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Program Management, Shaping Software, and Making Things Happen
Updated: 4 hours 33 min ago

Are You an Integration Specialist?

Sat, 05/23/2015 - 19:40

Some people specialize in a narrow domain.  They are called specialists because they focus on a specific area of expertise, and they build skills in that narrow area.

Rather than focus on breadth, they go for depth.

Others focus on the bigger picture or connecting the dots.  Rather than focus on depth, they go for breadth.

Or do they?

It actually takes a lot of knowledge and depth to be effective at integration and “connecting the dots” in a meaningful way.  It’s like being a skilled entrepreneur or a skilled business developer.   Not just anybody who wants to generalize can be effective.  

True integration specialists are great pattern matchers and have deep skills in putting things together to make a better whole.

I was reading the book Business Development: A Market-Oriented Perspective where Hans Eibe Sørensen introduces the concept of an Integrating Generalist and how they make the world go round.

I wrote a post about it on Sources of Insight:

The Integrating Generalist and the Art of Connecting the Dots

Given the description, I’m not sure which is better, the Integration Specialist or the Integrating Generalist.  The value of the Integrating Generalist is that it breathes new life into people that want to generalize so that they can put the bigger puzzle together.  Rather than de-value generalists, this label puts a very special value on people that are able to fit things together.

In fact, the author claims that it’s Integrating Generalists that make the world go round.

Otherwise, there would be a lot of great pieces and parts, but nothing to bring them together into a cohesive whole.

Maybe that’s a good metaphor for the Integrating Generalist.  While you certainly need all the parts of the car, you also need somebody to make sure that all the parts come together.

In my experience, Integration Generalists are able to help shape the vision, put the functions that matter in place, and make things happen.

I would say the most effective Program Managers I know do exactly that.

They are the Oil and the Glue for the team because they are able to glue everything together, and, at the same time, remove friction in the system and help people bring out their best, towards a cohesive whole.

It’s synergy in action, in more ways than one.

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Task Management for Teams

Fri, 05/08/2015 - 17:01

I’m a fan of monthly plans for meaningful work.

Whether you call it a task list or a To-Do list or a product backlog, it helps to have a good view of the things that you’ll invest your time in.

I’m not a fan of everybody trying to make sense of laundry lists of cells in a spreadsheet.

Time changes what’s important and it’s hard to see the forest for the trees, among rows of tasks that all start to look the same.

One of the most important things I’ve learned to do is to map out work for the month in a more meaningful way.

It works for individuals.  It works for teams.  It works for leaders.

It’s what I’ve used for Agile Results for years on projects small and large, and with distributed teams around the world.  (Agile Results is my productivity method introduced in Getting Results the Agile Way.)

A picture is worth a thousand words, so let’s just look at a sample output and then I’ll walk through it:

clip_image002

What I’ve found to be the most effective is to focus on a plan for the month – actually take an hour or two the week before the new month.  (In reality, I’ve done this with teams of 10 or more people in 30 minutes or less.  It doesn’t take long if you just dump things fast on the board, and just keep asking people “What else is on our minds.”)

Dive-in at a whiteboard with the right people in the room and just list out all the top of mind, important things – be exhaustive, then prioritize and prune.

You then step back and identify the 3 most important outcomes (3 Wins for the Month.)

I make sure each work item has a decent name – focused on the noun – so people can refer to it by name (like mini-initiatives that matter.)

I list it in alphabetical by the name of the work so it’s easy to manage a large list of very different things.

That’s the key.

Most people try to prioritize the list, but the reality is, you can use each week to pick off the high-value items.   (This is really important.  Most people spend a lot of time prioritizing lists, and re-prioritizing lists, and yet, people tend to be pretty good prioritizing when they have a quick list to evaluate.   Especially, if they know the priorities for the month, and they know any pressing events or dead-lines.   This is where clarity pays off.)

The real key is listing the work in alphabetical order so that it’s easy to scan, easy to add new items, and easy to spot duplicates.

Plus, it forces you to actually name the work and treat it more like a thing, and less like some fuzzy idea that’s out there.

I could go on and on about the benefits, but here are a few of the things that really matter:

  1. It’s super simple.   By keeping it simple, you can actually do it.   It’s the doing, not just the knowing that matters in the end.
  2. It chops big work down to size.   At the same time, it’s easy to quickly right-size.  Rather than bog down in micro-management, this simple list makes it easy to simply list out the work that matters.
  3. It gets everybody in the game.   Everybody gets to look at a whiteboard and plan what a great month will look like.  They get to co-create the journey and dream up what success will look like.   A surprising thing happens when you just identify Three Wins for the Month.

I find a plan for the month is the most useful.   If you plan a month well, the weeks have a better chance of taking care of themselves.   But if you only plan for the week or every two weeks, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, and the next thing you know, the months go by.  You’re busy, things happen, but the work doesn’t always accrue to something that matters.

This is a simple way to have more meaningful months.

I also can’t say it enough, that it’s less about having a prioritized list, and more about having an easy to glance at map of the work that’s in-flight.   I’m glad the map of the US is not a prioritized list by states.  And I’m glad that the states are well named.  It makes it easy to see the map.  I can then prioritize and make choices on any trip, because I actually have a map to work from, and I can see the big picture all at once, and only zoom in as I need to.

The big idea behind planning tasks and To-Do lists this way is to empower people to make better decisions.

The counter-intuitive part is first exposing a simple view of the map of the work, so it’s easy to see, and this is what enables simpler prioritization when you need it, regardless of which prioritization you use, or which workflow management tool you plug in to.

And, nothing stops you from putting the stuff into spreadsheets or task management tools afterwards, but the high-value part is the forming and storming and conforming around the initial map of the work for the month, so more people can spend their time performing.

May the power of a simple information model help you organize, prioritize, and optimize your outcomes in a more meaningful way.

If you need a deeper dive on this approach, and a basic introduction to Agile Results, here is a good getting started guide for Agile Results in action.

Categories: Blogs

The Innovation Revolution (A Time of Radical Transformation)

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 16:44

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …

It’s not A Tale of Two Cities.   It’s a tale of the Innovation Revolution.

We’ve got real problems worth solving.  The stakes are high.  Time is short.  And abstract answers are not good enough.

In the book, Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs, Larry Keeley, Helen Walters, Ryan Pikkel, and Brian Quinn explain how it is like A Tale of Two Cities in that it is the worst of time and it is the best of times.

But it is also like no other time in history.

It’s an Innovation Revolution … We have the technology and we can innovate our way through radical transformation.

The Worst of Times (Innovation Has Big Problems to Solve)

We’ve got some real problems to solve, whether it’s health issues, poverty, crime, or ignorance.  Duty calls.  Will innovation answer?

Via Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs:

“People expect very little good news about the wars being fought (whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or on Terror, Drugs, Poverty, or Ignorance).  The promising Arab Spring has given way to a recurring pessimism about progress.  Gnarly health problems are on a tear the world over--diabetes now affects over eight percent of Americans--an other expensive disease conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and cancer are also now epidemic.  The cost of education rises like a runaway helium balloon, yet there is less and less evidence that it nets the students a real return on their investment.  Police have access to ever more elaborate statistical models of crime, but there is still way too much of it.  And global warming, steadily produces more extreme and more dangerous conditions the world over, yet according to about half of our elected 'leaders,' it is still, officially, only a theory that can conveniently be denied.”

The Best of Times (Innovation is Making Things Happen)

Innovation has been answering.  There have been amazing innovations heard round the world.  It’s only the beginning for an Innovation Revolution.

Via Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs:

“And yet ...

We steadily expect more from our computers, our smartphones, apps, networks, and games.  We have grown to expect routine and wondrous stories of new ventures funded through crowdsourcing.  We hear constantly of lives around the world transformed because of Twitter or Kahn Academy or some breakthrough discovery in medicine.  Esther Duflo and her team at the Poverty Action Lab at MIT keep cracking tough problems that afflict the poor to arrive at solutions with demonstrated efficacy, and then, often the Gates Foundation or another philanthropic institution funds the transformational solution at unprecedented scale.

Storytelling is in a new golden age--whether in live events, on the radio, or in amazing new television series that can emerge anywhere in the world and be adapted for global tastes.  Experts are now everywhere, and shockingly easy and affordable to access.

Indeed, it seems clear that all the knowledge we've been struggling to amass is steadily being amplified and swiftly getting more organized, accessible, and affordable--whether through the magic of elegant little apps or big data managed in ever-smarter clouds or crowdfunding sites used to capitalize creative ideas in commerce or science.”

It’s a Time of Radical Transformation and New, More Agile Institutions

The pace of change and the size of change will accelerate exponentially as the forces of innovation rally together.

Via Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs:

“One way to make sense of these opposing conditions is to see us as being in a time of radical transformation.  To see the old institutions as being challenged as a series of newer, more agile ones arise.  In history, such shifts have rarely been bloodless, but this one seems to be a radical transformation in the structure, sources, and nature of expertise.  Indeed, among innovation experts, this time in one like no other.  For the very first time in history, we are in a position to tackle tough problems with ground-breaking tools and techniques.”

It’s time to break some ground.

Join the Innovation Revolution and crack some problems worth solving.

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Categories: Blogs

How To Get Innovation to Succeed Instead of Fail

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 02:44

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” – Peter Drucker

I’m diving deeper into patterns and practices for innovation.

Along the way, I’m reading and re-reading some great books on the art and science of innovation.

One innovation book I’m seriously enjoying is Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs by Larry Keeley, Helen Walters, Ryan Pikkel, and Brian Quinn.

Right up front, Larry Keeley shares some insight into the journey to this book.  He says that this book really codifies, structures, and simplifies three decades of experience from Doblin, a consulting firm focused on innovation.

For more than three decades, Doblin tried to answer the following question:

“How do we get innovation to succeed instead of fail?” 

Along the journey, there were a few ideas that they used to bridge the gap in innovation between the state of the art and the state of the practice.

Here they are …

Balance 3 Dimensions of Innovation (Theoretical Side + Academic Side + Applied Side)

Larry Keeley and his business partner Jay Doblin, a design methodologist, always balanced three dimensions of innovation: a theoretical side, an academic side, and an applied side.

Via Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs:

“Over the years we have kept three important dimensions in dynamic tension.  We have a theoretical side, where we ask and seek real answers to tough questions about innovation.  Simple but critical ones like, 'Does brainstorming work?' (it doesn't), along with deep and systemic ones like, 'How do you really know what a user wants when the user doesn't know either?'  We have an academic side, since many of us are adjunct professors at Chicago's Institute of Design and this demands that we explain our ideas to smart young professionals in disciplined, distinctive ways.  And third, we have an applied side, in that have been privileged to adapt our innovation methods to many of the world's leading global enterprises and start-ups that hanker to be future leading firms.”

Effective Innovation Needs a Blend of Analysis + Synthesis

Innovation is a balance and blend of analysis and synthesis.  Analysis involves tearing things down, while synthesis is building new things up.

Via Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs:

“From the beginning, Doblin has itself been interdisciplinary, mixing social sciences, technology, strategy, library sciences, and design into a frothy admixture that has always tried to blend both analysis, breaking tough things down, with synthesis, building new things up.  Broadly, we think any effective innovation effort needs plenty of both, stitched together as a seamless whole.”

Orchestrate the Ten Types of Innovation to Make a Game-Changing Innovation

Game-changing innovation is an orchestration of the ten types of innovation.

Via Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs:

“The heart of this book is built around a seminal Doblin discovery: that there are (and have always been) ten distinct types of innovation that need to be orchestrated with some care to make a game-changing innovation.“

The main idea is that innovation fails if you try to solve it with just one dimension.

You can’t just take a theoretical approach, and hope that it works in the real-world.

At the same time, innovation fails if you don’t leverage what we learn from the academic world and actually apply it.

And, if you know the ten types of innovation, you can focus your efforts more precisely.

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The Story of a Digital Artist

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 17:35

I’m always on the hunt for people that do what makes them come alive.

Artists in particular are especially interesting for me, especially when they are able to do what they love.

I’ve known too many artists that lived painful lives, trying to be an artist, but never making ends meet.

I’ve also known too many artists that lived another life outside of art, but never really lived, because they never answered their calling.

I believe that in today’s world, there are a lot more options for you to live life on you terms.

With technology at our fingertips, it’s easier to connect with people around the world and share your art, whatever that may be.

On Sources of Insight, I’ve asked artist Rebecca Tsien to share her story:

Why I Draw People and Animals

It’s more than a story of a digital artist.   It’s a journey of fulfillment.

Rebecca has found a way to do what she loves.  She lives and breathes her passion.

Maybe her story can inspire you.

Maybe there’s a way you can do more art.

Categories: Blogs

The Myths of Business Model Innovation

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 19:37

Business model innovation has a couple of myths.

One myth is that business model innovation takes big thinking.  Another myth about business model innovation is that technology is the answer.

In the book, The Business Model Navigator, Oliver Gassman, Karolin Frankenberger, and Michaela Csik share a couple of myths that need busting so that more people can actually achieve business model innovation.

The "Think Big" Myth

Business model innovation does not need to be “big bang.”  It can be incremental.  Incremental changes can create more options and more opportunities for serendipity.

Via The Business Model Navigator:

“'Business model innovations are always radical and new to the world.'   Most people associate new business models with the giants leaps taken by Internet companies.  The fact is that business model innovation, in the same way as product innovation, can be incremental.  For instance, Netflix's business model innovation of mailing DVDs to customers was undoubtedly incremental and yet brought great success to the company.  The Internet opened up new avenues for Netflix that allowed the company to steadily evolve into an online streaming service provider.”

The Technology Myth

It’s not technology for technology’s sake.  It’s applying technology to revolutionize a business that creates the business model innovation.

Via The Business Model Navigator:

“'Every business model innovation is based on a fascinating new technology that inspires new products.'  The fact is that while new technologies can indeed drive new business models, they are often generic in nature.  Where creativity comes in is in applying them to revolutionize a business.  It is the business application and the specific use of the technology which makes the difference.  Technology for technology's sake is the number one flop factor in innovation projects.  The truly revolutionary act is that of uncovering the economic potential of a new technology.”

If you want to get started with business model innovation, don’t just go for the home run.

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Life Quotes That Will Change Your Life

Sat, 04/18/2015 - 08:41

Life’s better with the right words.

And life quotes can help us live better.

Life quotes are a simple way to share some of the deepest insights on the art of living, and how to live well.

While some people might look for wisdom in a bottle, or in a book, or in a guru at the top of a mountain, surprisingly, a lot of the best wisdom still exists as quotes.

The problem is they are splattered all over the Web.

The Ultimate Life Quotes Collection

My ultimate Life Quotes collection is an attempt to put the best quotes right at your fingertips.

I wanted this life quotes collection to answer everything from “What is the meaning of life?” to “How do you live the good life?” 

I also wanted this life quotes collection to dive deep into all angles of life including dealing with challenges, living with regrets, how to find your purpose, how to live with more joy, and ultimately, how to live a little better each day.

The World’s Greatest Philosophers at Your Fingertips

Did I accomplish all that?

I’m not sure.  But I gave it the old college try.

I curated quotes on life from an amazing set of people including Dr. Seuss, Tony Robbins, Gandhi, Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Dean, George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, Confucius, Jonathan Swift, Henry David Thoreau, and more.

Yeah, it’s a pretty serious collection of life quotes.

Don’t Die with Your Music Still In You

There are many messages and big ideas among the collection of life quotes.  But perhaps one of the most important messages is from the late, great Henry David Thoreau:

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” 

And, I don’t think he meant play more Guitar Hero.

If you’re waiting for your chance to rise and shine, chances come to those who take them.

Not Being Dead is Not the Same as Being Alive

E.E. Cummings reminds us that there is more to living than simply existing:

“Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.” 

And the trick is to add more life to your years, rather than just add more years to your life.

Define Yourself

Life quotes teach us that living live on your terms starts by defining yourself.  Here are big, bold words from Harvey Fierstein that remind us of just that:

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”

Now is a great time to re-imagine all that you’re capable of.

We Regret the Things We Didn’t Do

It’s not usually the things that we do that we regret.  It’s the things we didn’t do:

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.”  – John Greenleaf Whittier

Have you answered to your calling?

Leave the World a Better Place

One sure-fire way that many people find their path is they aim to leave the world at least a little better than they found it.

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s a reminder that we can measure our life by the lives of the people we touch.

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Boost Your Confidence with the Right Words

Fri, 04/10/2015 - 04:13

Confidence is one of those things that makes all the difference when it comes to realizing your potential.

So many people have great ideas and great ambitions, but lack the confidence to follow through when it counts.

They hold themselves back.

Their amazing and bold ideas turn into lackluster ideas, as fear starts talking (if they talk at all.)

A while back, a team in HR interviewed me on confidence, because enough people pointed back to me as somebody they saw as confident.

What HR wanted to know is, where does my confidence come from?

For me, it mostly came from a relentless focus on making impact.

I put my focus on doing great things, creating raving fan customers, and taking on big challenges.

Where you put your focus, instantly changes your confidence.

If you’re too worried about how you look or how you sound, then you aren’t putting enough focus on the amazing thing you are trying to do.

So it wasn’t confidence per se.  It was more like putting my focus on the right things.

But there was more to it.  I was confident because of a few basic beliefs:

  1. I believed I’ll figure it out
  2. I believed that if I screw up, I’ll learn faster
  3. I believed that I don’t need to be the answer, but that I can always find the answer

Another thing that helped is that one of our leaders was relentless about “exposing our thinking.”   He wanted us to always detach ourselves from our ideas.   He wanted us to present ideas without being attached to them so they could be criticized and evaluated in more objective ways.

This sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how difficult it can be to detach yourself from ideas.   But the beauty is that when you are able to do this, your focus changes from defending your ideas, to really helping to create better ideas.   And this little shift takes you from fear or lack of confidence, to purposeful exploration, with full confidence.

Anyway, I think we become the thoughts that we think, so I think it’s really important to fill our head with the right words on confidence.

To that end, here is roundup of some of the greatest confidence quotes of all time:

Confidence Quotes

See if you can find at least three that you can use to help add more juice to your day.

If there is one that I find myself referring to all the time, to remind myself to get up to bat, it’s this one:

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William Shedd

I learned it long ago, and it’s served me well, ever since.

While that one reminds me to do what I do best, it’s really this one that inspires me to expand what I’m capable of:

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” — Anaïs Nin

I hope you find the right words that give your confidence just the boost it needs, when you need it most.

JD

Categories: Blogs

Trends for 2015

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 17:13

It’s time to blow your mind with the amazing things going on around the world.

Each year, I try to create a bird’s-eye view of key trends.   It’s a mash up of all the changes in technology, consumerism, and ideas that seem to be taking off.

Here are my trends for 2015:

Trends for 2015:  The Year of Digital Transformation

I call it the year of Digital Transformation because of the encroachment of technology into all things business, work, and life.

Technology is everywhere (and it’s on more wrists than I’ve ever seen before.)

What’s different now is how the combination of Cloud + Mobile + Social + Big Data + Internet-of-Things are really changing how business gets done.  Businesses around the world are using Cloud, Mobile, Social, Big Data, and Internet-of-Things to leap frog ahead of their competitors and to differentiate in new and exciting ways.

Businesses around the world are using technology to gains insights and to shape their customer experience, transform their workforce, and streamline their back-office operations.

It’s a new race for leadership positions in the Digital Economy.   With infinite compute and capacity, along with new ways to connect around the world, business leaders and IT leaders are re-imagining the art of the possible for their businesses.

While Cloud, Mobile, Social, Big Data, and Internet-of-Things might be the backbone of the changes all around us, it’s business model innovation that is bringing these changes to the market and helping them take hold.

Here is a preview of 10 key trends from Trends for 2015:  The Year of Digital Transformation:

  1. The Age of Instant Gratification.
  2. It’s a Mobile Everything World.
  3. Businesses Look to the Cloud.
  4. Internet of Things (IoT)
  5. Design is everywhere.
  6. Economy Re-Imagined (“The Circular Economy”)
  7. Culture of Health.
  8. Money is Reimagined (“The Future of Payments and Currency”)
  9. Digital Personal Assistants are Everywhere.
  10. Renegades and Rebels Rule the World

As a tip, when you read the post, try to scan it first, all the way down, so you can see the full collection of ideas.  Then circle back and slow down to really absorb the full insight.   You’ll find that you’ll start to see more patterns across the trends, and you’ll start to connect more dots.

I designed the post to make it easy to scan, as well as to read it end-to-end in depth.  I think it’s more valuable to be able to quickly take the balcony view, before diving in.   This way, you get more of a full picture view of what’s happening around the world.  Even if you don’t master all the trends, a little bit of awareness can actually go a long way. 

In fact, you might surprise yourself as some of the trends pop into your mind, while you’re working on something completely different.   By having the trends at my fingertips, I’m finding myself seeing new patterns in business, along with new ways that technology can enhance our work and life.

Trends actually become a vocabulary for generating and shaping new ideas.   There are so many ways to arrange and re-arrange the constellation of ideas.  You’ll find that I paid a lot of attention to the naming of each trend.  I tried to share what was already pervasive and sticky, or if it was complicated, I tried to turn it into something more memorable.

Use the trends as fodder and insight as you pave your way through your own Digital Transformation.

Categories: Blogs