Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
This is a simple hack, but a powerful one. I call it “Sticky Stuff.” It puts information at your finger tips, such as To Do Lists, in a sticky way.
Here’s what I do. In Outlook 2010, I create a folder called “Sticky Stuff” and I add it to my “Favorites” short list:
In that folder, I create a new “Posts.” In Outlook 2010, the way to add posts to a folder is to “New Items”, then “More Items”, then “Post in this folder.” You can then add your To do Lists or any key reference information that you need at your finger tips. If you constantly get a barrage of information, and you need to have quick access to your action items, or if you need to have quick access to information that you constantly look up, this little hack should help a lot.
The beauty of this is it’s another pillar of helping me keep an empty inbox or a zero inbox. At Microsoft, where many of us get a few hundred emails per day of stuff we have to stay on top of, that’s a very big deal.
Note, when you need to edit a Post, you have to open the post, and click “Actions”, then “Edit Message.”
Have you ever felt like a phony? Like, if “they” found you out, they’d realize that you aren’t as awesome as they thought you were?
“Impostor syndrome” is a common issue.
Impostor syndrome is where you can’t internalize your success, and no amount of external validation or evidence helps convince you otherwise. So you work harder and harder to prove your success, but yet you still don’t quite measure up.
I’ve mentored a lot of people, and found that a lot of highly successful people actually have impostor syndrome, for one reason or another. For some, it’s because they feel they are in the fake stage of “fake it until you make it.” For others, it’s because their success doesn’t match their mental model of how it’s supposed to happen. For example, success came too quickly, or they feel they got a “lucky break.” For others, they don’t feel they match what a successful person is supposed to look like, or they don’t have the credentials they think they are supposed to have, or the specific experience they are supposed to have went under their belt.
So, it’s success on the outside, but no success on the inside.
And that leads to all sorts of issues, whether it’s a lack of confidence, or self-sabotage, or working harder and harder to validate their external success.
Luckily, there are proven practices for dealing with impostor syndrome.
I have the privilege of a guest post by Joyce Roche, author of The Empress Has No Clothes: Conquering Self-Doubt to Embrace Success:
7 Ways to Conquer Impostor Syndrome – Lessons from Successful Business Leaders
It’s a simple set of coping strategies you can use to defeat impostor syndrome and find more fulfillment.
Anatomy of a High-Potential
The Guerilla Guide to Getting a Better Performance Review at Microsoft
The Book that Changes Lives
This is a guest post by Mark Bestauros on what he’s learned about Value Realization at Microsoft. You can think of Value Realization as simply the value extracted from a process or project. Mark is the Microsoft IT Principal Business Value Realization manager, and a member of the Microsoft IT Portfolio Management Team, where he is responsible for the optimization of a significant IT spend across the Microsoft businesses. Mark is also responsible for the Value Tracking for projects in scope, and that has led to some big breakthroughs in terms of reporting the value of IT investments back to the business, and demonstrating the power of Value Realization.
I’ve asked Mark to share some of his key insights and lessons learned from his adventures at Microsoft in the art and science of Value Realization.
Without further ado, here is Mark Bestauros on Value Realization …
The Value conversation serves two main purposes in IT:
To accomplish the first goal, the organization need to have the Value conversation tied to the Personal Commitments for all those involved in IT work, and equally importantly, making sure that the a mutual understanding of priority positioning of the “Value” focus in the Conditions of Satisfaction conversations that usually take place between IT organizations and the benefiting business partners from the IT effort.
Without having the Value activities reflected in the commitments and missing in IT native processes, almost all involved in project work automatically de-prioritize the Value work, starting with turning a blind eye on a missing business case analysis at the inception point and ending with walking away immediately after a project Pre-deployment sign off meeting, washing their hands from any commitment to measure and evaluate the actual benefits hoped for at the Envision or “Plan” phase.
The key to success is to embed Value experts at the business and IT border checkpoints. You need Value experts who are well versed in understanding how to sell the Value argument. You also need professionals who can guide the average IT professional through estimating effectively (versus guestimating). You also need to embed the most cost effective, and time effective, means to measure baselines and project logical improvement deltas at the business and IT border checkpoints. This will help you facilitate effective Portfolio Planning and prioritize demand more effectively, prior to having the all up IT/Business Leadership Team Planning marathons.
Evidencing the argument about the viability of the IT organization in any company with actual Realized Value is very compelling only if the Value reported passes these tests:
There are few characteristics or knowledge areas that makes a value practitioner successful in changing the culture and move the Value Organizational Maturity in the right direction:
A value practitioner can’t achieve that alone, while overcoming organizational undisciplined Value approaches if any exist at all, lacking individuals Value commitments and the unwillingness of the business customers to engage in meaningful Value (BCA, VRF or BVR efforts), he/she needs air cover and a value sponsors (usually are found in the Finance Community or if lucky, a CIO or a member of two of the senior leadership) to facilitate the conversation and help open the doors.
On the tactical and execution level the Value practitioner needs to:
The three technical challenges are primarily:
There are known techniques that address each, and there are some that I had to improvise to make them fit the maturity stage of the target organization. In all cases, getting stakeholder agreement to the assumptions, transferring functions, and using the Dollar as an IT solution provide horse power to go a long way.
I have a long history of keeping an empty email inbox. More than a decade. Not because I don't get lots of email. I do. And, I send lots, too. That's how I stay connected around the world, and it's part of my daily job.
By lots, I mean a few hundred directly to me each day (not CC, not part of distributions, etc., directly to me with actions required)
So clearing my mail is a daily chore, but it's not a daily win.
At one point it was.
Long ago, one of my early managers said that I need to stay on top of my email. I was getting hundreds per day and they all required some sort of action or response. It was insane. To me, it was a huge time sink.
My manager made it clear that I needed to process all my mail, but there's way more to the job than just that. I said, that if it doesn't count, then I don't want to do it. He said it was non-optional.
So, that day, I decided I would spend no longer than 30 minutes a day on email (what I considered administrative overhead.)
It was a bold goal. Sure, I was a fast typer, and a fast reader, but the daily onslaught of overwhelming amounts of mail was insane.
But, like with anything in life, there's always a solution. If you know where to look.
So I cast a wide net and basically found the people across the company who were the most amazing for dealing with information overload and for always being on top of their email. And, I found quiet heroes as well as very visible rock stars in the email management arena.
And, I studied them.
I modeled from their email practices and email management ways. That's how I formed the early version of my Zen of Zero Email.
Surprisingly, a lot of the strategies and tactics came down to doing exactly the opposite of what other people did. In fact, my most surprising lesson was the one I learned the hard way, when I reached the limit on Outlook's number of inbox rules. I forget what the number was at the time, but it was a lot. Since I couldn't add any more rules, I had to change my entire approach. That day, I went from a crazy set of rules, down to exactly one inbox rule.
Surprisingly, years later, it's still just the one inbox rule.
And, still, I hit zero email in my inboxes on a daily basis.
This way, I'm never paper shuffling. I don't lose actions or reminder among a sea of email.
Basically, I transformed my approach for email long ago, after a lot of pain, and a lot of trail and error, and by studying the best of the best in action, in the most extreme scenarios.
Here's why I tell you this ...
"Clear my email" is something I do daily, but it's “below the line.” For me, it's not a win anymore. It used to be. But now, it's well below the line … it’s just expected, and it’s just something I do.
It's below the line, and if it takes me more than 15-30 minutes daily, it's actually a flag for me that I'm spending too much time.
Rather than focus my day on how to react or deal with email, I can just always systematically clear my inbox and be done. I get back to everybody. Sometimes, it's as simple as acknowledging I got it, and a note that I'll respond more deeply later. But staying on top of my email means that I have a very simple stream of potential action and insights.
But the big deal is that it's a "below the line" activity.
It's not my high value activity.
So I spend as little time as possible in it, yet get the most benefit that I can.
That said, a decade ago, that very much would have been a win for me.
It probably would have been one of my Three Wins for the Day for a while.
But that's the point.
The goal isn't to focus on things to do forever. It's to transform them so that you can do them better, faster, cheaper -- or eliminate them entirely. And, spend more time where it counts.
It's how you move up the stack.
This is a long-winded way of saying, "Clear My Email" is no longer a win for me. It's a highly effective habit that helps me spend more time in my higher value activities.
And for that, I'm actually grateful.
I don't know that I made all the points that I wanted to, and I wandered a bit, but I thought the little story of transformation might be useful for you, and might help you think about how you pick off your Three Wins for the day (if you're doing Agile Results.)
It's also a reminder for me how easy it is to take for granted and actually forget how difficult things were at one point, and how a few proven practices can be transformational, and how they can pay back daily.
And, every now and then, instead of writing a 20 minute post, I like to write a 5 minute one.
10 Big Ideas from Getting Results the Agile Way
Agile Results on a Page
Clearing Your Inbox
The Zen of Zero Mail
I’m testing the user experience again at 30 Days of Getting Results. It’s worth it and I want to get it right, since I have a lot more people asking me about training now for Agile Results.
If you can take the new experience for a test drive, and give me feedback on whether you like the new experience over the original, that helps a ton. (Unfortunately, I don’t have live A/B testing. If you don’t know the original experience, imagine a simple white page with a list of lessons on the side, and I have a screenshot below.)
If you don’t know Agile Results or what 30 Days of Getting Results is all about, here’s the scoop … 30 Days of Getting Results is a serious (and free) self-paced time management training course. It full of time management skills and productivity skills.. You’ll learn how to triple your productivity (actually, you can 10X it, but I’m trying to under-promise and over-deliver.) Teams across Microsoft are using Agile Results to master time management, improve their productivity, and drive more value … better, faster, cheaper … and most importantly, more meaningful.
What’s the secret? … Oh nothing … just more than ten years of testing, experimenting, and refining across many, many people and teams to create a simple and flexible system that could stand up to some of the most rigorous scenarios and requirements. Agile Results is holistic and it rides above the top of things. It’s a synergy of proven practices that help you work on the right things, at the right time, the right way, with the right energy. It’s about flowing value and focusing on the essential things that matter, using the 80/20 rule. It’s about playing to your strengths, teaming up to achieve more, and hitting more windows of opportunity. It’s about lighting a fire so you can blaze a trail through your workload, breakthrough barriers, and jump the hurdles that stand in your way.
It’s about thinking in threes: three wins for the day, three wins for the week, three wins for the month, three wins for the year. It’s about adding Power Hours to your week so you can whip out more achievements in less time, with greater ease. It’s about adding more Creative Hours to your week so you can find and flow more creative solutions, invent your next best thing, and unleash the productive artist in you. It’s about recharging and renewing with skill. It also puts science on your side, including the best learnings from positive psychology and sports psychology to unleash your best performance. It’s also a synthesis of proven practices for motivation, directing your focus with skill, prioritizing with decisive action, and making your moments count. For the softer side, it’s an East meets West productivity system, where you will do less, achieve more, and enjoy more effortless ways of producing outstanding results.
With that in mind, here are the two experiences I am testing …
Experience A: Flashcards Experience A is currently live at 30DaysOfGettingResults.com
With this experience, you see a set of visuals that represent each lesson. When you click a lesson, that lesson expands and shows you the outcome, the insight, and the action for the day. The upside with Experience A is that it’s interactive and it reinforces the idea that you don’t have to go through the lessons sequentially. Each lesson is self-contained. While the overall training is designed with a flow in mind, you can dive into whatever lesson you want.
Experience B: Simple List of Lessons
With this experience, it’s pretty straight-forward – it’s a list of lessons down a side-bar, and each page is a lesson. In fact, that’s why I liked this experience. It’s very simple, very minimal, and no confusion. Just pick a day, click and go. While the upside is simplicity, the potential downside is boring. That said, boring and functional is fine by me, but I need to hear from more users, on what they prefer.
A few people told me last week that they wanted a more visually appealing site and more interactivity. Ironically, I had spent a lot of money on the pictures for each page, but it just wasn’t obvious with the original landing page (Experience B above.)
I do think that Experience A does really showcase the images and it does encourage click-through. I find myself clicking the lessons and exploring a lot more. I know the novelty wears off, but maybe novelty is all I need if it helps you learn the 30 lessons.
It’s time for another take. Here it is:
The Exponential Results Formula
I made a mistake when I first named it. I called it, The Way of Success (sort of Bruce Lee style.)
While it certainly is the way of success, it really is more of a specific technique for getting exponential results.
I grew up in a world where results talk and BS walks.
And, time is a limited resource.
While I like learning, I don’t like wasting time, unless it’s by design. (And, sometimes it is.)
As a patterns and practices kind of a guy, I’ve studied and tested many, many, … many ways to find the keys to getting better, faster, and cheaper results. Cheaper can mean all sorts of things, but in this case, I mean it to be less cost, more efficient, and less wasteful.
In other words, I want more from the time and energy I already spend.
Don’t we all.
I also want to know “the map” and where I am on the map. This is especially true if it’s a long journey. As Zig Ziglar said, “People do not wander around and then find themselves at the top of Mount Everest.” Similarly, they don’t wander around into being a doctor. Or wander around and write a book.
Making great things happen usually takes great effort. That’s why passion and purpose are important.
But passion and purpose only get you so far. There’s a saying here that’s pretty relevant:
If all you have is motivation, but you have no technique, or the wrong strategy, that’s a recipe for failure. Or, it’s at least a recipe for a lot of wasted time and energy, and lackluster results.
Strategies, techniques, and mentors are the short-cut.
They help you find more effective paths and avoid dead-ends.
And that’s where the The Exponential Results Formula comes in.
It frames out a way to model success and amplify your impact.
After all, if you’re going to go for it, then why not go big.
As they say, go big or go home.
As a strategist, I need to stay on top of how the world of business is changing, especially from an IT perspective.
The world of business is changing faster than ever.
Changes are happening in the ways we work, business models and processes are evolving, customers are changing what they value and how they buy, and technology is transforming and shaping the next generation Enterprise.
Likewise, the smart CIOs and IT organizations are significant shapers of the next generation Enterprise. They are doing so by rethinking business models, reinventing the organization, and rewiring operations.
In their whitepaper, Making the Shift to the Next-Generation Enterprise, Cognizant shares 8 future-of-work enablers you can evaluate against to help you build a strategy to future-proof your business.
According to Cognizant, the following are unprecedented, relentless and perplexing challenges that organizations of today face:
According to Cognizant, the following are the 3 R’s of corporate model transformation to future-proof your business:
According to Cognizant, the 8 future-of-work enablers are as follows:
According to Cognizant, you can map the 8 future-of-work enablers to the 3 R’s of corporate model transformation as follows:
According to Cognizant, you can evaluate against a specific set of KPIs within each area of corporate model transformation:
According to Cognizant, there is a prescription for outperforming the competition:
“Tomorrow’s corporate winners have already started to adapt their corporate operating models. Based on a survey of 25 Fortune 500 companies, we have found that, on average, organizations are aware of future-facing concepts and capabilities, and they have begun enabling these capabilities in pockets of the organization. However, the initiatives are inconsistent and not always focused on the strategic business agenda.”
According to Cognizant, CIOs and IT organizations are shapers of the next generation Enterprise:
“Woven into this trend, we are seeing that the most mature adoption is happening at the technology layer of the corporate operating model. This suggests that the IT organization, and perhaps the role of the CIO, are evolving as drivers and shapers of the next-generation enterprise. This is not all that surprising, given that a large aspect of this work is underpinned by technology that powers long overdue business process transformation. We believe the real opportunities will present themselves as the business models are rethought and the operations/ processes are reinvented, along with this trend to rewire the technology.”
6 Steps for Enterprise Architecture as Strategy
How To Turn IT into an Asset Rather than a Liability
Strategy Must Be Dynamic
WHAM! ...POW! ...WONK! ... SLAM! ...
No, it's not Batman. Those are the sounds of a friendly neighborhood Microsoft foosball player ... "En Fuego."
"En Fuego" is the expression we would say at our humble foosball table, when somebody was "on fire." On fire is like when you are in your element and all of a sudden you are firing on all cylinders and playing at another level.
That is "En Fuego."
I remember the first time I was "En Fuego” on the foosball table. It was unreal. It was as if my shots were not done *by* me ... they were done *through* me. The ball sizzled. My wrists snapped at just the right time. The ball whizzed by the defense and slammed against the metal back ... TWHACK!
Ah, if you've never experienced "En Fuego" ... you haven't lived. Anyway, I think you get the idea of what it's like to "be on fire."
Now let's switch gears and talk about another scenario.
It's "Hair on fire."
That's not a good thing.
There are all sorts of expressions for this, some better than others, but the main idea is that somebody is running around, as if their hair is on fire. It's no better than running around like a chicken with your head cut off.
It has many causes. Some of the top ones include:
Maybe you know a certain someone? …
Anyway, there is a solution. It's "Peaceful Calm." Peaceful Calm is the term we used on our team, when we were relaxed, resourceful, and ready for anything. It’s like James Bond, poised for success. Anticipate more, get surprised less, be ready for anything.
Help a friend go from "hair on fire" to "En Fuego."
The first step is Peaceful Calm.
“Until we’re educating every kid in a fantastic way, until every inner city is cleaned up, there is no shortage of things to do.” – Bill Gates
Bill Gates was my original inspiration for joining Microsoft. Here was a guy with all the money in the world that showed up everyday, and put in more hours than most people I know, to change the world.
He had ruthless focus on empowering people and building a better world.
Technology just happens to be his way.
Related to this, a funny thing happened a few weeks back. I was meeting a colleague I hadn’t seen in a while. While I was waiting, I noticed a poster on his wall.
It was a poster of lessons learned from Bill Gates. It was 25 lessons learned from Bill Gates.
Lesson #18 caught my eye:
You get better by listening to your toughest critics. Your greatest source of growth can come from the people that will tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear. Bill says, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Bill also says, “You’ve got to want to be in this incredible feedback loop where you get the world-class people to tell you what you’re doing wrong.”
I started to read a few more of the lessons. #25 also caught my eye:
Connect people, process, and technology. Create a digital landscape or a virtual world to reduce friction and to create new possibilities. Bill says, “One of the wonderful things about the information highway is that virtual equity is far easier to achieve than real-world equity…We are all created equal in the virtual world and we can use this equality to help address some of the sociological problems that society has yet to solve in the physical world.”
I had to ask my friend where he got the poster from. He told me from my site:
Lessons Learned from Bill Gates
How funny was that?
My friend had formatted the poster so well, I didn’t recognize my original post from long ago.
Anyway, I did a quick formatting sweep of my post, Lessons Learned from Bill Gates.
Hopefully, the lessons are easier to read now, and better emphasize the insight that Gates has shared with the world over his lifetime.
BTW –- if you have any favorite lessons from Bill Gates, feel free to share them.
Microsoft Explained: Making Sense of the Microsoft Platform Story
Microsoft Secret Stuff
Steve Ballmer Quotes
The First 11 Employees of Microsoft
The Microsoft Story
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I have a guest post from a colleague, Rob Boucher on lessons in love. It’s no ordinary post. Rob dives deep. If you’ve been looking for love in all the wrong places or just want to grow what you know about love, it’s a lengthy post on the ins and outs of love, and finding your way forward. To put it in context, it’s what Rob knows now that he wish he knew then.
Rob has a developer background, he’s a musician, and he has a passion for customers. Microsoft has been his stomping ground for making impact in big ways, including The Microsoft Application Architecture Guide. He’s on the Windows Azure product team now, working on some amazing things.
Check out Rob’s post on what he’s learned about love, and use the lessons he’s learned the hard way to serve you for life.
I’ve updated my menu at Sources of Insight to make it easy to dive into hot topics including Innovation, Leadership, Personal Development, Productivity and more. (here is the full Topics pages.)
I made them front and center on the top menu bar:
I’ll be testing the effectiveness of this new menu for the next 30 days.
Here was my previous design:
There are pros and cons to both.
I’ve struggled with my menu, so I’ll share some of my learnings.
With my previous design of the top bar, Home | Archives | Explore | Topics | Resources | Store | About | Contact, it was easy to see the site navigation at a glance, and make sense of it. Another advantage is that the idea of Great Books, Great People, Great Quotes, was simple and clear, and it was easy to see Special Guests, including Best-Selling authors. The challenge is that it buried some interesting topics, under Topics.
So it was simple, but relatively generic, and some of the most interesting topics were nested under Topics.
With my new menu, Innovation | Leadership | Productivity | Personal Development | Fun are right in your face. Better yet, when you click More …, you have additional interesting topics right there, including Emotional Intelligence, Happiness, Intellectual Horsepower, Motivation, Strengths, and Time Management. This has several advantages. The main thing is that it puts hot topics at your fingertips. It also helps you get an instant sense of the scope of the site, and variety of coverage. It also makes it easy to showcase some interesting topics. Related, I can easily shuffle some of the popular topics to see which ones readers are hungry for, as well as test new topics. But a big downside is, my sub-menu looks more complicated now. I didn’t want to give up the Great Books, Great People, Great Quotes, or the Special Guests, since they are key features of Sources of Insight.
I’ve studied menus. Many menus. Many, many, many, too many menus. And, I’ve played around with my own menus for many years. Menus really are a living thing (or they die, and information starts to die.) That said, they are powerful when they are simple, intuitive, and help users achieve their goals, or explore and find interesting things (I’m a fan of supporting both River AND Goal people.)
I finally stumbled on a really good menu design article that clicked for me:
How To Design Effective Navigation Menus
What I liked was the simple flip through of many menu designs at a glance. This made it really easy to compare and contrast across multiple designs very quickly, as well as explore designs I hadn’t seen before.
What caught my attention though, was the following section on how the BBC has enormous information, but slices into a simple set of seven categories:
There’s more to the story than that, but I liked the idea of a “Hot Button Bar” at the top, where, without thinking, you could simply “Dive In.”
While my site might not qualify yet as an enormous amount of information, it is getting there. I have more than 1,000 blog posts, and many of them are significant in size.
Here’s the most interesting thing to me, though. As soon as I chose this particular set of categories, I found myself wanting to produce some highly-targeted articles to really create a compelling experience for somebody drilling into these categories. I also want to create “Getting Started” articles for these Hot Spots as well as some Overview types articles, and definitely more How Tos, and more Checklists.
I think my driving philosophy behind my design is:
Think less, explore more, and yet make sense of the site at a glance.
I’m a fan of simplicity. On one hand, I feel like a lost some simplicity on the sub-menu. In fact, specifically, I just don’t like having too many options visible. I also don’t like that some of my most significant pages feel a little buried on my Resources page. My Trends page feels really lost and yet it’s my trends posts that change lives and companies. On the other hand, even though it’s more categories at a glance than I like up front, it does make it easy to dive into some very different parts of the site.
While I may not have “nailed it”, at least I think I’m trending in the right direction, and most people I think will quickly find information they need or want.
I’m also hoping that I stumble on additional design moves for my menu that I don’t expect. I actually didn’t expect to put the current set of topics on the main menu. But, I like it. It’s effectively:
My open issue to solve is how to consolidate my sub-menu, while keeping the simple story of Great Books, Great People, Great Quotes, and making it easy to dive into key resources that are buried under the Resources page, including Checklists, How Tos, Lists, etc.
Keep in mind, as much as I’m complaining, all you really need to do is just click on the Resources page and you have bunches of resources at your fingertips.
But, like I said, I’m a fan of simplicity, and yes, I want my cake and eat it, too.
If you get a chance, dive in, take a look around, and let me know your thoughts.
There are articles in there that have helped people do amazing things.
If you just want some quick inspiration, take a stroll through my inspirational quotes collection.
Here is a sampling to get you started:
Explore for more.
As of yesterday, Getting Results.com served up 200,000 views on the home page. If anything the traffic seems to continue to grow. A friend of mine said to approach awareness of Getting Results the Agile Way as a slow burn, rather than a big bang. I think he was right. With this approach, I continue to invest in terms of building out the Agile Results Knowledge Base, tuning the 30 Days of Getting Results, and working on the adoption and readiness story for individuals, teams, and organizations that want to adopt the approach.
While putting together business scenarios for the cloud, one of the scenarios that came up is “create new revenue streams from existing capabilities.” The business opportunity, solution, and benefits are summarized as follows:
Monetize business capabilities as a revenue generator. Leveraging a cloud platform to achieve a business capability can prove profitable through extending the implementation for others to consume on a subscription basis.
"Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships." -- Michael Jordan
I've been asked recently about competitive talent acquisition strategies. I'm not a recruiter and I don't play one on T.V., but I thought I would share what I've seen work in the real world.
People are the life-blood of any company. They generate new ideas and find new ways to create value. I’ve seen teams, orgs, and companies grow or die based on the people they acquire, and their talent management strategies. Brain drain, as we call it when top talent leaves, is a very real threat to any otherwise big, bold, goals and initiatives.
Here is my five-minute brain dump on what works when it comes to attracting top talent:
Note, I didn’t plan on 21, but I’m glad I landed there. How lucky.
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.
One of the most important things I learned long ago is the power of trends, and how they can help you anticipate.
Now, each year, as a habit, I put together a serious and significant roundup of trends.
Here are my trends collections at your fingertips:
(If you read nothing else, read the Trends for 2013 post. It’s hard-core.)
If you can see things coming, you can prepare for them. Sometimes you can really embrace them and ride a wave. I use them to help me play out possibilities and to inspire new ideas and create new value. I also use them to avoid being surprised, or at least surprised less. In the arena that I’m in, it’s easy to be left behind if you don’t skate to where the puck will be.
That’s true for many businesses, and it’s true for many careers.
While I had always paid attention to trends, in 2009 was really a turning point for me. I was working on the Microsoft Application Architecture Guide (you can think of it as playbook for building applications on the Microsoft platform.) As part of the effort, I needed to know where the IT industry was going. I also needed to know how the Enterprise landscape would change.
I remember the exercise of mapping out the trends. What’s obvious now was not as obvious then, since some things were just starting to take off in the Enterprise, or early in the market. One of the big shifts was to REST. Another big shift was to more virtualization. In fact, a few big Enterprise shops that I know, were using virtualization and calling it their private “Cloud.”
Here is the Mind Map of trends I created back in 2009:
Behind the scenes, what I was doing was effectively polling many development shops around the world to see what was hot and what was emerging. Meanwhile, I was cross-checking on where CIOs were putting their money. I was cross-checking that with analysts and trend spotters. I paid a lot of attention to where big companies were placing their bets. I expected rippled effects in the industry.
I needed to have a good handle on the trends and emerging patterns because I needed the book to be ahead of it’s time, or at least not dated out of the gate. (A key pattern I learned here is to create “evergreen” and durable frames so that as technologies churn, the main frames stay the same.)
The big things that popped for me on the map, at the time, were: Agile, Business Intelligence, Big Data, Cloud, Rich-Internet Apps, and User Experience. And, the shift to REST was disruptive. I was starting to notice how some customers that were embracing the Cloud were leap frogging ahead. I also noticed how customers who invested in user experience as a first-class citizen were building higher-quality applications that people wanted to use. With too many choices, user experience wins. The apps that make you feel good, make you personally effective and connect with others win.
I learned a few valuable lessons from the exercise:
On a personal level, you can also use trends to help you decide your bigger decisions in life, including your career path. For example, I know some colleagues that saw Big Data as the place to be, and they started working on their data scientist skills, and are now seeing it pay off.
I’m starting my trends research a little earlier this year. I’m paying attention to examples of things like m2m (machine to machine) scenarios and possibilities in the real world. I’m especially interested in Television 2.0 — The $2.2 Trillion War for your Living Room. I’m also paying attention to more wearable computing scenarios, as well as innovations in education, health, and manufacturing. I’ve heard some amazing stories of 3-D printing as a disruptor. And, I’m hoping for some really surprising possibilities with phones.
As Peter Drucker said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it”, and Alan Kay said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it!”
If you’re not shaping your future, someone else is.
I was reading a nice little eBook on Opportunities and Challenges with Agile Portfolio Management.
Here’s the part that caught my attention:
“Johanna Rothman, an Arlington, Mass., consultant and author of Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects, said understanding the value stream of an existing product or ongoing project is key. ‘If we stop talking about people as resources and start talking teams, we have a better way of managing the portfolio,’ she said. ‘If we flow work through teams, we’re much more likely to be successful; teams get things done in software.’”
Well put, and that it matches my experience.
Here’s what I’ve seen in my travels to different organizations …
I see a common mistake the team level when it comes to effective execution and productivity:
Teams of capabilities vs. teams of one.
Individuals work problems instead of the team works shared problems.
It’s the resource vs. team mentality.
In other words, the team gets split into individuals working individual problems instead of the team working on shared problems together.
In that case, it’s not really a team effort. It’s individuals doing mini-projects as a one-man band. Instead of a team of capabilities, you get teams of one, and capability varies. Worse, because it’s individuals driving projects as an individual, they wear many more hats, and spend less time in their strengths. So you end up with individuals performing sub-optimal, and you never experience the benefits of an actual high performance team.
When you work problems as teams, and have people spend more time in their strengths, you can better optimize for the strengths on the team. You can also balance better for the weaknesses. You can also put simple systems and processes in place that lift everyone’s performance to new levels. Ultimately, individuals on the team can spend more time on their unique value, and less time reinventing wheels and re-solving basic execution challenges.
5 Questions for Capability and Capacity for High Performing Teams
How To Lead High Performance Distributed Teams
Kanban: The Secret of High Performing Teams at Microsoft
How do you rehydrate, revitalize, or renew a brand?
I thought that a post on rebranding would help people get a new lease on life. I see people hold on to dead brands, launch fizzle brands, and kill brands by being all things to all people. I see this happen to individuals and their personal brand too.
I decided to ask the best in the business ... Al Ries. Aside from a best-selling author, Al is one of the best business consultants in the world on branding and positioning. After all, he's written THE book on "positioning."
Al wrote a fantastic guest post for me:
How To Rebrand a Brand
It's a masterpiece.
If you are looking at how to rehydrate your product or yourself, it's a MUST read.
From the Archives Reference Models, Reference Architectures, and Reference Implementations – A reference model is is a model of something that embodies the basic goals or ideas, and you can use it at as a reference for various purposes. It’s like having a topology map of the key concepts. A reference architecture provides a proven template solution for an architecture for a particular domain. A reference Implementation goes beyond a reference architecture and is an actual implementation. The way to distinguish between a reference architecture and reference implementation is simple: If it’s an exemplar of the architecture, it’s a reference architecture … If it’s an exemplar of the implementation, then it’s a reference implementation. Each serve different purposes, and require different levels of detail or abstraction.
40 Hour Work Week at Microsoft - One of the most important lessons at Microsoft was learning the value of a 40 hour work week. I’ve been on time, on budget for 10 years on projects ranging from grass-roots or “best efforts” to $ million+ investments. In my first few years, I was on time, on budget through heroic effort. That’s not sustainable and folks don’t want to sign up for that more than once. Luckily, I learned early on how to drive more effective results by fixing time and flexing scope, while flowing value, and optimizing team health.
From the Web Productivity Personas - Personas are a simple way to share examples of the different types of behaviors. Anybody can be a mix of some or all of the various personas. No persona is good or bad. Some are more effective than others, depending on the situation. The key is to use the personas as a lens on behavior. You can analyze yourself, other people, and common interactions. We all have the capacity for the various behaviors. The trick is to know your preferences and the preferences of others. This is a set of personas relevant to the productivity space.
Motivation - Motivation is the “Why” behind the goal. It’s your little engine that says you can, when the rest of you says you can’t. It’s also the same force that on a good day can help you move mountains. Motivation is a life-long skill that you can improve through self-awareness and proven strategies. The better you know your own drivers and levers, the more effective you’ll be at getting the results you want in your life.
This is a guest blog post from Martin Sykes. Martin has been involved with Enterprise Architecture and IT Strategy for 15 years and is today a coach in Microsoft Service’s Enterprise Strategy Centre of Excellence. He’s also known for his use of visual storytelling techniques and is one of the authors of Stories That Move Mountains: Storytelling and Visual Design for Persuasive Presentations. (watch his top rated session on storytelling from TechEd New Zealand if you want to improve your own presentations)
Without further ado, here’s Martin on Value Realization …
This week I was teaching a class for our Enterprise Architects where we covered some of the most important topics for success as an EA, with one of the sections focused on the identification and delivery of value. If “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” then I think it’s fair to say “Value is in the eye of the customer”, although depending on your perspective you might replace customer with stakeholder or shareholder. In this posting I will cover some of the things we talked about that can make a big difference when creating business cases, and ensuring you realize the value promised in the business case.
What’s the first thing you do when creating a business case? Some may start by clarifying the scope, some by identifying the real drivers for change, some the budget.
I recommend you should first think about who will care about the opportunity proposed in the business case. Who will be reviewing it? Who will be approving it? What do they care about? Every business case must have good numbers, let’s take that as a given. Those numbers must be correct for the business case (and your reputation) to be credible. But while a business case must have the numbers it is more than the numbers. Even for purely internal teams the business case is a proposal for someone to make an investment decision, or more bluntly, to buy something.
Let’s turn that last statement around, when you create a business case you are selling something. So before you start work on that business case spend some time really understanding the consumer of the business case to work out why they will ‘buy’ your ideas now. This is important even if your customer is your own management, who have asked you to write the business case.
Use the insight into your customer to work out what narrative (or story) needs to go into the business case to support the numbers, to ensure you focus on the aspects that are important to the goals of the stakeholder. This is where so many standard templates fail to inspire. They take a business case to the point where it has all the logical argument and can totally miss, or at least hide, why the proposal is important and relevant to the customer today.
If value is the difference between cost and benefit then let’s look at all the different types of benefit that can come from making a change. I like to use a benefits structure developed from ideas first published by the Information Systems Research Centre of Cranfield University School of Management back in the late 1990s. The desire to make a change, or create a business case often comes initially from a belief that there will some form of improvement or financial return. In most organizations belief is not good enough - that’s why we ask people to work on a business case – so the team at Cranfield defined four levels of benefit that be used to build a business case:
Observable – these are the benefits we can see, but have not worked out how to measure. These could be improvements in morale or changes in the culture of an organization.
Measurable – one step up from observable and we now have identified some way to measure the benefit. For a cultural change program you could start to survey staff members to understand their attitudes to work and track this over time. Unfortunately you may not know what the current value for your measure is, and the first task may be to go out and do an initial survey to set a baseline.
Quantifiable – if you already have some data for the measures you might use then we call the benefit quantifiable. The best case here would be that you have a trail of historic data to show not only the current position but the existing trend. If you have a trend showing a slow but steady increase in staff turnover then you may be doing well simply to make a change that levels things off. If the trend was already improving then you have to do better than the trend.
Financial – finally, can you turn your measurement into financial value? If you know the costs of recruitment and training to bring in a new staff member you can define a financial benefit to balance against the costs of your proposed changes. There are two kinds of financial benefit though, the first is where you can recognize the value, but in reality you can do nothing with the money. This is typically the case where a proposal has identified savings in time because of a new process, but in reality the saving does not allow you to reduce staff numbers. All you can really do is re-purpose that time for more work. The second is where you can realize the value and actually have real money in the bank (or avoid spending some). If a new process allows you to achieve the current workload with 3 people instead of 4 then you have a choice to reduce staff costs and realize the benefit.
All of these benefits can be included in a business case and contribute to the value of a project, but in reality only realized financial benefits can be used to provide a return on investment calculation. If you want to learn more about this approach then watch my TechEd New Zealand recording from earlier this year.
Most of the business cases I see developed are used to secure funding, then used simply as a baseline for the project costs. As benefits usually cannot be realized until something is delivered this part of the business case is often quietly forgotten about. When an IT project team complete a delivery there is usually some form of celebration, the solution is handed to operations and a small group might be left providing some user training. The benefits drift away, someone else’s problem.
Here’s an idea I have only ever seen implemented a few times around the world, and that’s because it challenges a few basic assumptions about the role of a project manager and a PMO.
Change the definition of success for a project manager to be about the realization of value. Delivery is just another milestone. The PM should be required to stay on the project until the ROI stated in the business case is achieved. This makes the PM responsible for user adoption and achieving the benefits defined in the business case. Achieving the value becomes the goal of the project, resources are planned to ensure adoption happens, and measures are implemented to show progress. It also changes the types of business cases produced. Inflated expectations are pushed down by the PM to more realistic levels so the project can be reach the ROI as quickly as possible and the PM can move on to their next project. For such a little idea it can take a big change in mindset and culture to make it happen – but the result can be projects that have a much more demonstrable impact on the business.
Mark Bestauros on Value Realization
Graham Doig on Value Realization
I’ve created a book reviews at a glance page at Sources of Insight.
I read a lot of books and do a lot of book reviews. Previously, you could get to the book reviews through the book reviews category, but you had to flip through pages in order to find them all. Now the book reviews are right at your fingertips.
I do my book reviews a bit differently. They are more like movie trailers. Rather than focus on whether I like a book or not, I focus on what you can use from the book, in work or life, to get better results.
Here are a handful of my favorite book reviews you can explore to get a sense of how I do book reviews:
These also happen to be some excellent books for improving your effectiveness at work.
In fact, if you read nothing else, at least read The First 90 Days. It’s the book that will help you become a highly effective corporate warrior, in a peaceful warrior way. You’ll learn to see the chessboard and operate at a higher level. It includes everything from the five conversations to have with your boss to ramping up more effectively in a new organization. It’s definitely one of those books that I can point to as making a leapfrog in my career trajectory.
Surprisingly, I don’t have as many book reviews as a I should. I resisted doing book reviews early on because, in general, I wasn’t a fan of book reviews. Too often, I read book reviews that were just about whether somebody liked or didn’t like a book. What I really wanted was a deeper peek into the bowels of the book, and some highlights on what I could use, so I could figure out whether to get the book.
Last year, I decided to give it a whirl and just do book reviews in my own style. I wanted the book reviews to quickly map out the book, show what problems the book solves, and give highlights on the big ideas. Next thing you know, I started getting emails from readers about how they liked my book review approach and how my book reviews were like nothing they had seen before. So I continued to do them ever since.
So here it is, at your fingertips, my book reviews page.
It’s an evergreen page, so I’ll update it as I release more book reviews.
I’m a fan of strategy, and being strategic. To put it another way, I’m a fan of being intentional about spending my time and energy on things that produce more effective results. I’m not a fan of randomly throwing time and energy at things in a flurry of activity.
Life’s short, then you die, so it would be great to get more impact out of the time and energy you spend on things.
That’s where strategy fits in.
One of my favorite books on strategy is Being Strategic, by Erika Andersen. She defines strategy like this:
“Consistently making those core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future.”
I like that.
I’m not a fan of strategy without execution. For me, strategy is what shapes the execution. Strategy is a way to guide your tactics, or to shape your actions for better results.
Strategy is a beautiful discipline with depth and breadth. In fact, so much so that it can be hard to shift to being more strategic, if you aren’t used to thinking that way.
I wrote a simple post to help you be more strategic based on the approach presented in Being Strategic:
What’s the Hope, What’s in the Way, What’s the Path
It’s very simple, but very powerful.
Interestingly, each of the parts is powerful on its own. For example, just clarifying “What’s in the Way”, can help you instantly reveal what’s been holding you back or help you see a limiting belief that’s keeping you stuck. It also helps you put into perspective some of the real challenges that stand in the way between where you are, and the “castle on the hill” (you're hoped-for future.)
If you haven’t been a fan of strategy, because it’s either been too complicated, or something that “other people do”, or you’ve been let down by people that do a bunch of strategic planning, but no execution, I invite you to give strategy another chance.
Start to practice this simple little mantra: “What’s the Hope”, “What’s in the Way,” and “What’s the Path”
Use it to get clear on what you want, reveal the obstacles in the way, and help you clarify a more strategic approach to guide your tactics to get there.
By using strategy, and being more strategic, you can do more with less, get more out of the things you spend your time and energy on, and build momentum around your activities to help you achieve your success, whatever that may be, more consistently.
From the Archives Business Scenarios for the Cloud - While putting together lessons learned from our Enterprise Strategy cloud engagements, we consolidated a set of recurring business scenarios and themes. You may find these useful if you are thinking about cloud opportunities from a business perspective, and are looking for some common patterns and perspectives.
IT Scenarios for the Cloud - While putting together lessons learned from our Cloud-related Enterprise Strategy engagements, we consolidated a set of recurring IT scenarios and themes. You may find these useful if you are thinking about cloud opportunities from an IT perspective, and are looking for some common patterns and perspectives.
From the Web Time Management Checklist - Here is a checklist for improving your time management skills. It includes proven practices and time-tested strategies and tactics. You can use the checklist to inspect and evaluate your time management skills. You can also use the checklist as a simple set of one-liner reminders to draw from when you need them.
Leadership Checklist - I’ve created a leadership checklist that should act like a hub and spoke of effective leadership practices. The challenge is distilling effective leadership practices into one-liner reminders that are easy to evaluate the behavior, where possible.
I did an interview with Harvey Schachter on Agile Results and timeboxing (from my book on mastering productivity and time management, Getting Results the Agile Way.) Harvey is a freelance writer, who writes three columns a week for The Globe and Mail, Canada's national newspaper, on management and workplace issues. The Monday column is about management tips.
And that’s where I fit in.
Here’s the interview online:
How To Focus in 20 Minute Bursts
Here are some additional points about timeboxing to get the most from the interview …
The focus in the interview is to make more out of the thin time slices we have, and to cope with mental fatigue, even when chasing problems we love.
Basically, if we're doing significant thought work, we burn out our prefrontal cortex throughout the day. To put it another way, our brain works better in short-bursts, more like sprints, less like marathons. Books like Flow, The Power of Full Engagement, Flawless Execution elaborate on this quite well, and share stories and the science behind this.
Wandering around in work you enjoy, or even just staying engaged, is not the same as staying focused while producing tangible results. If you’ve ever gotten lost in your passion, but then had nothing to show for it, you know what I mean. We go through different stages of research, analysis, creative synthesis, and actual production of information assets or products. The shift from exploration to execution often takes deliberate focus, with a clear end-result in mind.
Directing our attention is a skill, and we can learn how to improve our precision. Edward de Bono has spent a lifetime teaching people how to direct their attention and how to leverage executive thinking skills by ordinary people. While focus may not a be a problem per se, there is always room for improvement, and we can improve both our ability to direct our attention, and our ability to focus for longer periods of time.
Additionally, while you can certainly use 20 minutes batches of extreme productivity or timeboxing to deal with drudgery and boring work, it’s better to eliminate the drudgery to begin with. Interestingly, drudgery happens more often when things are unbounded. Something can start off fun, but if there’s no end in sight and you don’t know how long you need to do it for, it can get old fast. And, the longer you continue unbounded, the more you’ll feel the tugs of competing priorities, especially if you don’t have a time and place for them.
Also, keep in mind that, single-tasking, or avoiding multiplexing is a way to boost productivity. Reduce open work to improve your productivity. Rather than have a bunch of open work, you close the loops, and finish what you start. A common pattern here is to stay focused on meaningful task, while having a background task to switch to, when you get stuck or blocked on the main task, or need a brain break.
Unfortunately, the value of single-tasking and avoiding multiplexing is often misunderstood, or undervalued.
While knowing is half the battle, doing is the harder half, but remember that if you want to flourish, it’s a journey, not a destination.
The key is to find your sustainable way, and that’s what Agile Results is all about.
Check out my interview with The Globe and Mail on How To Focus in 20 Minute Bursts, and be sure to stop by and say, “Hi.”
How I Use Agile Results
Personal Effectiveness at Microsoft
Is collaboration the new competitive advantage? Possibly. I do know that those at work that pair up on things, and combine their capabilities can outshine those that go it alone. And, I do see how people with better networks tend to have an easier time making their ideas happen.
I wrote a book review of The Collaboration Economy: How To Meet Business, Social, and Environmental Needs and Gain Competitive Advantage, by Eric Lowitt. Eric is an HBR.org columnist and the best-selling author of The Future of Value.
What happens when the world competes for water, food, and energy?
Take a guess.
What happens when the world finds new ways to collaborate and innovate around limited resources?
Sustainability is the new advantage, and collaboration is a key competitive advantage.
Visionary CEOs are embracing sustainability, not because it’s politically correct, but because their businesses depend on it for revenue, innovation, and competitive differentiation.
In a global market, hyper-competition, and increasingly connected world, your portfolio of partnerships can make or break you. If you have the right collaborative partnerships, you have a competitive advantage. Similarly, if you lack collaborative partnerships where it counts, you’ll be at a disadvantage.
Companies like Unilever, Coca-Cola, GE, and Nestle Waters North America are leading the way.
How’s that going?
That’s what The Collaboration Economy is all about.
Throughout the book, Lowitt shares stories and data, as well as actionable guidance on how you can help shape the future of the economy and of the sustainability of the world.
What I like is how Lowitt paints a big picture. He walks through the five primary natural resources used for power: coal, natural gas, nuclear, water, and renewable resources. He gives his take on the pros and cons of each, as well as some interesting stats.
It's not an easy read, but it is pragmatic at multiple levels, for leaders, and consumers, by showing how certain things can play out.
For example, as a leader of a business, you have to know when to compete and when to collaborate. As a consumer, you vote with your purchases. But there are also gate-keepers at various points in our system (such as those who gives you loans, etc.) that could very easily shift towards more eco-friendly ways and change consumer behavior.
Eco-friendly will vary.
I especially like that Lowitt addresses the topic from a business perspective, rather than just a “good intentions” or “greater good” perspective. He shows how “the great good” will make business sense for the long-haul. He is also clear that it’s not an easy road. There are very obvious choices and challenges along the way. But he also points out that this road can lead to very interesting innovations, new organizational designs, and will make or break some of the biggest companies that depends on global systems that sustain our daily life.
It’s both a thoughtful book and an actionable book. Lowitt provides a framework for action as well as guiding insights to help you challenge and change the status quo.
For a deep dive into the book and a sampling of the nuggets, check out my book review on The Collaboration Economy.
If changing the world is something you’ve always wanted to do, now might be a great time to do so.