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Program Management, Shaping Software, and Making Things Happen
Updated: 10 hours 55 min ago

Trends for 2016

Mon, 02/01/2016 - 16:08

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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Categories: Architecture, Programming

Start with Needs and Wants

Fri, 01/29/2016 - 17:18

“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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Categories: Architecture, Programming

Start with Needs and Wants

Fri, 01/29/2016 - 17:18

“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.

You Might Also Like

6 Steps for Enterprise Architecture as Strategy

10 High-Value Activities in the Enterprise

Agile Methodology in Microsoft patterns & practices

Customer-Connected Engineering

How To Turn IT into an Asset Rather than a Liability

Scenario-Driven Value Realization

Why So Many Ideas Die

Categories: Architecture, Programming

Agile Results for 2016

Tue, 01/19/2016 - 16:54

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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Categories: Architecture, Programming

Productivity Power Magazine

Mon, 01/18/2016 - 18:27

image

"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.

Categories: Architecture, Programming

How To Stay Motivated for 2016 with a Vision Board

Mon, 01/11/2016 - 17:15
"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.”

Enjoy.

Categories: Architecture, Programming

Prime Your Mind for 2016

Sat, 01/02/2016 - 22:21

“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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Categories: Architecture, Programming

The Best Books I Read in 2015

Thu, 12/31/2015 - 19:56

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.

Enjoy.

Categories: Architecture, Programming

Agile Results for Year-End Reflection

Fri, 12/18/2015 - 17:14

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.

Categories: Architecture, Programming

Happy Holidays from Microsoft

Wed, 12/09/2015 - 17:57

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 ...

image

 

image

 

image

 

image

Happy Holidays to everyone.

Categories: Architecture, Programming

How To Defeat Procrastination

Wed, 12/02/2015 - 17:42

“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?

Categories: Architecture, Programming

10 Personal Productivity Tools from Agile Results

Thu, 11/26/2015 - 23:38

“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 ...

PRODUCTIVITY TOOL #1 - THE RULE OF THREE

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.

PRODUCTIVITY TOOL #2 - MONDAY VISION, DAILY WINS, FRIDAY REFLECTION

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.

PRODUCTIVITY TOOL #3 -- HOT SPOTS

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. 

PRODUCTIVITY TOOL #4 -- GROWTH MINDSET

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 :)

PRODUCTIVITY TOOL #5 -- TIMEBOXING

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.

PRODUCTIVITY TOOL #6 -- STRONG WEEK

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.

PRODUCTIVITY TOOL #7 -- MONTHLY SPRINTS

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.

PRODUCTIVITY TOOL #8 -- PAIR UP

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?

PRODUCTIVITY TOOL #9 -- PRODUCTIVE HOURS

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.

PRODUCTIVITY TOOL #10 -- CREATIVE 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.

Categories: Architecture, Programming

Your New Technical Skills

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 19:12

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.

Why?

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.

Categories: Architecture, Programming

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

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 17:10

“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?

Categories: Architecture, Programming

Personal Effectiveness Toolbox

Wed, 11/11/2015 - 16:50

“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.

Categories: Architecture, Programming

3 Fights Each Day

Mon, 11/02/2015 - 17:55

“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.

Categories: Architecture, Programming