Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
It was time for an update.
Here’s my Focus Checklist v2:
Focus Checklist (v2)
Here’s what’s new …
I organized the checklist into more meaningful buckets. It’s mostly the original list, but now they are grouped into better buckets to make it easier to turn into action. After all, a great checklist is measured both by it’s value and how actionable it is.
Focus is often the different that makes the difference when it comes to succeeding at work and succeeding in life. Otherwise, we don’t see things to fruition, or we bi-furcate our potential in ways that undermines our effort.
To make it easy to get to the Focus Checklist, I added a quick menu item to the feature menu:
You can still get to the checklists from Resources, but the saying “out of sight, out of mind”, tends to be true.
By moving Checklists to the feature bar, it will remind me to continue to turn insight into action in the form of simple checklists.
I’ve long been a fan of checklists for building better habits and sharing and scaling expertise. I’ve used them for security, performance, application architecture, and for personal effectiveness in a variety of ways. There’s actually a lot of research and science behind why checklists are effective, but I like to think of them as simple reminders and automation for the mind, so we can move up the mental stack and focus on higher-level issues.
If you’re a fan of Personal Software Process (PSP) or Team Software Process (TSP), you’ll appreciate the fact that checklists are one of the best ways to quickly, efficiency, and effectively radically improve quality, for yourself or for the team. Of course, that depends on the quality of the checklist, and your focus on actually applying it, and treating it like a living document, and keeping it updated with your latest insights and actions.
If you adopt checklists as your tool of choice for continuous improvement, you’ll be in good company. It’s how McDonald’s and Disney spread best practices. It’s how the best hospitals reduce errors and raise the quality bar. And, it’s even how the Air Force keeps fighter pilots from falling prey to task saturation.
Like anything, the value of the checklists depends on the user and the usage, and if you treat it as a static thing, that’s when problems happen. Use it as a baseline and adapt it to your needs, and update it based on your latest learnings.
If you do that, and you treat your checklists as continuous learning tools, and you continue to evolve and adapt them, then your checklists will serve you well.
Ugh … it looks like this post ran into some scope creep. This was supposed to be just letting you know that I have a new version available of my focus checklist.
Luckily, my 5-minute timebox in this case, reeled me back in.
PS – It’s worth noting that the practices behind this focus checklist are industrial strength. Folks with ADD and ADHD have used the practices in this checklist to retrain their brain to focus with skill. They learned to direct and redirect their attention, and to enjoy the process of focusing their mind on meaningful results.
I was reading a nice little eBook on Opportunities and Challenges with Agile Portfolio Management.
I especially like this part on “Work About Work” and how Agile helps avoid it:
“Agile software development is all about eliminating overhead. Instead of establishing hierarchies and rules, Agile management zeros in on what the team can do right now, and team leaders, developers and testers roll up their sleeves to deliver working software by the end of the day. Put another way, Agile software development favors real work over what I call "work about work." Work-about-work is that dreaded situation where creating reports about the project is so time-consuming it prevents you from actually working on the project.”
Agile helps you make things happen, and focus on work, versus “work about work.”
Team Execution Patterns and How the Work Gets Done
Are You Used to Delivering Working Software on a Daily Basis
Sometimes the best way to do something well, is to know what to avoid. In Ex-Windows Boss Steve Sinofsky: Here's Why I Use An iPhone, Nicholas Carlson shares some tips from Steve Sinofsky on analyzing the competition:
Sinofsky elaborates, and says to use the product deep, and use it over time. Use the product like it was intended by the designers. Wrap yourself around the culture, constraints, resources, and more of a competitor. And, don't take a static view of the world -- the competitor can always update their product based on feedback, or weaknesses you call out.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change” -- Charles Darwin
That's one of my all-time favorite quotes because it's surprising. It's not the smartest or the strongest, or even the fastest that survive ... it's the most flexible.
That says a lot about the value of agile and agility in today's world. I think of agility as the ability to effectively respond to change.
Intelligence is valuable too, but not just raw smarts. It's what you do with what you've got. There are multiple flavors of intelligence, and they can help you survive and thrive in today's world. Maybe you've heard of emotional intelligence, social intelligence, positive intelligence, or multiple intelligences?
I think how we look at our own intelligence can limit or enable us. For example, if you don't think you're intelligent, then you might not try to do intelligent things. For example, if you've defined intelligence in your own mind to mean something along the lines of "the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria", that singular view of intelligence might put a damper on how your view your own abilities (depending on how you scored on your IQ test.)
I wrote a post on What is Intelligence to elaborate and share what I've learned from Howard Gardner and his definition of intelligence.
I’d be curious on how your thoughts about intelligence have evolved and changed over the years, given how much of a premium people put on how smart you are.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin
I know a lot of people have had their lives turned upside down. Hurricane Sandy and the follow up Noreaster, really created some setbacks and a wake of devastation.
Disasters happen. While you can’t prevent them, what you can do is prepare for them and improve your ability to respond and recover.
I’m not the expert on disaster preparation, but I know somebody who is. I’ve asked Laurie Ecklund Long to write a guest post to help people prepare for the worst. Here it is:
Disaster Proof Your Life: How To Be Ready for Any Emergency
The goal of the post is to help jumpstart anybody who wants to start their path to planning and preparation for emergencies.
Laurie is an emergency specialist. She is a best-selling author, national speaker, and trainer that helps individuals, businesses, and the military survive natural disasters and family emergencies, based on her book, My Life in a Box…A Life Organizer. On a personal level, Laurie’s inspiration came from losing 12 people close to her, including her Dad, within the span of five years. She learned a lot during 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, and she’s on a mission to help more people be able to answer the following questions better:
Do you have a personal emergency tool box? Can you quickly locate your legal, financial and personal documents within minutes and be able to rebuild your life if something happens to your home?
Check out Laurie’s guest post Disaster Proof Your Life: How To Be Ready for Any Emergency, and start your path of planning and preparation for emergencies, and help others to do the same.
If you find you can't keep up with the world around you, then break things down. Breaking things down is the key to finishing faster.
Breaking things down is also the key to agility.
One of the toughest project management lessons I had to learn was breaking things down into more modular chunks. When I took on a project, my goal was to make big things happen and change the world.
After all, go big or go home, right?
The problem is you run out of time, or you run out of budget. You even run out of oomph. So the worst way to make things happen is to have a bunch of hopes, plans, dreams, and things, sitting in a backlog because they're too big to ship in the time that you've got.
Which brings us to the other key to agility ... ship things on a shorter schedule.
This re-trains your brain to chunk things down, flow value, chop dependencies down to size, learn, and, move on.
Best of all, if you miss the train, you catch the next train.
We live in amazing times.
The world is full of opportunity at your fingertips.
You can inspire your mind and the art of the possible with TED talks.
You can learn anything with all of the Open Courseware from MIT or Wharton, or Coursera, or you can build your skills with The Great Courses or Udemy.
You can read about anything and fill your kindle with more books than you can read in this lifetime.
You can invest in yourself. You can develop your intellectual horsepower, your emotional intelligence, your personal effectiveness, your communication skills, your relationship skills, and your financial intelligence.
You can develop your career, expand your experience, build your network, and grow your skills and abilities. You can take on big hairy audacious goals. You can learn your limits, build your strengths, and reduce your liabilities.
You can develop your body and your physical intelligence, with 4-minute work outs, P90x3 routines, Fit Bits, Microsoft Band, etc.
You can expand your network and connect with people around the world, all four corners of the globe, from all walks of life, for all sorts of reasons.
You can explore the world, either virtually through Google Earth, or take real-world epic adventures.
You can fund your next big idea and bring it to the world with Kickstarter.
You can explore new hobbies and develop your talents, your art, your music, you name it.
But where in the world will you get time?
And how will you manage your competing priorities?
And how will you find and keep your motivation?
How will you wake up strong, with a spring in your step, where all the things you want to achieve in this lifetime, pull you forward, and help you rise above the noise of every day living?
That's not how I planned on starting this post, but it's a reminder of how the world is full of possibility, and how amazing your life can be when you come alive and you begin the journey to become all that you're capable of.
How I planned to start the post was this. It's Spring. It's time for a refresher in the art of Agile Results to help you bring out your best.
Agile Results is a simple system for meaningful results. It combines proven practices for productivity, time management, and personal effectiveness to help you achieve more in less time, and enjoy the process.
It's a way to spend your best time and your best energy to get your best results.
Agile Results is a way to slow down to speed up, find more fulfillment, and put your ambition into practice.
Agile Results is a way to realize your potential, and to unleash your greatest potential. Potential is a muscle that gets better through habits.
The way to get started with Agile Results is simple.
For bonus, and to really find a path of fulfillment, there are three more habits you can add ...
A simple way that I remember this is I remember to think in Three Wins:
Think in terms of Three Wins for the Day, Three Wins for the Week, Three Wins for the Month, Three Wins for the Year
Those are the core habits of Agile Results in a nutshell.
You can start with that and be well on your way to getting better results in work and life.
If you want to really master Agile Results, you can read the book, Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life.
It's been a best seller in time management, and it’s helped many people around the world create a better version of themselves.
If you want to take Agile Results to the next level, start a study group and share ways that you use Agile Results with each other around how you create work-life balance, create better energy, learn more faster, and unleash your potential, while enjoying the journey, and getting more from work and life.
Share your stories and results with me, with your friends, with your family, anyone, and everyone – help everybody live a little better.
If you have an understanding of types of behavior change, you can design more effective software.
Software is a powerful way to change the world.
You can change the world with software, a behavior at a time.
Think of all the little addictive loops, that shape our habits and thoughts on a daily basis. We’re gradually being automated and programmed by the apps we use.
I’ve seen some people spiral down, a click, a status update, a notification, or a reminder at a time. I’ve seen others spiral up by using apps that teach them new habits, reinforce their good behaviors, and bring out their best.
To bottom line is, whether you are shaping software or using software on a regular basis, it helps to have a deep understanding of behavior change. You can use this know-how to change your personal habits, lead change management efforts, or build software that changes the world.
We know change is tough, and it’s a complicated topic, so where do you start?
A great place to start is to learn the 15 types of behavior change, thanks to Dr. BJ Fogg and his Fogg Behavior Grid. No worries. 15 sounds like a lot, but it’s actually easy once you understand the model behind it. It’s simple and intuitive.
The basic frame works like this. You figure out whether the behavior change is to do a new behavior, a familiar behavior, increase the behavior, decrease the behavior, or stop dong the behavior. Within that, you figure out the duration, as in, is this a one-time deal, or is it for a specific time period, or is it something you want to do permanently.
Here are some examples from Dr. BJ Fogg’s Behavior Grid:
Do New Behavior
Do Familiar Behavior
Stop Doing a Behavior
When you know the type of behavior change you’re trying to make, you can design more effective change strategies.
If you want to change the world, focus on changing behaviors. If you want to change your world, focus on changing your behaviors. (And, remember, thoughts are behaviors, too.)
The key to effective knowledge management is to throw away documents. You can’t get attached to what you write down. Otherwise, you can’t learn and it won’t evolve. But there is a trick …
You throw away the document, not the learning.
I learned this the hard way. Several years back, I was trying to rewrite a document that had a bunch of gems, mired among bad ideas and bad writing. It was the equivalent of spaghetti code. It was hard to figure out what was the insight, what was the action, and what was just interesting information, but not critical path.
I spent close to 40 hours trying to rewrite it. Granted it was a long document, but at some point I had to ask myself, which was faster – re-writing it, or starting over? Eventually, I realized, the right answer was to start over.
So I started with a blank document. And then I carried over the gems, and elaborated from there. Within 8 hours, I was done with the finished document.
The big lesson I learned was how difficult it actually is to reshape something that’s off, especially when it comes to written information. Since this was prescriptive guidance, it had to be relevant, actionable, and timely. It had to be insanely useful. And to do that requires a lot of manipulating words and phrases until the bright ideas compile into actionable guidance with conceptual integrity.
But “throwing away” a document was tough.
At least, it was tough until I realized that all the document really was, was a learning doc. It was a place to experiment and put ideas down on paper and bounce them off of other people, and get the collective perspective. The problem was, this learning doc, wasn’t the same as a bunch of notes. It was meant to be the final document. It was on path to be so.
But, along the way, what I failed to realize is that it baked in a bunch of our learnings.
It didn’t yet reflect creative synthesis, or distillation.
It was more like a trail up the mountain, and we were still on our way up.
I had a conversation with John Socha, the guy behind Norton Commander. I explained the challenge of producing useful documents, and how our learnings get in the way, if we don’t let the documents go. Surprisingly, he said to me, “Exactly!”
He continued and basically said that it’s the mistake a lot of people make. They hold on to their documents long past their usefulness, and don’t let the documents go, but carry the learnings forward.
I don’t know what painful lessons John had gone through to learn that, but at the time, it was fresh on my mind, and it had cost me 40+ hours of trial and error to move a document forward to learn that vital lesson.
You need to be able to throw documents away to create something better in its place.
When it’s pen and paper, it’s easier to throw something in the trash bin. But, when it’s a digital document it’s, it’s easy to forget what it feels like to start fresh. You don’t lose something. You gain something. It’s whitespace, where you are free and able to express things more clearly, now that you have more clarity.
Whitespace loves creative synthesis and distilled ideas.
It’s a breeding ground for new ways of expressing what you now know that you have climbed further up the mountain. If the path before you is riddled with your previous learnings, it can tough to see how to pave your way ahead, or worse, how to make a cleaner path for others to follow, which, after all, is the point of the knowledge and information you are attempting to share.
They are you friend. If you let them go.
They come in all shapes and sizes. They may even resemble raw notes. What’s important is that you acknowledge that they are just that. They are learning docs and you need to be free to throw them away and start from scratch at any point in time.
This is fundamental to creating a relevant, actionable, and timely document set that helps your users climb the mountain.
This is especially important when it comes to collaborating on documents. In fact, that’s exactly where I first learned this lesson, and spent 40 hours trying to fix an 8 hour document.
Once I learned that lesson, I had to find ways to incrementally and iteratively evolve documents as a team (or by myself.) I adopted some simple conventions. One convention that served me well is to version documents in the title: MyDocument – v1, MyDocument – v2, MyDocument – v3, etc.
It takes judgment when to decide it’s worth calling the document a new version, but it also helps to let things go from one version to the next.
Another practice that has worked well for learning docs is to have a Boneyard section at the end of the document. Literally, a dumping ground at the bottom of the document with a big heading called Boneyard. And that is where information can go to rest, and be resurrected as needed. This helps make it easier to let information go, since it’s never far from reach, while you work on the critical path up front.
It often takes longer to rewrite a document, than start form scratch simply because you are mired among various stages of rot and decay, while other parts are more fresh and vibrant. While you can hack away at the decay, tuning and pruning is often not as fast as simply lifting the healthy parts forward.
I think the concept of learning docs is an important one.
And, not necessarily an obvious one. You may never have the benefit of a painful experience of trying to rewrite something that takes longer to rewrite than to start from scratch. So you may not even notice just how much the lack of a learning docs approach is holding you, or your team back.
This is especially true if you work on a team that is used to sharing documents and pairing up on them. Chances are, they iterate on the same document, with version control, until the document is done. And, the document, along the way, is heavily laden with comments, and undistilled insights, stepping stones, and spaghetti. And, it’s a heavy process to bring the document to closure because it’s a continuous navigation through the jungle of half-baked learnings.
The heart of the problem is that the document at any point in time reflects both creative synthesis and distilled ideas … and learnings in progress. Meanwhile, people are injecting their latest thinking, which may or may not actually be distilled points or creative synthesis. This is where the concept of learning docs shines:
Acknowledge that the documents are learning docs in progress, and make it easy to throw them away while carrying the good forward.
Getting attached is how you hold yourself back and how you limit the pace at which you can share the best thinking in a non-cluttered, clear, and concise way.
Hopefully, the power of learning docs will save you a lot of pain and wasted time and energy. It’s one of those insights that I wish somebody would have shared with me long ago, before I finally stumbled on it myself. Then again, it might be the type of lesson that you only fully appreciate once you have the problem at a grand scale.
Everybody has a story. I thought I would share mine at Sources of Insight:
My Story of Personal Transformation
It’s the story of how I figured out how to do more of what makes me come alive, and how to share my unique value with the world.
It’s a journey, but this story is a look backwards, and how it helped me shape my path forward.
I included some of the key questions I asked, as well as some of the key resources I used to get a new lens on work and life.
Life can really be a game of chutes and ladders, depending on the questions you ask, the choices you make, and the actions you take.
I think one of the biggest challenges we have in life, is a very personal one. It’s the challenge of finding our voice. It’s the challenge of finding our passion, our purpose, and our talents. It’s the challenge of becoming all that we’re capable of. And, it’s the challenge of how to make the most of what we’ve got, while helping others in our unique way.
The other big challenge is avoiding regret, learning to live with regret, or learning how to live without regret. What we regret the most, are the things we have a chance to change. It’s our opportunities lost. Or, to put it another way, we regret the things we didn’t do. That can include things like not being true to ourselves, not expressing our feelings, not staying in touch with friends, or not letting ourselves be happier.
The top regrets in life based on research are: education, career, romance, parenting, self-improvement, leisure, finance, health, friends, spirituality, and community. Education is the top regret because it impacts so many areas of our life, and it’s within our control.
The way I learned to write my story forward is to combine a combination of answering the following questions on an on-gong basis:
Transformation is a journey of challenges and changes. And that’s where our greatest growth comes from.
Best wishes for your best year, ever.
I’m honored to have a guest post by Jason Selk, Ed.D., on patterns and practices for mental toughness. Jason is the best-selling author of 10-Minute Toughness and Executive Toughness. As a trainer of executives, world-class athletes, and business leaders, Jason shares proven practices for mental toughness.
Jason is a rock-star in the mental toughness arena in business and in sports. He is a regular contributor to ABC, CBS, ESPN, and NBC radio and television and he has been featured in USA Today, Men’s Health, Muscle and Fitness, Shape and Self Magazine.
Mental toughness is what gets you back on your feet again. Mental toughness is what helps you keep your cool when a bunch of hot air blows your way. Mental toughness is the stuff that unsung heroes are made of. Mental toughness is the breakfast of champions. The beauty is that you can learn and leverage the same proven practices that work for business and for life.
I think of the tools that Jason shares as the fundamentals. They may sound like common sense, and yet, they are the ways the work. The trick is not just knowing what to do, but doing what you know. I find it much easier to do something that I can believe in, and what I like about Jason’s patterns and practices for mental toughness is that they are tested in action, and they stand the test of time.
Check out Jason’s post on patterns and practices for mental toughness and get results.
It’s always great to see how technology can help make the world a better place.
You might remember Ed Jezierski from his Microsoft days. In his early years at Microsoft, he worked on the Microsoft Developer Support team, helping customers succeed on the platform. These early experiences taught Ed the value of teamwork and collaboration, extreme customer focus, and the value of principles, patterns, and proven practices for addressing recurring issues, and building more robust designs.
From there, Ed was one of the early members of the patterns & practices team. As one of the first Program Managers on the patterns & practices team, Ed was the driving force behind many of the first guides from patterns & practices for developers, including the Data Access guide, and the early Application Architecture guide. He was also the master mind behind the first application blocks (Exception Management Block, Data Access Block, Caching Block, etc.) , which forever changed the destiny of patterns & practices. The application blocks helped transition patterns & practices from an IT and system administrator focus, to a focus on developers and solution architects. In his role as an Architect, on the patterns & practices team, Ed played a significant role in shaping the technical strategy and orchestrating key design and engineering issues across the patterns & practices portfolio. One of his most significant impacts was the early design and shaping of the Microsoft Enterprise Library.
In his later years, Ed worked on incubation and innovation teams, where he learned a lot about streamlining innovation, making things happen, and how to create systems and processes to support innovation, in a more organic and agile way, to balance more formal engineering practices for bringing ideas and innovation to market.
But, just like James Bond, “the world is not enough.” Ed’s passion was always for helping people around the world in a grand scale. His strength and amazing skill is applying technology to change the world and making the world a better place, by solving solve real-world problems. (I still remember the day, Ed showed up in his bullet proof armor, ready to deploy technology in some of the most dangerous places in the world.)
Now, as CTO at InSTEDD, Ed hops around the globe helping communities everywhere design and use technology to continuously improve their health, safety and development. As you can imagine, Ed has to make things happen in some of the most extreme scenarios, responding to natural disasters and health incidents. And he uses Getting Results the Agile Way as a system for driving results for himself and the teams he leads.
Here is Ed Jezierski on Getting Results the Agile Way …
I’m a fan of simple models that help you see things you might otherwise miss, or that help explain how things work, or that simply show you a good lens for looking at the world around you.
Here’s a simple Industry Life Cycle model that I found in Professor Jason Davis’ class, Technology Strategy (MIT’s OpenCourseWare.)
It’s a simple backdrop and that’s good. It’s good because there is a lot of complexity in the transitions, and there are may big ideas that all build on top of this simple frame.
Sometimes the most important thing to do with a model is to use it as a map.
What stage is your industry in?
“Action expresses priorities.” -― Mahatma Gandhi “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” -― Stephen R. Covey “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” -― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Your priority list is not your To-Do list. It's not your backlog. (Although, you should prioritize your lists. But, how do you prioritize them? Hint – this is where your priorities list comes in.)
Your priorities list is your little list of what’s most important. It’s your little list of the most important things to achieve.
How important is your little priorities list? Let's put it in proper perspective. A lack of priorities, or the wrong priorities, are one of the leading causes of failure in management, leadership, and otherwise highly capable employees.
Time management tips #20 is priorities list. If you don't have one, make one now. What else could be more important than having a list of priorities list at your finger tips? (If you had your priorities list you would know the answer to that.)
When you have your little list of priorities, you can say "No" to things. When you have your little list of priorities, you can check with your manager, or team, or your customers, or your spouse -- are these really the priorities? Most importantly, you can check with yourself.
Have you identified the little list of the things that are most important to YOU? If you know you are working on the most important things, it's easier to focus. It's easier to give your best. It's easier to stop the distractions. It's easier to say, "No" to all the little things that tug at your attention, or compete for your time.
It's also where peace of mind comes from. It's instant. When you know you are working on the right things at the right time, you are on path.
Conflict of priorities is one of the leading causes of churn, procrastination, and every other productivity killer you can think of. The only thing worse is having nothing that's important. And you know what they say, if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.
Resolving conflicts in priorities has been known to part the clouds and make the sun shine brighter.
In general, you can think of your priorities as your "Why" or "What", while other lists tend to be the "How." That's a generalization since obviously things will bleed, but what's important is that you have a short, explicit list of your priorities. When they swirl around in your head they get distorted, so get them out in the open. When you are in the thick of things, be able to give them a glance, and know whether to about-face or march on.
As Scott Berkun says, "Priorities are the backbone of progress." It's true. After all, if you are making progress against anything else, does it matter?
Here is an example of a set of my priorities for a month:
Three Key Wins
We can ignore the details, and focus on the structure. I had three wins I identified with my manager for the month, and a list of seven outcomes that were top priority. Did I have a backlog a mile long, and a laundry list of hundreds (if not thousands) of things to do? Yes. Did I also have short lists of rated and ranked items for the month? Yes, that's the list above. Did I also have rated and ranked items for each week? You bet. And did I have short-lists of rated and ranked items each day? Absolutely.
While priorities aren't the silver bullet, they are your way to "push back." They are your "push" when you need it most. They also are your "pull", that you can ignore at your own peril. They are also your "peace of mind."
If you haven't prioritized your priority list, you're missing out.
For work-life balance skills , check out 30 Days of Getting Results, and for a work-life balance system check out Agile Results at Getting Results.com.
You Might Also Like
“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
Do you really know what you are truly capable of? It’s time to get your game on and find out. 30 Days of Getting Results is revamped and ready for action. With a new and cleaner look, each lesson brings you a memorable image, a quotable quote, an outcome, a lesson, and a set of exercises to put what you learn into practice.
It’s time to get the wisdom of the ages and modern sages on your side. The purpose of 30 Days of Getting Results is to give you the proven principles, patterns, and practices for time management. It includes 30 self-paced lessons to help you find your purpose, find your passion, set goals, master motivation, and achieve work-life balance.
The thing that’s really different about Agile Results as a time management system is that it’s focused on meaningful results. Time is treated as a first-class citizen so that you hit your meaningful windows of opportunity, and get fresh starts each day, each week, each month, each year. As a metaphor, you get to be the author of your life and write your story forward.
I used a 30 Day Improvement Sprint, a practice in Agile Results, to create the lessons. For 30 days, I took 20 minutes each day to write my best lessons down on paper on how to master productivity and time management. It’s raw. It’s real. It’s hopefully some of the best insight and action you’ve ever experienced in terms of exponentially improving your results.
It’s easy to dive in. All of the time management lessons are there at your finger tips on the sidebar for easy exploration. It’s timeless too. Even if you’ve take the lessons already, they are there as a refresher.
If you test-drive just one lesson, check out Bounce Back with Skill.
Share it with a colleague, a friend, or your family … or anybody you want to give an edge, in work and life.
I’m on a hunt for the greatest thoughts of all time, expressed as quotes. I’m a big believer that our language shapes the quality of our lives and that we can shape the landscape of our minds with timeless wisdom and inspirational quotes.
I especially enjoy little pithy prose, those gems of insight, that remind us of how to live better and operate at a higher level. I’m a fan of the quotes that really bring out our inner-awesome in work and life.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes of all time, which reflect some of the greatest thoughts of all time:
If you have a favorite quote or thought of all time, feel free to share it with me. I’m working on my timeless wisdom collection in the background, and I want to make it easy to scan the greatest thoughts of all time.
It will be a collection of evergreen wisdom at your fingertips.
Inspirational Quotes for 2013
Quotes to Empower You for Work and Life
Personal Development Hub on Sources of Insight
"If you see a bandwagon, it’s too late." -- James Goldsmith
I’m really focused on helping businesses large and small succeed. Times are tough. I’ve been reading a lot of books on business skills and techniques. The latest book I read is pretty hard-core.
And exactly what I wanted to find.
Here’s my review:
Business Techniques in Troubled Times: A Toolbox for Small Business Success
It puts more than 70+ business skills at your fingertips.
What’s especially interesting is that the author is a turnaround artist. He helps flailing and failing businesses get back on track. Imagine having that kinds of ability – to help business rise from the ashes phoenix style.
That’s cool stuff.
Actually, it’s very powerful stuff.
Business transformation is a great place to be in today’s world.
After all, businesses are re-inventing themselves at a pace never before possible.
Anyway, you’ll appreciate this book if you want to know …
How to analyze the marketplace and do true competitive analysis and find your differentiation
How to design a great product or service
How to price your product or service more effectively
How to create a roadmap for your product
How to prioritize your product ideas
How to create a more effective business plan
How to avoid the most common mistakes when making a business plan
How to analyze a business model
How to create a financial plan
I could go on, and on, because this book really packs a lot into it. It’s an “all-in-one” guide that really covers creating and growing a business. You’ll especially appreciate this book if you’ve struggled with the “money” part of business. It’s one thing to have a good idea. It’s another to fund that idea, and to make it economically viable. This book actually shows you how.
The thing I want to stress about this book though is that it’s written by somebody who helps owners save and grow their businesses for a living.
Within the first fifteen minutes of reading the book, I had at least three new business skills I could immediately apply.
If you want a deep dive into the book, including snippets and insight, check out my review:
6 Steps for Enterprise Architecture as Strategy
Architecture Linkage, Business Linkage, and Alignment Linkage
How To Build a Foundation for Execution
What Do Customers Teach Us About Business
When’s the last time you went for your personal Epic Win? If it’s been a while, no worries. Let’s go big this year.
I’ll give you the tools.
I realize time and again, that Bruce Lee was so right when he said, “To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.” Similarly, William B. Sprague told us, “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.”
And, Peter Drucker said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Similarly, Alan Kay said, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."
Well then? Game on!
By the way, if you’re not feeling very inspired, check out either my 37 Inspirational Quotes That Will Change Your Life, Motivational Quotes, or my Inspirational Quotes. They are intense, and I bet you can find your favorite three.
As I’ve been diving deep into goal setting and goal planning, I’ve put together a set of deep dive posts that will give you a very in-depth look at how to set and achieve any goal you want. Here is my roundup so far:
Brian Tracy on 12 Steps to Set and Achieve Any Goal
Brian Tracy on the Best Times for Writing and Reviewing Your Goals
Commit to Your Best Year Ever
Goal Setting vs. Goal Planning
How To Find Your Major Definite Purpose
How To Use 3 Wins for the Year to Have Your Best Year Ever
The Power of Annual Reviews for Achieving Your Goals and Realizing Your Potential
What Do You Want to Spend More Time Doing?
Zig Ziglar on Setting Goals
Hopefully, my posts on goal setting and goal planning save you many hours (if not days, weeks, etc.) of time, effort, and frustration on trying to figure out how to really set and achieve your goals. If you only read one post, at least read Goal Setting vs. Goal Planning because this will put you well ahead of the majority of people who regularly don’t achieve their goals.
In terms of actions, if there is one thing to decide, make it Commit to Your Best Year Ever.
Enjoy and best wishes for your greatest year ever and a powerful 2014.
I heard a beautiful nugget on the art of simplicity the other day. It was about reducing complexity, cost, and time. Or, to put it another way, it makes a great case for simplicity.
Why focus on simplicity?
To reduce complexity.
Why reduce complexity?
It’s the key to reducing cost and time.
What a great way to connect the dots.
Aside from improving adoption, if you focus on simplicity, it’s a very real way to improve time to market and cost of goods, and in the end, elegance.
The big win for me with simplicity is the ability to improve things, whether it’s a process or a product. If you’ve ever had to deal with a beast of either one, you can appreciate what I mean. My first goal in taking on something is to drive for simplicity so that it has a fighting chance to improve over time.
Complexity dies, where simplicity thrives.
One of the simplest ways to get your groove back on, is to do things differently.
"Do the opposite" is a great strategy.
For example, if you've been staying up late, try getting up early. (Getting up early can help you go to bed earlier. And the secret of waking up earlier, is to go to bed earlier. See the loop?) Getting up earlier changes your world ... the traffic you see or don't, the people you pass or don't, the quiet times, the busy times, your state of mind. It all changes because you changed your structure.
And all you had to do was change your “When”.
You can apply "Do the opposite" to many things. It's a great way to cut the baggage. For example, if you normally write long and lengthy posts, try some short ones. Set a simple limit, like, “the post must not scroll.” You might find that you suddenly drop a burden from your back, and now you are light and ready for anything.
Another way to do the opposite is if you always decide that something must be done later, try doing it now. If you always do things slow, try doing things fast. If you always try to be right, try being interesting, useful, or insightful. Shake it up.
Rattle your own cage.
When we shake our cage, we wake up our possibilities. We surprise ourselves.
It’s long over-do, but I finally wrote up my 10 Big Ideas from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
What can I say … the book is a classic.
I remember when my Dad first recommended that I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People long ago. In his experience, while Tony Robbins was more focused on Personality Ethic, Stephen Covey at the time was more focused on Character Ethic. At the end of the day, they are both complimentary, and one without the other is a failed strategy.
While writing 10 Big Ideas from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I was a little torn on what to keep in and what to leave out. The book is jam packed with insights, powerful patterns, and proven practices for personal change. I remembered reading about the Law of the Harvest, where you reap what you sow. I remembered reading about how to think Win/Win, and how that helps you change the game from a scarcity mentality to a mindset of abundance. I remembered reading about how we can move up the stack in terms of time management if we focus less on To Dos and more on relationships and results. I remembered reading about how if we want to be heard, we need to first seek to understand.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is probably one of the most profound books on the planet when it comes to personal change and empowerment.
It’s full of mental models and big ideas.
What I really like about Covey’s approach is that he bridged work and life. Rather than splinter our lives, Covey found a way to integrate our lives more holistically, to combine our personal and professional lives through principles that empower us, and help us lead a more balanced life.
Here is a summary list of 10 Big Ideas from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
In my post, I’ve summarized each one and provided one of my favorite highlights from the book that brings each idea to life.
Let’s say you want to take your business to the Cloud -- How do you do it?
If you’re a small shop or a startup, it might be easy to just swipe your credit card and get going.
If, on the other hand, you’re a larger business that wants to start your journey to the Cloud, with a lot of investments and people that you need to bring along, you need a roadmap.
The roadmap will help you deal with setbacks, create confidence in the path, and help ensure that you can get from point A to point B (and that you know what point B actually is.) By building an implementable roadmap for your business transformation, you can also build a coalition of the willing to help you get their faster. And you can design your roadmap so that your journey flows continuous business value along the way.
In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share how top leaders build better roadmaps for their digital business transformation.
If you had infinite time and resources, maybe you could just wing it, and hope for the best. A better approach is to have a roadmap as a baseline. Even if your roadmap changes, at least you can share the path with others in your organization and get them on board to help make it happen.
Via Leading Digital:
“In a perfect world, your digital transformation would deliver an unmatched customer experience, enjoy the industry's most effective operations, and spawn innovative, new business models. There are a myriad of opportunities for digital technology to improve your business and no company can entertain them all at once. The reality of limited resources, limited attention spans, and limited capacity for change with force focused choices. This is the aim of your roadmap.”
Your best starting point is a business capability that you want to exploit.
“Many companies have come to realize that before they can create a wholesale change within their organization, they have to find an entry point that will begin shifting the needle. How? They start by building a roadmap that leverages existing assets and capabilities. Burberry, for example, enjoyed a globally recognized brand and a fleet of flagship retail locations around the world. The company started by revitalizing its brand and customer experience in stores and online. Others, like Codelco, began with the core operational processes of their business. Caesars Entertainment combined strong capabilities in analytics with a culture of customer service to deliver a highly personalized guest experience. There is no single right way to start your digital transformation. What matters is that you find the existing capability--your sweet spot--that will get your company off the starting blocks.
Once your initial focus is clear, you can start designing your transformation roadmap. Which investments and activities are necessary to close the gap to your vision? What is predictable, and what isn't? What is the timing and scheduling of each initiative? What are the dependencies between them? What organizational resources, such as analytics skills, are required?”
If you involve others in your roadmap, you get their buy-in, and they will help you with your business transformation.
“Designing your roadmap will require input from a broad set of stakeholders. Rather than limit the discussion to the top team, engage the operational specialists who bring an on-the-ground perspective. This will minimize the traditional vision-to-execution gap. You can crowd-source the design. Or, you can use facilitated workshops, as as 'digital days,' as an effective way to capture and distill the priorities and information you will need to consider. We've seen several Digital Masters do both.
Make no mistake; designing your roadmap will take time, effort, and multiple iterations. But you will find it a valuable exercise. it forces agreement on priorities and helps align senior management and the people tasked to execute the program. Your roadmap will become more than just a document. If executed well, it can be the canvas of the transformation itself. Because your roadmap is a living document, it will evolve as your implementation progresses.”
When you create your roadmap, focus on the business outcomes. Think in terms of adding incremental business capabilities. Don’t make it a big bang thing. Instead, start small, but iterate on building business capabilities that take advantage of Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data technologies.
“Technology for its own sake is a common trap. Don't build your roadmap as a series of technology projects. Technology is only part of the story in digital transformation and often the least challenging one. For example, the major hurdles for Enterprise 2.0 platforms are not technical. Deploying the platform is relatively straightforward, and today's solutions are mature. The challenge lies in changing user behavior--encouraging adoption and sustaining engagement in the activities the platform is meant to enable.
Express your transformation roadmap in terms of business outcomes. For example, 'Establish a 360-degree understanding of our customers.' Build into your roadmap the many facets of organizational change that your transformation will require customer experiences, operational processes, employee ways of working, organization, culture, communication--the list goes on. This is why contributions from a wide variety is so critical.”
There are lots of way to build a roadmap, but the best thing you can do is put something down on paper so that you can share the path with other people and start getting feedback and buy-in.
You’ll be surprised but when you show business and IT leaders a roadmap, it helps turn strategy into execution and make things real in people’s minds.
10 High-Value Activities in the Enterprise
Cloud Changes the Game from Deployment to Adoption
Drive Business Transformation by Reenvisioning Operations
Drive Business Transformation by Reenvisioning Your Customer Experience
Dual-Speed IT Drives Business Transformation and Improves IT-Business Relationships
How To Build a Better Business Case for Digital Initiatives
How To Improve the IT-Business Relationship
How Leaders are Building Digital Skills
Management Innovation is at the Top of the Innovation Stack
I have a new cover for my book, Getting Results the Agile Way. Getting Results the Agile Way introduces Agile Results, a simple system for meaningful results.
The purpose of the book is to share the best insights and actions for mastering productivity, time management, motivation, and work-life balance. In fact, I’ve been doing several talks around Microsoft on work-life balance, and helping teams improve their results.
It’s the best way I can give the edge to my Microsoft tribe, as well as share the principles, patterns, and practices for getting results with the rest of the world.
The new cover better reflects the values of Agile Results: Adventure, Balance, Congruence, Continuous learning, Empowerment, Focus, Flexibility, Fulfillment, Growth, Passion, Simplicity, and Sustainability. Specifically, the cover reflects simplicity, focus, continuous learning, and flexibility. Hopefully, the simplicity is obvious. The new cover is pretty bare-bones. It’s clean, while, minimal, and features a symbol. In this case, the symbol is a variation of an Enso. Intuitively, it simply implies a loop. But if you happen to know the Enso, it’s also a symbol of enlightenment. The beauty of a symbol is you can make it be what you want it to be to be meaningful for you (for me, it’s continuous learning and growth.)
Getting Results the Agile Way is serious stuff. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, Moms, restaurant owners, consultants, developers, project managers, team leaders, and more have been using the approach to do more with less, flow more value, and find work-life balance, while improving their thoughts, feelings, and actions to make the most of what they’ve got.
The system scales down to the one-man band (after all, it is a “personal” results system for work and life), and it scales up to teams. It’s the same approach I’ve used to lead distributed teams around the world for more than ten years.
Here is the back of the book which gives a quick overview of the system:
The new cover will likely be available this October, so if you are a fan of the current blue cover, scoop it up now, while it lasts (maybe it will be a collector’s item some day.)
Will you have a job in the future?
What will that job look like and how will the nature of work change?
Will automation take over your job in the near future?
These are the kinds of questions that Ruth Fisher, author of Winning the Hardware-Software Game, has tackled in a series of posts.
I wrote a summary post to distill her big ideas and insights about the future of jobs in my post:
The Future of Jobs
Fisher has done an outstanding job of framing out the landscape and walking the various arguments and perspectives on how automation will change the nature of work and shape the future of jobs.
One of the first things you might be wondering is, what jobs will automation take away?
Fisher addresses that.
Another question is, what new types jobs will be created?
While that’s an exercise for the reader, Fisher provides clues based on what industry luminaries have seen in terms of how jobs are changing.
The key is to know what automation can and can’t do, and to look at the pattern of work in terms of what’s better suited for humans, and what’s better suited for machines.
As one of my mentors puts it, “If the work can be automated, it’s not human.”
He’s a fan of people doing creative, non-routine work, where they can thrive and shine.
As I take on work, or push back on work, I look through a pretty simple lens:
I find that by using this simple lens, I tend to take on high-value work that creates high-impact, that cannot be easily automated. At the same time, while I perform the work, I look for way to turn things into repetitive activities that can be outsources or automated so that I can keep moving up the stack, and producing higher-value work … that’s more human.