J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

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    Project Management, Productivity, and Leadership for Unstoppable You

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    What do you get when you combine the power of project management with proven practices for productivity and leadership?

    You get an extremely productive leadership … the kind that takes your execution capability to new heights and makes your competition jealous (or at least take notice.)

    I’ve put together a set of 10 Proven Practices for More Productive Leadership in a guest post on Michael Hyatt’s blog.  It’s my take on how skills from project management, combine with productivity and leadership to create a deep ability to make things happen.  Project management skills are a force multiplier because they teach you to really understand the work, really understand the risks associated with performing the work, really understand the constraints and impacts of budget, resources, and time, really understand how to manage multiple stakeholders and competing concerns, really understand what progress truly looks like, and really understand how to get the right people working on the right things to drive change and flow value. 

    These are some of the hallmarks that underpin execution excellence and set the stage for high-performing teams.

    Productive leadership is more than just making things happen.  It’s creating compelling vision with clarity and conviction that inspire everyone around you to bring out their best.   It taps your talent in a way that amplifies and produces exponential results.  It provides meaning and motivation for everyone involved to give their best where they have their best to give.

    When you think of productive leaders, who makes your soul sing or makes the blood rush through your veins, excited by their visionary capabilities and their ability to mobilize the team to fire on all cylinders?   Who inspires you to believe that you can and will change the world in meaningful ways?   Who do you look up to, when the chips are down, so you can fight the good fight and keep on keeping on?

    Hopefully, you have several of these productive leaders right around you.   If not, why not step up to the plate and set the example?  People all around you are always looking to be inspired and leadership is a game where everyone can play, and everyone wins.  The price of admission is courage, conviction, and compassion.   If you have those, that’s a great start.   But there’s a little more …

    The boldest, the brightest, and the best leaders have several patterns in common and success leaves clues.   The most productive leaders share a set of practices that sets them apart from every Joe.  Productive leaders have a set of proven practices that gives them the edge to make things happen in any scenario.

    … But what are these proven practices for productive leadership?

    You can find out what these proven practices for productive leadership are in my guest post for Michael Hyatt:

    For those of you on high performing teams, you’ll nod your head in acknowledgement and the practices will resonate with you loud and clear.  For others, you may have to break past some of your mental models and paradigms, and explore the ideas with a curious mind.  

    I want everyone to get the edge and to use these practices to build more high-performing teams that flourish.  I believe that everybody deserves a chance to work in an arena that allows them to  bring out their best, and give their best where they have their best to give.   Work can be your ultimate form of self-expression and your ultimate dojo for personal growth.

    Enjoy and be sure to stop by and say “Hi” at 10 Proven Practices for More Productive Leadership.   Also, be sure to share your insights and actions that you’ve learned about productive leadership.

    I’ll be following closely and I’ll be looking forward to learning any new patterns and practices for productive leadership that you share.

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    Quotes to Empower You for Work and Life

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    If you like quotes, I have an extensive quotes collection at Great Quotes.   I continuously expand this collection.  Each page of quotes is a labor of love.  I take time and care to organize each page of quotes into a simple structure that makes it easy to browse many quotes at a glance.

    Here are ten examples of pages of quotes from the Great Quotes collection that you can use for work and life:

    1. Confidence Quotes
    2. Friendship Quotes
    3. Happiness Quotes
    4. Inspirational Quotes
    5. Leadership Quotes
    6. Life Quotes
    7. Love Quotes
    8. Simplicity Quotes
    9. Thinking Quotes
    10. Time Management Quotes

    If you only have time to explore one of the quotes collections, then explore the Life Quotes.  They are powerful quotes that can help you see life in a new way, or remind you of what’s important in work and life.

    As a preview, here are the top 10 life quotes from that page:

    1. “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” — Abraham Lincoln
    2. “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” — Dr. Seuss
    3. “Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.” — James Dean
    4. “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”— Maria Robinson
    5. “It is not length of life, but depth of life.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
    6. “Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald
    7. “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but moreover by the number of breaths that take your life away.” – Anonymous
    8. “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” — Randy Pausch
    9. “Why are you trying so hard to fit in, when you’re born to stand out.” — Oliver James
    10. “You live but once; you might as well be amusing.” — Coco Chanel

    As one of my friends puts it, “life’s better with the right words,” and I think quotes help us make that come true.

    Enjoy.

    P.S. – If there is a particular quote collection that you would like me to add, be sure to let me know.  So far, I am working on a “Mental Toughness” quotes collection that a few colleagues have asked me for.

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    Stephen Covey Tribute

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    Stephen Covey has past away, but his legend lives on:

    Covey will be missed, but not forgotten.   I see him all around me every day in the halls of Microsoft …

    Many of my mentors, mentees, and colleagues are avid Stephen Covey fans.  I know a lot of Softies around Microsoft that echo the patterns and practices of Stephen Covey’s work.    One of my early managers, was a raving fan of Stephen Covey and he made it real.  He absolutely practiced what he preached and he was one of the most inspiring managers that I ever worked for.

    One of the most important lessons I learned from that same manager was that I had to be OK with failure.  I had to risk enough to be able to fail.   I had to be open to the idea that I couldn’t make everything succeed all of the time.   He said it was this vulnerability that would become my strength.  He also said that if I could embrace the idea of letting others fail and learn from their mistakes that it would be more empowering in the long run.  People flourish when we give them the room.  

    He also taught me that you get more power, the more you give away.   When you trust people, and they know you have their back, they reciprocate.  The trust grows in two ways.   People go out on a limb, because they know it’s OK to be vulnerable.  People tell you stuff that they would only tell you when there is trust.   This creates a powerful loop of learning and growth.

    Anyway, I think Stephen Covey’s impact was powerful and pervasive.   He is with us everywhere.  The next time you hear somebody say, “Let’s start with the end in mind,” or “Are we focusing on what’s important, or just reacting to what’s urgent?”, smile and nod in acknowledgement that Covey has forever shaped how we lead ourselves and others.

    Please enjoy Stephen Covey Leaves a Legacy.

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    Crucial Conversations at Microsoft

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    “Speak when you are angry - and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret.” -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter

    A crucial conversation is any conversation where the stakes are high, emotions run strong and opinions vary.  If you can master crucial conversations, you can kick-start your career, strengthen your relationships, and improve your health.  In the game of life, skill is often a better hand to play, than fear or luck.  Don’t fear crucial conversations.  Master them.

    One of the best books on the topic, is Crucial Conversations, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.

    Here's the process in a nutshell ...

    1. Step 1. Start with Heart.
    2. Step 2. Learn to Look.
    3. Step 3. Make it Safe.
    4. Step 4. Master My Stories.
    5. Step 5. STATE My Path.
    6. Step 6. Explore Other’s Paths.
    7. Step 7. Move to Action.

    The beauty of the approach is that the patterns are sticky.  If you can remember things like "Master My Stories" or "Make it Safe,", then you can easily break out of limiting patterns.  The patterns are cleverly named, and once you read the book, they make perfect sense in terms of how you use them to shape or reshape conversations.   They break limiting patterns, and enable empowering ones.

    Early on, we adopted and practiced these skills on the Microsoft patterns & practices team.  It was extremely helpful for bringing issues to the table, creating an open and respectful environment, and ultimately trust.  Not to mention, when you can talk about the tough stuff at work, it makes work life better.

    I mentor a lot of people inside and outside of Microsoft.  This is one of the tools I highly recommend everybody adds to their toolbox.  Even if you are already good at crucial conversations, this helps you be succseeful by design rather than luck or stumble into success.

    It's one thing to hear about a technique.  It's another to hear the story.  If you want to read the story of how one Softie, changed their life through crucial conversations, check out Lessons Learned from Crucial Conversations, by Eric Brun.

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    Top Blogs Lists

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    I’ve updated my top blogs lists.   They are roundups of top blogs that I find to be useful.  I organize the lists by category to make it easy to dive in by topic.  I have the following lists so far:

    • Top Happiness Blogs
    • Top Leadership Blogs
    • Top Personal Development Blogs
    • Top Productivity Blogs

    For each list, I included the Top Ten Blogs, and then a longer list, organized A-Z.   This makes it easy for me to keep a short-list, and a more complete list for that particular domain.

    I will continue to expand the list of top blogs to add other domains, such as top emotional intelligence blogs, top management blogs, etc.    The common theme across everything will be insight and action with a  focus on proven practices for personal effectiveness.

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    Top Blogs for Insight and Action

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    This is a serious roundup of top blogs for insight and action:

    Colleagues asked me where do I go to find the best of the Web for insight and action.   This is that list.  It’s a list of the top blogs and sites that I find really go the extra mile.   It’s a mash up of top blogs on the following areas of focus: business skills, continuous learning, entrepreneurism, fun, leadership, personal development, productivity, strategy, technology, thinking skills, and trends.

    Here is a sampling of top blogs from the list:

    1. If you like infographics or visualizing information, you’ll really appreciate the artful presentation and insights of Information is Beautiful, by David McCandless.
    2. If you are curious about the best patterns and practices in the world for living to be 100, you’ll enjoy Blue Zones Blog, by Dan Buettner.
    3. If you want the Web at your finger tips in a scannable way, you’ll enjoy All Top.
    4. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, anticipate the future, and be in the know on which trends will make a difference, check out Jim Carroll – Futurist, Trends, and Innovation.
    5. If you want leadership insights you can use, with a dash of productivity sprinkled in, you’ll enjoy Michael Hyatt – Intentional Leadership.
    6. If you want deep insights into the art of change leadership, you’ll want to explore The Changing Minds Blog, by David Straker.
    7. If you want ground breaking information on peak personal performance and experiments in life style design, you’ll enjoy The Blog of Tim Ferris.

    It’s a living list of top blogs.  I’ll periodically update it.  

    Enjoy and explore the top blogs for insight and action.

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    Weekly Outcomes: The Simple Weekly Planner

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    The single most important thing I do at the start of each week is create my list of "Weekly Outcomes."  It's my approach for a simple weekly planner.  It helps me focus on the most important outcomes, and take the balcony view for my week.  It works through thick and thin.  It's a practice I've used for years, leading distributed teams around the world.

    image

    To use it, it’s simple.   Just follow three rules:

    1. Create the list on Mondays.
    2. Write the list down.
    3. List three wins at the top, and then your A-Z list of goals or tasks.

    It’s a simple format.  That’s why it works.  In the worst case scenario, I’ve taken at least five minutes to map out the wins for the upcoming week.   This helps me set a target for success.  Writing it down is important.  This frees my mind to focus on where my attention is needed most.  Whenever I need a fast reminder of what my week is about, I can look back to my list.

    It’s a great leadership tool as well, especially if you have a distributed team.  It’s easy to send out the email that maps out what a great week looks like.    In the thick of things, it might take me 15 minutes to do the exercise, but those 15 minutes can save me 15 hours of wasted work or off path.  It helps create clarity and common goals across the team.   It also gives the team a chance to plug in things that are on the radar so everybody gets a good look at what’s on our plates.

    You can do it on a whiteboard, or on a piece of paper, or in any tool of your choice.   I prefer anything that I can type in that lets me very quickly move things around and adjust the list without worrying about formatting.   To split up the list, I simply use whitespace.  I like whitespace and breathing room, especially when my lists are outrageous.

    The key, as always, is to focus on outcomes, not tasks.   By having a list of your outcomes, you make it easier to drive results versus getting lost in the weeds.  It really is a simple weekly planner.

    You can find more time management tips at http://GettingResults.com

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    How Tos for Personal Development, Leadership, and More

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    I’ve revamped my personal development How Tos page.  How Tos are simply step-by-step recipes for results.   They are powerful because they help you build a skill or learn a technique in a rapid way.   Rather than a lot of conceptual information, they are focused on action steps.   The beauty is they turn insight into action.  Rather than learn about personal development, you can “do” personal development.”

    To get a test, here are a few examples to take for a test drive:

    1. How To Read Faster
    2. How To Use Timeboxing for Getting Results
    3. How To Solve Problems with Skill

    Here is the current catalog of personal development How Tos:

    Popular How Tos

    • How To Change a Habit and Make It Stick
    • How To Solve Problems with Skill
    • How To Step Into Your Future to Visualize Success
    • How To Read Faster
    • How To Use the PMI Technique to Improve Your Thinking

    Change, Influence, and Negotiation

    • How To Change a Habit and Make It Stick
    • How To Negotiate More Effectively

    Decision Making

    • How To Decide with Criteria and Weight
    • How To Use the PMI Technique to Improve Your Thinking

    Emotional Intelligence and Feeling Good

    • How To Boost Self-Esteem
    • How To Use a Daily Activity Schedule to Defeat Procrastination
    • How To Use a Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts to Overcome Procrastination
    • How To Use a Pleasure-Predicting Sheet to Find Your Passion
    • How To Use an Anti-procrastination Sheet to Defeat Procrastination
    • How To Use the But-Rebuttal Method
    • How To Use the Triple Column Technique to Defeat Negative Self-Talk
    • How To Use the TIC-TOC Technique to Improve Your Motivation and Defeat Procrastination

    Interpersonal Skills

    • How To Deal with Hard Bargainers
    • How To Improve Your Crucial Conversations
    • How To Overcome Mistrust
    • How To Repair a Broken Work Relationship

    Leadership

    • How To Be a leader In Your Field
    • How To Consistently Build a Winning Team

    NLP

    • How To Elicit a Strategy in NLP
    • How To Reduce Generalization, Deletion, and Distortion to Improve How You Think, Feel, and Act
    • How To Step Into Your Future to Visualize Success
    • How To Use PRIEST to Create Well-Formed Outcomes

    Personal Development

    • How To Develop Your Intuition
    • How To Overcome Resistance
    • How To Solve Problems with Skill
    • How To Use a Coach Effectively

    Purpose

    • How To Design a Fulfilling Life
    • How To Figure Out What You Really Want
    • How To Find Your Why
    • How To Pave a Path Forward

    Strengths

    • How To Find Your Strengths
    • How To Put Your Strengths to Work

    Thinking Skills

    • How To Think Like Bill Gates
    • How To Use the PMI Technique to Improve Your Thinking
    • How To Use the Six Thinking Hats to Improve Your Thinking

    Time Management and Productivity

    • How To Avoid Task Saturation
    • How To Do Tasks More Efficiently
    • How To Use Timeboxing for Getting Results

    Visualization

    • How To Paint a Future Picture to Share Your Vision
    • How To Step Into Your Future to Visualize Success
    • How To Visualize Success
  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Outsourcing with Skill: Three Types of Outsourcing Relationships

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    While reading the book, Enterprise Architecture as Strategy, by Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David C. Robertson, I came across their section on outsourcing.

    I wish I had their frame for looking at outsourcing models long ago.   On the Microsoft patterns & practices team, we regularly partnered with vendors around the world to scale our business while focusing on our core competencies.   While I did manage to think through a lot of the issues and risks, I didn’t always have a great way of framing the conversations or recommendations.   When you have names for the three outsourcing models, key distinctions for each, and a map of the main outsourcing objectives, it gets a lot easier to both think through decisions, and frame conversations for more effective outsourcing decisions.

    Three Outsourcing Models
    According to Ross, Weill, and Robertson, there are three mutually exclusive outsourcing models:

    Model Notes Client Success Vendor Success
    Transaction Narrowly defined, repeatable process. 90% 90%
    Cosourcing Project management and implementation. 63% 75%
    Strategic Partnership Broad responsibility for operational activities. 50% 50%

    Outsourcing Objectives
    Ross, Weill, and Robertson, share examples of common outsourcing objectives:

    Category Items
    Efficiency Objectives
    • Cost reduction
    • Variable capacity / expertise on demand
    Architectural Improvement Objectives
    • Re-engineer internal business processes
    • Increase business process discipline
    Strategic Adaptation Objectives
    • Management focus on competencies
      Strategic agility
    • Leverage new IT
    • Mitigate technology risks
      Technology / expertise transfer

    The Three Outsourcing Models Explained
    Ross, Weill, and Robertson, provide insight into the distinctions and uniqueness features of each mode:l:

    Transaction

    • The key metric is quality and/or cost per transaction.
    • The client-vendor relationship is an “Arm’s length” model.
    • Client expectations include world-class processes, variable capacity, and a management focus on core competencies.
    • Vendor offerings include standard best practice process components, economies of scale, and distinctive platforms or assets.

    Cosourcing

    • The key metric is project success.
    • The client-vendor relationship is joint-project management.
    • Client-expectations include cost savings and access to expertise on demand.
    • Vendor offerings include labor arbitrage, project management expertise, and expertise on specialized technologies.

    Strategic Partnership

    • The key metric is bottom-line impact.
    • The client-vendor relationship is negotiated accountability.
    • Client-expectations include cost savings, variable capacity, and management focus on core competencies.
    • Vendor offerings include capability to deliver a broad range of services, integration expertise, disciplined practices, and economies of scale.
  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Make the Most of What You’ve Got: Articles on Personal Development, Time Management, Life Hacks, and More

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    Life’s better with the right tools.  The trick of course is, how do we fill our mental toolbox with the right ones.

    Work and life can throw plenty of challenges at us.  Whether it’s how to master your time, play well with others, lead more effectively manage your emotions. deal with stress, learn faster, or make things happen, there is never a shortage of things to work on, problems to solve, things to learn, or things to improve.

    That’s why I started Sources of Insight.  There are actually more than 800 articles at Sources of Insight with principles, patterns, practices, and hacks for leadership, personal development, time management, and more.  Now you can easily brows the collection:

    The Story of Sources of Insight
    A few years back, I carved out Sources of Insight to focus on personal effectiveness.   The purpose of the site is to help you make the most of what you’ve got.    I believe everybody deserves a chance at a better life.   I find that skill is the difference that makes the difference.

    It’s wisdom at your finger tips   On Sources of Insight, I used the tag line “Stand on the Shoulders of Giants”, because the idea is to lift you with the world’s best wisdom.  I thought wouldn’t it be great to have a place that put the world’s best wisdom of the ages and modern sages in the palm of your hand.   Rather than randomly learn about some of the best quotes, or some of the best books, or some amazing people, why not consolidate these, and start to seed a garden of greatness … where the greatness is a metaphor for your potential and capability.

    During my day job, as a Principal Program Manager, I drive patterns and practices for the cloud story in the Enterprise.   As you can imagine, it involves a lot of thought and people leadership, as well as influence without authority.  Aside from strategy and project management skills, it also requires a lot of skills in terms of emotional intelligence, goals, leadership, motivation, productivity, time management, and thinking.   It’s a continuous learning lab of extreme personal development.

    I mentor a lot of people, and periodically coach teams, and give talks on my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.   The demand for this seems to keep going up as more people find themselves asked to do more with less, or struggling with how to flow value, or simply want to get an edge at work or in life. 

    To keep up with the pace, and to innovate where it counts, I have the bad habit of regularly spending $300 a month on books.    I’ve learned how to read faster, and turn insight into action at a faster pace.   The rubber meets the road when I apply what I learn at work or in life to get results.   If you’re wondering how I build my best books lists, such as my Business Books list or my Personal Development Books, or my Leadership Books list … now you know.

    It’s a tough job, but it needs to be done.

    800+ Articles on Leadership, Personal Development, and Time Management
    I’ve finally found a solution to make it easier for you to find more than just the tip of the iceberg.  On the Articles page, you will find a simple list of categories, along with some of the key articles within each category.    You can quickly cherry pick the ones you want to read, or you can drill into the category and explore for more.

    This may look easy, sound easy, and be perfectly obvious now, but it actually took me a lot of testing to find a simple pattern for showing a lot of articles in a simple way.   I tested many combinations including auto-generated lists and showing all the articles, as well as building separate page per topic.   I like the pattern I settled on because it puts the core articles at your finger tips, while making it easy to find the rest.  I also like that now I can send somebody to a particular section and get them started with the right articles fast.

    Here is a sampling of the article collection.   When you browse the actual Articles page, you will be able to dive into the articles or the categories.   It’s a lot of insight and action, right at your finger tips.

    Career

    • 101 of the Greatest Insights and Actions for Work and Life
    • 6 Personality and Work Environment Types
    • Career Growth and Finding Your Way Forward
    • Passion Does not Exist in the Job, It Exists in Us
    • Proven Practices for Individual Contributors
    • Rapid Growth Fields and Your Career Success
    • The 20 Percent Spike
    • Meaningful Work is Hard
    • Think In Terms of an Hourly Rate
    • Thinking About Career Paths

    Effectiveness

    • 101 Questions that Empower You
    • Be Effective, then Efficient
    • Can Effectiveness Be Learned?
    • Finding Your Process
    • If It’s Not Working, Change Your Approach
    • Luck and Success
    • Mentors are the Short Cuts
    • Motivation, Skills, and Feedback
    • The Hat of Effectiveness
    • The Way of Success

    Emotional-Intelligence

    • Action Signals: Use Negative Emotions as a Call to Action
    • Argue Your Way to Optimism
    • Change Rumination or Pessimism to Defeat Depression
    • Don’t Sip from the Stream of Polluted Thoughts
    • How to Read Poetry to Expand Your Heart
    • Life Leaves a Mark
    • Positive Intelligence and PQ
    • Positive Thinking vs. Positive Action
    • Test Your Can’ts
    • Those Moments When You are Most Alive/a>

    Fitness

    • 9 Ways to Add 12 Years to Your Life
    • 10 Years Younger
    • Blue Zones: The Healthiest Places on the Planet
    • Breathe With Skill to Dramatically Improve Your Health
    • Exercising Your Body Makes You Smarter
    • Larks, Owls and Hummingbirds
    • Lessons Learned from Bruce Lee
    • Archive of Fitness

    Happiness

    • Enjoy the Struggle
    • Happiness Quotes
    • Keys for Skilled Happiness
    • The Two Flavors of Happiness
    • Low Frustration Tolerance
    • Positive Intelligence and PQ
    • Positive Thinking vs. Positive Action
    • Synthetic Happiness
    • When It’s Cold Shiver. When It’s Hot Sweat
    • Those Moments When You are Most Alive
    • Whiteboard Notes on Happiness

    Interpersonal-Skills

    • 12 Practices for Improving Likeability
    • Apologize with Skill
    • Concession is Rhetorical Judo
    • Dialogue Debate and Discuss
    • Five Conflict Management Styles at a Glance
    • Know and Share Yourself Enough
    • Poor Communication isn’t the Source of Most Conflicts
    • The Iceberg of Conflict: A Lens for Conflict Management
    • The Art of Mental Judo
    • What’s Their Story
    • Win the Heart the Mind Follows

    Leadership

    • 3 Stories Leaders Need to Tell
    • 10 Ways to Hold People Accountable
    • A Leaders is the Trustee of the Intangibles
    • Author a Distinctive Story
    • Balance Connection and Conviction
    • Boldness Has Genius, Magic, and Power in It
    • Leadership Checklist
    • Leadership Styles and Development Levels
    • Guide Your Path with Vision, Values, and Goals
    • What Executives at Microsoft Taught Me

    Lessons-Learned

    • 10 Lessons Learned in Comedy by Craig Shoemaker
    • Lessons Learned from Bill Gates
    • Lessons Learned from Bruce Lee
    • Lessons Learned from Dad
    • Lessons Learned from Guy Kawasaki
    • Lessons Learned from John Wooden
    • Lessons Learned from Mom
    • Lessons Learned from Seth Godin
    • Lessons Learned from Steve Jobs
    • Marie Forleo on Lessons in Life

    Life

    • How Will You Measure Your Life
    • How To Figure Out What You Really Want
    • Ikigai: The Reason for Which You Wake Up in the Morning
    • Life Frame
    • Life Leaves a Mark
    • My Top 10 Lessons in Life
    • Program Manager Skills for Life
    • The Business of Life
    • The Good Life
    • Skills to Pay the Bills and Lead a Better Life
    • What 16 Movies Teach Us About Life and Leadership

    Motivation

    • 13 Motivation Techniques
    • 13 Negative Motivation Patterns
    • 25 Inspirational Movies
    • 101 Ways to Motivate Yourself and Others
    • Four Sources of Strength
    • Find Your Drive: The Keys to Motivation
    • It’s Not Motivation
    • McClelland’s Motivational Model
    • Three D’s for Motivation – Direction, Decision, and Dedication
    • Why Do We Procrastinate?

    Personal-Development

    • 3 Keys to Lasting Change
    • 10 Keys to Changing a Habit
    • 10 Ways to Go from Good to Great
    • 10 Ways to Know Thyself
    • Build a Personal Knowledge Base of Success Stories, Insight, and Action to Improve Your Success
    • Emulate the Great
    • Finding Your Values
    • Improvement Frame
    • Know Your Rules to Be Successful
    • The Change Frame
    • You’re the Average of the 10 People You Spend Time With

    Productivity

    • 30 Day Improvement Sprints
    • Monthly Planning with Agile Results
    • My Three Wins
    • Productivity Personas
    • Rituals for Results
    • Tickler List of the Mind
    • Use Three Stories to Drive Your Day
    • What’s Worth Doing Today?
    • Why Use Routines?
    • Write Things Down

    Strengths

    • Choose Your Jobs Based on Strengths
    • Feel Strong All Week Long
    • Find Your Strengths Among Your Team
    • How To Find Your Strengths
    • Specialization is Nature’s Strategy for Winning
    • Strengths and Talents
    • Strength and Weakness
    • The Language of Strengths
    • What’s Your One-Liner Super Hero Power?
    • Why Strengths?

    Thinking Skills

    • 3 Thinking Techniques to Improve Your Intellectual Horsepower
    • 10 Distorted Thinking Patterns
    • Five-Minute Thinks
    • Five Thinking Styles
    • Focus with Skill
    • How To Have a Beautiful Mind
    • How To Read Faster
    • How To Use Six Thinking Hats to Improve Your Thinking
    • Think of Yourself as a Thinker

    Time-Management

    • 30 Day Boot Camp for Time Management
    • Agile Results for Time Management
    • Carve Out Time for What’s Important
    • Fix Time, Flex Scope
    • How To Use Timeboxing for Getting Results
    • The Secret of Time Management
    • Time Changes What’s Important
    • There is No Shortage of Time
    • Time is the Limiting Factor
    • Timeboxes, Rhythm, and Incremental Value
  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Value is the Short-Cut for Building Better Products

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Spend $100 to Prioritize Your Opportunities

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    The key to shipping value is making sure your users, value what you ship.  On the Microsoft patterns & practices team, we used a technique we called "Spend $100."  This was a highly effective way to prioritize our backlog and bubble up the most valuable things to do. 

    It helped answer the question, "What's the next best thing to do?"

    Implementation varied, but the main idea was this:  Give a customer $100 of make believe money.  Ask them to spend it on the things they value most in our backlog of opportunities.  When we did this across customers, we could then easily see which themes and things customers value more than others.

    A variation off of this, but the same idea, is to have a customer spend 100 story points.  The way this works is you assign story points to specific user stories.  Customers can then spend their story points on the user stories they value most.  Here is an example that explains how this approach was used to help prioritize user stories for Microsoft Enterprise Library.

    The beauty of this "Spend 100 dollars" approach is that it helps address several things:

    • How to make sure you're shipping the next best thing
    • How to ensure that your users value what you ship
    • How to slice your backlog down into actionable size
    • How to stay customer-connected while planning your product
    • How to make it easy for your customers to have a voice in shaping the product
    • How to use data-driven decisions to prioritize in a simple way
    • How to quickly test  your ideas for potential value with real customer feedback
    • How to fail fast and quickly change direction if the value isn't there
    • How to identify demand and justify appropriate investment with real user data

    While it sounds simple, and the idea is, there are things to think about.  For example, how do you survey the right users?  How do you make sure you don't just cater to the squeaky wheels?  How do you organize your user stories in a useful way to make it easy to vote effectively?

    It's worth working through these issues.  If you can successfully drive customer value, your value as a Product Manager or Program Manager or Developer, etc. quickly goes up, as well as your personal brand and credibility.   You will become a high value, shipping machine. 

    This is a proven practice that's served many people well.  You just have to give it a shot.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Business Books

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    "People are known by the company they keep; companies are known by the people they keep." -- Bill Gates

    I’ve revamped and swept my business books collection.   My business books collection is a rich set of the best business books that you can use to change your game.  They are especially important now with the cloud.

    I find the cloud is a great chance to get back to your business, and get back to the basics.  To do this, you have to figure out the role you want to play in the cloud (be the cloud, use the cloud, move to the cloud.)  You also need to really figure out your strategy.

    My strategy section of my business books includes:

    • Blue Ocean Strategy
    • Business Model Generation
    • Competitive Strategy
    • Delivering Happiness
    • Doing Both
    • Good to Great
    • Rework
    • Strategy Maps
    • The Answer to How is Yes
    • The Art of War
    • The Well Timed Strategy

    Blue Ocean is your best friend when it comes to the strategy game.  The idea is to compete where there is no competition.  For example, how would you compete against a circus?   Would you find cheaper or better animals?  No, you change the game and create a new market.  That’s what Cirque du Soleil did.   The question then becomes, how do you do this at the personal level to stay competitive in the marketplace?

    Business Model Generation is an amazing synthesis of business tools all rolled together into a simple approach.   It’s a great way to sketch your business.   It helps you think on paper so you can analyze your model more effectively.  If I could only have one business book, this might be the one business book to rule them all.

    Good to Great is a business book classic.  In fact, this is one the main books we used to shape the early days of the Microsoft patterns & practices team.  We spent a lot of energy asking the question, what can we be the best in the world at, with the people we’ve got?   We put a lot of focus on making sure that people were giving their best where they have their best to give, and leveraging the power of the system.  I think it was this ruthless focus on blending passion, purpose, and strengths that accelerated Microsoft patterns & practices through the early days, with a clear differentiation.  As one of my colleagues put it, the power was having “architects who could write.”

    The Well Timed Strategy is one of those books that really makes you think.  You start to see things in new ways.  It’s the business book that got me seeing things in cycles.   I stopped looking at things in such a static way.  I started paying more attention to the ups and downs and the cycles of things.   It helps me better understand the mountains and the valleys of the business cycles.  I stopped pushing rocks uphill and learned to ride the waves.

    I’ll continue to tune and prune my business books collection.   Smart people are constantly recommending great business books to me to help me get ahead of the curve and sharpen my business skills.   In today’s world, business skills + technical skills are the way forward.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Best-Selling Author on Mental Toughness

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

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

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

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

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

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Life Lessons from the Legend of Zelda

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    A fellow Softie, and performance improvement architect extraordinaire, Walter Oelwein, wrote a fantastic article on Life Lessons from The Legend of Zelda and Zelda Theory.

    It’s all about how to apply what we learn from The Legend of Zelda to real life.   If you are a gamer, you will especially appreciate this insightful piece of prose.  Even if you are not a gamer, you will appreciate Walter’s wit and wisdom, as well as his systems thinking.  If you are a continuous leaner and you find yourself always on a path of exploration and execution, this article will directly speak to your heart.

    Check out Life Lessons from the Legend of Zelda and get your game face on for life.

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    Expert Access Radio Interview on Getting Results the Agile Way

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    You can listen to the Expert Access Radio Interview on Getting Results the Agile Way.   It’s available as a podcast and on iTunes.

    I'm honored to be interviewed by Expert Access Radio on Getting Results the Agile Way.   

    Expert Access Radio is a weekly talk radio show that features live, in-depth interviews with business leaders and best-selling authors from around the world.  Some of their featured guests include Guy Kawasaki, Robert Kiyosaki, and Steven Pressfield. 

    On the show, Jay McKeever  and Steve Kayser have their guests share their ideas, information, insights and inspirational stories to help listeners in their life of business, or their business of life.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    David Zinger Interviews Me on Getting Results the Agile Way

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    I'm honored to be interviewed by David Zinger on Getting Results the Agile Way.

    David Zinger is author of Zengage: How to Get More Into Your Work to Get More Out of Your Work, founder of the Employee Engagement Network, and creator of the Employee Engagement for Results Model.

    Here is the abstract of the interview:

    “This practical webinar outlines how to get results and foster employee engagement with agility. JD Meier from Microsoft, and author of Getting Results the Agile Way, shares his proven methods to get results for us and others with David Zinger, the founder and host of the Employee Engagement Network.”

    It’s raw.  It’s real.  David has a way of asking great questions, connecting the dots, and teasing out key insights.

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    Find Your Strengths Path to Accelerate Learning and Growth

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    "Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will." -- Mahatma Gandhi

    When people ask me what my biggest game changer was in terms of producing more in less time, I have to say that it’s a combination.  It’s a combination of 1) spending more time in my strengths, and 2) finding my power hours.

    This was the biggest key to getting more done in less time, and keeping my energy strong.   Imagine doing the work you do in 40 hours in four hours.  That’s what it’s like.

    Hands down, this accelerated my learning and growth the fastest way possible.  Imagine taking something that you could already do all day, and honing that.  Imagine sharpening this blade to cut through any problem that comes your way, in the most effective and efficient way.  That’s what it’s like.

    It’s now my edge.   I’ve found ways to use this edge in any job I do.  You can do so too.

    Here is a blurb from my 30 Days of Getting Results on Day 10 – Feel Strong All Week Long:

    Get on Your Strengths Path
    What if there was one thing you could focus on that would help you get exponential results in all areas of  your life?  Well there is.  It’s getting on your strengths path.  When you are spending more time in the activities that make you strong, you automatically do great work, you renew and rebuild your mind, body, emotions, and spirit, and you dramatically accelerate your learning and growth.  Fighting to get on your strengths path is one of the highest ROI (Return on Investment) battles you will ever win.  It pays you back daily.

    If there are so many benefits to being on your strengths path, and spending more time in your strengths, then why doesn’t everybody just do it?  Because it requires self-awareness and you have to own it. Nobody comes along and puts you on your strengths path.  YOU have to own it.  YOU have to continuously find ways to spend more time in your strengths.  Only you know truly what makes you strong and what makes you weak.  You have to decide you want to spend more time in your strengths and you have to be deliberate about spending less time in your strengths.

    That really is the key message here.   You have to own it.   When you choose to give your best, where you have your best to give, you empower yourself up to operate at a higher level.   Your edge is at your finger tips.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Sticky Note Method for Rapid Reading

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    If you want to read faster, I'll share a way that will radically change how fast you can read books, and, more importantly, comprehend the information.  You can read faster and absorb a lot more books with a rapid reading method -- the sticky note way.  You can do extreme reading with sticky notes. 

    This approach is for printed books and magazines.  I'm a fan of the Kindle.  You can read my Kindle review.  My main scenario for Kindle is instant access, reading fiction, and having books at my finger tips.  That said, I can read and learn faster with physical books, using the "Sticky Note Method."

    I read a lot of books each month.  I usually spend in the neighborhood of $300 a month.  Books are my fastest way to learn new ideas, new methods, new techniques that I can test at work to keep growing my capabilities.  Books are the short-cuts for personal development and rapid learning.

    Why the Sticky Note Method
    Here's a quick story that might help show how it works.  The other day I was looking for a key concept.  I knew which book it was in.  I started rapidly flipping through pages.  I couldn't find it.  I started to put yellow stickies in the book as I flipped through.  On each sticky, I wrote down one nugget of insight -- one key idea or action that was worth noting.  As I wrote down each insight, I put it into easy to understand terms.  I wrote it as a one-liner reminder.   Within 20 minutes, I had parsed my 300+ page book.   It was riddled with stickies, my one-liner reminders, and I now had a personal index, with key take aways.

    It was the wrong book.

    I took a break and realized I was intently looking the right way, but in the wrong book.  I grabbed the right book, and found the idea I had been looking for within seconds.  Meanwhile, what dawned on me was just how powerful this rapid reading method is.

    The sticky note method is powerful because it forces you to internalize what you read, while turning insight into action.  It's simple too.  But don't let the simplicity fool you.

    How To Use the Sticky Note Method for Rapid Reading
    The steps are simple:

    1. Start with the right question.  Get curious about the book you are about to read by asking, "How can I use this?"
    2. Flip through with intent to use it.  Flip through the book, scanning the information as you go, while asking, "What's the big idea?  What's the surprise inside?  What's the insight?  What's the action?"
    3. Write down one-liner reminders.  As you hit interesting ideas, write down one key insight or action on a little yellow sticky, and place it in the book, close to where the source of the insight is.  These one-liner reminders turn the insight into action, and create little mantras for you to remember the big ideas.  For example, a one-liner reminder from the book, Little Book of Leadership, is Best is a Way of Life.  That one-liner reminder teaches us that excellence is a habit, and that the more we use it, the better it gets, and that it spills over into other parts of our life.

    That's it.  I told you it was simple.  It’s simple, but effective.

    You will get faster with practice.  When I asked one of my mentors what's the secret to running faster, he said run faster.  I thought he was joking but he was serious.  The same is true for reading faster.  To read faster ... read faster.  But now you have a method to make the most of what you read, as you go – The Sticky Note Method for Rapid Reading.  It works because it forces you to focus, it forces you to internalize information rather than regurgitate information, it forces you to create a personalized, meaningful index into your book, and it forces you to distill information into easier to little insights and actions (one-liner reminders) that turn insight into action.

    I've been using this approach for years.  I've tried many ways to read faster, and they all add up, but if I could only share one approach with you, this is the one that will radically change your game and take your reading to the next level.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Rapid Research Method

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    The Rapid Research Method is a way to speed up your product research.  It’s also a way to speed up ramp up time when you are leaning a new domain.  The Rapid Research Method is also a key for rapid innovation and rapid product design and development.  Lastly, the Rapid Research Method is also a great way to map out a space and perform competitive assessments.

    One of the challenges with product development is doing effective research for your product design to make sure you have the right map of the pains and needs, the top concerns, and the key desired outcomes.   Another challenge is actually making this information actionable and simple to share.  

    I’ve had the benefit of driving several projects end-to-end, so I’ve been through the research and exploration stage multiple times.  I’ve learned a lot of tricks for speeding up research and making it more effective.   I’ve had to use these techniques to play catch up in various domains from application architecture to security and performance, to even the cloud.   They work.  

    I’m going to share a few techniques in this post.  Collectively, I”ll refer to using them as the Rapid Research Method.  It’s the approach I’ve used for many, many projects over many years, and as a way to perform competitive assessments.

    What’s important about the techniques is that they make it easy to rapidly organize and share vast amounts of information in an actionable way.   Looking back, one of the big surprises for me is how just about any domain can be broken down into questions and tasks.   If you know the questions that people ask and the tasks they need to perform, you’ve effectively mapped out the most important information within that domain.   This helps you prioritize all the rest of the information, such as concepts, principles, patterns, and practices.    Another way to look at it is that all the information is either going to be action or reference.   For example, a checklist would be actionable, while a whitepaper on a key topic, tends to be conceptual.

    Software, like an information product, tends to suffer from information management problems.   It’s tough to share “castles in the mind.”  Then there is the people factor.  Not everybody can slice and dice information the same way, or with the same skill.  The real issue though is sharing “state.”   The problem with research is that it’s like climbing a mountain.  How quickly can you get others to make it up the mountain, after you?   What sort of trail or spikes can you leave along the way?   That’s where these research tools that I’m about to share come into play.   They help you not only get you and your teammates up the mountain faster, but they leave a trail that others can follow.

    About the Approach

    The approach is fairly easy.  It involves creating simple lists.  The power comes from how you create and share these lists.  It’s actually the information architecture of the research that unleashes the power of your research.  The single best thing you can do with your research is produce output that can easily be used by others, so that you can easily bring in more brains on the problem.  When everybody can see the lay of the land, it’s easier for people to find a faster way forward, get resourceful and solve problems.

    Here is the approach in a nutshell:

    1. Gather the Questions.   In this step, simply start gathering the user questions.  Questions are everywhere.  The trick is to capture them and put them down on paper.    My favorite questions are “Why" and “What is XYZ" and “How does XYZ work” or “When do I use XYZ.”
    2. Gather the Tasks.   In this step, simply gather the user tasks.   You can interview users.  You can watch them in action.  You can survey.  You can play and explore the domain yourself.  You can analyze search queries.    What’s important is that you capture the user actions.   This compliments the user questions.  Questions are the “conceptual.”  Tasks are the “actionable.”  When gathering tasks, I find it helpful to write them down individually using the pattern “How To XYZ.”
    3. Identify the Hot Spots.   As you organize your questions list and tasks list into more meaningful buckets, you’ll start to see common categories.   Consolidate the categories as best you can.  This will help you focus and refine your research and funnel what you learn.   These “Hot Spots” will make it a lot easier to slice and dice the domain into actionable nuggets.
    4. Create a Frame.    Use your “Hot Spots” to create a “Frame” for your domain.   One way to do this is to create a simple table of your “Hot Spots” and a description of each “Hot Spot.”   This creates a quick lens for looking at the domain, and puts a focus on the most important categories of information.  When you need to share your research with others, you now have a fast way to show how you broke the information space down and made it more actionable.  Experts will quickly validate or correct your frame.   That’s the beauty of this approach.  You can’t lose.  You are always improving it based on what you learn.  It’s a true learning system.
    5. Gather User Stories.   User stories are a great way to really take things to the next level.  They help to up-level the tasks, build empathy, and really put things in context.  I like to manage these as simple lists, and I use the language, “As a user, I want to …”, or “As a user, I need to …”

    I’ve often said that any problem domain can quickly be broken down into questions and tasks and address 80% of what matters.   That little rule of thumb has served me well, time and again.   I never get stuck when I’m figuring out a new domain.  I always go back to the basics.  The real race is to find the fastest way to get the questions and tasks down on paper in a shared way that others can contribute, review, and prioritize.

    You can browse the examples below to see what these question lists, task lists, hot spots/frame, and user stories look like.

    Key Guidelines to Keep in Mind

    • The value of your solution is the value of the problem solved.   So the better job you do of capturing the right problems, the better chance you have at a successful product or solution.
    • Experience is the short cut.   Find the people with experience.   You can save yourself exponential time, money, and resources by finding the right people who have the experience who can quickly share the questions, tasks, and scenarios that matter within a given domain.
    • Relevancy is king.   The best solutions don’t matter if they aren’t relevant.  You stay relevant by staying connected.  The trick is to stay connected to the key opinion leaders and influencers within a given domain.  You want to know the movers and the shakers as well as the folks that play in the domain on a daily basis.

    Hot Spots and Frames

    “Hot Spots” are simply the key categories or areas of focus.   They represent the categories that are key choice points.   They are actionable.   They are “Hot Spots” because they are 80% of where the action is.   They are the 20% of the domain that accounts for 80% of the activity.   I use “Hot Spots” as a way to slice a domain down to size and quickly get to what counts.  Each “Hot Spots” represents an area that is either a key opportunity or a key pain point.  The “Hot Spots” are a great way to organize actionable information such as principles, patterns, and practices.  

    The Frame is simply a lens for looking at a problem.   It’s what’s in the picture and what’s out.  How you frame a problem domain can either simplify the problem space, or make it more complex.   When you frame the problem space well, it makes it easier to act on it.  It makes it easier to identify opportunities for innovation.  It makes it easier to research the problem space with better focus.  Focus is your friend.

    The problem is that you usually don’t know the key areas up front.  Framing out the space is part of the challenge and it’s part of the by-product of your research.   What I’ve found is that when you start to collect questions and tasks, that “Hot Spots” start to emerge.  You will quickly start to see patterns and things will naturally start to cluster.   This collection of “Hot Spots” becomes the backbone for your frame.   Rather than be complete, it’s about being effective.  You can use the 80/20 rule to your advantage here, which is how you both gain speed, but also amplify your impact by focusing on the highest priorities.

    Frame Example

    This is a simple example of a frame using security Hot Spots.   By using this collection of Hot Spots, it was very easy to collect questions and tasks within the security domain.  It was also easy to walk different technologies and evaluate their security profile.  We also used the frame to quickly gather and organize threats, attacks, vulnerabilities, and countermeasures.   Organizing the information using this frame made it more actionable, and it made it a lot easier to deal with information overload.

    Security Frame with Hot Spots

    Categories

    • Auditing and Logging
    • Authentication
    • Configuration Management
    • Cryptography
    • Exception Management
    • Input and Data Validation
    • Sensitive Data
    • Session Management

     

    Category Key Considerations
    Auditing and Logging Who did what and when? Auditing and logging refer to how your application records security-related events.
    Authentication Who are you? Authentication is the process where an entity proves the identity of another entity, typically through credentials, such as a user name and password.
    Authorization What can you do? Authorization is how your application provides access controls for resources and operations.
    Configuration Management Who does your application run as? Which databases does it connect to? How is your application administered? How are these settings secured? Configuration management refers to how your application handles these operational issues.
    Cryptography How are you keeping secrets (confidentiality)? How are you tamper-proofing your data or libraries (integrity)? How are you providing seeds for random values that must be cryptographically strong? Cryptography refers to how your application enforces confidentiality and integrity.
    Exception Management When a method call in your application fails, what does your application do? How much do you reveal? Do you return friendly error information to end users? Do you pass valuable exception information back to the caller? Does your application fail gracefully?
    Input and Data Validation How do you know that the input your application receives is valid and safe? Input validation refers to how your application filters, scrubs, or rejects input before additional processing. Consider constraining input through entry points and encoding output through exit points. Do you trust data from sources such as databases and file shares?
    Sensitive Data How does your application handle sensitive data? Sensitive data refers to how your application handles any data that must be protected either in memory, over the network, or in persistent stores.
    Session Management

    How does your application handle and protect user sessions? A session refers to a series of related interactions between a user and your Web application.

    Question List Example

    A “Question List” is simply a list of the key questions that people ask.   You can find the key questions through surveys, going through forums, looking through blogs, and through hands on experience.  Hands on experience helps you build empathy for what really matters, which will be essential when you are trying to rank, rate, and sort your list.   It also helps to organize your questions into “Hot Spot” areas or buckets.

    Architectural Frame Questions List

    Contents

    • Authentication and Authorization
    • Caching and State
    • Communication
    • Composition
    • Concurrency and Transactions
    • Configuration Management
    • Coupling and Cohesion
    • Data Access
    • Exception Management
    • Logging and Instrumentation
    • User Experience
    • Validation
    • Workflow

    Authentication and Authorization

    • What are the approaches for identity store?
    • What authentication mechanism will be used?
    • What are relevant authentication and authorization patterns?
    • How do I decide if I need to implement single sign-on?
    • How do I design frontend single sign-on?
    • How do I design for backend single sign-on?
    • How to I flow identity to backend?
    • What is impersonation and when should I use it?
    • What is delegation and constrained delegation?

    Caching and State

    • How do you refresh your cache?
    • How to design effective caching mechanism?
    • What are common architectural pitfalls with caching?
    • Which layers should implement caching?
    • What data should be cached? (presentation, business and data access layers)
    • How to choose a cache be store?
    • How to cache data with different logical scopes?
    • How to cache data on client side?
    • How to cache user specific data?
    • How to decide whether caching data will improve performance?
    • How to manage expiration policy and scavenging mechanism?
    • How do I protect cached data?

    Communication

    • How do I structure my application to optimize communication efficiency?
    • How do I protect my communication channels?
    • How do I choose appropriate communication protocol?
    • How to flow identity across layers (tiers)?
    • What are the common architectural pitfalls with communication?
    • How do I structure my application to optimize communication efficiency?
    • How do I protect my communication channels?
    • How do I choose appropriate communication protocol?
    • How to flow identity across layers (tiers)?
    • What are the common architectural pitfalls with communication?
    • What are effective techniques for communication between the tiers?
    • What are effective techniques for exchanging data between the tiers?
    • How to secure communication between the layers?
    • When should I use synchronous communication?
    • When should I use asynchronous communication?

    Concurrency and Transactions

    • What are effective transaction management strategies?
    • How do I determine concurrency requirements?
    • What are the common architectural pitfalls with transactions?
    • What’s the right level of granularity of transactions?
    • How do I manage distributed transactions?
    • What are the common architectural pitfalls with concurrency?

    Configuration Management

    • How do I manage per app configuration?
    • How do I manage per user configuration?
    • How do I synchronize configuration across distributed environment (solutions)
    • What are the effective configuration management patterns?
    • What are the common architectural pitfalls with configuration?

    Coupling and Cohesion

    • How to determine effective layering strategy?
    • What are effective design patterns for coupling and cohesion?
    • How to determine appropriate coupling between components and between layers?
    • What are the common architectural pitfalls with coupling and cohesion?

    Data Access

    • How do we pass data through the layers (tiers)?
    • How to design effective data abstraction layer?
    • How to model the data?
    • How to page records?
    • How to design for very large databases?
    • What are the common architectural pitfalls with data access?
    • What is domain-driven architecture?
    • What is a database-driven architecture?
    • How do I choose between domain-driven and database-driven?
    • Which technology should be used to access data store?
    • How to manage database connections?
    • What logic should be implemented in the data helper components?
    • How to handle transactions?
    • How to handle concurrency?
    • How to design for a multi-tenant database?
    • How to choose between in-line SQL and Stored Procedures?

    Exception Management

    • How to design effective exception management strategy?
    • What are effective exception management patterns?
    • What are the common architectural pitfalls with exception management?
    • How to design effective exception management strategy?
    • What are effective exception management patterns?
    • What are the common architectural pitfalls with exception management?
    • Whether to design custom exception handling logic?
    • Which layers should implement exception management?
    • How to deal with unhandled exceptions?
    • How to display exception info to users?
    • How to design logging of exception data?
    • How to propagate exceptions through layers?

    Layering

    • How to design effective layering strategy?
    • What are effective design patterns for layering?
    • How to separate layers into areas of concerns?
    • How should layers interact?
    • What are the common architectural pitfalls with layering?
    • How to design effective layering strategy?
    • What are effective design patterns for layering?
    • How to separate layers into areas of concerns?
    • How should layers interact?
    • What are the common architectural pitfalls with layering?
    • How do I migrate my existing architecture to layered architecture, for example monolithic to layered architecture, from 2-tier to layered architecture or 3-tier to layered architecture?
    • How should I structure my development teams i.e. group by layers or group by functional modules?
    • How will my solution and project structure look like when using Layered Architecture?

    Logging and Instrumentation

    • How to design effective logging and instrumentation strategy?
    • What are effective logging and instrumentation patterns?
    • What are the common architectural pitfalls with logging and instrumentation?
    • How to design effective logging and instrumentation strategy?
    • What are effective logging and instrumentation patterns?
    • What are the common architectural pitfalls with logging and instrumentation?
    • Which layers should implement logging?
    • When do I need a custom logging mechanism?
    • How to make logging configurable?
    • How to secure of logged data?

    State Management

    • How to design effective State Management?
    • What are common architectural pitfalls with state management?
    • Which components should be stateful?
    • Which components should be stateless?
    • Where should I store state?
    • What information should be cached?
    • How to manage state in a web farm?
    • How to protect state data?

    Structure

    • What are the effective strategies and patterns for structuring the applications?
    • How do I divide the application into sub-system?
    • How do I factor the applications into layers, components and services?
    • How do I factor the application into tiers?
    • What are the common architectural pitfalls with Structuring?
    • What are the effective strategies and patterns for structuring the applications?
    • How do I divide the application into sub-system?
    • How do I factor the applications into layers, components and services?
    • How do I factor the application into tiers?
    • What are the common architectural pitfalls with Structuring?

    Validation

    • Where do you perform validation?
    • What do you validate?
    • How to validate business rules?
    • How to protect against malicious data?
    • How to handle data validation exception?
    • What are the common architectural pitfalls with validations?
    • How to design client side validation?
    • How to determine trust boundary for validation?

    Workflow

    • What are the different types of workflows? What are the differences between them?
    • What are common workflow scenarios?
    • What are effective workflow patterns?
    • What are effective the tools for designing workflow?
    • What is workflow modeling and how does it help in system design?
    • What are the common pitfalls with using workflows?
    • What is “workflow persistence”?
    • How does workflow communicate with the system?
    • How design for error recovery in a workflow?
    • How do I manage workflow instances?
    • How do I host workflows?

    Task List Example

    A “Task List” is simply a list of the tasks that users perform within a domain.   I find it helpful to use the language “How To.”   This forces people to think in terms of goals.  Sometimes it’s helpful to know the goal.  Sometimes it’s more helpful to know the specific tasks.   When you need to up-level it, simply ask “What are you trying to accomplish?”   When you need to drop down a notch, simply ask, “What are you trying to do?”   You can collect tasks from users through interviews, surveys, etc.   Again, I find that hands-on is one of the best ways to really build empathy for the pains and needs.   The real power comes from transforming from the problem side (the pains and needs), to the solution side (the specific goal or task that would address the pain or need.)

    Architectural Frame Tasks List

    Categories

    • Authentication and Authorization
    • Caching and State
    • Communication
    • Composition
    • Concurrency and Transactions
    • Configuration Management
    • Coupling and Cohesion
    • Data Access
    • Exception Management
    • Logging and Instrumentation
    • User Experience
    • Validation
    • Workflow

    Authentication and Authorization

    • How to identify trust boundaries
    • How to design single sign-on strategy
    • How to design role-based authorization
    • How to design resource-based authorization
    • How to design claims-based authorization
    • How to design a trusted sub-system
    • How to flow identity across layers and tiers

    Caching

    • How to improve performance with caching
    • How to decide what data to cache
    • How to decide where to cache data
    • How to cache data on client side
    • How to cache user specific data
    • How to manage expiration policy and scavenging mechanism
    • How to protect cached data
    • How to implement thread safety for the cached items using locking
    • How to cache data proactively
    • How to cache data reactively
    • How to design caching for distributed environment
    • How to design caching for web farm scenarios

    Communication

    • How to structure an application to optimize communication efficiency
    • How to design for remote communication
    • How to protect communication channels
    • How to choose a communication protocol
    • How to pass data across layers
    • How to flow identity across layers (tiers)
    • How to secure communication between the layers
    • How to design for synchronous communication
    • How to design for asynchronous communication
    • How to design fire and forget (one way) communication

    Concurrency and Transactions

    • How to design for transactions
    • How to manage distributed transactions
    • How to design for atomic transactions
    • How to design for long running transactions
    • How to design for distributed transactions
    • How to choose isolation level

    Configuration Management

    • How to design configuration
    • How to choose for configuration store
    • How to separate application data from configuration data
    • How to synchronize configuration across distributed environment
    • How to protective sensitive configuration information
    • How to enable changing configuration information at run-time

    Coupling and Cohesion

    • How to design for loose coupling across layers
    • How to design for high cohesion within layers
    • How to design message based interfaces

    Data Access

    • How to design your data access layer
    • How to design data abstraction
    • How to pass data across layers and tiers
    • How to model your data
    • How to page records
    • How to design for very large databases
    • How to design a domain-driven architecture
    • How to design a database-driven architecture
    • How to manage database connections
    • How to handle transactions
    • How to handle concurrency
    • How to design for a multi-tenant database

    Exception Management

    • How to design exception management
    • How to design for unhandled exceptions
    • How to design structured exception handling
    • How to design for appropriate display of exception data
    • How to plan and design for exception logging
    • How to propagate exceptions in a distributed design
    • How to design for notifications

    Layering

    • How to design layering
    • How to choose communication options between layers
    • How to design message based interfaces for remove layers
    • How to separate layers into areas of concerns

    Logging and Instrumentation

    • How to design logging
    • How to design for instrumentation
    • How to design logging for distributed environment
    • How to design logging for web farm scenario
    • How to configure logging
    • How to secure logged data

    State Management

    • How to choose the appropriate state model
    • How to flow call context data across application layers
    • How to design State Management
    • How to store state
    • How to manage state in a web farm
    • How to protect state data
    • How to design for passing data across tiers

    Structure

    • How to choose patterns for structuring your application
    • How to factor security requirements when structuring your application
    • How to factor performance and scalability requirements when structuring your application
    • How to factor the applications into layers, components and services
    • How to factor the application into tiers

    Validation

    • How to identify trust boundaries
    • How to design a centralized validation solution
    • How to validate input and data against business rules
    • How to validate input and data for security
    • How to validate the integrity of data
    • How to handle data validation exceptions

    Workflow

    • How to design workflow
    • How to choose a workflow technology
    • How to choose authoring mode

    Summarizing Task Lists

    I’ve found it especially helpful to organize massive lists of tasks into simple two-column tables.   This creates a nice view that makes it very easy to prioritize, cut, or elaborate, in a fast and simple way.   You can color code your lists.  You can bubble key things to the top.  You can make whitespace where you need it.  You can group your tasks under sub-items within a row.   The choices are endless, but the two-column tables does make dealing with massive mounds of information a breeze.  The way it compacts and frames information makes scanning very easy, which is important when you are trying to get the “bird’s-eye view.”

    Category Items

    Authentication and Authorization

     

    Caching

    Design

    • How to design caching
    • How to improve performance with caching
    • How to manage the lifetime of cached data
    • How to cache data with different logical scopes
    • How to cache data on client side
    • How to cache user specific data
    • How to manage expiration policy and scavenging mechanism
    • How to protect cached data
    • How to identify the data that needs to be cached
    • How to add an item to the cache
    • How to remove an item from the cache
    • How to retrieving an item from the cache
    • How to make data available offline
    • How to cache multiple versions of a Web Page
    • How to set constraints for the items in Cache
    • How to cache frequently used static data
    • How to store user-specific items into cache
    • How to cache groups of related items
    • How to use caching in a multi-server application deployment
    • How to update the cache based on user events
    • How to update the cache based on system events
    • How to monitor cache performance using performance counters

    Cache location

    • How to develop a cache location strategy
    • How to cache data in UI components
    • How to cache data in business entities
    • How to cache data in data access components
    • How to cache data in data access helpers
    • How to cache data in service agents
    • How to cache images on the client
    • How to retrieve cached data

    Cache store

    • How to develop a cache storage strategy
    • How to use static variables for caching
    • How to use session state to cache per-user session state in ASP.NET applications
    • How to use client side caching for better server performance in Web applications
    • How to use page output caching in ASP.NET applications
    • How to use fragment caching for web pages
    • How to implement client side caching using hidden fields
    • How to implement client side caching using ViewState
    • How to implement client side caching using hidden frames
    • How to implement page fragment caching using Cookies
    • How to implement page fragment caching using Query Strings
    • How to use Internet Explorer caching

    Expiration Policy

    • How to choose an appropriate expiration policy
    • How to invalidate the cached data based on relative time periods
    • How to invalidate the cached data based on absolute time periods
    • How to invalidate the cached data based on notification of file
    • changes
    • How to invalidate the cached data based on notification of database
    • changes
    • How to invalidate an item from the cache when another cached item
    • changes
    • How to flush cached data that is obsolete or damaged
    • How to implement a flushing strategy to reduce memory and disk
    • consumption
    • How to notify the application when an item is removed from the cache

    Security Considerations

    • How to encrypt cached data to avoid data spoofing.
    • How to sign cached data to avoid tampering
    • How to implement thread safety for the cached items using locking
    • How to implement thread safety for the cached items using cloning
    • How to serialize cached items for use in an application farm
    • How to cache security credentials
    • How to cache configuration information

    Validation

    • How to cache data pro-actively
    • How to cache data reactively
    • How to implement asynchronous pull loading
    • How to implement notification-based loading
    • How to implement synchronous pull loading

    Communication

    • How to structure an application to optimize communication efficiency
    • How to protect communication channels
    • How to choose a communication protocol
    • How to flow identity across layers (tiers)
    • How to secure communication between the layers
    • How to design for synchronous communication
    • How to design for asynchronous communication

    Concurrency and Transactions

    • How to design for transactions
    • How to manage distributed transactions
    • How to design for atomic transactions
    • How to design for long running transactions
    • How to design for distributed transactions

    Configuration Management

    • How to design configuration
    • How to separate app data from config data
    • How to synchronize configuration across distributed environment

    Coupling and Cohesion

    • How to determine coupling between components and layers
    • How to maintain cohesion between components and layers

    Data Access

    Design

    • How to design your data access layer
    • How to design data abstraction
    • How to pass data across layers and tiers
    • How to model your data
    • How to page records
    • How to design for very large databases
    • How to design a domain-driven architecture
    • How to design a database-driven architecture
    • How to manage database connections
    • How to handle transactions
    • How to handle concurrency
    • How to design for a multi-tenant database

    Blob

    • How to handle BLOBs using the DataReader.
    • How to read BLOB data from the database.
    • How to write BLOB data to the database.

    Batching

    • How to execute SQL statements in a batch.
    • How to use Data Adapter for batch updates.

    Command

    • How to execute simple Inline SQL statements using command object.
    • How to execute SQL statements with parameters.
    • How to retrieve a single item result after executing a command.
    • How to execute data access commands asynchronously.

    Connection

    • How to use Windows authentication for data access.
    • How to use SQL authentication for data access.
    • How to create a connection object for a specific Database type.
    • How to protect connection strings stored in configuration files using

    DPAPI.

    • How to protect connection strings stored in configuration files using RSA.
    • How to protect connection strings stored on Web farm servers.
    • How to use Connection Pooling to improve command performance.
    • How to monitor connection pooling for SQL Server connections.
    • How to Retrieving Connection string details.
    • How to close database connections.
    • How to open an asynchronous connection.
    • How to use MARS to perform multiple operations on a single database connection.

    Data Reader

    • How to use DataReader to retrieve multiple rows.
    • How to use an index or ordinal-based lookup when using DataReader.
    • How to use DataReader for sequential access.
    • How to close the connection when using a DataReader.

    DataSet

    • How to populate a DataSet with the results from a stored procedure.
    • How to populate a DataSet with the results from a SQL statement.
    • How to populate a DataSet with multiple result sets.
    • How to update database tables using a modified DataSet.
    • How to perform indexed searching in a DataSet.
    • How to perform repetitive non-primary key searching.
    • How to filter data in a DataSet.
    • How to sort data in a DataSet.
    • How to use the Optimistic Concurrency Model for DataSet.
    • How to use Serialization.
    • How to use Binary Serialization while exchanging a DataSet over the network.
    • How to use XML Serialization while exchanging a DataSet over the network.
    • How to read XML data and populate a DataSet.

    Exception Handling

    • How to use structured exception handling in data access.
    • How to log ADO.NET exception details.
    • How to display friendly error messages to normal users.
    • How to show detailed error messages for debugging purposes.

    Paging

    • How to implement paging to retrieve user-specific records.
    • How to implement paging to retrieve application-wide records.

    Security Considerations

    • How to use a least-privileged database login.
    • How to restrict database access on hosted servers.
    • How to restrict unauthorized callers.
    • How to restrict unauthorized code from accessing data.
    • How to keep sensitive information out of your log files.

    Stored Procedures

    • How to pass a parameter to a stored procedure.
    • How to retrieve output parameter values of a stored procedure.
    • How to call a stored procedure using SQL and OLEDB providers.
    • How to Cache Stored Procedure Parameters

    Transactions

    • How to set an appropriate isolation level for a transaction.
    • How to execute stored procedures within a transaction.
    • How to use transactions when accessing data on a single data store.
    • How to use transactions when accessing data on multiple data stores

    Validation

    • How to validate input parameters used for data access.
    • How to prevent SQL injection when using dynamic SQL.
    • How to validate dynamic SQL using escape routines.

    XML

    • How to read XML data returned after executing a SQL command
    • How to retrieve XML data from a DataSet.
    • How to use OpenXML to perform bulk updates and inserts.
    • How to retrieve data from using bulk copy.

    Exception Management

    • How to design exception management
    • How to design for unhandled exceptions
    • How to design structured exception handling
    • How to design the appropriate display of exception data
    • How to plan for and design exception logging
    • How to propagate exceptions in a distributed design
    • Handling Exceptions
    • How to catch exceptions of specific type
    • How to use a generic error page for handling exceptions in Web applications
    • How to use catch unhandled exceptions
    • How to create a custom exception class to handle exceptions
    • How to display user-friendly error messages to users and detailed exception information for debugging purposes

    Logging Exceptions

    • How to log exceptions in the Windows Event Log
    • How to choose the event sinks for logging events in an application
    • How to create notifications for applications with a monitoring system
    • How to create notifications for applications without a monitoring system

    Managing Exceptions

    • How to manage exceptions in your application
    • How to propagate an exception automatically
    • How to catch and rethrow an exception
    • How to replace an exception with another exception
    • How to wrap an exception with a different exception
    • How to notify the user of an exception
    • How to avoid unnecessary exceptions
    • How to manage unhandled exceptions
    • How to design a structured exception handling architecture
    • How to use the finally block to releases the resources

    Layering

    • How to design layering
    • How to separate layers into areas of concerns

    Logging and Instrumentation

    • How to design logging
    • How to design instrumentation
    • How to configure logging
    • How to secure logged data

    Formatting

    • How to format messages to be logged.
    • How to use TemplatedMailWebEventProvider to define and format e-mail messages for event notifications
    • How to use BooleanSwitch to control logging message levels

    Log Store

    • How to identify the log store to be used.
    • How to log message to flat file
    • How to log message to XML file
    • How to log message to Database
    • How to use SqlWebEventProvider to log event details to a SQL Server database
    • How to log message to WMI event
    • How to log message to MSMQ
    • How to use EventLogWebEventProvider to log events to the Windows application event log
    • How to use SimpleMailWebEventProvider to send e-mail for event notifications
    • How to log message over network.
    • How to collate log information from different stores

    Security Considerations

    • How to sanitize message for sensitive data before logging.
    • How to protect audit and log files.
    • How to protect logging information in database.
    • How to analyze the log files for intrusion.
    • How to backup and archive application logs.
    • How to log details when accessing sensitive application data.

    Source

    • How to identify business / application critical events that needs to be logged.
    • How to identify unusual activities that need to be logged.
    • How to log windows authentication failures.
    • How to log Forms authentication failures
    • How to log invalid view state event.
    • How to log unauthorized access to files or folders.
    • How to log unauthorized resource access event.
    • How to log unauthorized actions not allowed by current trust level
    • How to log unauthorized access to pages and paths.
    • How to log application compilation errors.
    • How to log application configuration errors
    • How to log unknown errors.
    • How to log validation errors occurrence.
    • How to log unhandled exception occurrence.
    • How to log windows authentication success.
    • How to log forms authentication success.
    • How to log successful file or folders access.
    • How to log successful pages or paths access.
    • How to log user password reset / changes events.
    • How to log user creation / deletion / modification / lockout events.
    • How to log role assignment events.
    • How to log unhandled exceptions.
    • How to trace an application using logging
    • How to debug application using logging

    Tracing

    • How to control application tracing without recompilation
    • How to use TraceSwitch to control logging message levels
    • How to use TextWriterTraceListener to log in a text file
    • How to use EventLogTraceListener to write to an event log
    • How to use ConsoleTraceListener to write to an output or error stream
    • How to use XmlWriterTraceListener to log xml encoded data to a stream
    • How to create a Custom Trace Listener to direct output to a desired destination
    • How to use TraceWebEventProvider to log events as ASP.NET trace messages
    • How to use WmiWebEventProvider to map ASP.NET health monitoring events to Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) events

    State Management

    • How to choose the appropriate state model
    • How to flow call context data across application layers
    • How to design State Management
    • How to store state?
    • How to manage state in a web farm
    • How to protect state data

    Structure

    • How to factor the applications into layers, components and services
    • How to factor the application into tiers

    Validation

    • How to validate input and data against business rules
    • How to validate input and data for security
    • How to validate the integrity of data.
    • How to handle data validation exceptions

    Workflow

    • How to design workflow
    • How to choose a workflow technology

    User Stories at a Glance Example

    One of the most powerful techniques I use to rapidly gather user requirements is user stories.  I find that capturing user stories with the language, “As a user, I need to” .. or “As a user, I want to …”  really helps add context and clarity, while keeping it amazingly simple.   I also find that organizing the user stories by Hot Spots helps go a long way, especially when you are dealing with a large amount of information.   Below is an example where I was collecting user stories to rapidly figure out the top concerns of business leaders and Enterprise Architects when it comes to cloud computing.

    The beauty is that when you capture the user stories well, it is very easy to deal with both timeless stories and timely ones.   In this particular example, even though it’s a few years old, you can see that the top issues that it exposes are alive and well.  One additional point on this example is that I used another information pattern.  I call it the “View More” pattern.   I use it to bubble up the short-list and then push the rest of the list below the “View More …” heading.  It’s highly effective for organizing very large information sets, especially if you alphabetize the list.

    User Stories for Cloud Enterprise Strategy

    Categories

    • Awareness / Education
    • Architecture
    • Availability
    • Competition
    • Cost
    • Governance and Regulation
    • Industry
    • Integration
    • Operations
    • People
    • Performance
    • Planning
    • Risk
    • Security
    • Service Levels / Quality of Service
    • Solutions
    • Sourcing
    • Strategy
    • Support

    Cloud Enterprise Strategy Scenarios Map

    Category

    Items

    Awareness / Education

    • As a Business Leader, I want Microsoft to define their perspective on Cloud Computing and provide a holistic view of how their products, technologies and services help me
    • As an Enterprise Architect I want to know how the cloud architecture supports my business goals and enterprise architecture
    • As an IT Leader I want details on training and educating my staff in the use and support for the service

    View More…

    • As a Business Leader, I want to understand why I wouldn't go to a proven partner that has a history of doing this for my competition, one that is already providing a similar service as part of our outsourcing agreement
    • As an Enterprise Architect I want to understand how the cloud architecture reduces complexity
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want a way to see what my peers are doing, to learn and support each other
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want actionable guidance for prioritization of ground apps to cloud apps. How do I work out the balance for what should go into the cloud?
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want education on the content myself so that I am well versed in the specific items that apply to my customer
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to know the good, bad, and ugly so that I am not misrepresenting this to the customer based on marketing material
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to understand why I would even consider moving to the cloud. What we have works, why change?
    • As an Enterprise Strategy Architect, I want to understand the perceptions of customers and assumptions they will have that lead to preconceived ideas – and how do I ‘unlearn’ them to get to a better discussion
    • As an Enterprise Strategy Architect, I want to understand the right sequence of steps to educate a customer on cloud
    • As an IT Leader, I want to know where the complexity is in the cloud. Every new paradigm claims to be simpler but still has to deal with the same operational baggage – where is the complexity in cloud solutions?
    • As an IT Leader, I want to know why I wouldn't just go to a traditional outsourcer
    • As an IT Leader, I want to understand how I manage corporate data that may span multiple cloud scenarios
    • As an IT Leader, I want to understand why I would introduce yet another environment into my services and the associated complexity

    Architecture

    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to see reference architecture for compelling cloud scenarios that will help me build a desired end-state for my specific customer scenario
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to see case studies of both success and failure
    • As an Enterprise Strategy Architect, I want to learn about proven Reference Architecture patterns for the cloud.

    View More…

    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to understand Microsoft’s reference models for cloud concepts and terms.
    • As an Enterprise Strategy Architect, I want data movement and management patterns and best practices
    • As an Enterprise Strategy Architect, I want to identify Cloud System Integration Patterns (Cloud-To-Ground, VendorCloud-To-Ground, OurCloud-ToVendorCloud, VendorCloud-to-VendorCloud-to-Ground, etc)

    Availability

    • As a Business Leader, I want to understand geographical redundancy
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to know how to handle disaster recovery in the cloud
    • As an IT Leader, I want to understand the same details I would expect from my own data center (fault tolerance, back up procedures, disaster recovery etc.)

    View More…

    • As a Business Leader, I want to know what happens when the next country decides to block Internet access
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to learn how to evaluate cloud services for availability across all regions I need to cover. (What is the performance? What about support in a global environment?)

    Competition

    • As a Business Leader, I want to know how Microsoft’s cloud offerings compare to the competition, and especially Amazon Web Service
    • As a Business Leader, I want to understand how cloud offerings can give me a leg up on my competition
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want a way to know what competitors are saying and how it should be addressed

    Cost

    • As a Business Leader, I want to understand the cost structure for cloud solutions
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want a way to create a realistic cost model based on the current workload
    • As an IT Leader, I want to know if I need to migrate or rewrite my apps and what are the costs associated with this

    View More…

    • As a Business Leader, how do I manage the transition period in which I probably have to pay twice?
    • As a Business Leader, I want a consistent cost of service so that I can manage against my budget
    • As a Business Leader, I want to know how to manage cloud service subscriptions across a large enterprise to optimize subscription costs
    • As a Business Leader, I want to know that I am not going to incur a large spike in my costs as part of the migration to the cloud
    • As a Business Leader, I want to know what geographic redundancy does to my bandwidth usage and costs
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want a way to assist with the customer presentations and planning discussions
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want a way to identify areas in IT where cost reductions can be had with relatively low risk
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want the costs to be known and predictable so that I can budget accordingly
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to learn how to manage cloud service subscriptions across a large enterprise to optimize subscription costs
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to understand how to build the cost model for the customer
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want understand the taxation impact on Cloud based Transactions (state, Federal, inter-nation)
    • As an IT Leader, I want a clear cost breakdown contrasted against my current costs or if I used my existing environment
    • As an IT Leader, I want to understand how I can implement chargeback within my IT environment to provide more transparency on costs
    • As an IT Leader, I want to understand the cost structure for the cloud solutions

    Governance and Regulation

    • As a Business Leader, I want to know how to manage government regulations related to where certain info can be stored. (For large enterprise that have subsidiaries in several countries. A single cloud service may not be able to comply with each countries various regulation needs)
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want a way to address all regulations and restrictions that may be realized for my customers in all areas they do business
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to ensure I am meeting regulatory requirements

    View More…

    • As a Business Leader, I want to know how to adhere to the various government regulations related to pricing and information storage
    • As a Business Leader, I want to understand the environmental impact of moving to the cloud. How will this impact my green initiatives?
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to learn how to adhere to the various government regulations related to pricing and information storage.
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to learn how to manage government regulations related to where certain information can be stored.
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to understand the jurisdiction issues with the cloud and how to mitigate them for my region(s)

    Industry

    • As an Enterprise Strategy Architect, I want to identify the relevant cloud industry trends for the business.

    Integration

    • As a Business Leader, I want to understand how I integrate with my existing systems
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to understand how to integrate cloud solutions with my existing processes
    • As an IT Leader, do I need to move all my integrated apps to the cloud or can I do this progressively? What does this mean when apps are integrated (data, web services…)?

    Operations

    • As an IT Leader, I want to know how many environments do I need and what are the implications and costs (dev/test/pre-prod/prod)
    • As an IT Leader, I want to know how to integrate cloud reporting into my existing reporting infrastructure
    • As an IT Leader, I want to understand release management requirements to ensure they fit with our current procedures or do not create undue overhead

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    • As an IT Leader, I want to know what the reporting capabilities of the service are. This provides visibility to the business on how the services are performing.
    • As an IT Leader, I want to understand a holistic view on management that spans all cloud scenarios
    • As an IT leader, I want to understand how I model the health of applications that may span private and public clouds or fully deployed in public cloud to ensure I can have better control on service levels.
    • As an IT Leader, I want to understand how I model the health of applications that may span private and public clouds or fully deployed in public cloud to ensure I can have better control on service levels
    • As an IT Leader, what is the flexibility of an organization to decide of when upgrades are appropriate based on their priorities and rhythms and how can I test my environment before upgrading the production environment?

    People

    • As a Business Leader, I want to understand how my workforce must evolve to embrace the cloud
    • As a Business Leader, I want to understand how the cloud impacts my user base globally
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to know what this means to IT teams (Do I need to get rid of people or repurpose the teams -- which means here up leveling, training)

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    • As a Business Leader, I want to understand how various cloud scenarios impact my workforce levels
    • As an Enterprise Strategy Architect, I want guidance for measuring the impact of moving a system to the cloud (business and IT)

    Performance

    • As a Business Leader, I want to understand how my service level management processes need to cater to online service redelivery
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to know what are the availability, reliability, and scalability of the cloud (What do the SLAs mean? Do they still hold the same commitments?)
    • As an IT Leader, I want to know that I can make quick patches to address immediate quality of service issues

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    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want the cloud to provide elasticity for my business as it expands and contracts to address seasonal load
    • As an IT Leader, I want to know how to more effectively manage capacity requirements to avoid underutilized infrastructure and leverage online service more effectively
    • As an IT Leader, I want to understand the level of service I can expect for all of my user base

    Planning

    • As a Business Leader, I want to understand how I test the solution before deployment
    • As a Customer, I want to know how to work out the balance for what should go into the cloud – I accept it’s not 0% and not 100% - but how do I find the right balance?
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to develop some guiding architectural principles to help me build strategy and roadmap around Cloud Computing

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    • As a Business Leader, I want to determine the effort needed to migrate our existing solution. Is this a lift and shift? Is this a rewrite, do we extend?
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want a way to determine the items in the cloud offerings that are relevant to my customer
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want my application portfolio management to inject cloud relevant criteria to decide what moves to the cloud and when (if it all)
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to ensure we are not impacting the ability to realize change
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to know how I can reduce my IT infrastructure burden by bursting capabilities into the cloud when I can’t outsource the whole service to the cloud
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to know what maturity levels for what capabilities I need to ensure to better enable leveraging cloud scenarios
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to understand how I can treat my physical infrastructure assets as more of a fabric and abstract the complexities of OEM devices

    Risk

    • As a Business Leader, I want to know how I can retrieve my IP/Data should I decide to move provider (service lock-in)
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to understand the areas of risk that I am accepting by trusting an external data center and service
    • As an IT Leader, I want to know the blockers that lead to implementation failure

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    • As a Business Leader, how comfortable is a European company to host in a datacenter that is in the US?
    • As a Business Leader, I want to know what happens if the service is not reliable. What are my options? Can I easily find another solution and get out of the contract?
    • As a Business Leader, I want to understand the risks of depending on a single partner to run my business
    • As a Business Leader, I want to understand what is involved if we decide to return to our existing service
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to be able to test with low risk opportunities if we decide to proceed
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to know how to avoid vendor lock in
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to understand how to identify low risk opportunities for the cloud
    • As an IT Leader, I want to know the blockers for adoption that cause decision paralysis
    • As an IT Leader, I want to know where the complexity is in cloud based solutions

    Security

    • As an Enterprise Architect I want to understand what new security risks exist in the cloud and what old risks have been mitigated
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to know how I manage identity across cloud scenarios considering I’ve already invested heavily in my internal IT
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to know how to manage privacy and integrity of the data if it’s hosted in the cloud. (How do I restrict access to the data by the hoster, and what do I do about a local copy of the data that is synchronized regularly?)

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    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to know how to manage accessing cloud services from within the various heterogeneous internal networks
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to understand a holistic view on security that spans all cloud scenarios
    • As an Enterprise Architect, my company has invested in a common directory (AD/SSO). How does this work in the cloud?

    Service Levels / Quality of Service

    • As a Business Leader I want to understand who is liable in the event of a service failure
    • As a Business Leader I want to understand who is liable in the event of a security breach
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to understand what level of technical support is available to myself and my team

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    • As an Business Leader, I want to know if I’ll have to change my SLA with customers
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to know how the cloud infrastructure is supported

    Solutions

    • As a Business Leader, I want to try before I buy and have access to a proof of concept
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want access to experts that can do analysis on creating solutions to determine the issues, risks, and costs for migration
    • As an IT Leader, I want to understand the balance for what should go in the cloud; I accept it’s not 0% and not 100%, how do I find the right balance

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    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want a way to assist with the proof of concept
    • As an Enterprise Strategy Architect, I want to know how I can backup our Ground based HPC with the Cloud for on demand scale
    • As an IT Leader, I want my IT strategy to reflect Cloud computing, on-premises and off-premises capabilities

    Sourcing

    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to know how to do partnership management in the cloud. (Managing a partner is hard and when this comes down to the fact that the service can be unavailable it is even more important to do a good job)
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to know how to evaluate whether the application or system is considered core to my business and could be sourced to a partner in the cloud (Can the system or application be hosted outside of the intranet?)
    • As an Enterprise Strategy Architect, I want to know how to use the Cloud for our DR plan. (i.e. fail from Ground to Cloud)

    Strategy

    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to understand Microsoft’s strategy for cloud

    Support

    • As a business leader, I want to know how we integrate with our existing help desk for escalation
    • As a Business Leader, I want to know if there is a reliable support structure (24x7)
    • As an IT Leader, I want to know what happens if something goes wrong; how fast will I be notified of an issue, how long will it take to be addressed, what priority will I be given contrasted against the other consumers of the service?

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    • As a Business Leader, I want to know what the support implications are in a global environment
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to know how to evaluate or enforce a 24x7 support model with the cloud
    • As an Enterprise Architect, I want to know who I call if I am experiencing an issue with the hosted solution
  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Leadership is Who You Are

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    I'm honored to have a guest post by Alan Shelton.  It's Leadership is Who You Are.  Alan is the author of Awakened Leadership, and his guest post is about how the key to effective leadership is to be more of who you already are.

    It's a powerful idea.  Instead of changing who you are to be a more effective leader, you leverage who you are, and you bring out more of it, in an authentic way.

    One of the most useful leadership trainings I had years ago, focused on bringing more of who you are to the table.  The idea was to use your unique experience and values as a strength.

    In my example, one of my unique experiences was that I was a kickboxer.  Sports and personal growth are important to me.  What that means is that when I lead a project, I bring a personal growth perspective to it.  I find ways for people to spend more time in their strengths and I find ways for them to grow, while we take on new challenges.  I encourage people to push past their limits and expand their capabilities.  I encourage them to think of stories in their day to day, that reflect their private victories.  I use little wins as progress so that people flourish.

    That's what it means to bring more of you to the table to play your best leadership game.  It's connecting to your values, and using your unique experience to create an authentic arena for growth and greatness.  It unleashes more of your power because you are going with your grain, instead of against it, and you are creating experiences that are congruent with your values.  In other words, you get what you project, and you get more of what you focus on.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    10 Free Leadership Tools for Work and Life

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    As one of my wise mentors always said, “If it’s free, it’s for me.” (Tom, are you out there?)  Here is a quick list of free leadership tools you can use today, right now, to change your game.  These tools are battle-tested and have stood the test of time.  The beauty is you can take them wherever you go because they are leadership tools for your mind.

    If you want the lion's share of impact, then you need tools for today's world.  It's an ever-changing landscape, and things can rapidly change under your feet.  It's the information age, so the right tools, accordingly are information tools.   They are tools for your mind, to help you organize, prioritize, and gain clarity and control over your actions and your thoughts.  They also help shape your feelings.  A great deal of your action is shaped by how you feel.  If you feel overwhelmed, that is not your power stance.  You achieve way more, with less effort and more impact, when you feel unstoppable.

    That is the purpose of these tools – to bring out your best.

    These tools help you unleash your capability and funnel your action and energy into more meaningful impact.  Through focus and clarity, you amplify your impact.  By using a system with pluggable parts, it's easy to swap tools in and out, to find the ones that work best for you.   Because it's a system, you can tune and prune it to get better results, and they keep getting better over time.

    10 Free Leadership Tools for Making Things Happen
    Here are free tools that you can add to your leadership toolbox:

    1. Agile Results System.  This is the pluggable system.  Agile Results is a personal results system for work and life.  You can think of it as a simple system for producing meaningful results.  It's works for individuals and it works for teams.  It's also a highly effective time management system that puts an emphasis on flowing value to yourself and others.  It also helps you make time for what's important.  I've used it to lead more than 30 projects at Microsoft.  Around the world, people are using it for everything from business transformation to re-energizing their teams and leaders.  It's free.  You can get it today at http://GettingResults.com  (BTW – if you didn’t notice the acronym, it’s how to kick-ARS in work and life.)
    2. The Rule of Three.  This is your leadership tool to avoid information overload.  You can use The Rule of Three to chop problems down to size.  It's also a way to help keep your mind organized among the chaos.  You can use it any situation where you feel overwhelmed or have fallen into the trap of analysis paralysis.  Simply identify three actions to take.  Or, simply identify three take aways from any meeting.  If you are trying to get your priorities in order, start with the top three.  Bubble things up.  The Rule of Three makes it easy to manage your mind, and manage your actions. 
    3. Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection.  This is a free leadership tool for driving results each week.  It works by focusing on three wins each week and three wins each day.  Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection is simple to use.  On Mondays, you identify three wins that you want for the week.  Each day, you identify three wins for that day.  On Fridays, you identify three things going well and three things to improve.  The power comes from clarity in terms of priorities.  Another benefit is that you are taking both a fresh look each day, as well as zooming out to your week.  Additionally, you create a powerful learning loop through Friday Reflection so each week you are testing, learning, and adapting, while flowing value.
    4. Weekly Outcomes.  This is a free leadership tool to take Monday Vision to the next level.  The idea is to first dump out all the things that are top of mind, and then identify your top three wins for the week.  This is a powerful leadership tool for driving clarity across the team, and for showcasing progress.  It's also a powerful way to troubleshoot execution issues.  On Monday's, simply write down the list of the work to be done, and put it in A-Z order.   This forces you to name things well.  It also helps you clear you mind, by dumping it down onto paper.  It also gives you a simple place to look for the week's work.   After you have your list, which is ultimately a "brain dump", you next identify the three wins that you want for this week.  You simply bubble those to the top.   You now have a very simple list of your three wins, and then your A-Z list of top of mind issues and work to be done.   This puts you in the driver's seat to create clear and compelling goals, as well as drive priorities with precision.   The beauty is, you can also easily share this list with your team.  In fact, it's a great way to co-create the week together.  What I do is this ... each Monday (or Sunday night), I start a new email with the subject line:  Weekly Outcomes: 05/07/2012 (or whatever Monday's date is.).  I then do a fast dump of all the work I'd like to achieve with the team.  I then bubble up three wins.  I then send it out to the team and ask them to identify anything I've missed, or to reshape or re-prioritize the wins, based on their vantage point.  The beauty of this approach is that it works with distributed teams.   Throughout the week, you also have a handy list to refer to, and it can help keep your grounded while everything around you might be moving about.  See Weekly Outcomes: The Simple Weekly Planner.
    5. Monthly Theme.  This is a very simple, but very powerful free leadership tool.  The idea here is to identify a driving theme or priority for the month.  Having a theme makes it easy for everybody to contribute to the initiative.  For example, you might choose a theme of "simplicity" or a theme of "fun."  Whatever theme you choose, it should be relevant to a top concern that you want to address, and this helps get some extra elbow grease on the problem.  Having the theme gives the team an overall sense of purpose, and a way to connect what they do back to a bigger picture.  It makes the month more meaningful and the little extra efforts across the team on a daily basis, add up very quickly to exponential results.  If you don't have a theme for this month, simply identify one and start to socialize it.  You can quickly build a coalition in your favor if you pick a theme that people care about.  For example, a theme that I'm focused on now is "friction free delivery" where I want to streamline our consultants for world-class delivery in a way that's simple, effective, and repeatable, that gets the friction out.  Friction is anything from looking for assets or templates they need to figuring out what the anatomy of a great engagement looks like.  It also includes simplifying any tools or content to better support a "grab and go" approach over having to wallow and absorb how to put things together.
    6. Ten at Ten.   This is one of my favorite tools for reducing email and administration overhead and getting everybody on the same page fast.  It's simply a stand-up meeting.  I tend to have them at 10:00, and I set a limit of 10 minutes.  This way people look forward to the meeting as a way to very quickly catch up with each other, and to stay on top of what's going on, and what's important.  The way it works is I go around the (virtual) room, and each person identifies what they got done yesterday, what they're getting done today, and any help they need.  It's a fast process, although it can take practice in the beginning.  When I first started, I had to get in the habit of hanging up on people if it went past 10 minutes.  People very quickly realized that the ten minute meeting was serious.  Also, as issues came up, if they weren't fast to solve on the fly and felt like a distraction, then we had to learn to take them offline.  Eventually, this helped build a case for a recurring team meeting where we could drill deeper into recurring issues or patterns, and focus on improving overall team effectiveness.
    7. Show and Tells.   This is one of the best free leadership tools for helping enforce accountability.  The idea is this ... each week, have a recurring meeting where the point is to demo the work.  It gives people that have done great things, a great way to showcase their work.  For people that aren't delivering, it gives them a chance to feel some accountability to the team.  The most important problem it solves though, is that it helps people own demonstrating the value of their work.  It's one thing to do the work.  It's another to demo the work.  When you demo the work, it puts you in the mindset of the user, and you have to simplify your work so that it can be well-understood.  This process also helps the team air their dirty laundry among each other before going public.  That said, it's also a great way to showcase with customers, as long as the team has reached a level of maturity with their ideas, and is open to external feedback.  I made it a habit to include customers during our show and tells to really help spot problems early and make sure the pains and needs are being addressed.  The earlier the better, although there is such a thing as too early.  The is one of the most powerful leadership tools for really helping teams own improving their user experience.  It also is a powerful leadership tool in terms of helping people feel valued for the work they do.  The easier things are to demo, the easier it is to tell and sell the story.  It helps people practice their sticky messages and to feel a sense of progress.   It's also a way to build buzz and build momentum, while helping the team gain clarity across the team of what the different folks are bringing to the table.
    8. 30 Day Improvement Sprints.   Simply pick a focus to work on and commit to improving it for a 30 day timebox.  Committing to 30 days of improvement in a focused area, is easier to swallow than changing for life.  However, improving an area for 30 days, is actually life changing.  With 30 days, persistence and time are on your side.  It's a big enough time box that you can try different techniques, while building proficiency.  Using 30 days makes working through hurdles easier too.  A lot of the hurdles you hit in you first week, are gone by week two.  Little improvements each day, add up quickly.  If you look back on how many things you tried for a week and stopped thinking you hadn't made progress, the reality might be that you didn’t get to week two to see your results.  This is a great approach for building muscle on the team when adopting new habits or practices.
    9. Strong Week.  This is a powerful leadership tool for maximizing the impact of the overall team.   The idea is to have everybody spending more time in their strengths.  You can actually design a strong week by identifying the activities that make you strong, and reducing the activities that make you weak or drain you.  As you can imagine, this can dramatically amplify the results from each person on the team because you are deliberately having them spend more time in the things they do well and bring them to life.   This is one of the most effective tools I use to help anybody I mentor instantly start producing better, faster, more meaningful results.  For a step-by-step How To that walks through the process, see How To Have a Strong Week.
    10. Guidelines for Focus.  When it comes to leadership tools, focus is your friend.   One of he best ways to rapidly improve your results is to narrow your focus.  When you narrow your focus, you gain clarity on outcomes, and you can both measure and feel your impact with more precision.  You can also build momentum more quickly and this will quickly turn into a snowball of success that rolls in your favor.  Here is a comprehensive set of focus guidelines that you can use to really hone your ability to focus.

    Special Bonus
    Although you can do anything I’ve explained here on paper, on a whiteboard, or electronically, I do have a set of template you can use that might help with some things.  You can find the templates here:

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Monthly Burn Rate

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    One of the most useful patterns I’ve found to stay on top of a project budget is to think in terms of a monthly burn rate. As a program manager, one of my responsibilities is managing a budget. In the early days, I hated managing the budget because it always seemed like a lot of moving parts and more complex than it needed to be. That’s because it was.

    What I found is that thinking in terms of a monthly burn rate, helps simplify the budget and chunk it up into manageable parts. I’ve managed projects over a million dollars and I’ve managed much smaller ones. This approach scales up and down. The monthly burn helps avoid surprises at the end, and it helps you keep a pulse on the spend without getting mired in details, until you need to.

    Knowing the monthly burn rate makes it easy to calculate the overall spend. It also makes it easy to play out what if scenarios, such as when there are budget cuts. It also makes it easy to do draft ballpark figures, or to calculate your ask in terms of dollars if you need to extend your project.

    What I like about the monthly burn rate is that it’s a big enough chunk of time that you can see patterns. A monthly burn rate also works well for managing a portfolio of programs and projects. For example, if you’re business has an overall budget you need to manage too, then you should know at your fingertips, how many big and small projects you can run in parallel.

    Once you start trying to figure out the monthly burn rate, a lot of things fall into place quickly. For example, you can ask questions like, what’s the smallest monthly burn of your successful projects? What’s the average monthly burn rate across your projects? What’s the largest monthly burn rate?   This can lead to finding ways to do things better, faster, cheaper, and to cross-pollinate your project practices more effectively.

    Your monthly burn can also help put things in perspective. For example, at the end of the month, are you flowing the right value or making the right impact for your money’s worth?

    Once I switched to thinking in terms of the monthly burn, a lot of the previous budget management complexity went away. I think having a simpler mental model forced me to ask better questions. For example, when should the payment milestones be for any vendor resources? Could those be consolidated to the same day each month? When is the right time each month to review the work? Are there any anomalies in terms of vendor rates? Etc.  Instead of manage a composite of complexity, I was able to focus on managing well to the month.  If I took care of the days, the weeks too care of themselves, and if I took care of the weeks, the months took care of themselves, and so on.

    In any case, thinking in terms of a monthly burn rate helps you quickly calculate potential project spend. Once you get a baseline, you can quickly play around with variables, such as, what would the ideal team of resources be and what would that cost each month? What would the minimum team of resources be and what would that cost each month?

    This pattern has helped me make better choices around things like whether to start with a full team, or whether to add resources downstream, or whether to roll people off the project. Budget is a very real constraint, and it has significant impacts on how things get done. Using the monthly burn pattern is a powerful building block for building budgets. You can use it to help figure out affordable teams and project durations. Sometimes time is the main constraint. Sometimes budget is the main constraint. In any event, you can simplify your budget management by thinking in terms of a monthly burn rate.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Presenting Numbers with Skill

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    At Microsoft, we get a lot of chances to present numbers.   Whether it’s making a project pitch, or writing our reviews and quantifying our impact, numbers are everywhere.   And when we aren’t the one presenting, we are often reviewing the numbers that other people are presenting.

    It’s one thing to know the numbers.  It’s another to share the numbers in a meaningful way.

    As a Program Manager for several years, I’ve had to manage, show, and report on budgets.  I’ve had to quantify impact.  I’ve had to report status on key metrics.    I’ve had to figure out velocity and burn down.   I’ve had to show schedules and variance.   I’ve had to present estimates and calculate risk.   It comes with the turf.   Part of making impact, is knowing how to show it.

    The problem is, we don’t always get the best mentors or the best examples.   We don’t really learn how to present numbers in school, at least not with the same focus we get on learning how to read, write, and speak.   The more I see complicated charts and confusing figures that obfuscate key points, the more I appreciate the value of simplicity and elegance in presenting numbers.

    I found the perfect compliment to Edward Tufte’s, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.  It’s Painting with Numbers, by Randall Bolten.    It’s the best book I’ve seen on how to present numbers with skill.   Randall was a CFO for twenty years in Silicon Valley, so he’s got the benefit of seeing all the various ways, shapes, and sizes that people throw numbers around.  He’s exactly the right person to learn from when it comes to seeing through the numbers, knowing what they mean, and knowing how to present them more effectively to speak the truth, and to make better decisions … in work and in life.

    I wrote a post to elaborate on the book and get specific on the problems it addresses.   You can read more at Quantation: How to Present Numbers with Skill.  

    It’s a book I’m going to recommend to the people I mentor to help them advance their careers and take their game to the next level.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Intelligence is More Than IQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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