J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Now Available: Trends Page at Sources of Insight


    One of the most important things I learned long ago is the power of trends, and how they can help you anticipate. 

    Now, each year, as a habit, I put together a serious and significant roundup of trends.  

    Here are my trends collections at your fingertips:


    (If you read nothing else, read the Trends for 2013 post.  It’s hard-core.)

    If you can see things coming, you can prepare for them.   Sometimes you can really embrace them and ride a wave.  I use them to help me play out possibilities and to inspire new ideas and create new value.   I also use them to avoid being surprised, or at least surprised less.  In the arena that I’m in, it’s easy to be left behind if you don’t skate to where the puck will be. 

    That’s true for many businesses, and it’s true for many careers.

    While I had always paid attention to trends, in 2009 was really a turning point for me.  I was working on the Microsoft Application Architecture Guide (you can think of it as playbook for building applications on the Microsoft platform.)   As part of the effort, I needed to know where the IT industry was going.  I also needed to know how the Enterprise landscape would change.

    I remember the exercise of mapping out the trends.   What’s obvious now was not as obvious then, since some things were just starting to take off in the Enterprise, or early in the market.  One of the big shifts was to REST.   Another big shift was to more virtualization.  In fact, a few big Enterprise shops that I know, were using virtualization and calling it their private “Cloud.”  

    Here is the Mind Map of trends I created back in 2009:



    Behind the scenes, what I was doing was effectively polling many development shops around the world to see what was hot and what was emerging.  Meanwhile, I was cross-checking on where CIOs were putting their money.   I was cross-checking that with analysts and trend spotters.  I paid a lot of attention to where big companies were placing their bets.  I expected rippled effects in the industry.

    I needed to have a good handle on the trends and emerging patterns because I needed the book to be ahead of it’s time, or at least not dated out of the gate.  (A key pattern I learned here is to create “evergreen” and durable frames so that as technologies churn, the main frames stay the same.)

    The big things that popped for me on the map, at the time, were:  Agile, Business Intelligence, Big Data, Cloud, Rich-Internet Apps, and User Experience.   And, the shift to REST was disruptive.  I was starting to notice how some customers that were embracing the Cloud were leap frogging ahead.   I also noticed how customers who invested in user experience as a first-class citizen were building higher-quality applications that people wanted to use.  With too many choices, user experience wins.  The apps that make you feel good, make you personally effective and connect with others win.

    I learned a few valuable lessons from the exercise:

    1. The future doesn’t need to surprise you.  The future isn’t as mysterious when you know how to map out the system.
    2. Consumer patterns really shape Enterprise patterns.  After all, people are people, and the lines blur between work and life.
    3. You can use the future to shape your path.   If you connect trends to the pains, needs, and desired outcomes of your customers, you can very much anticipate where likely sources of value will be. 

    On a personal level, you can also use trends to help you decide your bigger decisions in life, including your career path.  For example, I know some colleagues that saw Big Data as the place to be, and they started working on their data scientist skills, and are now seeing it pay off.

    I’m starting my trends research a little earlier this year.   I’m paying attention to examples of things like m2m (machine to machine) scenarios and possibilities in the real world.  I’m especially interested in Television 2.0 — The $2.2 Trillion War for your Living Room.  I’m also paying attention to more wearable computing scenarios, as well as innovations in education, health, and manufacturing.   I’ve heard some amazing stories of 3-D printing as a disruptor.   And, I’m hoping for some really surprising possibilities with phones.

    As Peter Drucker said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it”, and Alan Kay said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it!”

    If you’re not shaping your future, someone else is.

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    High-Performance Teams Happen When It All Hangs Together


    “Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.” -- Patrick Lencioni

    To create high-performance teams, you don't need the best people in the world.  But you do need people at their best.

    To bring out their best, you first need simple alignment on the team in the form of vision, mission, values, and identity.  I wrote a step-by-step article on How To Create a High-Performance Team with Vision, Identity, and Values.

    Alignment at that level creates a foundation and platform for high-performance teams.  As Benjamin Franklin said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

    Vision, Mission, and values

    Here's a recap of vision, mission, and values:

    • Mission - who are you? what do you do?
    • Vision - where do you want to go?
    • Values - what do you value? what's important? (your corporate culture)

    Alignment at this level helps you accelerate your path through Forming -- Storming -- Norming and Performing.  It also gets work going in the right direction, so people can spend more time where they shine, and less time bifurcating their focus.

    You Don't Need the Best People, You Need People at Their Best

    Of course, having the best people is great.  But what you really need is people at their best, in a system that supports them.

    In fact, there are a lot of high-performance people all around in systems that break them.   So if you simply create a team system that frees people up, right off the bat, you are ahead of many teams.  You free people up when you create shared goals, focus on the outcomes, and paint clear pictures of how to be successful.  You unleash people when you make it safe to take risks, and create a rapid learning environment.

    The easiest way to break an otherwise high-performing team is to micro-manage.  The more you focus on what seem to be otherwise good tools, like accountability, process, etc., the more you get the opposite.  Accountability, process, etc. happen as a by-product of doing specific things well, like having clear goals, letting people work the way they work best, having people spend more time in their strengths, and encouraging learning.  When people have a goal, and they are in their passion, and they are free to use their strengths, they get resourceful.

    Remember that people are creatures of habit, and they form habits (and, as a result, process.)  When you create a continuous learning environment where people can afford to fail and take risks, they learn faster, improve faster, and out-execute the competition.

    If your team is not a high-performance team, before you poke at the people, poke the system you create on a daily basis.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Mark Bestauros on Value Realization


    This is a guest post by Mark Bestauros on what he’s learned about Value Realization at Microsoft.   You can think of Value Realization as simply the value extracted from a process or project.  Mark is the Microsoft IT Principal Business Value Realization manager, and a member of the Microsoft IT Portfolio Management Team, where he is responsible for the optimization of a significant IT spend across the Microsoft businesses.   Mark is also responsible for the Value Tracking for projects in scope, and that has led to some big breakthroughs in terms of reporting the value of IT investments back to the business, and demonstrating the power of Value Realization.

    I’ve asked Mark to share some of his key insights and lessons learned from his adventures at Microsoft in the art and science of Value Realization.

    Without further ado, here is Mark Bestauros on Value Realization …

    Two Main Purposes of the Value Conversation

    The Value conversation serves two main purposes in IT:

    1. Objective and Value Driven Portfolio Planning
    2. Provide Evidence to the argument that IT is not a cost center, but a corporate Propulsion Engine enabling it to reach its objectives through: Informate, Transformate and Automate processes and businesses within the company.

    To accomplish the first goal, the organization need to have the Value conversation tied to the Personal Commitments for all those involved in IT work, and equally importantly, making sure that the a mutual understanding of priority positioning of the “Value” focus in the Conditions of Satisfaction conversations that usually take place between IT organizations and the benefiting business partners from the IT effort.

    Without having the Value activities reflected in the commitments and missing in IT native processes, almost all involved in project work automatically de-prioritize the Value work, starting with turning a blind eye on a missing business case analysis at the inception point and ending with walking away immediately after a project Pre-deployment sign off meeting, washing their hands from any commitment to measure and evaluate the actual benefits hoped for at the Envision or “Plan” phase.

    Planning and Prioritizing with Value Experts at the Business and IT Borders

    The key to success is to embed Value experts at the business and IT border checkpoints.  You need Value experts who are well versed in understanding how to sell the Value argument.  You also need professionals who can guide the average IT professional through estimating effectively (versus guestimating).   You also need to embed the most cost effective, and time effective, means to measure baselines and project logical improvement deltas at the business and IT border checkpoints.  This will help you facilitate effective Portfolio Planning and  prioritize demand more effectively, prior to having the all up IT/Business Leadership Team Planning marathons.

    “Tests for Success” for Value Realization

    Evidencing the argument about the viability of the IT organization in any company with actual Realized Value is very compelling only if the Value reported passes these tests:

    1. Executive Support.  Wins the support of the executives who will benefit from the IT effort in the organization through proven and measureable results.
    2. Simple and Executable.  Uses “Simple to Understand and Execute” measures and algorithms.
    3. Logical Correlations to the Intangibles.  Exhibited logical correlations between intangible results (e.g. Customer Satisfaction) and monetary KPIs (or P&L report line items).
    4. Conservative.  It needs to be conservative in nature (not bullish and not overly bearish either, but provides a credible range of the benefit that aligns with a proven proxy measure).
    5. Sustainable.  It needs to be a sustainable approach.  It can’t be a one-off, or a heroic work effort. 

    Characteristics of a Successful Value Realization Practitioner

    There are few characteristics or knowledge areas that makes a value practitioner successful in changing the culture and move the Value Organizational Maturity in the right direction:

    1. Financial Intelligence.  Financial, able to understand the common financial metrics a CFO can relate to, able to shine the light on merits and risks using the common financial terms acceptable by the Finance community.
    2. Measuring and Estimating.  Understand the measuring and estimating techniques and able to reach deals with ultra-busy business teams (who typically consider IT organizations as suppliers or order takers), to provide reliable data, and know who to substitute the lack of reliable, large sample size data for example, with conservative measures factoring in an agreed on discounted deltas for lack of higher confidence levels.
    3. Interpersonal Skills.  A seller and artist in the art of crucial conversations, since Planning is a very competitive arena, and convincing those involved in Envision phase to dedicate time to obtain reliable data, not planned for in the original budgeting.
    4. Expertise in the Art and Science of Value Realization.  A person who can hit the ground running in quickly earning the “Trusted Adviser” title by all stakeholders due to his/her knowledge of the tools, methodologies, and acting as the defense attorney with the business case versus the classic perception of the “Auditor” or “Critic” of the spend!
    5. The Value Lens.  Understanding the role of Business Architect and being ready to provide the Value Lens cut to architectural analysis through “Value Stream Mapping”, and capturing measureable problem statements round the process bottle necks in addition to translating a Premise of benefit to a measureable ROI.

    A value practitioner can’t achieve that alone, while overcoming organizational undisciplined Value approaches if any exist at all, lacking individuals Value commitments and the unwillingness of the business customers to engage in meaningful Value (BCA, VRF or BVR efforts), he/she needs air cover and a value sponsors (usually are found in the Finance Community or if lucky, a CIO or a member of two of the senior leadership) to facilitate the conversation and help open the doors.

    Executing Value Realization

    On the tactical and execution level the Value practitioner needs to:

    1. Make it simple. Use technology to share the “Know How” in a very hands on, simple to understand and direct way.
    2. Train the Trainer. Spread the gospel of Value through providing visual illustrations, visually appealing training modules making it easier to grasp the concepts by non-financial individuals. Etc.
    3. Lead by example.  Show willingness to roll the sleeves and help.. show them by doing.
    4. Lean the process. BCA, BVR (VRF) and ROI are the “Trinity of Value”, explain the meaning of each, and how they relate to one another. Lean the process part and standardize the ROI estimation approaches to make it easier for them to improve their Gage “R&R”: Repeatability and Reproducibility in doing the process for every engagement they have and produce the same sustainable results.
    5. Stay Connected to Decision Makers.  Stay connected to the decision makers, they are ultimately the benefactors of the Value work… they are the ones who will have the crucial conversations with their CEO, CFO and senior leaderships.. explain the approach, by simple and clear about it and be upfront in earnestly stating the time commitment. Be sensitive to the politics in each organization, for the last thing you want is to lose support and endorsement you desperately need for something that is totally unrelated to the Value work.

    Three Technical Challenges to Be Aware Of

    The three technical challenges are primarily:

    1. Isolating the effect of the IT project.  When there are multiple efforts going side by side, one of which happens to be the project in question for Value, to achieve a preset goal.
    2. Monetizing the intangibles.   For example, how to quantify and put a dollar amount to customer satisfaction.
    3. How to sell Soft Dollar.  For example, how do you sell the soft dollar (soft savings, potential cost and risk avoidances) side by side with the hard dollars, without over-selling, inflating the estimates, or creating audience rejection?

    There are known techniques that address each, and there are some that I had to improvise to make them fit the maturity stage of the target organization. In all cases, getting stakeholder agreement to the assumptions, transferring functions, and using the Dollar as an IT solution provide horse power to go a long way.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Cloud Scenarios at Your Fingertips


    If you don’t know the scenarios for the Cloud, it’s hard to make the case for the Cloud.  Whether you’re a Solution Architect, Enterprise Architect, Business Leaders, IT Leaders, CIO, analyst, etc., you need to know the pains, needs, and desired outcomes so that you can rationalize the technology more effectively.

    What you’ll find below are collections of scenarios large and small that will help you see the full landscape of the Cloud within the Enterprise landscape.  When you have the scenarios at your fingertips, you can better evaluate business strategies or technical strategies, as well as create more effective business cases, because you understand the pains, needs, desired outcomes, as well as the benefits that go along with each scenario.


    Business and IT Scenarios for the Cloud


    Category Scenarios
    Business Scenarios

    Achieve cost-effective business continuity
    Create new revenue streams from existing capabilities
    Decrease power consumption
    Decrease the time to market for new capabilities
    Easily integrate new businesses into your organization
    Improve operational efficiency to enable more innovation
    Improve the connection with your customers
    Provide elastic capacity to meet business demand
    Provide Enterprise messaging from anywhere
    Reduce upfront investment in new initiatives

    IT Scenarios

    Business Intelligence
    Cloud Computing
    Consumerization of IT
    Corporate Environmental Sustainability
    Innovation for Growth
    Low-Cost Computing in the Enterprise

    For details on each of the scenarios, including a description and key benefits, see:


    Cloud User Stories for Business Leaders, IT Leaders, and Enterprise Architects

    Here is a robust collection of User Stories for Cloud Enterprise Strategy.

    To do a deep dive on the pains, needs, and desired outcomes from around the world, I created a round up of user stories for the Cloud, from the perspective of business leaders, IT leaders, and Enterprise Architects.  I included many CIOs from several large companies in different industries to get a broad perspective.    I ended up with more than 50 user stories of the pains, needs, and desired outcomes for the Cloud in the Enterprise.  Note that while the list is a bit dated, many of the core user stories are still highly relevant and actually evergreen.

    With a prioritized list of the user stories for the Cloud, I then grouped them into a simple set of categories:

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

    Cloud Scenarios Hub on TechNet (Public and Private Cloud Scenarios)

    If you haven’t seen it, TechNet has a Cloud Scenarios Hub.

    I like the focus on scenarios – it’s a great way to bring together a problem and a solution in context, while pulling together all the relevant guidance.  It’s a focusing anchor-point in action.

    I created a simple index to the Public and Private Cloud Scenarios.

    Key Links

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Program Management Blog Posts at Your Fingertips


    “No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra.” — H.E. Luccock

    Welcome to my roundup of blog posts from across Microsoft on the art and science of Program Management.

    The Program Manager role is a very powerful one.  I think of it as a technical entrepreneur that blends customer focus, with technical skills, and business acumen.  It’s the blending of those three domains that makes it so powerful for bringing ideas to life.

    Great PMs make things happen by setting a vision, bringing a team together, creating an execution engine, and shipping ideas that change the world.

    What exactly is a Program Manager?  At Microsoft it’s a role that means many things to many people.  In general though, when you meet a PM at Microsoft, you expect somebody who has vision, can drive a project to completion, can manage scope and resources, coordinate work across a team, bridge the customer, the business, and the technology, act as a customer champ, and influence without authority.  From a metaphor standpoint, they are often the hub to the spokes, they drive ideas to done, they take the ball and run with it, or find out who should run with the ball.  Some PMs are better at thought leadership, some are better at people leadership, and the best are great at both.

    One of my favorite quotes that helps distinguish program management vs. project management is by G. Reiss:

    “Project management is like juggling three balls – time, cost and quality. Program management is like a troupe of circus performers standing in a circle, each juggling-three balls and swapping balls from time to time.”


    Start Here

    What is a PM

    Getting Started



    Tips for Program Managers

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    NLP Patterns and Practices for High-Performance Teams and Achievers


    “The winners in life think constantly in terms of I can, I will, and I am. Losers, on the other hand, concentrate their waking thoughts on what they should have or would have done, or what they can’t do.” – Dennis Waitley

    One of the ways I set better goals and achieve them at Microsoft is by using well-defined outcomes.   It’s a way to begin with the end in mind.  An outcome is simply something that follows as a result or consequence.

    Maybe the best way to think of an outcome is that it answers the question: “What do you want?”

    (If you want to just jump to the recipe and full expanded explanation of how to set better goals, go here: How To Set Better Goals with Well-Defined Outcomes)

    Outcomes are the Key to High-Performance and Outstanding Results in  Work and Life

    NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) has popularized the use of outcomes over the years to help people achieve better results.   You can think of NLP as a way to model excellence and replicate it from one person to another.  It’s a way to program your mind, body, and emotions using advanced skills for high-performance.   (Tip – if you don’t’ program yourself, somebody else will.)

    Imagine if you could model what the most successful people think, feel, and do, and get that on your side.

    If you like languages or the idea of language to share and express concepts, you’ll especially appreciate the power of NLP.  NLP helps you create a lot of precision in how you see things, how you articulate things, how you filter information, and how you distill feedback into actionable insights.

    NLP is for Continuous Learning, Agile Personal Development, and Business Results

    NLP is like Agile Personal Development where continuous learning is fundamental to its core.

    NLP is probably the most powerful set of techniques I’ve ever come across for personal development, personal effectiveness, leadership, and high-performance.   The techniques effectively help you find better, faster, easier ways to accomplish outstanding results, while helping you bring out your best.   Tony Robbins popularized NLP back in the 80’s, but it’s more mainstream today.

    In fact, I know a lot of executives and highly effective Softies that use NLP to get the edge in work and life.   I also know a lot of developers that have NLP under their belt and it helps them clarify what they want, set better goals, take more effective action, and communicate more effectively to themselves and others.  In fact, some say that NLP is simply a set of advanced communication techniques.

    Developers Love NLP When They Stumble Upon It

    Developers often find a special place in their hearts for NLP because of its precision and how it helps to “codify” behaviors.   Specialists often use NLP to model high-performance behaviors and break them down into a recipe.   These recipes for results help guide your thoughts, feelings, and actions in a more powerful way.

    Anyway, what makes NLP powerful when you are setting goals is that it helps you really identify the end in mind.  It brings your full senses to bear, so instead of imagining a fuzzy scene of what success looks like with loosey-goosey language, it forces you to get specific and use precision, and to really get clarity on what you actually want to achieve. 

    After all, it’s a lot easier to get to where you are going, if you know what you really want to accomplish.

    In addition to helping you create compelling scenes of success, or mental movies of your future victories, NLP also helps you break your goal down into actionable chunks.  It also sets you up for success by teaching you to focus on feedback as a way to improve, not a sign of failure.  In this way, you keep refining your actions and your outcome until you achieve your goal.

    Patterns and Practices for High-Performance and Personal Development

    What most people don’t know about NLP is that it’s been an effective tool for years for building a great big body of knowledge around high-performance patterns for individuals, teams, and leaders.  The NLP framework provides a way to capture and share very detailed patterns of behavior that help people improve their performance.  Whether you want to improve your leadership skills, or your relationship skills, or whatever, there is a bountiful catalog of very specific patterns that help you do that. 

    And, the beauty of patterns in NLP is that they tend to be very prescriptive, very specific, and easy to follow and try out.  This makes it easy to test and adapt until you find what works for you.  (I’m a fan of don’t take things at face value – test them for yourself and judge from results.  I’m also a fan of Bruce Lee’s timeless wisdom: “Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.")

    One of the best books I’ve found is the book, The Big Book of NLP Techniques, by Shlomo Vakni.   Surprisingly, it actually delivers what it says on the cover.  There’s more than 350 patterns at your fingertips.   I wrote about one of the patterns, Well-Defined Outcomes, in my post on How To Set Better Goals with Well-Defined Outcomes.   You need to see it to believe it.  It really is detailed, so if you’ve ever struggled with setting goals, this might be your big breakthrough.

    The Big Breakthrough in Goal Setting

    Here’s the real breakthrough though in goal setting.  Aside from making sure you have goals that inspire you, and that they are aligned with what you really want, the power of the goal is ultimately in moving you in the right direction.   It’s not a perfect or precise path where you can simply do A and get B.   In fact, the irony is, that if you really want B, your best strategy is to first act as if you already have B.   This will help you think, feel, and act from a more effective perspective so that your actions come from the right place, and help you produce more effective results (or at least guide you in the right direction).

    That’s why you often here people say that you have to BE-DO-HAVE, not HAVE-DO-BE.   With HAVE-DO-BE, the idea is when you get what you want, then you’ll start doing the things that go with it, and finally you’ll act the part.   This is like saying that you won’t show up like a leader or act like a leader until somebody appoints you in a leadership role.   This creates a negative loop, since why should anybody put you in a role that you don’t act the part.

    The right thought pattern is BE-DO-HAVE because then your thoughts, feelings, and actions support your end results.

    Are you acting like what you want? 

    If you’re not getting what you want, what does your feedback tell you to change?

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    7 Metaphors for Leadership Transformation


    “Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” — Publilius Syrus

    Change is tough.  Especially leading it.

    Whether you are leading yourself, others, or organizations through a change, it helps to have tools on your side.

    Recently, I read Leadership Transformed, by Dr. Peter Fuda. 

    It uses 7 metaphors to guide you through leadership transformation:

    1. FIRE
    4. COACH
    5. MASK
    6. MOVIE

    It might seem simple, but that's the point.   Metaphors are easy to remember and easy to use. 

    For example, you can use the Movie metaphor to increase your self-awareness and reflection that allow you to first "edit" your performance, and then direct a "movie" that exemplifies your leadership vision.

    The other benefit of simple metaphors is they allow both for creative interpretation and creative expression.

    I appreciated the book the further I went along.  In fact, what really clicked for me was the fact that I could easily remember the different metaphors and the big idea behind them.   It was a nice brain-break from memorizing and internalizing a bunch of leadership frameworks, principles, and patterns. 

    Instead, it’s just a simple set of metaphors that remind us how to bring out our best during our leadership transformations.

    The metaphors are actually well-chosen, and they really are helpful when you find yourself in scenarios where a different perspective or approach may help.

    Even better, the author grounds his results in some very interesting data, and aligns it to proven practices for effective leadership.

    Here is my book review:  Book Review: Leadership Transformed: How Ordinary Managers Become Extraordinary Leaders

    I included several highlights and “scenes” from the book, so you can get a good taste of the book, movie trailer style.

    If you end up reading the book, I encourage you to really dive into the background and the anatomy of the Leadership Impact tool that Dr. Fuda refers to.  It’s incredibly insightful in terms of leadership principles, patterns, and practices that are fairly universal and broadly applicable.


  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Asian Efficiency on 6 Ways Agile Results is Better than GTD


    “If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” – Bruce Lee

    Aaron Lynn and Thanh Pham of Asian Efficiency wrote a thoughtful and interesting post about why they like Agile Results over GTD:

    6 Ways Agile Results is Better than GTD

    Here's the opening blurb:

    “Here’s a short, fun article about why I prefer JD Meier’s Agile Results as a foundational productivity system more than Getting Things Done (GTD).   Not that GTD isn’t awesome, it just misses a lot of things given the complexity of our lives nowadays. If you’ve been on the edge about switching to Agile Results, here are 6 great reasons why.”

    What I like is that they are fans of GTD and are familiar with both systems.

    I used to get asked how Agile Results related to GTD.   My most common response was … “better together” and “to each his own” or “absorb what is useful”.   Of course, Bruce Lee was an early influence on me:  “Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.”

    That said, I never had a snappy unique selling proposition, other than Agile Results is a personal results system for work and life.   For many folks, they liked when I said that it’s a “simple system for meaningful results.”   For other folks, they said the big deal is “outcomes not activities.”

    I actually think that’s the key:  meaningful results.

    A lot of Agile Results was born out of a desire to achieve 3 key things for as many people as I could:

    1. Help people make the most of what they’ve got (operate at a higher level, unleash their potential, and hit their high notes)
    2. Help people master time management, productivity, and work-life balance, and enjoy the journey.  Sometimes the journey is all we’ve got.   Let’s look back and say it was worth it.
    3. Help people get back up, when they get knocked down.   I wanted to help people keep bouncing back, keep moving forward.


    On #3, I always think of the line from Rocky 6:

    “Nobody is gonna hit as hard as life, but it ain’t how hard you can hit. It’s how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. It’s how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning’s done.” – Rock Balboa (Sylvester Stallone)

    I also think about my last visit to one of the Block Busters that was closing.   The lady there had spent the last several years of her life.   For her, Block Buster was her life.   With Block Buster closing, she didn’t know what was next.  She was scared.  She was feeling the struggle of each day, and wondering how to keep going.

    I confidently gave her a copy of my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.   I was confident that it would help her figure out how to write her story forward.   I was confident that she could use it to help her find her strength each day.  I was confident that she could use it to help her figure out what’s important in her life and spend more time on that. 

    In that instance, the last thing I wanted to do was to show her how she could use Agile Results to get more things done.   Instead, I wanted Agile Results to help her get back on her feet again and bring out her best, and to help her write her story forward.

    I wanted help her to hit her high notes.

    And, I wanted her to have better endings, brighter beginnings, and better adventures along the way.

    Ultimately, I wanted Dr. Seuss's timeless wisdom to ring true for her on multiple levels:

    “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

    I hope with Agile Results, I help people smile more.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Gift of Adversity


    “If the road is easy, you're likely going the wrong way.” ― Terry Goodkind

    If you know struggle, you know adversity.  If you know loss, you know adversity.  If you know setbacks, you know adversity.  If terrible things have happened to you, you know adversity.

    But do you know what to do with adversity?

    You can turn adversity into a gift.  It's not easy though.  In fact, if it was easy, it probably wouldn't be called adversity.

    I wrote a book review on The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections, by Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D.  Dr. Rosenthal is the same guy who first described winter depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and he pioneered the use of light therapy for its treatment.

    It's a hard-core book with some grim stories, and some lighter tales, all about dealing with adversity.  Dr. Rosenthal is a powerful storyteller and he does a great job of sharing his insights and actionable things you can do to embrace adversity. 

    In fact, according to Dr. Rosenthal, embracing adversity is how we can live more authentic and meaningful lives.

    Dr. Rosenthal divides adversity into 3 flavors:  

    1. The bad things that happen to us
    2. The adversity we bring about ourselves
    3. The adversity that we seek out

    This works well because the book is written memoire style and Dr. Rosenthal draws from family, friends, and colleagues, as well as his own experiences, to share memories, personal anecdotes, and vignettes about the multiple categories of adversity.

    Be the Architect of Your Own Destiny

    Here is one of my favorite nuggets from the book ...

    “Many people enter psychotherapy for problems they see as the result of repeated bad luck or the misbehavior of others.  Such chronic failure to take responsibility leaves people like victims of fate rather than architects of their own destiny, which is not an empowering state of mind.  Why do they think this way?  Because it is painful to admit errors and shortcomings.    It is generally far more painful, however, to suffer the consequences as they play out over time.  That’s what happens to people who habitually fail to take responsibility for their actions.”

    The key take away is -- don’t be a victim and don’t play the blame game.  Rise above your circumstances and design a new story forward.

    I share several more nuggets in my book review.

    If you want to turn adversity into an advantage in work and life, check it out.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    7 Habits of Highly Effective People at a Glance


    Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is one of the greatest books on personal development.  Why? Because it provides a firm foundation for personal effectiveness.   Even better, it provides habits and skills you can build to realize your full potential.

    Here are the 7 habits of highly effective people, according to Stephen Covey:

    1. Be proactive
    2. Begin with the end in mind
    3. Put first things first
    4. Think win/win
    5. Seek to Understand, Then to be Understood
    6. Synergize
    7. Sharpen the saw

    I’ve provided a summary of each of the habits in my post, Adopt the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Here, I simply wanted to provide the habits at glance, as a reminder of some of the most useful habits that can help you throughout life.

    Interestingly, the habits serve me well at Microsoft.  I’ve always been a self-starter, which is critical for the Program Manager role.  Similarly, whenever I set out to do significant work or put any time into significant things, I begin with the end in mind.  A big part of project success, product success, or personal success comes down to putting first things first.  I very naturally go for the win/win because it’s the key to influence without authority.  I learned long ago that you have to first seek to understand, then to be understood, or you’re just fighting for air time, and without rapport, there is no influence.  Synergize also comes naturally to me because I want more from the whole than the parts, and I want more out of the time I and energy I invest.   As a life-long learner, sharpening the saw is how I continuously re-invent myself and stay relevant as the game changes under my feet.

    Of course, it’s one thing to “know” the habits, it’s another thing to do habits.   Here are some tips on how to change habits and making them stick.  If you want to get hard-core about habit change, here’s how to use Agile Results to change a habit.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    E-Shaped People, Not T-Shaped


    Are you I-shaped, T-shaped, or E-shaped?

    I is depth, T is breadth, and E executes (Of course there’s overlap, but you get the idea.)

    If you think of yourself as a mini-business, can you “execute” your ideas? (either yourself, with others, or through others, and amplify your impact)  And, by the way, just how important is the ability to execute?   Well, it’s important enough that Gartner uses “Ability to Execute” as a key criteria in its Magic Quadrants.

    Ability to execute + high-impact ideas are a recipe for value.

    After all, what good are a bunch of ideas if you can’t make them happen.

    Keep these mental models in mind as you design your career path and grow your capabilities, skills, and experiences.

    With that in mind, let’s explore a little more …

    T-Shaped People

    Here's what Wikipedia says about T-shaped people:

    "The concept of T-shaped skills, or T-shaped persons is a metaphor used in job recruitment to describe the abilities of persons in the workforce. The vertical bar on the T represents the depth of related skills and expertise in a single field, whereas the horizontal bar is the ability to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise other than one's own."

    (The earliest reference to T-shaped people is by David Guest in  "The hunt is on for the Renaissance Man of computing," in The Independent, September 17, 1991.)

    I-Shaped People

    By contrast, I-shaped people have a very narrow, but expert domain skills in one specific area.

    E-Shaped People

    According to Sarah Davanzo, E-Shaped people are those that "execute":

    “People (workers) today also need to be able to execute.  As they say, 'ideas are like noses, everyone has one.'  I’m tired of people coming to me with a great idea or invention, but with no clue how to bring it fruition. Real genius is being able to execute ideas. “

    An "Ideas Person" Isn't Good Enough

    According to Sarah Davanzo, an “ideas person” isn’t good enough.  You need the ability to execute.  Here’s what Sarah says:

    “Being an experienced, expert, exploratory “ideas person” isn’t good enough in today’s culture, and here’s why.  The trends clearly favor those with “breadth” and “depth”, as well as the tangible (execution) and intangible (exploration), implying having both a big-picture outlook and an attention to detail from being a practitioner.”

    4-Es: Experience, Expertise, Exploration, and Execution

    According to Sarah Davanzo, “E-shaped” people have a combo of 4 Es: 

    “’E-Shaped People’ have a combination of ‘4-E’s’: experience and expertise, exploration and execution.   The last two traits – exploration and execution – are really necessary in the current and future economy.”

    Note – If you want to work on your ability to execute, Getting Results the Agile Way is a good way to start (It’s the playbook I wish somebody would have given me long ago.)

    Is Your CQ (Curiosity Quotient) the Key to Your Future Success?

    According to Sarah Davanzo, your CQ matters more than your IQ and EQ:

    “Exploration = curiosity. Innovation and creative problem solving is tied to one’s “curiosity quotient” (CQ). In this day and age of constant change (think: Moore’s Law), one’s CQ is more useful than one’s IQ or EQ.”

    Side note – Edward de Bono wrote about how exploring ideas is how to have a beautiful mind.

    Bill Buxton on I-Shaped People

    Bill Buxton puts a spin on “I-shaped” people in his article on Innovation Calls for I-Shaped People:

    “But while I love Bill's (Bill Moggridge) notion of T-shaped people, things are just not that simple. So as both compliment and complement, I propose I-shaped people. These have their feet firmly planted in the mud of the practical world, and yet stretch far enough to stick their head in the clouds when they need to. Furthermore, they simultaneously span all of the space in between.”

    Three Pillars:  Business, User Experience, and Technology

    According to Bill Buxton, at Microsoft we purposefully plan for equal levels of competence and creativity in business, design, and technology:

    “When you slide multiple Ts together, their cross bars all overlap, indicating that the various Ts have a common language, and, ideally, their combined base can be broad enough to cover the domain of the problem that you are addressing. At ( (MSFT)), we try to make sure that in looking at new product or services ideas, we have at least three Ts, which we call BXT, reflecting equal levels of competence and creativity in three domains: business, (in design), and technology. These are three interdependent and interwoven pillars we see as the foundation for what we do.”

    Abstract + Concrete = Outstanding

    Outstanding people can generalize and abstract, as well as get specific and make things actually work.  They bridge the head in the clouds and feet on the ground with other people.   Bill Buxton writes: 

    “I once asked him (Brian Shackel) if he had noticed any particular attributes that distinguished the students that went on to do remarkable things compared with the rest. His answer was as immediate as it was insightful. He said: ‘The outstanding students all had an outstanding capacity for abstract thinking, yet they also had a really strong grounding in physical materials and tools.’ By this, he meant that they could rise above the specifics of a particular problem to think about them in a more abstract, and in some ways, more general way.”

    Expand Your T-Shape with Personal Effectiveness

    One way to grow your T-Shape is to grow your personal effectiveness capabilities.   The U.S. department of labor actually has a Competency Model Clearninghouse.   You can easily browse different industries and find a list of Personal Effectiveness capabilities.  For example, in the Information Technology Competency Model, they list the following Personal Effectiveness Capabilities:

    • Interpersonal Skills and Teamwork
    • Integrity
    • Professionalism
    • Initiative
    • Adaptability and Flexibility
    • Dependability and Reliability
    • Lifelong Learning

    BTW – did you notice that Personal Effectiveness is at the base of the pyramid of the competency model?   The higher you go up, the more narrow and specific it gets.   The lower you go, the broader and more general the competency model is.  Personal Effectiveness is at the base of all the pyramids.   That should tell you something.

    Note – If you want to work on your personal effectiveness skills, I have a knowledge base at Sources of Insight that focuses on personal effectiveness, personal development, leadership, productivity, emotional intelligence, time management, strengths, motivation, and more.

    Additional Resources

    You Might Also Like

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    Agile Downsizing: Why Agile Skills Improve a Project Manager’s Job Security

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Generalists vs. Specialists


    When you build teams, one of the issues that comes up is whether to build a team of generalists or specialists.

    On the Microsoft patterns & practices team, because I was doing project-based work, I was effectively building new project teams roughly every six months (it varied – in the earlier days it was more like every 18 months and in the later years, it was more like every 3 – 6 months.  The bottom line is, I got to see a lot of patterns and practices for building effective teams, both on my own teams and across Microsoft patterns & practices.

    In my experience, the teams that had a healthy composition of generalists with relevant specialist skills, performed the best.

    They performed the best in terms of speed, flexibility, and quality.   Why?   Because there was less scheduling complexity depending on availability of specialists for the day to day work, while we would broker in deep expertise as needed.  

    So, we did use specialists, but we optimized around generalists with relevant specialist skills.

    Having generalists with specialist skills also helped broker in additional experts, as well as keep things very pragmatic, rather than dive off the deep end.  It also helped us bridge the knowledge and speak the language of the specialists, by having folks on the team that knew enough to be dangerous, and that were well aware of there limits … but most importantly, knew when to reach out, and who to reach out to.

    Having a team of generalists with relevant specialist skills for the day to day work helped us better load balance the work, and to avoid significant bottlenecks either due to dependencies or simply by getting stuck.  It’s easy to get stuck when you are doing knowledge work if you don’t have a team of capabilities you can rely on to keep the ball moving forward, and to sanity check the path.

    With that in mind, in the book, Agile Management for Software Engineering: Applying the Theory of Constraints for Business Results, David J. Anderson shares some great insights on the great debate between Generalists vs. Specialists. (Keep in mind, I’m a fan of the AND approach.)

    Generalists vs. Specialists

    Jone’s says specialists should outperform generalists.  Agilists say, generalists will do better.  Perhaps both are right.   Anderson writes:

    “Therefore, there is a plausible explanation to the conflict between Capers Jone's observation that specialists should outperform generalists and the Agile methodologists' contention that generalist developers will be better.  Jones is clearly measuring organizations that employed specialists who were motivated and controlled by processes that led to good quality at every stage in the process.  The Agile methodologists are clearly reacting to their environment.  They are assuming that it is impossible to fix the systemic issues with analysts and both quality and performance can be improved by eliminating them.

    Perhaps the final conclusion is that an Agile team of generalists will outperform a badly organized, badly incentivized, poorly skilled team of specialists following a traditional method.  However, a good team of specialists, measured by properly set governing rules and focused on quality should outperform the team of Agile generalists.  Hence, the Agilists and Capers Jones are not in conflict, the Agilists are basing their beliefs on differing assumptions.”

    Generalist Specialists

    Maybe the generalist specialist is the answer?   Anderson writes:

    “Scott Ambler has suggested the ultimate solution to this problem [2003].  He calls them generalist specialists.  These are software engineers with specialist in-depth skills in a few areas but adequate skills across a breadth of other areas.  The generalist specialist is probably the ideal member for an Agile team.  Such a team of generalist experts using an Agile method would probably perform even better.”

    Availability of Specialists

    When you depend on specialists, the big issue, of course, is availability.   Anderson writes:

    “Specialist roles that will generally not be resource constraints tend to be horizontal and consultative in nature.  These roles include language gurus who advice developers on esoteric or obscure elements in development languages, mentors and coaches, trainers, IT support staff, help desk personnel, program managers, project managers, development managers, and executives.

    General developers or testers will generally not be constraints -- rather, in circumstances where they are in short supply, they would be classified as insufficiently buffered resources.

    If the schedule is to be3 protected from delays, the additional resource constraints must be scheduled.  The schedule must be designed to allow the resource constraint, for example, the user interface designer, to move freely from one task to the next without delaying the start of any specific large grained component.  The feeding chains were planned with feeding buffers based on the notion that the start date is the latest possible date that the feeding chain components can be started without endangering the Critical Path.  If a feeding chain was delayed because a resource was unavailable, the project would be in jeopardy.”

    Specialists are Potential Bottlenecks

    At the end of the day, specialists can be bottlenecks you need to account for when you plan.  Anderson writes:

    “Hence, the specialist resources must be scheduled across the PERT chart.  Uncertainty surrounding the availability of a specialist resource must be anticipated in the planning.  In the user interface designer example, it must be recognized that some sections of the project may require more design or be more difficult to design than others.  Uncertainty generated by the complexity of the design challenge for certain elements of the project must be buffered appropriately.  The schedule must reflect this.

    This section should raise awareness that is it not a good thing to have too many specialist resources.  Specialists are potential bottlenecks and must be schedule on the PERT chart as CCRs.  They must be buffered and protected.  Too many of them would produce a scheduling nightmare, and all the protecting buffers would result in increased Lead Time (LT), increased Operating Expense (OE), and reduced Throughout (T).”

    Elimination of Specialists

    Can you eliminate the need for specialists?  Probably not, but you can limit and reduce your dependency on them, and use specialists more effectively.  Anderson writes:

    “XP eliminates specialists.  There are no analysts in XP, no designers, no UI designers, or architects.  XP encourages the virtue of the highly talented, highly skilled, highly educated generalist.  By eliminating specialists, XP eliminates a large number of potential bottleneck points or constraints.  However, this is a double-edge sword.  Capers Jones has metrics to suggest that teams of specialists outperform generalists [Yourdon 2002].  Constantine has suggested that XP is bad for usability [Constantine 2001a].  Would the customer, for example, want a programmer to design the UI or would they prefer a skilled interaction designer and usability engineer?

    However, eliminating specialists does eliminate constraints.  There are no specialists to be schedule on the PERT chart and no specialists to be protected with buffers.   There is no need for Critical Chain in XP.

    In many cases, XP seeks to deny the Theory of Constraints whilst accepting that traditional software development is constrained.  XP simply eliminates the constraints and moves on, for example, version control lock and technical specialists are eliminated through collective ownership and developers as generalists.  This may, in fact, be appropriate on small-scale projects with highly talented people.  It may be possible to ignore constraints because the people take care of everything and don't get into trouble.  However, as projects get larger and the talent level of the team begins to vary, it may be necessary to look at other methods that seek to accept constraints for what they are.  Rather than ignore constraints, they will identify, exploit, subordinate to, and ultimately elevate them.  Denying constraints exist and denying the need for specialists in a large-scale system of software production may hold back the adoption of XP in larger enterprises.

    Another approach to the denial of constraints could be to declare them paradigm constraints.  XP could be viewed as a paradigm shift in software engineering.  Hence, in a new paradigm, why should existing constraints be considered?  Specialists are merely part of the old paradigm.  Version control lock is equally part of a paradigm.  By changing the working practices of development to a Lean interaction perhaps version write lock dies with the old mass production, specialist paradigm.”

    In closing, I want to point out three key things to keep in mind when you think about generalists vs. specialists:

    1. When you change the paradigm, the problems and self-imposed limits of the existing paradigm can go away.  (Make sure the limits or issues you think you face, are not simply yesterday’s baggage)
    2. If you have the luxury of building resource pools of specialists and addressing availability issues, that’s an entirely different ballgame than depending on limited access to specialists
    3. If you build a team around resources that help provide end-to-end execution capabilities – a team of capabilities should outperform the risks of depending on one-man bands and rock stars that have all the capabilities in a single person

    Happy team building.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Power of Learning Docs


    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.

    It Often Takes Longer to Reshape than to Start Over

    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.

    Throwing Away Documents is Hard if You are Attached

    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.

    Throw Away Documents, But Carry Forward Lessons Learned

    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.

    Fresh Docs Help You Express Ideas More Clearly

    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.

    Learning Docs Are Your Friend

    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.

    Versions + Boneyards Help You Throw Away More Effectively

    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 Takes Longer to Rewrite Than Start from Scratch

    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.

    Make It Easy to Throw Away Docs While You Embrace the Learning

    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.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Write the Story for Your Project


    Are you leading an epic adventure and don’t even know it?

    When you are leading a project, it helps you and those around you to have a simple story of the impact you plan to make.

    As one of my mentors always challenged me, “How will the world be different when you're done?”

    For example, when I was kicking off the Cloud Security Guide a few years back, I challenged the team to write the movie poster or news headline. 

    To model the way, I shared my example first:

    A winning team with great results for customer success on the platform.  Do for the cloud what we did for .NET.  Create a compelling glide path for developers and solutions architects to smooth adoption of Azure.

    Here are the specific instructions I gave the team at the time:

    I’m a fan of stories and telling compelling ones.  I think we all have stories in our mind.  Write your few line story (imagine the movie poster or the news headline) of the project.  Get creative.  Tap into your passion.

    Here are some of the examples I got back:

    Example 1

    The essential security guidance for current and aspiring Azure architects and developers.
    Concise, relevant, scenario-based guidance to ensure you make the right decisions.
    Packaged and presented in a compelling, easy-to-consume manner.

    Example 2

    Create the bible for azure app development. MSDN is reference, the azure guide is where you go first if you want to understand:
    1) The key scenarios for how you may want to use Azure
    2) How to be successful, secure and effective in each scenario
    Create a team of expertise on Azure that can be leveraged for future success, both independently as consultants and together as a team for future Azure efforts

    Example 3

    A rapidly consumable, highly relevant guide demonstrating easily actionable behaviors and activities for securing your Azure implementation.

    As you can see, the examples varied.   What’s important is that the exercise helped everybody get their head in the game.  It effectively helped everybody expand what they thought was possible and to envision a brighter future to deliver against and shape our path.

    It’s a simple exercise, but it’s a great way to begin with the end in mind, clarify your vision and mission, and make your projects the epic adventures that they really can be.

    Nothing beats smart people on a cadence shipping ideas and making things happen on an epic adventure.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    How I Learned to Use Scenarios to Evaluate Things


    I first learned to use scenarios to evaluate things when I was working on security guidance for the Microsoft platform.   It was the most obvious way to really get hardcore:  Map out the most important scenarios that people perform, and use those as tests to evaluate.

    I know “scenario” is an overloaded term, but in software development it typically means one of three definitions:

    1. Same as use case
    2. Path through a use case
    3. Instance of a use case

    #3 is often preferred because it provides a testable result.

    In the broader industry, here are some common definitions …

    • A description of several possible descriptions of a situation
    • A plausible and often simplified description of how the future may develop, based on a coherent and internally consistent set of assumptions about driving forces and key relationships. Scenarios may be derived from projections, but are often based on additional information from other sources, sometimes combined with a “narrative storyline”.
    • A postulated sequence of possible events
    • A story of "myth" about the future events that projects a personal view of the future. This view constitues the context for planning process. Scenario building is a method to objectify "hidden design assumptions" and to play with various "what if's" about the future
    • The entire spectrum of environmental considerations that have interaction with system(s) under analysis or those of interest for training purposes. The spectrum includes physical environment, threat conditions, rules of engagements, and systems performance and effectiveness.

    Growing up at Microsoft, I saw “scenarios” used in the following ways:

    • Product Teams
      • With customers: 
        • “What’s your scenario?
        • ”What are you trying to accomplish?”
        • “What’s your context?”
      • In Specs:
        • Scenarios up front set the context for the feature description.
    • Marketing
      • Encapsulate/communicate key customer pain/problems

    Our thinking and maturity around scenarios has evolved a lot since then, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that sometimes people use scenarios to focus on the problem side, sometimes they use them to focus on the solution side, and sometimes they use them as a bridge between the problem and the solution.

    When people use “future scenarios” they typically are showing “Future Capability Visions”, or storyboards of possibility.   They are a great way to help people envision what’s possible.

    Scenarios themselves are incredibly powerful for analysis, putting requirements into context, and shaping design.

    This brings us back to my story about how I learned to use scenarios to evaluate design and implementation in a very deep way.   When I was working on security guides for the Microsoft platform, I focused on scenarios to map out the priorities and test cases.  Here is a sampling of some of the scenarios we used to help us scope the security work, focus our efforts, and score our results:

    Arch / Design Solutions

    • How to identify and evaluate threats
    • How to create secure designs
    • How to perform an architecture and design review

    Development Solutions

    • How to write secure managed code
    • How to handle exceptions securely
    • How to perform security reviews of managed code
    • How to secure a developer workstation
    • How to write least privileged code
    • How to constrain file I/O
    • How to prevent SQL injection
    • How to prevent cross-site scripting
    • How to manage secrets
    • How to call unmanaged code securely
    • How to perform secure input validation
    • How to secure Forms authentication

    Administrative Solutions

    • How to implement patch management
    • How to secure a database server
    • How to secure an application server
    • How to secure Web services
    • How to secure session state
    • How to manage application configuration securely
    • How to secure against denial of service attacks

    I used simple, goal-oriented language (how to blah), and focused on the solution side.   We were already well aware of the problem side of the equation.   Our best scenarios were the result of asking:  “What do you want to accomplish?”

    The big idea here was that I wanted to use scenarios to shape our work and score our success.

    It was like having the questions for the final exam up front.   We used the best experts to really identify a complete map of what developers, architects, and administrators need to accomplish.

    By mapping out all the scenarios that mattered the most, we had a comprehensive map of what to solve for.   Then it was just a matter of rallying the best brains inside and outside of the company to solve the challenges.  

    Think of it as the ultimate crowd-sourced quiz where the best in the world could share their best knowledge, experience, and insights to advance the art and science of software security.   (Yeah, scenarios really can be a powerful thing.)

    When our security guidance made a big impact in the industry, changing how people actually did software security, I recognized the power of scenarios.    We basically leap frogged ahead in terms of our capabilities because we used real-world scenarios to focus our efforts.

    By using scenarios, we performed extremely well in any platform comparisons because we actually had a full map of the most important scenarios and we solved them by design.   We didn’t luck or hope our way into nailing the things that mattered.  We mapped out the scenarios that mattered, and drove from there.

    From there, I became “the scenarios guy” for the team, and started to dive deeper into ways we could use them.   My next move was to use them more deeply for performing inspections and for raising quality.   I learned to appreciate the distinction between “usage scenarios” for functional things vs. “architecturally significant scenarios” for cross-cutting things.

    Along the way, I dove into various software evaluation methods, including:

    • ALMA - Architecture-level Modifiability Analysis
    • ATAM - Architecture Tradeoff Analysis Method
    • CBAM - Cost Benefit Analysis Method
    • FAAM - Family Architecture Analysis Method
    • SAAM - Software Architecture Analysis Method

    But, the most important insight, (in hindsight), was that utility trees could help visualize the trade-offs among quality attributes.   The other lesson though was that it was tough to integrate and hop around a lot of different tools and techniques for designing robust architectures.  Related, it was even tougher because very few people knew the different vocabularies, approaches, and tools.

    As a result, I focused on creating the Agile Architecture Method.  I wanted a more rapid way to prototype or evaluate architecture and designs, in an iterative and incremental way.   Also, I wanted to use the one language everybody seems to speak:  “whiteboard.”   (Why?   Because it’s visual.)

    But when did I learn to really use scenarios for my own evaluations of every day things?   The first time I bought a digital camera.   I thought about my main usage scenario – I wanted to snap pictures of the whiteboard and share them.

    It was simple enough.   The problem was that when I bought the camera, I only focused on one part of the scenario – taking the pictures.   It didn’t occur to me that because I got a fancy pants camera, that the memory disk was an odd size and didn’t fit in my laptop.   So whenever I took a picture, if I wanted to share it, I had to connect USB to my camera. 

    It sucked.

    It was just enough friction that I think I did it three times, then stopped.

    So the other lesson I learned, aside from using scenarios for evaluation, was how important friction is, both in terms of adoption on the user side, and how important of a consideration it is on the producer side:  you have to eliminate as much friction as possible if you want people to adopt your stuff.

    The moral of the story is that the better you know the real-world usage scenarios, the better you can prioritize, design, implement, and validate your ideas, and, most importantly, get your ideas adopted.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Lifehacker on 30 Days of Getting Results


    Lifehacker is hot.  

    Just when I forgot about how hot it is, I noticed that I got 31,000 page views in a day for 30 Days of Getting Results.com


    I got curious what the buzz was about.  

    It turns out that Melanie Pinola of Lifehacker, wrote an announcement:

    This 30 Day Program Teaches You to Get More Things Done the Agile Way


    And true.

    After all, 30 Days of Getting Results is my ultimate self-paced training program to help you master time management, master productivity, and master work-life balance.

    That’s quite the tall order.

    Anyway, I noticed some interesting comments in the post, so I thought it would be worth elaborating on some of the big ideas, important concepts, and points of confusion.

    The Agile Way

    30 Days of Getting Results is based on the book, Getting Results the Agile Way.

    Getting Results the Agile Way is not about how to do Agile development.  It is an “Agile for Life” guide.  The time management and productivity approach inside is Agile Results.  Most importantly, Agile Results is a personal results system for work and life.

    It will help you do things better, faster, cheaper, and most importantly … it will help you focus on meaningful results and impact, not just getting things done.  It’s also a continuous learning system, so if you are a lifelong learner, this will help you learn things better and deeper.

    (Note to insiders – the “enso” on the cover of the book is actually a symbol of enlightenment, but I went with the loop to imply a loop of learning and continuous improvement, which Agile Results is all about.)

    30 Days of Getting Results is a “30 Day Improvement Sprint” or “Monthly Improvement Sprint”

    I’ve used various names, but the big idea is to focus on something for a month.   Behind the scenes, I went from calling it a 30 Day Improvement Sprint to Monthly Improvement Sprint back to 30 Day Improvement Sprints and sometimes just 30 Day Sprints.

    Two things are important:

    1. I call it a sprint because it’s a focused timebox.  It’s not a marathon (although you could use a 30 Day Sprint to take up marathon running Winking smile
    2. 30 Days is important.  So is the idea of using a month.   So much so, that sometimes I really just have to say Monthly Improvement Sprints.

    I really have to elaborate on point #2 – how 30 days AND a month are both important.   Let’s start with, why a month?   Originally, I suffered from “shiny object syndrome.”   I wanted to dive into too many things at once.  As a results, I dabbled in too many things, and lost focus.   Yet, I wanted a simple way to experiment or try new things.  I had found that spending a week or two on something, wasn’t enough to give things a fair chance.  I really needed to try something for about a month.

    I basically decided that I wanted the chance to focus on something new each month, or to go back and try something again for another month.  But I very clearly wanted a theme or focus for the month, and where at the end of the month, I could decide whether to continue or not.  It’s like a “try it for 30 days” sort of program, or like a “30 day challenge.”   I used this approach to try out new things and to brush up on old hobbies and to learn new skills.  I used it for everything from trying a “living foods” diet to roller blading many miles a day to learning the guts of WCF and other technologies.

    I really, really, really liked the idea of getting a fresh start each month.  And, I liked the idea that over the span of a year, I could invest in 12 significant things, on top of what I already do.   Basically, each month, I could add something new under my belt, or replay a previous focus.  At the same time, this made my months more meaningful.  I could focus on a 30 Day Sprint for work or a 30 Day Sprint for something personal.

    I also learned that starting at the beginning of a month and ending at the end of the month was more important than I thought.  If you ever tried starting something part way through a month and losing track where you are, and trying to do it for a set numbers of days, you know what I mean.   In fact, I found my success rate at sticking with something was lousy if I randomly started somewhere within a month.

    So to make this point super crisp, I deliberate renamed 30 Day Improvement Sprints to Monthly Improvement Sprints.   And to keep things simple, periodically, I would just say a 30 Day Sprint or a Monthly Sprint, which helped, especially those that didn’t want to “improve” but rather just focus on something for a month.

    And then I learned something.   Even though you should really start at the beginning of a month and end at the end of the month, and turn the page, people prefer to call it 30 Day Improvement Sprints or 30 Day Sprints over Monthly Improvement Sprints or Monthly Sprints.

    I get why.   Quantity is precise.  30 days is specific. 

    Specific trumps.

    3 Wins to Rule Your Day (and To Rule Them All)

    Agile Results is insanely simple.  In fact, one of my first early adopters said the big deal was how to get started:

    Write 3 things down today that you want to achieve.

    That’s it.  You're doing Agile Results.

    The mantra to remember is this, and this is how you get the ability to zoom in to your day, or zoom out to the balcony view:

    Think in terms of 3 wins for the day, 3 wins for the week, 3 wins for the month, and 3 wins for the year.

    Again, it’s super simple.  But, it’s super powerful.  

    Behind the scenes, I had stumbled on this pattern out of necessity.   I had to stay on top of big teams spread out around the world, and I needed a very fast way of knowing what matters.  I didn’t want to focus on all the negative (that was natural for me and easy for everyone else, too.)  Instead, I wanted to focus on value and flowing value.  But, to make it significant, I wanted to boil it down to 3 things.  

    3 significant things.

    3 significant things could easily be remembered.   I could use the 3 significant things to focus and prioritize all time, energy, and attention.  What a powerful tool.  And, it worked both at the individual level, and the team level.  I wanted a way to easily tell the story of 3 wins for the team each week, so management could appreciate the value, and, most importantly, so the team could feel good heading out into the weekend.

    Working backwards from the end of the week, I realized that I could ask a very simple question:

    “What are 3 outcomes you want under your belt, if this was Friday, and you were looking back?”

    No more regrets.  No more wasted efforts.  No more frantic scrambling.  Just simple clarity of what would be great to achieve before we go through a bunch of time at things.   And, it was a great way to make for more meaningful weeks.

    This is how the Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection pattern was born.

    On Mondays, identify 3 wins you want for the week.  Each day, identify 3 wins you want for the day. On Fridays, set aside 20 minutes to reflect on 3 things going well and 3 things to improve.

    That pattern alone changes lives (and it’s been used to change businesses and transform execution capability.)

    I should point out that I’ve also called it Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection, which is accurate.  But, to inject some gamification and add the fun factor, I started going with Daily Wins and focusing on 3 Wins for the Day, the Week, the Month, and the Year.

    People like to win.  Agile Results is a way to do that. 

    Ergo, you can win, the Agile Way. (Aren’t you glad I said, “ergo”, and not “thus”?)

    So, if somebody wants the minimal, bare bones implementation of Agile Results, or “how to get started”, then I say, just write down 3 things you want for today.   Instantly, you just put into focus what’s valuable, what’s worth spending time on, and you’ve given yourself a way to focus and prioritize against your laundry list of incoming time thieves, fire drills, action items, and other priorities competing for your attention.

    It’s a very practical way of putting First Things First, in a Stephen Covey kind of way, and giving yourself a mini North Start for the day.

    And, if somebody wants a sticky way to both remember Agile Results – then I tell them, just remember the Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection pattern.   If you get each day right, you get your week right, and if you get your weeks right, you get your months and years right.   And yet, it’s perfectly OK to adapt and adjust along the way.  In fact, Agile Results is designed to help you adapt.

    … but here’s the ultimate trick to using Agile Results.  Add 3 recurring reminders to your calendar (1 for Monday Vision, 1 each day for Daily Wins, and 1 for Friday Reflection.)  

    Does Agile Results Play Well with Getting Things Done?

    I won’t claim to be a Getting Things Done expert.   That said, I’ve mentored many (many, many, many) people over the years who struggled using Getting Things Done to get things done.   It was ironic, but the true irony is that it was not Getting Things Done’s fault.   It’s a perfectly good system.  Instead, people were breaking themselves against the system (and I couldn’t help but remember when Stephen Covey said don’t break yourself against the laws … you have to know the principles.)

    So when I designed Agile Results, I used everything I had learned from doing process and methodology development, and what I had learned from writing about principles, patterns, and practices for years.

    The most important thing I did was rather than get mired in the details of a deep process or methodology explanation, I focused on a few key things:

    1. Values, Principles, and Practices – I focused on a small set of values and principles for Agile Results.  This made it easy so that people could implement the principles as they see fit and easily adapt them, to adopt them.   What I wanted to avoid was people breaking themselves against the system.  (By the way, as a “process architect”, if you look to any good system, it will boil down to values, principles, and practices … these 3 tools are the ultimate backbone for methodology success.)
    2. Flexibility –Darwin taught us that nature favors the flexible.   I decided that agility and flexibility would be a first-class citizen here.  I wanted the system itself to be so simple and flexible that it would be easy to shape or reshape over the coming years as necessary.   More importantly, I wanted this to be a simple system that helps people learn to be more flexible.   Personal flexibility is a key attribute for surviving and thriving in our ever-changing landscape.  I want people to thrive.
    3. Inclusive – I am so not a fan of zealotry (I don’t think I used that word in writing before, cool).   I don’t like one-size fits all.  What can I say, I’m a true, blue Bruce Lee fan:   "Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own."   Those words of wisdom have served me well.   Always.   So, I designed Agile Results to be a system that can easily be combined, integrated, and applied to other time management or productivity systems.   How?   By staying focused on evergreen principles, patterns, and practices, and focusing on outcomes, not activities or tasks.   I regularly hear from people who say they are using Agile Results with everything from Getting Things Done to Zen to Done to the Pomodoro Technique to their favorite apps, like Remember the Milk, etc.   At the end of the day, people get their best results when they create a mosaic of the parts that work for them.
    4. Easy to fall off, but easier to get back on – And, super easy to get started.  In my experience, so many systems and bright ideas fail because the creator builds an insurmountable wall of change, or a sea of information overload.   Because I had to teach this system to so many people in so many ways, and often, in so many seconds, it forced me to radically simplify.    So, what I have now is a very simple system that scales down to “write 3 wins on paper” and yet scales up to the most advanced proven practices for productivity and time management available (yeah, as a Program Manager, it’s the nature of the beast … I’m constantly forced to innovate in terms of doing things better, faster, and cheaper while making more impact and scaling things and building systems and ecosystems to amplify impact.)
    5. Continuous learning – By keeping the system simple, and by having a handful of values, principles, and practices, and by baking learning into the system as a first-class citizen, Agile Results easily adapts to whatever your current approach and tools are.    This was a crucial design point.   I had way too many people coming from all sorts of backgrounds and all sorts of experience and all sorts of styles.  It forced me to make sure that Agile Results could bend, and not break, and, ultimately be a powerful tool for smart people.   The last thing I wanted to create was a tool that got in the way of smart people.  Instead, I wanted a tool and framework to help smart people get more out of work and life, and support their continuous growth and transformation.

    With that in mind, I have had many, many, many GTD’ers show me how they use Agile Results + Getting Things Done.   Like I said, I’m a fan of “better together” and blending the best of the best in a Bruce Lee sort of way.

    What About Agile Methodologies?

    Like I said, Getting Results the Agile Way, is not about how to do Agile software development methodologies (though, interestingly, I’ve used Agile Results to get more out of Agile methodologies Winking smile

    But, I have learned Agile methodologies and practices from some of the world’s best practitioners, including Ward Cunningham (father of Wikimedia, which is the platform that Wikipedia runs on.)

    While there is a lot of information out there about how to do Agile development, I still see a lot of people struggle when they try to get started.  If you haven’t made the journey from early on, it can be tough to figure out how to get started now.   Worse, if you aren’t living in software, it’s not always obvious to know how to adapt Agile practices.   The other challenge I see is that people are trying to adopt more Agile ways, but they are in environments that don’t have dedicated teams.  

    It’s the worst-case scenario of v-Teams or ad-hoc teams of limited and chaotic availability.

    So, while I always thought there was plenty of great Agile resources for people to use to get started, I still see a gap.

    I’m finding myself spending too much time ramping people up on things that I thought were more mainstream than they really are yet.

    I suspect I will do my part to try and fill this gap in the near future.

    My first and foremost goal was to help people learn how to be “Agile for Life”, and that was the driving goal behind Getting Results the Agile Way.

    My next step will be to help professionals learn how to be “Agile at Work.”

    … and, in that case, I will be able to draw from my experience over the years, and share even more on what I’ve learned over the past few years, especially as it relates to helping startups and helping businesses undergo major transformation and change … the Agile way.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Book Reviews at a Glance


    I’ve created a book reviews at a glance page at Sources of Insight.

    I read a lot of books and do a lot of book reviews.  Previously, you could get to the book reviews through the book reviews category, but you had to flip through pages in order to find them all.  Now the book reviews are right at your fingertips.

    I do my book reviews a bit differently.   They are more like movie trailers.  Rather than focus on whether I like a book or not, I focus on what you can use from the book, in work or life, to get better results.

    Here are a handful of my favorite book reviews you can explore to get a sense of how I do book reviews:

    These also happen to be some excellent books for improving your effectiveness at work.

    In fact, if you read nothing else, at least read The First 90 Days.   It’s the book that will help you become a highly effective corporate warrior, in a peaceful warrior way.  You’ll learn to see the chessboard and operate at a higher level.   It includes everything from the five conversations to have with your boss to ramping up more effectively in a new organization.  It’s definitely one of those books that I can point to as making a leapfrog in my career trajectory.

    Surprisingly, I don’t have as many book reviews as a I should.  I resisted doing book reviews early on because, in general, I wasn’t a fan of book reviews.   Too often, I read book reviews that were just about whether somebody liked or didn’t like a book.  What I really wanted was a deeper peek into the bowels of the book, and some highlights on what I could use, so I could figure out whether to get the book.

    Last year, I decided to give it a whirl and just do book reviews in my own style.   I wanted the book reviews to quickly map out the book, show what problems the book solves, and give highlights on the big ideas.   Next thing you know, I started getting emails from readers about how they liked my book review approach and how my book reviews were like nothing they had seen before.  So I continued to do them ever since.

    So here it is, at your fingertips, my book reviews page.

    It’s an evergreen page, so I’ll update it as I release more book reviews.


  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Business Value Generation is the New Bottleneck


    “Creating value is an inherently cooperative process, capturing value is inherently competitive.” -- Barry J. Nalebuff

    I remember back in the day when prototyping solutions was the biggest bottleneck.   It could easily take many months to prototype a working solution that would address the key concerns in a viable way.

    In fact, in one particularly painful example, I remember a team had spent more than six months on their prototype.  They were trying to find the right combination of authentication and authorization patterns to support a suite of line-of-business applications.  They got lost in all of the possible combinations and permutations, and they ended up going down a bunch of different rabbit holes. 

    Worse, they ended up with a bunch of dead ends that would never work in the target environment.

    This example really stuck out in my mind, because when this particular customer met with our little security SWAT team on the Microsoft patterns & practices team, we figured out a workable solution within 30 minutes, and had concrete plans for three specific prototypes just to play out the possibilities.

    30 Minutes vs. Six Months is a Big Deal

    Of course, we had several things on our side that helped us reduce six months down to 30 minutes:

    1. We had been looking across customer scenarios so we were familiar with all the various patterns
    2. We knew the technology stack, the viable options, the obvious limitations, the design intent, and in most cases, the actual source code
    3. We had an “algorithm” for designing authentication and authorization solutions

    Here’s the algorithm we used for solving every authentication and authorization challenge:

    1. Identify resources
    2. Choose an authorization strategy
    3. Choose the identities used for resource access
    4. Consider identity flow
    5. Choose an authentication approach
    6. Decide how to flow identity

    Obviously, there’s a lot of details behind each step, but the high-level sequence was the key to success.

    The reason why this approach was so effective is that we worked backwards from the end in mind.  In many cases, solution architects and developers were so focused on the authentication piece, that they lost sight of the spectrum of resources they would need to access, and which identities would need to be authorized, etc.

    A Proven Practice, a Shared Language, and Mental Models Really Speed Things Up

    This authentication and authorization design process also worked really well because we had a shared language and mental models for each of the parts.  For example, when we identified resources, we looked at Web server resources, database resources, and network resources.   When we chose an authorization strategy, we evaluated role-based vs. resource-based (claims wasn’t on the scene at that time.)  When we chose identities, we evaluated the original caller’s identity, the process identity, service accounts, and custom identities.  When we evaluated different authentication approaches, we would use terms like the trusted subsystem model and the impersonation/delegation model.

    My big insight at the time was how a little knowledge and a proven practice for designing authentication and authorization solutions could effectively “flatten” time.  In which case, now the bottleneck gets pushed around.  If it no longer took a team six months to prototype a solution, then what would be the next obvious big bottleneck?  If you’re into Theory of Constraints (TOC), you’ll especially appreciate this dilemma.

    What’s the Next Big Bottleneck?

    Let’s fast forward to today’s emerging landscape.   With today’s tools, people, and processes, prototyping no longer takes a six month epic journey. 

    It’s no longer the big bottleneck.

    In a world where we are moving towards “IT as a service”, what does become the next biggest bottleneck?

    You could just say that it’s the absorption rate, or the adoption rate, or the consumption rate, and you’d be in good company.  In fact, a book that explains this bottleneck in detail is Consumption Economics: The New Rules of Tech.

    But, there is another bottleneck.  

    It’s one that I was exposed to thanks to a few incubation teams where we got to see what happens when a customer goes Cloud and re-imagines their business.   Suddenly, they have a lot more capability at their fingertips, as well as agility, and the ability to innovate.

    Business Value Generation is the New Bottleneck

    The new bottleneck is business value generation.

    Precisely, it’s the challenge of finding, creating, capturing, and accelerating business value – which is the key to the future.

    It’s like a switch is suddenly flipped, and it’s a race to figure out how to create new value.

    I like how Charlie Bess describes this new landscape when writing about HP Discover 2013:

    “The IT industry behavior is definitely changing. We’re moving from a focus on cost savings and RFP driven engagements between companies and suppliers into an environment that is more consumption-based. Where nearly anything in IT can be purchased “as-a-service”. This allows for a much more business-led approach, focused on business value generation, yet with a demand for a relatively short return on investment. This leads to many asking for advice on what they should do or just a level-set on what is actually happening and what others are doing.”

    The Pace of Change Changes Everything

    With the pace of change, the ability to innovate, and the ability to execute, the bottleneck really comes down to how to generate new business value (and, related, how to accelerate that business value.)

    It’s a loop, too as value goes from productized to service-ized, to commoditized.

    And, it’s a continuously changing game as value moves up the stack, where things that were once “above the line” are now “below the line.”

    What’s Possible When it Comes to Business Value Generation?

    Remember that example of six months vs. 30 minutes?   Amazing things are possible when you have proven practices, a shared language, and mental models.

    I’ll share more on this in a future post, but for now, let me give just a brief example to hopefully illuminate what’s possible …

    A colleague and I were brainstorming on potential scenarios on how social computing could change the Enterprise as we know it.   We knew we could use scenarios as a way to rapidly envision future capability visions, and then use storyboards to play out future possibilities.

    When we were operating from a blank slate, we didn’t get very far.   In fact, it was pretty abstract, and not very effective.  

    Then we switched gears.

    We pulled up a topology map of business capabilities and started to heat map capabilities that we could light up with social computing scenarios.   Suddenly, we were on fire.   For example, externally, if you had more insights into your customer’s pains and needs from social computing, could you design more targeted offers?   Or, if you had better connection with your customers in the marketplace through social computing, could you better shape your customer loyalty and perception in the market?  Or, internally, through social computing capabilities, could you improve collaboration and more rapidly share tribal knowledge among your teams?

    Behind the scenes, we used a rapid way of checking for potential business value, and quickly validating whether the scenario would be a meaningful and significant chunk of organizational change.

    Long story short, we quickly walked away with tens of future scenarios for the Enterprise in under an hour.

    What I learned from this exercise is three key things:

    1. Business value generation is the new bottleneck
    2. Many businesses will fail if they don’t master this (and this is growing opportunity for business transformation artists)
    3. Information technology is the key to the future, but only when it helps drive new business value

    Your ability to generate new business value will be the key to making the most of big technology trends, including Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data, and re-imagining your business in a digital economy, while crossing the chasm to the Cloud, in a globally connected, always-on, ultra-competitive, ever-changing world.

    Innovation, instead of being the exception, is the new norm.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Sources of Insight Refresh: Insights and Actions for Work and Life at Your Fingertips


    I’ve done another intensive user experience exercise to improve Sources of Insight.image

    Sources of Insight is a knowledge base of principles, patterns, and practices for helping you get better results in work and life.

    A friendly way of looking at it is:

    “Skills to pay the bills and lead a better life.”

    I started the site a few years back to help give people an advantage in work and life.  We don’t get a great playbook when we start out, and there are a lot of skills that we don’t learn in school.  For example, motivation, productivity, time management, personal development, etc.

    I’ve used Sources of Insight as a clearinghouse of ideas you can experiment with to help you figure out better ways for better days, find your breakthroughs, and get over some issues that might be holding you back.

    You can use Sources of Insight for several things, including, but not limited to:

    1. Re-imagine yourself with You 2.0  (this will help you build your firm foundation and find your way forward in a sustainable way)
    2. Find the best books on different topics including Business Books, Leadership Books, Personal Development Books, and Time Management Books.
    3. Inspire yourself with wisdom of the ages and modern sages in the form of great quotes.   You’ll find hand-crafted collections of quotes including Inspirational QuotesLeadership Quotes, Life Quotes, and Simplicity Quotes
    4. Learn lessons from the great ones, both famous folks and ordinary people that do extraordinary things.  My Great People page includes lessons learned from Bruce Lee, Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin, Stephen Covey, Steve Jobs, and Tony Robbins.
    5. Fill your bag of tricks with 101 of the Greatest Insights and Actions for Work and Life.
    6. Learn a powerful results system to help you master productivity, time management, and work-life balance with 30 Days of Getting Results.
    7. Learn some of the best insights from insightful people and best-selling authors.  My Special Guests page includes guest posts from Al Riese (author of The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding),  Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project), Jim Kouzes (author of The Leadership Challenge), Michael Michalko (author of THINKERTOYS), and more.


    I also do hard-core Book Reviews.   They are like mini-movie trailers but for books and they give you a deep dive into significant highlights from the book.   Here is an example of my book review of The Charge.

    So what exactly did I do in terms of improving the user experience for Sources of Insight?

    I took a look at all the feedback and looked for patterns and things that I thought could be improved.  I tested multiple combinations of layouts and changes to things like menu items and placement.  Here’s a highlight of some of the more important changes that overall should help create a better user experience:

    1. Simplified the menu and fixed some quirks
    2. Smaller home page with more focus and quick jumps to hot items
    3. Added an Explore menu item.

    I made a number of other changes, too, but I think the addition of the Explore page is what will make a big difference for a lot of people.  You’ll want to bookmark the Explore page because it’s got enough articles that you’ll want to go back to.   It features key articles for Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Personal Development, Personal Effectiveness, and Productivity.

    Each time you Explore, you bound to walk away with some insight and action you can immediately apply to work or life for instant impact.

    I’m still in the process of making improvements so if you have more ideas, be sure to send my way.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Back to School Special on Getting Results the Agile Way


    image“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” -- Mahatma Gandhi

    It's back to school time.  To help students get the edge, Getting Results the Agile Way is available for free on the Kindle for a limited time:

    Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life

    Grab it today, so you don't miss out.

    If you're a student, you can use Agile Results as your unfair advantage.

    It will put some of the best science on your side, and help you master your time management and productivity skills.  It's more than a system.  It's a playbook full of proven practices for personal effectiveness.

    It's the book I wish somebody gave me long ago.

    Back to School is a Great Time to Renew and Retool

    Back to school time is a great time to do a reset and own your future.

    That’s really what Getting Results the Agile Way is all about – owning your future.  It helps you be the author of your life and write your story forward.  By focusing on meaningful results, taking action, and creating continuous learning loops, you set yourself up for success.

    It’s a playbook you can use for school, work, and life to help you make the most of what you've got, and enjoy the journey and the destination.

    Times are tough.  The world changes under our feet.  You need a system to get rapid results and to embrace change.

    You can actually use change as a way to transform any situation into opportunities, if you know how.

    Maybe the most important thing you learn from Agile Results is how to flow incremental value … to yourself and others.

    Flexibility Will Be Your Competitive Advantage

    Darwin taught us long ago that it’s not the smartest or the fastest that survive … it’s the most adaptable who thrive.

    The problem is that by default, we’re creatures of habit, and we aren’t very good at change, unless we know the habits and practices that can help us think, feel, and take action more effectively.

    It Works for Artists, Too

    Even if you consider yourself more of an “artist” than a productivity type, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  Agile Results has helped many artists experience what it’s like to be a “productive artist.”   In fact, a key focus in Agile Results is leveraging your energy and creativity for breakthrough results.   One of the big ideas is actually adding more Creative Hours to your week so that you can leap frog ahead in today’s ultra-competitive world.

    You’ll be amazed at what you’re capable of, when you use the ideas from Agile Results to enhance your focus, play to your strengths, and sharpen your ability to complete things in record time.   

    What Makes Agile Results Different?

    There are a lot of time management and productivity systems out there.   That’s a good thing, because it means you don’t have to start from scratch.  

    But there’s a challenge.

    The challenge is, how do you integrate all of the best principles, patterns, and practices for productivity and time management into a simple system that works for you?

    Agile Results is a simple system for meaningful results that integrates the world’s best techniques for productivity and time management.  Here are some of the key distinctions that make Agile Results different, but complimentary and compatible with other systems:

    1. Outcomes over Activities. Outcomes provide a lens for focus. Outcomes are the results you want to accomplish. Just doing more activities, checking off items from a task list, and throwing more time and energy at problems won’t necessarily produce the results you want. By starting with outcomes, you define what good will look like and you give yourself a compelling path to work towards. Working on the right things to produce the right results for your current situation is a recipe for success.
    2. Time as a First-Class Citizen. In Agile Results, time is a first-class citizen. Windows of opportunity are important. It’s about doing “good enough” for now, and versioning your results. Time changes what’s important. What was important last month or last week might not be what’s important now. That’s the agile part—be responsive to what’s important now. This also includes using timeboxes effectively. For example, rather than try to figure out how long something might take, start by figuring out how much time you want to invest in it. Identify up front at what point do diminishing returns become unacceptable. This will help you cut your losses and figure out how to optimize your time.
    3. Fresh Start. If you fall off the horse, you can get back on. You get a fresh start each day, each week, each month, each year. What you take on is just as important as what you let go or “slough off.” You don’t want to be a beast of burden where one more straw breaks your back. It’s about thinking in terms of delivering value over simply working through your backlog or crossing off a laundry list of to-dos. It’s about asking and answering what’s your next best thing to do.
    4. Test Your Results. Have a bias for action. Rather than do a bunch of analysis and commit to a big plan up front, start taking action and testing you results. Use feedback to improve your plans. Testing your results is a way to find the risks and surprises earlier versus later. A simple way to remember this is “Do it, review it, and improve it.” In addition, you’ll find that action creates inspiration. A lot of people wait for their moment of inspiration before they start, but what they don’t realize is that simply by starting, the inspiration can follow. It’s like going to see a movie and then enjoying it more than you expected.
    5. Fix Time, Flex Scope. By fixing time, you set yourself up for success. The main thing is to set a fixed time for eating, sleeping, and working out. You can also fix time within work. For example, you can decide that work is an eight hour day within which you set timeboxes to produce results: an hour for administration, four hours for execution, two hours for think time, and a minimum of an hour on communication and relationships. At a higher level, you might fix time to be a 40-hour or 50-hour work week. Within that time frame, you will bite off the work you can do. What you won’t do is flex time. You won’t throw more hours at the problem each day. You’ll gradually learn to bite off what you can accomplish and manage your plate more effectively.
    6. Boundaries. Boundaries are simply minimums and maximums. Setting boundaries is a key to success. You’ll produce more effective results by spending the right time and energy on the right things. You can set boundaries with time; for example, tell yourself, “I’ll spend no more than an hour on that.” You can set boundaries in terms of energy; for example, tell yourself, “I’ll stop when I start to feel tired.” Most people trip up by not setting boundaries. They’ll work on something until they crash. They throw all their time in one area at the expense of other areas. Setting boundaries is how you can add balance to your life. You can spread your time and energy across the important Hot Spots.
    7. Tests for Success. Your tests for success answer the question, “What will good look like?” Simply by figuring out the three outcomes you want for the day, the week, the month, and the year, you identify your tests for success. You have an idea of what you want to accomplish and what good will look like. Knowing your tests for success helps you prioritize.
    8. Approach over Results. How you accomplish your results is more important than the results themselves in the long run. Your approach is your foundation. It’s what you fall back on when you don’t know the way forward. Your approach should be sustainable. You should also be able to improve your approach over time. Your approach should be consistent with your values. Your approach should play to your strengths and limit your weaknesses.
    9. The Rhythm of Results. Iterate on your results. Version your results over time. The rhythm of results is your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly results. This is about flowing value incrementally. Think of it as a set of trains that come and go from the station. If you miss a train, you can catch the next one. At the same time, you want to catch certain trains because of your time frames and windows of opportunity.
    10. Time, Energy, and Technique. You don’t want to just throw more time at problems. You also don’t want to burn yourself out by just throwing your energy into things. Your results are a combination of time, energy, and technique. By using more effective techniques, you can amplify your results. This is how you use your time and energy more effectively.
    11. Strengths over Weaknesses. Rather than spend all your time improving your weaknesses, spend your time playing to your strengths. While it’s important to reduce your liabilities, you’ll go further, have more passion, and produce more effective results by spending more time in your strengths. In areas that you are weak, one of your best moves is to partner or team up with others that supplement you. If you can’t outsource your weaknesses, you can find more effective mentors or pair up with other people who help you amplify your results.
    12. System over Ad Hoc. When you have routines for how you produce results, you can learn and improve. It’s one thing to produce results randomly, while it’s another to have a system you can count on. When you have a system, you can tune and prune what works for you.
    13. Continuous Learning. The world’s not static. Skills aren’t static. You’re not static. Learning is a first-class citizen. It’s about taking action, getting the feedback, and changing your approach. It’s about letting go of what’s not working, and testing new ways to achieve your results. It’s about personalizing your approach and continuously refining it to meet your needs. Your weekly reflection will help you learn more about yourself in terms of your strengths, your weaknesses, your passions, your bottlenecks, and ultimately your results. While improving your results, you’ll improve the way you produce results. Improving the way you produce results, will improve your enjoyment and fulfillment no matter what you work on.

    In other words, you don’t have to throw out your existing systems.  Instead, you can enhance your existing time management system, or get more out of it, by using some or all of the insights and actions from Agile Results.

    Get the Book Today or Tell a Friend

    Grab your unfair advantage today, so you don't miss out, and tell all the students you know so they, too, can have an unfair advantage:

    Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life

    Go back to school in style and unleash what you’re capable of.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Strategy Development, Consumer Experience, and Technology Build Out


    “Strategic management consultants help clients perform markedly better in a world of rapid change.  Consultants must constantly learn new skills, contribute to the intellectual capital of business, and build enduring relations with their clients." -- Carl W. Stern, The Boston Consulting Group

    While flipping through my copy of, Management Consulting: A Complete Guide to the Industry, by Sugata Biswas and Daryl Twitchell, I came across an interesting model for thinking about the execution of client engagements:

    1. Strategy Development
    2. Consumer Experience
    3. Technology Build Out

    It’s a way of dividing a client engagement into three basic phases.

    It helps explain how different firms may work with a client throughout the entire lifecycle of an engagement.  It also helps explain divisions of labor.  The actual composition of the team would vary based on the work stage of an engagement, so that the best resources and capabilities handle each stage.  For example, strategists often dominate the team in the early phase.  Functional and creative designers dominate during the second phase, and technologists dominate the final phase.

    I like the simplicity of the model, and it helps really show where the action is without getting bogged down, and losing sight of the main focus.  It’s all too easy among the chaos to let the wrong thing overshadow what the real value is.

    Summary Table of Strategy Development, Consumer Experience, and Technology Build Out

    Here’s a quick view, according to Sugata Biswas and Daryl Twitchell of what’s happening in each stage:

    Strategy Development
    • Competitive analysis
    • Customer analysis
    • Market survey
    • Strategic plan development
    • Technology assessment: define capability map, component sourcing, and so on
    • Operating model definition
    Consumer Experience
    • Marketing launch plan
    • Functional analysis
    • Information architecture
    • Creative/user interface design
    • Prototype development and technology infrastructure
    • Mock-up creation
    Technology Build-Out
    • Technical infrastructure set-up
    • Implementation
    • Testing
    • Production rollout and support
    • Operational planning and execution
    • Configuration management
    • Knowledge transfer

    Visualizing Strategy Development, Consumer Experience, and Technology Build Out

    Here’s a visual of what these different phases might look like, according to Sugata Biswas and Daryl Twitchell:


    As simple as it is, I like the fact that it’s a hypothesis on where the bulk of the work tends to be.  It also makes it easy to imagine or re-imagine what other combinations of work might look like, if there’s certain shifts or changes in the market place.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Negotiation Skills for Work and Life (or How To Master the Art of Getting What You Want)


    “He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of a diplomat.” – Robert Estabrook

    Are you a skilled negotiator?

    Negotiation skills are often the difference that make the difference in achieving more of what you want in business and in life.

    We negotiate every day.   With our friends, our family, our colleagues, our bosses.   We negotiate everything from where we want to go on vacation, to what to work on next.  We negotiate our jobs, our schedules, our salaries.

    Strong negotiation skills can set you apart.   Especially, if people find out that you are fair, flexible, and have their best interests at heart.   If you are manipulative, out for your won interests, and go for the win-lose, you’re the one who loses over time.  Zig Ziglar said it best:

    "You can have everything in life that you want if you just give enough other people what they want."

    But negotiation skills don’t come easy to many of us.  We have to work at it.

    What are some of the things we have to work on to build our negotiation skills?

    Here’s a short list …

    How to figure out what you want

    How to figure out what other people want

    How to be able to read a situation

    How to figure out what people value and to speak in that language

    How to be able to figure out key concerns and the threats people perceive

    How to know what success looks like for both parties

    How to be flexible in what you want

    How to trade up short-term wins for long-term gains

    How to stay connected with people while having crucial conversations

    How to develop your emotional intelligence and keep your cool under pressure

    These negotiation skills and many more help equip your for negotiating with the best of them.  But, where do you start?   There is a lot to learn.

    One effective place to start is the book, The Complete Guide on How To Negotiate.  I wrote a detailed book review so you can explore it:

    The Complete Guide on How To Negotiate: Master the Art of Getting What You Want in Business and in Life

    What’s good about this book is that it cuts to the chase, equips you with the mindset of an effective negotiator, and gives you strategies and tactics you can use for a variety of scenarios.   It’s a short book that focuses on giving you negotiation skills that you can use in work and life to get more of what you want, and potentially more important, help you avoid getting taken advantage of.

    The book has a solid foundation because the author both has extensive experience and drives from the philosophy of going for the win-win, rather than playing a bunch of tricks to take advantage of, or manipulate people.   That said, you’ll learn what the most common tricks of the trade are, and how to deal with them.

    I could recommend a lot of books on negotiation skills.   In fact, another book I would recommend that helps build your fundamental negotiation skills is Influence Without Authority.    What I like about The Complete Guide on How To Negotiate is that it gets you up and running fast.   Then, if you want to really build out your repertoire and understand persuasion and influence at a much deeper level, then dig through Influence Without Authority.

    If you read these two books, you’ll be well ahead of the pack.  In fact, you’ll know when people have not read these books because they’ll be negotiating all wrong.   They’ll only know their point of view.   They won’t answer what’s in it for you.  They’ll be rigid in their approach.  They won’t speak in the language of what you value.  They’ll be going for a win-lose.   You get the idea.

    Even if you don’t like negotiating, at least work on your negotiation skills so that a lack of negotiation skills won’t work against you.   Too many people, all around you, are asserting themselves and their positions for you to sit idly by and be on the receiving end of bad propositions.

    You know you’re doing a good job when you can effectively argue for you, your team, your company, your customers, the right thing to do, etc.

    In fact, the more you build your negotiation skills and learn how to influence without authority, the more you will enjoy using your ability to grow new and better opportunities for all those involved, right under your feet.

    It’s the Stephen Covery way of staying out of the scarcity mentality, finding 3rd alternatives, and creating a bigger playground for everybody to play in.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Emotional Intelligence Quotes


    Emotional intelligence is how you gain control over your lizard brain. 

    Here's what Seth Godin says about the lizard brain:
    "The lizard is a physical part of your brain, the pre-historic lump near the brain stem that is responsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive. Why did the chicken cross the road? Because her lizard brain told her to."

    Emotional intelligence is kind of a big deal. 

    In fact, according to Daniel Goleman -- “As much as 80% of adult 'success' comes from EQ.”

    Pretty striking.

    But there's more ...

    “Comparing the three domains, I found that for jobs of all kinds, emotional competencies were twice as prevalent among distinguishing competencies as were technical skills and purely cognitive abilities combined. In general the higher a position in an organization, the more EI mattered: for individuals in leadership positions, 85 percent of their competencies were in the EI domain.”  — Daniel Goleman

    So, if you want to improve your personal effectiveness, emotional intelligence is a key. 

    And, if you want to learn more about emotional intelligence, take a stroll or a scroll through my latest collection of quotes:

    Emotional Intelligence Quotes

    There's words of wisdom on emotional intelligence from Benjamin Franklin, Buddha, Dale Carnegie, Vincent Van Gogh, and more.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    30 Days of Getting Results Updated Based on Feedback


    imageI’ve made another attempt to improve the user experience for 30 Days of Getting Results.  To improve the experience, I’ve focused on minimalism, whitespace, easy navigation, and powerful content that helps you thrive.

    30 Days of Getting Results is the ultimate self-paced training system to help you master productivity, time management, and work-life balance.

    It’s productivity on fire.

    You’ll learn multiple ways to at least triple your productivity, while spending more time on things you love, and plowing through the tough stuff, and doing your heavy lifting with more skill and capability.

    It’s based on the book, Getting Results the Agile Way, which introduces the Agile Results system.  Getting Results the Agile Way has been a best seller in time management.

    In fact, the 30 Days of Getting Results is itself a 30 Day Improvement Sprint, where you use Agile Results to learn a new habit, and to get great results over a 30 day period.

    Just because it’s a 30 Day series, doesn’t mean that you have to take 30 days or go in sequence.   In fact, when somebody is first checking it out, I tell them to take a peek at the following lessons:

    Here is the page that provides the complete list of 30 lessons.

    And, here is a list of the 30 lessons, with direct links, so you can explore at your leisure:

    1. Day 1 – Take a Tour of Getting Results the Agile Way
    2. Day 2 – Monday Vision – Use Three Stories to Drive Your Week
    3. Day 3 – Daily Outcomes – Use Three Stories to Drive Your Day
    4. Day 4 – Let Things Slough Off
    5. Day 5 – Hot Spots – Map Out What’s Important
    6. Day 6 – Friday Reflection – Identify Three Things Going Well and Three Things to Improve
    7. Day 7 – Setup Boundaries and Buffers
    8. Day 8 – Dump Your Brain to Free Your Mind
    9. Day 9 – Prioritize Your Day with MUST, SHOULD, and COULD
    10. Day 10 – Feel Strong All Week Long
    11. Day 11 – Reduce Friction and Create Glide Paths for Your Day
    12. Day 12 – Productivity Personas – Are You are a Starter or a Finisher?
    13. Day 13 – Triage Your Action Items with Skill
    14. Day 14 – Carve Out Time for What’s Important
    15. Day 15 – Achieve a Peaceful Calm State of Mind
    16. Day 16 – Use Metaphors to Find Your Motivation
    17. Day 17 – Add Power Hours to Your Week
    18. Day 18 – Add Creative Hours to Your Week
    19. Day 19 — Who are You Doing it For?
    20. Day 20 — Ask Better Questions, Get Better Results
    21. Day 21 – Carry the Good Forward, Let the Rest Go
    22. Day 22 – Design Your Day with Skill
    23. Day 23 — Design Your Week with Skill
    24. Day 24 – Bounce Back with Skill
    25. Day 25 – Fix Time. Flex Scope
    26. Day 26 – Solve Problems with Skill
    27. Day 27 – Do Something Great
    28. Day 28 – Find Your One Thing
    29. Day 29 – Find Your Arena for Your Best Results
    30. Day 30 – Take Agile Results to the Next Level


    So far, everybody that I know that’s gone through has found something significant they can do to really up their game, whether that’s improving their productivity, mastering time management, or improving their work-life balance.

    It’s both a great way to get introduced to Agile Results (a personal results system for work and life), and to instantly improve your productivity by applying the lessons to everyday life.


  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    What’s the Hope, What’s in the Way, What’s the Path


    I’m a fan of strategy, and being strategic.  To put it another way, I’m a fan of being intentional about spending my time and energy on things that produce more effective results.   I’m not a fan of randomly throwing time and energy at things in a flurry of activity.

    Life’s short, then you die, so it would be great to get more impact out of the time and energy you spend on things.

    That’s where strategy fits in.

    One of my favorite books on strategy is Being Strategic, by Erika Andersen.   She defines strategy like this:

    “Consistently making those core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future.”

    I like that.

    I’m not a fan of strategy without execution.  For me, strategy is what shapes the execution.  Strategy is a way to guide your tactics, or to shape your actions for better results.

    Strategy is a beautiful discipline with depth and breadth.   In fact, so much so that it can be hard to shift to being more strategic, if you aren’t used to thinking that way.

    I wrote a simple post to help you be more strategic based on the approach presented in Being Strategic:

    What’s the Hope, What’s in the Way, What’s the Path

    It’s very simple, but very powerful.

    Interestingly, each of the parts is powerful on its own.  For example, just clarifying “What’s in the Way”, can help you instantly reveal what’s been holding you back or help you see a limiting belief that’s keeping you stuck.   It also helps you put into perspective some of the real challenges that stand in the way between where you are, and the “castle on the hill” (you're hoped-for future.)

    If you haven’t been a fan of strategy, because it’s either been too complicated, or something that “other people do”, or you’ve been let down by people that do a bunch of strategic planning, but no execution, I invite you to give strategy another chance.

    Start to practice this simple little mantra:  “What’s the Hope”, “What’s in the Way,” and “What’s the Path”

    Use it to get clear on what you want, reveal the obstacles in the way, and help you clarify a more strategic approach to guide your tactics to get there.

    By using strategy, and being more strategic, you can do more with less, get more out of the things you spend your time and energy on, and build momentum around your activities to help you achieve your success, whatever that may be, more consistently.

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