J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Data Science is the Art of Asking Better Questions

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    I heard a colleague make a great comment today …

    “Data science is the art of asking better questions.

    It’s not the art of finding a solution … the data keeps evolving.”

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    The New Competitive Landscape

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    "All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved." -- Sun Tzu

    If it feels like strategy cycles are shrinking, they are.

    If it feels like competition is even more intense, it is.

    If it feels like you are balancing between competing in the world and collaborating with the world, you are.

    In the book, The Future of Management, Gary Hamel and Bill Breen share a great depiction of this new world of competition and the emerging business landscape.

    Strategy Cycles are Shrinking

    Strategy cycles are shrinking and innovation is the only effective response.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “In a world where strategy life cycles are shrinking, innovation is the only way a company can renew its lease on success.  It's also the only way it can survive in a world of bare-knuckle competition.”

    Fortifications are Collapsing

    What previously kept people out of the game, no longer works.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “In decades past, many companies were insulated from the fierce winds of Schumpeterian competition.  Regulatory barriers, patent protection, distribution monopolies, disempowered customers, proprietary standards, scale advantages, import protection, and capital hurdles were bulwarks that protected industry incumbents from the margin-crushing impact of Darwinian competition.  Today, many of the fortifications are collapsing.”

    Upstarts No Longer Have to Build a Global Infrastructure to Reach a Worldwide Market

    Any startup can reach the world, without having to build their own massive data center to do so.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Deregulation and trade liberalization are reducing the barriers to entry in industries as diverse as banking, air transport, and telecommunications.  The power of the Web means upstarts no longer have to build a global infrastructure to reach a worldwide market.  This has allowed companies like Google, eBay, and My Space to scale their businesses freakishly fast.” 

    The Disintegration of Large Companies and New Entrants Start Strong

    There are global resource pools of top talent available to startups.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “The disintegration of large companies, via deverticalization and outsourcing has also helped new entrants.  In turning out more and more of their activities to third-party contractors, incumbents have created thousands of 'arms suppliers' that are willing to sell their services to anyone.  By tapping into this global supplier base of designers, brand consultants, and contract manufacturers, new entrants can emerge from the womb nearly full-grown.” 

    Ultra-Low-Cost Competition and Less Ignorant Consumers

    With smarter consumers and ultra-low-cost competition, it’s tough to compete.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Incumbents must also contend with a growing horde of ultra-low-cost competitors - companies like Huawei, the Chinese telecom equipment maker that pays its engineers a starting salary of just $8,500 per year.  Not all cut-price competition comes from China and India.  Ikea, Zara, Ryanair, and AirAsia are just a few of the companies that have radically reinvented industry cost structures.  Web-empowered customers are also hammering down margins.  Before the Internet, most consumers couldn't be sure whether they were getting the best deal on their home mortgage, credit card debt, or auto laon.  This lack of enlightenment buttressed margins.  But consumers are becoming less ignorant by the day.  One U.K. Web site encourages customers to enter the details of their most-used credit cards, including current balances, and then shows them exactly how much they will save by switching to a card with better payment terms.  In addition, the Internet is zeroing-out transaction costs.  The commissions earned by market makers of all kinds -- dealers, brokers, and agents -- are falling off a cliff, or soon will be.”

    Distribution Monopolies are Under Attack

    You can build your own fan base and reach the world.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Distribution monopolies -- another source of friction -- are under attack.  Unlike the publishers of newspapers and magazines, bloggers don't need a physical distribution network to reach their readers.  Similarly, new bands don't have to kiss up to record company reps when they can build a fan base via social networking sites like MySpace.”

    Collapsing Entry Barriers and Customer Power Squeeze Margins

    Customers have a lot more choice and power now.

    Via The Future of Management:

    “Collapsing entry barriers, hyper efficient competitors, customer power -- these forces will be squeezing margins for years to come.  In this harsh new world, every company will be faced with a stark choice: either set the fires of innovation ablaze, or be ready to scrape out a mean existence in a world where seabed labor costs are the only difference between making money and going bust.”

    What’s the solution?

    Innovation.

    Innovation is the way to play, and it’s the way to stay in the game.

    Innovation is how you reinvent your success, reimagine a new future, and change what your capable of, to compete more effectively in today’s ever-changing world.

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    Time is The Great Equalizer

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    Time really is the great equalizer.

    I was reading an article by Dr. Donald E. Wemore, a time management specialist, and here’s what he had to say:

    "Time is the great equalizer for all of us. We all have 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week, yielding 168 hours per week. Take out 56 hours for sleep (we do spend about a third of our week dead) and we are down to 112 hours to achieve all the results we desire. We cannot save time (ever have any time left over on a Sunday night that you could lop over to the next week?); it can only be spent. And there are only two ways to spend our time: we can spend it wisely, or, not so wisely."

    Well put.

    And what’s his recommendation to manage time better?

    Work smarter, not harder.

    In my experience, that’s the only approach that works.

    If you find yourself struggling too much, there’s a good chance your time management strategies are off.

    Don’t keep throwing time and energy at things if it’s not working.

    Change your approach.

    The fastest thing you can change in any situation is you.

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    How I Explained My Job to My Grandmother

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    Well, she wasn’t my grandmother, but you get the idea.

    I was trying to explain to somebody that’s in a very different job, what my job is all about.

    Here’s what I said …

    As far as my day job, I do complex, complicated things. 

    I'm in the business of business transformation

    I help large Enterprises get ahead in the world through technology and innovation.

    I help Enterprises change their capabilities -- their business capabilities, technology capabilities, and people capabilities. 

    It’s all about capabilities.

    This involves figuring out their current state, their desired future state, the gaps between, the ROI of addressing the gaps, and then a Roadmap for making it happen.  

    The interesting thing I've learned though is how much business transformation applies to personal transformation

    It's all about figuring out your unique service and contribution to the world -- your unique value -- and then optimizing your strengths to realize your potential and do what you do best in a way that's valued -- where you can both generate value, as well as capture the value -- and lift the world to a better place.

    Interestingly, she said she got it, it made sense, and it sounds inspiring.

    What a relief.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Introduction to Agile Presentation

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    I gave an Introduction to Agile talk recently:

    Introduction to Agile Presentation (Slideshow)

    I kept it focused on three simple things:

    1. What is Agile and the Agile Mindset (the Values and Principles)
    2. A rapid tour of the big 3 (Extreme Programming, Scrum, and Lean)
    3. Build a shared vocabulary and simple mental models so teams could hit the ground running and work more effectively with each other.

    The big take away that I wanted the audience to have was that it’s a journey, but a very powerful one.

    It’s a very healthy way to create an organization that embraces agility, empowers people, and ship stuff that customers care about.

    In fact, the most powerful aspect of going Agile is that you create a learning organization.

    The system and ecosystem you are in can quickly improve if you simply embrace change and focus on learning as a way of driving both continues improvement as well as growing capability.

    So many things get a lot better over time, if they get a little better every day.

    This was actually my first real talk on Agile and Agile development.  I’ve done lots of talks on Getting Results the Agile Way, and lots of other topics from security to performance to application architecture to team development and the Cloud.  But this was the first time a group asked me to share what I learned from Agile development in patterns & practices.

    It was actually fun.

    As part of the talk, I shared some of my favorite take aways and insights from the Agile World.

    I’ll be sure to share some of these insights in future posts.

    For now, if there is one thing to take away, it’s a reminder from David Anderson (Agile Management):

    “Don’t do Agile.  Embrace agility.”

    Way to be.

    I shared my slides on SlideShare at Introduction to Agile Presentation (Slides) to help you learn the language, draw the visuals, and spread the word.

    I’ll try to share more of my slides in the future, now that SlideShare seems to be a bit more robust.

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    Simplicity is the Ultimate Enabler

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    “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein

    Simplicity is among the ultimate of pursuits.  It’s one of your most efficient and effective tools in your toolbox.  I used simplicity as the basis for my personal results system, Agile Results, and it’s served me well for more than a decade.

    And yet, simplicity still isn’t treated as a first-class citizen.

    It’s almost always considered as an afterthought.  And, by then, it’s too little, too late.

    In the book, Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices), Roger Sessions shares his insights on how simplicity is the ultimate enabler to solving the myriad of problems that complexity creates.

    Complex Problems Do Not Require Complex Solutions

    Simplicity is the only thing that actually works.

    Via Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices):

    “So yes, the problems are complex.  But complex problems do not ipso facto require complex solutions.  Au contraire!  The basic premise of this book is that simple solutions are the only solutions to complex problems that work.  The complex solutions are simply too complex.”

    Simplicity is the Antidote to Complexity

    It sounds obvious but it’s true.  You can’t solve a problem with the same complexity that got you there in the first place.

    Via Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices):

    “The antidote to complexity is simplicity.  Replace complexity with simplicity and the battle is three-quarters over.  Of course, replacing complexity with simplicity is not necessarily simple.” 

    Focus on Simplicity as a Core Value

    If you want to achieve simplicity, you first have to explicitly focus on it as a core value.

    Via Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices):

    “The first thing you need to do to achieve simplicity is focus on simplicity as a core value.  We all discuss the importance of agility, security, performance, and reliability of IT systems as if they are the most important of all requirements.  We need to hold simplicity to as high a standard as we hold these other features.  We need to understand what makes architectures simple with as much critical reasoning as we use to understand what makes architectures secure, fast, or reliable.  In fact, I argue that simplicity is not merely the equal of these other characteristics; it is superior to all of them.  It is, in many ways, the ultimate enabler.”

    A Security Example

    Complex systems work against security.

    Via Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices):

    “Take security for example.  Simple systems that lack security can be made secure.  Complex systems that appear to be secure usually aren't.  And complex systems that aren't secure are virtually impossible to make either simple or secure.”

    An Agility Example

    Complexity works against agility, and agility is the key to lasting solutions.

    Via Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices):

    “Consider agility.  Simple systems, with their well-defined and minimal interactions, can be put together in new ways that were never considered when these systems were first created.  Complex systems can never used in an agile wayThey are simply too complex.  And, of course, retrospectively making them simple is almost impossible.”

    Nobody Ever Considers Simplicity as a Critical Feature

    And that’s the problem.

    Via Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices):

    “Yet, despite the importance of simplicity as a core system requirement, simplicity is almost never considered in architectural planning, development, or reviews.  I recently finished a number of speaking engagements.  I spoke to more than 100 enterprise architects, CIOs, and CTOs spanning many organizations and countries.  In each presentation, I asked if anybody in the audience had ever considered simplicity as a critical architectural feature for any projects on which they had participated. Not one person had. Ever.”

    The Quest for Simplicity is Never Over

    Simplicity is a quest.  And the quest is never over.  Simplicity is a ongoing pursuit and it’s a dynamic one.  It’s not a one time event, and it’s not static.

    Via Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises (Developer Best Practices):

    “The quest for simplicity is never over.  Even systems that are designed from the beginning with simplicity in mind (rare systems, indeed!) will find themselves under a never-ending attack. A quick tweak for performance here, a quick tweak for interoperability there, and before you know it, a system that was beautifully simple two years ago has deteriorated into a mass of incomprehensibility.”

    Simplicity is your ultimate sword for hacking your way through complexity … in work … in life … in systems … and ecosystems.

    Wield it wisely.

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    Engineer Your Own Luck

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    “Chance favors the prepared mind.” - Louis Pasteur

    Are you feeling lucky?

    If you’re an engineer or a developer, you’ll appreciate the idea that you can design for luck, or stack the deck in your favor.

    How do you do this?

    As Harry Golden said, "The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work."

    While I believe in hard work, I also believe in working smarter.

    Luck is the same game.

    It’s a game of skill.

    And, success is a numbers game. 

    You have to stay in long enough to get “lucky” over time.   That means finding a sustainable approach and using a sustainable system.  It means avoiding going all in without testing your assumptions and reducing the risk out of it.   It means taking emotion out of the equation, taking calculated risks, minimizing your exposure, and focusing on skills.

    That’s why Agile methods and Lean approaches can help you outpace your failures.

    Because they are test-driven and focus on continuous learning.

    And because they focus on capacity and capability versus burnout or blowup.

    So if you aren’t feeling the type of luck you’d like to see more of in your life, go back to the basics, and design for it.

    They funny thing about luck is that the less you depend on it, the more of it you get.

    BTW – Agile Results and Getting Results the Agile Way continue to help people “get lucky.”  Recently, I heard a story where a social worker shared Getting Results the Agile Way with two girls living off the streets.  They are off drugs now, have jobs, and are buying homes.   I’m not doing the story justice, but it’s great to hear about people turning their lives around and these kinds of life changing things that a simple system for meaningful results can help achieve.

    It’s not luck. 

    It’s desire, determination, and effective strategies applied in a sustainable way.

    The Agile way.

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    Extreme Programming (XP) at a Glance (Visual)

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    “Each of the practices still has the same weaknesses as before, but what if those weaknesses were now made up for by the strengths of other practices? We might be able to get away with doing things simply." – Kent Beck

    Extreme Programming (XP) has been around a while, but not everybody knows “what it looks like.”

    What does it look like when you step back and take the balcony view and observe the flow of things?

    It might look a bit like this …

    image

    I put this view together to help some folks get an idea of what the “system” sort of looks like.  It didn’t need to be perfect, but they needed at least a baseline idea or skeleton so they could better understand how the various practices fit together.

    The beauty is that once you put a simple picture up on the whiteboard, then you can have real discussions with the team about where things can be improved.  Once again, a picture is worth 1,000 words.

    For reference, here are the 12 Practices of Extreme Programming

    1. Coding Standards
    2. Collective Ownership
    3. Continuous Integration
    4. On-Site Customer
    5. Pair Programming
    6. Planning Game
    7. Refactoring
    8. Short Releases
    9. Simple Design
    10. Sustainable Pace (40 Hour Week)
    11. System Metaphor
    12. Test-Driven Development

    The main idea here is to get simple visuals in your mind that you can easily draw on a whiteboard, and know the names of the various activities and artifacts. 

    If you nail this down, it helps you build a simple vocabulary. 

    This vocabulary will help you get others on board faster, and it will help you expand your own toolbox at a rapid rate, and you’ll soon find yourself composing new methods and creating interesting innovations in your process that will help you do things better, faster, and cheaper … on Cloud time.

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    What is Agile?

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    “Becoming limitless involves mental agility; the ability to quickly grasp and incorporate new ideas and concepts with confidence.” -- Lorii Myers

    I was asked to give an Intro to Agile talk to a group in Microsoft, in addition to a talk on Getting Results the Agile Way.

    It worked out well.

    The idea was to do a level set and get everybody on the same page in terms of what Agile is.

    I thought it was a great chance to build a shared vocabulary and establish some shared mental models.   I believe that when people have a shared vocabulary and common mental models, they can take a look from the balcony.  And, it makes it a lot easier to move up the chain and take things further, faster.

    Anyway, here is how I summarized what Agile is:

    • Agile is a framework of values and principles to manage teams and projects.
    • Agile is an alternative approach to traditional project management. It embraces change while traditional project management fights change.
    • People across functional teams work together as one team, rather than different groups working in phases or stages.
    • More human communication, interaction, and face-to-face.
    • Continuous feedback from users and stakeholders.
    • Iterations, shorter development cycles, and more frequent releases.
    • Visibility of progress and transparency of process.

    That said, I need to find something a bit more pithy and precise, yet insightful.

    If I had to put it in a simple sentence, I’d say Agile is empowerment through flexibility.

    One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that some people struggle when they try to go Agile.

    They struggle because they can’t seem to “flip a switch.”  And if they don’t flip the switch, they don’t change their mindset.

    And, if they don’t change their mindset, Agile remains just beyond their grasp.

    Agile is like happiness, grow it right under your feet.

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    Why Agile?

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    I thought I had written about “Why Agile” before, but I don’t see anything crisp enough.

    Anyway, here’s my latest rundown on Why Agile?

    1. Increase customer involvement which can build empathy and avoid rework
    2. Learn faster which means you can adapt to change
    3. Improve quality through focus
    4. Reduce risk through shorter feedback loops and customer interaction
    5. Simplify by getting rid of overhead and waste
    6. Reduce cycle time through timeboxing and parallel development
    7. Improve operational awareness through transparency
    8. Drive process improvement through continuous improvement
    9. Empower people through less mechanics and more interaction, continuous learning, and adaptation
    10. Flow more value through more frequent releases and less “big bang”

    Remember that nature favors the flexible and agility is the key to success.

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    Capitalizing on the Internet of Things: How To Succeed in a Connected World

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    “Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” -- William Pollard

    The Internet of Things is hot.  But it’s more than a trend.  It’s a new way of life (and business.)

    It’s transformational in every sense of the word (and world.)

    A colleague shared some of their most interesting finds with me, and one of them is:

    Capitalizing on the Internet of Things: How To Succeed in a Connected World

    Here are my key take aways:

    1. The Fourth Industrial Revolution:  The Internet of Things
    2. “For many companies, the mere prospect of remaking traditional products into smart and connected ones is daunting.  But embedding them into the digital world using services-based business models is much more fundamentally challenging.  The new business models impact core processes such as product management, operations, and production, as well as sales and channel management.”
    3. “According to the research database of the analyst firm Machina Research, there will be approx. 14 billion connected devices by 2022 – ranging from IP-enabled cars to heating systems, security cameras, sensors, and production machines.”
    4. “Managers need to envision the valuable new opportunities that become possible when the physical world is merged with the virtual
      world.”
    5. “The five key markets are connected buildings, automotive, utilities, smart cities, and manufacturing.”
    6. “In order to provide for the IoT’s multifaceted challenges, the most important thing to do is develop business ecosystems comparable to a coral reef, where we can find diversity of species, symbiosis, and shared development.”
    7. “IoT technologies create new ways for companies to enrich their services, gain customer insights, increase efficiency, and create differentiation opportunities.”
    8. “From what we have seen, IoT entrepreneurs also need to follow exploratory approaches as they face limited predictability and want to minimize risks, preferably in units that are small, agile, and independent.”

    It’s a fast read, with nice and tight insight … my kind of style.

    Enjoy.

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    Scrum at a Glance (Visual)

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    I’ve shared a Scrum Flow at a Glance before, but it was not visual.

    I think it’s helpful to know how to whiteboard a simple view of an approach so that everybody can quickly get on the same page. 

    Here is a simple visual of Scrum:

    image

    There are a lot of interesting tools and concepts in scrum.  The definitive guide on the roles, events, artifacts, and rules is The Scrum Guide, by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber.

    I like to think of Scrum as an effective Agile project management framework for shipping incremental value.  It works by splitting big teams into smaller teams, big work into smaller work, and big time blocks into smaller time blocks.

    I try to keep whiteboard visuals pretty simple so that they are easy to do on the fly, and so they are easy to modify or adjust as appropriate.

    I find the visual above is pretty helpful for getting people on the same page pretty fast, to the point where they can go deeper and ask more detailed questions about Scrum, now that they have the map in mind.

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    Waterfall to Agile

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    As I help more people go Agile, I try to simplify the most important concepts.

    For me, one of the most important changes in Agile is what it means to the product development cycle. 

    I think a picture is worth a 1,000 words.  I’ve put together a couple of simple visuals to show what it means to go from a Waterfall development approach to an Agile development approach.

    image

    Contrast the Waterfall Model with the Agile Model:

    image

    With these visuals, I attempted to show a couple of key ideas:

    1. Waterfall uses serialized phases, where one activity doesn’t start until the previous activity completes.  Agile shifts to a focus on iterations, where each iteration performs activities in parallel (such as requirements, design, development, and test).
    2. Each iteration produces a build.  Rather than wait until the end, throw something over the wall, and hope it meets expectations, the output of each iteration can be used to validate with users, as well as deliver incremental value.
    3. By moving away from Big Design Up Front (BDUF) and way from Big Bang at the end, Agile helps to de-risk the project, respond to changing requirements, and flow value along the way.

    If you need to keep up with the pace of change, deal with changing requirements, keep up with user demands, while shipping value faster, Agile might be what you’re looking for.

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    High-Performance Patterns: Find Your Personal High-Performance Pattern

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    At Microsoft, it’s a high-performance culture.  There are high-expectations as well as regular one-on-ones, ongoing feedback, training and development opportunities, mentoring, performance reviews, and more.

    To keep up with the game, you need a combination of learning proven practices for personal effectiveness, as well as high-performance team techniques.  

    The reality is. the more self-awareness you have, the more you can contribute to creating a high-performance team.   For example, if you know your strengths, and you can figure out how to help the team see how they can leverage your unique strengths, you become a force multiplier.

    When it comes to being your own force multiplier, sometimes the most important thing to do, is to first get out of your own way.  It’s very easy to water down your results by going against your own grain, and not taking advantage of your unique experience, skills, and abilities.

    That’s where personal high-performance patterns come in.

    Imagine if you already have a recipe for getting great results, but it’s buried among all the ways you’ve twisted how you get results to try to adapt and fit in with what everybody else does?    And imagine if that pattern is not just effective, but it’s incredibly effective at unleashing your potential you’ve already got, and it instantly amplifies your ability to get great results?

    I’ve been reading the book, Patterns of High Performance: Discovering the Ways People Work Best.  In it, Jerry L. Fletcher shares a process for finding your high-performance pattern.  He also shares the high-performance patterns of others.  He also shares deep insight into the great results he and his team have been able to unleash for individuals and teams.   It’s a repeatable approach for getting high-performance results, whether it’s personal high-performance or team high-performance (which is heavily influenced by individuals all working in their high-performance patterns.)

    As I was reading through the book, I was recalling several times where I got better than expected results.   One story that came to mind is when I was building my first Security Guide in Microsoft patterns & practices to address application security in a deep way.  

    I did a lot of unusual things, in terms of sheer volume of experts I consulted with both inside and outside the company, the books that I combed looking for recurring patterns, the tests I ran in labs to reproduce problems and solutions.   But together, these all these activities led to a unique combination of information that served as the backbone for the book.  

    The book was more than a book. 

    It was actually a deep knowledge platform filled with principles, patterns, and practices that others could build on and extend, and it helped create a language for application security that people regularly used in the halls.  It also led to some interesting patents, as well as future work that helped change the application security game for line-of-business applications.   And it was the first book to be downloaded 800,000 times within six months.

    The results were extraordinary.

    And the key to it wasn’t that I followed a formula from somebody else.  It was that I was using my personal high-performance pattern.

    Therein lies the key.

    But how do you find your personal performance pattern?

    Jerry Fletcher has a technique for that.   I’ve tried to distill the steps into a simple to follow recipe:

    High-Performance Unleashed: Find Your Personal High-Performance Pattern

    The beauty of finding your personal high-performance pattern is that it’s all you, and you take it with you wherever you go.

    It can be your edge for getting better than expected results in any situation, and it can be the key to producing outstanding results in a sustainable way.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    High-Performance Mode for Outstanding Personal Performance

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    One of the best books I’ve been reading on personal high-performance is Patterns of High Performance: Discovering the Ways People Work Best, by Jerry L. Fletcher.

    In the book, Fletcher explains the difference between getting results through grind-it-out mode vs. high-performance mode.

    The gist is this – we work against ourselves when we don’t use our personal success patterns for how we work best.

    It might sound obvious, but it’s actually a very subtle thing.

    It’s very easy for us to fall into the trap of changing our recipe for results to try to match what we think others expect of us, or we copy how other people get things done.   In going with the grain of others, we can go against our own grain, and basically limit was we’re capable of.

    If you’ve ever been in a scenario where you feel your hands are tied because you know you can solve it, if you just had the freedom and flexibility to do so, you might be bumping into the issue.

    Many people slog through work using a grind-it-out mode, because they are using peak performance techniques that are sub-optimal for them.  In other words, high-performance is a personal thing.   Keep in mind that high-performance does not mean world-class performance, although high-performance can very often lead to world-class performance.

    The main idea is to figure out how you actually do your best work.   We all have recipes for how we start work, get work going, keep it going, and how we close it down.   And that’s where we can find the patterns of our best work, if we look for it, over our past experiences, where our results exceeded our expectations.

    If you want to fire on all cylinders and work in high-performance mode, find your high-performance pattern and use it to unleash what you’re capable of in work and in life.

    If you want a deeper dive into high-performance mode, check out my post on grind-it-out mode vs. high-performance mode.

    If nothing else, it’s nice to have a label for the two modes of work, so that you can identify them when you see them, and you can work towards doing more high-performance work, and less grind-it-out mode.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Physical Intelligence and How To Live Longer with Skill

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    I’ve added another category to Sources of Insight:

    Physical Intelligence

    I think it’s a good way to consolidate, integrate, and synthesize all of the body, health, fitness, and mind-body connection stuff.   I’m also increasingly appreciative of the power of intelligence.    Intelligence provides a nice twist whether we are talking emotional intelligence, financial intelligence, physical intelligence, positive intelligence, social intelligence, spiritual intelligence, etc.

    If there’s one post to read on Physical Intelligence, then read the following:

    9 Ways to Add 12 Years to Your Life

    It’s based on the Blue Zones research.  The Blue Zones are the healthiest places on the planet where people live the longest.

    I don’t have a lot of articles on Physical Intelligence yet, but now that I’ve made space for it, I plan to cover a lot more things, including advanced body movements that help you expand what you’re capable of.  It’s worth nothing that Tony Robbins actually prioritizes health as a top value, and he uses his physiology to generate outstanding results.  Similarly, Stephen Covey prioritized fitness and enjoyed the freedom that came from the discipline of training his body so that he could run more freely.

    Side note – Tony Robbins actually did a bunch of deep research on how to use breathing exercises to clean your system.  It’s a very specific breathing pattern that you can use to activate your lymphatic system through deep diaphragmatic breathing:

    Breathe with Skill to Dramatically Improve Your Health

    Interestingly, he claims that if you follow this breathing technique, you’ll actually change your white blood cell count.

    One more must read post is about sleep patterns:

    Larks, Owls, and Hummingbirds

    John Medina provides some simple labels for the three typical sleep patterns that people fall into.  A little self-awareness can go a long way in terms of helping you make the most of what you’ve got.  In this case, we spend a lot of time sleeping (at least us Larks), so it’s worth learning what you can about your own sleep needs and preferences, and sometimes a label can help you gain insight, or at least give you a starting point for some deeper research.

    Sleep is actually another topic that I’ll dive a bit deeper into in the future because it plays such a key role in our personal effectiveness, and ultimately in our personal power.   In fact, the cornerstone of physical intelligence might actually be the following triad:

    Eating, sleeping, and exercising.

    Our personal success patterns for each of those areas dramatically impacts the quality of our lives.

    If there are particular topics you want me to dive deep into physical intelligence, be sure to use my contact form and let me know.

    Meanwhile, enjoy browsing the current set of Physical Intelligence articles.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Value is Everybody’s Job

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    Back in 2010, Gartner suggested that Business Value Realization would be Enterprise Architecture finally done right.  Related, when people were confused by the scope of Value Realization, all we did was add "Business” up front (i.e. “Business Value Realization”) and that seemed to add instant clarity for people, and they said they got it. 

    They realized that it was all about extracting business value and accelerating business value.

    The most interesting pattern I think I see is not that value is an individual thing. 

    It's that any individual can create value in today’s world – with their network, the ways they work, the technology at their fingertips -- they can focus on their end users and continuous learning, and operate without walls. 

    In fact, the enticing promise of the Enterprise Social vision is comprehensive collaboration.

    There was an uprising in the developer world to create customer value -- it was agile. 

    It seems like the world is experiencing another uprising (and you hear Satya Nadella talk about a focus on individuals whether in business or life, focused on learning, collaborating, and changing the world.)

    So it's not the CIO, the CEO, etc.

    What is the new uprising?

    Value is everybody's job.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    10 Big Ideas from Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

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    My parents taught me early on to focus on growth over greatness.

    The idea was that while natural ability can take you only so far, it’s things like curiosity, challenges, continuous learning, the power of persistence, taking risks, etc. that would take you further.

    They also taught me that if I worried about whether I was naturally good, that I would give up on things where I didn’t start off so great.

    It was great advice, even if it wasn’t scientific.

    But there is science.

    In fact, there’s a lot of science about how choosing a growth mindset over a fixed mindset help people to become the best in their field.  A growth mindset is what actually creates better parents, teachers, coaches, and CEOs.   A growth mindset creates better students, better artists, and even better geniuses.

    Why?

    Because people with a growth mindset embrace the challenges, struggles, criticisms, and setbacks as a source of growth.

    And that’s how they rise above any limitation of “natural” ability.

    Teaching, learning, and continuous growth takes them further than relying on talent or fear of taking risks where they might look bad or might not start off so great.

    Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.  wrote an outstanding book on how our mindsets shape us and how they can limit or enable us to realize our potential.

    I wrote up my take aways using a “10 Big Ideas from …” style:

    10 Big Ideas from Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

    I think you'll enjoy the insights and I think you’ll appreciate how you can apply them to work and life.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Why Have a Strategy?

    • 3 Comments

    To be able to change it.

    Brilliant pithy advice from Professor Jason Davis’ class,Technology Strategy (MIT’s OpenCourseWare.)

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Social Intelligence and 95 Articles to Give You an Unfair Advantage

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    Social Intelligence is hot.

    I added a new category at Sources of Insight to put the power of Social Intelligence at your fingertips:

    Social Intelligence

    (Note that you can get to Social Intelligence from the menu under “More Topics …”)

    I wanted a simple category to capture and consolidate the wealth of insights around interpersonal communication, relationships, conflict, influence, negotiation, and more.   There are 95 articles in this category, and growing, and it includes everything from forging friendships to dealing with people you can’t stand, to building better relationships with your boss.

    According to Wikipedia, “Social intelligence is the capacity to effectively negotiate complex social relationships and environments.”

    There's a great book on Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman:

    Social Intelligence, The New Science of Human Relationships

    According to Goleman, “We are constantly engaged in a ‘neural ballet’ that connects our brain to the brains with those around us.”

    Goleman says:

    “Our reactions to others, and theirs to us, have a far-reaching biological impact, sending out cascades of hormones that regulate everything from our hearts to our immune systems, making good relationships act like vitamins—and bad relationships like poisons. We can ‘catch’ other people’s emotions the way we catch a cold, and the consequences of isolation or relentless social stress can be life-shortening. Goleman explains the surprising accuracy of first impressions, the basis of charisma and emotional power, the complexity of sexual attraction, and how we detect lies. He describes the ‘dark side’ of social intelligence, from narcissism to Machiavellianism and psychopathy. He also reveals our astonishing capacity for ‘mindsight,’ as well as the tragedy of those, like autistic children, whose mindsight is impaired.”

    According to the Leadership Lab for Corporate Social Innovation, by Dr. Claus Otto Scharmer  (MIT OpenCourseware), there is a relational shift:

    The Rise of the Network Society

    And, of course, Social is taking off as a hot technology in the Enterprise arena.  It’s changing the game, and changing how people innovate, communicate, and collaborate in a comprehensive collaboration sort of way.

    Here is a sampling of some of my Social Intelligence articles to get you started:

    5 Conversations to Have with Your Boss
    6 Styles Under Stress
    10 Types of Difficult People
    Antiheckler Technique
    Ask, Mirror, Paraphrase and Prime
    Cooperative Controversy Over Competitive Controversy
    Coping with Power-Clutchers, Paranoids and Perfectionists
    Dealing with People You Can't Stand
    Expectation Management
    How To Consistently Build a Winning Team
    How To Deal With Criticism
    How Do You Choose a Friend?
    How To Repair a Broken Work Relationship
    Mutual Purpose
    Superordinate Goals
    The Lens of Human Understanding
    The Politically Competent Leader, The Political Analyst, and the Consensus Builder
    Work on Me First

    If you really want to dive in here, you can brows the full collection at:

    Social Intelligence

    Enjoy, and may the power of Social Intelligence be with you.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Industry Life Cycle

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    I’m a fan of simple models that help you see things you might otherwise miss, or that help explain how things work, or that simply show you a good lens for looking at the world around you.

    Here’s a simple Industry Life Cycle model that I found in Professor Jason Davis’ class, Technology Strategy (MIT’s OpenCourseWare.)

    image

    It’s a simple backdrop and that’s good.  It’s good because there is a lot of complexity in the transitions, and there are may big ideas that all build on top of this simple frame.

    Sometimes the most important thing to do with a model is to use it as a map.

    What stage is your industry in?

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Growth Mindset: A Key to Resilience, Motivation, and Achievement

    • 3 Comments

    Your mindset holds the key to realizing your potential.

    Your mindset is your way of thinking, and your way of thinking can limit or empower you, in any number of ways.

    In fact, according to Carol S. Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, mindset is the one big idea that helps explain the following:

    • Why brains and talent don’t bring success
    • How they can stand in the way of it
    • Why praising brains and talent doesn’t foster self-esteem and accomplishment, but jeopardizes them
    • How teaching a simple idea about the brain raises grades and productivity
    • What all great CEOs, parents, teachers, athletes know

    When Dweck was a young researcher, she was obsessed with understanding how people cope with failures, and she decided to study it by watching how students grapple with heard problems.

    You’re Learning, Not Failing

    One of Dweck’s key insights was that a certain kind of mindset could turn  a failure into a gift.

    Via Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:

    “What did they know?  They knew that human qualities, such as intellectual skills could be cultivated through effort.  And that’s what they were doing – getting smarter.  Not only weren’t they discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing.  They thought they were learning.”

    Your Can Change Your IQ

    Believe it or not, a big believer in the idea that you can use education and practice to fundamentally change your intelligence is Alfred Binet, the inventor of the IQ test.

    Via Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:

    “Binet, a Frenchman working in Paris in the early twentieth century, designed this test to identify children who were not profiting from the Paris public schools, so that new educational programs could be designed to get them back on track. Without denying individual differences in children’s intellects, he believed that education and practice could bring about fundamental changes in intelligence.”

    Methods Make the Difference

    Here is a quote from one of Binet’s major books,  Modern Ideas About Children:

    "A few modern philosophers ... assert that an individual's intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity which cannot be increased.  We must protest  and react against this brutal pessimism ... With practice, training, and above all, method, we manage to increase our attention, our memory, our judgment and literally to become more intelligent than we were before."

    Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

    The difference that makes the difference in success and achievement is your mindset.  Specifically, a Growth Mindset is the key to unleashing and realizing your potential.

    To fully appreciate what a Growth Mindset is, let’s contrast it by first understanding what a Fixed Mindset is.

    According to Carol Dweck, a Fixed Mindset means that you fundamentally believe that intelligence and talent are fixed traits:

    “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.”

    In contrast, according to Dweck, a Growth Mindset means that you fundamentally believe that you can develop your brains and talent:

    “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”

    If you want to improve your motivation, set yourself up for success, and achieve more in life, then adopt and build a growth mindset.

    Here are a few articles to help you get started:

    3 Mindsets that Support You

    5 Sources of Beliefs for Personal Excellence

    6 Sources of Beliefs and Values

    Growth Mindset Over Fixed Mindset

    Training Mindset and Trusting Mindset

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Start Your Journey of Innovation and Build a Culture of Great Innovation

    • 4 Comments

    In todays world, the mantra is innovate or die.

    You’re either climbing ahead or falling backward … there’s no hanging out in the middle.

    And some folks are actually leap frogging ahead.

    Disruptive innovation is keeping everybody on their toes.

    Whether you are re-imagining you or your company, or you are driving innovation in your process, product, or capabilities, there are skills you can learn to be a lot more effective in your innovation efforts.

    It’s a crazy world where a One-Man Band can write an app, serve it up on the Cloud, and change the world.  It’s also a strange world where a little idea can be a big shot heard round the world.   It’s a scary thing for businesses when a handful of developers can spin up a new service in the Cloud and instantly make a business obsolete.

    What can you hold on to in this crazy world?   What can you latch on to, if you want to rise above the noise, and instead of getting washed out by a wave, be the one that makes the waves?

    There are several things, but I’ll boil them down to this:

    1. Use your customer as the North Star (and remember that some customers are better for you than others)
    2. Share and scale your unique value to the world
    3. Adapt or die

    What happens to a super successful business or a super effective person when the landscape changes under their feet?

    It depends on how they adapt Smile

    Nature favors the flexible.  Darwin taught us that.

    You have to get your bold on, and embrace innovation as your shiny sword to do battle against challenge and change, but most importantly, to create the change that serves you, and those you serve.

    I’m taking a fresh look at innovation, as well as going back through hard, expensive lessons I’ve learned in the past.  Whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, so my battle scars are a healthy reminder of the lessons I’ve learned on how we can use innovation to leap frog ahead, as well as change the playing field (heck with changing the game, change the field and be the disruptor.)

    Believe it or not, Peter Drucker was a wealth of wisdom when it comes to innovation.  Many of you know him as the wise and wonderful professor of business and guru of management.   But when you read through a lot of his work, he was incredibly insightful and pragmatic when it comes to creating a culture of innovation.

    Innovation Nuggets to Get You Started on Your Innovation Journey

    I’ve got a ton of innovation books, but one that I’m really liking lately is Out Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes, by G. Shawn Hunter.   I’ve been sharing some nuggets from the book, and it’s been reminding me what it takes to build a culture of innovation.

    If you want to start your innovation journey, and create a culture of innovation, here are a few posts to help you on your way:

    3 Key Questions to Challenge Yourself to Innovate

    3 Keys for a Successful Innovation

    A Superior Product is Not Built from It’s Features

    Beware of Benchmarking Your Way to Mediocrity

    Energized Differentiation Separates Brands from the Pack

    High-Leverage Strategies for Innovation

    How Great Leaders Build a Culture of Innovation and Change

    Incremental Changes or Disruptive Innovation?

    Innovate in Your Approach

    Innovation Life Cycle

    Innovation, Quantification, and Orchestration

    The Innovative Team: Unleashing Creative Potential for Breakthrough Results

    The Role of Process in Driving Reliable Innovation

    Great Innovation Quotes to Inspire the Art of the Possible

    If you need to remind yourself what innovation feels like or what’s possible, be sure to soak up some powerful words of wisdom:

    Innovation Quotes

    In my Innovation Quotes, I’ve also included a special section to light up what Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Walt Disney teach us about building a culture of innovation.

    Let’s boldly go where we have not gone before.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    7 Days of Agile Results: A Time Management Boot Camp for Productivity on Fire

    • 2 Comments

    An amazing thing happens when you become more focused and productive ...

    You get more out of life.

    It’s like you have 27 hours out of the day, while everyone else has 24, and they spend 8 of them sleeping, while you spend them dreaming of what’s to come next.

    Too many folks have too much to do with too little time and they can't keep up.

    We don't necessarily learn great time management skills in school or on the job, and we don't necessarily learn how to really blend our time, energy, and action to produce our best results.

    That's where Agile Results steps in.

    Agile Results it the underlying approach showcased in my best-selling book on time management, Getting Results the Agile Way.

    It's a simple system for meaningful results.  It helps you cut through the clutter to get to what matters, and to use your best energy for your best work.  I put Agile Results together over a period of 10 years while testing principles, patterns, and practices that push the envelope in terms of high-performance, extreme productivity, work-life balance, stress management, and well-being.

    Here’s What You Get by Using Agile Results:

    1. Proven practices to master time management, motivation, and personal productivity
    2. Discover the one way to stack the deck in your favor that’s authentic and works
    3. How to embrace change and get better results in any situation
    4. How to focus and direct your attention with skill
    5. How to use your strengths to create a powerful edge for getting results
    6. How to change a habit and make it stick
    7. How to never miss the things that matter most, and achieve better work-life balance
    8. How to spend more time doing the things you love

    The 7 Day Boot Camp for Agile Results

    I put together a simple time management book camp to help you just start using Agile Results.

    For some case studies, stories, and testimonials see http://gettingresults.com/wiki/Testimonials.

    If you need more depth beyond the 7 day time management book camp, then check out:

    And, of course, there’s always the book:

    If you’re already an Agile Results master, share this post and help somebody else set their productivity on fire.  Help friends, family, and colleagues reach a new level of awesome.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    10 Big Ideas from XYZ

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    I’m trying out a new way to do book reviews, to share more value in a better, faster, and easier way, with a predictable experience.  

    My new approach is to focus on 10 big ideas.

    Here’s an example:

    10 Big Ideas from BRIEF

    Side note – BRIEF is a powerful book with hard-core techniques for getting to the point and cutting through fluff.  If you struggle with being verbose, or rambling, this book will help you master the art of “Lean Communication.”

    In my book reviews in the past, I shared the challenges the book solved, the structure of the book, and some “scenes” from the book, sort of like a “movie trailer.”   While that was effective in terms of really doing a book justice, I thought there was room for improvement.

    I figured, Sources of Insight is all about, well, “insight.”   So then my best approach would be to focus on the big ideas in the books I read, and share that unique value in a simple to consume fashion.   I considered “3 Big Ideas” and “5 Big Ideas”, but they both seemed too small.  And more than 10 seemed too big.

    10 Big Ideas seems like a healthy dose of insights to draw from a book.

    I had actually considered this approach a long time ago, but I was worried that it would water things down too much.  Instead, I’m finding that it’s doing the exact opposite.  Using 10 Big Ideas as a constraint is a great forcing function to help me really synthesize and distill the essence of a book, and to really hone in on the most valuable takeaways.  

    And it’s a great way to turn insight into action in a very repeatable way.

    I already read and review books at a fast pace, but I think this new approach is going to help me get even better and faster at rapidly sharing insight and action.

    I’m in the early stages, so if you have ideas or feedback on the 10 Big Ideas approach for my book reviews, please let me know.

    Take 10 Big Ideas from BRIEF for a spin.  Kick the tires.   It will be worth your time.  If you master Big Idea #7, alone, you'll be ahead of the game when it comes to making your pitch, or presenting your ideas.

    Lean Communication can be your differentiator in a noisy, crowded, information overloaded world.

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