Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
Mental models can really help you simplify how you think about a problem. One of the more useful mental models I’ve come across while working across cloud solutions is:
… Move to the Cloud, Use the Cloud, and Be the Cloud.
It’s a simple way to think about the role you play in the cloud arena, or the role the cloud plays in your arena. Here’s a quick rundown of each one …
Use the Cloud Using the cloud is taking advantage of the cloud through consumption of some cloud services. This could be using another company’s SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS offerings to take advantage of the cloud benefits. You can benefit from the elastic capacity and increased flexibility.
Be a Cloud Be a cloud refers to building cloud offerings for consumption by other partners (internal or external), or consumers. This is can be a SOA implementation, or building out a Private Cloud and offering services internally to other organizations within the same company.
It’s a simple model, but I think it helps bring clarity to the table when people are talking about their cloud strategy.
“Success is how high you bounce when you hit the bottom.” -- General George S. Patton
Life can have a lot of ups and downs and your ability to bounce back is one of the keys to your success.
Here is a simple model I put together as part of my 30 Day Bootcamp on Getting Results to help you multiply your ability to bounce back in any situation:
I wasn’t sure whether to call my model a 4×4 Force Multiplier Frame or 4×4 Sources of Strength. For now, I’m going with 4x4 Sources of Strength.
If you know somebody who’s been knocked down and needs help getting back up, share this frame with them as a way to help them get back on their feet and find their sources of strength from the inside out.
I tried to keep the model as simple as possible and easy to remember, while giving you a variety of sources of strength and energy to draw from. I wanted this frame to serve as an “at a glance” reminder of how you are a force of one, from the inside out, as well as from the outside in. Change your frame to change your game.
Mind Here are some ways to bounce back with your mind:
Body Here are some ways to bounce back with your body:
Emotions Here are some ways to better balance and bounce back with your emotions:
Spirit Here are some ways to bounce back with your spirit:
Execution is king. That’s what one of my most seasoned mentors taught me, early on at Microsoft.
I’m always on the hunt for principles, patterns, and practices that improve execution, whether at the individual, team, or organization level. Since I’ve joined the Microsoft Enterprise Strategy team, I get to take more of a balcony view across companies, and see different success patterns for execution. It’s been very revealing how technology can help a business thrive. It’s also been revealing how technology decisions can be a distraction or get in the way, if a company doesn’t have clarity on its strategy.
In the book, Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, by Jeane W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David C. Robertson, the authors share their perspective on why some companies execute better.
You Do All the Right Moves, But You Still Can’t Get Ahead Competition is only getting tougher. Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:
“In short, you do everything the management literature says you should, but you still can’t get ahead. And the signs aren’t encouraging for the future. You see Chinese companies taking over manufacturing in industry after industry. Indian companies providing more and more services. Small, agile competitors from around the world picking off niche after niche in your markets. Competition is only getting tougher.”
Yet Some Companies Thrive Some companies thrive while others are lucky just to survive. Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:
“Yet some companies – some of your competitors – seem to be able not just to survive but to thrive. In the face of tough global competition, companies like Dell, ING DIRECT, CEMEX, Wal-Mart, and others are growing and making money. These companies have more-productive employees, get more from their investments, and have more success with their strategic initiatives. What are they doing differently?
They Have a Better Foundation for Execution They digitized operations and created a foundation for business agility. Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:
“We believe these companies execute better because they have a better foundation for execution. They have embedded technology in their processes so that they can efficiently and reliably execute their core operations of the company. These companies have made tough decisions about what operations they must execute well, and they’ve implemented the IT systems they need to digitize those operations. These actions have made IT an asset rather than a liability and have created a foundation for business agility.”
The question I think this brings to mind is, “Have you identified your core and critical operations, and clarified what to digitize?”
This plays right into thinking about your cloud strategy.
I’m an avid collector of proven practices for execution and getting results. Execution is your best friend, among changing times and evolving landscapes, especially when you combine your execution with effective strategy.
One of the key practices for successful companies is digitizing their core processes. Digitizing your core processes can create higher profitability, reduce time to market, and get more value from your IT investments, while lowering your IT costs. That may sound too good to be true, but that’s a taste of what some of the data is showing. Regardless of the data, you may have experienced this yourself first-hand, if you’ve seen a company that really has it’s IT act together.
In the book, Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, by Jeane W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David C. Robertson, the authors write about the difference that makes some companies survive and thrive, while others fold.
Higher Profitability, Faster Time to Market, and More Value from their IT Digitizing your core processes can help you in multiple ways. Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:
“We surveyed 103 U.S. and European companies about there IT and IT-enabled business processes. Thirty-four percent of those had digitized their core processes. Relative to their competitors, these companies have higher profitability, experience a faster time to market, and get more value from their IT investments. They have better access to shared customer data, lower risk of mission-critical systems failures, and 80 percent higher senior management satisfaction with technology. Yet, companies who have digitized their core processes have 25 percent lower IT costs. These are the benefits of an effective foundation for execution.”
Leading Edge Companies Pull Further and Further Ahead A good foundation for execution can help you focus, invest wisely, and get ahead. Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:
“In contrast, 12 percent of the companies we studied are frittering away management attention and technology investments on a myriad of (perhaps) locally sensible projects that don’t support enterprise wide objectives. Another 48 percent of the companies are cutting waste from their IT budgets but haven’t figured out how to increase value from IT. Meanwhile, a few leading-edge companies are leveraging a foundation for execution to pull further and further ahead.”
Companies with a Good Foundation for Execution Have an Increasing Advantage A good foundation for execution is an exponential advantage. Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:
“As such statistics show, companies with a good foundation for execution have an increasing advantage over those that don’t. In this book, we describe how to design, build, and leverage a foundation for execution. Based on survey and case study research at more than 400 companies in the United States and Europe, we provide insights, tools, and language to help managers recognize their core operations, digitize their core to more efficiently support their strategy, and exploit their foundation for execution to achieve business agility and profitable growth.”
I’ve seen the force multiplier of strategy+execution, and it’s no surprise why that is the difference that makes the difference between companies that thrive, and ones that die.
While putting together business scenarios for the cloud, one of the scenarios that came up is “achieve cost-effective business continuity.” The business opportunity, solution, and benefits are summarized as follows:
Business continuity risk can be transferred to vendors by leveraging cloud solutions. Cloud providers can provide robust and less expensive business continuity solutions than businesses can achieve alone.
While putting together business scenarios for the cloud, one of the scenarios that came up is “create new revenue streams from existing capabilities.” The business opportunity, solution, and benefits are summarized as follows:
Monetize business capabilities as a revenue generator. Leveraging a cloud platform to achieve a business capability can prove profitable through extending the implementation for others to consume on a subscription basis.
While putting together lessons learned from our Enterprise Strategy cloud engagements, we consolidated a set of recurring business scenarios and themes. You may find these useful if you are thinking about cloud opportunities from a business perspective, and are looking for some common patterns and perspectives.
The following business opportunities reflect common motivation for Cloud migration:
Achieve cost-effective business continuity Business continuity risk can be transferred to vendors by leveraging cloud solutions. Cloud providers can provide robust and less expensive business continuity solutions than businesses can achieve alone.
Create new revenue streams from existing capabilities Monetize business capabilities as a revenue generator. Leveraging a cloud platform to achieve a business capability can prove profitable through extending the implementation for others to consume on a subscription basis.
Decrease power consumption Reduce power costs and environmental impact through more efficient data center design and optimization. Leverage Cloud resources to outsource workloads gaining greater efficiencies and lower operating costs.
Decrease the time to market for new capabilities With the Cloud, the time to implement applications for pilot projects or production deployments is drastically reduced because of the reduction of environment and infrastructure concerns. This accelerates the time from concept to execution for projects and allows organizations to explore more opportunities overall with much lower cost and risk.
Easily integrate new businesses into your organization Move people onto core systems with self-provisioning. Reduce business disruptions with flexible online business services. Accelerate speed to value by connecting across network and organizational boundaries to integrate acquired systems.
Improve operational efficiency to enable more innovation Enable investment to be prioritized on strategic initiatives through efficient use of available budget. Enable the business to make informed decisions through cost transparency for each IT solution and increase the accuracy in business cases for new initiatives.
Improve the connection with your customers Integrating systems through the use of Cloud services is often easier and lowers the barrier to entry compared with on-premises solutions. When integration is easier, organizations can provide more information to customers. This in turn increases satisfaction, loyalty and revenue.
Provide elastic capacity to meet business demand Leverage the on-demand consumption model of the Cloud to quickly provision and de-provision resources as needed. Increase agility by enabling your organization to react to an urgent business need quickly by applying Cloud-based resources.
Provide Enterprise Messaging from Anywhere Secure, reliable, timely access to the latest enterprise class messaging from anywhere helps maintain and improve corporate based productivity and manage overall, per user messaging costs.
Reduce Upfront Investment in New Initiatives Reduce the size of investment required to launch new initiatives and align the cash-flow requirements with actual solution adoption over time. Reduce the risk associated with upfront investments.
“I think it is one of the foundations of the next generation of computing." -- Tim O'Reilly
While putting together lessons learned from our Cloud-related Enterprise Strategy engagements, we consolidated a set of recurring IT scenarios and themes. You may find these useful if you are thinking about cloud opportunities from an IT perspective, and are looking for some common patterns and perspectives.
IT scenarios for the Cloud are technical scenarios that can ultimately be linked back to business scenarios. For any given business scenario, one or more IT scenarios can be defined that expose a clearer picture of how the enabling technologies can be used to reach a solution.
The following are key scenarios to be aware of from an IT perspective. These highlight the alignment of Cloud opportunities with common growth, deployment and management trends.
Cloud IT scenarios are organized into the following categories:
The primary tenants of this scenario are:
An investment in tools, processes, and culture can drive innovation and grow a business through new products, services, and/or processes. For nearly every enterprise, innovation is critical to long-term success. Investing to drive innovation can improve a business’s competitiveness and help it thrive in a challenging economy and shifting business landscape.
In general you can think about the Cloud as an application that fits one of these patterns. Use these patterns to analyze and test potential Cloud scenarios for success. For example, the “On and Off Bursting” scenario is optimal for testing because you can run the application on premises and in the Cloud concurrently.
The Growing Fast pattern is typically represented by a startup company that begins with a minimal IT footprint, but quickly scales up their offerings as demand increases. Similarly, companies that might underestimate usage of their product might need to rapidly scale IT capabilities. Customers get to bypass the overhead costs of hardware and management, and focus on delivering business value.
The On and Off Bursting pattern is commonly represented by a company needing batch processing or computation. For example, a big challenge for hedge funds is acting quickly on data or emerging events. Cloud computing offers the opportunity to come to book large numbers of machines for a short period of time to conduct analysis. The Cloud allows on-demand resource usage that removes the need for heavy capital expenditures on hardware that will sit idle for large portions of its lifespan.
The Unpredictable Bursting pattern occurs when scaling is not predictable. For example, an eCommerce site specialized in selling sporting goods for Spain’s soccer team after they won the World Cup. The Web site traffic surge due to this win was not predictable, and an inability to service the demand spike would cause a substantial loss in revenue opportunity. A site deployed in the Cloud could have additional servers provisioned in short order, or even be designed to dynamically scale server instances to follow the demand curve.
The Predictable Bursting pattern occurs when workload scales up and down based on a predictable pattern. An example of this might be a salary or payroll firm. On set intervals such as the 1st and 15th of each month, there is a spike in demand for computing power to process the payroll. By using the Cloud, the necessary computing power can be scaled to meet the demand, and then subsequently scaled back again to save expenses during the lower demand period.
My Related Posts
While putting together lessons learned from our Cloud-related Enterprise Strategy engagements, we consolidated a set of recurring IT drivers.
The improvement of IT services and operations can deliver benefits such as improved service levels and cost savings. The Cloud offers numerous routes to IT optimization.
10 IT Drivers for the Cloud Some of the key IT drivers for the Cloud include:
Getting Results the Agile Way is a personal results system for work and life. It’s about making the most of what you’ve got, and helping you get exponential results, by working on the right things, at the right time, the right way, with the right energy. Most importantly, it’s about getting meaningful results, not simply doing more things. It’s also the playbook I wish somebody gave me when I started. It would have save me a lot of time, hard lessons, and accelerated my path in a more sustainable way.
The heart of the system is three parts:
That’s the system. But the system comes to life when you hear how people use it or how it changes their life.
Meet Tim Kropp.
Tim is an Information Security Program Manager, and here is his story of using Getting Results the Agile Way …
For the past 10 years I’ve been focused on two significant methods for getting results 1) Using Project Management methods (PMBOK) and 2) Franklin Covey’s “Habits”. In May of 2010 I began to apply the Agile Results process, and put simply, it has added completeness. While both Project Management, with its strong focus on planning correctly, and 7 Habits, with its foundation in values, are both effective - using Getting Results provides a few things that I hadn’t expected. You see, for several years I’ve been a big proponent of planning correctly, analyzing prior to implementing, long periods of thinking, and then implementing. My methods were incomplete. Agile Results provided completeness, agility, and flexibility to my approach. It’s not a matter of the PMBOK, or 7 Habits systems being better, or worse. It is a matter of the approach being different. It is now part of the big three methods right, not separate? So here is what I think is my “Big 3”:
Agile Results allow you to make adjustments, immediately or over time, as you need them. It’s more than just a systematic way of doing things. JD provides insight, advice, through proven practices that he and others use. It is more than just a Project, or a Value, or a Habit. It’s a combination of them all, and they all work together synergistically. So, pick any given project or goal you might have. Just try starting with something simple from this large swath of information from JD (another thing I learned – keep it simple). Say like, the rule of 3, the reflection pattern and then after a few weeks of trying it out, look at the results. It’s amazing. I did it. And you’ll want more. I was completely overwhelmed, overworked, and behind in a huge project delivery. I needed a way to get it done, effectively. JD gave me a hint to read through “Getting Started”. Of course, the last thing you want is more workload, but I listened and tried applying it immediately. I haven’t stopped. Every day, every week, even monthly, quarterly, yearly, the rule of 3 is my foundation. And now that’s just the beginning……….imagine what’s next. -- Tim Kropp, Information Security Program Manager
Getting Results the Agile Way is a personal results system for making the most of what you’ve got. As the book cover says, it helps you focus and prioritize, manage time and information, and balance work and life, to achieve meaningful results. People have been using the approach for anything from shipping software to home improvement to renovating their restaurants. Leaders have been using it to improve the productivity, passion, and performance of their teams. By having people work on the right things, at the right time, the right way, with the right energy, it brings out the best in people. It’s a way to amplify impact and get exponential results.
… But what makes it real is when you hear from the people that are using the system.
Meet Jason Taylor. Jason is CTO (Chief Technology Officer) at Security Innovation, and here is his story of using Getting Results the Agile Way …
I came to Getting Results with a history of effectiveness and success. I had a solid sense of what I felt were the best ways to get things done, a set of process and principles that had worked well for me over many years. I am a process guy, a details guy and a lover of great strategy. I sweat the small stuff and I look at the big picture in order to guide myself and my organization to maximum results. Then I met JD...
I started with JD on a project to build security guidance for the ASP.NET development platform. A huge undertaking that involved discovering, consuming, and analyzing a huge amount of information from a huge amount of sources both written and verbal and then turning that into specific, contextual, prescriptive guidance for Microsoft developers. The goal was nothing less than to change the way in which web applications were written on the Microsoft platform. In order to make consumers more secure, the applications needed to be more secure. In order to make the applications more secure, developers needed to know what to do. That's where JD and team came in. What I saw in the course of this project, changed my view on how to get things done. JD accomplished the seemingly impossible. In too little time, with too little resources, with a staggering amount of chaos to deal with, JD coaxed the team into writing a masterpiece. I couldn't see how it was done, but I was curious. Luckily for me I had to opportunity to work with JD on a number of other projects over the course of several years. I learned the process as it was developed and maybe even had a chance to contribute to it a little here and there. Whether I had any impact on it or not, it had a huge impact on me. Before I explain what I learned, I want to set some context to explain how I used to get results. I was a huge believer in up-front planning. For a new project I would spend a lot of time designing and planning what needed to get done, how it would get done, when it would get done, who would do it and in what order. I was a master of this style. I could plan a complex project with a dozen team members and have an 18 month plan with all of the tasks laid out to the day and then we could execute to that plan so that 18 months from the start we had accomplished exactly what I had laid out at the start. Impressive right? Well, not really. I learned, the hard way, that I was focusing on the wrong things. I was focusing on tasks and activities. I was focusing on what got done, which I thought were the results, but I was neglecting the real results. Most importantly, I had the wrong assumptions. I assumed that a rigorous planning process could remove risk. I assumed that I knew up-front what I wanted to accomplish. I assumed that my plan was helping me when it was actually a prison.
So what did I learn from JD and how did it change how I do things? What kind of a difference did it make? Here are the key lessons I learned, my most important take-aways:
I'm sure your take-aways from Getting Results will be different from mine. We are all different, have different goals and are all in different places in regards to our abilities and motivations to be effective. There is so much in this guide, it has so much to offer, that I think anyone who reads it will get something out of it. If you are lucky, it may even change your life like it did mine.
I don’t do a lot of interviews, but I like what Carl and Richard do for the .NET developer community at large, so I agreed to shoot the breeze … Check out the .NET Rocks Interview on Getting Results the Agile Way.
Carl and Richard were curious to learn more about the system and what it’s all about. I warned them up front that it’s not about agile development, and that it’s actually a system that anybody can use to get better, faster, simpler results.
That said, if you are a developer, you can appreciate the full extent of the system and how it’s based on Evergreen principles, patterns, and practices for time management, productivity, energy management, and meaningful results. (Note – it’s the same approach I used to be on time, on budget for more than ten years, leading distributed teams around the world, so it’s industrial strengths, but I designed it to be simple enough that my Mom can use it.)
Some users of the system like to think of it as “Agile for Life” or “Scrum for Life.”
My ultimate goal was to give as many people possible, an extreme advantage in achieving results, but bringing together proven practices from positive psychology, sports psychology, project management, software development, and other disciplines into an integrated, simple system. To bottom line it, it’s a simple system for meaningful results.
It’s the playbook I wish somebody gave me when I started out in life, and I’m hoping that it saves many people a lot of painful lessons and helps them leapfrog and make the most of what they’ve got.
From the Archives Rituals for Results – The bigger your bag of tricks is for getting results, the more you can choose the right tool for the job. Otherwise, it’s a one-size fits all deal. The more tools you have in your toolbox, the more you can respond to changing environments and situations. Rituals for Results is a collection of best practices for getting results that have served me well over time. I continue to learn from anyone and everyone I can, and I share many of my best practices for productivity, time management, and getting results at Getting Results.com.
Zen of Zero Inbox - This is an oldie, but goodie if you struggle with keeping up with email. Many years ago I decided that keeping an empty inbox would serve me better than fishing through an overflowing inbox of potential action items. It was one of the best moves I made and it kept my administration down to a minimum. I deal with a lot of email with distributed teams around the world, and I did not want to spend all my time in email. This is a short presentation that shares some of the most important concepts to managing your email and keeping your inbox down to zero. (Note – I often get more than 150 emails directly to me a day, and most of them are actions, and I limit myself to ~30 minutes a day in email administration.)
From the Web Inspirational Quotes – If you haven’t seen these before, this may become your new favorite quotes collection. These are many of the best of the best gems of timeless wisdom. The gang’s all here … Buddha, Lao-Tzu, Emerson, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Twain, Franklin, Churchill and more. That’s a powerful bunch to have in your corner. Use their words of wisdom to lift you up and help you “stand on the shoulders of giants.”
36 Best Business Books that Influenced Microsoft Leaders - I reached out to several Microsoft leaders, past and present, and up and down the ranks. The beauty of Microsoft is the extremely high concentration of smart people and I like to leverage the collective brain. In this case, I posed a simple question to find out which business books actually made a difference: “What are the top 3 books that changed your life in terms of business effectiveness?” This list of business books reflects the answers to that question.
This is a simple visual of a frame we used for helping choose which projects to invest in in patterns & practices.
The main frame is “Technical Uncertainty” vs. “Market Uncertainty.” We used this frame to help balance our portfolio of projects against risk, value, and growth, against the cost.
From the Archives Reference Models, Reference Architectures, and Reference Implementations – A reference model is is a model of something that embodies the basic goals or ideas, and you can use it at as a reference for various purposes. It’s like having a topology map of the key concepts. A reference architecture provides a proven template solution for an architecture for a particular domain. A reference Implementation goes beyond a reference architecture and is an actual implementation. The way to distinguish between a reference architecture and reference implementation is simple: If it’s an exemplar of the architecture, it’s a reference architecture … If it’s an exemplar of the implementation, then it’s a reference implementation. Each serve different purposes, and require different levels of detail or abstraction.
40 Hour Work Week at Microsoft - One of the most important lessons at Microsoft was learning the value of a 40 hour work week. I’ve been on time, on budget for 10 years on projects ranging from grass-roots or “best efforts” to $ million+ investments. In my first few years, I was on time, on budget through heroic effort. That’s not sustainable and folks don’t want to sign up for that more than once. Luckily, I learned early on how to drive more effective results by fixing time and flexing scope, while flowing value, and optimizing team health.
From the Web Productivity Personas - Personas are a simple way to share examples of the different types of behaviors. Anybody can be a mix of some or all of the various personas. No persona is good or bad. Some are more effective than others, depending on the situation. The key is to use the personas as a lens on behavior. You can analyze yourself, other people, and common interactions. We all have the capacity for the various behaviors. The trick is to know your preferences and the preferences of others. This is a set of personas relevant to the productivity space.
Motivation - Motivation is the “Why” behind the goal. It’s your little engine that says you can, when the rest of you says you can’t. It’s also the same force that on a good day can help you move mountains. Motivation is a life-long skill that you can improve through self-awareness and proven strategies. The better you know your own drivers and levers, the more effective you’ll be at getting the results you want in your life.
"Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often." -- Mark Twain
I created a consolidated set of Action Guidelines on Getting Results.com. Taking action is one of the most important skills you can master in this lifetime. It’s the secret sauce of making things happen at work. It’s also the secret sauce of making things happen in all areas your life, whether it’s a personal project or personal development. It’s also how you go from idea to done.
If there’s one attribute that has served me well at Microsoft, it’s having a bias for action.
Smart people with great ideas and great intentions get passed by with people that take action. When you take action, you put your ideas to the test, you find what works, you scrap what doesn’t, and you carry the good forward. When you take action, you produce results. If you don’t like the results, you change the approach, and the fastest thing you can always change is you.
Action Guidelines explains each guideline, and here is the list of guidelines at a glance:
One of the questions I get asked is, “Why do teams fail?”
While there are lots of reasons, here are some of the most common patterns I see:
If those are the anti-patterns, what are the success patterns? Here are some the main success patterns I’ve seen:
On pairing up, I've seem magic happen with these combos:
Structuring your personal backlog of work you have to do, helps you in multiple ways:
The process for a simple backlog is pretty simple. Here are the keys:
The mental model for how you are structuring your backlog for each project is this:
Here is an example of a list for project X:
P1 ----------------- - Apples - Oranges (Orange you glad I didn’t say Banana) - Pears
P2 ---------------- - Kiwi - Lemons - Mangos - Pineapples .. etc.
Done --------------- - Blueberries - Cranberries - Grapes
By keeping your lists flat and functional, they are easy to update, easy to store, and easy to share. Whether you use OneNote, Excel, Workflowy, or EverNote, you have a list for each project, and each list has a simple map of the work to be done, at your finger tips.
As part of the Great Books to Read Collection, I put together a collection of the best books on Interpersonal Skills.
When it comes to building software, shipping stuff, or just plain making things happen, interpersonal skills are a key to success. With interpersonal skills, you can better deal with the following scenarios:
What makes these the best books on interpersonal skills? They are books you can use to solve real problems. They are ones that have made an actual difference for many people in tough scenarios. (Of course, best is all relative, so only you know which books are best for you, by testing what works for your specific scenarios.)
While there are so many books that are truly useful, there is one in particular that I know many people have found to be insanely useful. It’s the book, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner. Here’s why … the book gives you a “lens of human understanding” that helps you see what drives people to act a certain way. Once you understand this, it’s like knowing how the magic trick was done … all is revealed. The other reason why people like this book so much is because it gives you a language for bad behaviors. Having a language for bad behaviors makes it easy to identify them, understand them, and deal with them, in an actionable way.
From the Archives 40 Hour Work Week at Microsoft - If you want to be more effective, limit the time you spend. It’s a forcing function that fixes a lot of underlying execution issues that you just cannot see if your organization throws time at problems.
Patterns and Practices for New Hires - These are from the school of hard knocks. Whether you're a new hire or taking on a new job, I share some principles, patterns and practices to be more effective.
From the Web A Language for Software Architecture - An article I wrote for The Architecture Journal on how to map out the software architecture space, so we can organize and share knowledge more effectively.
You 2.0 – A free e-Book I wrote to help you unleash a version of your best self. Find your purpose, live your values, play to your strengths.
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” -- Jim Ryun
One of the best moves I use to change habits and adopt new practices is very simple, but very effective:
I schedule a recurring Friday appointment on my calendar. On that appointment, I list reminders, habits, and practices that I want to work on. It’s the art of applied reflection.
I tend to use bulleted questions, because they make a great checklist and I find that questions work better than statements for reflection. Here are a couple of examples to show what I mean:
You get the idea.
This works extremely well for baking in new practices, especially after taking a new course or training. It helps turn the training into action, because it forces you to turn the insights you learned into simple test cases (For example, the questions above.) It also works well, simply because it’s making you mindful of your choices, and it’s reminding you to check your thinking, feeling, or doing against your goals.
I’ve been using this practice for several years, and it’s worked like a champ. It’s part of the Friday Reflection pattern in Getting Results the Agile Way.
If there is a new pattern or practice you want to adopt, simply add a Friday reminder and see how easily you can adopt a new habit.
When it comes to people, underutilized does not mean squeeze out more hours, it means unleash more strengths.
When people have the chance to give their best where they have their best to give, this has an automatic way of taking care of utilization, motivation, impact, etc. When somebody is in their element, effective managers co-create the goals and get out of the way. It’s among the best ways to get the best results from teams or individuals. If you want to optimize a team, then unleash the strengths of each individual.
The power of people in a knowledge worker world is that you get exponential results when people are playing to their strengths. The simplest way to do this is have people in roles where they spend more time in their strengths and less time in their weaknesses. Another way to unleash their strength is pair them up with people that compliment their strengths or balance out their weaknesses.
On the flip side, the simplest way to create low-performing teams is to have people spend more time in their weaknesses and very little time in their strengths. While this is simple and obvious, the real trick is looking for it and finding ways to bring out people’s best.
While it’s not always easy, and you often have to get creative, one of the best things you can do for you, your company, the world, is to spend more time in your strengths and help others do the same. It’s the fittest and the flexible that survive, and it’s your unique strengths that crank up your fit factor.
"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." -- Douglas Adams
I wrote a step-by-step How To on How To – Set Goals and Achieve Them on Getting Results.com.
I find setting goals and achieving them is a blend of art and science. The art part is knowing how to frame the goal in a way that inspires you to action on a regular basis. The science part is breaking the goal down into actionable steps that you can measure against targets.
Over the years, the three most important things I learned about goals are:
Factor the Inspiration from the Perspiration Dream big. Don’t hack up your dream into little insignificant parts right off the bat. Inspire yourself with skill. Find your buttons and push them until that little part of you that wants more from life wakes up and says, I want me some of that.
Goals are among the best way to change your life or change the world or simply move forward versus slide back. Create inspirational goals, the kind that light your fire. That’s your starting point. That gets you ready for the tough part.
The perspiration of the goal, or the tough part, is translating the end-in-mind into action. This is the part where you break the goal down into sub-goals, steps, and actions. This is the part where you make the goal SMART – specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and timely. This is the part where you get clarity on what success looks like along the way, and how you will map out your path to get to your destination.
The simple lesson here is, dream up compelling goals first and get excited before you start applying the rigor and discipline of making them happen. Then use the rigor and discipline of making them happen to inspire you along the way, as you make progress toward your goal.
The Why Behind the Goal is Everything There are many ways to kill a dream or kill a goal. The longer it’s spread out over time and space, the more hurdles and challenges you might have to deal with along the way. But some goals are dead right out of the gate.
If your goal lacks life and has no compelling “Why” to drive it, it’s dead in the water. It doesn’t stand a fighting chance. If you want your goal to stand the test of time and to help you stay the course, then you need to have a compelling “Why” behind it. The “Why” is the generator of your juice that makes you go. You know it’s working when you simply remember “Why” and you are back on track.
You Can Achieve Big Goals by Taking Little Steps Over Time The surprise is that consistent action really does pay off. It’s a case of slow and steady wins the race. The trick here is not to go intentionally slow and not to depend on baby steps. Instead, it’s to find the way forward, and to keep taking action. Sometimes that means taking little steps. Those little steps add up over time.
I integrated these lessons into my How To – Set Goals and Achieve Them to stack the deck in your favor and to help set you up for success in achieving your goals.
One of the first things I do to get a handle on execution is to map out the work in flight in the form of a roadmap.
When there are multiple teams shipping stuff, one of the best ways to improve coordination, collaboration, and planning is to make a simple roadmap.
Just even putting the roadmap together is an exercise in clarity.
The simple roadmap of key events is a great way to set expectations and communicate what’s going on. When there is a lot going on, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose track of the various trains leaving the station. A simple one-page view helps you stay on top of the trains and anticipate where focus and energy will be.
When you have multiple workstreams and dependencies, such as with vTeams and initiatives, it’s also helpful to put together a simple roadmap of the workstreams to illustrate the interactions.
One of the key points of creating effective visualizations of roadmaps is to keep them simple. You can always drill into details with detailed schedules or detailed Gant charts. The point of the visualization in this case is to have a very simple, “at a glance” of the work in flight across multiple teams.
You know you’ve done a good job when you can “glance and go” vs. “stop and stare.”
I created a Leadership Checklist to distill and share practices for effective leadership.
I created this checklist a little bit differently to try something out. I used a “user story” approach and I wrote each checklist item as a mini-story you can use for self-reflection. In a way, they can act as unit tests for leadership. Here are some examples:
It’s a work in progress, but so far the feedback has been positive. Feel free to share your favorite leadership practice as a one-liner reminder in the comments on the leadership checklist page.