be undertaken to ensure the growth and success of the social network. A poorly subscribed and underutilized social network is unlikely to produce very much mineable information and is not likely to deliver much business value. A network requires a critical mass and level of activity before it will attract and grow new members. Without sufficient activity so as to be useful, the network will wither and collapse. A social network that can deliver business value thus must be active and vibrant and this can only be achieved through active cultivation.
The next two steps in the ACME model are the two that are most crucial for value identification and Value Realization. Step three is Mine; the information that flows from the social network must be mined effectively. It is possible to mine all the information that is being generated by a social network in an attempt to generate insights and whilst this is an acceptable approach it is very dependent on luck. An enterprise that adopts this approach for mining information from a social network is hoping to get lucky! An arguably more effective approach for mining this information is to focus on information that is relevant to the enterprise. Relevant is all about measuring the right thing, not everything. The right thing for every enterprise will be different but there is a standard set of information categories that can usually be considered. These standard information categories typically include:
By being relevant and focusing on these types of information categories an enterprise is no longer hoping to get lucky; it knows what it is looking for. A critical enabler for effective mining is social analytics, undertaking appropriate analytics on the information flowing from social networks is a paramount activity required to unlock the potential value from Enterprise Social. It is the analytics that generate the insights that are the seed corn for value. These insights could include gaining a better understanding of customer needs, identifying what consumers think about our product compared to a competing product, or finding out what citizens really think about a government policy. However, gaining insights is not enough, the fourth activity of the ACME model, Execute, has to take place for the potential value to be realized. The action can be executed by an individual, a team, or the organization as a whole but without something changing, an action, the insight will be valueless. It is only by executing an action that value can be realized. Typical actions that insights from Enterprise Social can generate might include monitoring and responding to customer complaints faster, responding positively to dissatisfaction being expressed in employee social networks, identifying patterns of exceptions and developing new products from early identification of new trends.
Execution also brings us right back to Value Realization because execution means Change and it is change that delivers business value. The actions that are taken should have clearly defined measurable business benefits; the value of the benefits and how they will be measured needs to be defined; and someone must take ownership of the benefits and the value that will be realized. It is only through effective Value Realization that Enterprise Social will be successful within your customers’ organizations.
Mark Bestauros on Value Realization in MS IT
Business Scenarios for the Cloud
Business Value Generation is the New Bottleneck
This is my roundup of Steve Ballmer quotes.
I wanted to gain new insight into what Ballmer is really about. I find that quotes arranged in meaningful buckets can help tell a story and provide a new lens. In fact, I was actually surprised by what I ended up with. I anticipated a focus on Vision, Business, and Boldness. What surprised me was the themes around Agility, Empowerment, and Innovation.
Buckets aside, Ballmer behind the scenes is very different than Ballmer on stage, or in the media. I hope that this collection of quotes helps show more of that range.
“All of our major businesses can have a short-twitch capability every six to nine months to a long-twitch capability. We can't make customers wait three to four years for things they need every few months.”
“Our goal in making these changes is to enable Microsoft to achieve greater agility in managing the incredible growth ahead and executing our software-based services strategy.”
“These changes are designed to align our Business Groups in a way that will enhance decision-making and speed of execution, as well as help us continue to deliver the types of products and services our customers want most.”
“This is all about having great leaders who can drive agile innovation and agile decision-making.”
“This will be a place with some structure, but structure that aids teamwork, not politics and bureaucracy, ... Nothing solves big company' ills quite like a strong focus on accountability for results with customers and shareholders.”
“We need to improve agility.”
“All in, baby!. We are winning, winning, winning, winning.”
"I love what we’re doing with Windows 8, and it’s a bold bet. We’re reimagining our number one product. That’s cool. But it’s not for the fainthearted. It takes a certain boldness and a certain persistence."
“Our people, our shareholders, me, Bill Gates, we expect to change the world in every way, to succeed wildly at everything we touch, to have the broadest impact of any company in the world.”
"The one thing that I think separates Microsoft from a lot of other people is we make bold bets. We’re persistent about them, but we make them. A lot of people won’t make a bold bet. A bold bet doesn’t assure you of winning, but if you make no bold bets you can’t continue to succeed. Our industry doesn’t allow you to rest on your laurels forever. I mean, you can milk any great idea. Any idea that turns out to be truly great can be harvested for tens of years. On the other hand, if you want to continue to be great, you’ve got to bet on new things, big, bold bets. It’s in our value statement; you go to our website."
“Throughout our history, Microsoft has won by making big, bold bets. I believe that now is not the time to scale back the scope of our ambition or the scale of our investment. While our opportunities are greater than ever, we also face new competitors, faster-moving markets and new customer demands.”
"But Microsoft’s founding was when somebody said, hey, software is a basis for business. That’s what Bill Gates and Paul Allen did. That turns out to have been an amazingly correct and important thing, correct and important for Microsoft and correct and important for many, many entrepreneurs who have come since."
“I do think that there is such a strong interest in demand for improvements in information technology that we will continue to see a pretty strong information technology sector, no matter what happens with some of these global economic factors.”
"I'd say [one of] the things that eat at me the most ... is new business models. Learning a new business model or developing a new business model is so hard."
"Sometimes you are lucky. Ask any CEO who might have bought something before the market crashed (in 2008) ... Hallelujah! Putting everything else aside, the market fell apart. ... Sometimes you’re lucky.”
“The small-business market is the biggest part of the computer market, ... We really need to get after that.”
“You have to cut out parts…react to what the market is telling you. You get into trouble if you assume that you’re going to reach critical mass too quickly—because it’s most likely that you won’t. Through all these trials you can’t lose patience.”
"Ultimately progress is measured sort of through the eyes of our users. More than our investors or our P&L or anything else, it’s through the eyes of our users. We have 1.3 billion people using PCs today. There was a time in the ’90s when we were sure there would never be 100 million PCs sold a year. Now there will be 375 million sold this year alone."
“We had too many products that we were trying to sell to too few customers in the mid-market.”
“Everyone likes to differentiate between business and consumers but I don't see the difference really. Most people are people. I get personal and business mail and I have one set of contacts from my life. I don't want to manage two sets. I want one view of my world.”
"In the year 2000, people were still saying Microsoft would never be an enterprise company. Now a lot of people wonder whether Microsoft is still a consumer company! I mean, really? But I’ve got to tell you we had no enterprise street cred in the year 2000. We were still trying to prove ourselves to enterprise IT managers."
“Accessible design is good design.”
"But if we were trying to write it the original way, I guess it would be a computer on every desk, every pocket, every watch, every data center, every everything. But in a sense technology is a tool of sort of individual choice, individual creativity, individual empowerment, individual access, and mobility sort of just brings that more to the fold."
“Getting the most out of their people is on the mind of every business leader I speak with. (We) are passionate about the idea that the right software can provide the tools to empower workers to become the drivers of business success.”
“IBM says we have a team of consultants and we can help you innovate. But at the end of the day, unlocking people potential is better. Having people collaborate to make the right decision is more productive.”
"It’s always great when you get a lot of people pushing themselves to do better, be better, invent better, better serve, better lead customers in new directions."
“Our company has to be a company that enables its people.”
“The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn't think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential.”
“Look at the product pipeline, look at the fantastic financial results we've had for the last five years. You only get that kind of performance on the innovation side, on the financial side, if you're really listening and reacting to the best ideas of the people we have.”
“So, I think the output of our innovation is great. We have a culture of self-improvement. I know we can continue to improve. There is no issue. But at the same time, our absolute level of output is fantastic.”
“The lifeblood of our business is that R&D spend. There's nothing that flows through a pipe or down a wire or anything else. We have to continuously create new innovation that lets people do something they didn't think they could do the day before.”
"The truth of the matter is it’s hard to invent anything. It’s hard to invent a new thing, and it’s just as hard to invent another new thing. I think we’ve been pretty successful, but it’s hard. It is hard."
“We're about to kick-start a new growth engine for the mobile industry. To grow, the wireless industry needs to provide end-to-end solutions and innovative services. We're creating great new tools to do just that.”
“Eventually the Internet will be accessed by PC, television, and wireless devices.”
“More of what we do will live on the Internet, ... Nobody will have software products in 10 years. Everyone will have products and services. It will be hard to tell the difference between software products and services.”
“There will be this kind of quantum leap forward in the way people use the Internet over the next several years. There will be ushered in a next generation Internet user experience. That will be marked not only by the introduction of additional devices that take advantage of the Internet, but it will be marked by a whole new set of ways for programs to work together, for users to share data with one another and with programs, and basically, almost a whole new user interface model of the world.”
“We have an incredible opportunity...to revolutionize the Internet user experience. We need to deliver our next generation services platform in order to do that. And we need Bill Gates 100 percent focused on helping architect that.”
“We need to deliver a breakthrough version of Windows that allows PCs and servers to support these next-generation services and host them out there on the Internet."
“All companies of any size have to continue to push to make sure you get the right leaders, the right team, the right people to be fast acting, and fast moving in the marketplace. We've got great leaders, and we continue to attract and promote great new leaders.”
“Bill brings to the company the idea that conflict can be a good thing."
“Great companies have high cultures of accountability, it comes with this culture of criticism I was talking about before, and I think our culture is strong on that.”
"Leaders really do need to hit the exact right balance on what I'd call the optimism realism curve. If you're not realistic, you lose respect from customers, partners, shareholders, press, employees, if you're not realistic. But if a leader can't be optimistic, if a leader can't say, life is going to be better, we're going to take share, we're going to improve this situation, if you can't sort of handle being optimistic and realistic at the same time, I think it [will be hard for you] to be a great leader."
"The key isn't to quibble with the style that somebody uses or the approach. The key is to grade the results."
“We realized we needed to give our core leaders deeper control and accountability in the way they run their businesses, while at the same time ensuring strong communication and collaboration across business units.”
“And we learned an important lesson: Today's business software doesn't look enough like today's businesses."
“IBM is increasingly a services company ... and we are, at the end of the day, a software company.”
“We are still not getting in the manufacturing industry, ... We will provide the infrastructure that lets those in the manufacturing industry do their jobs.”
“We will make our products work out of the box.”
“At Microsoft, we're investing heavily in security because we want customers to be able to trust their computing experiences, so they can realize the full benefits of the interconnected world we live in.”
“By bringing together the software experience and the service experience, we will better address the changing needs of our customers' digital lifestyles and the new world of work.”
"My kids will never understand that it used to be kind of hard to access and find things, and know what the world knows and see what the world sees. Yet it becomes easier and easier every day."
“There are a variety of different things that fall under the social banner. We’re adding what I’d call ‘connectivity to people’ into our core products, The acquisition of Skype is big step down that path toward connecting with other people.”
“Under Ray's technical leadership and weaving together both software and software-based services, I see incredible opportunity to better address the changing needs of our customers' digital lifestyles and the new world of work.”
"With Windows 8 we think we usher in a new round, a round of mobility, a round of natural interface. The cloud makes computing in a sense more seamless, more transparent, kind of more every day, more every minute than ever before. I think that’s very powerful."
Steve Ballmer On a Big Vision: To Help People Realize Their Full Potential
The First 11 Employees of Microsoft
The Microsoft Story
Microsoft Explained: Making Sense of the Microsoft Platform Story
Microsoft Secret Stuff
“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” — Bill Gates
Seasoned leaders focus on WHAT, and then HOW.
Smart leaders start with WHY.
So the obvious conclusion is that the right recipe is WHY, WHAT, HOW.
But that’s the surprise.
The most effective leaders know the recipe is WHY, HOW, WHAT.
HOW is the key to success for the long-haul.
HOW is often the difference that makes the difference.
HOW is where execution happens.
HOW is where you figure out sustainable ways.
HOW is where you figure out Operating Principles so you can take on big challenges and nail whatever WHAT that comes your way.
If you master Ability to Execute, you bridge Strategy + Execution.
HOW is especially interesting because it’s where people can shine. If you’ve read The Patterns of High Performance, you know that individuals produce their best results when they use their personal HOW.
It’s the journey and the destination.
WHY is the juice for the journey. HOW is your recipe for the journey. WHAT is the destination. If you master your HOW, you can enjoy the journey, and you’ll be better prepared for any destination you set your eyes on. Of course WHY will filter the destinations you choose.
It’s elegance in action.
The key is to treat HOW as a first-class citizen. Execution is often a differentiator. If you master and mature your HOW, you can move up the stack to take on bigger and better things.
Use your HOW to chop any challenge down to size.
Another way to think of it is, “Masterful HOW” trumps “Ad-hoc HOW” or “Heroic Efforts” time and again. There are exceptions, but it’s not sustainable.
Those that invest wisely in their HOW execute with confidence, can do product line engineering, and create sustainable work-life balance, and use “Ability to Execute” as a competitive differentiator, among the sea of failing and flailing.
For a great video on the power of WHY, HOW, WHAT, check out Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action.
25 Books the Most Successful Microsoft Leaders Read and Do
The Power of Values
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” -- Henry David Thoreau
Values are the ultimate lightening-rod. They bring people together, or divide them apart.
If you don’t get how much values shape a company, from the people they hire to the people they fire, check out Video interview with Simon Sinek about the Golden Circle.
When you do great work that makes your soul sing, it’s usually because you have a strong values alignment. When you combine values with a clear vision, and a powerful mission, it’s the ultimate key to unlocking greatness, in yourself, others, and the company or arena you’re in.
Here is a sampling of values from some companies you’ve probably heard of. You’ll notice some patterns across, but you’ll also notice some distinctions. It’s the distinctions that can tell you things like whether a company is innovation-centric, or social-centric, or consumer-centric, or information-centric, etc.
Here are the Microsoft values:
As a company, and as individuals, we value integrity, honesty, openness, personal excellence, constructive self-criticism, continual self-improvement, and mutual respect. We are committed to our customers and partners and have a passion for technology. We take on big challenges, and pride ourselves on seeing them through. We hold ourselves accountable to our customers, shareholders, partners, and employees by honoring our commitments, providing results, and striving for the highest quality.
Here are the Amazon Leadership Principles:
Here are the Google Values:
Here are Apple’s Core Values according to CEO Tim Cook:
And here are the Apple Values in the Apple Employee Handbook, circa 1993:
Apple Values are the qualities, customs, standards, and principles that the company believes will help it and its employees succeed. They are the basis for what we do and how we do it. Taken together, they identify Apple as a unique company.
These are the values that govern our business conduct:
Here are the 5 Facebook Values:
Here are IBM’s Values (as determined by 319,000 IBMers around the world that engaged in an open "values jam" on IBM’s global intranet):
Keep in mind, the fastest way to know the values is to know the leader, since values flow down (and people tend to hire people like themselves.) Also, remember that values are not what you say, but what you do, since actions speak louder than words.
Tell Your Story and Build Your Brand
What are the most useful CIO Resources you turn to?
Here are a few I know of …
It’s time for another take. Here it is:
The Exponential Results Formula
I made a mistake when I first named it. I called it, The Way of Success (sort of Bruce Lee style.)
While it certainly is the way of success, it really is more of a specific technique for getting exponential results.
I grew up in a world where results talk and BS walks.
And, time is a limited resource.
While I like learning, I don’t like wasting time, unless it’s by design. (And, sometimes it is.)
As a patterns and practices kind of a guy, I’ve studied and tested many, many, … many ways to find the keys to getting better, faster, and cheaper results. Cheaper can mean all sorts of things, but in this case, I mean it to be less cost, more efficient, and less wasteful.
In other words, I want more from the time and energy I already spend.
Don’t we all.
I also want to know “the map” and where I am on the map. This is especially true if it’s a long journey. As Zig Ziglar said, “People do not wander around and then find themselves at the top of Mount Everest.” Similarly, they don’t wander around into being a doctor. Or wander around and write a book.
Making great things happen usually takes great effort. That’s why passion and purpose are important.
But passion and purpose only get you so far. There’s a saying here that’s pretty relevant:
If all you have is motivation, but you have no technique, or the wrong strategy, that’s a recipe for failure. Or, it’s at least a recipe for a lot of wasted time and energy, and lackluster results.
Strategies, techniques, and mentors are the short-cut.
They help you find more effective paths and avoid dead-ends.
And that’s where the The Exponential Results Formula comes in.
It frames out a way to model success and amplify your impact.
After all, if you’re going to go for it, then why not go big.
As they say, go big or go home.
I’ve updated my menu at Sources of Insight to make it easy to dive into hot topics including Innovation, Leadership, Personal Development, Productivity and more. (here is the full Topics pages.)
I made them front and center on the top menu bar:
I’ll be testing the effectiveness of this new menu for the next 30 days.
Here was my previous design:
There are pros and cons to both.
I’ve struggled with my menu, so I’ll share some of my learnings.
With my previous design of the top bar, Home | Archives | Explore | Topics | Resources | Store | About | Contact, it was easy to see the site navigation at a glance, and make sense of it. Another advantage is that the idea of Great Books, Great People, Great Quotes, was simple and clear, and it was easy to see Special Guests, including Best-Selling authors. The challenge is that it buried some interesting topics, under Topics.
So it was simple, but relatively generic, and some of the most interesting topics were nested under Topics.
With my new menu, Innovation | Leadership | Productivity | Personal Development | Fun are right in your face. Better yet, when you click More …, you have additional interesting topics right there, including Emotional Intelligence, Happiness, Intellectual Horsepower, Motivation, Strengths, and Time Management. This has several advantages. The main thing is that it puts hot topics at your fingertips. It also helps you get an instant sense of the scope of the site, and variety of coverage. It also makes it easy to showcase some interesting topics. Related, I can easily shuffle some of the popular topics to see which ones readers are hungry for, as well as test new topics. But a big downside is, my sub-menu looks more complicated now. I didn’t want to give up the Great Books, Great People, Great Quotes, or the Special Guests, since they are key features of Sources of Insight.
I’ve studied menus. Many menus. Many, many, many, too many menus. And, I’ve played around with my own menus for many years. Menus really are a living thing (or they die, and information starts to die.) That said, they are powerful when they are simple, intuitive, and help users achieve their goals, or explore and find interesting things (I’m a fan of supporting both River AND Goal people.)
I finally stumbled on a really good menu design article that clicked for me:
How To Design Effective Navigation Menus
What I liked was the simple flip through of many menu designs at a glance. This made it really easy to compare and contrast across multiple designs very quickly, as well as explore designs I hadn’t seen before.
What caught my attention though, was the following section on how the BBC has enormous information, but slices into a simple set of seven categories:
There’s more to the story than that, but I liked the idea of a “Hot Button Bar” at the top, where, without thinking, you could simply “Dive In.”
While my site might not qualify yet as an enormous amount of information, it is getting there. I have more than 1,000 blog posts, and many of them are significant in size.
Here’s the most interesting thing to me, though. As soon as I chose this particular set of categories, I found myself wanting to produce some highly-targeted articles to really create a compelling experience for somebody drilling into these categories. I also want to create “Getting Started” articles for these Hot Spots as well as some Overview types articles, and definitely more How Tos, and more Checklists.
I think my driving philosophy behind my design is:
Think less, explore more, and yet make sense of the site at a glance.
I’m a fan of simplicity. On one hand, I feel like a lost some simplicity on the sub-menu. In fact, specifically, I just don’t like having too many options visible. I also don’t like that some of my most significant pages feel a little buried on my Resources page. My Trends page feels really lost and yet it’s my trends posts that change lives and companies. On the other hand, even though it’s more categories at a glance than I like up front, it does make it easy to dive into some very different parts of the site.
While I may not have “nailed it”, at least I think I’m trending in the right direction, and most people I think will quickly find information they need or want.
I’m also hoping that I stumble on additional design moves for my menu that I don’t expect. I actually didn’t expect to put the current set of topics on the main menu. But, I like it. It’s effectively:
My open issue to solve is how to consolidate my sub-menu, while keeping the simple story of Great Books, Great People, Great Quotes, and making it easy to dive into key resources that are buried under the Resources page, including Checklists, How Tos, Lists, etc.
Keep in mind, as much as I’m complaining, all you really need to do is just click on the Resources page and you have bunches of resources at your fingertips.
But, like I said, I’m a fan of simplicity, and yes, I want my cake and eat it, too.
If you get a chance, dive in, take a look around, and let me know your thoughts.
There are articles in there that have helped people do amazing things.
If you just want some quick inspiration, take a stroll through my inspirational quotes collection.
Here is a sampling to get you started:
Explore for more.
Is collaboration the new competitive advantage? Possibly. I do know that those at work that pair up on things, and combine their capabilities can outshine those that go it alone. And, I do see how people with better networks tend to have an easier time making their ideas happen.
I wrote a book review of The Collaboration Economy: How To Meet Business, Social, and Environmental Needs and Gain Competitive Advantage, by Eric Lowitt. Eric is an HBR.org columnist and the best-selling author of The Future of Value.
What happens when the world competes for water, food, and energy?
Take a guess.
What happens when the world finds new ways to collaborate and innovate around limited resources?
Sustainability is the new advantage, and collaboration is a key competitive advantage.
Visionary CEOs are embracing sustainability, not because it’s politically correct, but because their businesses depend on it for revenue, innovation, and competitive differentiation.
In a global market, hyper-competition, and increasingly connected world, your portfolio of partnerships can make or break you. If you have the right collaborative partnerships, you have a competitive advantage. Similarly, if you lack collaborative partnerships where it counts, you’ll be at a disadvantage.
Companies like Unilever, Coca-Cola, GE, and Nestle Waters North America are leading the way.
How’s that going?
That’s what The Collaboration Economy is all about.
Throughout the book, Lowitt shares stories and data, as well as actionable guidance on how you can help shape the future of the economy and of the sustainability of the world.
What I like is how Lowitt paints a big picture. He walks through the five primary natural resources used for power: coal, natural gas, nuclear, water, and renewable resources. He gives his take on the pros and cons of each, as well as some interesting stats.
It's not an easy read, but it is pragmatic at multiple levels, for leaders, and consumers, by showing how certain things can play out.
For example, as a leader of a business, you have to know when to compete and when to collaborate. As a consumer, you vote with your purchases. But there are also gate-keepers at various points in our system (such as those who gives you loans, etc.) that could very easily shift towards more eco-friendly ways and change consumer behavior.
Eco-friendly will vary.
I especially like that Lowitt addresses the topic from a business perspective, rather than just a “good intentions” or “greater good” perspective. He shows how “the great good” will make business sense for the long-haul. He is also clear that it’s not an easy road. There are very obvious choices and challenges along the way. But he also points out that this road can lead to very interesting innovations, new organizational designs, and will make or break some of the biggest companies that depends on global systems that sustain our daily life.
It’s both a thoughtful book and an actionable book. Lowitt provides a framework for action as well as guiding insights to help you challenge and change the status quo.
For a deep dive into the book and a sampling of the nuggets, check out my book review on The Collaboration Economy.
If changing the world is something you’ve always wanted to do, now might be a great time to do so.
One of the most important things I learned long ago is the power of trends, and how they can help you anticipate.
Now, each year, as a habit, I put together a serious and significant roundup of trends.
Here are my trends collections at your fingertips:
(If you read nothing else, read the Trends for 2013 post. It’s hard-core.)
If you can see things coming, you can prepare for them. Sometimes you can really embrace them and ride a wave. I use them to help me play out possibilities and to inspire new ideas and create new value. I also use them to avoid being surprised, or at least surprised less. In the arena that I’m in, it’s easy to be left behind if you don’t skate to where the puck will be.
That’s true for many businesses, and it’s true for many careers.
While I had always paid attention to trends, in 2009 was really a turning point for me. I was working on the Microsoft Application Architecture Guide (you can think of it as playbook for building applications on the Microsoft platform.) As part of the effort, I needed to know where the IT industry was going. I also needed to know how the Enterprise landscape would change.
I remember the exercise of mapping out the trends. What’s obvious now was not as obvious then, since some things were just starting to take off in the Enterprise, or early in the market. One of the big shifts was to REST. Another big shift was to more virtualization. In fact, a few big Enterprise shops that I know, were using virtualization and calling it their private “Cloud.”
Here is the Mind Map of trends I created back in 2009:
Behind the scenes, what I was doing was effectively polling many development shops around the world to see what was hot and what was emerging. Meanwhile, I was cross-checking on where CIOs were putting their money. I was cross-checking that with analysts and trend spotters. I paid a lot of attention to where big companies were placing their bets. I expected rippled effects in the industry.
I needed to have a good handle on the trends and emerging patterns because I needed the book to be ahead of it’s time, or at least not dated out of the gate. (A key pattern I learned here is to create “evergreen” and durable frames so that as technologies churn, the main frames stay the same.)
The big things that popped for me on the map, at the time, were: Agile, Business Intelligence, Big Data, Cloud, Rich-Internet Apps, and User Experience. And, the shift to REST was disruptive. I was starting to notice how some customers that were embracing the Cloud were leap frogging ahead. I also noticed how customers who invested in user experience as a first-class citizen were building higher-quality applications that people wanted to use. With too many choices, user experience wins. The apps that make you feel good, make you personally effective and connect with others win.
I learned a few valuable lessons from the exercise:
On a personal level, you can also use trends to help you decide your bigger decisions in life, including your career path. For example, I know some colleagues that saw Big Data as the place to be, and they started working on their data scientist skills, and are now seeing it pay off.
I’m starting my trends research a little earlier this year. I’m paying attention to examples of things like m2m (machine to machine) scenarios and possibilities in the real world. I’m especially interested in Television 2.0 — The $2.2 Trillion War for your Living Room. I’m also paying attention to more wearable computing scenarios, as well as innovations in education, health, and manufacturing. I’ve heard some amazing stories of 3-D printing as a disruptor. And, I’m hoping for some really surprising possibilities with phones.
As Peter Drucker said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it”, and Alan Kay said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it!”
If you’re not shaping your future, someone else is.
“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.” -- Patrick Lencioni
To create high-performance teams, you don't need the best people in the world. But you do need people at their best.
To bring out their best, you first need simple alignment on the team in the form of vision, mission, values, and identity. I wrote a step-by-step article on How To Create a High-Performance Team with Vision, Identity, and Values.
Alignment at that level creates a foundation and platform for high-performance teams. As Benjamin Franklin said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
Here's a recap of vision, mission, and values:
Alignment at this level helps you accelerate your path through Forming -- Storming -- Norming and Performing. It also gets work going in the right direction, so people can spend more time where they shine, and less time bifurcating their focus.
Of course, having the best people is great. But what you really need is people at their best, in a system that supports them.
In fact, there are a lot of high-performance people all around in systems that break them. So if you simply create a team system that frees people up, right off the bat, you are ahead of many teams. You free people up when you create shared goals, focus on the outcomes, and paint clear pictures of how to be successful. You unleash people when you make it safe to take risks, and create a rapid learning environment.
The easiest way to break an otherwise high-performing team is to micro-manage. The more you focus on what seem to be otherwise good tools, like accountability, process, etc., the more you get the opposite. Accountability, process, etc. happen as a by-product of doing specific things well, like having clear goals, letting people work the way they work best, having people spend more time in their strengths, and encouraging learning. When people have a goal, and they are in their passion, and they are free to use their strengths, they get resourceful.
Remember that people are creatures of habit, and they form habits (and, as a result, process.) When you create a continuous learning environment where people can afford to fail and take risks, they learn faster, improve faster, and out-execute the competition.
If your team is not a high-performance team, before you poke at the people, poke the system you create on a daily basis.
5 Questions for Capability and Capacity of High-Performing Teams How To Lead High-Performance Distributed Teams Kanban: The Secret of High-Performing Teams at Microsoft Vision, Mission, Values Values, Guiding Principles, and Practices at Microsoft patterns & practices Patterns and Practices for High-Performance Teams Talk Teams Not Resources Team Execution Patterns and How the Work Gets Done
This is a guest post by Mark Bestauros on what he’s learned about Value Realization at Microsoft. You can think of Value Realization as simply the value extracted from a process or project. Mark is the Microsoft IT Principal Business Value Realization manager, and a member of the Microsoft IT Portfolio Management Team, where he is responsible for the optimization of a significant IT spend across the Microsoft businesses. Mark is also responsible for the Value Tracking for projects in scope, and that has led to some big breakthroughs in terms of reporting the value of IT investments back to the business, and demonstrating the power of Value Realization.
I’ve asked Mark to share some of his key insights and lessons learned from his adventures at Microsoft in the art and science of Value Realization.
Without further ado, here is Mark Bestauros on Value Realization …
The Value conversation serves two main purposes in IT:
To accomplish the first goal, the organization need to have the Value conversation tied to the Personal Commitments for all those involved in IT work, and equally importantly, making sure that the a mutual understanding of priority positioning of the “Value” focus in the Conditions of Satisfaction conversations that usually take place between IT organizations and the benefiting business partners from the IT effort.
Without having the Value activities reflected in the commitments and missing in IT native processes, almost all involved in project work automatically de-prioritize the Value work, starting with turning a blind eye on a missing business case analysis at the inception point and ending with walking away immediately after a project Pre-deployment sign off meeting, washing their hands from any commitment to measure and evaluate the actual benefits hoped for at the Envision or “Plan” phase.
The key to success is to embed Value experts at the business and IT border checkpoints. You need Value experts who are well versed in understanding how to sell the Value argument. You also need professionals who can guide the average IT professional through estimating effectively (versus guestimating). You also need to embed the most cost effective, and time effective, means to measure baselines and project logical improvement deltas at the business and IT border checkpoints. This will help you facilitate effective Portfolio Planning and prioritize demand more effectively, prior to having the all up IT/Business Leadership Team Planning marathons.
Evidencing the argument about the viability of the IT organization in any company with actual Realized Value is very compelling only if the Value reported passes these tests:
There are few characteristics or knowledge areas that makes a value practitioner successful in changing the culture and move the Value Organizational Maturity in the right direction:
A value practitioner can’t achieve that alone, while overcoming organizational undisciplined Value approaches if any exist at all, lacking individuals Value commitments and the unwillingness of the business customers to engage in meaningful Value (BCA, VRF or BVR efforts), he/she needs air cover and a value sponsors (usually are found in the Finance Community or if lucky, a CIO or a member of two of the senior leadership) to facilitate the conversation and help open the doors.
On the tactical and execution level the Value practitioner needs to:
The three technical challenges are primarily:
There are known techniques that address each, and there are some that I had to improvise to make them fit the maturity stage of the target organization. In all cases, getting stakeholder agreement to the assumptions, transferring functions, and using the Dollar as an IT solution provide horse power to go a long way.
If you don’t know the scenarios for the Cloud, it’s hard to make the case for the Cloud. Whether you’re a Solution Architect, Enterprise Architect, Business Leaders, IT Leaders, CIO, analyst, etc., you need to know the pains, needs, and desired outcomes so that you can rationalize the technology more effectively.
What you’ll find below are collections of scenarios large and small that will help you see the full landscape of the Cloud within the Enterprise landscape. When you have the scenarios at your fingertips, you can better evaluate business strategies or technical strategies, as well as create more effective business cases, because you understand the pains, needs, desired outcomes, as well as the benefits that go along with each scenario.
Achieve cost-effective business continuity Create new revenue streams from existing capabilities Decrease power consumption Decrease the time to market for new capabilities Easily integrate new businesses into your organization Improve operational efficiency to enable more innovation Improve the connection with your customers Provide elastic capacity to meet business demand Provide Enterprise messaging from anywhere Reduce upfront investment in new initiatives
Business Intelligence Cloud Computing Consumerization of IT Corporate Environmental Sustainability Innovation for Growth Low-Cost Computing in the Enterprise
For details on each of the scenarios, including a description and key benefits, see:
Here is a robust collection of User Stories for Cloud Enterprise Strategy.
To do a deep dive on the pains, needs, and desired outcomes from around the world, I created a round up of user stories for the Cloud, from the perspective of business leaders, IT leaders, and Enterprise Architects. I included many CIOs from several large companies in different industries to get a broad perspective. I ended up with more than 50 user stories of the pains, needs, and desired outcomes for the Cloud in the Enterprise. Note that while the list is a bit dated, many of the core user stories are still highly relevant and actually evergreen.
With a prioritized list of the user stories for the Cloud, I then grouped them into a simple set of categories:
If you haven’t seen it, TechNet has a Cloud Scenarios Hub.
I like the focus on scenarios – it’s a great way to bring together a problem and a solution in context, while pulling together all the relevant guidance. It’s a focusing anchor-point in action.
I created a simple index to the Public and Private Cloud Scenarios.
Cloud Security Threats and Countermeasures at a Glance
Windows Azure Security Notes
Microsoft Cloud Case Studies at a Glance
How Microsoft IT Does Cloud Computing
Move to the Cloud, Use the Cloud, or Be the Cloud
“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra.” — H.E. Luccock
Welcome to my roundup of blog posts from across Microsoft on the art and science of Program Management.
The Program Manager role is a very powerful one. I think of it as a technical entrepreneur that blends customer focus, with technical skills, and business acumen. It’s the blending of those three domains that makes it so powerful for bringing ideas to life.
Great PMs make things happen by setting a vision, bringing a team together, creating an execution engine, and shipping ideas that change the world.
What exactly is a Program Manager? At Microsoft it’s a role that means many things to many people. In general though, when you meet a PM at Microsoft, you expect somebody who has vision, can drive a project to completion, can manage scope and resources, coordinate work across a team, bridge the customer, the business, and the technology, act as a customer champ, and influence without authority. From a metaphor standpoint, they are often the hub to the spokes, they drive ideas to done, they take the ball and run with it, or find out who should run with the ball. Some PMs are better at thought leadership, some are better at people leadership, and the best are great at both.
One of my favorite quotes that helps distinguish program management vs. project management is by G. Reiss:
“Project management is like juggling three balls – time, cost and quality. Program management is like a troupe of circus performers standing in a circle, each juggling-three balls and swapping balls from time to time.”
“The winners in life think constantly in terms of I can, I will, and I am. Losers, on the other hand, concentrate their waking thoughts on what they should have or would have done, or what they can’t do.” – Dennis Waitley
One of the ways I set better goals and achieve them at Microsoft is by using well-defined outcomes. It’s a way to begin with the end in mind. An outcome is simply something that follows as a result or consequence.
Maybe the best way to think of an outcome is that it answers the question: “What do you want?”
(If you want to just jump to the recipe and full expanded explanation of how to set better goals, go here: How To Set Better Goals with Well-Defined Outcomes)
NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) has popularized the use of outcomes over the years to help people achieve better results. You can think of NLP as a way to model excellence and replicate it from one person to another. It’s a way to program your mind, body, and emotions using advanced skills for high-performance. (Tip – if you don’t’ program yourself, somebody else will.)
Imagine if you could model what the most successful people think, feel, and do, and get that on your side.
If you like languages or the idea of language to share and express concepts, you’ll especially appreciate the power of NLP. NLP helps you create a lot of precision in how you see things, how you articulate things, how you filter information, and how you distill feedback into actionable insights.
NLP is like Agile Personal Development where continuous learning is fundamental to its core.
NLP is probably the most powerful set of techniques I’ve ever come across for personal development, personal effectiveness, leadership, and high-performance. The techniques effectively help you find better, faster, easier ways to accomplish outstanding results, while helping you bring out your best. Tony Robbins popularized NLP back in the 80’s, but it’s more mainstream today.
In fact, I know a lot of executives and highly effective Softies that use NLP to get the edge in work and life. I also know a lot of developers that have NLP under their belt and it helps them clarify what they want, set better goals, take more effective action, and communicate more effectively to themselves and others. In fact, some say that NLP is simply a set of advanced communication techniques.
Developers often find a special place in their hearts for NLP because of its precision and how it helps to “codify” behaviors. Specialists often use NLP to model high-performance behaviors and break them down into a recipe. These recipes for results help guide your thoughts, feelings, and actions in a more powerful way.
Anyway, what makes NLP powerful when you are setting goals is that it helps you really identify the end in mind. It brings your full senses to bear, so instead of imagining a fuzzy scene of what success looks like with loosey-goosey language, it forces you to get specific and use precision, and to really get clarity on what you actually want to achieve.
After all, it’s a lot easier to get to where you are going, if you know what you really want to accomplish.
In addition to helping you create compelling scenes of success, or mental movies of your future victories, NLP also helps you break your goal down into actionable chunks. It also sets you up for success by teaching you to focus on feedback as a way to improve, not a sign of failure. In this way, you keep refining your actions and your outcome until you achieve your goal.
What most people don’t know about NLP is that it’s been an effective tool for years for building a great big body of knowledge around high-performance patterns for individuals, teams, and leaders. The NLP framework provides a way to capture and share very detailed patterns of behavior that help people improve their performance. Whether you want to improve your leadership skills, or your relationship skills, or whatever, there is a bountiful catalog of very specific patterns that help you do that.
And, the beauty of patterns in NLP is that they tend to be very prescriptive, very specific, and easy to follow and try out. This makes it easy to test and adapt until you find what works for you. (I’m a fan of don’t take things at face value – test them for yourself and judge from results. I’m also a fan of Bruce Lee’s timeless wisdom: “Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.")
One of the best books I’ve found is the book, The Big Book of NLP Techniques, by Shlomo Vakni. Surprisingly, it actually delivers what it says on the cover. There’s more than 350 patterns at your fingertips. I wrote about one of the patterns, Well-Defined Outcomes, in my post on How To Set Better Goals with Well-Defined Outcomes. You need to see it to believe it. It really is detailed, so if you’ve ever struggled with setting goals, this might be your big breakthrough.
Here’s the real breakthrough though in goal setting. Aside from making sure you have goals that inspire you, and that they are aligned with what you really want, the power of the goal is ultimately in moving you in the right direction. It’s not a perfect or precise path where you can simply do A and get B. In fact, the irony is, that if you really want B, your best strategy is to first act as if you already have B. This will help you think, feel, and act from a more effective perspective so that your actions come from the right place, and help you produce more effective results (or at least guide you in the right direction).
That’s why you often here people say that you have to BE-DO-HAVE, not HAVE-DO-BE. With HAVE-DO-BE, the idea is when you get what you want, then you’ll start doing the things that go with it, and finally you’ll act the part. This is like saying that you won’t show up like a leader or act like a leader until somebody appoints you in a leadership role. This creates a negative loop, since why should anybody put you in a role that you don’t act the part.
The right thought pattern is BE-DO-HAVE because then your thoughts, feelings, and actions support your end results.
Are you acting like what you want?
If you’re not getting what you want, what does your feedback tell you to change?
The Guerilla Guide to Getting a Better Performance Review at Microsoft
Think in 3 Wins
E-Shaped People, Not T-Shaped
“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.
“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” – Bruce Lee
Aaron Lynn and Thanh Pham of Asian Efficiency wrote a thoughtful and interesting post about why they like Agile Results over GTD:
6 Ways Agile Results is Better than GTD
Here's the opening blurb:
“Here’s a short, fun article about why I prefer JD Meier’s Agile Results as a foundational productivity system more than Getting Things Done (GTD). Not that GTD isn’t awesome, it just misses a lot of things given the complexity of our lives nowadays. If you’ve been on the edge about switching to Agile Results, here are 6 great reasons why.”
What I like is that they are fans of GTD and are familiar with both systems.
I used to get asked how Agile Results related to GTD. My most common response was … “better together” and “to each his own” or “absorb what is useful”. Of course, Bruce Lee was an early influence on me: “Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.”
That said, I never had a snappy unique selling proposition, other than Agile Results is a personal results system for work and life. For many folks, they liked when I said that it’s a “simple system for meaningful results.” For other folks, they said the big deal is “outcomes not activities.”
I actually think that’s the key: meaningful results.
A lot of Agile Results was born out of a desire to achieve 3 key things for as many people as I could:
On #3, I always think of the line from Rocky 6:
“Nobody is gonna hit as hard as life, but it ain’t how hard you can hit. It’s how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. It’s how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning’s done.” – Rock Balboa (Sylvester Stallone)
I also think about my last visit to one of the Block Busters that was closing. The lady there had spent the last several years of her life. For her, Block Buster was her life. With Block Buster closing, she didn’t know what was next. She was scared. She was feeling the struggle of each day, and wondering how to keep going.
I confidently gave her a copy of my book, Getting Results the Agile Way. I was confident that it would help her figure out how to write her story forward. I was confident that she could use it to help her find her strength each day. I was confident that she could use it to help her figure out what’s important in her life and spend more time on that.
In that instance, the last thing I wanted to do was to show her how she could use Agile Results to get more things done. Instead, I wanted Agile Results to help her get back on her feet again and bring out her best, and to help her write her story forward.
I wanted help her to hit her high notes.
And, I wanted her to have better endings, brighter beginnings, and better adventures along the way.
Ultimately, I wanted Dr. Seuss's timeless wisdom to ring true for her on multiple levels:
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
I hope with Agile Results, I help people smile more.
“If the road is easy, you're likely going the wrong way.” ― Terry Goodkind
If you know struggle, you know adversity. If you know loss, you know adversity. If you know setbacks, you know adversity. If terrible things have happened to you, you know adversity.
But do you know what to do with adversity?
You can turn adversity into a gift. It's not easy though. In fact, if it was easy, it probably wouldn't be called adversity.
I wrote a book review on The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections, by Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D. Dr. Rosenthal is the same guy who first described winter depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and he pioneered the use of light therapy for its treatment.
It's a hard-core book with some grim stories, and some lighter tales, all about dealing with adversity. Dr. Rosenthal is a powerful storyteller and he does a great job of sharing his insights and actionable things you can do to embrace adversity.
In fact, according to Dr. Rosenthal, embracing adversity is how we can live more authentic and meaningful lives.
Dr. Rosenthal divides adversity into 3 flavors:
This works well because the book is written memoire style and Dr. Rosenthal draws from family, friends, and colleagues, as well as his own experiences, to share memories, personal anecdotes, and vignettes about the multiple categories of adversity.
Here is one of my favorite nuggets from the book ...
“Many people enter psychotherapy for problems they see as the result of repeated bad luck or the misbehavior of others. Such chronic failure to take responsibility leaves people like victims of fate rather than architects of their own destiny, which is not an empowering state of mind. Why do they think this way? Because it is painful to admit errors and shortcomings. It is generally far more painful, however, to suffer the consequences as they play out over time. That’s what happens to people who habitually fail to take responsibility for their actions.”
The key take away is -- don’t be a victim and don’t play the blame game. Rise above your circumstances and design a new story forward.
I share several more nuggets in my book review.
If you want to turn adversity into an advantage in work and life, check it out.
Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is one of the greatest books on personal development. Why? Because it provides a firm foundation for personal effectiveness. Even better, it provides habits and skills you can build to realize your full potential.
Here are the 7 habits of highly effective people, according to Stephen Covey:
I’ve provided a summary of each of the habits in my post, Adopt the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Here, I simply wanted to provide the habits at glance, as a reminder of some of the most useful habits that can help you throughout life.
Interestingly, the habits serve me well at Microsoft. I’ve always been a self-starter, which is critical for the Program Manager role. Similarly, whenever I set out to do significant work or put any time into significant things, I begin with the end in mind. A big part of project success, product success, or personal success comes down to putting first things first. I very naturally go for the win/win because it’s the key to influence without authority. I learned long ago that you have to first seek to understand, then to be understood, or you’re just fighting for air time, and without rapport, there is no influence. Synergize also comes naturally to me because I want more from the whole than the parts, and I want more out of the time I and energy I invest. As a life-long learner, sharpening the saw is how I continuously re-invent myself and stay relevant as the game changes under my feet.
Of course, it’s one thing to “know” the habits, it’s another thing to do habits. Here are some tips on how to change habits and making them stick. If you want to get hard-core about habit change, here’s how to use Agile Results to change a habit.
Are you I-shaped, T-shaped, or E-shaped?
I is depth, T is breadth, and E executes (Of course there’s overlap, but you get the idea.)
If you think of yourself as a mini-business, can you “execute” your ideas? (either yourself, with others, or through others, and amplify your impact) And, by the way, just how important is the ability to execute? Well, it’s important enough that Gartner uses “Ability to Execute” as a key criteria in its Magic Quadrants.
Ability to execute + high-impact ideas are a recipe for value.
After all, what good are a bunch of ideas if you can’t make them happen.
Keep these mental models in mind as you design your career path and grow your capabilities, skills, and experiences.
With that in mind, let’s explore a little more …
Here's what Wikipedia says about T-shaped people:
"The concept of T-shaped skills, or T-shaped persons is a metaphor used in job recruitment to describe the abilities of persons in the workforce. The vertical bar on the T represents the depth of related skills and expertise in a single field, whereas the horizontal bar is the ability to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise other than one's own."
(The earliest reference to T-shaped people is by David Guest in "The hunt is on for the Renaissance Man of computing," in The Independent, September 17, 1991.)
By contrast, I-shaped people have a very narrow, but expert domain skills in one specific area.
According to Sarah Davanzo, E-Shaped people are those that "execute":
“People (workers) today also need to be able to execute. As they say, 'ideas are like noses, everyone has one.' I’m tired of people coming to me with a great idea or invention, but with no clue how to bring it fruition. Real genius is being able to execute ideas. “
According to Sarah Davanzo, an “ideas person” isn’t good enough. You need the ability to execute. Here’s what Sarah says:
“Being an experienced, expert, exploratory “ideas person” isn’t good enough in today’s culture, and here’s why. The trends clearly favor those with “breadth” and “depth”, as well as the tangible (execution) and intangible (exploration), implying having both a big-picture outlook and an attention to detail from being a practitioner.”
According to Sarah Davanzo, “E-shaped” people have a combo of 4 Es:
“’E-Shaped People’ have a combination of ‘4-E’s’: experience and expertise, exploration and execution. The last two traits – exploration and execution – are really necessary in the current and future economy.”
Note – If you want to work on your ability to execute, Getting Results the Agile Way is a good way to start (It’s the playbook I wish somebody would have given me long ago.)
According to Sarah Davanzo, your CQ matters more than your IQ and EQ:
“Exploration = curiosity. Innovation and creative problem solving is tied to one’s “curiosity quotient” (CQ). In this day and age of constant change (think: Moore’s Law), one’s CQ is more useful than one’s IQ or EQ.”
Side note – Edward de Bono wrote about how exploring ideas is how to have a beautiful mind.
Bill Buxton puts a spin on “I-shaped” people in his article on Innovation Calls for I-Shaped People:
“But while I love Bill's (Bill Moggridge) notion of T-shaped people, things are just not that simple. So as both compliment and complement, I propose I-shaped people. These have their feet firmly planted in the mud of the practical world, and yet stretch far enough to stick their head in the clouds when they need to. Furthermore, they simultaneously span all of the space in between.”
According to Bill Buxton, at Microsoft we purposefully plan for equal levels of competence and creativity in business, design, and technology:
“When you slide multiple Ts together, their cross bars all overlap, indicating that the various Ts have a common language, and, ideally, their combined base can be broad enough to cover the domain of the problem that you are addressing. At ( (MSFT)), we try to make sure that in looking at new product or services ideas, we have at least three Ts, which we call BXT, reflecting equal levels of competence and creativity in three domains: business, (in design), and technology. These are three interdependent and interwoven pillars we see as the foundation for what we do.”
Outstanding people can generalize and abstract, as well as get specific and make things actually work. They bridge the head in the clouds and feet on the ground with other people. Bill Buxton writes:
“I once asked him (Brian Shackel) if he had noticed any particular attributes that distinguished the students that went on to do remarkable things compared with the rest. His answer was as immediate as it was insightful. He said: ‘The outstanding students all had an outstanding capacity for abstract thinking, yet they also had a really strong grounding in physical materials and tools.’ By this, he meant that they could rise above the specifics of a particular problem to think about them in a more abstract, and in some ways, more general way.”
One way to grow your T-Shape is to grow your personal effectiveness capabilities. The U.S. department of labor actually has a Competency Model Clearninghouse. You can easily browse different industries and find a list of Personal Effectiveness capabilities. For example, in the Information Technology Competency Model, they list the following Personal Effectiveness Capabilities:
BTW – did you notice that Personal Effectiveness is at the base of the pyramid of the competency model? The higher you go up, the more narrow and specific it gets. The lower you go, the broader and more general the competency model is. Personal Effectiveness is at the base of all the pyramids. That should tell you something.
Note – If you want to work on your personal effectiveness skills, I have a knowledge base at Sources of Insight that focuses on personal effectiveness, personal development, leadership, productivity, emotional intelligence, time management, strengths, motivation, and more.
Ability to Execute
Agile Downsizing: Why Agile Skills Improve a Project Manager’s Job Security
Anatomy of a High-Potential
Generalists vs. Specialists
The Microsoft Career Survival Guide
When you build teams, one of the issues that comes up is whether to build a team of generalists or specialists.
On the Microsoft patterns & practices team, because I was doing project-based work, I was effectively building new project teams roughly every six months (it varied – in the earlier days it was more like every 18 months and in the later years, it was more like every 3 – 6 months. The bottom line is, I got to see a lot of patterns and practices for building effective teams, both on my own teams and across Microsoft patterns & practices.
In my experience, the teams that had a healthy composition of generalists with relevant specialist skills, performed the best.
They performed the best in terms of speed, flexibility, and quality. Why? Because there was less scheduling complexity depending on availability of specialists for the day to day work, while we would broker in deep expertise as needed.
So, we did use specialists, but we optimized around generalists with relevant specialist skills.
Having generalists with specialist skills also helped broker in additional experts, as well as keep things very pragmatic, rather than dive off the deep end. It also helped us bridge the knowledge and speak the language of the specialists, by having folks on the team that knew enough to be dangerous, and that were well aware of there limits … but most importantly, knew when to reach out, and who to reach out to.
Having a team of generalists with relevant specialist skills for the day to day work helped us better load balance the work, and to avoid significant bottlenecks either due to dependencies or simply by getting stuck. It’s easy to get stuck when you are doing knowledge work if you don’t have a team of capabilities you can rely on to keep the ball moving forward, and to sanity check the path.
With that in mind, in the book, Agile Management for Software Engineering: Applying the Theory of Constraints for Business Results, David J. Anderson shares some great insights on the great debate between Generalists vs. Specialists. (Keep in mind, I’m a fan of the AND approach.)
Jone’s says specialists should outperform generalists. Agilists say, generalists will do better. Perhaps both are right. Anderson writes:
“Therefore, there is a plausible explanation to the conflict between Capers Jone's observation that specialists should outperform generalists and the Agile methodologists' contention that generalist developers will be better. Jones is clearly measuring organizations that employed specialists who were motivated and controlled by processes that led to good quality at every stage in the process. The Agile methodologists are clearly reacting to their environment. They are assuming that it is impossible to fix the systemic issues with analysts and both quality and performance can be improved by eliminating them.
Perhaps the final conclusion is that an Agile team of generalists will outperform a badly organized, badly incentivized, poorly skilled team of specialists following a traditional method. However, a good team of specialists, measured by properly set governing rules and focused on quality should outperform the team of Agile generalists. Hence, the Agilists and Capers Jones are not in conflict, the Agilists are basing their beliefs on differing assumptions.”
Maybe the generalist specialist is the answer? Anderson writes:
“Scott Ambler has suggested the ultimate solution to this problem . He calls them generalist specialists. These are software engineers with specialist in-depth skills in a few areas but adequate skills across a breadth of other areas. The generalist specialist is probably the ideal member for an Agile team. Such a team of generalist experts using an Agile method would probably perform even better.”
When you depend on specialists, the big issue, of course, is availability. Anderson writes:
“Specialist roles that will generally not be resource constraints tend to be horizontal and consultative in nature. These roles include language gurus who advice developers on esoteric or obscure elements in development languages, mentors and coaches, trainers, IT support staff, help desk personnel, program managers, project managers, development managers, and executives.
General developers or testers will generally not be constraints -- rather, in circumstances where they are in short supply, they would be classified as insufficiently buffered resources.
If the schedule is to be3 protected from delays, the additional resource constraints must be scheduled. The schedule must be designed to allow the resource constraint, for example, the user interface designer, to move freely from one task to the next without delaying the start of any specific large grained component. The feeding chains were planned with feeding buffers based on the notion that the start date is the latest possible date that the feeding chain components can be started without endangering the Critical Path. If a feeding chain was delayed because a resource was unavailable, the project would be in jeopardy.”
At the end of the day, specialists can be bottlenecks you need to account for when you plan. Anderson writes:
“Hence, the specialist resources must be scheduled across the PERT chart. Uncertainty surrounding the availability of a specialist resource must be anticipated in the planning. In the user interface designer example, it must be recognized that some sections of the project may require more design or be more difficult to design than others. Uncertainty generated by the complexity of the design challenge for certain elements of the project must be buffered appropriately. The schedule must reflect this.
This section should raise awareness that is it not a good thing to have too many specialist resources. Specialists are potential bottlenecks and must be schedule on the PERT chart as CCRs. They must be buffered and protected. Too many of them would produce a scheduling nightmare, and all the protecting buffers would result in increased Lead Time (LT), increased Operating Expense (OE), and reduced Throughout (T).”
Can you eliminate the need for specialists? Probably not, but you can limit and reduce your dependency on them, and use specialists more effectively. Anderson writes:
“XP eliminates specialists. There are no analysts in XP, no designers, no UI designers, or architects. XP encourages the virtue of the highly talented, highly skilled, highly educated generalist. By eliminating specialists, XP eliminates a large number of potential bottleneck points or constraints. However, this is a double-edge sword. Capers Jones has metrics to suggest that teams of specialists outperform generalists [Yourdon 2002]. Constantine has suggested that XP is bad for usability [Constantine 2001a]. Would the customer, for example, want a programmer to design the UI or would they prefer a skilled interaction designer and usability engineer?
However, eliminating specialists does eliminate constraints. There are no specialists to be schedule on the PERT chart and no specialists to be protected with buffers. There is no need for Critical Chain in XP.
In many cases, XP seeks to deny the Theory of Constraints whilst accepting that traditional software development is constrained. XP simply eliminates the constraints and moves on, for example, version control lock and technical specialists are eliminated through collective ownership and developers as generalists. This may, in fact, be appropriate on small-scale projects with highly talented people. It may be possible to ignore constraints because the people take care of everything and don't get into trouble. However, as projects get larger and the talent level of the team begins to vary, it may be necessary to look at other methods that seek to accept constraints for what they are. Rather than ignore constraints, they will identify, exploit, subordinate to, and ultimately elevate them. Denying constraints exist and denying the need for specialists in a large-scale system of software production may hold back the adoption of XP in larger enterprises.
Another approach to the denial of constraints could be to declare them paradigm constraints. XP could be viewed as a paradigm shift in software engineering. Hence, in a new paradigm, why should existing constraints be considered? Specialists are merely part of the old paradigm. Version control lock is equally part of a paradigm. By changing the working practices of development to a Lean interaction perhaps version write lock dies with the old mass production, specialist paradigm.”
In closing, I want to point out three key things to keep in mind when you think about generalists vs. specialists:
Happy team building.
The key to effective knowledge management is to throw away documents. You can’t get attached to what you write down. Otherwise, you can’t learn and it won’t evolve. But there is a trick …
You throw away the document, not the learning.
I learned this the hard way. Several years back, I was trying to rewrite a document that had a bunch of gems, mired among bad ideas and bad writing. It was the equivalent of spaghetti code. It was hard to figure out what was the insight, what was the action, and what was just interesting information, but not critical path.
I spent close to 40 hours trying to rewrite it. Granted it was a long document, but at some point I had to ask myself, which was faster – re-writing it, or starting over? Eventually, I realized, the right answer was to start over.
So I started with a blank document. And then I carried over the gems, and elaborated from there. Within 8 hours, I was done with the finished document.
The big lesson I learned was how difficult it actually is to reshape something that’s off, especially when it comes to written information. Since this was prescriptive guidance, it had to be relevant, actionable, and timely. It had to be insanely useful. And to do that requires a lot of manipulating words and phrases until the bright ideas compile into actionable guidance with conceptual integrity.
But “throwing away” a document was tough.
At least, it was tough until I realized that all the document really was, was a learning doc. It was a place to experiment and put ideas down on paper and bounce them off of other people, and get the collective perspective. The problem was, this learning doc, wasn’t the same as a bunch of notes. It was meant to be the final document. It was on path to be so.
But, along the way, what I failed to realize is that it baked in a bunch of our learnings.
It didn’t yet reflect creative synthesis, or distillation.
It was more like a trail up the mountain, and we were still on our way up.
I had a conversation with John Socha, the guy behind Norton Commander. I explained the challenge of producing useful documents, and how our learnings get in the way, if we don’t let the documents go. Surprisingly, he said to me, “Exactly!”
He continued and basically said that it’s the mistake a lot of people make. They hold on to their documents long past their usefulness, and don’t let the documents go, but carry the learnings forward.
I don’t know what painful lessons John had gone through to learn that, but at the time, it was fresh on my mind, and it had cost me 40+ hours of trial and error to move a document forward to learn that vital lesson.
You need to be able to throw documents away to create something better in its place.
When it’s pen and paper, it’s easier to throw something in the trash bin. But, when it’s a digital document it’s, it’s easy to forget what it feels like to start fresh. You don’t lose something. You gain something. It’s whitespace, where you are free and able to express things more clearly, now that you have more clarity.
Whitespace loves creative synthesis and distilled ideas.
It’s a breeding ground for new ways of expressing what you now know that you have climbed further up the mountain. If the path before you is riddled with your previous learnings, it can tough to see how to pave your way ahead, or worse, how to make a cleaner path for others to follow, which, after all, is the point of the knowledge and information you are attempting to share.
They are you friend. If you let them go.
They come in all shapes and sizes. They may even resemble raw notes. What’s important is that you acknowledge that they are just that. They are learning docs and you need to be free to throw them away and start from scratch at any point in time.
This is fundamental to creating a relevant, actionable, and timely document set that helps your users climb the mountain.
This is especially important when it comes to collaborating on documents. In fact, that’s exactly where I first learned this lesson, and spent 40 hours trying to fix an 8 hour document.
Once I learned that lesson, I had to find ways to incrementally and iteratively evolve documents as a team (or by myself.) I adopted some simple conventions. One convention that served me well is to version documents in the title: MyDocument – v1, MyDocument – v2, MyDocument – v3, etc.
It takes judgment when to decide it’s worth calling the document a new version, but it also helps to let things go from one version to the next.
Another practice that has worked well for learning docs is to have a Boneyard section at the end of the document. Literally, a dumping ground at the bottom of the document with a big heading called Boneyard. And that is where information can go to rest, and be resurrected as needed. This helps make it easier to let information go, since it’s never far from reach, while you work on the critical path up front.
It often takes longer to rewrite a document, than start form scratch simply because you are mired among various stages of rot and decay, while other parts are more fresh and vibrant. While you can hack away at the decay, tuning and pruning is often not as fast as simply lifting the healthy parts forward.
I think the concept of learning docs is an important one.
And, not necessarily an obvious one. You may never have the benefit of a painful experience of trying to rewrite something that takes longer to rewrite than to start from scratch. So you may not even notice just how much the lack of a learning docs approach is holding you, or your team back.
This is especially true if you work on a team that is used to sharing documents and pairing up on them. Chances are, they iterate on the same document, with version control, until the document is done. And, the document, along the way, is heavily laden with comments, and undistilled insights, stepping stones, and spaghetti. And, it’s a heavy process to bring the document to closure because it’s a continuous navigation through the jungle of half-baked learnings.
The heart of the problem is that the document at any point in time reflects both creative synthesis and distilled ideas … and learnings in progress. Meanwhile, people are injecting their latest thinking, which may or may not actually be distilled points or creative synthesis. This is where the concept of learning docs shines:
Acknowledge that the documents are learning docs in progress, and make it easy to throw them away while carrying the good forward.
Getting attached is how you hold yourself back and how you limit the pace at which you can share the best thinking in a non-cluttered, clear, and concise way.
Hopefully, the power of learning docs will save you a lot of pain and wasted time and energy. It’s one of those insights that I wish somebody would have shared with me long ago, before I finally stumbled on it myself. Then again, it might be the type of lesson that you only fully appreciate once you have the problem at a grand scale.
Are you leading an epic adventure and don’t even know it?
When you are leading a project, it helps you and those around you to have a simple story of the impact you plan to make.
As one of my mentors always challenged me, “How will the world be different when you're done?”
For example, when I was kicking off the Cloud Security Guide a few years back, I challenged the team to write the movie poster or news headline.
To model the way, I shared my example first:
A winning team with great results for customer success on the platform. Do for the cloud what we did for .NET. Create a compelling glide path for developers and solutions architects to smooth adoption of Azure.
Here are the specific instructions I gave the team at the time:
I’m a fan of stories and telling compelling ones. I think we all have stories in our mind. Write your few line story (imagine the movie poster or the news headline) of the project. Get creative. Tap into your passion.
Here are some of the examples I got back:
The essential security guidance for current and aspiring Azure architects and developers. Concise, relevant, scenario-based guidance to ensure you make the right decisions. Packaged and presented in a compelling, easy-to-consume manner.
Create the bible for azure app development. MSDN is reference, the azure guide is where you go first if you want to understand: 1) The key scenarios for how you may want to use Azure 2) How to be successful, secure and effective in each scenario Create a team of expertise on Azure that can be leveraged for future success, both independently as consultants and together as a team for future Azure efforts
A rapidly consumable, highly relevant guide demonstrating easily actionable behaviors and activities for securing your Azure implementation.
As you can see, the examples varied. What’s important is that the exercise helped everybody get their head in the game. It effectively helped everybody expand what they thought was possible and to envision a brighter future to deliver against and shape our path.
It’s a simple exercise, but it’s a great way to begin with the end in mind, clarify your vision and mission, and make your projects the epic adventures that they really can be.
Nothing beats smart people on a cadence shipping ideas and making things happen on an epic adventure.
7 Habits of Highly Effective Program Managers
Agile Results: It Works for Teams and Leaders Too
Inspiring a Vision
Vision Scope Template
I first learned to use scenarios to evaluate things when I was working on security guidance for the Microsoft platform. It was the most obvious way to really get hardcore: Map out the most important scenarios that people perform, and use those as tests to evaluate.
I know “scenario” is an overloaded term, but in software development it typically means one of three definitions:
#3 is often preferred because it provides a testable result.
In the broader industry, here are some common definitions …
Growing up at Microsoft, I saw “scenarios” used in the following ways:
Our thinking and maturity around scenarios has evolved a lot since then, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that sometimes people use scenarios to focus on the problem side, sometimes they use them to focus on the solution side, and sometimes they use them as a bridge between the problem and the solution.
When people use “future scenarios” they typically are showing “Future Capability Visions”, or storyboards of possibility. They are a great way to help people envision what’s possible.
Scenarios themselves are incredibly powerful for analysis, putting requirements into context, and shaping design.
This brings us back to my story about how I learned to use scenarios to evaluate design and implementation in a very deep way. When I was working on security guides for the Microsoft platform, I focused on scenarios to map out the priorities and test cases. Here is a sampling of some of the scenarios we used to help us scope the security work, focus our efforts, and score our results:
Arch / Design Solutions
I used simple, goal-oriented language (how to blah), and focused on the solution side. We were already well aware of the problem side of the equation. Our best scenarios were the result of asking: “What do you want to accomplish?”
The big idea here was that I wanted to use scenarios to shape our work and score our success.
It was like having the questions for the final exam up front. We used the best experts to really identify a complete map of what developers, architects, and administrators need to accomplish.
By mapping out all the scenarios that mattered the most, we had a comprehensive map of what to solve for. Then it was just a matter of rallying the best brains inside and outside of the company to solve the challenges.
Think of it as the ultimate crowd-sourced quiz where the best in the world could share their best knowledge, experience, and insights to advance the art and science of software security. (Yeah, scenarios really can be a powerful thing.)
When our security guidance made a big impact in the industry, changing how people actually did software security, I recognized the power of scenarios. We basically leap frogged ahead in terms of our capabilities because we used real-world scenarios to focus our efforts.
By using scenarios, we performed extremely well in any platform comparisons because we actually had a full map of the most important scenarios and we solved them by design. We didn’t luck or hope our way into nailing the things that mattered. We mapped out the scenarios that mattered, and drove from there.
From there, I became “the scenarios guy” for the team, and started to dive deeper into ways we could use them. My next move was to use them more deeply for performing inspections and for raising quality. I learned to appreciate the distinction between “usage scenarios” for functional things vs. “architecturally significant scenarios” for cross-cutting things.
Along the way, I dove into various software evaluation methods, including:
But, the most important insight, (in hindsight), was that utility trees could help visualize the trade-offs among quality attributes. The other lesson though was that it was tough to integrate and hop around a lot of different tools and techniques for designing robust architectures. Related, it was even tougher because very few people knew the different vocabularies, approaches, and tools.
As a result, I focused on creating the Agile Architecture Method. I wanted a more rapid way to prototype or evaluate architecture and designs, in an iterative and incremental way. Also, I wanted to use the one language everybody seems to speak: “whiteboard.” (Why? Because it’s visual.)
But when did I learn to really use scenarios for my own evaluations of every day things? The first time I bought a digital camera. I thought about my main usage scenario – I wanted to snap pictures of the whiteboard and share them.
It was simple enough. The problem was that when I bought the camera, I only focused on one part of the scenario – taking the pictures. It didn’t occur to me that because I got a fancy pants camera, that the memory disk was an odd size and didn’t fit in my laptop. So whenever I took a picture, if I wanted to share it, I had to connect USB to my camera.
It was just enough friction that I think I did it three times, then stopped.
So the other lesson I learned, aside from using scenarios for evaluation, was how important friction is, both in terms of adoption on the user side, and how important of a consideration it is on the producer side: you have to eliminate as much friction as possible if you want people to adopt your stuff.
The moral of the story is that the better you know the real-world usage scenarios, the better you can prioritize, design, implement, and validate your ideas, and, most importantly, get your ideas adopted.
Agile Architecture Method
IT Scenarios for the Cloud
Evaluation Criteria Example
Scenario Scoreboards for Testing Your Product Success
Test-Driven Product Design
Lifehacker is hot.
Just when I forgot about how hot it is, I noticed that I got 31,000 page views in a day for 30 Days of Getting Results.com
I got curious what the buzz was about.
It turns out that Melanie Pinola of Lifehacker, wrote an announcement:
This 30 Day Program Teaches You to Get More Things Done the Agile Way
After all, 30 Days of Getting Results is my ultimate self-paced training program to help you master time management, master productivity, and master work-life balance.
That’s quite the tall order.
Anyway, I noticed some interesting comments in the post, so I thought it would be worth elaborating on some of the big ideas, important concepts, and points of confusion.
30 Days of Getting Results is based on the book, Getting Results the Agile Way.
Getting Results the Agile Way is not about how to do Agile development. It is an “Agile for Life” guide. The time management and productivity approach inside is Agile Results. Most importantly, Agile Results is a personal results system for work and life.
It will help you do things better, faster, cheaper, and most importantly … it will help you focus on meaningful results and impact, not just getting things done. It’s also a continuous learning system, so if you are a lifelong learner, this will help you learn things better and deeper.
(Note to insiders – the “enso” on the cover of the book is actually a symbol of enlightenment, but I went with the loop to imply a loop of learning and continuous improvement, which Agile Results is all about.)
I’ve used various names, but the big idea is to focus on something for a month. Behind the scenes, I went from calling it a 30 Day Improvement Sprint to Monthly Improvement Sprint back to 30 Day Improvement Sprints and sometimes just 30 Day Sprints.
Two things are important:
I really have to elaborate on point #2 – how 30 days AND a month are both important. Let’s start with, why a month? Originally, I suffered from “shiny object syndrome.” I wanted to dive into too many things at once. As a results, I dabbled in too many things, and lost focus. Yet, I wanted a simple way to experiment or try new things. I had found that spending a week or two on something, wasn’t enough to give things a fair chance. I really needed to try something for about a month.
I basically decided that I wanted the chance to focus on something new each month, or to go back and try something again for another month. But I very clearly wanted a theme or focus for the month, and where at the end of the month, I could decide whether to continue or not. It’s like a “try it for 30 days” sort of program, or like a “30 day challenge.” I used this approach to try out new things and to brush up on old hobbies and to learn new skills. I used it for everything from trying a “living foods” diet to roller blading many miles a day to learning the guts of WCF and other technologies.
I really, really, really liked the idea of getting a fresh start each month. And, I liked the idea that over the span of a year, I could invest in 12 significant things, on top of what I already do. Basically, each month, I could add something new under my belt, or replay a previous focus. At the same time, this made my months more meaningful. I could focus on a 30 Day Sprint for work or a 30 Day Sprint for something personal.
I also learned that starting at the beginning of a month and ending at the end of the month was more important than I thought. If you ever tried starting something part way through a month and losing track where you are, and trying to do it for a set numbers of days, you know what I mean. In fact, I found my success rate at sticking with something was lousy if I randomly started somewhere within a month.
So to make this point super crisp, I deliberate renamed 30 Day Improvement Sprints to Monthly Improvement Sprints. And to keep things simple, periodically, I would just say a 30 Day Sprint or a Monthly Sprint, which helped, especially those that didn’t want to “improve” but rather just focus on something for a month.
And then I learned something. Even though you should really start at the beginning of a month and end at the end of the month, and turn the page, people prefer to call it 30 Day Improvement Sprints or 30 Day Sprints over Monthly Improvement Sprints or Monthly Sprints.
I get why. Quantity is precise. 30 days is specific.
Agile Results is insanely simple. In fact, one of my first early adopters said the big deal was how to get started:
Write 3 things down today that you want to achieve.
That’s it. You're doing Agile Results.
The mantra to remember is this, and this is how you get the ability to zoom in to your day, or zoom out to the balcony view:
Think in terms of 3 wins for the day, 3 wins for the week, 3 wins for the month, and 3 wins for the year.
Again, it’s super simple. But, it’s super powerful.
Behind the scenes, I had stumbled on this pattern out of necessity. I had to stay on top of big teams spread out around the world, and I needed a very fast way of knowing what matters. I didn’t want to focus on all the negative (that was natural for me and easy for everyone else, too.) Instead, I wanted to focus on value and flowing value. But, to make it significant, I wanted to boil it down to 3 things.
3 significant things.
3 significant things could easily be remembered. I could use the 3 significant things to focus and prioritize all time, energy, and attention. What a powerful tool. And, it worked both at the individual level, and the team level. I wanted a way to easily tell the story of 3 wins for the team each week, so management could appreciate the value, and, most importantly, so the team could feel good heading out into the weekend.
Working backwards from the end of the week, I realized that I could ask a very simple question:
“What are 3 outcomes you want under your belt, if this was Friday, and you were looking back?”
No more regrets. No more wasted efforts. No more frantic scrambling. Just simple clarity of what would be great to achieve before we go through a bunch of time at things. And, it was a great way to make for more meaningful weeks.
This is how the Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection pattern was born.
On Mondays, identify 3 wins you want for the week. Each day, identify 3 wins you want for the day. On Fridays, set aside 20 minutes to reflect on 3 things going well and 3 things to improve.
That pattern alone changes lives (and it’s been used to change businesses and transform execution capability.)
I should point out that I’ve also called it Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection, which is accurate. But, to inject some gamification and add the fun factor, I started going with Daily Wins and focusing on 3 Wins for the Day, the Week, the Month, and the Year.
People like to win. Agile Results is a way to do that.
Ergo, you can win, the Agile Way. (Aren’t you glad I said, “ergo”, and not “thus”?)
So, if somebody wants the minimal, bare bones implementation of Agile Results, or “how to get started”, then I say, just write down 3 things you want for today. Instantly, you just put into focus what’s valuable, what’s worth spending time on, and you’ve given yourself a way to focus and prioritize against your laundry list of incoming time thieves, fire drills, action items, and other priorities competing for your attention.
It’s a very practical way of putting First Things First, in a Stephen Covey kind of way, and giving yourself a mini North Start for the day.
And, if somebody wants a sticky way to both remember Agile Results – then I tell them, just remember the Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection pattern. If you get each day right, you get your week right, and if you get your weeks right, you get your months and years right. And yet, it’s perfectly OK to adapt and adjust along the way. In fact, Agile Results is designed to help you adapt.
… but here’s the ultimate trick to using Agile Results. Add 3 recurring reminders to your calendar (1 for Monday Vision, 1 each day for Daily Wins, and 1 for Friday Reflection.)
I won’t claim to be a Getting Things Done expert. That said, I’ve mentored many (many, many, many) people over the years who struggled using Getting Things Done to get things done. It was ironic, but the true irony is that it was not Getting Things Done’s fault. It’s a perfectly good system. Instead, people were breaking themselves against the system (and I couldn’t help but remember when Stephen Covey said don’t break yourself against the laws … you have to know the principles.)
So when I designed Agile Results, I used everything I had learned from doing process and methodology development, and what I had learned from writing about principles, patterns, and practices for years.
The most important thing I did was rather than get mired in the details of a deep process or methodology explanation, I focused on a few key things:
With that in mind, I have had many, many, many GTD’ers show me how they use Agile Results + Getting Things Done. Like I said, I’m a fan of “better together” and blending the best of the best in a Bruce Lee sort of way.
Like I said, Getting Results the Agile Way, is not about how to do Agile software development methodologies (though, interestingly, I’ve used Agile Results to get more out of Agile methodologies
But, I have learned Agile methodologies and practices from some of the world’s best practitioners, including Ward Cunningham (father of Wikimedia, which is the platform that Wikipedia runs on.)
While there is a lot of information out there about how to do Agile development, I still see a lot of people struggle when they try to get started. If you haven’t made the journey from early on, it can be tough to figure out how to get started now. Worse, if you aren’t living in software, it’s not always obvious to know how to adapt Agile practices. The other challenge I see is that people are trying to adopt more Agile ways, but they are in environments that don’t have dedicated teams.
It’s the worst-case scenario of v-Teams or ad-hoc teams of limited and chaotic availability.
So, while I always thought there was plenty of great Agile resources for people to use to get started, I still see a gap.
I’m finding myself spending too much time ramping people up on things that I thought were more mainstream than they really are yet.
I suspect I will do my part to try and fill this gap in the near future.
My first and foremost goal was to help people learn how to be “Agile for Life”, and that was the driving goal behind Getting Results the Agile Way.
My next step will be to help professionals learn how to be “Agile at Work.”
… and, in that case, I will be able to draw from my experience over the years, and share even more on what I’ve learned over the past few years, especially as it relates to helping startups and helping businesses undergo major transformation and change … the Agile way.
10 Big Ideas from Agile Results
40 Hour Work Week at Microsoft
The Values of Agile Results
I’ve created a book reviews at a glance page at Sources of Insight.
I read a lot of books and do a lot of book reviews. Previously, you could get to the book reviews through the book reviews category, but you had to flip through pages in order to find them all. Now the book reviews are right at your fingertips.
I do my book reviews a bit differently. They are more like movie trailers. Rather than focus on whether I like a book or not, I focus on what you can use from the book, in work or life, to get better results.
Here are a handful of my favorite book reviews you can explore to get a sense of how I do book reviews:
These also happen to be some excellent books for improving your effectiveness at work.
In fact, if you read nothing else, at least read The First 90 Days. It’s the book that will help you become a highly effective corporate warrior, in a peaceful warrior way. You’ll learn to see the chessboard and operate at a higher level. It includes everything from the five conversations to have with your boss to ramping up more effectively in a new organization. It’s definitely one of those books that I can point to as making a leapfrog in my career trajectory.
Surprisingly, I don’t have as many book reviews as a I should. I resisted doing book reviews early on because, in general, I wasn’t a fan of book reviews. Too often, I read book reviews that were just about whether somebody liked or didn’t like a book. What I really wanted was a deeper peek into the bowels of the book, and some highlights on what I could use, so I could figure out whether to get the book.
Last year, I decided to give it a whirl and just do book reviews in my own style. I wanted the book reviews to quickly map out the book, show what problems the book solves, and give highlights on the big ideas. Next thing you know, I started getting emails from readers about how they liked my book review approach and how my book reviews were like nothing they had seen before. So I continued to do them ever since.
So here it is, at your fingertips, my book reviews page.
It’s an evergreen page, so I’ll update it as I release more book reviews.