Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
Thank you everyone. It was a great day for Getting Results the Agile Way. As folks shared the message around the world, Getting Results the Agile Way became a top download on Amazon in a few categories. At various points in the day, it was #1 in Business Time Management, #1 in Self Help, and I saw it as high as Amazon’s all up Best Sellers Rank: #43 Free in the Kindle Store.
But the best part is this …
Several of you emailed me, telling me your stories of how you’ve used Getting Results the Agile Way to really get ahead in work and life, or to get back on top of your game. Many of you also emailed me telling me that this was your first exposure to the book, and that as you started to read it, you started to realize what’s really inside. It’s more than a time management guide or a personal productivity toolkit. It’s a way to really take everything we’ve learned about operating at a higher level, and actually put that into practice in a simple and systematic way.
It’s more than a book. It’s a way to make the most of work and life.
Feel free to continue to send me your stories of success and what you specifically did, and how Getting Results the Agile Way helped. I won’t share your story, unless you ask me too, but I use the feedback to continue to refine the approach as I share it and scale it to others to help them get an edge in work and life.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” -- Mahatma Gandhi
Getting Results the Agile Way is free today.
You can get your free Kindle version of Getting Results the Agile Way today (11/09/2012). It’s free today, so grab it while you can, and tell your friends and family to get their copies, too. Nobody should miss out on this one-day opportunity.
Getting Results the Agile Way is a book that can seriously and significantly help you master motivation, productivity, and time management. It’s also full of proven practices for work-life balance.
Getting Results the Agile Way introduces Agile Results, which is a simple system for meaningful results. It helps you shift from overloaded and overwhelmed to on top of your game and make the most of what you’ve got. By getting science and a system on your side, you can think better, feel better, and do better in any situation.
Getting Results the Agile Way is first and foremost a simple productivity system for helping you produce better, faster results, and achieve your dreams. Whether you want to get ahead in work, or get ahead in life, Getting Results the Agile Way provides you with tools and techniques to improve your personal effectiveness.
Getting Results the Agile Way is also a time management system with a difference. Rather than a focus on getting more things done, it’s a focus on value. Less is more. By doing a few things well, you build momentum. When you use Agile Results, you use three wins to drive your day, your week, your month, and your year. By using three wins, you add focus and clarity which helps you prioritize more effectively and take action. By focusing on compelling outcomes your get your motivation on your side which helps you produce outstanding results.
Most importantly, Getting Results the Agile Way is a system for getting back on your feet. Life throws curve balls. Bad things happen to good people. Getting Results the Agile Way helps you get back on your feet. It helps you create fresh starts. In fact, just by adopting the approach, you get a fresh start each day, each week, each month, each year.
Change is a constant. Agile Results helps you make the most of change. People around the world have used Agile Results to help them improve various aspects of their life. Individuals have used it to master their day job or find their next job. Teams and leaders have used it to create high-performance teams. Parents have used it to help their kids do better in school. Small businesses have used it to help them survive and thrive in a down economy. Large businesses have used it to improve their productivity and time management for their employees.
What really matters though, is you, and what you can do with Agile Results. Be the author of your life, and write your story forward.
Grab your copy of Getting Results the Agile Way and tell your friends and family to do the same to help as many people as possible really make the most of what they’ve got.
Another suitable title might be, 80/20 People vs. Perfectionists, but I really wanted to focus on the "perpetually incomplete" aspect that I see over and over again.
Here’s the deal. One of the most ironic productivity patterns I run into on a regular basis is this:
People who seek to be perfect or complete, are perpetually incomplete.
They optimize the local minima before the global maxima. In their pursuit of perfection or completeness, they leave a trail of "almost finished" or “not even started” or “half-done” everywhere. There are variations to the pattern. One pattern is that one room in the house is fantastic, while the rest of the house is falling apart. Another variation of the pattern is that every room has at least one weird mess or strange flaw, because the perfectionist ran out of time.
But the bottom line is, it’s the unfinished, not started, or half-baked parts that overshadow the good that was done. And that’s a shame.
80/20 people tend to be more complete, than their perfectionist counterparts. Why? Because they've made time to go back and revisit, or make another pass, or work the parts that are the most relevant and useful. They optimize the global maxima before the local minima.
80/20 people tend to work the high-risks or high-reward areas until they start getting diminishing returns. The power with this approach is accelerated time to value, but also it helps free up more time to work on areas that truly need it. And, more importantly, the 80/20 approach creates a more effective map because they know where to drill vs. scan, and what the key risks are (it's the bird's-eye view.)
It really is ironic because by their very nature, the 80/20 People should be leaving more half-finished work, but instead, they tend to leave less gaping voids than their Perpetually Incomplete counterparts.
The sad part is that in so many cases that I see, is how much damage the perfectionism creates, with its ripple effect. The perfectionist (or Maximizer or Perpetually Incomplete person) creates a significant problem by blowing something out of proportion, or making a mountain out of a molehill, or making a major production out of it.
You can usually trace the problem to three things
Basically, their work ends up way out of whack.
This is a perfect example, where if you "do the opposite" you instantly change your game. In this case:
There are a few one-liner reminders that can help you keep your trade-offs in perspective:
“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” -- Japanese Proverb
What does it take to build an indestructible mind? In a world of setbacks, defeats, and failures, how do you stand up that eighth time? Sure, you could watch Rocky, and other inspirational moves from the 25 Inspiration Movies list … but what if you could get science on your side?
Well, you can. Dr. Alex Lickerman wrote the book on it. The book is, The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self.
I wrote a book review of The Undefeated Mind, but it gets better. I was lucky in that Dr. Lickerman was kind enough to write a great guest post for me. It’s titled Never Be Defeated. It’s actually the story of Dr. Lickerman’s journey in writing his book, his personal transformation, and how he learned the true meaning of what it means to never be defeated.
Whether you’re trying to get your code to compile, or pay your mortgage, or recover from a not so great performance review, or just get back up on your feet again, there is power in persistence, and power in resilience. We can all benefit from building an indestructible self.
I know a lot of people struggling with many challenges, from finding a job, to keeping their job, to fixing their health, to dealing with loss, and, recently, dealing with the after math of hurricane Sandy.
I hope that Dr. Lickerman’s story helps remind you of the power of resilience, and what it means to fall seven times, and stand up eight.
I didn’t know whether to call this why adoption fails, or why ideas die, but regardless, they are deeply related. After all, one of the main reasons ideas die is that they don’t get adopted, so they fizzle out. It’s usage that gives an idea enough legs to blossom and bloom.
I see the same recurring patterns again and again around why ideas don’t get adopted, so I thought I’d share some.
One of the most common patterns is somebody thinks up an idea. That’s as far as they get.
This is related to the first pattern. You thought up a potentially neat idea, but you didn’t try it out or test it to find out where, or if, the rubber actually meets the road. This is where some Agile approaches have had an advantage in bridging the reality gap. I’m a fan of “spiking” and exploration. Why “spiking”? Because, you can focus on the high-risk, and test it end-to-end with a thin slice (and thin slices reveal a lot.)
The pattern I see here is somebody or some team comes up with a great idea. Then somebody decides that it’s another person or team’s job to implement it. So the idea gets “thrown over the wall.” Sure, people might write up a bunch of specs or a bunch of docs about how somebody is supposed to adopt it, but that just about never works in the early stages of an idea. It’s the startup stage. That only works when you’ve matured an idea to the point where it’s a “transaction.” In the early stages, the idea usually requires a “relationship” play, because you have to transfer a lot of tribal knowledge. You have to get the kinks out. You have to learn what you didn’t know, and you have to build some empathy around the adoption pains. This is how ideas flourish.
There is a surprise here. Usually what I see is somebody or some team comes up with the best thing since sliced bread. Then they want others to adopt it. Others don’t adopt it. So the person or team with the idea, concludes, oh, they won’t use it because, it’s “not invented here.” What I see behind the scenes though is that other people or teams would love to adopt the idea, but they don’t know how. The person or team with the idea threw it over the wall. They expect the other people or teams to figure it out, because it’s such a good idea, that it speaks for itself. The devil is in the details, and the friction or barriers to adoption wear most people out. People don’t have all the time in the world to keep playing with other people’s ideas until they figure them out.
It’s sad, but that’s how so many ideas idea.
The lesson I learned long ago is that if you want somebody to adopt your ideas is that you have to do it for them or with them. It’s a small price to pay for getting over the humps of adoption. It’s not an ongoing thing either. Once people “get it” they run with it, but only if you’ve helped them get that far to begin with.
And that’s how ideas flourish and bloom.
I’ve finally put together an extensive collection of personal development quotes. It’s a big collection of personal development quotes and I organized it by key themes: Character, Effectiveness, Emotional Intelligence, Empowerment, Influence and Impact, Learning and Growth, Productivity, Self-Awareness, Strengths, and Thinking.
Microsoft is a strong culture of personal development, so the personal development quotes are particularly relevant. Software development often reminds of personal development, and I think we learn a lot about personal development from software and software practices, especially if you practice continuous learning. For example, we can test ourselves with “unit tests.” We can shape our “quality attributes.” We can use principles, patterns, and practices to improve what we do, and expand what we’re capable of. You get the idea.
Here is a sampling of the personal development quotes collection …
For more personal development quotes, see the personal development quotes page.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” ― Charles Darwin
I'm helping one of my mentees get the edge in her performance review this year. I thought it would be helpful to share the insights and actions that I’m sharing with her, with a broader community, so more people get a chance at getting better performance reviews.
One of the things I should point out is that I had a 100% success rate for helping the people I mentored achieve the review score they set their mind on. I’ve helped several people achieve the top and elite ratings at Microsoft. While I don’t focus on this anymore, it was an interesting challenge and I learned a lot along the way.
This is a no holds barred, hard-core guide to getting a better performance review. As the game gets tougher, you need to get better. I know a lot of people not happy with their reviews. They thought that if they did a good job, everything would take care of itself. That’s the same fallacy as, “If you build a great product, they will come.”, and all the variations along that theme.
To get a great performance review, you have to design for it, and make it a project. It can be one of the most “rewarding” projects you do.
Let’s start with the formula for better performance reviews which includes a few cornerstone concepts:
Identify your handful of personal improvements. These are your Priority 0 improvement opportunities. What are the three things that you really need to improve to eliminate your naysayers and build a coalition of supporters? Chances are you already know. But knowing and doing are two different things. Don't make it a major project. Instead, make it a 30 Day Improvement Sprint. Do a little for 30 days and it will add up.
To recap, make your short list of key things to improve, and execute your list.
Here is a summary of the big steps to getting a better performance review:
In the words of Bruce Lee, “Aim past your target.” The idea is that if you want to break the wood, then aim past it. If you fall short, maybe you’ll still reach your target.
Decide on a number or rating. Believe you can do it. The first and worst person to block you from getting a better review is always you. Start from the inside out. Set your eyes on the prize, and decide that you are going to achieve it (or give it your best shot, enjoy the process, and learn a ton along the way.) Don’t sell yourself short here. Stretch.
Ask your manager to help you get that number. If you don’t have a number in mind, then you’ll have a tough time asking for help. Ask your manager for the work that will help you get that number. As you can imagine, this really forces you and your manager to pay a lot more attention to what’s on your plate, and what it’s actually worth … to you, the team, the organization, to Microsoft, to the customer, etc.
This is an important place to start. I’ve seen too many people sell themselves short, right from the start. They didn’t believe in themselves. And if you don’t believe in yourself, then why should anybody else. That’s why getting a better review starts here. It challenges your self-imposed limits and puts your beliefs to the test.
You’ll be surprised what you’re capable of, but sadly you have to first believe it, to achieve it.
This is an ongoing thing. You have to stay connected to what counts. To stay connected to what counts, you have to find out what counts. It comes down to filters and priorities.
People use filters all the time to make meaning. It’s the lenses they use to look at the world. It’s the language they use. It’s the values they latch on to. If you know the filters that people use, then you can be more relevant by using the same language (note that, sadly, sometimes even “similar” language is too far apart for somebody to connect the dots.)
Priorities are the backbone of value in the workplace. The problem is there is often a gap between what people say the priorities are, and what they show the priorities are. But the better that you can see the priorities and work with the filters, the better you can connect (or change) what you do, to be relevant and on the radar.
Find out what’s on your manager’s plate and your manager’s plate, and so on.
For example, in your 1:1s with your manager, ask your manager what’s top of mind? What are the things keeping them up at night? What’s their short-list of priorities?
You can test yourself by asking yourself, do you actually know the top three things on your manager’s radar? If you don’t, then don’t be surprised if what you do is not relevant, and don’t be surprised if they don’t champion your work at mid-year or end-of-year, and don’t be surprised if they can’t even tell anybody what your work is or how it’s valuable.
You can also use Agile Results to help you rise and shine the spotlight on your best work. Think in three wins: Three wins for the day Three Wins for the week Three Wins for the Month Three wins for the year
Practice telling and selling your story. Name your stuff in simple and sticky ways. The easiest way to downplay your value is to come up with really weird, names of your work, that nobody, but you, can ever remember.
Do brown bags to build awareness. Show a colleague or two what you’re working on, and how it might help them out. Find the people who would benefit from your work, and share it. The goal is to help others benefit from your work, and, as part of the process, you build awareness of your work. You also simplify the story of your work, the more you practice it. You also improve the value of your work, through the feedback you get as you tell and sell your story. Be on the hunt for identifying crisp, clear, and compelling benefits for the work you do.
Here is the most important part, and another key to getting better performance reviews …
As you can imagine, by having your manager articulate your wins, you start to find out what sticks and clicks, and what falls through the cracks. I am constantly surprised by how a lot of the value of the work that I do, gets lost in translation. The beauty though is that once you start to pay attention to it, you can start to surface more value in ways that more people understand. The other beauty is that at some point, you don’t have to flow more value. Instead, you simply have to drive more awareness and adoption of your value. “Value leakage” is the enemy.
It will always come down to either flowing more value, or getting more impact out of the value you delivered. On one of my teams, we called this “perception engineering” and we actively invested in helping others realize the value of the work we did. After all, if a tree falls in the woods …
Identify the short-set of influencers. Influence the influencers.
The key take away here is to turn critics into coaches, and build a tribe of raving fans, especially the people with influence. Tip the dominoes in your favor. Get the votes that count on your side.
Start paying attention to the good things that people say about you or your work. Capture it.
One of the best tips a colleague gave me years ago was to create an email folder called Kudos and to drag a copy of acknowledgements or praise into it. If you gather it as you to, it’s a lot easier to leverage it down the line.
It’s also a great forcing function. If your Kudos is empty, maybe you aren’t showing your stuff to enough people, or getting enough feedback. Sometimes you have to ask for feedback. Keep in mind that people are usually better about complaining and providing negative feedback, than they are about sharing praise. So if you think that it sucks that you have to ask for people to share their appreciation, acknowledgment, or praise … yep. It’s the nature of the beast.
The key take away is that it’s one thing for you to say great things about your work, and it’s another thing for others to say great things about you or your work. Since you have a vested interest in you, and your opinion is automatically biased, it’s better to have a cornucopia of kudos from others.
I like to structure my review using the following frame:
When you structure information, you can make it more powerful. You can surface the good stuff. You can give focus to key information. Also, the process of collecting and structuring your information transforms the information. You will start to see patterns. You will start to see themes. You will start to see the bigger picture.
I’ve actually written a post about this performance review template.
Put these tips into practice. They aren’t easy, but they are worth it. Regardless of what you get on your review, this process helps you achieve more, and grow your capabilities, so it’s actually a “can’t lose” approach.
If you really want to change your game, including master motivation productivity, and time management, and get better performance reviews, check out Getting Results the Agile Way at http://GettingResuts.com
“Great acts are made up of small deeds.“ – Lao Tzu
Agile Results is spreading as a productivity and time management system around Microsoft. I’ve done five talks on Getting Results the Agile Way over the past two months. Some teams are using it to build high-performance teams. Other teams are using it to improve their work-life balance and overall happiness at work. It’s spreading because it’s a simple and time-tested approach that scales down to individuals and up to large distributed teams. Most importantly, it works at Microsoft, under extreme scenarios, and in extreme chaos. The crazier things get, the more it helps.
Because it’s focused on driving three wins …
Three wins for your day … Three wins for the week … Three wins for the month … Three wins for the year …
To adopt Agile Results, simply ask yourself, “What are three wins that I want for today?” … “What are three wins that I want for this week?”
What happens when you do this is you create a way to focus and succeed. You add “the fun factor.” Winning is fun. You make it a game. More importantly though, when you think in terms of wins, you rise above the noise of tasks, activities, and actions, and instead, focus on the outcome.
You create clarity by envisioning “the end in mind.”
You empower yourself to focus and prioritize when you adopt this simple habit:
Think in three wins for the day, the week, the month, the year.
If you think that sounds simple and easy, good. It’s not the knowing, it’s the doing. You probably did a bunch of stuff yesterday … can you rattle off your three wins? How about last week? I bet you did a ton of stuff. Out of everything you did last week, what were your three wins? What about last month? I bet you put in a bunch of time and energy … maybe even a bunch of extra hours. What were your three wins for last month that made it worth it?
If you’d like to spin circles around the competition, and if you’d like to rise above the noise, or if you’d simply like to acknowledge and appreciate the time and energy you spend on things … then think in three wins.
BTW – if you think in three wins, you can much easier tell and sell your value to your manager, your peers, and to whoever else might care. If you want to get better performance reviews or stay relevant and flow more value, use three wins to drive your day, drive your week, and drive your year.
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Agile Results helps you achieve “Agile for Life”, which means flow value, while you learn, and adapt to change.
I’ve written about how to use Agile Results with Evernote before, but some of you wanted a simplified version. In this post, I’ll share an approach with you for using Agile Results with Evernote, using just one Notebook and six simple notes. With this approach, you’ll have all of your vision, mission, and values at a glance, your daily and weekly goals, your list of work and personal projects, and all your ideas at a glance.
And you can set it all up in under three minutes.
All of the information you need to master motivation, time management, and productivity will be at your fingertips, with one place to look.
I’ll also share some new insights that I’ve learned around dealing with lists to help you manage them more effectively. And I’ll also share some insights on how you can get a much better performance review, and compete in today’s world more effectively by focusing on higher-value things.
But first, let’s take a step back and recap what Agile Results is all about. Agile Results is a simple system for meaningful results. It helps you do less, but achieve more by combining proven practices for motivation, productivity, and time management. It works by helping you focus your time, energy, and skills, using a few key concepts. The big ideas are: 1) it’s outcomes, not activities, 2) it’s value, not volume, and 3) it’s energy, not time. (Tip – Value is the short-cut in life. If you know what’s valued, you can target your efforts. Here is another tip – Value is in the eye of the beholder.)
Agile Results helps you flow value to yourself and others, while responding to change, and taking the balcony view. It helps you thrive in change. It helps you learn new things. It helps you adapt to our ever-changing world, and come out on top. It helps you win, and it helps you go for the epic wins in life.
Agile Results is not just a personal productivity system. It works for teams, too (I’ve used it to lead high-performing, distributed teams around the world for more than ten years.) That said, if you want to use it as your personal time management system, it does help you get the edge. Part of the power is that it synthesizes many principles, patterns, and practices for high-performance, down into a small set of proven practices.
The simplicity of the system is important. It helps you spend more time doing, and less time planning. The simplicity also helps you adapt the system to you and to any situation. It also makes it easy to get started with Agile Results (you can use it right now, simply write down three wins that you want to achieve today.).
You can find out more about Agile Results (and everything you need to know about mastering personal productivity, motivation, and time management) in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way. It’s been an Amazon best seller for Time Management (it was #1 in Germany several time, and in the U.S. it’s been in the top 5, but floats around within the top 100.)
Now, let’s see how to use Agile Results with Evernote in a simple, but highly effective way …
Here is a look at Agile Results in Evernote:
As you can see, it’s one Notebook called “Agile Results”, and it contains six Notes. The six notes are:
I’ll walk through each Note below, but first I’ll summarize the big ideas behind the notes. The Firm Foundation is meant to give you a quick reminder of your vision, mission, and values at a glance, as well as your strengths. It’s a way to help you get “on path” and stay on path.
The Monday Vision, Daily Wins, and Friday Reflection will look familiar if you know Agile Results. This is the little weekly rhythm of results. The beauty is that this little combo helps you flow value on a daily and weekly basis, as well as continuously adapt and improve. On Monday, you identify the three wins you want to achieve for the week (notice that I said “win”, not “tasks.” A task might be “call a customer”, but the win would be “win a raving fan.” Rather than just doing tasks, you focus on value and making a difference. This is the secret to getting better performance reviews, flowing more value, moving up in the world, and getting off the treadmill of life.)
Daily Wins is where you list your three wins that you want to accomplish for the day, and then all of your tasks or top of mind things. While Monday Vision helped you set three priorities for the week, your Daily Wins helps you set three priorities for your day. By keeping these three priorities front and center, you define your success for the day. It also helps you focus and prioritize throughout the day. If you have to keep changing these, then you will start to notice whether you are trading up, or just getting randomized. You will also start to notice whether the tasks you do actually support meaningful goals. You will also get better at defining three wins for your day.
See the pattern so far? Identify three wins for the week and identify three wins for the day. By having two levels of wins, you can zoom out or zoom in. Your little wins will add up each day, and your wins for the week will help you stay on track. As you an imagine, by the end of the month, you have created significant momentum and impact. Oh, and by the way, you will rapidly improve your personal productivity along the way. How? … with Friday Reflection.
Friday Reflection is just like how it sounds. On Fridays, you reflect. You review your results. To do so, you simply ask yourself, “What are three things going well?”, and “What are three things to improve?” Both question are important. The one helps you identify your personal habits and practices that are working. The other helps you identify specific areas you can improve. For example, if you are not achieving your wins, are you biting off the right things? Are you biting off too much? Are you trading up for things or getting randomized? You will see patterns and opportunities for improvement. And the beauty is that you can take what you learn and apply it next week. And you get to practice each day. That’s the big idea in Agile Results … little wins with continuous improvement add up to big, bold changes in work and life.
The Projects Note is simply a list of your work projects and your personal projects. This is an important list. If you can’t name the things you are working on, then you really can’t prioritize. Worse, you can’t really focus. Even worse, you won’t be very effective at telling or selling your work to others, whether that is your manage or your team or more. When you have a list of what’s on your plate, you instantly have the bird’s-eye view. You can now see whether you are splitting your time across too many things, or whether too many unimportant things are getting in the way. As a sanity check, how would you rate the value on a scale of 1-10 of each of the items on your plate, where 10 is most awesome, and 1 is the pits? This can be a real wake up call. If all of the things on your plate are low-value items, your next win is to get high-value things on your plate, and squeeze out the low-value stuff, with more high-value stuff.
The Ideas Note is actually your Backlog, from an Agile Results perspective. I’ve found that more people tend to prefer thinking in terms of “ideas” than “backlog”, although, the reality is many people actually have a Backlog of ideas. That said, this is Agile Results, and it’s flexible, so whatever you want to call that works for you is fine. What’s important is getting the concept right. In the Ideas Note, you simply list your ideas for work, and your ideas for personal projects. By getting things out of your head and down on to “paper”, you can free up your mind to do better things, and you can better analyze your lists of ideas, when you can see it right in front of you, versus swirling around in your mind.
The big difference between the Ideas Note and the Projects Note is that the Projects Note is a list of your active projects. It’s stuff that’s really on your plate. The Ideas Note, on the other hand, is your list of things that are not yet active (That’s why I often refer to it as a Backlog.)
One thing worth calling out is that it’s a good idea to make a list for each of your projects so that you have one place to look for all the work associated with each project. What I’m showing here is the “master” list of your projects. An additional step would be to have a list for each project, which contains the details. I’m focusing on this master list of projects here because it’s where many people get lost among the sea of tasks, and lose sight of their bigger map. If you can keep clarity of what’s on your plate, then this has a ripple effect that helps you better manage your time, energy, and focus to make things happen.
All this might seem like a lot of work, but it’s actually pretty light-weight. These are simple lists to help you focus, prioritize, and organize your work. Each week, you simply refresh your Monday Vision. Each day, you refresh your three wins. Each Friday, you refresh your three things going well, and three things to improve. It’s a simple habit, and if you fall off, simply pick up from wherever you are. On any given day, simply ask yourself, “What are three things I want to accomplish today?” Getting back on track is easy, and friction-free by design.
Now, let’s take a quick, visual tour of each of the notes to help really make things concrete …
In the Firm Foundation Note, I simply write down my Vision, Mission, and Values, and my key strengths that help me differentiate and flow unique value.
It’s a simple list, but it helps me stay on path, and it helps remind and inspire me in all that I do. Whenever I get off track, I simply go back to my Firm Foundation. The process of thinking through my vision, mission, and values, also helps me take the balcony view of my life, and helps me head in a direction, even if I don’t know the exact target. It gets me paving a path forward with skill.
In Monday Vision, I simply list my three wins for the week. Below that, I create some whitespace, and then I list anything else that’s top of mind or pressing for the week. The three wins are my most important. After that is bonus.
It’s my minimum list that helps carve out maximum value. One thing to note is that I keep the list very simple and flat. Also note that when I list things beyond my three wins, I list them in alphabetical (thus, the A-Z heading.) I do this for a few reasons. First, it forces me to name things better, and the better I name things, the better I can manage them, or tell my boss about them, or share them with my team or whoever. Second, it makes it very easy to see if something is on the list, or not. This becomes increasingly important, such as those weeks where I have 50+ items on the list. Believe it or not, 50 items is actually very easy to deal with when it’s alphabetical and you name things in simple, friendly terms.
In Daily Wins, you write down the three wins you want to achieve for today. It’s simple, but powerful.
As you can imagine, it’s easy to create an overwhelming list. That’s the beauty of this approach, and why I actually like paper or any application that will let me create whitespace. What I do is I list my three wins at the top, then I list all the other top of mind things or tasks or actions in an A-Z list below that. This helps me keep my mind free and focused, while keeping my three wins front and center throughout the day.
Here is the other beauty of this approach … It’s easy to add three wins to any existing “To Do” list. No matter how you already track your daily “To Do” list, you don’t have to change it. Simply add your three wins to the top. I wanted Agile Results to be inclusive of existing systems, and to ride on top, without getting in the way, and ideally, help you make the most of any system that you already use. It’s a way to amplify your results and help you get more out of the time you already spend.
In Friday Reflection, you simply list three things going well and three things to improve.
What I do is add a recurring 20 minute appointment to my calendar on Friday mornings. I used to take 20 minutes, now it’s closer to 10 minutes or less (you get faster, better, and deeper with practice.)
The power is in the process. By asking yourself what’s going well, you take the time to identify and actually acknowledge what’s working for you. This will help you see some things to keep doing, or potentially do more of. It is also good for your motivation and momentum. If you don’t take the time to call out what’s going well, you will more than likely beat yourself up for all the stuff going wrong, and that’s just a downward spiral if you don’t balance it out.
The best way to balance is to first get clear on what you are really doing well, and take the moment or two to really acknowledge and appreciate that. Maybe it’s as simple as doing what you said you would do. Maybe it’s that you did a good job of starting your day with a focus on three wins. Maybe it’s that you are getting better at making time to execute. Maybe it’s that you are doing a good job of working on high-value things. Maybe you are getting better at finishing what you start. It can be any number of things. It’s personal. It’s real. It’s your chance to shine the spot light on your best performance, and to highlight your personal victories. Soak it up.
When you identify things to improve, try and get specific. For example, if you know that when you write down one of your wins, you aren’t going to even come close, then your “challenge” and “improvement opportunity” is to choose a more achievable win, and to hold yourself to that. Then you can practice that each day when you write down your Daily Wins.
In Projects, you simply list your work projects and your personal projects.
In the ideal scenario, you never list more than five, top level projects. The reason is this: you want to use the 80/20 rule for maximum impact, and minimum effort. You can reasonably spend 20% of your time, and achieve 80% results. What you don’t want to do is spend less than 20% of your time on a bunch of things, where all you’re doing is administration and context switching.
Name these things in a way that make sense to you, and ideally to others in YOUR world. For example, find a good name to refer to your favorite project so that your manager knows how to refer to it (and even better, have them help you name it so that it’s sticky.) If you have a maximum of five meaningful projects on your plate, and they are all high-value, you are setting yourself up for success.
Personally, I try to go for three meaningful projects at any point in time, as well as an experiment. The experiment is my wild card and potential game changer. It can often lead to a breakthrough for me, either in what I create, or how I create things. It’s how I keep improving my ability to flow value to myself and others. Innovation is the key to sustainability, both for businesses, and for us, as individuals.
Ideas is where you simply list the ideas you have for work and personal. If there is one list that can help you stay on track, this is the list.
It helps you stay on track, because it reminds you that these are “ideas.” They are not your active projects. This is your dumping ground of all the cool things you hope to do, and all your neat ideas on how things can be better. By carving out all the ideas and potential projects into a separate list, you keep your other lists, simple and focused. Your Projects Note is clean and crisp. It only lists your active projects. That’s important.
Your Ideas list is your romping ground. Feel free to dream up big, bold ideas. But don’t confuse your dreaming with doing. Use your weekly wins and daily wins in your Monday Vision and Daily Wins notes to stay grounded, and to stay focused on flowing value. This will help you keep your head in the clouds, but feet on the ground … which is a beautiful blend of strategy + execution.
It’s important to note that I keep my Ideas list in alphabetical order, and I bubble up the top 10 items to the top, and then add whitespace to break it up from the longer list. This bubble up the vital few, and then list everything else is an important productivity pattern. It will help you get better at focusing on value, not volume. It will also help you deal with information overload and overwhelm by whacking lists down to size.
You might be asking, how come you don’t put the list in just one big priority order? Here’s the thing I’ve found. It’s very easy to scan a list and know the priority. But it’s very difficult to scan a list that’s not alphabetical. Your eyes have to go up and down, again and again, checking to see if you already have it on the list. When you have a simple, flat list of alphabetical items, you can very quickly add or remove things, and very quickly create priority lists, and quickly pluck the high-value items from it. This was not obvious, but I learned this in having to deal with many, many extreme lists.
That said, Agile Results is not rigid in the approach, so if the alphabetical does not work for you, then change it to find what does. The goal with Agile Results is to shape the system to support you in a way that brings out your best. It’s a flexible system for results, so feel free to bend it in ways that help you make the most of what you’ve got.
It’s worth mentioning the “Snippet View” in the latest versions of Evernote. You can find the “Snippet View” under the “View” menu. Here is an example of the Snippet View and how it shows all of the notes under Agile Results “at a glance.”
What I like about the “Snippet View” is how it very compactly creates a narrative that I can easily scan. I can quickly see my vision, mission, and values, as well as my Daily Wins and Weekly Wins, and my top Projects and Ideas.
It’s a very powerful way to put the big rocks in my life, front and center. It’s like the big picture view, but with enough of the details that bring it to life and make it real. It’s effectively, “elegance in action.”
Take Agile Results for a test-drive and see for yourself, if it helps you master motivation, time management, and personal productivity. You can try it in three different sizes:
If you want to try the 30 day challenge, I have 30 Days of Getting Results, which is a free collection of thirty little lessons that you can do at your own pace. Each lesson includes an outcome, a lesson, and exercises. If you commit taking this, you will learn some of the most advanced practices for rapidly and radically improving your personal performance, your motivation, your time management, and your personal productivity skills.
I love what you’re capable of when you know how to make the most of what you’ve got. Dig in and really make some thunder with your knowledge, skills, and experience. The world is ready for you to flourish. Rise and shine.
By the way, I should mention that even though I showcased how to use Agile Results in Evernote, it’s a platform agnostic time management system. I know lots of people that use pen and paper or Outlook or One Note or you name it. (My favorite tool of choice for a while was my whiteboard.) I should also mention that Agile Results was originally born as a way to organize your mind so that you didn’t need any tools or applications … just your mind. That’s why The Rule of Three was important … it was a simple way to organize the most important things, and keep them top of mind.
Best wishes on making a difference … for yourself, for others, for the world … in your way.
I'm reviewing some ALM (Application Life-Cycle Management) work for a colleague, so I thought it would help to rehydrate a map of the ALM space. I’m a fan of having simple maps to find my way around. By map, I simply mean topics and categories, and ideally sub-categories to help see the lay of the land, at a glance.
This map is based on rationalizing work with the field, our patterns & practices work, and input from a lot of smart people that are intimately familiar with the ALM space. What I like about it is that it’s simple, intuitive, and it really does help map out the ALM domain into meaningful buckets and categories. If you can map out a space, you can always dive deeper, than if you don’t have a map.
ALM Frame and Sample Activities This is a sampling of some of the activities that would fall under each ALM category:
Architecture Framework Analysis and Design
Build Management Change Management Collaborative Development Release Management Version Control and Repository
Database Change Management Database Deployment Database Modeling Database Testing
Deployment Environment Management
Code Analysis Code Reuse Code Reviews Code Writing Quality Metrics
Application Portfolio Management Compliance Management IT Governance Maturity
Customer Support Designed for Operations Operations
Project Close Project Initiation Project Monitoring and Control Project Planning Risk Management Stakeholder Management
End-User Documentation Requirements Analysis Requirements Elicitation Requirements Management Traceability UI Design and Prototyping UI Implementation User Experience Envisioning
Overlay: Configuration Management Overlay Configuration Management is a cross-cutting concern. Here is an overlay of Configuration Management activities across the ALM categories. It is just a sample set and it’s extensible.
Build Management Configuration APIs
Collaborative Development Source Control Management
Database (physical) Modeling Domain Modeling
Build Verification Testing Cross-Configuration Testing
Overlay: Data Management Overlay Configuration Management is a cross-cutting concern. Here is an overlay of Data Management activities across the ALM categories. It is just a sample set and it’s extensible.
Data Evolution Strategy Enterprise Data Governance
Database Change Management Database Tuning and Performance Optimizations
Data Migration / Integration Planning Data Platform Selection
Data Requirements Gathering Validation, Rule Sets, Constraints
Database Testing Database Performance Testing
Overlay: Security Engineering Overlay Configuration Management is a cross-cutting concern. Here is an overlay of Security Engineering activities across the ALM categories. It is just a sample set and it’s extensible.
Security Design Guidelines Threat Modeling
Security Code Inspection Static Code Analysis
Legal Compliance Alignment Privacy Policies
Control Tuning Security Patching
Compliance Risk Management
Estimation Security Goals Identification
Fuzz Testing Risk-Based Testing
In a world of “do more with less,” don’t be a victim. Be the hero when it comes to driving and dealing with what’s on your plate.
We’re all asked to do more with less, and everything was due yesterday. We all have more things to do than there is time in the day, and we are overloaded and overwhelmed.
What do you do when you don’t have the resources, budget, or capacity to do what you’re expected to do?
I posed this question to one of my seasoned mentors to get their take on dealing with this common scenario. Here is what they had to say:
It’s a simple formula, but it can help you think through how to either get what you need or get things off your plate with skill. Worst case, you expose the risks, and trade-offs, in a way that’s objective vs. mired in whining or complaining, or playing the victim.
Don’t be a victim. Be the hero. Teach others how to treat you.
A lot of people I know are either losing jobs, finding jobs, creating jobs, or changing jobs.
Others I know are looking for work-life balance, expanding their capabilities, figuring out how to work better with their boss, finding ways to use their strengths at work, and looking for ways to flourish while they master their craft. And others I know are spawning their own business or figuring out how to work online, or attempting to create six-figure second incomes to take away the threat of job loss, and to deal with a down economy (which may very well be the new normal … with a twist of irony where business growth means job decline.)
In a lot of ways, it’s a game of owning your destiny, plotting your path with your vision, mission, and values, driving from your life-style, and mastering self-efficacy, while adapting and responding to our ever-changing world.
I’ve put together a page to help:
The game is tough. Whether you are losing a job, finding a job, creating a job, or changing a job. It’s especially tough if you don’t have proven practices under your belt for everything from networking to building resumes to job searching to interviewing effectively. Even what appears to be simple transitions can be challenging if you can’t read the situations, build your network effectively, identify quick wins, and hit the ground running.
You might say that “making your way in the world today, takes everything you’ve got.”
To help my mentees, friends, family, colleagues, and more build their toolbox of proven practices for career development, I’ve significantly revamped my Career Books page. It’s a serious collection of the best books for career development, building your brand, choosing career paths, improving your workplace effectiveness, improving your energy and motivation, dealing with setbacks, finding jobs, improving your resume, improving your interview skills, surviving and thriving during change and transitions, and finding your work-life balance.
There is something in it for everyone. In fact, I’ve added new sections on topics like Artists at Work and Zen at Work. I’ve even added a section on Work Less, Achieve More. I’ve included my best books that really help you work less, while achieving more and flowing more value. There are many, many game changing strategies and tactics that you can instantly use to find your purpose, play to your strengths, get more things done, and get meaningful results.
I’ve also added a lot more books to really round out my career books collection. Some new additions to my career books include The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers, by James Citrin and Richard Smith, The Six-Figure Second Income: How To Start and Grow A Successful Online Business Without Quitting Your Day Job, by David Lindahl and Jonathan Rozek, Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams, by Barbara Sher, Getting Started in Consulting, by Alan Weiss, Case Interview Secrets: A Former McKinsey Interviewer Reveals How to Get Multiple Job Offers in Consulting, by Victor Cheng, The Google Resume: How to Prepare for a Career and Land a Job at Apple, Microsoft, Google, or any Top Tech Company, by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Asher's Bible of Executive Resumes and How to Write Them, by Donald Asher, How to Click with People: The Secret to Better Relationships in Business and in Life, by Dr. Rick Kirshner, The Charge: Activating the 10 Human Drives That Make You Feel Alive, by Brendon Burchard, and many others.
I also expanded the Effectiveness section to include many of the books that have really made a difference for myself and others. For example, some of my favorites include, Mentored by a Millionaire, by Steven Scott, The First 90 Days, by Michael Watkins, The 80/20 Individual, by Richard Koch, and Positive Intelligence, by Shirzad Chamine.
My collection of great career books will give you a serious and significant edge when it comes to managing your career and finding your way forward. Check it out:
I had 20 minutes before my meeting so I did a quick step through of the new Microsoft Cloud Analysis Tool and the Infrastructure Optimization Self-Assessment Tool.
The Microsoft Cloud Analysis Tool helps you build a roadmap to the Cloud based on your business needs, constraints, and desired attributes. It’s a “what if” for the Cloud, that you can play out the possibilities by changing your parameters. That’s a mighty powerful thing if you are trying to cycle through various options and understand the trade-offs. In fact, independent of the actual content in the tool, I think the most valuable part is the framing of the decisions. If you use nothing else, you can at least use the frames to help you accelerate your own Cloud decision making, and make more informed choices.
I limited my words and focused on screen captures so that you can quickly scan the end-to-end to see the inputs and the outputs.
Here is a summary of the tools:
Here is the home page of the Microsoft Cloud Analysis Tool and Microsoft Infrastructure Optimization Self-Assessment Tool:
Step 1 - Create an Account
Step 2 – Create a Profile
Profile a Workload
Step 3 – Choose a Discovery Activity
The output includes
Architecture Diagram (Visio)
A colleague asked if I could elaborate on how we adhered to the Agile Manifesto on the Microsoft patterns & practices team. If you don’t know the Agile Manifesto, it’s a short set of sweet values, focused on building better software, flowing value to customers, while responding to change.
Here is my reply …
The heart of the Agile Manifesto is the values:
You can think of these as operating principles that embrace a set of core values that have proven themselves over time, and add “the people part” back into software, as well as embrace change as a first-class citizen.
Here is how we embraced the Agile Manifesto on the Microsoft patterns & practices team:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools A quick conversation could easily save somebody getting lost in the weeds or mired in the muck.
We used face time, even "virtual" face time, instead of a bunch of email. We established a simple cadence of meetings to stay in sync. For example, iteration planning meetings on Mondays, and a daily stand up, helped everybody stay on top of and participate in the plan.
Rather than shove everybody into a process or into documents, it was about building effective working relationships, and spending more time in conversations. This was especially helpful for complex topics and issues, that could easily turn into long, emotional emails.
Working software over comprehensive documentation Rather than get bogged down documenting, it was more action-oriented. The goal was to produce working solutions, incrementally, and test the path as we go. To do this, we would focus on capturing user stories, prototyping the solution, then getting feedback on the solution with the customer.
That does not mean the documentation was not valuable. It does mean that we put a priority on building and testing the solution, so that the documentation has a firm foundation to build on. What it also means is that rather than depend heavily on attempting to capture and share requirements as text, we spent more energy on internalizing and embracing the requirements, with empathy, by working with customers, and feeling the pain.
Something gets lost in the text, and if I had to put my finger on it, it's empathy, and that comes from shared experience.
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation At the end of the day, this is about rapport. If you pair with the customer and co-create the solution with them, and bring them along on the journey, they are with you.
If, instead, you try to bind them to a contract, and tell them how every time they want to make a change, they can't because of what they agreed to earlier, you are simply creating a bigger divde for the customer, and your team.
The reality is, it's often less about requirements "changing" and often more about gaining clarity on the true requirements. Pushing the pain of this reality back on the customer is convenient, but ineffective, for all involved.
Responding to change over following a plan This really builds on the previous, but the big ideas is that rather than fearing or fighting change, you embrace it.
What keeps you grounded is having a plan to begin with. Another thing that keeps you grounded is having operating principles, and clarity of the end in mind. The most important thing though is having trust in your process. You have the trust the process you use to flow value along the way, and value adds up.
If you are not flowing value, you have a problem. It will not matter how good or great you thought your plan was. That's why it's called a plan, not reality. When the rubber meets the road, the unexpected happens.
How did we respond to change? We stayed open to the idea that we were wrong. Sure we tried to get the risk out early and often, but risk happens. We stayed connected to the customer so that we could understand what's actually valued. We used our iteration meetings to do a reset as necessary, and we would use project reviews and checkpoints as a way to readjust the bigger plan. The way we reduced the risk here overall is by having a timebox and resource constraints.
The upside was that we could continuously adapt and adjust as we got more clarity on what's truly valued.
One of the most common things I get asked, wherever I go is, “What were the team roles and responsibilities on your Microsoft patterns & practices project teams?”
Effectively, there were a set of repeatable roles that people signed up for, or covered in some way. In this case, a role is simply a logical collection of tasks. The role is the label for that collection of tasks.
As an Agile bunch, we were self-organizing. In practice, what that means is the team defined the roles and responsibilities at project kickoff. As the project progressed, people would shuffle around responsibilities among the team, to produce the best output, and to find ways to get people spending more time in their strengths, or learning new skills. It's all about owning your executing, playing well with others, and making the most of the talent you have at hand.
Here is a simple list of the team roles and responsibilities each team generally had to cover:
Roles Architect Lead Writer Developer Development Lead Product Manager Program Manager Test Test Lead Subject Matter Expert
Responsibilities Architecture and Design Budget Business Investment Collateral (screen casts, blogs, decks, demo scripts) Content structure Customer connection Design Quality Development Evangelism (screen casts, web presence, road shows, conferences, customer briefings, press & analysts) Feedback Product Group Alignment Product Planning Project Planning Quality (technical accuracy, consumability, readability) Release Requirements Scope Schedule Simplicity Support / Sustained-Engineering Team and People Test execution Test planning Usability
One of the most helpful things you can do when you are doing cross-group or cross-team work, or working across multiple projects, is to show and share a simple map. Here is an example:
When people can see the map, it’s a lot easier to follow the flow of work. It’s also easier to see intersections or common touch points. Most importantly, it’s easier to set expectations around what to expect, and what will be delivered when.
I know a lot of people inside and outside of Microsoft working on their books. In fact, I’m helping a few people birth their books, and ultimately produce what they hope to be bestsellers. My book, Getting Results the Agile Way has been in the top 100 on Amazon in the Time Management category. (In fact, it’s been in the top 5, and it’s been #1 in some countries such as Germany.)
I want to help self-published authors around the world make the most of their effort and get a fighting chance at taking their book to the top on Amazon.
Here’s the surprise …
I have the honor and privilege of hosting a guest post by Gary Lindberg, author of THE SHEKINAH LEGACY. THE SHEKINAH LEGACY is a genuine Amazon bestselling thriller. In fact, for over a week it was the most popular Kindle thriller on Amazon.
Here is Gary’s story:
Lessons Learned from a Bestselling Self-Published Author
I asked Gary if he would share his best lessons learned on how to publish a best-selling book as a self-published author. I thought it would be great to give self-published authors an edge in taking their book to the top. I’m a fan of helping people that put in the work, get the results. And I believe that if you know some of the key success strategies that you amplify your impact.
Whether you are an author, or aspiring author, or hope to publish a best-selling book, you can leverage and learn from Gary’s experience as a bestselling author. Gary has some fantastic insight and it’s very actionable. In fact, if you read his story, I bet it will instantly and forever change how you think about covers and cover design for Amazon.
BTW – Gary is not just a best-selling author, he is also a film producer and director, with over one hundred major national and international awards under his belt. Gary is also the co-writer and producer of the Paramount Pictures feature film That Was Then, This Is Now starring Emilio Estevez and Morgan Freeman.
Glenn Watt, Senior Editor of Time Management Magazine, tells me that the first edition of Time Management Magazine will feature an article on Agile Results. Here is the press release:
JD Meier Article in the First Special Free Issue of Time Management Magazine
The first issue will be available September 23rd. The second issue will be available Oct 28th.
As you may know, I’m a fan of time management. Time is all we’ve got, and I think one of the best skills we can learn in live is how to spend our time on the right things, the right way, with the right energy. That’s the stuff that meaning, legacy, and impact are born from.
So I’m looking forward to the first edition of Time Management Magazine, and I’ll curious to see what sorts of frameworks, methodologies, tools, systems, principles, patterns, and practices get a focus.
I have a new cover for my book, Getting Results the Agile Way. Getting Results the Agile Way introduces Agile Results, a simple system for meaningful results.
The purpose of the book is to share the best insights and actions for mastering productivity, time management, motivation, and work-life balance. In fact, I’ve been doing several talks around Microsoft on work-life balance, and helping teams improve their results.
It’s the best way I can give the edge to my Microsoft tribe, as well as share the principles, patterns, and practices for getting results with the rest of the world.
The new cover better reflects the values of Agile Results: Adventure, Balance, Congruence, Continuous learning, Empowerment, Focus, Flexibility, Fulfillment, Growth, Passion, Simplicity, and Sustainability. Specifically, the cover reflects simplicity, focus, continuous learning, and flexibility. Hopefully, the simplicity is obvious. The new cover is pretty bare-bones. It’s clean, while, minimal, and features a symbol. In this case, the symbol is a variation of an Enso. Intuitively, it simply implies a loop. But if you happen to know the Enso, it’s also a symbol of enlightenment. The beauty of a symbol is you can make it be what you want it to be to be meaningful for you (for me, it’s continuous learning and growth.)
Getting Results the Agile Way is serious stuff. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, Moms, restaurant owners, consultants, developers, project managers, team leaders, and more have been using the approach to do more with less, flow more value, and find work-life balance, while improving their thoughts, feelings, and actions to make the most of what they’ve got.
The system scales down to the one-man band (after all, it is a “personal” results system for work and life), and it scales up to teams. It’s the same approach I’ve used to lead distributed teams around the world for more than ten years.
Here is the back of the book which gives a quick overview of the system:
The new cover will likely be available this October, so if you are a fan of the current blue cover, scoop it up now, while it lasts (maybe it will be a collector’s item some day.)
The Change Patterns are a very fundamental set of strategies you can add to your Change Leadership toolkit.
I’m a fan of patterns. In their simplest form, they are a great way to build a shared vocabulary and rapidly transfer knowledge and experience. It’s a great thing when a single word is a handle for a concept and actually encapsulate a few hundred words. It makes talking about a space very efficient and effective, and rather than re-explaining ideas, you can build upward and onward, and move up the stack. You can think of patterns as labels for strategies.
One of my favorite collections of patterns is the Change Patterns collection. It’s a collection of patterns for driving change and introducing new ideas. Here is my write up:
Change Patterns: A Language for Introducing New Ideas
The Change Patterns are from the book, Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas, by Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising.
If you’ve ever struggled with driving innovation, adoption, and change, you’ll appreciate the patterns. Here are a few examples:
The power of the Change Patterns is that they are harvested from experts with real stories, real strategies, and real results. The patterns themselves are the distillation of that experience down into simple strategies with names.
One of the Change Patterns is Corporate Angel. According to Manns and Rising, the Corporate Angel pattern is “To help align the innovation with the goals of the organization, get support from a high-level executive.” Personally, I’ve made it a point to have a Corporate Angel on my toughest projects. It helps to get over some of the internal humps, blockades, and barriers, that you otherwise can’t, when things get stuck at the wrong level. It also helps give the project visibility, which can help remind people of the significance of the investment.
One of the things I’d like to do in the future is share my collection of change patterns at Microsoft, that I’ve learned over the years. As a Program Manager, I often need to drive change and influence without authority. This is especially true whenever I am driving projects. After all, a very fundamental question about a given project is, “How will the world be different when you are done?” Well, if nothing changes and nothing gets adopted, it won’t. So the challenge I always face is how to streamline adoption and change. I’ve learned a lot from the school of hard knocks.
Add the Change Patterns to your Change Leadership toolbox and amplify your impact and influence.
I was white boarding and naming some team execution patterns the other day with a few colleagues. Here's what we ended up with:
Just because you're on a team, doesn't mean it's teamwork.
I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to leading teams. I've built new high-performance teams from scratch, every six months, for more than ten years. Even more importantly, these were high-performing, distributed Agile teams, where we had to rapidly go from forming and storming, to norming and performing. What I've learned is priceless, and I thank my lucky stars, that I had the opportunity to experience so many execution patterns, and really find out what works and what does not, but more importantly *Why* and *When.*
At the white board, I walked each pattern above and highlighted some key points and lessons learned …
Core Team With a "Core Team" model, you are funded or staffed as a team dedicated on the problem. You are a "team of capabilities." This is where the best synergy and focus can happen. It's also where people can find ways to spend more time in their strengths.
The most effective pattern I've seen here is "resource pools" that come together as project teams, with the right experience, skills, and capabilities. They are dedicated on the project, and they work the project as a self-organizing team.
“One-Man Band” + Best Efforts In the "One-Man Band" model, or "The Hero Model", somebody does a job, as a "team of one." The problem that often happens here is that the job actually requires a "team of capabilities." While the individual might be good at XYZ, the work requires being good at ABCD, EFG, and XYZ.
When the work truly is a one-person job, no problem. But often the pattern I see is that instead of having a few small teams of capabilities, teams are split into operating like "One-Man Bands." The “Best Efforts” part is where the “One-Man Band” spends a lot of their time trying to convince, cajole, and influence without authority to get others to contribute their “Best Efforts.” Depending on the nature of the work, while this can be effective, it’s not usually very efficient, and timelines stretch on (and on, and on, and on.)
A simple way to see the problem is that if there are five problems and five people, then each person gets a problem. The opposite approach would be five people work problem #1, then problem #2, etc. or split into two teams and divide and conquer. This is actually a big deal because when it comes to knowledge work or information products, people get bottlenecked all the time. It's rare to find the individual that has great project management skills, deep expertise on the problem, great marketing skills, great customer focus, great business sense, etc. But when you pair people or create focused mini-teams, magic happens.
The thing to keep in mind is that this is not about hiring more people, it's simply shifting the mix, and changing strategy in how the work gets done. It's SWARMing on the work, and building momentum, versus creating "One-Man Bands" with single points of failure.
There are exceptions to this, obviously, such as when it's "weird work" that's hard to streamline, or mature and optimize, or when you don't have the right mix of skills for even mini-teams. That said, if you have serious and significant bottlenecks, you might look at how the work gets done.
vTeams The majority of vTeam work that I see often fails. It fails when the work is not a priority. It fails when there are no rewards for people that contribute to the vTeam. It fails when the work is not valued. On the flip side, vTeams succeed when they find mutual goals. vTeams succeed when the work is a priority -- meaning, it's literally a commitment with a P0 or P1 priority rank.
One mistake I see is when people think that you can "buy" vTeam members. I've seen many, many vTeams where people's time was bought or paid for, and yet the work still didn't happen. It was not as high a priority as the person's day job, and it was a spare activity, that even though it was funded or paid for, they were not really committed where it counts. They were simply committed with dollars.
“Community Will Do It.” One way that people try to get work done is "Community Will Do It." There is a lot of truth in the saying, "You get what you pay for." Sure, the community will do it. They will do what they value, on their timeline, and what they are passionate about. You can't expect anything more. Well, you can, but at least don't be surprised when the work is not done the way you expected. After all, it was "best efforts."
A better approach than “Community Will Do It” is, “With the Community.” That’s the approach we used on the Microsoft patterns & practices team.
Matrix Projects Another common model that teams use to get work done is matrix projects. What I've seen this usually turn into, is a whole lot of status, and not a lot of results. The irony is, the matrix project turns into matrix spreadsheets and tracking. The overhead added per person, and for the team in general, creates a lot of below the line work, and very little above the line value. All the energy goes into coordination, updating, and tracking, and very little is left for working the tough problems, solving the key challenges, and flowing value. After all, now you have a collection of agendas that is more like a quilt, and less like a blanket. Sure there are exceptions. The funny thing is, though, I've never seen one.
How the Work Gets Done The moral of the story is that whenever I take on a job, or whenever I mentor somebody, or coach a team, I first find out, how does the work get done. Any time that there are serious and significant bottlenecks in the system, it's almost always a matter of how teams are structured and how work is planned and executed.
It's always a fertile ground for opportunities and optimization. So if you are bottlenecked or your team is bottlenecked or you just want to build high performance teams, look for ways to shift the mix.
You can always do a lot more with less, if you work smarter, not harder, and together, not alone, if you can put "just enough" systems and process in place to support smart people, versus break them, get in their way, or make their talent null and void.
Serena Yeoh, former Microsoft, has ported her Layered Architecture Solution Guidance to Visual Studio 2012. Her Layered Architecture Solution Guidance is a collection of project templates and tools for developing Layered Applications.
Serena has a passion for helping others use technology, and building maintainable applications.
Here is the link to the Layered Architecture Solution Guidance for 2012:
Layered Architecture Solution Guidance (LASG) 2012
Here is an excerpt on the Layered Architecture Solution Guidance:
Layered Architecture Solution Guidance (LASG) is a software factory that offers a set of tools and guidance aimed at simplifying and accelerating the development of layered applications. It extends Visual Studio (both 2010 and 2012) to provide a set of solution templates and code generators to help automate various repetitive tasks.
LASG follows the project structure that is illustrated in Layered Architecture Sample for .NET. but enhances it further with automation tools to help beginner developers to quickly get up to speed with layering concepts.
I heard a beautiful nugget on the art of simplicity the other day. It was about reducing complexity, cost, and time. Or, to put it another way, it makes a great case for simplicity.
Why focus on simplicity?
To reduce complexity.
Why reduce complexity?
It’s the key to reducing cost and time.
What a great way to connect the dots.
Aside from improving adoption, if you focus on simplicity, it’s a very real way to improve time to market and cost of goods, and in the end, elegance.
The big win for me with simplicity is the ability to improve things, whether it’s a process or a product. If you’ve ever had to deal with a beast of either one, you can appreciate what I mean. My first goal in taking on something is to drive for simplicity so that it has a fighting chance to improve over time.
Complexity dies, where simplicity thrives.
Want to read faster? What if you could read and think at extreme speeds? I wrote a post that reveals the program that I’ve used to exponentially improve my reading and thinking speeds. I’m back in the 1,000+ words per minute camp, and working towards 10,000 words per minute:
Even if you could read just a little faster, imagine how much time you get back each day, considering all the email and information you have to process each day. Imagine how much more time you get back if you can read 1,000 words a minute, or more. Imagine all the books you could read, how quickly you can clear you email, and how much easier you can stay on top of things.
There are a lot of reasons that hold people back from reading much faster than they ever thought possible. One of the main reasons is people just don’t’ know what they are capable of. Another reason is that people say their words in their throat, even when they are reading to themselves, and this is incredibly slow, compared to what our minds are capable of. Another reason is that we aren’t use to moving or using our eyes even close to what they are capable of.
In the post, I share the program I use and how it trains you to stop subvocalizing, how to scan and process information at extreme speeds, and how to retrain and build your eyes to go much faster than they are used to.
This is one of the ultimate secret weapons in your toolbox for gaining more time, keeping your email inbox clear, and learning at a much faster rate, than people are used to.
Check out How To Read 10,000 Words Per Minute. Even if you don’t get the program, you can at least see how the mechanics work, and you can better appreciate how you can exponentially improve your own reading speeds and ability to think and process much faster.
This is truly one of the ultimate personal development tools that pays back every single day (assuming that you have to read and process information each day.)
If there’s one book that I suggest as The Microsoft Career Survival Guide -- it’s The First 90 Days, by Michael Watkins. It’s a great book with extreme knowledge on how to survive and thrive in your job, especially during transitions. Transitions are always the toughest time because you have to adapt and acclimate fast to your new surroundings, and it can very quickly turn your world upside down.
The First 90 Days just might be THE leadership book and corporate career guide.
I’ve had eight manager changes in the last three years, which means I’ve had to learn success strategies and tactics to make the most of the changes. It’s been a great opportunity for me to put everything I learn into practice, and continue to learn from The First 90 Days.
One of the most important lessons I learned from The First 90 Days, is to focus on securing early wins. It sounds like common sense, but there is a big difference between knowing and doing. The credibility and air-cover that comes with delivering fast wins, early on, sets the stage for momentum and an upward spiral of success. The ability to execute and drive relevant wins early on also reflects your ability to understand what is valued, and how things get done. It forces you to learn the system quickly, from a people, process, and tools perspective. It helps you reveal the chessboard.
The people part is the most challenging, but the most important. You get things done with people, and The First 90 Days shows you how to understand the influence map, build coalitions, and build an effective advice-and-counsel network of technical advisers, cultural interpreters, and political counselors. The faster you can put this into place, the more effective you will be.
Since this is one of the most important books to have on your career shelf, I wrote a special book review to help share why this book is such an important asset:
It’s also one of the first books I always recommend to anybody that I mentor to help them get a firm foundation in how organizations really work, what really drives people, and how not to get blindsided or surprised … because what you don’t know can hurt you.
Enjoy, and best wishes on your career success.