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Program Management, Shaping Software, and Making Things Happen
Updated: 4 hours 55 min ago

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.


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 Experience 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

Blogging Resources at a Glance

Mon, 10/05/2015 - 16:46

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

It’s a serious collection of blogging resources including:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Architecture, Programming

The Top 10 Project Management Books

Mon, 09/07/2015 - 18:22

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

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

Project management is the backbone of execution.

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

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

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

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

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

These are the project management books that build real competence.

And where competence grows, confidence flows.

Categories: Architecture, Programming

The Ultimate Personal Productivity Platform is You

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 21:25

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

The ultimate personal productivity platform is you.

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

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

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

That’s a lot for you to do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And write those down.   That’s it.

You’re doing Agile Results.

Categories: Architecture, Programming

Every Employee is a Digital Employee

Mon, 08/24/2015 - 04:20

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

Digital transformation is all around us.

And we are all digital employees according to Gartner.

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

A Greater Degree of Digital Dexterity

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

Via Gartner Says Every Employee Is a Digital Employee:

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

Workers are Streamlining Their Work Life

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

Via Gartner Says Every Employee Is a Digital Employee:

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

3 Ways to Exploit Digital Dexterity

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

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

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

Via Gartner Says Every Employee Is a Digital Employee:

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

2. Embrace shadow IT

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

Via Gartner Says Every Employee Is a Digital Employee:

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

3. Use a bimodal approach

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

So what’s the solution?

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

Via Gartner Says Every Employee Is a Digital Employee:

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Architecture, Programming

What Life is Like with Agile Results

Mon, 08/24/2015 - 02:31

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

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

You feel strong and well rested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fresh and ready for anything, you head for home.

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

Categories: Architecture, Programming

30 Day Sprints for Personal Development: Change Yourself with Skill

Mon, 08/17/2015 - 17:44

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

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

30 Day Sprints help you change yourself with skill.

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

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

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

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

Why 30 Day Sprints Work So Well

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

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

And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

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

Ways to Make 30 Day Sprints Work Better

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

Here is what I learned:

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

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

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

Getting Started

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

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

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

Boldly Go Where You Have Not Gone Before

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

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

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

Who knows what breakthroughs lie within?

May you surprise yourself profoundly.

Categories: Architecture, Programming

Personal Development Insights from the Greatest Book on Personal Development Ever

Fri, 08/14/2015 - 16:38

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

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

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

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

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

Develop Your Abilities and Model Success

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

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

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

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

Unlimited Power at Your Fingertips

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

Unlimited Power Book Nuggets at a Glance

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

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

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

Personal Development Insights at Your Fingertips

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

5 Keys to Wealth and Happiness

5 Rules for Formulating Outcomes

5 Sources of Beliefs for Personal Excellence

7 Beliefs for Personal Excellence

7 Traits of Success

Create Your Ideal Day, the Tony Robbins Way

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

How To Change the Emotion of Any Experience to Empower You

How To Get Whatever You Want

Leadership for a Better World

Persuasion is the Most Important Skill You Can Develop

Realizing Your Potential is a Dynamic Process

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

Seven Meta-Programs for Understanding People

The Difference Between Those Who Succeed and Those Who Fail

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

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


Categories: Architecture, Programming