Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
In their Value Disciplines Model, Treacy and Wiersema suggest that a business should focus on one of three value disciplines for success:
This re-enforces the idea by John Hagel and Marc Singer to split businesses into three core types (infrastructure businesses, product innovation businesses, and customer relationship businesses.)
The question of course is whether, does Traecy and Wiersema’s model hold up in today’s world, where business blends with technology, and social media makes customer intimacy a commodity?
There's a quote in Ferris Bueller's Day Off:
”Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Satya gets it.
Sayta reminds us to individually think about our broader impact, our deeper meaning, and the significance of everything we do, even the little things.
Here is how Satya reminded us to focus on our significance and impact:
“I want to work in a place where everybody gets more meaning out of their work on an everyday basis.
We spend far too much time at work for it not to have a deeper meaning in your life.
The way we connect with that meaning is by knowing the work we do has broader implications, broader impact, outside of work.
The reality is every feature, everything you do, or every marketing program you do, or every sales program you do is going to have a broader impact.
I think that us reminding ourselves of that, and taking consideration from that, matters a lot. And I that's a gift that we have in this industry, in this company, and I think we should take full advantage of that. Because when you look back, when it's all said and done, it's that meaning that you'll recount, it's not the specifics of what you did, and I think that's one of the perspectives that's important.”
My take away is, if you’re not making your work matter, to you, to others, you’re doing it wrong.
Microsoft Explained: Making Sense of the Microsoft Platform Story
Satya Nadella is the New Microsoft CEO
Satya Nadella is All About Customer Focus, Employee Engagement, and Changing the World
Satya Nadella on the Future is Software
Satya Nadella on Everyone Has to Be a Leader
Every time you have to remember what’s next to do, you waste your time. You've heard of "paper shuffling." This is like "thought shuffling." You spend a lot of time shuffling your thoughts around, but not actually doing anything.
Enter stage right … the power of lists.
Time management tips #15 is make lists for action. Use lists to organize and take more effective action. Lists are your friend. They help you organize your thoughts and ideas into action. Pilots use checklists. Sure they know what to do, but they also know that having the checklist helps free up their mind (specifically, their prefontal cortex). Teams use inspection lists to drive quality, share processes, and share work. Companies large and small use checklists for quality control and streamlining performance.
You can use lists to streamline yourself, improve your own quality, and simplify your work.
When you make your lists, test them against effectiveness. Keep them as simple as possible, but make sure they help you. Never become a slave to your list. If your list gets too big, start a new one and carry the good forward. Let things slough off.
Here are some of the most useful lists to have, when it comes to organizing your work and guiding your action:
Another useful list is a quick list of the steps for a given task. This can help you stay on track, or remember where you are, or easily find the next step. The trick is not to over do this, or over-engineer your steps, or worse, forget to be flexible in your approach. Focus on the goal, but stay flexible in how you achieve it.
Goals are always your guide.
Use lists to organize your work, organize your actions, and simplify your work and life.
For free, self-paced modules on time management training , check out 30 Days of Getting Results, and for more time management tips check out Getting Results.com.
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I wrote a simple step-by-step How To on How To – Achieve a Peaceful Calm.
It’s a simple way to achieve a peaceful calm state of mind. When your mind is relaxed, you can take in information with less distortion. You’re connected to your emotions, but rather than being overwhelmed or randomized, it’s more like using your emotions as input. When your mind is ready, you are responsive. You are able to easily see the situation and respond with skill instead of react out of fear or anxiety. When your mind is resourceful, you are able to easily think the thoughts that serve you. Your creative mind is ready to solve problems with you instead of work against you.
If your mind has been buzzing, you haven’t felt centered in a long time, and it feels like you’ve been building up, as Scott Hanselman would say, “Psychic Weight”, then you are in for a treat.
Take How To – Achieve Peaceful Calm for a test drive and let me know if it helps you get back in your zone.
I put together a collection of several of my greatest “ah-has” that have served me in work and life:
It’s no ordinary collection of insight. I attempted to capture things you can use everyday, and apply for the rest of your life. For example, have you ever wondered if there’s a way to really defeat procrastination? Is will power something you are just born with or can you develop it? When you are motivating yourself, should you focus on what you’ve already done, or should you focus on what’s left to do?
This collection covers various topics including communication skills, personal development, mind skills, motivation skills, and more. I paid special attention to things that can trip us up on a daily basis. For example, one of traps of the mind is the “I knew it all along” phenomenon”, which is also known as “hindsight bias” (and I like to call it 20/20 hindsight.)
To make the collection easy to use, I tried to do two things: 1) Provide the name of the insight or technique, and 2) Share a sticky little way to remember it in your mind. For example, I paired “Black Swan Theory” with “expect the unexpected.” I kept the insights compact and to the point. If you scan the list, you’ll have a wealth of wisdom at your finger tips.
I also focused heavily on surfacing many of the banes and burdens of our existence. For example, one of the worst traps to fall into is “learned helplessness.” It’s when you basically feel like you can’t win, so you give up, or stop trying. That sucks. There is answer to this, and it all comes down to our self-talk. If we develop a healthy “explanatory style”, we help stay out of the trap. Maybe you don’t fall into the trap, but maybe someone you know does, or maybe you are helping your kids learn how to thrive in the world … they need to learn this early on.
I also paid special attention to areas that address personal development and self-awareness. If you can build a great “owner’s manual” and “driver’s guide”, then you can truly make the most of what you’ve got. For example, have you heard of “The Golden Circle”? It’s the secret of many great leaders, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Steve Jobs. It’s all about how you think, act, and communicate from the inside out. In fact, many Microsoft leaders have this tool in their tool-belt, and it helps them make meaning, in their day to day activities, and in the bigger picture, we call life.
The post not only reflects a lifetime of learnings, but the post itself was hand-crafted with care. This is actually the post that has taken me the most time to write … ever. It’s not the length. It was the challenge of finding a compact way to distill so many lessons, and create an effective “hub/spoke”model, where each “spoke” or insight can point to more. It was also the challenge of how to sequence the insights. I played with several variations and ran them by folks to try to find what works best. I finally settled on a pattern where it’s in alphabetical order by the name of the insights, and coupled that to an actionable insight to make each one memorable.
Here is a key tip on how to make the most of the list. As you read the 101 Insights and Actions for Work and Life, find three take aways that you can immediately apply.
To do great things, it helps to study people that do great things and show us better ways to do things. It helps us build our reference library of what’s possible and it helps inspire us to new levels of success.
Most importantly, it expands our capabilities.
Chalene Johnson is a powerhouse when it comes to personal development. She continuously pushes herself, while expanding and exploring what’s possible physically, mentally. and emotionally. She’s a unique blend of entrepreneur, physical fitness expert, choreographer, author, life changer, and motivational speaker … and we can learn a lot from her approach.
I wrote up 27 lessons from Chalene Johson, but my favorite lesson is actually Lesson #7 – Success isn’t magic, it’s a method:
Chalene says, “It’s NOT luck — it’s KNOW HOW. There is a formula for everything.” You have to study the people that have the results that you want. Learn from their formula. Study what made them successful. If you can find the proven practices and the methods that work, you’ll speed up your success, and you’ll avoid the dead-ends. Finding a formula helps you establish and practices routines that will help you get better and better over time.
Personally, I’ve found this to be true time and time again. Whenever I got stuck, it was my strategy or approach. I just didn’t know the right formula or who to model from. There’s always a recipe. One of the most important things I learned on the Microsoft patterns & practices team is that if you look to the right sources, you’ll find the proven practices or the patterns that really work, even if it’s not well-known (in fact, part of our job on the Microsoft patterns & practices team was really to share and scale this knowledge more broadly.)
I’ve shared my personal rapid results formula before in The Way of Success, and it helps elaborate on how to model success in a more effective way. As Tony Robbins says, success leaves clues. We just need to be good students of possibility to find them and apply them.
Even if you’re not into working out, I think you'll enjoy lessons from Chalene Johnson on personal development, productivity, motivation, and more.
Glenn Watt, Senior Editor of Time Management Magazine, tells me that the first edition of Time Management Magazine will feature an article on Agile Results. Here is the press release:
JD Meier Article in the First Special Free Issue of Time Management Magazine
The first issue will be available September 23rd. The second issue will be available Oct 28th.
As you may know, I’m a fan of time management. Time is all we’ve got, and I think one of the best skills we can learn in live is how to spend our time on the right things, the right way, with the right energy. That’s the stuff that meaning, legacy, and impact are born from.
So I’m looking forward to the first edition of Time Management Magazine, and I’ll curious to see what sorts of frameworks, methodologies, tools, systems, principles, patterns, and practices get a focus.
I wrote another book review: The Charge: Activating the 10 Human Drives that Make You Feel Alive
I've been reading a lot of books lately, looking for ones that I can use at Microsoft. Microsoft is a challenging environment that pits your skills against some tough challenges. When you're working in an arena that supports the world, the game gets tougher. As you move up the stack, there is no shortage of traps, pitfalls, and challenges to stretch and grow you in new ways.
The way I stay on top of the game is primarily through three things:
I read a lot of books, anything from project management, to business skills, to personal development, to leadership and strategy. It's not like you can ever be too good, and the game is always changing. Learning the right methodology, method, or technique can be the difference between success and failure. Some of the best tools are new ways of looking at the world.
People can show you things fast. Like “monkey see, monkey do”, great habits can rub off on you, if you surround yourself with great people. People really are the short-cuts. More precisely, mentors are the absolute short-cuts. They've been there, and done that, so they can save you a lot of pain and help you avoid dead ends. They can also light the path to a better way of doing things. People really are the way to achieve better, faster, cheaper results in the real-world. When you experience masters in action practicing their craft, you know exactly what I mean.
Practice is taking the science and applying it to the real world. That's the art part. While practice doesn't make perfect, it does build skill, and skills are the difference that makes the difference. Motivation and ability are one thing, but skills are the amplifier of what's possible. The greatest growth I have seen time and again is when somebody expands their capabilities with new skills. It's how they change their game, play at a new level, and transform what they are capable of. It's like a martial artist graduating through the belts.
Anyway, back to my point about books. The beauty of books is that they are a fast way to learn smarter ways for better days. One of the most insightful books I've read lately, is The Charge, by Brendon Burchard. It's a book about how to light your soul on fire and bring out your best in work and life. What I like about the book is that it introduces a new framework for motivation that goes beyond what we need, and puts a new spin on what we want, backed by the latest neuroscience and positive psychology.
I wrote a book review that gives you a guided tour of the book and what you'll learn:
Note – My book review format is evolving. I’m trying to develop a format and structure that helps you very quickly get a tour of the book, and really understand what problems the book is solving, and what’s really in it for you. It doesn’t replace book reviews on Amazon, but it should be a nice supplement in that it gives you a quick bird’s-eye view, as well as deep dives into the content of the book.
Getting Results the Agile Way is a personal results system for work and life. It’s about making the most of what you’ve got, and helping you get exponential results, by working on the right things, at the right time, the right way, with the right energy. Most importantly, it’s about getting meaningful results, not simply doing more things. It’s also the playbook I wish somebody gave me when I started. It would have save me a lot of time, hard lessons, and accelerated my path in a more sustainable way.
The heart of the system is three parts:
That’s the system. But the system comes to life when you hear how people use it or how it changes their life.
Meet Tim Kropp.
Tim is an Information Security Program Manager, and here is his story of using Getting Results the Agile Way …
For the past 10 years I’ve been focused on two significant methods for getting results 1) Using Project Management methods (PMBOK) and 2) Franklin Covey’s “Habits”. In May of 2010 I began to apply the Agile Results process, and put simply, it has added completeness. While both Project Management, with its strong focus on planning correctly, and 7 Habits, with its foundation in values, are both effective - using Getting Results provides a few things that I hadn’t expected. You see, for several years I’ve been a big proponent of planning correctly, analyzing prior to implementing, long periods of thinking, and then implementing. My methods were incomplete. Agile Results provided completeness, agility, and flexibility to my approach. It’s not a matter of the PMBOK, or 7 Habits systems being better, or worse. It is a matter of the approach being different. It is now part of the big three methods right, not separate? So here is what I think is my “Big 3”:
Agile Results allow you to make adjustments, immediately or over time, as you need them. It’s more than just a systematic way of doing things. JD provides insight, advice, through proven practices that he and others use. It is more than just a Project, or a Value, or a Habit. It’s a combination of them all, and they all work together synergistically. So, pick any given project or goal you might have. Just try starting with something simple from this large swath of information from JD (another thing I learned – keep it simple). Say like, the rule of 3, the reflection pattern and then after a few weeks of trying it out, look at the results. It’s amazing. I did it. And you’ll want more. I was completely overwhelmed, overworked, and behind in a huge project delivery. I needed a way to get it done, effectively. JD gave me a hint to read through “Getting Started”. Of course, the last thing you want is more workload, but I listened and tried applying it immediately. I haven’t stopped. Every day, every week, even monthly, quarterly, yearly, the rule of 3 is my foundation. And now that’s just the beginning……….imagine what’s next. -- Tim Kropp, Information Security Program Manager
From the Archives Avoiding Do-Overs – Testing Your Key Engineering Decisions - From what I've seen, the most important problem is failure to test and explore key engineering decisions. By key engineering decisions, I mean the decisions that have cascading engineering impact.
Why 30 Day Improvement Sprints - I get asked this often enough that I think I should distill the keys.
From the Web Time Management Tips for Taking Action - Taking action is skill. It's one of the best skills you can use in conjunction with time management. The trick is to combine your time management skills in a way that helps you take more action. Here are 10 ways to take more action and improve your time management.
Time Management Tips on the Job – How To Be More Productive at Work - Time management is a skill you can use to be more effective at work and life. The trick is to focus on the vital few time management tips that keep improving your time management skills over time. This article shows you the key time management tips to apply to work and life that will keep improving your time management skills over time.
From the Archives Agile Architecture Method -- Scope and focus your architecture exercise, use scenarios to drive the design and evaluate potential solutions, and expose key choice points. It's a way to bridge traditional architecture with more agile, iterative, and incremental ways. This approach is the synthesis of more than 30 seasoned solution architects inside and outside of Microsoft, as well as security experts, and performance experts.
User Stories for Cloud Enterprise Strategy -- A collection of user stories for the cloud. This collection is a simple map of the most common scenarios that Enterprise Architects, business leaders, and IT leaders will be facing as they adopt cloud technologies. These are real scenarios from real customers, thinking through and planning their cloud adoption.
Windows Azure Whitepapers Roundup – If you want to read up on Microsoft’s cloud story, there are plenty of whitepapers to get you started. This is a collection of the various Windows Azure whitepapers around Microsoft for developers, IT Pros, and business leaders.
From the Web Motivation Guidelines – A set of proven practices for improving your motivation, finding your drive, and inspiring action. Motivation is a skill you can use the rest of your life. Find the key practices that work for you, and use this collection as your mental toolbox to draw from.
36 Best Business Books that Influenced Microsoft Leaders – The beauty of Microsoft is the extremely high concentration of smart people and I like to leverage the collective brain I posed the following question to several Microsoft leaders, past and present, and up and down the ranks, ““What are the top 3 books that changed your life in terms of business effectiveness?” This is the answer I got.
This is a very simple frame I use to help people rate their jobs:
It’s nothing fancy. It’s just a quick way to get a good sense of job they’ve got. Here are three quick checks:
If I were to expand the set, I might include a Competencies check, and a Culture check. Most importantly, I would include a Values check. The best job you can have, is the one where you can find a way to spend more time in your values. Notice how I said “find a way” – it’s rare that your dream job falls into your lap … it’s more of an exercise of shaping and transformation, both of the job, and of yourself.
Getting Results the Agile Way, is “The Book that Changes Lives.”
You can also think of it as “Agile for Life.”
It’s the book that changes lives because people have used it to build high-performing teams, transform their business, and best of all … transform themselves and unleash what they are capable of. My Mom even uses it for projects on the house.
It’s also the playbook I wish Microsoft gave me when I started, but it’s also a playbook for life … in terms of how to make the most of what you got.
It’s a simple system for meaningful results … and integrates the life-long lessons I’ve learned from folks like Ward Cunningham and others.
The stories I get from people and how they’ve used it to find the fire inside, or to start a business, or to get back on track, or to build a high-performing team, or how to get a great review, or to get back on their feet, etc. have been amazing.
I’ve used Getting Results the Agile Way to build high-performing teams wherever I go, but lately, I’ve been giving more talks to other teams. I’ve been giving talks to teams over the years, but now there seems to be a growing interest in how to build high-performing teams and high-performance individuals.
I’ll find a way to share the talk in the future. I have done variations of it for some companies outside of Microsoft. Consulting companies especially care because it’s a way to amplify the productivity of individuals, teams, and leaders. After all, who doesn’t want exponential results?
Until I create the video, your best bet is to read the kindle version of Getting Results the Agile Way, and explore the Getting Results Knowledge Base, which includes checklists, guidelines, and how tos for topics like focus, goals, motivation, prioritization, and time management.
The beauty of adopting Agile Results, is not only will it help you be YOUR best at work, but it’s focused on meaningful results, so you will automatically start to live the three paths of happiness: The Pleasant Life, The Good Life, and the Meaningful Life.
Live your extraordinary life … with skill.
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.
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein
Simplicity is among the ultimate of pursuits. It’s one of your most efficient and effective tools in your toolbox. I used simplicity as the basis for my personal results system, Agile Results, and it’s served me well for more than a decade.
And yet, simplicity still isn’t treated as a first-class citizen.
It’s almost always considered as an afterthought. And, by then, it’s too little, too late.
In the book, Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices), Roger Sessions shares his insights on how simplicity is the ultimate enabler to solving the myriad of problems that complexity creates.
Simplicity is the only thing that actually works.
Via Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices):
“So yes, the problems are complex. But complex problems do not ipso facto require complex solutions. Au contraire! The basic premise of this book is that simple solutions are the only solutions to complex problems that work. The complex solutions are simply too complex.”
It sounds obvious but it’s true. You can’t solve a problem with the same complexity that got you there in the first place.
“The antidote to complexity is simplicity. Replace complexity with simplicity and the battle is three-quarters over. Of course, replacing complexity with simplicity is not necessarily simple.”
If you want to achieve simplicity, you first have to explicitly focus on it as a core value.
“The first thing you need to do to achieve simplicity is focus on simplicity as a core value. We all discuss the importance of agility, security, performance, and reliability of IT systems as if they are the most important of all requirements. We need to hold simplicity to as high a standard as we hold these other features. We need to understand what makes architectures simple with as much critical reasoning as we use to understand what makes architectures secure, fast, or reliable. In fact, I argue that simplicity is not merely the equal of these other characteristics; it is superior to all of them. It is, in many ways, the ultimate enabler.”
Complex systems work against security.
“Take security for example. Simple systems that lack security can be made secure. Complex systems that appear to be secure usually aren't. And complex systems that aren't secure are virtually impossible to make either simple or secure.”
Complexity works against agility, and agility is the key to lasting solutions.
“Consider agility. Simple systems, with their well-defined and minimal interactions, can be put together in new ways that were never considered when these systems were first created. Complex systems can never used in an agile way. They are simply too complex. And, of course, retrospectively making them simple is almost impossible.”
And that’s the problem.
“Yet, despite the importance of simplicity as a core system requirement, simplicity is almost never considered in architectural planning, development, or reviews. I recently finished a number of speaking engagements. I spoke to more than 100 enterprise architects, CIOs, and CTOs spanning many organizations and countries. In each presentation, I asked if anybody in the audience had ever considered simplicity as a critical architectural feature for any projects on which they had participated. Not one person had. Ever.”
Simplicity is a quest. And the quest is never over. Simplicity is a ongoing pursuit and it’s a dynamic one. It’s not a one time event, and it’s not static.
“The quest for simplicity is never over. Even systems that are designed from the beginning with simplicity in mind (rare systems, indeed!) will find themselves under a never-ending attack. A quick tweak for performance here, a quick tweak for interoperability there, and before you know it, a system that was beautifully simple two years ago has deteriorated into a mass of incomprehensibility.”
Simplicity is your ultimate sword for hacking your way through complexity … in work … in life … in systems … and ecosystems.
Wield it wisely.
10 Ways to Make Information More Useful
Reduce Complexity, Cost, and Time
Simple Enterprise Strategy
Back in 2010, Gartner suggested that Business Value Realization would be Enterprise Architecture finally done right. Related, when people were confused by the scope of Value Realization, all we did was add "Business” up front (i.e. “Business Value Realization”) and that seemed to add instant clarity for people, and they said they got it.
They realized that it was all about extracting business value and accelerating business value.
The most interesting pattern I think I see is not that value is an individual thing.
It's that any individual can create value in today’s world – with their network, the ways they work, the technology at their fingertips -- they can focus on their end users and continuous learning, and operate without walls.
In fact, the enticing promise of the Enterprise Social vision is comprehensive collaboration.
There was an uprising in the developer world to create customer value -- it was agile.
It seems like the world is experiencing another uprising (and you hear Satya Nadella talk about a focus on individuals whether in business or life, focused on learning, collaborating, and changing the world.)
So it's not the CIO, the CEO, etc.
What is the new uprising?
Value is everybody's job.
I was reading The Fruits of Innovation: Top 10 IT Trends in 2014, by Mark Harris.
Harris had this to say about the evolving role of the CIO:
“In the end, these leaders are now tasked to accurately manage, predict, execute and justify. Hence, the CIO’s role will evolve. Previously, CIOs were mostly technologists that were measured almost exclusively by availability and uptime. The CIO’s job was all about crafting a level of IT services that the company could count on, and the budgeting process needed to do so was a mostly a formality.”
Harris had this to say about the best qualities in a CIO:
“The most effective CIOs in 2014 will be business managers that understand the wealth of technology options now available, the costs associated with each as well as the business value of each of the various services they are chartered to deliver. He or she will map out a plan that delivers just the right amount service within their agreed business plan. Email, for instance, may have an entirely different value to a company than their online store, so the means to deliver these diverse services will need to be different. It is the 2014 CIO’s job to empower their organizations to deliver just the right services at just the right cost.”
That matches what I’ve been seeing.
CIOs need business acumen and the ability to connect IT to business impact.
Another way to think of it is, the CIO needs to help accelerate and realize business value from IT investments.
Value Realization is hot.
Stephen Kell on Value Realization
Blessing Sibanyoni on Value Realization
Paul Lidbetter on Value Realization
Martin Sykes on Value Realization
Mark Bestauros on Value Realization
Graham Doig on Value Realization
I happened to look over to my bookshelf and noticed that I have two books that landed together by chance:
I’m a fan of “just enough.” One of my mentors liked to quiz me with the question:
“How much process do you need?”
The answer was always, “just enough.”
The question, of course, then becomes, how much is “just enough?” The answer to that is, it depends on what’s the risk? … what’s at stake? It should be commensurate to risk.
I always liked the example we gave regarding how much to invest in performance modeling:
“The time, effort, and money you invest up front in performance modeling should be proportional to project risk. For a project with significant risk, where performance is critical, you may spend more time and energy up front developing your model. For a project where performance is less of a concern, your modeling approach might be as simple as white-boarding your performance scenarios.”
Just enough not only helps you eliminate waste, in the form of unnecessary overhead, but it frees you up to better balance your other trade-offs and priorities.
I’m working my way through my massive book backlog, and doing reviews as a I go along. Yesterday, I wrote my review of Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes.
Today, I read and wrote my review of The Innovative Team: Unleashing Creative Potential for Breakthrough Results.
It’s perfect timing. Just yesterday a friend ask me if there’s some science and proven practices that we could apply to create high-performance teams, especially when there is a lot of innovation involved and we need to be more agile in how we execute our projects.
At the same time, we need to give enough time to really explore the problem domain and build some solid foundation to base our solutions on.
The Innovative Team directly addresses this dilemma. And it does so in a pragmatic way.
It does do by framing out the 4 stages of innovation and the corresponding cognitive style preferences that people tend to have. The book then shows you how to leverage these different cognitive styles that can often create conflict during the project cycle. It includes specific proven practices for elaborating on ideas and then converging on solutions and keeping things moving forward. At the same time, the framework is all about getting the best out of every one on the team and bringing them along.
It’s a recipe for creating and leading high-performance teams that deliver high-impact, innovative solutions for big challenges.
Here is a quick look at some of the things I found especially interesting …
Here is a brief summary of each:
Here are some common scenarios that you might see, or see yourself in, when working on projects and going through the various stages of innovation:
As you can imagine, this is a powerful books, especially if you do project work. It’s also powerful even if you just want to improve your own ability to innovate, either as a one-man band, or as part of a larger team, or leading a high-performance team.
If you want a deep dive on the book and more highlights to get a better sense of what this book is all about, check out my review:
The Innovative Team: Unleashing Creative Potential for Breakthrough Results.
High-Leverage Strategies for Innovation
Lessons Learned from the Most Successful Innovators
Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes
Nobody Wants to Invest
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.
If you are an avid quote collector, as many continuous learners are, check out my collection of Life Quotes.
I grouped the life quotes into key categories for easy browsing. I used the following categories for my life quotes:
I selected quotes from a variety of sources including Charles Shulz, Confucius, Emerson, Oprah, Tony Robbins, and more. I’ll need to make another pass and find some life quotes from folks like Bruce Lee.
While there is always the idea of work and life, and the idea of work-life balance, I think that life is pervasive, and it permeates who we are and how we show up at work. The line is a blur and I find the happiest people are those that can express their values on the job, and drive from their life style. The opposite is also true.
I rounded up the life quotes in a way that I think you will find to be very easy to scan and choose your favorites. I do recommend first reading the the top 10, but then hopping around to find three that light your fire or wrinkle your brain in some way. The best quotes hit a problem like a nail on the head. The real beauty of life quotes though is that they take on meaning based on the meaning you give them. It’s like when three people hear the same song, all have a different take away. Quotes are like that.
So please stop by, check out my Life Quotes collection, and share with me your favorite life quotes. I’m always looking to fill my toolkit for life, and life really is better with the right words.
When it comes to time management, one of the most common questions I get is, “How do you dump your state?” Meaning, how do you dump what's on your mind to a place you trust, and how do you pick up where you left off?
Time management tips #14 is dump your state. Dumping your state helps you pick back up where you left off, and it frees your mind to focus on the tasks at hand. It also helps you move up the stack. After all, if your mind is filled with little unclosed loops, you are not at your most resourceful and creative best.
When you have baggage of the brain, it's tough to focus. Your mind is busy circling back on the loops it hasn't closed. It's also buzzing endlessly in the background to remind you of the things you should not forget. All the mental chatter gets in the way of you having peace of mind, clarity of thought, and focused attention ... right here, right now.
That's one scenario of why dumping your state matters.
Another scenario where dumping your state matters is when we want to pick up from where we left off. We spend all day working on a problem, building up state, but then we can't finish, so we have to park if for the day. The problem is we want to be able to pick back up the next day, from where we left off. Worse, sometimes we can't pick up back up the next day, and then all the state we built up starts to rot on the shelf of our minds, or decays in some place that we may never find again.
So what can you do?
It's very simple, and I call it brain dumps or "Session Dumps." To do a “Session Dump”, just dump what's on your mind, down onto paper or onto a page, using your favorite system. For me, sometimes this is an email that where I will dump my whiteboard fast, or I use Onenote to dump, or I use EverNote to dump plain text. In most scenarios, I have notepad open on my desktop, and I constantly dump to it ... so instead of little insights or actions floating in my head, they are jotted down to where I can see and organize them.
It might seem like an endless list in your mind, but you’ll be surprised that the more you dump, the less it is. It gets faster too. And thinking on paper is powerful. When you see the list in front of you, you may very quickly realize what you can let go, and what you really need to hold on to.
Here's the real trick though. Since I do this daily, I found that the best approach is to simply "dump state" to a clean sheet each day, and to name it the current date. For example, for today, I would title my Session Dump as follows:
Naming my Session Dump by date means I never need to figure out a good title, and by keeping all of my dumps in one folder, it's easy for me to always find them. I use that simple format because I can easily flip through in sequence.
I have to let a lot of things go, so I can focus on the best opportunities and challenges that lie before me. Time is always changing what’s important. Having a rapid way to dump state or pick up where I left off is a big deal. Now I never have to wonder where I dumped straggling ideas, or things that were percolating on my mind.
At the end of the day, dump your state before you go home and see how much it frees you up.
For free, self-paced modules on time management training, check out 30 Days of Getting Results.
"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." -- Winston Churchill
I now have more than 300 articles on the topic of Success to help you get your game on in work and life:
That’s a whole lot of success strategies and insights right at your fingertips. (And it includes the genius from a wide variety of sources including Scott Adams, Tony Robbins, Bruce Lee, Zig Ziglar, and more.)
Success is a hot topic.
Success has always been a hot topic, but it seems to be growing in popularity. I suspect it’s because so many people are being tested in so many new ways and competition is fierce.
But What is Success? (I tried to answer that using Zig Ziglar’s frame for success.)
For another perspective, see Success Defined (It includes definitions of success from Stephen Covey and John Maxwell.)
At the end of the day, the most important definition of success, is the one that you apply to you and your life.
People can make or break themselves based on how they define success for their life.
Some people define success as another day above ground, but for others they have a very high, and very strict bar that only a few mere mortals can ever achieve.
That said, everybody is looking for an edge. And, I think our best edge is always our inner edge.
As my one mentor put it, “the fastest thing you can change in any situation is yourself.” And as we all know, nature favors the flexible. Our ability to adapt and respond to our changing environment is the backbone of success. Otherwise, success is fleeting, and it has a funny way of eluding or evading us.
I picked a few of my favorite articles on success. These ones are a little different by design. Here they are:
Scott Adam’s (Dilbert) Success Formula
It’s the Pebble in Your Shoe
The Wolves Within
Personal Leadership Helps Renew You
The Power of Personal Leadership
Tony Robbins on the 7 Traits of Success
The Way of Success
The future is definitely uncertain. I’m certain of that. But I’m also certain that life’s better with skill and that the right success strategies under your belt can make or break you in work and life.
And the good news for us is that success leaves clues.
So make like a student and study.
In the article, The Strategy Accelerator, Alfred Griffioen shares four gears for differentiation and competitive advantage:
Strategies for Each Gear Griffioen shares strategies for each of the gears, to make the most of your market position:
Sometimes small is the best way to make progress. In fact, sometimes it's the only way.
If you don't have time to do something big, do something small. Don't make a major production out of it, don't make a mountain out of a molehill. Chunk it down. It's a skill you can practice daily.
What's one small thing you could do … today?