Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
“I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.” -- Vincent Van Gogh
I find myself mentoring on Agile practices and Agile methodology on a regular basis. More and more teams are needing to stay connected with customers, respond to change, and flow value along the way. I find that if you know what Agile methodology looks like, it’s easier to get started. In this post, I’ll share what an implementation of Agile methodology looks like.
When I was on the Microsoft patterns & practices team, we used a combination of XP/Scrum for executing projects. We called our agile methodology, "Customer-Connected Engineering"or CCE. The following table is an overlay of customer-connected activities on top of the agile methodology:
The activities on the left-side of the table are core activities in patterns & practices projects. If you’re familiar with XP/Scrum, you’ll be familiar with the activities. On the right-hand side are customer-connected activities.
10 Highlights of the Agile Methodology and Customer-Connected Engineering Here are some of the most important points and distinctions:
There is a lot more I could say, and a lot more I could share, and I will. For example, I learned a lot from doing Retrospectives for various product teams around Microsoft. I also learned a lot on building more effective business cases. I’ve also learned a lot about doing effective daily standups with distributed teams around the world. The most important thing though that I learned, at least in terms of helping teams get up and running with Agile, is how to show and share end-to-end life-cycles. For example, I have a simple model now of the Project Cycle + Product Cycle and the workstreams below each, now in my head. In a future post, I’ll share what that looks like, if there is interest.
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“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” — Bruce Lee
Here is one of my favorite quotes by Napoleon Hill on the power of focus:
“Until a man selects a definite purpose in life, he dissipates his energies and spreads his thoughts over so many subjects and in so many different directions that they lead not to power, but to indecision and weakness. With the aid of a small reading glass, you can teach yourself a great lesson on the value of organized effort. Through the use of such a glass, you can focus the sun’s rays on a definite spot so strongly that they will burn a hole through a plank. Remove the glass (which represents the definite purpose), and the same rays of sun may shine on that same plank for a million years without burning it.”
The newest addition to the Agile Results knowledge base is a step-by-step article on How To Focus. The goal of the knowledge base is to give you the best patterns and practices for personal effectiveness. In How To Focus, I share a combination of proven practices for improving your focus with skill. Whether you are having a hard time directing your attention, staying on task, or focusing where it counts, this article will give you insight and action you can use and apply immediately to dramatically amplify your ability to focus.
This is no ordinary article on focus. It’s deep. Here is the structure of the article at a glance:
One of my mentors, a seasoned manager at Microsoft, once told me that the difference that makes the difference – why some people succeed and others do not – is focus. Those that lack focus spread themselves too thin, or never finish what they start. They have a lot of dreams and ideas that they never spend enough time working on to make any progress. On the flip side, those with focus, know what they want to accomplish, and they apply concentrated effort, and see it through to completion. They also focus on less to achieve more.
The key to focus is to both reduce distractions, while increasing engagement. The trick to improving engagement is to find your internal rewards, and to be more deliberate about what you choose to focus on … even while focusing (… in fact, especially while focusing!) For example, you can focus on the task, or yourself. You can focus on *what* you are doing, or you can focus on *why* you are doing it, or even *how* you are doing it. You can focus on the *process* or you can focus on the *results.* You can choose to focus on what’s behind you, or what’s in front of you.
If you want the power of focus on your side, check out How To Focus or share it with a friend.
"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will." -- Mahatma Gandhi
When people ask me what my biggest game changer was in terms of producing more in less time, I have to say that it’s a combination. It’s a combination of 1) spending more time in my strengths, and 2) finding my power hours.
This was the biggest key to getting more done in less time, and keeping my energy strong. Imagine doing the work you do in 40 hours in four hours. That’s what it’s like.
Hands down, this accelerated my learning and growth the fastest way possible. Imagine taking something that you could already do all day, and honing that. Imagine sharpening this blade to cut through any problem that comes your way, in the most effective and efficient way. That’s what it’s like.
It’s now my edge. I’ve found ways to use this edge in any job I do. You can do so too.
Here is a blurb from my 30 Days of Getting Results on Day 10 – Feel Strong All Week Long:
Get on Your Strengths Path What if there was one thing you could focus on that would help you get exponential results in all areas of your life? Well there is. It’s getting on your strengths path. When you are spending more time in the activities that make you strong, you automatically do great work, you renew and rebuild your mind, body, emotions, and spirit, and you dramatically accelerate your learning and growth. Fighting to get on your strengths path is one of the highest ROI (Return on Investment) battles you will ever win. It pays you back daily.
If there are so many benefits to being on your strengths path, and spending more time in your strengths, then why doesn’t everybody just do it? Because it requires self-awareness and you have to own it. Nobody comes along and puts you on your strengths path. YOU have to own it. YOU have to continuously find ways to spend more time in your strengths. Only you know truly what makes you strong and what makes you weak. You have to decide you want to spend more time in your strengths and you have to be deliberate about spending less time in your strengths.
That really is the key message here. You have to own it. When you choose to give your best, where you have your best to give, you empower yourself up to operate at a higher level. Your edge is at your finger tips.
"People are known by the company they keep; companies are known by the people they keep." -- Bill Gates
I’ve revamped and swept my business books collection. My business books collection is a rich set of the best business books that you can use to change your game. They are especially important now with the cloud.
I find the cloud is a great chance to get back to your business, and get back to the basics. To do this, you have to figure out the role you want to play in the cloud (be the cloud, use the cloud, move to the cloud.) You also need to really figure out your strategy.
My strategy section of my business books includes:
Blue Ocean is your best friend when it comes to the strategy game. The idea is to compete where there is no competition. For example, how would you compete against a circus? Would you find cheaper or better animals? No, you change the game and create a new market. That’s what Cirque du Soleil did. The question then becomes, how do you do this at the personal level to stay competitive in the marketplace?
Business Model Generation is an amazing synthesis of business tools all rolled together into a simple approach. It’s a great way to sketch your business. It helps you think on paper so you can analyze your model more effectively. If I could only have one business book, this might be the one business book to rule them all.
Good to Great is a business book classic. In fact, this is one the main books we used to shape the early days of the Microsoft patterns & practices team. We spent a lot of energy asking the question, what can we be the best in the world at, with the people we’ve got? We put a lot of focus on making sure that people were giving their best where they have their best to give, and leveraging the power of the system. I think it was this ruthless focus on blending passion, purpose, and strengths that accelerated Microsoft patterns & practices through the early days, with a clear differentiation. As one of my colleagues put it, the power was having “architects who could write.”
The Well Timed Strategy is one of those books that really makes you think. You start to see things in new ways. It’s the business book that got me seeing things in cycles. I stopped looking at things in such a static way. I started paying more attention to the ups and downs and the cycles of things. It helps me better understand the mountains and the valleys of the business cycles. I stopped pushing rocks uphill and learned to ride the waves.
I’ll continue to tune and prune my business books collection. Smart people are constantly recommending great business books to me to help me get ahead of the curve and sharpen my business skills. In today’s world, business skills + technical skills are the way forward.
You can listen to the Expert Access Radio Interview on Getting Results the Agile Way. It’s available as a podcast and on iTunes.
I'm honored to be interviewed by Expert Access Radio on Getting Results the Agile Way.
Expert Access Radio is a weekly talk radio show that features live, in-depth interviews with business leaders and best-selling authors from around the world. Some of their featured guests include Guy Kawasaki, Robert Kiyosaki, and Steven Pressfield.
On the show, Jay McKeever and Steve Kayser have their guests share their ideas, information, insights and inspirational stories to help listeners in their life of business, or their business of life.
I did a revamp and sweep of my health books collection. The focus of my collection of health books and fitness books is to help you get healthy, get in shape, get lean, and get strong. I’ve collected and tested many books to find patterns and practices for health and fitness that actually work.
Some of the new additions to the collection include:
Your Body as Your Gym is the most recent addition. It’s an incredible system. Here’s the deal. As a Navy Seal instructor, Mark Lauren needed to find a way to get more people in better shape in record time. He’s refined what he’s learned over years to get rapid results. The best part is it’s using your own body so you can do it anywhere. He wanted everyone to be able to get in the best shape of their lives and leverage what he’s learned from the special forces. It’s all about building lean, functional muscle, and using interval training. His routine is four times a week, 30 minutes a day.
I added Super Immunity to the collection. Dr. Fuhrman is a doctor that gets results. I know several Microsofties that have followed his approach to get in the best shape of their lives. What I like about Dr. Fuhrman is that he focuses on principles, patterns, and practices. His specialty is “nutritional density.” He focuses on the food that have the highest nutritional value per calories. Super Immunity is all about building up your immune system by eating the right foods to get your body on your side. In a world where we can’t afford to be sick anymore, this book is in a class all its own.
One of the books in my health books collection is Better Eyesight without Glasses, by William Bates. This book is near and dear to my heart. I used this approach to avoid getting glasses. A long story short is that I failed my eye test back in 7th grade, and I was determined not to wear glasses. I intercepted the letter that went to my parents and that bought me time. I then used the exercises from Better Eyesight without Glasses to get to 20/20 vision. As you can imagine, I saved a lot of money and a lot of inconvenience over many years, thanks to this one book.
Another book I should mention is Stretching Scientifically. This is the book I used to be able to do splits for Kick-boxing. I’ve never come across a better book on how to improve your flexibility in record time.
A fellow Softie, and performance improvement architect extraordinaire, Walter Oelwein, wrote a fantastic article on Life Lessons from The Legend of Zelda and Zelda Theory.
It’s all about how to apply what we learn from The Legend of Zelda to real life. If you are a gamer, you will especially appreciate this insightful piece of prose. Even if you are not a gamer, you will appreciate Walter’s wit and wisdom, as well as his systems thinking. If you are a continuous leaner and you find yourself always on a path of exploration and execution, this article will directly speak to your heart.
Check out Life Lessons from the Legend of Zelda and get your game face on for life.
I’m honored to have a guest post by Jason Selk, Ed.D., on patterns and practices for mental toughness. Jason is the best-selling author of 10-Minute Toughness and Executive Toughness. As a trainer of executives, world-class athletes, and business leaders, Jason shares proven practices for mental toughness.
Jason is a rock-star in the mental toughness arena in business and in sports. He is a regular contributor to ABC, CBS, ESPN, and NBC radio and television and he has been featured in USA Today, Men’s Health, Muscle and Fitness, Shape and Self Magazine.
Mental toughness is what gets you back on your feet again. Mental toughness is what helps you keep your cool when a bunch of hot air blows your way. Mental toughness is the stuff that unsung heroes are made of. Mental toughness is the breakfast of champions. The beauty is that you can learn and leverage the same proven practices that work for business and for life.
I think of the tools that Jason shares as the fundamentals. They may sound like common sense, and yet, they are the ways the work. The trick is not just knowing what to do, but doing what you know. I find it much easier to do something that I can believe in, and what I like about Jason’s patterns and practices for mental toughness is that they are tested in action, and they stand the test of time.
Check out Jason’s post on patterns and practices for mental toughness and get results.
Do you really know what you are truly capable of? It’s time to get your game on and find out. 30 Days of Getting Results is revamped and ready for action. With a new and cleaner look, each lesson brings you a memorable image, a quotable quote, an outcome, a lesson, and a set of exercises to put what you learn into practice.
It’s time to get the wisdom of the ages and modern sages on your side. The purpose of 30 Days of Getting Results is to give you the proven principles, patterns, and practices for time management. It includes 30 self-paced lessons to help you find your purpose, find your passion, set goals, master motivation, and achieve work-life balance.
The thing that’s really different about Agile Results as a time management system is that it’s focused on meaningful results. Time is treated as a first-class citizen so that you hit your meaningful windows of opportunity, and get fresh starts each day, each week, each month, each year. As a metaphor, you get to be the author of your life and write your story forward.
I used a 30 Day Improvement Sprint, a practice in Agile Results, to create the lessons. For 30 days, I took 20 minutes each day to write my best lessons down on paper on how to master productivity and time management. It’s raw. It’s real. It’s hopefully some of the best insight and action you’ve ever experienced in terms of exponentially improving your results.
It’s easy to dive in. All of the time management lessons are there at your finger tips on the sidebar for easy exploration. It’s timeless too. Even if you’ve take the lessons already, they are there as a refresher.
If you test-drive just one lesson, check out Bounce Back with Skill.
Share it with a colleague, a friend, or your family … or anybody you want to give an edge, in work and life.
I'm honored to be interviewed by David Zinger on Getting Results the Agile Way.
David Zinger is author of Zengage: How to Get More Into Your Work to Get More Out of Your Work, founder of the Employee Engagement Network, and creator of the Employee Engagement for Results Model.
Here is the abstract of the interview:
“This practical webinar outlines how to get results and foster employee engagement with agility. JD Meier from Microsoft, and author of Getting Results the Agile Way, shares his proven methods to get results for us and others with David Zinger, the founder and host of the Employee Engagement Network.”
It’s raw. It’s real. David has a way of asking great questions, connecting the dots, and teasing out key insights.
As of yesterday, Getting Results.com served up 200,000 views on the home page. If anything the traffic seems to continue to grow. A friend of mine said to approach awareness of Getting Results the Agile Way as a slow burn, rather than a big bang. I think he was right. With this approach, I continue to invest in terms of building out the Agile Results Knowledge Base, tuning the 30 Days of Getting Results, and working on the adoption and readiness story for individuals, teams, and organizations that want to adopt the approach.