Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
Why do some companies survive and thrive in the face of global competition? What do some companies do differently so they are growing and making money, having more productive employees, getting more from their investments, and having more success with their strategic initiatives?
They digitize their core processes.
In the book, Enterprise Architecture as Strategy, Jeanne Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson write about how to turn IT into an asset rather than a liability.
Companies that survive and thrive can execute their core operations in a reliable and efficient way. They can do so because they’ve digitized their core operations. In this way, they’ve turned their IT investment into an asset versus a liability, and they’ve achieved business agility. Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:
“We believe these companies execute better because they have a better foundation for execution. They have embedded technology in their processes so that they can efficiently and reliably execute their core operations of the company. These companies have made tough decisions about what they must execute well, and they've implemented the IT systems they need to digitize those operations. These actions have made IT an asset rather than a liability and have created a foundation for business agility.”
Digitizing your core operations can lead to higher profitability, faster time to market, and more value from IT investments. And, lower IT costs. Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:
“We surveyed 103 U.S. and European companies about their IT and IT-enabled business processes. Thirty-four percent of those companies have digitized their core processes. Relative to their competitors, these companies have higher profitability, experience a faster time to market, and get more value from their IT investments. They have better access to shared customer data, lower risk of mission-critical systems failures, and 80 percent higher senior management satisfaction with technology. Yet, companies who have digitized their core processes have 25 percent lower IT costs. These are the benefits of an effective foundation for execution.”
Some companies just don’t get it. They cut, but they don’t create value. Meanwhile, the companies that do get it, pull further ahead. Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:
“In contrast, 12 percent of the companies we studied are frittering away management attention and technology investments on a myriad of (perhaps) locally sensible projects that don't support enterprise-wide objectives. Another 48 percent of the companies are cutting waste from their IT budgets but haven't figured out how to increase value from IT. Meanwhile, a few leading-edge companies are leveraging a foundation for execution to pull further and further ahead.”
With a strong foundation for execution, you can achieve business agility and profitable growth. Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:
“As such statistics show, companies with a good foundation for execution have an increasing advantage over those that don't. In this book, we describe how to design, build, and leverage a foundation for execution. Based on survey and case study research at more than 400 companies in the United States and Europe, we provide insights, tools, and a language to help managers recognize their core operations, digitize their core to more efficiently support their strategy, and exploit their foundation for execution to achieve business agility and profitable growth.”
I’m lucky enough to be on the Enterprise Strategy team at Microsoft. A focus in Enterprise Strategy is to help a company identify their core business and IT capabilities and to pick the best opportunities to transform their business in a scenario-based way. Changes at the capability level have a ripple effect across people, process, and technology. It’s effectively the business of business transformation. The goal is to accelerate business value and help these companies survive and thrive in changing times.
Speaking of changing times, the Cloud is really a great forcing function for business transformation. More and more companies are looking at what they should do to make the most of what Cloud, mobile, social, and big data bring to the table. I’ve been watching the transformations unfold and hearing the stories from the trenches.
I’ll be talking more about the book, Enterprise Architecture as Strategy, in the near future, as it’s one of the best books on how to create a foundation for business execution, and I get to see it in action. Our Enterprise Architects tell me stories about how they are leading their customers on journeys to the Cloud and transforming IT for competitive advantage.
These are truly exciting times to be at the leading edge of business transformation.
As I’ve delivered Agile Results training to more organizations, I’ve had to really get crisp on how to get started. Like anything, there are so many possible ways, and what people really are looking for is a simple way to test the waters to see if it’s for them.
I’ve updated my Getting Started with Agile Results page.
I think it really captures the spirit now. The most important insight I’ve learned is that the easiest way to adopt Agile Results is to focus on Three Wins: Three Wins for the Day, Three Wins for the Week, Three Wins for the Month, and Three Wins for the Year. And, the easiest way to get started with Agile Results is to write down Three Wins for today.
I remember the time when a friend of mine was telling me what he liked about Agile Results. He said he liked the fact he could write down Three Wins on a piece of paper and he’s doing Agile Results.
It took a while to sink in, because I knew how much more Agile Results is capable of. But, eventually, time and again, it’s adopting this one habit that helps adopt the others. It’s a great place to start.
Why is writing down your Three Wins a great place to start? It almost sounds too easy. In fact, it sounds so easy that it’s easy to dismiss. And, that’s exactly the problem. We don’t usually walk around knowing what we want out of our day. We usually just know all the things we have to do. We get mired in muck and don’t take a few minutes to figure out what’s the value before diving in. Imagine how many times you’ve thrown hours at something, only to find out that it didn’t matter or it was nice to do, but when you look back, it was a complete waste of time?
By writing down the Three Wins that you want to achieve for the day, you take a moment to engage your brain, and actually check whether it’s worth it. Are those really “wins” or just things you’re doing? What’s the challenge or opportunity? What’s the challenge and what’s the change? (Tip – the value is always in the change.)
Here’s a quick example. Clearing my workspace might seem like a win. But, the real win is if I re-organize my workspace so that I’m more effective on a daily basis. I move up the stack. I change my routine into something better.
My wins come from changing something into more value, or responding to key challenges and opportunities. Wins come from turning things into something that is better, faster, cheaper. Wins come from moving yourself up the stack, by turning routines and things “below the line” into value that’s “above the line.”
The value is in the change.
One of the messages I don’t think I stressed enough is how Agile Results helps you become a more effective change agent. It’s a powerful tool for personal transformation. It’s a powerful system for winning in work and life. The change agent aspect is the fact that the wins you identify as part of Monday Vision or as part of your Three Wins for the day, Three Wins for the month, or Three Wins for the year, are really powerful changes. They are powerful because you’ve articulated a change. They are powerful because they help you take action against a meaningful outcome.
Change is a challenge, and the advantage of Agile Results is that it puts the power of routines, repetition, and results on your side. By putting just enough structure in place, you move up the stack. Routines and repetition help you concentrate your effort and find ways to do things better, fast, and cheaper. This keeps you moving up the stack versus reinventing how to do the basics all the time. It also scales with you and stretches to fit. If you’re ready to take on bigger challenges, then focus on bigger wins.
Agile Results is really like a Russian nesting doll. It’s simple, but there is more than meets the eye. You can open it up and find more inside. And you can open that up, and find yet more. What keeps it “Evergreen” and timeless is that it’s a system that’s principle-based, value-driven, and built on the basics.
If you haven’t done so already, a great way to master getting results is 30 Days of Getting Results. It includes little lessons and exercises you can do to profoundly improve your ability to get results in work and life. The funny thing is I used Agile Results to create 30 Days of Getting Results. I made it my 30 Day Sprint, and each day, I used a 20 minute timebox to write as much value as I could about how to get results. What you’ll notice is that as the lessons progress, my writing flowed more, and I gradually got better at creating better daily lessons and insights. Looking back, I’m actually amazed at how I was able to create each lesson in 20 minutes or less, but I’m glad I did, and it’s a great reminder of what’s possible with focus, inspiration, and a compelling vision.
If you’re already a master of Agile Results, challenge yourself to lift others up and help them use Agile Results to win at work and win at life.
A Kanban is a great tool for improving your process. The real power of the Kanban is that you can start from where you are. Rather than fit you into a process, you can use a Kanban to mirror or reflect your current process. You decide how you want to visualize your work, and you divide your Kanban board accordingly.
If you need more visibility, then you can break your Kanban board down even further. For example, when you start off, maybe you just want to know, what’s in development and test, and what you’ve released:
As you go, you might find that development really involves requirements analysis and design, so you might add those:
In this way, you can unfold your process to add clarity and visibility. You can evolve your process as your team evolves. And that’s really the beauty. You don’t have fit yourself into a canned process. Instead, you mirror your process on the wall. This helps everybody on the team see the “system” of development at a glance. If you see it, you can improve it.
Because it’s a living process, it’s very easy to adapt as you learn, and to add meaningful stages, or consolidate as needed.
Your stages ultimately reflect a significant or meaningful change in state (e.g. The item was in development, and now it’s in test, or now it’s ready for release.)
When you visualize your workflow with a Kanban, you’ll also more easily notice where your bottlenecks are occurring. If everything is getting stuck in test, you might find be able to do a few things up stream to improve the flow. For example, maybe there are a few simple guidelines or checks that you can do during development to simplify your test stage.
A great approach is to add notes below each stage, such as key checks or process improvements to perform. Everybody will get to see and feel the impact of the process improvements. Flow is feedback. If things aren’t flowing, something needs attention.
One of the things a Kanban helps you do is to break things down. You can use a Kanban to divide and conquer your work. If you notice that things are bottlenecking at a certain stage, you can pay attention to how big things are. Can you break them down further? Don’t let the big get in the way of the small. Similarly, don’t let the small derail the big.
Progress is a key to happiness and job satisfaction. Your Kanban can be a powerful tool for collaboration, productivity, and process improvement.
Wanting to improve is not enough. Taking action, getting feedback and responding is. It sounds simple, but it’s one of the most powerful ways to rapidly improve your results.
See it, do it, review it, improve it.
I did some cleanup on Sources of Insight to re-focus on personal effectiveness. You can use that link to easily browse 347 personal effectiveness articles (and growing.) Personal effectiveness is your key to making the most of what you’ve got.
I think of personal effectiveness as the ability to produce a decided, decisive, or desired effect through your abilities, energy, skills, talent, and time. Personal effectiveness in action is really the ability to be effective in any situation by knowing how to play your cards well. This includes knowing yourself, and reading the situation, so you can play your cards more effectively.
While you might pursuit to be the best in the world, the reality is, in many cases, your best move is simply to be effective. If you do happen to be the best in the world at something, the other key is to avoid being ineffective in all the other areas of your life. This is especially true if you want to be better balanced across all aspects of skilled living. And, by balancing across the key areas of your life, you can set yourself up to more effectively pursuit being the best at something. That is, *if* you make the space for it, and hone your personal effectiveness.
Your personal effectiveness is really the synthesis of your abilities, energy, skills, talent, and time.
The synthesis is key, and that’s why frameworks or systems or routines or habits help. In fact, a big reason behind why I wrote Getting Results the Agile Way was to create a simple system for personal effectiveness. I wanted to combine the best of what we’ve learned from productivity, leadership, personal development, motivation, time management, and more, into a system that’s personal, and that helps you bring out your best. It’s also a continuous learning system, so you get better over time, by learning and adapting, with the system on your side.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that skill makes a big difference. So does mindset. When you combine a learning mindset, with a focus on gaining skills and experience, and using an effective feedback loop, you create rapid results. When you really pay attention to feedback, you can stay the course, or change your approach. It’s your willingness to change that often makes the difference.
Here is a sample of some of the articles from the personal effectiveness set, that you might enjoy:
You can think of a role as a group of related tasks, activities, and responsibilities. By knowing the responsibilities and core types of activities up front, you can help make sure you have the right people on the team so that you can achieve project success in a healthy and sustainable way.
On smaller teams, the key roles include: team lead, team members, product owner, and stakeholders. The team lead is often a “project lead,” or a “team coach” or, in Scrum, the “Scrum Master.” The main activities being performed by team members include design, development, and validation against requirements and constraints.
On larger teams, additional roles include architecture owner and integrator. Some of the key issues to orchestrate and coordinate include: architecture and technical issues, project management activities, requirements management, and system integration. As teams get bigger, the strategy becomes a "team of teams" approach. At Microsoft, this is a common practice.
A few key concepts for Agile teams include: "whole team", "product owner," "self-organizing team", and "sustainable pace." Whole team is an Extreme Programming (XP) practice where the team has all the skills it needs to complete the project, without relying on external experts. Product owner, in Scrum, is a project's key stakeholder, and usually a lead user or customer advocate. In XP, this was the on-site customer, but is now part of "whole team." The main idea is that the customer is available throughout the project to shape, guide, and validate the priorities and acceptance criteria for the team. Self-organizing is the idea that teams are empowered to organize themselves, rather than fit canned roles. "Sustainable pace" (originally, "40 hour week" in Extreme Programming) is the idea that you set a sustainable, measurable, and predictable pace for the team.
In practice, there are a couple more concepts that help team success: team stability and generalists. To achieve team stability, avoid swapping out team members. Teams go through forming, storming, norming, and performing so swapping out team members is more than just losing the knowledge and experience, it disrupts the team chemistry. As Fred Brooks reminds us, adding members to an already late project just makes it later. Using generalists (that are specialists in one or more domains) helps create a more flexible team that can respond to challenges and better support a "whole team."
On the Microsoft patterns & practices team, these are the roles and responsibilities that we typically defined at project kickoff:
Architect Developer Development Lead Lead Writer Product Manager Program Manager Test Test Lead Subject Matter Expert
Architecture and Design Budget Business Investment Collateral Content Structure Customer Connection Design Quality Development Evangelism Feedback Product Group Alignment Product Planning Project Planning Quality Release Requirements Scope Schedule Simplicity Support / Sustained-Engineering Team and People Test Execution Test Planning Usability
Getting things done, making things happen, and being effective at Microsoft is tough. Microsoft is, in many ways, the ultimate dojo of personal growth. You can never be "too good" at productivity, time management, leadership, etc.
I was happy to see my book on personal effectiveness, Getting Results the Agile Way, alongside Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People on Amazon's Best Sellers list.
I’ve been a Stephen Covey fan for a long time and he really taught me the value of personal effectiveness, and he helped me focus on principles, patterns, and habits, which I ended up taking to the next level on the Microsoft patterns & practices team.
Getting Results was downloaded almost 5,000 times yesterday.
I’m hoping that it helps many people find a breakthrough they’ve been looking for. It’s a powerful book for breakthroughs because it’s a system. And, the system gets better over time. The heart of Agile Results is a weekly results pattern I call: Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection. It helps you focus on creating extreme value, while responding to change. It’s a continuous learning system, so you get to practice and improve your personal productivity, time management, and work-life balance skills, with a simple system for meaningful results.
In this way, it’s actually a system that not only helps you with private victories, but it helps you find breakthroughs in how you achieve your results. It’s these breakthroughs that help you take your skills and abilities to the next level. And when you fall down, the system helps you get back up. (One of my favorite mantras here is the timeless saying, “Fall seven times; stand up eight.”
The ultimate surprise is that you can use the same system for results at home, or for leading large teams around the world. From small business owners, to CEOs, to consultants in the field, people are using Agile Results to master time management, productivity, and work-life balance with a twist. The twist is focusing on value as the short-cut. By using value as your North Star, you shave off things that don’t matter, and you spend the right energy, on the right things, at the right time, the right way. Teams at Microsoft are now using Agile Results to get the edge at work and to quickly find ways to help everybody bring out their best and collaborate around wins and impact.
It’s the ultimate synergy of personal effectiveness in action.
The best question I ever learned to ask, when it comes to personal effectiveness is, “Is it effective?” It sounds like such a simple question, and it is. It’s also very revealing. One of my most effective managers would always ask the question, “Is it effective?” It’s the very question that leads to reflection and personal insight, and ultimately change.
People are creatures of habit, and you’d be surprised (or, not) how easy it is to fall into a habit of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Einstein is famous for saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.
Herein lies the challenge. How do you change? You need to break the loop. Agile Results snaps you out of the loop because you are basically coming up with your personal “tests for success” and then testing and checking your results. It’s this little loop that helps you tune and prune your habits and practices for better results, and take your personal effectiveness to the next level.
Personal effectiveness is an enormous space, but the common denominator is you. It’s all about you and your personal growth. Some of the best areas to grow in are: mind, body, emotions, career, finance, relationships, and fun. It’s the synergy across these buckets that helps us bring more to the table, and get more out of any situation.
The beauty is that there are incredible bodies of knowledge in these areas with amazing principles, patterns, and practices, where you can continuously draw from, and learn new ways to shape your personal effectiveness. (I share many of them at my personal effectiveness blog, Sources of Insight.com.)
By using Agile Results, you can use the practice of 30 Day Improvement Sprints to add a little more emphasis to an area where you want to really focus on and improve. The 30 Day Improvement Sprints help you try an experiment each day, and by doing something small each day, you can change habits, or find your breakthroughs, or build the “muscle” to do something you haven’t been able to do before. The most important thing that happens is that you build up a bunch of little insights over the month that help you see things in ways, you’ve never seen them before.
One of my favorite definitions of success is Steven Covey’s: “Success is when the response equals the challenge.” It’s another reminder that the game we have to learn how to play, and ultimately master is this little loop:
What’s the challenge? … What’s the change?
When you learn to frame the problems in your life, as opportunities to respond to the challenge, you find ways to expand what you’re capable of. You change yourself in ways that improve your personal effectiveness for any situation. In a way, you become ready for anything.
And that’s one of the big themes that will help you in our ever-changing world:
Ready for anything.
If you want to be ready for anything, respond more effectively to the challenges in work and life, and to take your personal effectiveness to new levels, check out Getting Results the Agile Way. If you already have it, and already know it, then challenge yourself to teach three people you care about to get the system on their side.
I’ve been doing a lot more talks on Getting Results the Agile Way than I planned. Good thing I’m agile and can respond It makes sense. It’s January. It’s the right time of year, where people are bootstrapping their year, testing themselves with New Years Resolutions, turning the page, and, best of all, doing rethinks about how to be effective at work.
And, a lot of people are overloaded and overwhelmed.
They’re looking for ways to get some relief, and they're looking for ways to make more impact. Agile Results comes up because it’s fast to adopt and makes instant impact in little ways that add up to bigger wins over time. Not to mention, more businesses are trying to figure out how to be more agile and respond with the pace of change in the market. (And, it also helps that Getting Results the Agile Way has been a best-seller on Amazon for the Time Management category … thank you everyone, for your support.)
One of the things that comes up in the talks is, how can we find out how others are using Agile Results? I’m not sure, because it’s sort of a tribe thing, as in, if you happen to know somebody using it, you can ask them if they’ll share how they use it. That said, there are some testimonials at GettingResults.com, and here is a quick roundup of some folks have shared their take on Getting Results the Agile Way and how they use Agile Results:
If you’re short on time, you might start with these three:
BTW – I’ll find a way to share the talk more broadly. It’s a completely different experience seeing the system presented than reading it in the book. It’s a great chance to highlight some of the big ideas, and to elaborate on some of the finer points.
If you want to set your productivity on fire for 2013, try 30 Days of Getting Results. Even if you’ve done it before, now’s a great time to do it again.
It’s free. It’s powerful. It’s effective.
It’s helped many people master their productivity, master their time management, and master their work-life balance with skill. It’s a 30 Day Program designed to help you master extreme productivity. Whether you want to wake up more productive or spend more time on the things you love or just make more impact at work, that’s what it’s all about.
It’s a 30 Day Sprint to help you flourish in work and life.
You will learn the productivity skills of the time management masters through principles, patterns, and practices that actually work.
Here are the key challenges that 30 Days of Getting Results helps you master:
When you add these all up, you set the stage for extreme productivity and flow, in both work and life. Whether you want to change a habit for 2013, or simply improve your productivity to get an edge at work, this is some of the most hard-core productivity training around.
Oh, and did I mention … its free.
It’s free, but don’t let the price tag fool you. It’s many of the same hard-core patterns and practices for extreme productivity that I use as a Program Manager at Microsoft. I created the 30-day program as both a challenge and experiment. I used the system to write about the system. In other words, I used Getting Results the Agile Way to create 30 Days of Getting Results. Specifically, I used a 30 Day Improvement Sprint to write 30 Days of Getting Results.
So for 30 days in a row, I spent 20 minutes each morning to write about how to be more productive, how to master time management, and how to achieve work-life balance. I used the 20-minute timebox to demonstrate what’s possible when you are focused and have clear goals. For each day’s lesson, I wrote an outcome, a lesson, and then exercises to practice. Every day is a mini-lesson with skills to practice. You’ll start to get results very fast, and you can hop around at your own pace. While it’s helpful to go in sequence, you don’t have to. You can dive right into whatever lessons look the most interesting for you.
Commit to spending a little time each day to massively improve your productivity and time management skills. By spending a little time each day, your efforts will compound. This is the type of learning that will pay you back throughout the year. It will start paying you back very quickly by improving your free time, and helping you get more done in the time you already spend. It will also help you reduce the time you spend on things and you’ll create more value in less time.
You are always your best investment.
The start of the new year is always a great time to commit to improving your skills.
It’s so easy to want to do something, but then forget to do it, or not make the time for it. In fact, I know a lot of people that start it, love it, but then forget to keep going. They asked for an email notification each day. That’s one option. Since then, I’ve found a great alternative, which will set you up for success:
Add a daily reminder to your calendar and stick links to the lessons in it.
Just make one recurring appointment, but add links to all of the daily lessons from that appointment. This way, you are both blocking off time in your calendar to actually do it, and you are able to easily keep track of where you are in the training. I also recommend setting aside 10 minutes at the start of your day to go through the lesson. That way you can practice what you learn throughout your day and find ways to apply it. This will also help you build momentum each day.
For your convenience, I’ve created a quick list of the 30 days of lessons so that you can add them to your calendar appointment.
Here is a baseline for your calendar appointment:
Subject: 30 Days of Getting Results Recurrence: Daily Duration: 10 minutes
Links to Lessons
Purpose is power. One of my favorite definitions of “power” is “the ability to act.” When you know your purpose, you can channel your time and energy to make things happen in a more significant way. Purpose brings clarity. Clarity inspires action.
To put it another way, a lack of purpose creates confusion and immobility.
The challenge is that finding your purpose can be a complicated thing. It doesn’t have to be, but it often is, especially if you haven’t learned an effective way to find your purpose. It’s easy to get your purpose mixed up or lost among your vision, mission, and values. The thing to remember about purpose is that it’s your “Why.”
In other words, “WHY” do you do what you do.
It’s one thing to climb a mountain, “because it’s there”, but do you want to do your mound of work, simply because it’s there. What if you could connect your work to something more? Something greater. You can. It’s your purpose. You create your purpose, and your purpose gives meaning to what you do.
It’s you on fire … or, as we at the foosball table like to say, it’s you “en fuego.”
Even if you climbed the mountain, just because it’s there, it’s more likely that it’s a personal challenge that will lead to a private victory. And, how much more meaningful would it be if you were climbing the mountain on behalf of your favorite cause or charity?
You’d move mountains.
The same is true in work and life.
It’s one thing to say what you do, or to know your mission. It’s another things to say where you’re going, or what is your vision. But when you know your purpose and why you do what you do, you take your game to a whole new level.
It’s the fuel that drives you.
Now, then … how do you actually find your purpose? I’ve written a feature-length post on how to find your purpose. It’s jam-packed with tips and tricks I’ve learned about finding and using purpose to amplify your impact. As a special bonus, it includes an exercise I use in my workshops on Getting Results the Agile Way. It’s the real deal. It’s the same thing exercise I take people through from around the world to help them find their drive and get their game on.
If you nail this … if you truly find your purpose that inspires you … you can easily triple or quadruple, or in some cases, even 10X your productivity. Why? Because energy is a force multiplier. If you are just going through the motions, it’s hard to speed up, especially, if it just doesn’t matter. But, if you find your fire inside, you can breathe new life, even into the same old dull routines. Now, you have meaning. Now, you have drive.
Your drive can be one of the biggest factors in what you achieve whether you are a program manager, a developer, a manager, a thought leader, or whatever your role may be.
Make 2013 your year.
Find your purpose and show the world, and yourself, what you’re capable of.
Is your city smarter than a 5th grader? This is a serious and significant post everything from Smart Cities to the top 4 mega-trends shaping technology for the next 10 years. It’s the key trends for 2013 at your fingertips:
If you’ve ever seen my trends posts before, you know they are serious business. I actually went even further with my trends for 2013 post. I wanted to really dive deep into what’s going on. I used a master/detail or hub/spoke model for organizing the trends. This way, you can very quickly scan through to see the breadth and depth of trends for 2013, and then dive deeper and explore more after you take the balcony view.
I draw from multiple sources and multiple people, as well as my own experience to really paint a picture that’s forward-looking and helps showcase key challenges and opportunities.
The best thing I see for this year to come is that it’s the year of the Entrepreneur, whether that means becoming a Linchpin in your organization, starting your own passion business, or innovating as an intrapreneur in your company. You have a lot of tools, techniques, insights, and technologies to change your products and processes to deliver better, faster, and cheaper in our fast-paced, rapidly changing world.
Explore Trends for 2013, and be sure to share with anybody you know who wants to take a look ahead.
This is my yearly roundup of the Microsoft developer platform. It includes Visual Studio 2012, .NET Framework 4.5, Windows Azure, Windows Phone, Office 2013, and more.
I’ve included key links and starting points at the end to help you find your way around the vast Microsoft technical playground.
.NET Framework 4.5 Base Class Libraries (BCL) Common Language Runtime (CLR) LINQ (Language-Integrated Query)
ALM (Application Life-Cycle Management)
Visual Studio 2012 Team Foundation Server Team Foundation Service (TFS in the Cloud)
App Frameworks / Extensions
Enterprise Library MEF (Managed Extensibility Framework) 4.5
Windows Azure SDK
Blobs Caching Content Delivery Network (CDN) HDInsight (Hadoop) Queues SQL Data Sync SQL Reporting SQL Server in Windows Azure Virtual Machines StreamInsight Tables Windows Azure Active Directory Windows Azure Active Directory Graph Windows Azure Authentication Library Windows Azure Cloud Services (Hosted Services) Windows Azure cmdlets Windows Azure Management Portal Windows Azure Marketplace Windows Azure Media Services Windows Azure Mobile Services Windows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio Windows Azure Service Management REST API Windows Azure Service Bus Windows Azure SQL Database Windows Azure Virtual Machines Windows Azure Web Sites Windows Azure Workflow Manager
patterns & practices Transient Fault Handling Windows Azure Autoscaling
Collaboration / Integration / Workflow
Windows Azure Service Bus Windows Azure Workflow Manager
DataSets, DataTables, and DataViews Entity Framework LINQ (Language-Integrated Query) WCF Data Services
SQL Server 2012 SQL Server 2012 Database Engine SQL Server 2012 Express LocalDB Windows Azure SQL Database
Visual Studio 2012 Visual Studio LightSwitch Windows Azure SDK Windows Phone SDK
Kinect for Windows SDK Microsoft Surface
Kinect Game Development Windows Phone Game Development Xbox Live Game Development Xbox Live Indie Game Development
Active Directory Federation Services Windows Azure Active Directory Windows Azure Active Directory Graph Windows Azure Authentication Library Windows Identity Foundation 4.5
Windows Azure Mobile Services Windows Phone Windows Phone SDK
Modeling Tools for ALM in Visual Studio 2012 Visualization and Modeling SDK – Domain Specific Languages
Office 2013 Office Development in Visual Studio SharePoint Development in Visual Studio
C++ AMP F# Parallel Extensions for .NET PLINQ (Parallel LINQ) TPL (Task Parallel Library)
RIA (Rich Internet Applications)
Microsoft Silverlight WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) 4.5 Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML)
WCF (Windows Communication Foundation) 4.5 Windows Azure Cloud Services (Hosted Services)
ASP.NET MVC ASP.NET Web Forms HTML / CSS Windows Azure Web Sites Windows Store Apps
Internet Information Services (IIS) 8
Windows Store Apps
Windows Server 2012
Windows Service Applications
Here are some links you may find useful ...
Inspirational quotes can inspire and lift you if you let them. After all, inspiration is “to breathe life into.” And who doesn’t want a breath of fresh air for 2013?
But first, let’s put a key concept front and center – because it’s paramount to success in today’s arena.
It’s energized differentiation.
Brands that stand out communicate excitement, dynamism, and creativity. That’s true whether it’s your personal brand or the business you’re in. According to John Gerzema and Ed Lebar:
“Energy is where the action is. It reflects the consumer’s perception of motion and direction. It sustains the brand’s advantages. High-energy brands create a constant sense of interest and excitement. Consumers sense that these brands move faster, see farther, and are more experiential and more responsive to their needs.”
It’s time to find your energized differentiation if you want to make this year – 2013 – YOUR year for impact.
Own it. Own 2013. 2013 is one giant timebox at your disposal -- show the world what you’ve got.
So, where do you get this energy? Where do you get this source of inspiration from? In a down economy, with more to do than you have capacity for, and changes that you can’t keep up with … where do you find your inspiration to do great things? Look inside. Your buttons are already there, and you just need to push them. But sometimes you need the right words.
Here are a few of my favorite inspiration quotes, as well as an extreme list of the best inspirational quotes I know:
If you want more words that lift us, check out my inspirational quotes page for lists of inspirational quotes from the best of the best.
This is my roundup of Microsoft Office 365 at a glance. I’ve included a brief summary of the key services and features direct from the Microsoft Office 365 Service Descriptions, as well as a massive feature list of the Office 365 Services at the end of this post.
At the start of every year, I do an extreme roundup of the Microsoft platform. It helps me see the forest for the trees, understand the big bets, and make sense of the overall Microsoft platform. It also helps me anticipate growth, jobs, declines, etc. As part of the process, I try to share what I learn because I imagine a lot of people benefit from the ability to see the Microsoft platform at a glance.
With that in mind, let’s begin …
The main things you need to know to figure out Office 365 are:
The Office 365 Service Descriptions are the important documents for understanding what the Office 365 services actually are:
Microsoft Office 365 brings together cloud versions of its most trusted communications and collaboration products with the latest version desktop suite. Office 365 is designed to meet the needs of organizations of all sizes—from sole proprietors and small, mid-sized, and large businesses to government agencies to educational institutions—helping you save time, money, and free up valuable resources. Key Office 365 benefits include:
Cloud services offered by Microsoft Office 365 for enterprises are designed to help meet the need for robust security, 24/7 reliability, and user productivity. Each service is designed for reliability, availability, and performance with a financially backed service level agreement (SLA) for a guaranteed 99.9-percent scheduled uptime. Microsoft deploys patches, security updates, and back-end upgrades, helping to eliminate the time and effort organizations spend managing their servers. Subscribers to Office Professional Plus benefit from a set of features that are common to all of the Microsoft business-class cloud services:
Office 365 offers two types of identities:
The type of identity affects the user experience, administrative requirements, deployment considerations, and capabilities using Office 365.
For more information about Office 365 Identity, please refer to the Office 365 Identity Service Description.
Microsoft Exchange Online is a hosted messaging solution that delivers the capabilities of Microsoft Exchange Server as a cloud-based service. It gives users rich and familiar access to email, calendar, contacts, and tasks across PCs, the web, and mobile devices. With Exchange Online, organizations can take advantage of sophisticated messaging capabilities without the operational burden of on-premises server software. Exchange Online supports the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync® protocol. Exchange ActiveSync provides synchronization of mailbox data between mobile devices and Exchange Online, so users can access their email, calendar, contacts, and tasks on the go. For more information about Exchange Online, please refer to the Microsoft Exchange Online Service Description.
Microsoft Lync Online is a next-generation cloud communications service that connects people in new ways, anytime, from virtually anywhere. Lync Online provides intuitive communications capabilities across presence, instant messaging, audio/video calling and a rich online meeting experience including PC-audio, video and web conferencing. Transform your interactions with colleagues, customers and partners from today’s hit-and-miss communication to a more collaborative, engaging, and effective experience.
For more information about Lync Online, please refer to the Microsoft Lync Online Service Description.
SharePoint Online gives you a central place to share documents and information with colleagues and customers. Designed to work with familiar Office applications, it’s easy to save documents directly to SharePoint and work together on proposals and projects in real-time because you have access to the documents and information you need from virtually anywhere. SharePoint Online helps businesses of all sizes share team documents and track project milestones. You can manage important documents online so the latest versions are always at hand. You can also provide teams with access to critical information and documents when and where they need them, while controlling who can access, read, and share them. SharePoint Online sites can render on many devices (including Web-enabled mobile phones) using a simplified text-only format. Like Exchange Online, SharePoint Online includes a standardized web-based administrative console that enables your IT administrator to easily manage and set up services for users. For more information about SharePoint Online, please refer to the Microsoft SharePoint Online Service Description.
The capabilities of Office Professional Plus can be summarized as: Use Office Anywhere, Work Together, and Bring Ideas to Life. With Office Professional Plus, users get the latest version of the Microsoft Office applications, seamlessly connected and delivered with cloud services, so they can access their documents, email, and calendars from virtually any device. Office Professional Plus includes the new Office Web Apps—online companions to Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel®, Microsoft PowerPoint®, and Microsoft OneNote®—which let users review and make minor edits to documents directly from a browser. The flexible pay-as-you-go, per-user licensing of Office Professional Plus is available as part of Office 365 and provides companies with purchasing flexibility; in addition, robust management and deployment tools give companies the IT control to adapt to evolving business needs.
For more information about Office Professional Plus, please refer to the Microsoft Office Professional Plus Service Description.
Microsoft® Office Web Apps is the online companion to Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel®, Microsoft PowerPoint®, and Microsoft OneNote® applications that helps users access documents from almost anywhere. Users can view, share, and work on documents online with other users across personal computers, mobile devices, and the web. Office Web Apps is available to users through Microsoft SharePoint® Online, which is part of Microsoft Office 365. Office Web Apps is also available as a part of Microsoft Windows Live™ and also to business customers through Microsoft Office 2010 volume licensing, Office 365, and document management solutions based on Microsoft SharePoint 2010 products. This document focuses on using Office Web Apps as a part of SharePoint Online.
For more information about Microsoft Office Web Apps, please refer to the Microsoft Office Web Apps Service Description.
Complete integration with Outlook* and web access to email, calendars, and contacts Cloud-based email using your own domain name Shared calendars Configurable anti-spam filtering Active Directory synchronization 25GB user mailboxes and ability to send attachments up to 25 MB Live 24 x 7 IT-level phone support
Cloud-based email using your own domain name Shared calendars Instant messaging, PC-to-PC calling, and video conferencing Web-based viewing and editing of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files Team site for sharing files Public website Anti-malware and anti-spam filtering Microsoft community support
MIDSIZE BUSINESS & ENTERPRISE
Everything in Small Business, P1*, plus: Active Directory synchronization Configurable anti-spam filtering SharePoint intranet supporting up to 300 site collections Live 24 x 7 IT-level phone support * Please note: with E
Everything in E1, plus: Office Professional Plus 2010 desktop version subscription (for up to 5 devices per user) Email archiving and unlimited email storage Hosted voicemail support Connection to line-of-business applications Dashboards with Excel Services
For more information on the Office 365 Suite Subscription Plans, see the Office 365 Suite Subscription Plans page and the Office 365 Plan Advisor Tool.
This is a roundup of Office 365 services at a glance, organized by product. It’s the balcony view. By scanning the list, you can get a quick sense of the services. Then read the actual Office 365 Service Descriptions to find out more.
Secure access Intrusion monitoring Security audits High availability Service continuity Microsoft Online Services Portal Directory Synchronization tool Remote administration
Service Features Mailbox size (1 GB for Exchange Online Kiosk user, 25 GB for Exchange Online (Plan 1) user, unlimited for Exchange Online (Plan 2) user) Message size limits (max attachment size - 25 MB) Recipient limits (1,500 recipients/day) Message rate limits (30 messages/minute) Deleted item recovery (14 Days) Deleted mailbox recovery (30 Days)
Client Access Outlook 2010 Outlook 2007 Outlook 2003 (POP or IMAP only) Outlook Anywhere (RPC over HTTPS) Outlook Cached Mode Outlook Online Mode Autodiscover (for Outlook and mobile) Outlook Web App (Internet Explorer 7+, Safari+, Firefox, Chrome) Outlook Web App light experience (Almost any browser) Outlook Web App: Vanity URL (Customer can set up a redirect) Outlook Web App: session time-out (Default: 6 hours, Configurable up to 24 hours) WebReady document viewing Instant messaging and presence connected to web email client Macintosh support (Outlook for Mac 2011, Entourage 2008 Web Services edition) IMAP POP
Mobility Windows Phone 7 devices Windows Mobile devices (Windows Mobile 6.0+) Other Exchange ActiveSync devices (such as iPhone) Remote device wipe Customize Exchange ActiveSync security policies and settings, including PIN/password lock Disable Exchange ActiveSync access Mobile device allow/block/quarantine Over-the-air-update for Outlook Mobile Mobile SMS sync (through Exchange ActiveSync) SMS (text messaging) notifications Blackberery (via Blackberry Enterprise Server) Blackberry (via Blackberry Internet Service)
Email/Inbox "Send on behalf of" and "send as" Shared mailboxes Server-side email forwarding Inbox rules Tasks Conversation view and actions (such as ignore conversation) MailTips and MailTips customization Connected accounts (aggregate mail from multiple external email accounts)
Contacts/Directory Personal contacts Personal distribution groups Shared distribution groups (in Global Address List) Restricted distribution groups Dynamic distribution groups Moderated distribution groups Moderated distribution groups Self-service distribution groups Global Address List Hide users from Global Address List Offline Address Book External contacts (in Global Address List)
Calendar Out-of-office auto-replies Cross-premises calendar free/busy (mix of on-premises/cloud users) Federated calendar sharing Publish or subscribe to calendar through iCal Side-by-side calendar view in web client Resource mailboxes (for example, for conference rooms or equipment) Outlook 201 Room Finder
Unified Messaging, FAX Interoperability with on-premises voicemail systems Exchange Unified Messaging (hosted voicemail)
Security Anti-spam (AS) (Forefront Online Protection for Exchange) Antivirus (AV) (Forefront Protection for Exchange) Safe and blocked senders (configurable at the organization level) Opportunistic TLS for inbound/outbound email Forced TLS for inbound/outbound email S/MIME (Yes, with limitations, No Outlook Web App support) PGP
Compliance/Archiving Disclaimers Transport rules Personal archive Retention policies Journal messages to external or on-premises archive Multi-mailbox search (eDiscovery) Legal hold Rolling legal hold
Administration Administration through a Web-based interface (Exchange Control Panel) Forefront Online Protection for Exchange Administration Center access Administration through command line shell (PowerShell) Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) Message Tracking Usage Reporting (Some data can be extracted using PowerShell) Auditing
Application Access/Customization Application connectivity through web services SMTP relay Outlook Web App Web Parts Outlook add-ins and Outlook MAPI
Other Global Address List synchronization from on-premises directory (Active Directory) (One-way through the Directory Synchronization tool)
IM/presence and Lync-to-Lync calls 1-to-1 and multiparty IM/presence Address book search Dl expansion (DLX) File transfer Lync-to-Lync audio/video calls Lync-to-Lync high definition video Presence and click-to-Lync from Office Apps Interactive contacts card in Office 2010
Lync external connectivity (federation and Public IM connectivity) IM/presence/audio/video federation with other OSC/Lync Server/Lync Online organizations IM/presence/audio/video with Windows Live Messenger
Meetings (audio/video/web conferencing) Meeting attendee capacity (250) Desktop sharing Application sharing White boarding and annotations PowerPoint upload for online presentations Polling Ad-hoc multiparty PC-based audio-video Unauthenticated attendee in Lync Web App Lync attendee client Scheduled conferences (using Outlook plug-in) Outlook delegation for scheduling meetings Support for RoundTable device Lobby Interoperability with certified partners for dial-in audio conferencing (ACP) Phone-dial-out from scheduled meetings via third-party dial-in conferencing service Client-side recording and playback Backstage/Content Preview for presenters Mute all attendees Mute individual attendees Unmute all attendees Unmute individual attendees In-meeting attendee permission controls
Voice and telephony Lync-to-phone (calls with landlines and mobile phones) Call hold/retrieve Dial-out from ad-hoc Lync meetings Advanced call controls (transfer, forward, simul-ring) Access to Exchange Online voicemail Team call Delegation (boss-admin) for Voice
Client support Lync 2010 Lync Web App for participating in scheduled meetings Lync 2010 Attendee client (joniing meeting) Lync 2010 Mobile client IM and media encryuption IM filtering
Exchange/SharePoint interoperability Presence interoperability with Exchange and SharePoint on-premises Presence interoperability with Exchange Online and SharePoint Online
Third-party API support Client-side APIs
Communities Ask Me About Blogs Colleague Suggestions Colleagues Network Discussions Enterprise Wikis Keyword Suggestions Memberships My Site My Content My Site My Newsfeed My Site My Profile Notes Board Organization Browser Photos and Presence Ratings Recent Activities Status Updates Tag Clouds Tag Profiles Tags Tags and Notes Tool Wikis Client Object Model (OM) Event Receivers Language Integrated Query (LINQ) for SharePoint Solution Packages REST and ATOM Data Feeds Ribbon and Dialog Framework Silverlight Web Part Worklow Models Access Services Browse-Based Customizations Business Data Connectivity Service External Data Column Business Data Web Parts External Lists SharePoint Designer 2010 Forms: Out-of-Box workflows and customization through SharePoint Designer 2010 InfoPath Forms Services Sandboxed Solutions Workflow Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 SharePoint Developer Tools Windows 7 Support Workflow Support Workflow Templates SharePoint Service Architecture
Content In-Place Legal Holds Document Sets Metadata-driven Navigation Multi-Stage Disposition Rich Media Management Shared Content Types Support for Accessibility Standards Content Organizer Unique Document IDs Managed Metadata Service
Insights Excel Services Visio Services Calculated KPIs
Search Best Bets Extensible Search Scale Duplicate Detection Metadata-Driven Refinement Mobile Search Experience People and Expertise Search Phonetics and Nickname Search Recently Authored Content Search Scopes Single Site Collection Search Site Search Click-Through Relevancy View in Browser Basic Sorting
Sites SharePoint Lists Web Parts Improved Governance Large List Scalability and Management Multi-Lingual User Interface (MUI) Permissions Management Quota Templates Secure Store Service Connections to Microsoft Office Clients Public Website (One per tenant) Audience Targeting RSS Feeds Cross-Browser Support External sharing SharePoint Ribbon Mobile Connectivity Office Web Apps integration SharePoint Workspace 2010 Out-of-the-Box Web Parts Scalability Template Accessibility Configuration Wizards
Office Professional Plus
Microsoft Access Microsoft Excel Microsoft InfoPath Microsoft Lync Microsoft OneNote Microsoft Outlook Microsoft PowerPoint Microsoft Publisher Microsoft SharePoint Workspace Microsoft Word
Office Web Apps
Word Web App Print Find Zoom Navigation Open in Word Edit in Web App Save View in Web App Clipboard Undo and Redo Font Formatting Paragraph Formatting Bullets and Numbering Styles Proofing Tools Tables Pictures Hyperlinks Placeholders
Excel Web App Refresh Data Find Navigation Open in Excel Edit in Web App Sort and Filter Data Save or Download a Copy Co-authoring Save Clipboard Undo and Redo Formula Bar Font and Cell Formatting Alignment Number Formatting Functions Tables Edit Worksheet Structure Hyperlinks
PowerPoint Web App View and Copy Slide Notes Run Slide Show Navigation Broadcast Slide Show Outline View Open in PowerPoint Edit in Web App Save View and Edit Slide Notes View in Web App Clipboard Undo and Redo Create and Manage Slides Font Formatting Alignment, Bullets, and Numbering Pictures SmartArt Hyperlinks
OneNote Web App Show Authors View Previous Page Versions Navigation Open in OneNote Edit in Web App Save View in Web App Co-authoring for Shared Notebooks Clipboard Undo and Redo Font Formatting Paragraph Formatting Bullets and Numbering Styles Tags Proofing Tools Create and Manage Pages and Sections View and Restore Page Versions Pictures Tables Hyperlinks Placeholders
At least once a year, I try to walk the Microsoft platform and do a roundup of all the products and technologies, especially focused on the developer side. (Here is an example – Mapping Out the Microsoft Application Platform.) It helps me see ahead, anticipate changes, challenges, and opportunities, and really get a balcony view of the company from a platform perspective.
This year, I was challenged as I was trying to walk the story from my usual paths. Normally, I walk Microsoft.com, MSDN, and TechNet. I know my way around so I can usually pull the pieces I need to figure out the platform and get a fast balcony view.
I realized that this time, in order to make sense of the platform, I really needed to step back. I needed to really understand the bigger story and the backdrop. To walk a friend through, I basically recapped some of the most important messages:
When you know the story and you look through that lens, many things make more sense. For example, if you know there is an on-premise story and a Cloud story, then it makes sense why there is SharePoint Server 2013 and SharePoint Online (part of the Office 365 story). If you don’t know that, then you can spend a lot of time wondering how do you figure out the platform stack and how do you make sense of what you see.
It even helps explain some of the transitions, like Windows 8. At first blush, on a non-touch device, it can seem awkward. Once you realize that it’s a step towards a unified model, where touch and other NUI experiences are a first-class citizen, then it makes a lot more sense.
It also helps to get an introduction to things by people who live and breathe the stuff. For example, we have a lot of former Apple folks, and we have a lot of Mac experts. I reach out to them and ask them what they think of Windows 8 and how they make the most of it. The power “touch” users are amazing in action. I like the balanced perspective from people who know both worlds, and who focus on effectiveness, user experience, and results. It’s always enlightening.
But the real surprise is how much power is right at your finger tips that you just don’t even know until somebody points it out. For example, I was in a meeting trying to find one of my apps on Windows 8 and a colleague said just hit the Windows key then start typing the name of the app you want. I didn’t believe him – it sounded too weird. In fact, I didn’t believe him so much, that I just did it to prove to him how he was wrong. Suddenly my app was at my finger tips, faster than I was ready for.
The more I dig into this, the more I realize I should share more about making sense of the platform. I did write up The Microsoft Story, but there is just so much more beneath the “surface” … and I think only the tip of the iceberg gets the buzz.
This is my quick lookup table of Windows Azure at a glance. I use it to very quickly hop and out of Windows Azure and to help me stay oriented among the capabilities and features.
It’s not fancy. It’s just a simple list of Windows Azure functionality grouped by meaningful buckets.
Cloud Services (Hosted Services) Virtual Machines Web Sites
Windows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio
Management Portal Windows Azure cmdlets
HDInsight (Hadoop) SQL Reporting StreamInsight
Caching Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Windows Azure Marketplace
Blobs Queues SQL Data Sync SQL Database SQL Reporting SQL Server in Windows Azure Virtual Machines Tables
Windows Azure Active Directory
Service Bus Workflow Manager
30 Day Improvement Sprints may just be your best friend as you start your new year. You can use 30 Day Improvement Sprints to learn new skills, build or change habits, and amplify your impact. They provide a simple way to apply concentrated effort in batch to accelerate your success.
I’ve written about 30 Day Improvement Sprints before in Why 30 Day Improvement Sprints, 30 Day Improvement Sprints, 30 Day Improvement Sprints Revisited, Monthly Improvement Sprints, and Making 30 Day Improvement Sprints More Effective. But with the new year fast approaching, it’s time to rehydrate the power of 30 Day Improvement Sprints for making waves of significant change.
If you know the story, I started using 30 Day Improvement Sprints years ago to deal with the following challenges:
What better way than to make it a monthly pattern?
In fact, the first thing I learned was that the key was less about 30 days and more about making it a theme for the month. With each new month, I could repeat the theme or add a new one. This idea of Monthly themes lets me pick a focus each month and cycle through multiple things throughout the year.
It’s a simple but effective way to add focus, while allowing for exploration.
Before that, I had the problem of not sticking with something long enough, or having too many open things in flight. By carving out a theme each month, it lets me put ideas in the parking lot to pick up during another 30 Day Improvement Sprint.
There is also magic that happens if you stick with something for more than two weeks and get over your initial humps and feelings of awkwardness as you learn something new or change your habits. The first two weeks are a step back before you leap frog ahead.
A 30 Day Improvement Sprint is simply a focus for the month. For example, in January, your focus might be on your fitness or your career or a habit you want to add or a skill you want to learn. Pick something. Maybe it’s a book you’ve wanted to write.
The key is to pick a meaningful theme to give focus and meaning for the month.
Make it a story you want to look back on. Make it a story you want to tell. It’s not whether you actually achieve your results. It will be the progress you make along the way. 30 days is a great way to chip at the stone, and the days add up fast.
To give you an example, I actually created a 30 day program using a 30 Day Improvement Sprint:
30 Days of Getting Results
To create the program, I decided that each day I would spend no more than 20 minutes and write with might. The goal was to share the best of what I’ve learned around getting results and making impact. I wanted to unleash what everybody is capable of. It also gave me a chance to show the power of a 30 Day Improvement Sprint in action. By the end of the 30 days, I had a powerful program that helped many people hit their high notes and operate at a higher level. Many people told me this was the most powerful program they ever experienced in terms of improving their results at work and in life.
People still tell me they are surprised it’s free. They also can’t believe that I wrote it in 20 minute batches each day for a month. In fact, you’ll notice that as the days went on, the insights got deeper, the words flowed better, the stories got richer, and the power of each day’s lesson got exponential.
This is another benefit of a 30 day focus … you get more than synergy -- you get the compound effect.
It is extremely simple. That’s the point. The recipe is this:
Each day is a new chance to try something small to produce results against your goal. Each day, just try something new, and keep a sharp focus on learning. Between doing + learning, you will have breakthroughs. Because you are not caught up in immediate results, you allow yourself the freedom to explore and get creative. You also are focused because you are doing something small each day. That’s how breakthroughs and innovation happen.
Pick something that will really help you in your work or in life, or both. For example, when I joined my current team, I set a focus for the month: “House in Order.” I made the goal for the month to really simplify and clarify the product portfolio for the group, and to simplify and clarify some of the key processes and priorities. Then, each day, I dedicated a small amount of time to that effort, while I worked my weekly outcomes. And, where I could, I connected my weekly activities and outcomes back to this higher-order goal.
By the end of the month, I had a simple catalog of all the assets for the group, as well as a simple information architecture (IA), and a simple set of processes, and a simple deck to help tell and sell the story of value for the team.
Along the way, I learned a bunch. Most importantly, I continued to flow short-burst wins, while working towards the bigger picture and my 30 Day Improvement Sprint.
You can learn more about 30 Day Improvement Sprints (or “Monthly Themes”) from the following sources:
Many people have been using 30 Day Improvement Sprints (or “Monthly Themes”), so you can learn from them, as well.
I’ve used 30 Day Improvement Sprints for everything from changing diets to starting workouts to learning new technologies and writing books. It’s powerful stuff, and it helps you rise above the noise of day to day, while making the most of each day.
30 Day Improvement Sprints help you carve out space for the big wins in your life each day, while dealing with the day to day of everyday life.
Best wishes on the road ahead.
Weekly outcomes are the key to execution excellence. They support incremental progress, flowing value, and continuous learning. I’ve written about weekly outcomes before in Weekly Outcomes: The Simple Weekly Planner and How To Lead High-Performance Teams. Great, but now I want to really shine the spot light on what an example looks like and why.
First, here is a simple example:
-- Weekly Outcomes Example --
Weekly Outcome: 11/12/2012
A – Z List
-- End Weekly Outcomes Example --
Notice three things in the example above:
This approach helps keep relentless focus on the three wins for the week. It helps bubble of the critical outcomes that will make or break success for the week (at least as we currently understand what success looks like.) This short list of wins at the top also helps us align our work with each other to support the goals, as well as to track a short set of key wins. Most importantly, if we need to adjust throughout the week, we are simply dealing with a working set of three high-value wins.
The longer A-Z list is our “pick-list” to pull from and to help remind us that just because our short list of three wins is front and center, does not mean we are not aware of the bigger picture and competing priorities. The three wins help us keep everything in perspective and help us avoid analysis paralysis and information overwhelm. Meanwhile, we are able to easily grab things from the A-Z list. This helps us stay agile and fluid and most importantly, always flowing value.
The two lists – the simple + complete – really compliment each other. The three wins force us to really focus on what value is and what the priorities are, and the longer list always keeps us on top of our game. We get the full balcony view. It also helps create a sense of urgency because we are aware of all the work that needs to be done. At the same time, it creates a very simple way to keep focused on flowing value and enjoying our victories.
If you want to seriously and significantly drive amazing value from your team, use the Three Win approach with weekly outcomes.
You can find out this technique and more for execution excellence in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.
At the end of each year, I like to take a step back and take the balcony view – to learn from the hind sights and gain some foresight.
It’s been a crazy year.
My book, Getting Results the Agile Way, has been a #1 best-seller for time management on Amazon. In fact, this morning it was also #2 for time management in the books category.
Companies are using Agile Results and Getting Results the Agile Way to do more with less, innovate faster, and create high-performance teams. And, more importantly, achieve work-life balance. In fact, this past year I’ve lead several sessions with key teams at Microsoft to help them improve their focus, execution, and motivation. Again, all while driving a theme of personal empowerment and work-life balance.
Getting Results the Agile Way is ultimately about helping you make more impact and write your story forward with skill.
I might not have mentioned it before, but I’m in the business of business transformation and I help customers make the most of the Microsoft platform in the context of their business. As far as my day job on Cloud Vantage and, now, back on the Enterprise Strategy team, I’ve spent the bulk of the year helping shape the Microsoft O365 story in the Enterprise. I’ve also helped many customers go through business transformation as they figure out how to go cloud.
As you can imagine, I learned a lot about what it means for a business to really get back to business, as they figure out their vision, mission, and values, their business model, and their capabilities. It’s a chance for businesses to figure out what they do best, what they want to do more of, and what they want to do less of. With cloud computing, you get an amazing opportunity to improve your business agility and streamline your IT, as well as enable more innovation in your process and products. I’ll share more on this in the future.
I’ve also learned a lot about change leadership and driving adoption and change throughout a business. This is actually one of the most important concepts for the years to come. The pace of change is insane. The actual bottleneck now isn’t the delivery of more features. It’s absorption. It’s figuring out what’s valued, and driving adoption. For many customers, they don’t need more features, they need to learn how to use what they’ve already got. For other customers, the bottleneck is learning how to go beyond the piece-meal technology, and move up the stack to higher-end scenarios. For example, with Office 365, it’s not about mail and instant messaging. It’s about effective meetings and ad-hoc collaboration. It’s about collaborative Business Intelligence. It’s about creating effective teams.
I could say a lot about what I’ve learned around scenarios for end-users, IT staff, and the IT platform itself. For example, there are some amazing scenarios for the IT platform including mergers and acquisitions, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD.) It’s been exciting watching these scenarios materialize with customers and help them transform their business and operate at a higher-level.
But the gap between what’s possible and where so many actually are is enormous. And that’s the opportunity.
This is where my years of scenario-driven and experience-driven development will rise and shine by helping businesses unleash their potential.
Speaking of opportunity, as I flip back over my blog posts for the past year, I realize how much more I could have written on topics such as Program Management, strategy skills, Office 365, productivity in the Cloud, etc. In fact, I think that’s actually good scope. One of my friends challenged me to help grow 1,000 Principal Program Managers.
I like the challenge. After all, I like to take on big challenges, and I mentor a lot of Program Managers around Microsoft.
I ended up writing about a few key themes this year including time management tips, execution excellence, and leadership skills. Kanbans are hot. I think more people are realizing the power of “pull” over “push” and how much easier it is to try and satisfy existing demand, than try to master demand generation.
I’ve done a roundup of my top posts. I limited it to posts that had at least 3,000 views. For example, my post on 10 Things Great Managers Do has more than 16,000 views, 10 Ways to Use Evernote More Effectively has more than 15,000 views, 25 Books the Most Successful Microsoft Leaders Read and Do has more than 10,000 views, and The Guerilla Guide to Getting a Better Performance Review at Microsoft has more than 8,000 views.
I was surprised by a few posts. For example, I thought The Microsoft Story would shoot way past 6,000 views. And one post I forgot I wrote, Kanban: The Secret of High-Performing Teams at Microsoft, has more than 18,000 views.
Like I said, Kanbans are hot
This is a short-list of the posts I think were my most important posts for 2012:
I’ve done an extensive overhaul of my Personal Development Books List. Aside from new books on the list, you’ll also notice a new Getting Started section, as well as an A-Z Best Personal Development Books list at the end.
This is a powerful collection of personal development books.
You can use these personal development books to address the following:
How to adopt a positive mindset How to be happier How to be more productive How to change or build a habit How to create more work-life balance How to create more wealth How to develop your emotional intelligence How to develop your self-discipline How to find and live your values in work and life How to find and develop your strengths How to find your purpose and your passion How to improve your courage How to improve your focus How to improve your self-awareness How to learn faster How to model success How to think with skill How to set goals and achieve them
This collection of personal development books includes books by Tony Robbins, Stephen Covey, Tim Ferris, Seth Godin, John Maxwell, Edward de Bono, Marcus Buckingham, Epictetus, Napoleon Hill, Steve Pavlina, Martin Seligman, Jack Canfield, David Allen, Malcolm Gladwell, and more. It’s the ultimate collection of wisdom at your fingertips.
It's a large collection so I split it into the following categories for your browsing convenience:
Body Career Development Character, Attitude Choice, Decision Making Communication Skills Courage, Confidence Emotional Intelligence Focus Habits, Principles, Practices Happiness, Feeling Good Interpersonal Skills, Relationships Intuition Leadership Learning Motivation, Self-Discipline Positive Thinking, Optimisim Productivity Purpose, Passion Self-Awareness Spiritual Intelligence Strengths Stress Success Thinking SKills, Intelligence Wealth Work-Life Balance
And there is an A-Z list at the end so you can very quickly scan the entire collection and cross-check against any other personal development books list.
While you may already know many of the books on the list, I suggest trying to find three books you haven’t heard of before. For example, if you haven’t heard of Edward de Bono’s How to Have a Beautiful Mind, it’s a brilliant book. If you haven’t read John Medina’s Brain Rules, you’re in for a treat. He’ll teach you 12 rules that you can use for work, school, or life to maximize your results. If you’ve never read Tony Robbins’ Unlimited Power, it’s probably THE single best book on personal empowerment and mastery of your mind, body, and emotions. In The 8th Habit, Stephen Covey helps you go from effectiveness to greatness.
Check out the list of Personal Development Books, and if there are important books that I need to add to the list, be sure to let me know.
My Best Leadership Books list is now ready for action. I’ve revised the Top 10 Best Leadership Books section, added a Getting Started section and an A-Z List of the Best Leadership Books to help you quickly scan the full collection. I hope you find it to be one of the most useful lists of leadership books available on the Web.
This leadership books list features the greatest hits from many favorites including Stephen Covey, Peter Drucker, John Wooden, John Maxwell, and more.
Here are some of the skills that this list of leadership books helps you with:
How to create and share your vision, mission, and values How to adopt a leadership mindset How to build better daily leadership habits How to build your emotional intelligence How to deal with setbacks and failures as a leader How to develop the leader within you How to develop the leaders around you How to do succession planning How to execute How to look and act like a leader How to find your motivation and drive and help others find theirs How to influence without authority How to create a culture of excellence How to create a learning organization and culture of growth How to use situational leadership to improve your leadership ability How to play to your strengths How to prioritize and take decisive action How to practice principle-centered leadership How to practice servant leadership How to establish healthy teamwork
I’ve organized the best leadership books into the following meaningful categories:
Attitude Authenticity, Authentic Leadership Change Character Communication Daily Development, Leadership Development Effectiveness Emotional Intelligence, Compassion, Heart, Empathy Ethics Excellence Execution Failure, Setbacks Influence, Rapport Interpersonal Skills Leadership, Lessons in Leadership Learning, Growth Principles, Practices, Strategies, Tactics Purpose, Passion, Motivation Reflection, Inner-Engineering Servant Leadership Situational Leadership Strengths Strategy Teamwork Trust Vision, Mission, Values
As you can imagine, it’s an extensive collection of leadership books.
There is an even a book on executive presence. This is a popular topic for people looking to go up in levels and establish their credibility among their peers.
One thing you’ll notice is that John Maxwell dominates the leadership books scene. John Maxwell has clearly advanced the practice of leadership through many of his specific and actionable leadership books. He’s written on various aspects of leadership from attitude to interpersonal skills The beauty of his leadership books is that they are like little playbooks that are compact, insightful, and actionable. It also helps that his writing style is down to Earth and conversational while staying positive and inspirational.
But don’t let Maxwell’s amazing collection of leadership books overshadow the contributions of other great leadership books. For example, if you really want to build a culture of excellence and have people spend more time in their strengths, then read Good to Great by Jim Collins, and Go Put Your Strengths to work by Marcus Buckingham. If you want to master building high-performance teams, then be sure to read Flawless Execution where James Murphy shares lessons from the Air Force. If you lead people, be sure to read about Situational Leadership so you can balance your directing and motivating styles with the needs of the people you manage. To really take your leadership game to the next level, read Leadership on the Line, by Ronald A. Heifetz, to avoid hitting glass ceilings, know what hard-core leadership really entails, and to distinguish between technical and adaptive challenges … your leadership career may very well depend on it.
Take my Leadership Books List for a test drive and I think you will find at least three new leadership books to add to your leadership development collection.
One of my most important lists, is my Best Business Books list. It’s where I round up all of the best business books I’ve read and put them in a single list at your finger tips.
Sure there are lots of lists of the best business books, but this list is unique. It’s organized by “hot topic” buckets so you can rapidly scan for specific books on an area or challenge you want to tackle. It also features an A-Z list at the end, where you can rapidly compare this list with any of other best business books lists.
But the most important difference is that these business books are not based on popularity. I hand-craft this list based on books that I use to make an impact at work. I’ve had many great mentors who have recommended many books to me. I’ve read them all. I’ve learned to read books faster in the process, but more importantly to turn them into action, and get results.
These are the books I’ve used for everything from doing rapid product design to building raving fans to innovating in work processes to deliver things better, faster, cheaper. I’ve used these business books to better understand competitive differentiation and how to find blue ocean opportunities. I’ve also used these books for understanding trends in the market and to better anticipate market disruptors.
Here are some of the challenges and opportunities that my best business books list helps you address:
I need to warn you up front. This list is massive. It’s not a “happy-go-lucky” list of fun business books to read (though, you could use it for that.) It’s a serious and significant compilation and synthesis of the best business books that you can use to amplify your business impact.
That said, because of the Getting Started section, Top 10 Best Business Books, categories, and A-Z list, you should be able to easily find your way around and manage the large list. Here are the categories I used to slice and dice the best business books down to size:
One way to use the best business books list more effectively is to find three new books you want to read for the new year. While you may already know many of the classics like Good to Great, by Jim Collins, or In Search of Excellence, by Tom Peters, have you heard of The Starfish and the Spider, by Rod A. Beckstrom? It helps you build a federated community with shared goals and values, a key in today’s social and connected world. Have you heard of Managing the Design Factory, by Donald G. Reinertsen? It’s probably one of the best books on how to design teams and systems to be more effective in terms of building product lines and product-line architectures. Have you heard of A Simple Statement, by James Grady? It’s probably the single best book on how to create compelling vision and mission statements. It’s the book that taught me mission is “who you are”, and vision is “where you want to go.”
If somehow you’ve seen them all before or none of the books on my best business books list catches your attention, then take my other list for a test drive:
30 Best Business Books that Influenced Microsoft Leaders
It’s a list of the best business books that various Microsoft leaders of all levels told me significantly shaped their success.
I’ve done a massive update to my list of Career Books. It’s a powerful list of the best career books on a variety of topics. Whether you’re an Entrepreneur, freelancer, Linchpin, creative artist, self-employed, or CxO, there are books on the list for everyone.
I put a special emphasis on books that help you with the following challenges:
I divided the list of career books into several categories to slice and dice it down to size. It includes the following categories:
It’s a serious list of career skills books. I’ve wasted my money on tons of books that were not very helpful, so hopefully you don’t have to. Hopefully this list will save you time, too. It may also help you explore and find out about career books that you didn’t know existed.
You’ll find a lot of name-brand folks among the list, including, but not limited to, John Maxwell, Stephen Covey, Tony Robbins, Daniel Pink, Seth Godin, Marshall Goldsmith, and Tony Hsieh.
I hope to also introduce you to some new gems that you may not have heard of before. For example, John Eliot wrote one of the best books on how to achieve incredible performance at work. It’s called Overachievement. Dr. Rick Kirschner wrote the definitive book on interpersonal skills. It’s called, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand. Nancy O’Hara wrote one of the most insightful books on how to figure out what you really want and how to stop thinking that the grass is always greener somewhere else. It’s Work from the Inside Out. One of the best breakthrough books for today’s digital economy is Six-Figure Second Income. It’s a great overview of how to sell your experience, profit from your passion, and create passive income streams through information products.
Whether you are stuck in your career, or trying to find a job, or trying to grow your career skills, there are plenty of books to choose from. Hopefully my list of the best career books will save you a lot of time, effort, and money to find the most relevant, insightful, and actionable books that help you improve your workplace effectiveness for the years to come.
I put together a comprehensive Time Management Books list. It’s a serious roundup of the best time management books you can find. It’s a long list, and it’s meant to save you time in multiple ways, and on multiple levels.
I organized the time management books into multiple categories for fast scanning, slicing, and dicing:
The most important list is at the end of the page. It’s a list of the best time management books in A-Z order. The idea is that you can easily compare to your own list of books and quickly find books you haven’t seen before. So the categories of time management books are nice to help you look for specific books on procrastination or taking action, but the A-Z list is a way to quickly scan a comprehensive collection of time management books.
Here is a sampling of the page:
Time management will be an incredibly important topic for the new year. As we’re asked to do more with less, find ways to do things better, faster, cheaper, make the most of what we’ve got, and make our moments matter -- any time management hacks or strategies that you can add to your bag of tricks will help you survive and thrive in our ever-changing world.
If my list of Time Management Books helps you find a book or two that helps you master time management, then I’ve done my job.
Happy holidays and best wishes for the road ahead.
Just in time for the holidays … a free book for you today. You can get your free book, Getting Results the Agile Way, for free on the Kindle:
Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life
As the sub-title implies, it’s more than a book. It’s a system you can use to get “Agile for Life.”
It’s ultimately a simple system for meaningful results. It helps you respond to change, and actually thrive on change. It helps you live your values at work, while playing to your strengths. It helps you find your competitive advantage in doing things better, faster, cheaper. It’s a time management system that focuses on value and effectiveness.
It helps you get the system on your side.
Leaders are using it to build high-performance teams and improve work-life balance. Consulting companies are using it to inspire better results. Businesses are using it to transform what they’re capable of. Many individuals are using it to take their personal development to a whole nother level.
Using The Rule of 3, you focus on three wins: Three wins for the day, the week, the month, and the year. This instantly gets you focused on value, not volume, and on outcome, not activities.
Best of all – it helps you tell and sell your story in a simple way. When you start thinking in wins, you not only find the short-cuts, you amplify your impact.
If you have a habit you want to change, you can use 30 Day Improvement Sprints to build or break a habit. You can also use 30 Day Improvement Sprints to help you learn a new topic or master a new skill or complete a project you’ve had on your someday, maybe list. For example, I’ve used 30 Day Improvement Sprints for everything from learning Windows Azure to roller blading more than 20 miles a day.
Perhaps the most powerful thing I use from Getting Results the Agile Way is the idea of Power Hours and Creative Hours. The same work that used to take me 40 hours or more, I can now do in four hours or less – a 10X improvement. By identifying my most productive hours during the week and by focusing on my strengths, I get exponential results. I’ve even been able to use this approach for teams to amplify results by using the best hours of the day for heavy lifting and for creative insights. It’s helped lead to many innovative breakthroughs and drive inspired action.
If you’ve lost your mojo or want to get your game on or find your next breakthrough, check out my free book (today only):
As one of my mentors always said, “If it’s free, it’s for me.”
This is my single best way to help you make the most of what you’ve got, and put it all together in a simple system that you can practice daily and get better at with time. You get time on your side, and it’s a continuous learning system, so your results will get better and better.
If you don’t need to improve your results, maybe you know somebody who does. Be sure to share it with them, and keep spreading the mantra:
“Think in Three Wins”
Best wishes on getting results.
Enjoy and happy holidays,
Mid-year is always a hot time at Microsoft. It’s a time to recap the impact and check the scoreboard. For some, it’s a time to shine. For others, it’s a wake up call. And for others, it’s Phoenix time.
I think between the slowing economy, the rapid pace of change, and ultra-competition, figuring out how to rise and shine in your career is tougher than ever. How do you make an impact? How do you rise above the noise? How do you get ahead?
One of the best books I read lately, just in time for the holidays, is Getting Ahead, by Joel A. Garfinkle. I wrote up a meaty review, movie-trailer style, with key highlights:
Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level
It might just be one of the most important books you read for the new year, and for your career overall. Joel Garfinkle is an effective executive coach, so he’s well-versed in helping people get over the humps in their career and taking things to the next level. His framework is simple and he focuses on three keys:
That sounds so simple, but there is an art part, in addition to the science. It’s one thing to know the perception. It’s another to proactively engineer it. Joel shares several ways to both help you understand how perception works, and how to shape it to help you make more impact out of the work you already do. Nothing is worse than wasted work or undervalued results. The reality is that great work does not always sell itself, and that you need to know how to sell yourself and your work in a way that amplifies your impact. And your perception as a team-player and collaborator can make or break you, and help you avoid getting kicked off the island.
In terms of visibility, if great work happened, but nobody was there to see it, did it happen? So many people do great things on a daily basis, but they lack the visibility to get ahead. Or, worse, they don’t even get the ROI out of the work they did. For many people, visibility is an extreme challenge, especially if you don’t like to show off your work. The key of course is not to show off, but to highlight the value in a way that resonates to those that care. After all, how will your work help if the people that need to know the impact, either aren’t aware of it, or don’t get it. Not everybody has time to read about the awesome things you did or to go and investigate the nifty thing you created that’s going to change the world. You have to make it simple and sticky so that people can quickly understand how your work adds value to their world.
And there are many tricks of the trade to do so. Garfinkle shares a bunch of ways you can immediately use, just in time for your mid-year review.
Perhaps my favorite exercise in the book is to write a list of your top ten achievements from the past year. Dig through your emails, calendar, notes, etc. and find the ten things that you are most proud of. Then write a good summary of each one in terms of the actual impact. Not only will this help for your review, but it will remind you of the great things you did over the past year, and help catalyze you for the new year. You might be amazed by how many things you forgot you did. You can also use this short-list of impact to shop yourself around and to get gain better clarity on what you want to do more of. It’s a way to get specific on your achievements, and your impact in a way that you have it at your mental finger tips.
As another sanity check, you can do a quick rating of each achievement in terms of visibility on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is highly visible. If you have a bunch that rate a 7 or below, don’t be surprised if your mid-year review does not shake out the way you want it to. Now is the right time to start giving more visibility to your achievements and to tell and sell the story in a sticky way.
It’s not too late. Remember, Scrooge changed overnight.
In terms of influence, John Maxwell said it best when he said, “Leadership is influence.” What’s the big deal? It’s how you amplify what you do. You can only do so much as a one-man band. You scale your impact by leveraging, leading, and influencing others. As Covey would put it, it’s how you build synergy.
While the framework for Getting Ahead is pretty simple, it’s full of depth. It’s backed by a bunch of research as well as Joel Garfinkles personal experience in career coaching at a variety of companies including Oracle, Amazon, Deloitte, Ritz-Carlton, Bank of America, Starbucks, and many more.
If you’re looking for a great career book, with insight and action, Getting Ahead is a great book to stuff in a stocking or to send as a gift. It’s also possibly one of the best gifts you give yourself for the road ahead.
Best wishes on your journey ahead – and may perception, visibility, and influence be on your side.