J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Trends for 2016


    Our world is changing faster than ever before.  It can be tough to keep up.  And what you don’t know, can sometimes hurt you.

    Especially if you get disrupted.

    If you want to be a better disruptor vs. be the disrupted, it helps to know what’s going on around the world.  There are amazing people, amazing companies, and amazing discoveries changing the world every day.  Or at least giving it their best shot.

    • You know the Mega-Trends: Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data.
    • You know the Nexus-Of-Forces, where the Mega-Trends (Cloud, Mobile, Social, Big Data) converge around business scenarios.
    • You know the Mega-Trend of Mega-Trends:  Internet-Of-Things (IoT)

    But do you know how Virtual Reality is changing the game? …

    Disruption is Everywhere

    Are you aware of how the breadth and depth of diversity is changing our interactions with the world?  Do you know how “bi-modal” or “dual-speed IT” are really taking shape in the 3rd Era of IT or the 4th Industrial Revolution?

    Do you know what you can print now with 3D printers? (and have you seen the 3D printed car that can actually drive? … and did you know we have a new land speed record with the help of the Cloud, IoT, and analytics? … and have you seen what driverless cars are up to?)

    And what about all of the innovation that’s happening in and around cities? (and maybe a city near you.)

    And what’s going on in banking, healthcare, retail, and just about every industry around the world?

    Trends for Digital Business Transformation in a Mobile-First, Cloud-First World

    Yes, the world is changing, and it’s changing fast.  But there are patterns.  I did my yearly trends post to capture and share some of these trends and insights:

    Trends for 2016: The Year of the Bold

    Let me warn you now – it’s epic.  It’s not a trivial little blog post of key trends for 2016.  It’s a mega-post, packed full with the ideas, terms, and concepts that are shaping Digital Transformation as we know it.

    Even if you just scan the post, you will likely find something you haven’t seen or heard of before.  It’s a bird’s-eye view of many of the big ideas that are changing software and the tech industry as well as what’s changing other industries, and the world around us.

    If you are in the game of Digital Business Transformation, you need to know the vocabulary and the big ideas that are influencing the CEOs, CIOs, CDOs (Chief Digital Officers), COOs, CFOs, CISOs (Chief Information Security Officers), CINOs (Chief Innovation Officers), and the business leaders that are funding and driving decisions as they make their Digital Business Transformations and learn how to adapt for our Mobile-First, Cloud-First world.

    If you want to be a disruptor, Trends for 2016: The Year of the Bold is a fast way to learn the building blocks of next-generation business in a Digital Economy in a Mobile-First, Cloud-First world.

    10 Key Trends for 2016

    Here are the 10 key trends at a glance from Trends for 2016: The Year of the Bold to get you started:

    1. Age of the Customer
    2. Beyond Smart Cities
    3. City Innovation
    4. Context is King
    5. Culture is the Critical Path
    6. Cybersecurity
    7. Diversity Finds New Frontiers
    8. Reputation Capital
    9. Smarter Homes
    10. Virtual Reality Gets Real

    Perhaps the most interesting trend is how culture is making or breaking companies, and cities, as they transition to a new era of work and life.  It’s a particularly interesting trend because it’s like a mega-trend.  It’s the people and process part that goes along with the technology.  As many people are learning, Digital Transformation is a cultural shift, not a technology problem.

    Get ready for an epic ride and read Trends for 2016: The Year of the Bold.

    If you read nothing else, at least read the section up front titled, “The Year of the Bold” to get a quick taste of some of the amazing things happening to change the globe. 

    Who knows maybe we’ll team up on tackling some of the Global Goals and put a small dent in the universe.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Start with Needs and Wants


    “The purpose of a business is to create a customer.” – Peter Drucker

    So many people start with solutions, and then wonder where the customers are.

    It’s the proverbial, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

    The truth is, if all you have is a hammer, then get better at finding nails.  And while you are looking for those nails, get better at expanding your toolbox.

    If you want to be a better Entrepreneur or a trend hunter or a product manager or a visionary leader, then start with needs and wants.  It will help you quickly cut through the overwhelm and overload of ideas, trends, and insights to get to the ideas that matter.

    Some say the most valuable thing in the world is ideas.  Many others say that coming up with ideas is not the problem.  The problem is execution.  The truth here is that so many ideas fail because they didn’t create a customer or raving fans.  They didn’t address relevant pains, needs, and desired outcomes.  Instead, they solve problems that nobody has or create things that nobody wants (unless it’s free), besides the creator, and that’s how you end up in the mad scientist syndrome.  Or, ideas die because they were not presented in a way that speaks to the needs and wants, and so you end up a brilliant, misunderstood genius.

    Start Viewing the World Through the Lens of Human Needs and Wants

    Here is some good insight and timeless truths on how to find trends that matter and how to create ideas that do, too from the 5 Trends for 2016 report by Trendwatching.com.

    Via 5 Trends for 2016:

    “Trends emerge as innovators address consumers’ basic needs and wants in novel ways.
    As trend watchers, that’s why we look for clusters of innovations which are defining (and redefining) customer expectations.

    Start by asking why customers might embrace you using a channel. Next, challenge whether existing channels really satisfy the deep needs and wants of your customers. Could you create any new ones? Finally, imagine entirely new contexts you could leverage (perhaps even those that customers aren’t yet consciously aware of).

    As long as the onslaught of technological change continues, we’ll keep shouting this mantra from the rooftops: stop viewing the world through the lens of technology, and start viewing technology through the lens of basic human needs and wants.

    Put another way: all those tech trends you’re obsessed with are fine, but can you use them to deliver something people actually want?”

    Start with Scenarios to Validate Customer Pains, Needs, and Desired Outcomes

    A scenario is simply a story told from the customer's point of view that explains their situation and what they want to achieve.

    They are a great tool for validating ideas, capturing ideas, and sharing ideas.  What makes them so powerful is that they are a story told in the Voice-of-the-Customer (VOC).  The Current State story captures the pains and needs.  The Desired Future State captures the vision of the desired outcomes.  Here is an example:

    Current State
    As a product manager, I'm struggling to keep up with changing customer behavior and band perception is eroding.  Competition from new market entrants is creating additional challenges as we face new innovations, lower prices, and better overall customer experiences.

    Desired Future State
    By tapping into the vast amounts of information from social media, we gain deep customer insight.  We find new opportunities to better understand customer preferences and perceptions of the brand.  We combine social data with internal market data to gain deeper insights into brand awareness and profitable customer segments.  Employees are better able to share ideas, connect with each other, connect with customers, and connect with partners to bring new ideas to market.  We are able to pair up with the key influencers in social media to help reshape the story and perception of our brand.

    Customer Wants and Needs are the Breeding Ground of Innovation

    Makes total sense right?   But how often do you see anybody ever do this?  That’s the real gap.

    Instead, we see hammers not even looking for nails, but trying to sell hammers.

    But maybe people want drills?  No, they don’t want to by drills or drill-bits.  They want to buy holes.  And when you create that kind of clarity, you start to get resourceful and you can create ideas and solutions in a way that’s connected to what actually counts.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Agile Results for 2016


    Agile Results is the personal productivity system for high-performance.

    Agile Results is a “whole person” approach to personal productivity. It combines proven practices for mind, body, and emotions. It helps you realize your potential the agile way.  Best of all, it helps you make the most of what you’ve got to achieve higher levels of performance with less time, less effort, and more impact.

    Agile Results helps you achieve rapid results by focusing on outcomes over activities, spending more time in your strengths, focusing on high-value activities, and using your best energy for your best results.

    If you want to use Agile Results, it’s simple. I’ll show you how to get started, right, here, right now. If you already know Agile Results, then this will simply be a refresher.

    Write Three Things Down

    The way to get started with Agile Results is simple. Write three things down that you want to achieve today. Just ask yourself, “What are your Three Wins that you want to achieve today?”

    For me, today, I want to achieve the following:

    1. I want to get agreement on a shared model across a few of our teams.
    2. I want to create a prototype for business model innovation.
    3. I want to create a distilled view of CEO concerns for a Mobile-First, Cloud-First world.

    In my mind, I might just remember: shared model, business model innovation, and CEO. I’ll be focused on the outcomes, which are effectively agreement on a model, innovation in business models for a Mobile-First, Cloud-First world, and a clear representation of top CEO pains, needs, and desired outcomes.

    Even if I throw away what I write down, or lose it, the value is in the brief moment I spent to prioritize and visualize the results that I want to achieve. 

    This little vision will stick with me as a guide throughout my day.

    Think in Three Wins

    Writing these three items down, helps me focus. It helps me prioritize based on value. It also helps me create a simple vision for my day.

    Plus, thinking in Three Wins adds the fun factor.

    And, better yet, if somebody asks me tomorrow what my Three Wins were for yesterday, I should be able to tell a story that goes like this: I created rapport and a shared view with our partner teams, I created a working information model for business model innovation for a mobile-first cloud-first world, and I created a simplified view of the key priorities for CEOs in a Mobile-First, Cloud-First world.

    When you can articulate the value you create, to yourself and others, it helps provide a sense of progress, and a story of impact.  Progress is actually one of the keys to workplace happiness, and even happiness in life.

    In a very pragmatic way, by practicing your Three Wins, you are practicing how to identify and create value.  You are learning what is actually valued, by yourself and others, by the system that you are in.

    And value is the ultimate short-cut.  Once you know what value is, you can shave off a lot of waste.

    The big idea here is that it’s not your laundry list of To-Dos, activities, and reminders -- it’s your Three Wins or Three Outcomes or Three Results.

    Use Your Best Energy for Your Best Results

    Some people wonder why only Three Wins?  There is a lot of science behind the Rule of 3, but I find it better to look at how the Rule of 3 has stood the test of time.  The military uses it.  Marketing uses it.  You probably find yourself using it when you chunk things up into threes.

    But don’t I have a bazillion things to do?

    Yes. But can I do a bazillion things today? No. But what I can do is spend my best energy, on the best things, my best way.

    That’s the best I can do.

    But that’s actually a lot. When you focus on high-value outcomes and you really focus your time, attention, and energy on those high-value outcomes, you achieve a lot. And you learn a lot.

    Will I get distracted? Sure. But I’ll use my Three Wins to get back on track.

    Will I get randomized and will new things land on my plate? Of course, it’s the real-world. But I have Three Wins top of mind that I can prioritize against. I can see if I’m trading up for higher-value, higher-priorities, or if I’m simply getting randomized and focusing on lower-value distractions.

    Will I still have a laundry list of To-Do items? I will. But, at the top of that list, I’ll have Three Wins that are my “tests for success” for the day, that I can keep going back to, and that will help me prioritize my list of actions, reminders, and To-Dos.

    20-Minute Sprints

    I’ll use 20-Minute Sprints to achieve most of my results. It will help me make meaningful progress on things, keep a fast pace, stay engaged with what I’m working on, and to use my best energy.

    Whether it’s an ultradian rhythms, or just a natural breaking point, 20-Minute Sprints help with focus.

    We aren’t very good at focusing if we need to focus “until we are done.” But we are a lot better at focusing if we have a finish line in site. Plus, with what I’m learning about vision, I wonder if spending more than 20-Minutes is where we start to fatigue our eye muscles, and don’t even know it.

    Note that I primarily talk about 20-Minute Sprints as timeboxing, after all, that’s what it is, but I think it’s more helpful to use a specific number. I remember that 40-Hour Work Week was a good practice from Extreme Programming before it became Sustainable Pace. Once it became Sustainable Pace, then teams started doing the 70 or 80 hour work week, which is not only ineffective, it does more harm than good.

    Net net – start with 20-Minute Sprints. If you find another timebox works better for you, than by all means use it, but there does seem to be something special about 20-Minute Sprints for paving your work through work.

    If you’re wondering, what if you can’t complete your task in a 20-Minute Sprint? You do another sprint.

    All the 20-Minute Sprint does is give you a simple timebox to focus and prioritize your time, attention, and energy, as well as to remind you to take brain breaks. And, the 20-Minute deadline also helps you sustain a faster pace (more like a “sprint” vs. a “job” or “walk”).

    Just Start

    I could say so much more, but I’d rather you just start doing Agile Results.

    Go ahead and take a moment to think about your Three Wins for today, and go ahead and write them down.

    Teach a friend, family member, or colleague Agile Results.  Spread the word.

    Help more people bring out their best, even in their toughest situations.

    A little clarity creates a lot of courage, and that goes a long when it comes to making big impact.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Productivity Power Magazine



    "Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before." -- Franz Kafka

    One of my experiments over the weekend was to do a fast roundup of my productivity articles.

    Here it is -- Productivity Power Magazine:

    Productivity Power Magazine

    I wanted to create a profound knowledge base of principles, patterns, and practices for productivity.  I also wanted to make it fast, really fast, to be able to go through all of my productivity articles that I’ve created for Sources of Insight and on MSDN. 

    I also wanted it to be more visual, I wanted thumbnails of each articles, so that I could flip through very quickly.

    After looking at a few options, I tried Flipboard.  It’s a simple way to create personal magazines, and world class publications like The New York Times, PEOPLE Magazine, Fast Company and Vanity Fair use Flipboard.

    Productivity Power Magazine (A Flipboard Experiment)

    Here is my first Flipboard experiment to create Productivity Power Magazine:

    Productivity Power Magazine

    I think you’ll find Productivity Power Magazine a very fast way to go through all of my productivity articles.  You get to see everything and a glance, scroll through a visual list, and then dive into the ones you want to read.  If you care about productivity, this might be your productivity paradise.

    Note that I take a “whole person” approach to productivity, with a focus on well-being.  I draw from positive psychology, sports psychology, project management practices, and a wide variety of sources to help you achieve high-performance.  Ultimately, it’s a patterns and practices approach to productivity to help you think, feel, and do your best, while enjoying the journey.

    Some Challenges with Productivity Power Magazine

    Flipboard is a fast way to roundup and share articles for a theme.

    I do like Flipboard.  I did run into some issues though while creating my Productivity Power Magazine: 1)  I wasn’t able to figure out how to create a simpler URL for the landing page, 2)  I wasn’t able to swap out images if I didn’t like what was in the original article 3) I couldn’t add an image if the article was missing one, 4) I couldn’t easily re-sequence the flow of articles in the magazine, and 5) I can’t get my editorial comments to appear.  It seems like all of my write ups are in the tool, but don’t show on the page.

    That said, I don’t know a faster, simpler, better way to create a catalog of all of my productivity articles at a glance.  What’s nice is that I can go across multiple sources, so it’s a powerful way to round up articles and package them for a specific theme, such as productivity in this case.

    I can also see how I can use Flilpboard for doing research on the Web, alone or with a team of people, since you can invite people to contribute to your Flipboard.   You can also make Flipboards private, so you can choose which ones you share.

    Take Productivity Power Magazine for a spin and let me know how it goes.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    How To Stay Motivated for 2016 with a Vision Board


    "Big thinking precedes great achievement." -- Wilferd Peterson

    The way to stay motivated for 2016 is to begin with your end in mind.

    Keep in mind that your end in mind is dynamic, and it will change as you change, but it's still a great place to start.

    A simple way to visualize your end in mind is to create a Vision Board.  Here is an example of my Vision Board for 2016:

    Vision Board for 2016

    Here is the process I used to create an empowering Vision Board:

    How To Create an Empowering Vision Board

    The main idea of a Vision Board is to capture your big ideas in terms of your hopes, dreams, future habits, and your ideal life.  It’s a collage of images that reflect what you want your ideal future state to be.

    Prime Your Mind for 2016 with a  Vision Board

    The power of a Vision Board is really to prime your mind for success.   When you know what you want, you activate your Reticular Activating System (RAS).  Your RAS helps you notice things around you that are relevant (such as when you get a new blue car, suddenly you notice how many people have a blue car.)  When you know what you want, you also get more resourceful.  But more importantly, when you know what you want, other people can help you because you are clear on what you want to achieve.

    It’s really hard to help somebody get what they want when they don’t know what it is.

    When you have clarity in what you want, you create focus.  When you focus, you prioritize.  When you prioritize, it helps you stay motivated, but your future picture helps you inspire yourself from the inside out.

    I think we all tend to walk around with some little pictures of our future self, maybe as a fuzzy idea, or maybe little scenes from the future, or maybe more like a daydream.   But you can bring that future into focus by creating a simple collage of inspiring images that paint a picture of the future that you want to make happen.

    Create a Vision “Page”

    While I set out to create a Vision Board, I actually ended up creating what I’ll call a Vision Page.  I figured that a page on the Web would be available to me whenever or wherever I needed it.

    After reviewing a few options, I ended up creating my Vision Board for 2016 using Pinterest.

    It was simple and straightforward.  All I had to do was create a new board and then add Pins to my board that reflect my dreams, goals, habits, and aspirations.  It was actually a fun process trying to find the right image to capture the right idea.

    Draw from People, Books, Quotes, and Affirmations

    To create my Vision Page, I looked for inspiring people, as well as inspiring books, quotes, and affirmations.   On the people side, I thought of people that reflect some of the attributes I’d like to have more of.  For example, imagine if I could solve problems like Tony Robbins or be creative like da Vinci or think better like Edward de Bono.

    For books, I thought about how some books encapsulate really important ideas.  For example, In Eat to Win, Dr. Furhman focuses on eating the nutritarian way.   In all of his research and in medical outcome studies, Dr. Furhman found that nutritional density and focusing on nutritional excellence is the key to vibrant and radiant health.  In How To Have a Beautiful Mind, Edward de Bono focuses on creating curiosity, insight, and making things interesting through the power of perspective and by asking better questions.

    For quotes, I have several quote collections you can draw from in the Great Quotes Collection, including Confidence Quotes, Happiness Quotes, Inspirational Quotes, Motivational Quotes, Personal Development Quotes,  and Productivity Quotes.

    For affirmations, I had to rethink my limiting beliefs about affirmations.  For me, affirmations were always foo-foo, and I hated the examples that I found.  In my experience, all the affirmations I saw long ago use words I would never say in a way that I would never say them.  They seemed inauthentic.  Worse, the people that I knew that used affirmations weren’t every effective.  It seemed like they were reading spells from a magic book and didn’t even really believe what they were saying. 

    It was more like saying some magic word phrases and hoping they would suddenly become awesome.

    But then I thought about affirmations differently.  I realized that they can be a great way to intentionally change your thoughts, especially if you have thought patterns that don’t work for you.  Affirmations, just like quotes, can be simple little mantra for the mind.   But the key is that you have to find affirmations that work for you, and you have to word them in a way that’s simple, sticky, and meaningful for you.

    I share some sample affirmations in How To Create an Empowering Vision Board but here are a couple of examples.  I can replace, “This sucks” with "I see my challenges as opportunities to learn and grow."  I can remind myself “I let go of worries that drain my energy.”  My personal favorite is a remind of self-reliance: "If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me."

    Choose and create affirmations that remind and inspire you as you answer the question “Who do you want to be and what experiences do you want to create?”

    Build Your Vision Board with Skill

    If you want to stay motivated for 2016, then create your own Vision Board or Vision Page.  You can get started in just a few minutes, and if you really embrace it, your Vision Board can serve you throughout the year.  It will act as a reminder of what you want, but it can also help you get clarity and insight into the attributes and characteristics that you want to develop as part of your personal growth.

    Your motivation will be a direct reflection of your ability to find the most inspiring images that pull your forward.

    Don’t over-engineer it.  Keep it simple and make it easy to update.   For me, I just quickly found pages I could “Pin” and then I added a one-liner reminder of the key idea.  For example, I found an image of a Navy Seals team working out, and I added the note “Fit like a Navy Seal.”

    Also, remember that it’s your future, ideal life.  Don’t let limiting beliefs or small thinking get in your way.  Dream big and make it a collage of the people, quotes, habits, goals, and ideas that inspire you.

    Lastly, remember that motivation follows action.  So take some action and your motivation will follow.  The best way to take action is to just start.  If you get going with your Vision Board, chances are you’ll surprise yourself with some fresh thinking and some big bold ideas, and these will carry you forward for 2016.

    And, if not, remember the famous saying by Mary Anne Radmacher:

    “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”


  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Prime Your Mind for 2016


    “Chance favors the prepared mind.” -- Louis Pasteur

    The future is either created or destroyed by the decisions we make and the actions we take.

    It's 2016 and change is in the air.

    For some people, this time of year is their favorite. It's a time of year filled with hope, possibility, and dreams. 

    For others, this is a horrible time of year, filled with despair, shattered dreams, and bitter disappointment.

    Either way, let's get a fresh start, as we turn the page for a new year.

    Let's give ourselves permission to dream big, and re-imagine what this next year could be all about.

    Prime Your Mind to Empower Yourself and Your Business for an Amazing 2016

    If you don't know what priming is, it's a psychology concept that basically means we embody the concepts and stereotypes we're exposed to.  For example, if we see the color yellow, we find the word banana faster.

    You can use priming in a very pragmatic way to inspire your way forward.  Rather than hold on to old beliefs, mental models, and references, you can fill your mind with examples and ideas for new possibilities.

    I've written a fairly exhaustive approach to how you can prime your mind for 2016:

    Prime Your Mind for 2016

    But I'll summarize some key ideas in this post so you can get started stirring up your big bold ambitions for the new year.

    3 Key Ideas to Prime Your Mind with for 2016

    The big ideas really come down to this:

    1. People examples of transformation. Fill your head with examples of how people have created amazing personal transformation.  TED Talks are a great source of inspiration and examples of how people have transformed themselves, and in many cases, how they are helping transform the world around them.
    2. Technology examples of transformation.   Fill your head with examples of how the mega-trends are shaping the world through Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data.  Fill your mind with examples of how the mega-trends are coming together in a “Nexus of Forces” as Gartner would say, to change the world.  Fill your mind with examples of the mega-trend of mega-trends – the Internet of Things – is re-shaping the world, in extraordinary ways.  Read Future Visions, a free download by Microsoft, to get a glimpse into how science fiction could shape the science around us.
    3. Business examples of transformation.   Fill your head with examples of amazing examples of how businesses are driving digital business transformation.  Read NEXT at Microsoft to see some of the crazy things Microsoft is up to.  Read customer stories of transformation to see what Microsoft customers are up to.  Explore what sorts of things customers are up to on the Industry Solutions page.   For some truly phenomenal stories of digital transformation, check out what Microsoft UK is up to in education, business, and society.

    Your Personal Preparation for 2016

    Here is a quick way you can use books to help you prepare for the world around you:

    • Read a book like Leading Digital to get the overview of how digital transformation works.  You can see how companies like Starbucks and Burberry drove their digital transformation and you can learn the success patterns of business leaders who are leading and learning how to create customers and create new value in a mobile-first, cloud-first world.
    • Read books like Consumption Economics to fully grasp how value creation is throttled by value absorption – the ability of users and consumers to use the value that businesses can now create in a digital economy. 
    • Read books like B4b to see how companies are shifting to business outcomes for customers and helping customer achieve new levels of value from their technology investments. 
    • Read books like the Challenger Sale to learn how to go from somebody who pushes solutions to somebody who becomes a trusted advisor for their client and learns how to 1) teach, 2) tailor, and 3) take control.   Teaching is all about knowing your stuff and being able to help people see the art of the possible and sharing new ideas.  Tailoring is all about making ideas relevant.  It means you need to really understand a client’s pains, needs, and desired outcomes so that whatever comes out of your mouth, speaks to that.  Taking control means asking the right questions that drive conversations, strategies, and execution forward in an empowering way.
    • Read books like The Lean Startup to learn how to create and launch products, while making better, faster business decisions.   Learn how to innovate using principles from lean manufacturing and agile development to ship better, and win more raving fans.
    • Read books like Scaling Up to master the four key decision areas: people, strategy, execution, and cash, to create a company where the team is engaged, customers are doing your marketing, and everyone is making impact.  It includes one-page tools including a One-Page Strategic Plan and the Rockefeller Habits Checklist.
    • Read books like The Business Model Navigator to learn how businesses are re-imaging their business models for a mobile-first, cloud-first world.
    • Read books like Anticipate to put it all together and become a more visionary leader and build some mad skills to survive and thrive in the digital economy.
    • Read a book like Getting Results the Agile Way to help you master productivity, time management, and work-life balance.

    Best wishes for a 2016 where you create and live the change you want to see.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Best Books I Read in 2015


    Back by popular demand, here is my Best Books I Read, 2015 edition:

    The Best Books I Read in 2015

    As you may know, I read a lot of books.  I find it’s the best way to keep up and get ahead at Microsoft. 

    I don’t just read technical books.  I read a wide variety of books, including mind, body, emotions, career, finance, relationships, and fun.

    The common theme across the board is how to hack a better you.

    I find that the more I learn across the board, the easier it gets to improve productivity, personal effectiveness, and impact at work.  And the bonus is that this spills into life.

    This year, I spent extra effort on more health hacking.  We’re up against some pretty bad odds … 1 in 3 people die of cancer, but it used to be 1 in 80.  I in 4 get diabetes, but it used to be 1 in 4,000.  The good news is that there is some tremendous insight if you know the right books.

    I also spent some extra energy focused on disruptive  innovation and digital transformation.  Again, some things can seem like magic until you know how the magic is done.  All of the magic tricks are revealed if you know the right books to read.

    The Best Books I Read in 2015 is effectively the short-list from the very long list of books that I read in 2015.  Reading has always been one of the best ways for me to learn new ideas and new things to try.  I continue my quest for the world’s best insight and action for work and life, and I hope that some of the books I’ve included in my list turn out to be game changers for you.


  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Agile Results for Year-End Reflection


    If you use Agile Results, from Getting Results the Agile Way, as your productivity system, you already know that the key to the system is using The Rule of Three:

    • Three Wins for Your Day
    • Three Wins for Your Week
    • Three Wins for Your Month
    • Three Wins for Your Year

    This helps you prioritize outcomes and meaningful achievements, so that you can see the forest for the trees and avoid getting lost in the minutia and the chaos.

    It also helps you plan “just enough” and adapt as you go, while still having clarity around what counts, and figuring out what’s valued, and most importantly, giving you a better way to articulate the value you create, and tell a simple story around your personal victories.

    But the Three Wins for Your Year idea doesn’t always sync in.  Not at first.

    It doesn’t really sync in or hit you until you get to the end of the year, and as you get ready to turn the page, you ask yourself:

    “How did I do against my Three Wins for the Year?”

    Here’s how that might go …

    • For some of you, the answer will be that you didn’t even set any goals, so you don’t have any wins.   If you went with the flow, and the flow went well, great.   For some people it did.  For some people, that flow was not a river.  It was a waterfall.
    • For some of you, the answer will be that you remember setting Three Wins for the Year earlier this year, but you don’t remember what they were. 
    • For some of you, the answer will be that you made progress on some of your Three Wins for the Year.  Progress is a powerful thing (in fact, for many people it’s actually the key to their happiness and they control it.)
    • For some of you, the answer will be that you nailed your Three Wins for the Year.  Maybe you lucked into them.  Or maybe you achieved them without even realizing it.  Or maybe you intentionally invested in them, and your effort paid off.

    In each case, you learned something. And now you can feel something:

    If you nailed your Three Wins for the Year, congratulations – hats off to you! What a great way to close out the year with your Three Wins for the Year under your belt.

    If you didn’t nail your Three Wins for the Year, use this moment to figure out what you can do differently. Do you need to put them in a more visible place so that you keep them top of mind? Do you need to add blocks of time to your calendar so that you actually work towards your wins? Do you need to pair up with somebody so you can learn from them and get over any humps or hurdles?

    Remember that these are YOUR wins.

    They are for you. They are your victories. They are things that YOU want to achieve. Your Three Wins for the Year should inspire you and “pull” you forward throughout the year. Maybe they are bold ambitions. Maybe they are just challenging enough to help you reach your next level. Maybe they are simply things you need to work on so feel it was a year well spent.

    Just by reflecting on your Three Wins for the Year, you should gain a lot of insight into what you need to work on, and now you should really, really appreciate with full empathy how simple, but how powerful it is to identify Three Wins for the Year, each year.

    The real twist is this: it’s to identify what you really, really WANT this year. In fact, the simplest way I figure out my Three Wins is to ask myself, “If I were a genie, what three wishes would I grant myself?” Surprisingly, it’s almost always something that I could achieve within the year, if I focus and invest in achieving it.

    I use the “Genie in a Bottle” test, because sometimes it can be really, really hard to drop all the filters of what I *should* want, or what other people want for me, or too mired in myopic things that are too immediate, which will already take care of themselves. This simple test reminds me to take a step back, and without over-thinking it, get a good handle on some things that might motivate or inspire me so that I go into the year, looking forward to things that I’d like to achieve. Your wishes can pull you forward, as you turn your dreams into reality.

    One of the best gifts you can give yourself, is the gift of three wishes for this year.

    Go for it.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Happy Holidays from Microsoft


    It's the holiday season.

    Microsoft is a big place, and when you take a look around, you never know what you're going to find.

    Last year, Microsoft helped Santa land on a Virgin Atlantic plane with 4D technology.

    This year, it looks like Microsoft Store employees swarm an Apple store in NY city to spread a little hope and harmony, along with the local NYC children’s youth choir.

    Here's the video:
    Microsoft spreads the spirit of the season on 5th Ave

    Here's the story in a nutshell:
    "To celebrate the holidays, Microsoft employees, who were selected from across the country, gathered together, meeting each other for the first time, at the new Microsoft 5th Ave Store to spread some holiday wishes. Joined by a local NYC children's youth choir, they share a message of peace and harmony with their neighbor down the street."

    And here are a few of my favorite scenes ...








    Happy Holidays to everyone.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    How To Defeat Procrastination


    “I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do - the day after.” ― Oscar Wilde

    Procrastination is a silent killer of hopes, dreams, and aspirations.  It’s one of those quiet energy vampires that people don’t always notice, sucking the life force out.

    Procrastination is a sense of urgency’s polar opposite.  And we all know “a sense of urgency” is a key ingredient for change.

    On the personal level, procrastination can slowly burn you out, or lead to a feeling of overwhelm as things pile up, or, perhaps worst, it can leave you behind.

    For me, the biggest thing that helped me avoid procrastination is I hung around more productive people, and I learned to see myself as a more productive person.  We tend to rise to the level of our self-image. 

    But I also learned a variety of insights and actions to help defeat procrastination, as part of surviving and thriving at Microsoft.  I needed to build high-performing teams every six months for new projects.  These were tough projects with a wide variety of people from around the world with different productivity patterns.  I need to give them quick and effective ways to overcome their procrastination so that the entire team could operate at a higher level.

    Here are some of the key techniques I learned for dealing with procrastination …

    “Just a Few Minutes” (the Zeigarnik Effect)

    Use the “Just a Few Minutes Rule” to defeat procrastination.  This may just be the closest we have to a silver bullet for procrastination.  We like to finish what we start.   The way to defeat procrastination is simple:   Work on things for “just a few minutes.”
    We’re more inclined to finish what we start.  
    This is a good reason to “just start.”  Start with something small, because we also don’t like to start what we can’t finish.  If we don’t finish what we start, it tends to hang around in our minds.

    Action Precedes Motivation

    One of the most surprising insights that changed my entire outlook on procrastination is the idea that "action precedes motivation."  In other words, you may not feel like doing something, but if you just start, your motivation to continue follows.

    The Power of Regret

    Reflect on your worst, to bring out your best.  In 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, Richard Wiseman says, “research conducted by Charles Abraham and Paschal Sheeran has shown that just a few moments’ thinking about how much you will regret not going to the gym will help motivate you to climb off the couch and onto an exercise bike.”

    Feel Productive

    Imagine what it feels like to be a productive person.  If you can feel productive, then you'll find it's easier to both get started, and to keep going.

    Gamify It

    Make a game out of the task.  How quickly can you do it? How many can you do?  How much can you do in 1-minute?   Turn the task into a game to add the fun factor.

    Connect To Your Values

    Just doing a task can be lame.  But if you connect it to your values, you can make it meaningful.  For example, don't "call back a customer."  Instead, "win a raving fan."  Whether you value adventure, or learning, or excellence, you can connect your task to your values.  If you have a lust for learning, then combine doing your task with deep learning.

    Pair Up

    Find somebody who would actually enjoy working on it with you.  Maybe you can find somebody who loves to do the task you hate, and they have some tips or tricks they can show you, including how they make it more fun.

    Reward Yourself Along the Way

    Sometimes the best thing you can do is chunk up a task and reward yourself along the way.  Tony Robbins shared a trick for how he wrote his book faster.  He didn't enjoy writing, but liked his hot tub, so each time he wrote 10 pages, he would reward himself by jumping in the hot tub.

    Link It To Good Feelings

    I tried to talk myself into running on the elliptical.  Logically, I had some good arguments, but I didn't enjoy it.  I decided to combine it with learning so that I would enjoy it.  But then I didn't enjoy either.  Finally, I just played my favorite music, and that did the trick.  I linked running on the elliptical to good feelings, and no longer had to fight procrastination.

    10-Minute Dash

    A friend of mine recommended this to me.  He said, before you start your day, do a quick 10-minute dash to cleanup and get ready for the day.  It was surprisingly simple, but surprisingly effective.  You can use the idea of a "dash" beyond a 10-minute cleanup routine.  A dash helps take the dread out, because the pain will be short-lived.

    Merlin Mann describes dashes like this ...

    "My favorite tonic for procrastination—which I have mentioned in passing previously—is what I call a dash, which is simply a short burst of focused activity during which you force yourself to do nothing but work on the procrastinated item for a very short period of time—perhaps as little as just one minute. By breaking a few tiny pebbles off of your perceived monolith, you end up psyching yourself out of your stupor, as well as making much-needed progress on your overdue project. Neat, huh?

    "Small Wins"

    Tim Pychyl, author of The Procrastinator’s Digest, says that any trivial progress can help us find our motivation and build momentum.  Trival progress can boost our positive emotions, which in turn, boosts our productivity.  So the key here is to just do the smallest, quickest thing to nip your procrastination in the bud.

    "Temptation Bundling"

    Katherine Milkman, professor at The Wharton School University of Pennsylvania, wrote about "Temptation Bundling."  She liked to listen to audiobooks of THe Hunger Games.  She needed to work out.  So she made a rule that she would only listen to the audiobooks at the gym.  It worked.

    "Commitment Devices"

    Make it painful to fail.  For example, give a friend $50, and if you get the task done on time, you get it back.  If you don't, they keep it.  For this to work, you have to make it matter, so if $50 is not enough, then find an amount that is.  Also, it's important to give the money first, rather than say if you fail, then you'll give them the money.  They get the money first, and, if you want it back, then complete the task on time.  Also note, it doesn't need to be money, it can be public humiliation or whatever punishment or penalty you want to avoid.

    Forgive Yourself

    If you forgive yourself, it reduces future procrastination, increases your creativity, and increases your self-control.  Self-criticism drains your "I will" power and "I want" power, while self-compassion helps with motivation and better self-control.

    Focus on What's Before You or What’s Behind You

    If you are highly committed to a task, then focus on what's before you.  Remind yourself of the work to be done.
    If you are not highly committed to the task, then focus on what's behind you.  Remind yourself of the work you've already done and the progress you've made.

    Wear a Hat to Switch Gears

    I found a favorite hat that when I would put it on, I would get into a serious productivity mode.  I associated extreme productivity with my hat.  When I put my hat on, people knew to get out of my way and let me hack away at what I was working on.  It wasn't long before just the act of putting on the hat would inspire me to do deep work and to dive in, fully engaged.  If I ever felt the slightest bit of procrastination, putting my hat on would quickly defeat it, and inspire me forward.

    Maybe you have a favorite hat, or shoes, or shirt, or knick-knack, or poster that can help you get your game face on.

    Make a Little Progress

    Even just a little bit of progress can build momentum.  The Progress Principle puts it simply in that it's more effective to focus on progress, than on results.  Progress is the key to happiness.  It's easier to defeat procrastination when you are in a good mood.

    Change How You Feel

    Optimism and happiness are keys to productivity.  But what if you don't feel happy, or positive, or optimistic?  Then change your physiology.  Change your breathing.  Change your posture.  Changing your physiology is a fast way to change how you feel, which is why movement can quickly change your emotions.

    I'm a fan of having multiple tools in the toolbox so that it's easier to use the right tool for the job (if you just have a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.)

    One very special tool, that I left off the list, but will now mention is Priming.  It's a psychology term, but the gist is this:  You can increase sensitivity to particular stimuli as a result of previous experience.

    So you can Prime your mind for extreme motivation and productivity by feeding it the kinds of TED Talks, visuals, stories, experiences, metaphors, quotes, examples, etc. that inspire your mind and set your productivity on fire.

    Have you primed your mind today?

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    10 Personal Productivity Tools from Agile Results


    “Great acts are made up of small deeds.“ -- Lao Tzu

    The best productivity tools are the ones you actually use and get results.

    I'll share some quick personal productivity tools from Agile Results, introduced in the book, Getting Results the Agile Way.

    Agile Results is a Personal Results System for work and life, and it's all about how to use your best energy for your best results.

    With that in mind, here are some quick productivity tools you can use to think better, feel better, and do better, while getting results better, faster, and easier with more fun ...


    Think in terms of Three Wins each day, each week, each month, each year.

    You can apply the Rule of 3 to life. Rather than get overwhelmed by your tasks, choose three things you want to accomplish today. This puts you in control. If nothing else, it gives you a very simple way to focus for the day. This will help you get on track and practice the art of ruthless prioritization.

    Consider the energy you have, what's the most important, what's the most valuable, and what would actually feel like a win for you and build momentum.

    To get started, right here, right now, simply write down on paper the three things you want to achieve today.


    The Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, and Friday Reflection pattern is a simple habit for daily and weekly results.

    Monday Vision - On Monday, identify Three Wins that you want for the week.  Imagine if it was Friday and you were looking back on your week, what are three results that you would be proud of?  This helps you have create a simple vision for your week.

    Daily Wins - Get a Fresh Start each day.  Each day, identify Three Wins that you want for the day.  First thing in the morning, before you dive into the hustle and the bustle, step back.  Take the balcony view for your day and identify Three Wins that you want to accomplish.  This helps you create a simple vision for your day.  You can imagine three scenes from your day -- morning, noon and night -- or whatever works for you.

    One way to stay balanced here is to ask yourself both, "What do I want to accomplish?", and "What are the key things that if I don't get done ... I'm screwed?"

    Friday Reflection -- On each Friday, reflect on your week.  To do this, ask yourself two questions:

    “What are 3 things going well?”

    “What are 3 things to improve?”

    You'll find that either you are either focusing on the wrong things, getting distracted, or biting off more than you can chew.  Use what you learn here as input into next week's Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection. 

    The real power of Friday Reflection is that you acknowledge and appreciate your Personal Victories.  If you gave your all during your workout, hats off to you.  If you pushed a bit harder to really nail your presentation, great job.

    It's also a simple way to "put a bow" on your results for the week.  Now, if your manager or somebody were to ask you what you accomplished for the week, you have a simple story of Three Wins.


    Hot Spots are a simple metaphor for thinking about what’s important.

    Think of your life like a heat map.

    Start with a simple set of categories:

    1. Mind
    2. Body
    3. Emotions
    4. Career
    5. Finance
    6. Relationships
    7. Fun

    Where do you need to spend more time or less time?

    The Hot Spot categories support each other and they are connected, and in some cases overlapping.  But they give you a very quick way to explore an area of your life. 

    It's hard to do well at work if you're having issues with relationships.  And the surprise for a lot of people is how if they take better care of their body, work gets a lot easier, and they improve their mind and emotions. 


    The Growth Mindset is a learning mindset.

    Instead of a static view of things, you approach things as experiments to learn and explore.  Failure isn't final.  Failure isn't fatal.  Instead, find the lesson and change your approach.

    By adopting a Growth Mindset, you get better and better over time.  You don't say, "I'm no good at that."  You say, "I'm getting better at that." or "I'm learning."

    With a Growth Mindset and a focus on continuous learning, you turn your days into learning opportunities.  This helps you keep your motivation going and your energy strong.

    Life-long Learners last longer :)


    Timeboxing is a way to set a time "budget."  This helps you avoid spending too much time on something, or over-investing when it's diminishing returns.

    For a lot of people, they find they can focus in short-batches.  They can't focus indefinitely, but if they know they only have to work on something for say 20-minutes, it helps them fully focus on the task at hand.

    If you've heard of the Pomodoro Technique, this is an example.  Set a time limit for a task, and work on the task until the buzzer goes off.

    I use Timeboxing at multiple levels.  I might Timebox a mini-project to a week or a month, rather than let it go on forever "until it is done."  By using a Timebox, I create a sense of urgency and I give myself a finish line.  That's a real key to staying motivated and refueling your momentum.

    Timeboxing can help you improve your productivity in a very simple way. For example, rather than try to figure out how long something might take, start by figuring out how much time you want to invest in it. Identify up front, at what point is it diminishing return. This will help you cut your losses and figure out how to optimize your time.


    Each week spend more time in your strengths, and less time in your weaknesses.

    Push activities that make you weak to the first part of your day. By doing your Worst Things First, you create a glide path for the rest of the day. This is like Brian Tracy's Eat that Frog.

    Set limits.  Stuff the things that make you weak into a Timebox. For example, if the stuff that makes you weak is taking more than 20 percent of your day, then find a way to keep it within that 20 percent boundary. This might mean limiting the time or quantity.

    Sometimes you just can't get rid of the things that make you weak; in that case, balance it with more things that energize you and make you strong.

    Apply this to your week too. Push the toughest things that drain you to the start of the week to create a glide path. Do the same with people. Spend more time with people that make you strong and less time with people that make you weak. Be careful not to confuse the things that make you weak with challenges that will actually make you stronger. Grow yourself stronger over time.


    Pick one thing to improve for the month.

    Each month, pick something new; this gives you a chance to cycle through 12 things over the year. Or if necessary, you can always repeat a sprint.

    The idea is that 30 days is enough time to experiment with your results throughout the month. Because you might not see progress in the first couple of weeks while you’re learning, a month is a good chunk of time to check your progress.

    This is especially helpful if you find that you start a bunch of things but never finish.  Just focus this month on the one thing, and then next month, you can focus on the other thing, and so on.

    Each month is a Fresh Start and you get to pick a theme for the month so that everything you do accrues to something bigger.


    This is perhaps one of the most impactful ways to improve your productivity.

    Pair with people that complement your strengths.

    Pair up or team up with others that compliment your preferred patterns.  If you are a Starter, pair up with a Finisher.  If you are a Thinker, pair up with a Doer.  If you are a Maximizer, pair up with a Simplifier.

    Anything, and I mean anything, that you want to do better or faster, there is somebody in the world that lives and breathes it.  And, in my experience, they are more than happy to teach you, if you just ask.

    The best way to Pair Up is to find somebody where it's a two-way exchange of value and you both get something out of it.  To do this, it helps when you really know what you bring to the table, so it's clear why you are Pairing Up.

    Ask yourself, who can you team up with to get better results?


    Chances are you have certain hours in the day or night when you are able to accomplish more.

    These are your personal Power Hours.

    Guard your Power Hours so they are available to you and try to push the bulk of your productivity within these Timeboxes. This maximizes your results while optimizing your time.

    You might find you only have a few great hours during the week where you feel you produce effective and efficient results. You may even feel “in the zone” or in your “flow” state. Gradually increase the number of Power Hours you have. You can build a powerful day, or powerful week, one power hour at a time. If you know you only have three Power Hours in a 40-hour week, see if you can set yourself up to have five Power Hours.


    Your Creative Hours are those times during the week where you feel you are at your creative best.

    This might be a Saturday morning or a Tuesday night, or maybe during weekday afternoons.

    The key is to find those times where you have enough creative space, to do your creative work.

    Just like adding power hours, you might benefit from adding more creative hours. Count how many creative hours you have during the week. If it’s not enough, schedule more and set yourself up so that they truly are creative hours. If you’re the creative type, this will be especially important. If you don’t think of yourself as very creative, then simply use your Creative Hours to explore any challenges in your life or to innovate.

    There is so much more, but I find that if you play around with these Personal Productivity Tools, you can very quickly get better results in work and life.

    If you don't know where to start, start simple:

    Ask yourself what are the Three Wins you want to accomplish today, and write those done on a piece of paper.

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

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Your New Technical Skills


    One of the struggles a developer faces when moving up the ladder is how to keep their technical skills.

    If they are used to being a high-performing, individual contributor, and a technical go-to resource, this is especially challenging.


    Because the job is different, now.

    It’s no longer about how awesome your developer skills are.  Now it’s about bringing out the best from the people you manage, and hopefully *lead.*  Your job is now about creating a high-performing team.   It’s about growing more leaders.  It’s about being the oil and the glue.  The oil so that the team can work effectively, as friction-free as possible, and the glue, so that all the work connects together.

    There’s a good book called What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There, by Marshall Goldsmith.  The book title sort of says it all, but the big idea is that if you take on a new management role, but continue to perform like an individual contributor, or at a lower level, don’t expect to be successful.

    The irony is that most people will quickly default to doing what they do best, which is what got them to where they are.   But now the rules have changed, and they don’t adapt.  And as the saying goes, adapt or die.  It’s how a lot of careers end.

    But not you.

    While you will want to keep up your skills that got you to where you are, the real challenge is about adding new ones.   And, at first blush, they might just seem like “soft skills”, while you are used to learning “technical skills.”   Well, treat these at your new technical skills to learn.

    Your new technical skills are:

    1. Building EQ (Emotional Intelligence) in teams
    2. Building High-Performance Teams
    3. Putting vision/mission/values in place
    4. Putting the execution model in place
    5. Directing and inspiring as appropriate – situational leadership – per employee
    6. Creating and leverage leadership opportunities and teachable moments
    7. Creating the right decision frameworks and flows and empowerment models
    8. Building a better business
    9. And doing thought-work in the space for the industry

    I’ll leave this list at 9, so that it doesn’t become a 10 Top Skills to Learn to Advance Your Career post.

    Emotional Intelligence as a Technical Skill

    If you wonder how Emotional Intelligence can be a technical skill, I wish I could show you all the Mind Maps, the taxonomies, the techniques, the hard-core debates over the underlying principles, patterns, and practices, that I have seen many developers dive into over the years.

    The good news is that Emotional Intelligence is a skill you can build.  I’ve seen many developers become first time managers and then work on their Emotional Intelligence skills and everything changes.  They become a better manager.  They become more influential.  They read a room better and know how to adapt themselves more effectively in any situation.  They know how to manage their emotions.  And they know how to inspire and delight others, instead of tick them off.

    Along the lines of Emotional Intelligence, I should add Financial Intelligence to the mix.  So many developers and technologists would be more effective in the business arena, if they mastered the basics of Financial Intelligence.  There is actually a book called Financial Intelligence for IT Professionals.   It breaks down the basics of how to think in financial terms.   Innovation doesn’t fund itself.  Cool projects don’t fund themselves.  Technology is all fun and games until the money runs out.  But if you can show how technology helps the business, all of a sudden instead of being a cost or overhead, you are now part of the value chain, or at least the business can appreciate what you bring to the table.

    Building High-Performance Teams as a Technical Skill

    Building High-Performance Teams takes a lot of know-how.  It helps if you are already well grounded in how to ship stuff.  It really helps if you have some basic project management skills and you know how to see how the parts of the project come together as a whole.  It especially helps if you have a strong background in Agile methodologies like Kanban, Scrum, XP, etc.  While you don’t need to create Kanbans, its certainly helps if you get the idea of visualizing the workflow and reducing open work.  And, while you may not need to do Scrum per se, it helps if you get the idea behind a Product Backlog, a Sprint Backlog, and Sprints.  And while you may not need to do XP, it helps if you get the idea of sustainable pace, test-driven development, pairing, collective ownership, and an on-site customer. 

    But the real key to building high-performance teams is actually about trust. 

    Not trust as in “I trust that you’ll do that.”  

    No.  It’s vulnerability-based trust, as in “I’ve got your back.”   This is what enables individuals on a team to go out on a limb, to try more, to do more, to become more.

    Otherwise, they everybody has to watch out for their own backs, and they spend their days making sure they don’t get pushed off the boat or hanging from a limb, while somebody saws it off.   (See 10 Things Great Managers Do.)

    And nothing beats a self-organizing team, where people sign-up for work (vs. get assigned work), where people play their position well, and help others play theirs.

    Vision, Mission, Values as a Technical Skill

    Vision, mission, and values are actually some of the greatest technical skills you can master, for yourself and for any people or teams you might lead, now or in the future.   So many people mix up vision and mission.

    Here’s the deal:

    Mission is the job.

    Vision is where you want to go, now that you know what the job is.

    And Values are what you express in actions in terms of what you reward.  Notice how I said actions, not words.  Too many people and teams say they value one thing, but their actions value another.

    It’s one thing to go off and craft a vision, mission, and values that you want everybody to adhere to.  It’s another thing to co-create the future with a team, and create your vision, mission, and values, with everybody’s fingerprints on it.  But that’s how you get buy-in.   And getting buy-in, usually involves dealing with conflict (which is a whole other set of technical skills you can master.)  

    When a leader can express a vision, mission, and values with clarity, they can inspire the people around them, bring out the best in people, create a high-performance culture, and accelerate results.

    Execution as a Technical Skill

    This is where the rubber meets the road.  There are so many great books on how to execute with skill.  One of my favorites is Flawless Execution.  And of the most insightful books on creating an effective execution model is Managing the Design Factory.

    The main thing to master here is to be able to easily create a release schedule that optimizes resources and people, while flowing value to customers and stakeholders.

    I know that’s boiling a lot down, but that’s the point.  To master execution, you need to be able to easily think about the challenges you are up against:  not enough time, not enough resources, not enough budget, not enough clarity, not enough customers, etc.

    It’s a powerful thing when you can turn chaos into clarity and get the train leaving the station in a reliable way.

    It’s hard to beat smart people shipping on a cadence, if they are always learning and always improving.

    Situational Leadership as a Technical Skill

    Sadly, this is one of the most common mistakes of new managers.  Seasoned ones, too.  They treat everybody on the team the same.  And they usually default to whatever they learned.   They either focus on motivating or they focus on directing.  And directing to the extreme, very quickly becomes micro-managing.

    The big idea of Situational Leadership is to consider whether each person needs direction or motivation, or both.  

    If you try to motivate somebody who is really looking for direction, you will both be frustrated.  Similarly, if you try to direct somebody who really is looking for motivation, it’s a quick spiral down.

    There are many very good books on Situational Leadership and how to apply it in the real world.

    Decision Making as a Technical Skill

    This is where a lot of blood-shed happens.   This is where conflict thrives or dies.   Decision making is the bread-and-butter of today’s knowledge worker.  That’s what makes insight so valuable in a Digital Economy.  After all, what do you use the insight for?  To make better decisions.

    It’s one thing for you to just make decisions.

    But the real key here is how to create simple ways to deal with conflict and how to make better decisions as a group.   This includes how to avoid the pitfalls of groupthink.  It includes the ability to leverage the wisdom of the crowds.  It also includes the ability to influence and persuade with skill.  It includes the ability to balance connection with conviction.  It includes the ability to balance your Conflict Management Style with the Conflict Management Style of others.

    Business as a Technical Skill

    Business can be hard-core.   This isn’t so obvious if you deal with mediocre business people.  But when you interact with serious business leaders, you quickly understand how complicated, and technical, running a business and changing a business really is.

    At the most fundamental level, the purpose of a business is to create a customer.

    But even who you choose to serve as your “customer” is a strategic choice.

    You can learn a lot about business by studying some of the great business challenges in the book, Case Interview Secrets, which is written by a former McKinsey consultant.

    You can also learn a lot about business by studying which KPIs and business outcomes matter, in each industry, and by each business function.

    It also helps to be able to quickly know how to whiteboard a value chain and be able to use some simple tools like SWOT analysis.  If you can really internalize Michael Porter’s mental models and toolset, then you will be ahead of many people in the business world.

    Thoughtwork as a Technical Skill

    There are many books and guides on how to be a leader in your field.   One of my favorites is, Lead the Field, by Earl Nightingale.  It’s an oldie, but goodie.

    The real key is to be able to master ideation.  You need to be able to come up with ideas.   Probably the best technique I learned was long ago.   I simply set an idea quota.   In the book, ThinkerToys, by Michael Michalko, I learned that Thomas Edison set a quote to think up new ideas.  Success really is a numbers game.   Anyway, I started by writing one idea per note in my little yellow sticky pad.  The first week, I had a handful of ideas.   But once my mind was cleared by writing my ideas down, I was soon filling up multiple yellow sticky pads per week.

    I very quickly went from having an innovation challenge to having an execution challenge.

    So then I went back to the drawing board and focused on mastering execution as a technical skill Winking smile

    Hopefully, if you are worried about how to keep growing your skills as you climb your corporate ladder, this will give you some food for thought.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Teach the World Your Skills in a Mobile-First, Cloud-First World


    “Be steady and well-ordered in your life so that you can be fierce and original in your work.”  -- Gustave Flaubert

    An important aspect of personal effectiveness and career development is learning business skills for a technology-centric world.

    I know a lot of developers figuring out how to share their expertise in a mobile-first, cloud-first world.  Some are creating software services, some are selling online courses, some are selling books, and some are building digital products.    It’s how they are sharing and scaling their expertise with the world, while doing what they love. 

    In each case, the underlying pattern is the same:

    "Write once, share many." 

    It’s how you scale.  It’s how you amplify your impact.  It’s a simple way to combine passion + purpose + profit.

    With our mobile-first, cloud-first world, and so much technology at your fingertips to help with automation, it’s time to learn better business skills and how to stay relevant in in an ever-changing market.   

    But the challenge is, how do you actually start?

    On the consumer side ...
    In a mobile-first, cloud-first world, users want the ability to consume information anywhere, anytime, from any device.

    On the produce side ...
    Producers want the ability to easily create digital products that they can share with the world -- and automate the process as much as possible. 

    I've researched and tested a lot of ways to share your experience in a way that works in a mobile-first, cloud-first world.  I’ve went through a lot of people, programs, processes, and tools.  Ultimately, the proven practice for building high-end digital products is building courses.  And teaching courses is the easiest way to get started.  And Dr. Cha~zay is one of the best in the world at teaching people how to teach the world what they love.

    I have a brilliant and deep guest post by Dr. Cha~zay on how to teach courses in a mobile-first, cloud-first world:

    Teach the World What You Love

    You could very much change your future, or your kid’s future, or your friend’s future, or whoever you know that needs to figure out new ways to teach in a mobile first, cloud-first world.

    The sooner you start doing, testing, and experimenting, the sooner you start figuring out what works in a Digital Economy could mean to you, your family, your friends, in a mobile-first, cloud-first world.

    The world changes. 

    Do you?

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Personal Effectiveness Toolbox


    “Private Victory precedes Public Victory. Algebra comes before calculus.” – Stephen Covey

    At last.  It’s here.  It’s my Personal Effectiveness Toolbox:

    Personal Effectiveness Toolbox

    It’s the real deal.  This is my hand-picked collection of principles, patterns, practices, and tools to help you make the most of what you’ve got.

    My Personal Effectiveness Toolbox is a roundup of the best-of-the-best resources that help you in key areas of your life, including the following Hot Spots:

    1. Mind
    2. Body
    3. Emotions
    4. Career
    5. Finance
    6. Relationships
    7. Fun

    Get Your Edge in Work and Life (Your Unfair Advantage)

    If you want to get an edge in work and life, Personal Effectiveness Toolbox will help you do exactly that.   I mentor a lot of people inside and outside of Microsoft, so I am always looking for the best resources and tools that actually work.  I’ve personally spent many, many thousands of dollars on programs and tested them in the real-world against extreme challenges.

    I wasted a lot of money.

    But I also found a lot of incredible and amazing products that actually worked.  I found people and products and tools that provide real insight and led to real breakthroughs.

    The Best Personal Effectiveness Resources in the World

    My Personal Effectiveness Toolbox is the ultimate collection of programs, tools, and books that help you succeed in all areas of your life.   I’ve organized the resources into the following categories:

    Achievement Systems, Beliefs / Limits / Mindsets, Blogging, Body / Fitness / Health, Book Writing, Business / Startups / Passive Income, Career, Confidence, Creativity, Finance, Goals, Emotional Intelligence, Interpersonal Skills, Leadership, Mind / Intellectual Horsepower, Motivation, Personal Development, Productivity, Relationships.

    I’ve also tried to address some common scenarios and issues. 

    Build Passive Income Skills for a Mobile-First, Cloud-First World

    One scenario I see a lot is people are looking to achieve financial freedom.  They either want to have a backup for their day job, or perhaps pursuit other opportunities on their own terms.  Or they want to simply try their hand at generating passive income.  The beauty is that in today’s world, you can combine your purpose, passion, and profit, and sell what you know to the world. 

    But the challenge is it can be a confusing path, and there is a lot to learn.  I want through a lot of books, courses, and programs that were a big let down.  But, along the way, I did find some resources that really did help.  For example, I regularly recommend SBI! (Site Build It) to friends and family as a way to get started.  I also recommend  Teleseminar Mastery Course as an effective way to create an online course on your favorite subject and get paid for doing what you love.   To give them a handle on how to think about passive income, financial freedom, and building businesses in today’s mobile-first, cloud-first world, I have them start with Six-Figure Second Income.  It’s one of the best books I’ve read that puts it all together and really explains things in plain English, and puts things like digital information products and a digital economy in perspective.

    Improve Your Personal Effectiveness with a Personal Achievement System

    Another scenario I see is that too many people struggles with goals, motivation, and productivity.  While you can attack these individually, I’m a fan of building a strong foundation by putting a personal achievement system in place.  If you have an achievement system you can count on, you amplify your chance for success.  It also helps you with continuous learning.   And a good personal achievement system helps you get much better over time.

    While there are a lot of systems out there, if I had to pick the best starting point, I would say it’s Tony Robbins’ Personal Power II.  It’s the most hard-core personal development program and personal excellence program I know.   You’ll learn more about your body, brains, and emotions than a lifetime of reading.  You’ll learn how to rapidly model success, and accelerate your learning curve.  It’s the same program I used to go from nearly last in a class of 197 students, to #3.  I still can’t believe it.  Just about every day I recall some aspect of Personal Power II, and apply it in some shape or form.  It’s one of Tony’s greatest gifts to the world, ever.

    Note that just because I’m talking about Tony Robbins particular program doesn’t mean I limited myself to his programs.  In fact, I also included a reference to Brian Tracy’s Success Master Academy.  It’s also one of the best programs available that really gives you a well-rounded foundation for achieving your dreams.

    Master Emotional Intelligence

    Emotional Intelligence is often the difference that makes the difference in work and life.  While Emotional Intelligence won’t guarantee your success, the absence of it can almost guarantee you will struggle.  You will have a disadvantage compared to those with EQ.  But the very good news is that Emotional Intelligence is a skill you can learn.  You can practice it every day.  And you can learn it on your own.  The place to start is Daniel Goleman’s classic book, Emotional Intelligence.

    If you are wondering what Stephen Covey meant when he wanted us to increase the gap between stimulus and response, and to respond to our challenges vs. react, that’s exactly where Emotional Intelligence comes in.

    Achieve Your Goals

    Believe it or not, goals are your friend.  If your goals aren’t working for you, the problem is you have “impotent goals”, as Tony Robbins would say.  Or, perhaps, maybe Zig Ziglar said it best when he said, "People do not wander around and then find themselves at the top of Mount Everest."

    Goals help you prioritize, focus, and know when you are done.  They help you make trade-offs in how much time to spend on something, or even when to spend time on something.  They also help you establish markers along the way so you can feel a sense of progress and they help you with your motivation.

    But all of the goodness of goals depends on knowing how to really set them and achieve them with skill.   The good news is, goals have been around a very long time, way longer than you or me.   And many people before us have learned how to really use goals to their advantage.

    And the beauty is nothing stops us from using all those lessons learned from goal setting.  The art and science of effective goal setting is well-known and well published.  You just need to know where to look.  While I have gone through many, many goal setting courses and exercises, I would say that one of the best, most thorough programs that really gives you a rock-solid foundation is Brian Tracy’s Goal Mastery for Personal and Financial Achievement.  It is an advanced system that not only covers the basics, it dives deep into how to really create compelling goals and make them happen.

    Write Your Book

    One goal a lot of people have is to write a book.  In fact, many people I know want to write their first book.  I’ve included a link to Brian Tracy’s 20-Step Author Quick Start Guide, which is one of the most thorough guides that walks you through the process of writing and publishing your book.  Brian Tracy is a world-renowned author and is one of the best to learn from. 

    You can write your book to share your experience.  You can also use books as a way to help your career or to establish your expertise.  You can also use your book as a way to help build your financial fitness.  And you can use your book writing process as a way to dive much deeper into a topic you love.

    Call to Action

    I could go on, but at this point, I’m just going to ask you to do three things:

    1. Bookmark my Personal Effectiveness Toolbox.  It will serve you for years to come (and I will continue to update it.)
    2. Review the programs and tools and test which ones you think will help you the most.
    3. Last, but not least (and perhaps most important), share the Personal Effectiveness Toolbox with 10 of your friends.  Karma just might surprise you with a big fat kiss.  But all Karma aside, you can really help your friends and family the same way I do with some of the best tools in the world.

    Here’s to getting everything you want, and then some, as well as helping more people achieve their dreams.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    3 Fights Each Day


    “Sometimes the prize is not worth the costs. The means by which we achieve victory are as important as the victory itself.”
    ― Brandon Sanderson

    Every day presents us with new challenges.  Whether it’s a personal struggle, or a challenge at work, or something that requires you to stand and deliver.

    To find your strength.

    To summon your courage, or find your motivation, or to dig deep and give it your all.

    Adapt, Adjust, Or Avoid Situations

    Sometimes you wonder whether the struggle is worth it.  Then other times you breakthrough.  And, other times you wonder why it was even a struggle at all.

    The struggle is your growth.  And every struggle is a chance for personal growth and self-actualization.  It’s also a chance to really build your self-awareness.

    For example, how well can you read a situation and anticipate how well you will do?   In every situation, you can either Adapt, Adjust, or Avoid the situation.  Adapt means you change yourself for the situation.  Adjust means you change the situation to better suite you.  And Avoid means, stay away from it.  You will be like a fish out of water.  If you don’t like roller coasters, then don’t get on them.

    So every situation is a great opportunity to gain insight into yourself as well as to learn how to read situation, and people, much better.  And the faster you adapt, the more fit you will be to survive, and ultimately thrive.

    Nature favors the flexible.

    The 3 Fights We Fight Each Day

    But aside from Adapting, Adjusting, and Avoiding situations, it also helps to have a simple mental model to frame your challenges each day.  A former Navy Seal frames it for us really well.  He says we fight 3 fights each day:

    1. Inside you
    2. The enemy
    3. The “system”

    Maybe you can relate?  Each day you wake up, your first fight is with yourself.  Can you summon your best energy?  Can you get in your most resourceful state?  Can you find your motivation?   Can you drop a bad habit, or add a good one?   Can you get into your best frame of mind to tackle the challenges before you?

    Winning this fight sets the stage for the rest.

    The second fight is what most people would consider the actual fight.  It’s the challenge you are up against.   Maybe it’s winning a deal.  Maybe it’s doing your workout.  Maybe it’s completing an assignment or task at work.  Either way, this is where if you lost your first fight, this is going to be even tougher now.

    The third fight is with the “system.”  Everybody operates within a system.  It might be your politics, policies, or procedures.  You might be in a school or a corporation or an institution, or on a team, or within an organization.  Either way, there are rules and expectations.  There are ways for things to be done.  Sometimes they work with you.  Sometimes they work against you.   And herein lies the fight.

    In my latest post, I share some simple ways from our Navy Seal friends how you can survive and thrive against these 3 fights:

    3 Fights We Fight Each Day

    You can read it quickly.  But use the tools inside to actually practice and prepare so you can respond better to your most challenging situations.  If you practice the breathing techniques and the techniques for visualization, you will be using the same tools that the world’s best athletes, the Navy Seals, the best execs, and the highest achievers use … to do more, be more, and achieve more … in work and life.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Blogging Resources at a Glance


    I’ve put together a massive collection of the best-of-the-best blogging resources so they are at your fingertips:

    It’s a serious collection of blogging resources including:

    • Getting Started Blogging
    • Start Your Blog
    • Articles on Blogging
    • Books on Blogging
    • Checklists for Blogging
    • Courses for Blogging (Free + Paid)
    • Guides for Blogging (Free + Paid)
    • How They Got Started
    • Podcasts on Blogging
    • Success Stories of Bloggers
    • Videos on Blogging

    And by serious, I mean serious.  It’s a hard-core collection of some of the best blogging resources that will help you succeed where others fail.

    I will continue to add blogging resources, but you will already find a treasure trove of great articles, books, podcasts, videos and more to help you start your blog, improve your blog, or bring an old blog back to life.

    I help a lot of people start blogs.  I shave years of potentially painful lessons off of their learning curve, so they can get started doing more of what they love, avoid some of the many pitfalls, and build a blog they love (if it feels like a chore, you’re doing it wrong.)

    If you haven’t already started a blog, this might be just the resource roundup you need to help you get started and to help you leap frog ahead.

    There are lots of reasons why you might start a blog, if you haven't already.  Maybe you want to start a movement.  Maybe you want to land your next dream job.  Maybe you want to make friends around the world.  Maybe you want to explore your creativity.  Maybe you want to launch a writing career and build your next book.  Maybe you want to build an online business, one post at a time.

    The thing that I try to teach people is that working on your blog, is working on your life.  You learn a lot about your personal productivity, your values, your ability to ship ideas, your ability to connect with people, and ultimately, what you want to spend more time doing.  A blog is a great way to build a personal platform for giving your best, where you have your best to give in the service for others.

    And if you monetize your blog, and if you master creating and capturing value, it can be one of the smartest ways to combine passion and profit.   The key to keep in mind is, do what you would do for free, but blend it with doing what people will pay you for, in a way that uses your unique strengths, makes you come alive, adds value, and helps change the world in your way.

    Everybody has ideas.  Some share them.  Some shape them. Some ship them.  Some productize them.  Some let them die.

    Put a little dent in the universe, a post at a time.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Top 10 Project Management Books


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

    Being an effective program manager at Microsoft means knowing how to make things happen.  While being a program manager requires a lot more than project management, project management is still at the core.

    Project management is the backbone of execution.

    And execution is tough.  But execution is also the breeding ground of results.  Execution is what separates many teams and individuals from the people who have good ideas, and the people that actually ship them.  Great ideas die on the vine every day from lack of execution.  (Lack of execution is the same way great strategies die, too.)

    If you want to learn the art and science of execution, here is a handful of books that have served me well:

    1. Agile Management for Software Engineering, by David Anderson.  David turns the Theory of Constraints into pragmatic insights for driving projects, making progress where it counts, and producing great results.   The book provides a great lens for thinking in terms of business value and how to flow value throughout the project cycle.
    2. Agile Project Management with Kanban, by Eric Brechner.  This is the ultimate guide for doing Kanban.  Rather than get bogged down in theory, it’s a fast-paced, action guide to transitioning from Scrum to Kanban, while carrying the good forward.  Eric helps you navigate the tough choices and adapt Kanban to your environment, whether it’s a small team, or a large org.  If you want to lead great projects in today’s world, and if you want to master project management, Kanban is a fundamental part of the formula and this is the book.
    3. Flawless Execution, by James D. Murphy.  James shares deep insight from how fighter pilots fly and lead successful missions, and how those same practices apply to leading teams and driving projects.   It’s among the best books at connecting strategy to execution, and showing how to get everybody’s head in the game, and how to keep learning and improving throughout the project.  This book also has a great way to set the outcomes for the week and to help people avoid getting overloaded and overwhelmed, so they can do their best work, every day.
    4. Get Them On Your Side, by Samuel B. Bacharach.  Stakeholder management is one of the secret keys to effective project management.  So many great ideas and otherwise great projects die because of poor stakeholder management.  If you don’t get people on your side, the project loses support and funding.  If you win support, everything get easier.   This is probably the ultimate engineer’s guide to understanding politics and treating politics as a “system” so you can play the game effectively without getting swept up into it.
    5. How to Run Successful Projects III: The Silver Bullet, by Fergus O'Connell.  While  “The Silver Bullet” is a bold title, the book lives up to its name.  It cuts through all the noise of what it takes to do project management with skill.  It carves out the essential core and the high-value activities with amazing clarity so you can focus on what counts.  Whether you are a lazy project manager that just wants to focus on doing the minimum and still driving great projects, or you are a high-achiever that wants to take your project management game to the next level, this is the guide to do so.
    6. Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management, by Scott Berkun.  The is the book that really frames out how to drive high-impact projects in the real-world.  It’s a book for program managers and project managers, by a real Microsoft program manager.  It’s hard to do projects well, if you don’t understand project management end-to-end.  This is that end-to-end guide, and it dives deep into all the middle.  If you want to get a taste of what it takes to ship blockbuster projects, this is the guide.
    7. Managing the Design Factory, by Donald G. Reinertsen.  This is an oldie, but goodie.   One of my former colleagues recommended this to me, early in my career.  It taught me how to think very differently and much more systematically in how to truly design a system of people that can consistently design better products.  It’s the kind of book that you can keep going back to after a life-time to truly master the art of building systems and ecosystems for shipping great things.  While it might sound  like a philosophy book, Donald does a great job of turning ideas and insight into action.  You will find yourself re-thinking and re-imagining how you build products and lead projects.
    8. Requirements-Led Project Management: Discovering David's Slingshot, by Susanne Robertson and James Robertson.  This book will add a bunch of new tools to your toolbox for depicting the problem space and better organizing the solution space.  It’s one of the best books I know for dealing with massive amounts of information and using it in meaningful ways in terms of driving projects and driving better product design.
    9. Secrets to Mastering the WBS in Real-World Projects, by Liliana Buchtik.  If ultimate tool that project managers have, that other disciplines don’t, is the Work Breakdown Structure.  The problem is, too many project managers still create activity-based Work Breakdown Structures, when they should be creating outcome-based Work Breakdown Structures.  This is the first book that I found that provided real breadth and depth in building better Work Breakdown Structures.  I also like how Liliana applies Work Breakdown Structures to Agile projects.  This is hands down the best book I’ve read on the art and science of doing Work Breakdown Structures in the real world.
    10. Strategic Project Management Made Simple: Practices Tools for Leaders and Teams, by Terry Schmidt.  This book helps you build the skills to handle really big, high-impact projects.  But it scales down to very simple projects as well.  What it does is help you really paint a vivid picture of the challenge and the solution, so that your project efforts will be worth it.  It’s an “outcome” focused approach, while a lot of project management books tend to be “activity” focused.  This is actually the book that I wish I had found out about earlier in my career – it would have helped me fast path a lot of skills and techniques that I learned the hard way through the school of hard knocks.   The strategic aspect of the book also makes this super relevant for program managers that want to change the world.   This book shows you how to drive projects that can change the world.

    Well, there you have it.   That’s my short-list of project management books that really have made a difference and that can really help you be a more effective program manager or project manager (or simply build better project management skills.)

    Too many people are still working on ineffective projects, getting lackluster results, slogging away, and doing too much “push” and not addressing nearly enough of the existing “pull” that’s already there.

    These are the project management books that build real competence.

    And where competence grows, confidence flows.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Ultimate Personal Productivity Platform is You


    “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” ― Stephen King

    The ultimate personal productivity platform is you.

    Let’s just put that on the table right up front so you know where personal productivity ultimately comes from.  It’s you.

    I can’t possibly give you anything that will help you perform better than an organized mind firing on all cylinders combined with self-awareness.

    You are the one that ultimately has to envision your future.  You are the one that ultimately has to focus your attention.  You are the one that ultimately needs to choose your goals.  You are the one that ultimately has to find your motivation.  You are the one that ultimately needs to manage your energy.  You are the one that ultimately needs to manage your time.  You are the one that ultimately needs to take action.  You are the one that needs to balance work and life.

    That’s a lot for you to do.

    So the question isn’t are you capable?  Of course you are.

    The real question is, how do you make the most of you?

    Agile Results is a personal productivity platform to help you make the most of what you’ve got.

    Agile Results is a simple system for getting better results.  It combines proven practices for productivity, time management, and motivation into a simple system you can use to achieve better, faster, easier results for work and life.

    Agile Results works by integrating and synthesizing positive psychology, sport psychology, project management skills, and peak performance insights into little behavior changes you can do each day.  It’s also based on more than 10 years of extensive trial and error to help people achieve high performance.

    If you don’t know how to get started, start simple:

    Ask yourself the following question:  “What are three things I want to achieve today?”

    And write those down.   That’s it.

    You’re doing Agile Results.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Every Employee is a Digital Employee


    “The questions that we must ask ourselves, and that our historians and our children will ask of us, are these: How will what we create compare with what we inherited? Will we add to our tradition or will we subtract from it? Will we enrich it or will we deplete it?”
    ― Leon Wieseltier

    Digital transformation is all around us.

    And we are all digital employees according to Gartner.

    In the article, Gartner Says Every Employee Is a Digital Employee, Gartner says that the IT function no longer holds a monopoly on IT.

    A Greater Degree of Digital Dexterity

    According to Gartner, employees are creating increasing digital dexterity from the devices and apps they use, to participating in sharing economies.

    Via Gartner Says Every Employee Is a Digital Employee:

    "'Today's employees possess a greater degree of digital dexterity,' said Matt Cain, research vice president at Gartner. 'They operate their own wireless networks at home, attach and manage various devices, and use apps and Web services in almost every facet of their personal lives. They participate in sharing economies for transport, lodging and more.'"

    Workers are Streamlining Their Work Life

    More employees are using technology to simplify, streamline, and scale their work.

    Via Gartner Says Every Employee Is a Digital Employee:

    "This results in unprecedented numbers of workers who enjoy using technology and recognize the relevance of digitalization to a wide range of business models. They also routinely apply their own technology and technological knowledge to streamline their work life."

    3 Ways to Exploit Digital Dexterity

    According to Gartner, there are 3 Ways the IT organization should exploit employees' digital dexterity:

    1. Implement a digital workplace strategy
    2. Embrace shadow IT
    3. Use a bimodal approach

    1. Implement a Digital Workplace Strategy

    While it’s happening organically, IT can also help shape the digital workplace experience.  Implement a strategy that helps workers use computing resources in a more friction free way and that play better with their pains, needs, and desired outcomes.

    Via Gartner Says Every Employee Is a Digital Employee:

    “Making computing resources more accessible in ways that match employees' preferences will foster engagement by providing feelings of empowerment and ownership. The digital workplace strategy should therefore complement HR initiatives by addressing and improving factors such as workplace culture, autonomous decision making, work-life balance, recognition of contributions and personal growth opportunities.”

    2. Embrace shadow IT

    Treat shadow IT as a first class citizen.  IT should partner with the business to help the business realize it’s potential, and to help workers make the most of the available IT resources.

    Via Gartner Says Every Employee Is a Digital Employee:

    “Rather than try to fight the tide, the IT organization should develop a framework that outlines when it is appropriate for business units and individuals to use their own technology solutions and when IT should take the lead. IT should position itself as a business partner and consultant that does not control all technology decisions in the business.”

    3. Use a bimodal approach

    Traditional IT is slow.   It’s heavy in governance, standards, and procedures.   It addresses risk by reducing flexibility.   Meanwhile, the world is changing fast.  Business needs to keep up.  Business needs fast IT. 

    So what’s the solution?

    Bimodal IT.  Bimodal IT separates the fast demands of digital business from the slow/risk-averse methods of traditional IT.

    Via Gartner Says Every Employee Is a Digital Employee:

    “Bimodal IT separates the risk-averse and ‘slow’ methods of traditional IT from the fast-paced demands of digital business, which is underpinned by the digital workplace. This dual mode of operation is essential to satisfy the ever-increasing demands of digitally savvy business units and employees, while ensuring that critical IT infrastructure and services remain stable and uncompromised.”

    Everyone has technology at their fingertips.  Every worker has the chance to re-imagine their work in a Mobile-First, Cloud-First world. 

    With infinite compute, infinite capacity, global reach, and real-time insights available to you, how could you evolve your job?

    You can evolve your digital work life right under your feet.

    You Might Also Like

    Empower Every Person on the Planet to Achieve More

    Satya Nadella on a Mobile-First, Cloud-First World

    We Help Our Customers Transform

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    What Life is Like with Agile Results


    “Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow.” -- Mary Anne Radmacher

    Imagine if you could wake up productive, where each day is a fresh start.  As you take in your morning breath, you notice your mind is calm and clear.

    You feel strong and well rested.

    Before you start your day, you picture in your mind three simple scenes of the day ahead:

    In the morning, you see yourself complete a draft you’ve been working on.

    In the afternoon, you see yourself land your idea and win over your peers in a key meeting.

    In the evening, you see yourself enjoying some quiet time as you sit down and explore your latest adventures in learning.

    With an exciting day ahead, and a chance to rise and shine, you feel the day gently pull you forward with anticipation. 

    You know you’ll be tested, and you know some things won’t work out as planned.   But you also know that you will learn and improve from every setback.  You know that each challenge you face will be a leadership moment or a learning opportunity.  Your challenges make you stronger.

    And you also know that you will be spending as much time in your strengths as you can, and that helps keep you strong, all day long. 

    You motivate yourself from the inside out by focusing on your vision for today and your values.  You value achievement.  You value learning.  You value collaboration.  You value excellence.  You value empowerment.   And you know that throughout the day, you will have every chance to apply your skills to do more, to achieve more, and to be more. 

    Each task, or each challenge, is also a chance to learn more.  From yourself, and from everyone all around you.  And this is how you never stop learning.

    You may not like some of the tasks before you, but you like the chance to master your craft.  And you enjoy the learning.  And you love how you get better.  With each task on your To-Do list for today, you experiment and explore ways to do things better, faster, and easier.

    Like a productive artist, you find ways to add unique value.   You add your personal twist to everything you do.  Your twist comes from your unique experience, seeing what others can’t see from your unique vantage point, and applying your unique strengths.

    And that’s how you do more art.  Your art.  And as you do your art, you feel yourself come alive.  You feel your soul sing, as you operate at a higher level.  As you find your flow and realize your potential, your inner-wisdom winks in an approving way.  Like a garden in full bloom on a warm Summer’s day, you are living your arête.

    As your work day comes to an end, you pause to reflect on your three achievements, your three wins, for the day.   You appreciate the way you leaned in on the tough stuff.  You surprised yourself in how you handled some of your most frustrating moments.  And you learned a new way to do your most challenging task.  You take note of the favorite parts of your day, and your attitude of gratitude feels you with a sense of accomplishment, and a sense of fulfillment.

    Fresh and ready for anything, you head for home.

    Try 30 Days of Getting Results.  It’s free. Surprise yourself with what you’re capable of.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    30 Day Sprints for Personal Development: Change Yourself with Skill


    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within us out into the world, miracles happen." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

    I've written about 30 Day Sprints before, but it's time to talk about them again:

    30 Day Sprints help you change yourself with skill.

    Once upon a time, I found that when I was learning a new skill, or changing a habit, or trying something new, I wasn't getting over that first humps, or making enough progress to stick with it.

    At the same time, I would get distracted by shiny new objects.  Because I like to learn and try new things, I would start something else, and ditch whatever else I was trying to work on, to pursuit my new interest.  So I was hopping from thing to thing, without much to show for it, or getting much better.

    I decided to stick with something for 30 days to see if it would make a difference.  It was my personal 30 day challenge.  And it worked.   What I found was that sticking with something past two weeks, got me past those initial hurdles.  Those dips that sit just in front of where breakthroughs happen.

    All I did was spend a little effort each day for 30 days.  I would try to learn a new insight or try something small each day.  Each day, it wasn't much.  But over 30 days, it accumulated.  And over 30 days, the little effort added up to a big victory.

    Why 30 Day Sprints Work So Well

    Eventually, I realized why 30 Day Sprints work so well.  You effectively stack things in your favor.  By investing in something for a month, you can change how you approach things.  It's a very different mindset when you are looking at your overall gain over 30 days versus worrying about whether today or tomorrow gave you immediate return on your time.  By taking a longer term view, you give yourself more room to experiment and learn in the process.

    1. 30 Day Sprints let you chip away at the stone.  Rather than go big bang or whole hog up front, you can chip away at it.  This takes the pressure off of you.  You don't have to make a breakthrough right away.  You just try to make a little progress and focus on the learning.  When you don't feel like you made progress, you at least can learn something about your approach.
    2. 30 Day Sprints get you over the initial learning curve.  When you are taking in new ideas and learning new concepts, it helps to let things sink in.  If you're only trying something for a week or even two weeks, you'd be amazed at how many insights and breakthroughs are waiting just over that horizon.  Those troughs hold the keys to our triumphs.
    3. 30 Day Sprints help you stay focused.  For 30 days, you stick with it.  Sure you want to try new things, but for 30 days, you keep investing in this one thing that you decided was worth it.  Because you do a little every day, it actually gets easier to remember to do it. But the best part is, when something comes up that you want to learn or try, you can add it to your queue for your next 30 Day Sprint.
    4. 30 Day Sprints help you do things better, faster, easier, and deeper.  For 30 days, you can try different ways.  You can add a little twist.  You can find what works and what doesn't.  You can keep testing your abilities and learning your boundaries.  You push the limits of what you're capable of.  Over the course of 30 days, as you kick the tires on things, you'll find short-cuts and new ways to improve. Effectively, you unleash your learning abilities through practice and performance.
    5. 30 Day Sprints help you forge new habits.  Because you focus for a little bit each day, you actually create new habits.  A habit is much easier to put in place when you do it each day.  Eventually, you don't even have to think about it, because it becomes automatic.  Doing something every other day, or every third day, means you have to even remember when to do it.  We're creatures of habit.  Just replace how you already spend a little time each day, on your behalf.

    And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

    The real power of 30 Day Sprints is that they help you take action.  They help you get rid of all the excuses and all the distractions so you can start to achieve what you’re fully capable of.

    Ways to Make 30 Day Sprints Work Better

    When I first started using 30 Day Sprints for personal development, the novelty of doing something more than a day or a week or even two weeks, was enough to get tremendous value.  But eventually, as I started to do more 30 Day Sprints, I wanted to get more out of them.

    Here is what I learned:

    1. Start 30 Day Sprints at the beginning of each month.  Sure, you can start 30 Day Sprints whenever you want, but I have found it much easier, if the 17th of the month, is day 17 of my 30 Day Sprint.  Also, it's a way to get a fresh start each month.  It's like turning the page.  You get a clean slate.  But what about February?  Well, that's when I do a 28 Day Sprint (and one day more when Leap Year comes.)
    2. Same Time, Same Place.  I've found it much easier and more consistent, when I have a consistent time and place to work on my 30 Day Sprint.  Sure, sometimes my schedule won't allow it.  Sure, some things I'm learning require that I do it from different places.  But when I know, for example, that I will work out 6:30 - 7:00 A.M. each day in my living room, that makes things a whole lot easier.  Then I can focus on what I'm trying to learn or improve, and not spend a lot of time just hoping I can find the time each day.  The other benefit is that I start to find efficiencies because I have a stable time and place, already in place.  Now I can just optimize things.
    3. Focus on the learning.  When it's the final inning and the score is tied, and you have runners on base, and you're up at bat, focus is everything.  Don't focus on the score.  Don't focus on what's at stake.  Focus on the pitch.  And swing your best.  And, hit or miss, when it's all over, focus on what you learned.  Don't dwell on what went wrong.  Focus on how to improve.  Don't focus on what went right.  Focus on how to improve.  Don't get entangled by your mini-defeats, and don't get seduced by your mini-successes.  Focus on the little lessons that you sometimes have to dig deeper for.

    Obviously, you have to find what works for you, but I've found these ideas to be especially helpful in getting more out of each 30 Day Sprint.  Especially the part about focusing on the learning.  I can't tell you how many times I got too focused on the results, and ended up missing the learning and the insights. 

    If you slow down, you speed up, because you connect the dots at a deeper level, and you take the time to really understand nuances that make the difference.

    Getting Started

    Keep things simple when you start.  Just start.  Pick something, and make it your 30 Day Sprint. 

    In fact, if you want to line your 30 Day Sprint up with the start of the month, then just start your 30 Day Sprint now and use it as a warm-up.  Try stuff.  Learn stuff.  Get surprised.  And then, at the start of next month, just start your 30 Day Sprint again.

    If you really don't know how to get started, or want to follow a guided 30 Day Sprint, then try 30 Days of Getting Results.  It's where I share my best lessons learned for personal productivity, time management, and work-life balance.  It's a good baseline, because by mastering your productivity, time management, and work-life balance, you will make all of your future 30 Day Sprints more effective.

    Boldly Go Where You Have Not Gone Before

    But it's really up to you.  Pick something you've been either frustrated by, inspired by, or scared of, and dive in.

    Whether you think of it as a 30 Day Challenge, a 30 Day Improvement Sprint, a Monthly Improvement Sprint, or just a 30 Day Sprint, the big idea is to do something small for 30 days.

    If you want to go beyond the basics and learn everything you can about mastering personal productivity, then check out Agile Results, introduced in Getting Results the Agile Way.

    Who knows what breakthroughs lie within?

    May you surprise yourself profoundly.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Personal Development Insights from the Greatest Book on Personal Development Ever


    “Let him who would move the world first move himself.” ― Socrates

    At work, and in life, you need every edge you can get.

    Personal development is a process of realizing and maximizing your potential.

    It’s a way to become all that you’re capable of.

    One of the most powerful books on personal development is Unlimited Power, by Tony Robbins.  In Unlimited Power, Tony Robbins shares some of the most profound insights in personal development that world has ever known.

    Develop Your Abilities and Model Success

    Through a deep dive into the world of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and Neuro-Associative Conditioning, Robbins shows you how to master you mind, master your body, master your emotional intelligence, and improve what you’re capable of in all aspects of your life.  You can think of NLP as re-programming your mind, body, and emotions for success.

    We’ve already been programmed by the shows we watch, the books we’ve read, the people in our lives, the beliefs we’ve formed.  But a lot of this was unconscious.  We were young and took things at face value, and jumped to conclusions about how the world works, who we are, and who we can be, or worse, who others think we should be.

    NLP is a way to break way from limiting beliefs and to model the success of others with skill.  You can effectively reverse engineer how other people get success and then model the behavior, the attitudes, and the actions that create that success.  And you can do it better, faster, and easier, than you might imagine. 

    NLP is really a way to model what the most successful people think, say, and do.

    Unlimited Power at Your Fingertips

    I’ve created a landing page that is a round up and starting point to dive into some of the book nuggets from Unlimited Power:

    Unlimited Power Book Nuggets at a Glance

    On that page, I also provided very brief summaries of the core personal development insight so that you can get a quick sense of the big ideas.

    A Book Nugget is simply what I call a mini-lesson or insight from a book that you can use to change what you think, feel, or do.

    Unlimited Power is not an easy book to read, but it’s one of the most profound tombs of knowledge in terms of personal development insights.

    Personal Development Insights at Your Fingertips

    If you want to skip the landing page and just jump into a few Unlimited Power Book Nuggets and take a few personal development insights for a spin, here you go:

    5 Keys to Wealth and Happiness

    5 Rules for Formulating Outcomes

    5 Sources of Beliefs for Personal Excellence

    7 Beliefs for Personal Excellence

    7 Traits of Success

    Create Your Ideal Day, the Tony Robbins Way

    Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

    How To Change the Emotion of Any Experience to Empower You

    How To Get Whatever You Want

    Leadership for a Better World

    Persuasion is the Most Important Skill You Can Develop

    Realizing Your Potential is a Dynamic Process

    Schotoma: Why You Can’t See What’s Right in Front of You

    Seven Meta-Programs for Understanding People

    The Difference Between Those Who Succeed and Those Who Fail

    As you’ll quickly see, Unlimited Power remains one of the most profound sources of insight for realizing your potential and becoming all that you’re capable of.

    It truly is the ultimate source of personal development in action.


  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Hugh MacLeod’s Illustrated Guide to Life Inside Microsoft


    imageIf you remember the little blue monster that says, “Microsoft, change the world or go home.”, you know Hugh MacLeod.

    Hugh is the creative director at Gaping Void.  I got to meet Hugh, along with Jason Korman (CEO), and Jessica Higgins, last week to talk through some ideas.

    Hugh uses cartoons as a snappy and insightful way to change the world.  You can think of it as “Motivational Art for Smart People.”

    The Illustrated Guide to Life Inside Microsoft

    One of Hugh’s latest creations is the Illustrated Guide to Life Insight Microsoft.  It’s a set of cards you can flip, with a cartoon on the front, and a quote on the back.  It’s truly insight at your fingertips.


    I like them all … from “Microsoft is a ‘Get Stuff Done’ company” to “Software is the thing between the things”, but my favorite is:

    “It’s more fun being the underdog.”

    It’s a reminder how you can take the dog out of the fight, but you can’t take the fight out of the dog, and as long as you’re still in the game, and you are truly a learning company, and a company that continues to grow and evolve, you can change the world … your unique way.

    Tweaking People in the Right Direction

    Hugh is an observer and participant who inspires and prods people in the right direction …

    Via Hugh MacLeod Connects the Dots:

    “’Attaching art to business outcomes can articulate deep emotions and bring things to light fast,’ said MacLeod. To get there requires MacLeod immersing himself within a company, so he can look for what he calls ‘freaks of light’—epiphanies about a company that express the collected motivations of its people. ‘My cartoons make connections,’ said MacLeod. ‘I create work in an ambient way to tweak people in the right direction.’”

    Via Hugh MacLeod Connects the Dots:

    “He’s an observer and a participant, mingling temporarily within a culture to better understand it. He’s also a listener, taking your thoughts and combining them with his own to piece together the puzzle he is trying to solve about the human condition and business environment.”

    Check out the Illustrated Guide to Life Inside Microsoft and some of the ideas just might surprise you, or, at least inspire and motivate you today – you smart person, you.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    What is Insight?


    "A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

    Some say we’re in the Age of Insight.  Others say insight is the new currency in the Digital Economy.

    And still others say that insight is the backbone of innovation.

    Either way, we use “insight” an awful lot without talking about what insight actually is.

    So, what is insight?

    I thought it was time to finally do a deeper dive on what insight actually is.  Here is my elaboration of “insight” on Sources of Insight:


    You can think of it as “insight explained.”

    The simple way that I think of insight, or those “ah ha” moments, is by remembering a question Ward Cunningham uses a lot:

    “What did you learn that you didn’t expect?” or “What surprised you?”

    Ward uses these questions to reveal insights, rather than have somebody tell him a bunch of obvious or uneventful things he already knows.  For example, if you ask somebody what they learned at their presentation training, they’ll tell you that they learned how to present more effectively, speak more confidently, and communicate their ideas better.

    No kidding.

    But if you instead ask them, “What did you learn that you didn’t expect?” they might actually reveal some insight and say something more like this:

    “Even though we say don’t shoot the messenger all the time, you ARE the message.”


    “If you win the heart, the mind follows.”

    It’s the non-obvious stuff, that surprises you (at least at first).  Or sometimes, insight strikes us as something that should have been obvious all along and becomes the new obvious, or the new normal.

    Ward used this insights gathering technique to more effectively share software patterns.  He wanted stories and insights from people, rather than descriptions of the obvious.

    I’ve used it myself over the years and it really helps get to deeper truths.  If you are a truth seeker or a lover of insights, you’ll enjoy how you can tease out more insights, just by changing your questions.   For example, if you have kids, don’t ask, “How was your day?”   Ask them, “What was the favorite part of your day?” or “What did you learn that surprised you?”

    Wow, I now this is a short post, but I almost left without defining insight.

    According to the dictionary, insight is “The capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.”   Or you may see insight explained as inner sight, mental vision, or wisdom.

    I like Edward de Bono’s simple description of insight as “Eureka moments.”

    Some people count steps in their day.  I count my “ah-ha” moments.  After all, the most important ingredient of effective ideation and innovation is …yep, you guessed it – insight!

    For a deeper dive on the power of insight, read my page on Insight explained, on Sources Of Insight.com

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Best Productivity Book for Free


    image"At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world." -- Satya Nadella

    We take productivity seriously at Microsoft. Ask any Softie. I never have a lack of things to do, or too much time in my day, and I can't ever make "too much" impact.

    To be super productive, I've had to learn hard-core prioritization techniques, extreme energy management, stakeholder management, time management, and a wealth of productivity hacks to produce better, faster results.

    We don’t learn these skills in school.  But if we’re lucky, we learn from the right mentors and people all around us, how to bring out our best when we need it the most.

    Download the 30 Days of Getting Results Free eBook

    You can save years of pain for free:

    30 Days of Getting Results Free eBook

    There’s always a gap between books you read and what you do in the real world. I wanted to bridge this gap. I wanted 30 Days of Getting Results to be raw and real to help you learn what it really takes to master productivity and time management so you can survive and thrive with the best in the world.

    It’s not pretty.  It’s super effective.

    30 Days of Getting Results is a 30 Day Personal Productivity Improvement Sprint

    I wrote 30 Days of Getting Results using a 30 Day Sprint. Each day for that 30 Day Sprint, I wrote down the best information I learned from the school of hard knocks about productivity, time management, work-life balance, and more.

    For each day, I share a lesson, a story, and an exercise.

    I wanted to make it easy to practice productivity habits.

    Agile Results is a Fire Starter for Personal Productivity

    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.

    For years, I’ve received emails from people around the world how 30 Days of Getting Results was a breath of fresh air for them.

    It helped them find their focus, get more productive, enjoy what they do, renew their energy, and spend more time in their strengths and their passions, while pursuing their purpose.

    It’s helped doctors, teachers, students, lawyers, developers, grandmothers, and more.

    Learn a New Language, Change Careers, or Start a Business

    You can use Agile Results to learn better, faster, and deeper because it helps you think better, feel better, and take better action.

    You can use Agile Results to help you learn a new language, build new skills, learn an instrument, or whatever your heart desires.

    I used the system to accidentally write a book in a month.

    I didn’t set out to write a book. I set out to share the world’s best insight and action for productivity and time management. I wrote for 20 minutes each day, during that month, to share the best lessons and the best insights I could with one purpose:

    Help everyone thrive in work and life.

    Over the coming months, I had more and more people ask for a book version. As much as they liked the easy to flip through Web pages, they wanted to consume it as an eBook. So I turned 30 Days of Getting Results into a free eBook and made that available.

    Here's the funny part:

    I forgot I had done that.

    The Accidental Free Productivity Book that Might Just Change Your Life

    One day, I was having a conversation with one of my readers, and they said that I should sell 30 Days of Getting Results as a $30 work book. They liked it much more than the book, Getting Results the Agile Way. They found it to be more actionable and easier to get started, and they liked that I used the system as a way to teach the system.

    They said I should make the effort to put it together as a PDF and sell it as a workbook. He said people would want to pay for it because it’s high-value, real-world training, and he said it was better than any live training he had ever taken (and he had taken a lot.)

    I got excited by the idea, and it made perfect sense. After all, wouldn’t people want to learn something that could impact every single day of their lives, and help them achieve more in work and life and help them adapt and compete more effectively in our ever-changing world?

    I went to go put it together, and I had already done it.

    Set Your Productivity on Fire

    When you’re super productive, it’s easy to forget some of the things you create because they so naturally flow from spending the right time, on the right things, with the right energy. You’ll naturally leave a trail of results from experimenting and learning.

    Whether you want to be super productive, or do less, but accomplish more, check out the ultimate free productivity guide:

    30 Days of Getting Results Free eBook

    Share it with friends, family, colleagues, and whoever else you want to have an unfair advantage in our hyper-competitive world.

    Lifting others up, lifts you up in the process.

    If you have a personal story of how 30 Days of Getting Results has helped you in some way, feel free to share it with me.  It’s always fun to hear how people are using Agile Results to take on new challenges, re-invent their productivity, and operate at a higher level.

    Or simply get started again … like a fresh start, for the first time, full of new zest to be your best.

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