Thursday, April 19, 2018

Strategy and Tactics at Point of Value

Point-of-Work (PoW) is where measurable business outcomes are generated…or they’re lost…if not lost…compromised. – Gary Wise

Gary Wise has been a leading thinker in the Performance Support space for years.  He’s been banging the drum for workforce capability and thinking in terms of point-of-work publically for almost 10 years.  He was one of the key influencers in my instructional design career.

His recent posts have me thinking about projects and how they often stop short at value delivery.

Though there is significantly more discussion in the project management space around value and how projects are (or should be) designed to deliver business value, most projects in practice still focus on getting the deliverable out the door. Training, performance support, any change management, or discussion of how this impacts the organization’s customers are often considered at the last minute – if they are considered at all.

We got the thing out the door on time and on budget. Hooray!

Then no one uses it.

Or…worse…the successful project has a negative impact on the business.

We need to start looking further down-stream and longer term.

Here’s some ideas I’m kicking around right now – triggered from Gary’s recent post  Adopting a Strategic Re-Think

He talks about this from a Learning and Development perspective, but I think he’s on to something broader.

Let me list my assumptions.  These are some initial thoughts and I would love some feedback to let me know how far off the mark I am.

A project is an investment that will allow the organization to better serve its customers, either directly or indirectly. (I’m going to file any project triggered by changing compliance requirements as indirect service to customers – humor me here).

The interaction between the organization (often through its employees, with potentially a gatekeeper in between) and its customers is what I am going to call the Point of Value.  The organization exists and thrives if it is able to provide value to its customers.

For an employee to better serve its customers, the organization is looking for what Gary calls Sustained Workforce Capability in the knowledge and skills needed to deliver customer value through the organization.

As Gary argues, training is one tool to drive Sustained Workforce Capability. It does so by reducing the time-to-competency for new knowledge and skills.  However, training is NOT the ONLY tool that needs to be used. Appropriate longer-term supports and environments at the Point of Work for the employee are also necessary to embed these behaviors that will (ultimately) provide customer value.

Designing projects such that the “definition of done” for the project occurs at the point of usability and utilizes the appropriate metrics to determine the business impact of project deliverables.

You can’t design a project that ends at “we got the thing out the door.”

You can’t even design a project that ends at “we did training and went live.”

The project end is really when the longer-term supports are in place, the new system has stabilized, and you are starting to see the impact of your project deliverable on the business.

My experience has been to give it a good 2-3 months after “go live” to clean up any leftover business and allow the system to stabilize with no major configuration changes.  From there, the business can see whether the project helped or hurt, issues that have surfaced with adoption, and what changes need to be made next to get closer to the vision.



Gary’s blog, Living in Learning, is an encyclopedia of useful ideas and tools for workforce performance and how workforce performance impacts the organization.  It’s not just about “training.”

DRIVER – A Repeatable, Agile, Discipline to Generate Learning Performance Guidance

DRIVER: Enabling a Strategic Re-Think for L&D

DRIVER – Avoiding the Paralysis of Fear & Loathing of CHANGE

Performance Support & “The Art of War”

Data Analytics Vs. Tsunami

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Definition of “Done” – Have one

In too many activities, a definition of “done” seems to be missing.

I don’t know about you, but when I have too many unfinished things on my plate – my performance suffers.

Every unfinished activity has a cognitive load attached.

If something is not “done,” – it tends to hang out in my head and simmer there.

Too many of these things and it gets overwhelming.

One of the environmental characteristics of the flow state is clarity of goals.

Goals have many levels. At the basic day-to-day, what are you trying to accomplish?

What does a completed state look like?

If you don’t know, or if everyone involved has a different definition, it’s going to be tough to know how you are doing and next to impossible to determine progress.

That activity, without a definition of done, becomes a resource sink for both money and time.

Furthermore, it makes it difficult to move on to other opportunities.

Your resources will continue to be tied up in the never-ending project.

The definition of “done” should be explicitly spelled out and agreed to by all parties.

What are the criteria that need to be met to consider something complete?

These criteria can include deliverables and quality standards for those deliverables.

Example – The project team has determined that the best approach to communicate to the end-user, with the resources they have available, is written end-user training documentation.

The project team decides that the end-user training document is complete when:

  • All written content identified for development is 100% complete with no grammatical or spelling errors
  • All graphics have been completed and laid out in the manual
  • The table of contents is complete and accurate
  • 95% of the target audience easily understands the document and can follow the instructions without further guidance.
  • The document is ready for conversion to PDF and distribution via email to the end-user.

The Agile Alliance recommends posting that definition someplace visible to keep everyone on track.

This activity helps maintain clarity of goals.  You know what you are working towards and you know how close you are.

These definitions can (and should) be created at multiple levels.  You can create them per user story and/or per deliverable and create an over-arching one for the project.


I have encountered significant resistance in creating a concrete definition of “done.”

I’ve heard fears around the lack of flexibility, as well as the fears around the accountability demanded when you have stated explicitly what you are going to do.  I’m sorry, but accountability is necessary to get anything done.

However, I do think the fears around the “lack of flexibility” are unfounded.

The flex remains in how you get from where you are at to “done.”

To use the example I mentioned above – the definition of done may be a training document with no spelling errors and understandable by 95% of your target audience, but the document itself can be one page or many pages, leverage graphics in interesting ways, be serious or fun. As long as the document meets the definition of “done” for that deliverable and helps the greater project to deliver the promised value, you are golden.

You can use the concept of “definition of done” for projects (which should have one anyway – traditionally managed projects call this scope) and for personal activities (ie – when is my part “done” such that I don’t have to think about it anymore).

All I ask is that you develop the discipline of defining “done” and finishing activities.

I’ve found over the years that those disciplines go a long way towards reducing overwhelm.



Saturday, April 14, 2018

#52books How to Change the World


#52 Books – How to Change the World: Change Management 3.0

Format: Softcover Booklet

Jurgen Appelo has taken 4 common models and combined them into what he calls a “supermodel.”

  • Dance with the System – PDCA or Plan, Do, Check, Act
  • Mind the People – AKDAR or Ability, Knowledge, Desire, Awareness, and Reinforcement
  • Stimulate the Network – the Adoption Curve and focusing on the right people
  • Change the Environment – the 5 I or Information, Identity, Incentives, Infrastructure, and Institutions

He then goes into some detail about what he has learned as a management consultant as he applied the models.  There are some quick-shot ideas to try and stories of what worked and what didn’t in his consulting practice.

I’m a fan of this approach. No need to reinvent the wheel and develop a complicated framework with new terminology.  The 4 models he selected have become 21st century classics for a reason.

This booklet is a quick introduction into change agency and a jumping-off point for deeper study and worth a 45 minute read.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

How to Eliminate Noise

Michael Hyatt and his daughter Megan, in a recent Lead to Win podcast on the Cost of Overwork, observed that current technologies have made this an incredibly noisy world.

The whole podcast is worth a listen (or read – I linked to the transcript above).  However, what struck me wasn’t the cost of overwork (high), it was their observations of how we are doing this to ourselves through our technologies.

Social media services like Facebook… This is one of the dark sides of that particular service. We can get such a quick dopamine hit we don’t develop a tolerance for boredom and we don’t stay in these spaces where there aren’t the measurable results. I also think behind all that is fear. It’s like fear of missing out. “If I say no to that opportunity, if I say no to that project, maybe I won’t be promoted. Maybe I won’t advance as quickly as I would like.” Maybe it’s just fear of the unknown.  – Michael Hyatt

Beyond that – they noted that our digital productivity tools feel like we spend more time playing with our digital productivity tools. Our almost unlimited access to information these days makes it harder for us to find and filter what we need.

Worse, our technologies require us to run the gauntlet of distractions, people demanding our attention, and noise.

How many of you have been interrupted while looking for information on a Slack channel?

Have you taken a course that leveraged Facebook for its community participation and found yourself surfing your feed before getting to your group? How much time did THAT take?

What is your experience with Messenger apps? Email?  How much weeding do you need to do before getting to real information or real work?

And this is just desktop. Now let’s add your mobile phone and all of the notifications and the difficulty of shutting off all of the notifications.

We are in a time that requires us to get focused and stick to that focus. Find a north star and walk towards it.

Say “no” regularly and brutally cull anything that doesn’t apply to our direction and destination.

Our individual and collective sanity may depend on it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Window of Tolerance

The concept of Window of Tolerance is a useful one to help us understand why we feel so stressed in today’s working environments.

The original theory comes from Childhood Development.

I’ve observed the same behaviors in adults as well.

Also, many of the same solutions.

Are the environments you are creating around yourself safe or stressful?

How are your interactions with others?

How much time are you spending in fight or flight (chaos state)?

Alternately, how much time are you spending in freeze or numbness (rigidity)?

As adults, we are responsible for the environments we find ourselves in.


We have the responsibility to get ourselves back within our personal window of tolerance.

We have the option to walk away.

We have the option to find better coping mechanisms.

We have the option to pay attention to the things and people that support us.

We have the option to shut out the noise.


Take care of yourself.

Then, do your best to take care of others.

It’s the least we can do.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

#52books The Start-Up J Curve

#52 Books – The Start-Up J Curve: The Six Steps to Entrepreneurial Success (Amazon affiliate link)

Format: Kindle

Since I started Middle Curve, I’ve been struck by how much noise there is in the entrepreneurial space.  All the things one “must do to succeed.”  It’s overwhelming.

Howard Love has created a map.  And he is NOT arguing to “go find venture capital money and scale RIGHT NOW.”  He’s about building solid foundations and habits.  Asking questions and identifying problems that the people around you have.  EXPECTING the downturn after the initial excitement of starting.

Howard identified 6 stages that many new businesses will go through and what to expect in each.  He emphasizes the activities to focus on, and what to set aside for later.  He talks about how early start-ups should expect to morph as they learn more about their customers. He talks about how a business takes longer to work than expected.  The inevitable difficult time.

I got through the first chapter and thought “Thank-friggin-goodness someone wrote this.”  I’m not alone.

I’ve been revamping Middle Curve once I realized my initial model wouldn’t scale and wasn’t sustainable.

From Howard’s definition, I’m about to finish the Create phase and am about to go into the Release phase. He talks about the procrastination and perfectionism gremlins that pop up during this transition.

Wow! No kidding!

I’m just happy that someone has identified patterns around the reality of starting (or re-starting) a business.  He identifies the blocks and hazards. He clearly talks about ways to identify and overcome them.

I am grateful that this book landed in my hands when it has.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Following a North Star

The North Star analogy, to me, has two components.

The first component – an unattainable target.  One that, at least, has you walking in the right direction.

The second component – looking at your immediate environment to see how you can best walk in that direction.

Often, when I hear people talk of “Following their North Star,” I get an image of someone marching through a desert.

There are not many obstacles.  It’s pretty clear sailing. They can keep looking up at their star without the fear of walking into a wall or tripping on a curb.

The reality, in my experience, is more like navigating through varied terrain.

Yes, there are clear spots where you can keep looking up and not worry so much about falling or crashing into things.

But there are also areas where you need to bushwhack.

Or go east to find a clearer path. Or move west to find a better place to cross the raging river.

Navigating by using a North Star is an exercise in finding the star, looking at what is in front of you, maneuvering the next right step, finding the star again, looking at what is in front of you, maneuvering the next right step, rinse, repeat.

It winds up being more of a zig-zag path filled with backtracks and detours vs. a nice, linear multi-lane superhighway.

The journey demands a clear focus on the north star AND the agility to maneuver the terrain in front of us.

Focusing back and forth between near and far-sighted.

Stopping to evaluate and check our navigation occasionally.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Allow the Gap

I’ve learned over the years that when my calendar looks suspiciously empty, something is up.

The smartest thing I’ve done in awhile was to not try to fill the space myself.  Allow the emptiness.

Let the time fill itself up as it needs to.

This time gap, it turned out, filled itself with the need to create space to be with family.

Both my family of birth and my family of choice.

I’m fortunate to be surrounded by people that I care enough about to miss when they are gone.

I’m fortunate to be surrounded by people that I want to be with as we grieve together.

I’m fortunate to have clients who understand and are willing to provide me with some space as I sit with family and friends as the generations transition.

Thank you.

In all of the noise and the quest to be busy and productive – creating space for things to happen may be the most important thing we do.

The quickest way to create space is to not fill up the new found time.

Allow for serendipity.  Allow things to just happen.

Sit for a bit. Enjoy that bit of quiet.

Ultimately, the stuff that needs to get done will get done when it needs to get done.

This past month was a good reminder.

The relationships I have and build are infinitely more important than any deadline or to-do list.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

#52books The 12 Week Year

#52 Books – The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months (Amazon Affiliate Link)

Format: Hardcover

Brian Moran and Michael Lennington’s main argument is that we need to think in terms of quarters vs annually when it comes to evaluation and goal-setting.

It’s not the argument that is most compelling – any project manager or manager familiar with Agile, Scrum, and Sprints can tell you the power of thinking in small, achievable chunks.

What I find compelling in this book are Brian Moran and Michael Lennington’s choice of definition of accountability and their emphasis on the importance of aligning one’s business/career vision to their personal vision (and NOT the other way around – which is what most of us do), and their steps for creating a plan one can actually use.

  • Accountability – Moran and Lennington take their definition of accountability straight from Peter Kosterbaum and Peter Block’s Freedom and Accountability at Work: Applying Philosophic Insight to the Real World (Amazon affiliate link). Accountability = ownership.  Accountability = personal sovereignty.  Accountability, according to this definition, is NOT something someone else does to you or can do for you.  Your managers claim to “hold you accountable.” What they are doing is trying to motivate you to do something for them that you may or may not have taken ownership of.  This alternate definition forces one to look in the mirror and take responsibility for one’s choices.  I don’t know which is scarier.
  • The importance of aligning your business/career to your LIFE – If you are being externally motivated to do things, how close is the alignment of your job to how you want your life to look. If the business/career goal doesn’t align with your life vision, how inspired are you to work towards the goal?  How quickly are you going to give up, or do something else, or find another distraction?
  • Creating an actionable plan you have a fighting chance of following – As with many of the authors I’ve encountered of late, they insist on vision, focus, measurement, and getting VERY honest with yourself if you are not following the plan you laid out.

The first part of the book is theoretical.  The second part of the book is the step-by-step.

In the second part, they divide the practical application into individual and team considerations. For each, they include pitfalls and tips.  It’s obvious these two know what they are talking about from their troubleshooting tips.

This book nicely bridges the gap between The Perfect Day Formula, which is focused on defining the perfect day and week for individual execution, and The 4 Disciplines of Execution, which is more focused on team applications and longer-term execution.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Learning Can Change the World

My friends at Learning Ninjas are in the running for the FedEx Small Business Grant.
They need your vote. Click the link below.

Vote Here

Learning can change the world.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Thoughts on Priorities

Picture of Barbara Rouse

I’m writing this in a hotel room outside Cocoa, Florida.  Mom and I drove 16+ hours (not all at once, thankfully) so we could be with family and mourn my Aunt Barbara’s passing. This was one of the sudden ones and, for me, it wasn’t until the funeral that I realized that she was gone.

She was the most elegant woman I knew and an incredibly welcoming and accepting person – curious about my adventures and encouraging me to be my best self (even if that meant dragging me to the Merle Norman to get my eyebrows waxed).

I am blessed to have the vast majority of my family members as part of my tribe and people I look forward to seeing.

It’s important to me to be able to drop everything and be able to be present (to the best of my ability) for the family.  I’m doing my best to structure my business and my life to allow that level of flex and presence.

This is what the personal “why” is about.

Dropping my work plans was a no-brainer against that metric.

Does it sometimes feel like I “should” be doing something else?  Yup.  There are so many messages telling us we must “grind” and “hustle.”  Sometimes, that all has to stop for more important things.

Like being in the car for Mom as she drives down I-95, somewhat shell-shocked that her elegant, graceful older sister is gone.

Like sitting on the seawall reeling in another catfish from the backyard while letting a cousin talk it out.

Like listening to another cousin as he tries to project manage all the things that need to happen in and amongst shock and grief and unknown resources.

Like catching up with cousins and second-cousins I almost never see – save for weddings, funerals, and important events.

Am I late with newsletters and posts? Yup.

Am I behind on my launches and sales and marketing? Yup.

Will I regret coming down to Florida, spending quality time with my Mother, and adding more memories to the extended family file?  Absolutely not.

Rest in peace, Barbara.  And thank you so much for all of your love.

May I age as gracefully as you and develop even half of your grace and elegance.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

#52books The Elite Consulting Mind

#52books The Elite Consulting Mind: 16 Proven Mindsets to Attract More Clients, Increase Your Income, and Achieve Meaningful Success (Amazon Affiliate Link)

Format: Kindle

I’m reading books on mindset these days.

I’m a firm believer in the adage that your environment and your life reflects you.

Now that I’m independent, the truth of that adage is even more evident.

It’s critical that I have my head screwed on straight.

That I’m congruent in my thoughts, words, and actions – to the best of my ability.

I’m open to any tools that will help.

Michael Zipursky has identified common mindset gaps he’s identified over the course of his consulting practice.

Everything from mistaking planning for action to undervaluing your experience to trying to do too much – he addresses the majority of the most common mistakes.  Those mistakes are a result of mindset.

I’ve personally fallen into all the traps.

The book is part of a sales funnel for his consulting business – the next step he wants you to take is joining his Accelerator Coaching Program.   I’ve used coaches myself and having that level of accountability is helpful, especially when trying to level-up or doing something new and scary.

The book, however, can stand alone as an introduction to common consulting traps.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

So How’s That Working For Ya?

The dreaded question.

Anyone who has spent time with business coaches has heard this one.

It comes out when the coach has identified one of your blind spots.

A pattern of behavior that isn’t working.

And you don’t see it. OR you are holding onto it for dear life because it is familiar.

I hated it when Matt asked me that question.  “So how’s that working for ya?”

Got me. (internal shame spiral because I think I should know better)

Now what?

I think he asked me “So how’s that working for ya?” at least once per session during our coaching engagements together.

As uncomfortable as that question is – “So how’s that working for ya?” is the question that has improved my life the most.

It forces me to think about what I am doing and why I am doing it?

It forces me to find alternatives that will better move me towards my goals.

What’s currently eating your lunch?

How are you dealing with the problem right now?

And…how’s that working for ya?

Matt Cross is an awesome business coach and has been one of my coaches for years. I’m not affiliated, just sharing information 🙂  Schedule a call with him at 

Overwhelmed by busywork?

Want more time to focus on the things that are most important to you?

Join the Flowbox – a subscription service containing short videos, tools, and templates to help you overcome overwhelm, reduce meaningless busywork, and find flow in your work and your life.

Use the coupon betatestmonthly for 20% off the first 6 months of your subscription.

10% of all subscription fees received through December 31, 2018, will go to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

#52books Coaching for Performance

#52Books – Coaching for Performance Fifth Edition: The Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership UPDATED 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Amazon Affiliate Link)

Format: Softcover


My primary skill-building goal for the year – get better at coaching.

Any problems I’ve had on projects have, at their core, been people issues.

It is to be expected.

We can’t control people.

What we CAN do is to try to develop ourselves so that people are more likely to behave in the manner we desire. Or, at least, feel ok about our part of the interaction.  I don’t know about you, but whenever I “lose it,” I usually feel terrible for a long time afterward.

Sir John Whitmore and Coaching for Performance is the classic coaching textbook for people who want the skills, but aren’t necessarily out to become a “life coach.”

The emphasis is on professional performance. In his final edition, he provides question streams, the GROW (Goals, Reality, Options, What you will do), and ways to measure the effectiveness of this approach.

The Agile (and any Agile-hybrid) approach requires Project Managers to be more like coaches and mentors. This would be the first reference I would give someone if they find themselves wanting to move to a coaching-style of management.

There’s a reason why this book, in its five editions, is a classic.  I’ve already got this book beat-up and dog-eared. High praise for a reference.

Overwhelmed by busywork?

Want more time to focus on the things that are most important to you?

Join the Flowbox – a subscription service containing short videos, tools, and templates to help you overcome overwhelm, reduce meaningless busywork, and find flow in your work and your life.

Use the coupon betatestmonthly for 20% off the first 6 months of your subscription.

10% of all subscription fees received through December 31, 2018, will go to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Asking Questions

Doug Rose, in his course Learning Data Science: Ask Great Questions, observed that in most organizations, questions are seen as (and often are) confrontational.

Questions are saved for bad news and to show displeasure.

Questions are used as political weapons.

Questions are interpreted as a sign of ignorance.

Is it any wonder we are afraid of asking interesting questions? Or even asking ANY questions?

I’ve been fortunate to spend most of my career as the History/Education major in a room full of engineers.

The “trainer.”

I treated that role as an opportunity to ask all of the “dumb” questions that everyone else was too afraid to ask.

Starting with school, and through our working life, we have been trained to be afraid of asking questions.

Time to change that.

It starts with us.

  1. Start asking questions, no matter how stupid they seem to you.  Chances are, someone else in the room has the same question.
  2. If you get the eye-rolling, impatient or whatever response from the responder, repeat the following to yourself: “It’s not personal. Their response is theirs.”
  3. Observe when you are impatient with others’ questions.  We have so much information thrown at us on a daily basis, is it any wonder we have to ask the same thing repeatedly to make it stick?
  4. Try not to ask the same thing twice with the same person 🙂  Be fully present for the response you receive.

Questioning / Answering is a form of Giving / Receiving.

Done well, we can build relationships and make each others’ lives a little bit easier.

What question have you asked today?

Overwhelmed by busywork?

Want more time to focus on the things that are most important to you?

Join the Flowbox – a subscription service containing short videos, tools, and templates to help you overcome overwhelm, reduce meaningless busywork, and find flow in your work and your life.

Use the coupon betatestmonthly for 20% off the first 6 months of your subscription.

10% of all subscription fees received through December 31, 2018, will go to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

How to Avoid Dysfunctional Organizations

In The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse: How to Spot Moral Meltdowns in Companies… Before It’s Too Late (Amazon affiliate link), Marianne Jennings defined the warning signs of a dysfunctional organization:

  1. Pressure to “meet the numbers.”  And those numbers are often wildly unreasonable.
  2. Fear, silence, and sycophancy.  If you are new to an organization – check your vibes and the body language of the line staff.
  3. A larger-than-life CEO and suspiciously young or inexperienced direct reports.  I tend to be suspicious of “cult-leaders” anyway. Too many years as a grad student will do that.  As a result, I haven’t personally seen this dynamic in action in an organization.  Frankly, in this day and age, “larger-than-life” CEO should at least be a trigger for some significant investigation into a company before joining them.
  4. A weak board. I would also add a board focused on “meeting the numbers.”  The organizations I’ve worked for have typically been purpose-driven. When the board moves away from a focus on the purpose (say…improving the student experience) and begins to focus on numbers (e.g. cutting costs) – I’ve found that signs of dysfunction show up in that organization quickly.
  5. A culture of conflicts (of interest).  Too many relatives in one place sitting in key positions raises red flags in my head.  I’ve seen that work well…once. Nepotism policies exist for a reason. If you are coming in as an outsider and you are not in complete agreement with one of the “core team” – good luck.
  6. “Innovation like no other.”  Jennings defines this as company leadership who see themselves as the “visionaries who can reinvent business.” I’ve learned that any organization that thinks they are that special and different have a lot of waste and organizational bleed. And good luck trying to make any business process improvements, or getting through a technology implementation or upgrade without blowing your budget and customizing your solution past the point of usefulness. I treat companies that claim to be innovative with the same suspicion I treat people who claim to be professional if they haven’t provided evidence.
  7. “Goodness in some areas atones for evil in others.”  Jennings notes this as companies using faux philanthropy and social goodness – hoping it will offset cooked books, fraud, etc.  I think it’s deeper than that. For me, this sign is about looking at what the day-to-day is like vs. the special events.  How does the organization treat their employees on a daily basis vs. during the designated celebration times and special events (like the annual employee of the year ceremony).  What does recognition look like? Who gets recognized and rewarded with promotions, raises, interesting projects etc. vs a shiny plaque? What behaviors are reinforced daily?

Looking back at my career, it struck me as I read this that seeing changes in one of these areas is a key sign that the organization is changing.  Either for the good, such as working to standardize processes and focusing on improving the day-to-day, or the bad, such as a new leader who only listens to sycophants.

The great thing about today’s workplace is that we are the means of production. Our knowledge. Our energy.

We are the scarce resource.

It’s OK to move to an environment that better suits your needs.

Overwhelmed by busywork?

Want more time to focus on the things that are most important to you?

Join the Flowbox – a subscription service containing short videos, tools, and templates to help you overcome overwhelm, reduce meaningless busywork, and find flow in your work and your life.

Use the coupon betatestmonthly for 20% off the first 6 months of your subscription.

10% of all subscription fees received through December 31, 2018, will go to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.



Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Being Courageous In The Workplace

Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others - Winston Churchill

Lance Secretan states that courage is the foundational ingredient required for leaders.

It takes courage to speak your truth in environments that may not be ready to hear what you say.

It takes courage to admit you don’t know the answers, to apologize, to make mistakes, to be authentic, to take the first steps towards the unknown.

It takes courage to risk rejection, to face criticism, to rise above intimidation.

A recent conversation had me thinking about courage in the workplace.

What is it about the environments that we are in that makes it so scary to be our authentic selves?

Why does it take so much courage, in so many workplaces, to be truthful?

During that conversation, I realized that I have been in something of a privileged position in the workplaces that I have functioned in.

  1. Being the “trainer” in IT departments usually means being the least technical (and therefore dumbest) person in the room. Since expectations of my understanding are low, it’s easier for me to ask what appear to be obvious questions.
  2. The environments I’ve worked have rewarded that behavior from me – if not with the usual social awards such as promotions. The reward has been in the conversations after the fact and the relationships built as a result. The one-on-one thank yous for opening up the conversation. The built reputation for being a “truth-teller.” The meetings with new executives whose first sentence is often “they told me to come talk to you.”  And, occasionally, the changes that are made to projects or policy or activities as a result.  I didn’t see this when I was in the environment. Only now, with some distance, am I seeing the rewards for what they truly are.
  3. I was lucky to be in an environment in my most recent job where I wasn’t the only truth-teller.  I have been blessed with colleagues who were masters at taking the air out of the room by exposing the elephant in it.  We had each other’s backs.  That was a blessing.  Not many people have that in their workplace.
  4. My last boss encouraged my truth-telling and helped me find the language so that the message was more palatable.
  5. In my current work, people are paying me to be courageous and tell the truth to them. It’s my job to tell people when things are going off the rails. It’s my job to help them avoid disaster, or show them how the decisions they are making may not lead to the outcomes they expect.
  6. Since I’m also working as an outsider, it’s easier for me to be truthful.  I don’t have promotions or bonuses on the line.
  7. I’ve concluded that it is more important to me to work with people and organizations who are willing to engage openly and authentically than it is to keep a client no matter what.  I am the scarce resource.

I’ve come to recognize that it is easier in some environments to be courageous than in others.

It’s easier to be courageous when you aren’t gunning for promotion and you have people in the environment who have your back.

It’s easier to be courageous when you have immediate managerial support and you are working from a place of inspiration.

The next question – how can we create those environments for others?

Overwhelmed by busywork?

Want more time to focus on the things that are most important to you?

Join the Flowbox – a subscription service containing short videos, tools, and templates to help you overcome overwhelm, reduce meaningless busywork, and find flow in your work and your life.

Use the coupon betatestmonthly for 20% off the first 6 months of your subscription.

10% of all subscription fees received through December 31, 2018, will go to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

#52books The Spark, The Flame, and The Torch

#52 Books – The Spark, the Flame, and the Torch:Inspire Self. Inspire Others. Inspire the World. (Amazon affiliate link)

Format: Kindle

“Life is a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he thinks into it” Ernest Holmes

Lance Secretan argues that we are now seeing in our economy and our workspaces exactly what we have been thinking. And it’s not working.

“Our social and corporate cultures have developed into ones that brilliantly reward the metrics of performance while overlooking the measures of the heart, and this has caused an evaporation of inspiration.”

So what?

People want to be inspired.

Inspiration, Secretan argues, is a result of a leader who is clear about WHY they are here (Destiny), how they will BE while they are here (Character) and what they have been called to DO (Calling).

“There are two givens that we all share:

  • Our passion is drawn to the things that excite us – positively and negatively
  • At our core, we all yearn to serve and improve the world”

Inspiring others means serving others.

Motivating others, as Secretan defines it, means serving self.

Practically everything we talk about in business and education is about “motivating”.

How do I get others to do X?

Secretan wants us to look within first and get clear on your destiny, character, and calling.  Then demonstrate that through your moment-to-moment interactions and consistent action.

He then moves out into the corporate environment and provides a few techniques for developing an inspirational vision for your organization.

For an inspirational vision to work, leaders need to prioritize employees, then customers, then shareholders (think Disney, Southwest Airlines, Nordstroms).  Too many organizations, Secretan noted, focus on shareholders first, then customers, and then (maybe) employees.

Secretan wrote that well before the recent tax law changes. In multiple surveys and summits, the majority of CEOs planned to spend the money for stock buybacks and dividends or mergers and acquisitions. Investing in the company (capital spend) or its workers was not as high a priority.

We’re hitting a point in our economy where having your own company and being a shareholder (no matter how small) is more secure, less soul-sucking, and has a higher probability of financial remuneration than being an employee somewhere.  This includes the risks involved in starting your own business.

The knowledge workers who these organizations need to grow and thrive in today’s environment are coming to that conclusion themselves.  Many of them are pro-actively deciding to go independent.  By 2020, more than 40% of US workers will be independent and that number will grow rapidly.

If you are in a leadership position, Secretan has provided a toolkit to help you staunch the bleeding of your best talent and become the leader that talent needs you to be.

It starts with you.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Values at Work

I’ve been reading a lot of leadership literature recently. A theme keeps appearing.


Personal values.

Define the values you want to live by. Use them as the foundation for your career and leadership style.

Typically, they will define the values you should follow for you.

And some will focus on how to get others to share those values.

Interestingly, I haven’t been in too many workplaces where values are deeply discussed – beyond “You really ought to have these values.”

  1. I don’t know how many people have deeply thought about the values they hold.  There’s not much in our society that encourages this.
  2. If they have thought about values, it’s more because someone has told them they should hold these values vs. questioning why they hold these values and whether the values they are holding (that they may have gotten from elsewhere) still work for them. Again, there is not much encouragement in our society for this level of reflection.
  3. If they are confident in the values they hold, their workplace is not a safe place to discuss these values.  Especially if the values they hold contradict either the stated values or the behavioral values.

I’m thinking that helping to cultivate a safe environment for deeply reflecting on, then sharing, personal values is key.

If I’m going to try and create this space for someone else, this looks like questioning, staying curious, and being open to the answer.

Most importantly, not trying to shift someone else’s values to look like mine.

I’m thinking more 1-1 time, being clear and open about the values I hold, and doing my best to deeply listen is part of it too.

What are the values you hold?

Why do you hold them?

What does a safe space for discussing values look like to you?

Want more time to focus on the things that are most important to you?

Join the Flowbox – a subscription service containing short videos, tools, and templates to help you overcome overwhelm, reduce meaningless busywork, and find flow in your work and your life.

Use the coupon betatestmonthly for 20% off the first 6 months of your subscription.

10% of all subscription fees received through December 31, 2018, will go to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Missing Deadlines

I am coming clean.

I missed my deadline for releasing my new service – Meaningful Flow.

I meant to release it in January and the newsletter the first week in February.

Both are out now, and I’ll provide all of the information at the bottom of this post. It’s all out later than I intended.

I have a visceral reaction when I miss deadlines or I’m late. Hate. It.  It’s even worse when others are waiting.

Right now, I want to provide a public apology for not doing what I said I was going to do when I said I was going to do it and share some lessons learned from this experience.

Lesson #1 – Minimum Viable Product, define what that looks like early.

I fell into the trap of trying to make this big, huge, monster of a thing and get all the pieces perfect. All at once.

You know – the thing I tell others NOT to do. Don’t try to do all the things all at once.  Yeah. That.

It happens.

So many great ideas.  The muse is beckoning.  Then the inner perfectionist gremlin begins to chime in. And it becomes one very loud, unfocused, unproductive party in my head. Paralysis sets in.

Best thing I did in this process – stopped as I started getting overwhelmed by all the things and defined a minimum viable product.

The benefit to this – I now have space to let clients and customers shape this so that it is more useful to THEM.

That’s a win for everyone.

Lesson #2 – Create a clear vision … and keep your eye on it

It is so easy to get into the weeds and lose sight of the vision.

I got distracted from my vision with a bunch of other stuff.  The things I thought I “should” do.

This is where having objective outsiders with a fresh eye to talk to are invaluable.

I had a key one-hour conversation with Julia, a marketing consultant out of the UK.

We had never talked before.  She reminded me of my vision, then helped me take all of the random pieces I had been working on and restructure them into something that better reflected that vision.

Was there rework?  Absolutely!

Am I happier and more confident in how I am developing Meaningful Flow?  Absolutely!

Lesson #3 – Sometimes clarity takes a few drafts

I don’t know about you, but I learn a lot as I create things.

Here’s the difference between agile and running in circles – I still have a decent idea of my objective and WHY I am doing it.

I still want to help make the workplace more humane.

I still believe that to get there will be about supporting individuals.

The specifics surfaced as I worked, received feedback, and talked to people.

And it will continue to do so.

Lesson #4 – Delays can be positive

In late January, after 3 iterations of my marketing architecture, including 2 attempts at webinar software, 2 attempts at email campaign software, and a complete re-design of my marketing funnel – a new product came out in beta that has been solving most of my earlier issues.

I had a choice – launch with what I have or transition everything to the new system.

I decided to transition everything to the new system.

3 weeks later and I feel it was time well spent. I know I am happier.  Hopefully, you will like it too. Feedback welcome.

Overwhelmed by busywork?

Want more time to focus on the things that are most important to you?

Join the Flowbox – a subscription service containing short videos, tools, and templates to help you overcome overwhelm, reduce meaningless busywork, and find flow in your work and your life.

Use the coupon betatestmonthly for 20% off the first 6 months of your subscription.

10% of all subscription fees received through December 31, 2018, will go to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Monday, March 05, 2018

#52books Born to Win

#52 Books – Born to Win: Find Your Success

Format: Softcover

Zig Ziglar is your classic, old-school sales trainer.  Get beneath the 70s era salesguy persona and the Southern Baptist preacher delivery and you find that there is a reason why his work remains a classic.

When I was growing up, Mom was a real estate agent, a broker, and telecommunications sales manager (beepers, anyone?). Zig Ziglar, Earl Nightingale, Brian Tracy, and Dale Carnegie were all in heavy rotation in Mom’s cassette deck in the 80s and early 90s.  My younger brother took these involuntary lessons from our rides in the car and ran with them in his adulthood.

My natural state is reclusive academic, so it is only now that I am realizing how useful these teachings are.

Born to Win is Ziglar’s final book. This book distills the teachings from his entire career, with his son’s addition of a business model for entrepreneurs and business leaders.

I started to put together my Meaningful Flow service before I read this book. Seeing Ziglar’s model – plan to win by clarifying your objectives, prepare to win by increasing your skills and developing your map, and expect to win by doing the work and keeping your attitude positive – was incredibly validating.

The fundamentals of Ziglar’s work boils down to

“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what THEY want.”

Everything Ziglar presents is to support you in helping others.

To successfully help others, Ziglar argues, you need to build a personally strong foundation of values and purpose. The values he recommends: honesty, character, faith, integrity, love, and loyalty.  If you read across the spectrum of leadership literature – you will see variations on this theme.  Fundamentally, it helps to be strong and clear internally before one can truly make an impact on his or her environment.

Knowing my values and why I am doing something helps me make decisions. It helps me evaluate and reflect on my interactions.  Being able to ask – “Can I help them get what THEY want?  Did I succeed in doing so?” – provides a good metric for my performance with clients.

Underneath that question, “Can I help them get what THEY want?” is an evaluation of whether the client and I are a match.

– Do I understand what they want?

– Do we share values and purpose within that understanding?

– Do I have the skills to help them?

If all 3 are a resounding “yes” – then we are in for a great relationship.

If one is a “no” – the best thing I can do is try to point them in the right direction and see if I can find someone in my network who is a better fit.

Growing up, I saw Ziglar as the consummate salesman, teacher of closing techniques, and the type of guy to avoid like the plague. Ask my former co-workers about my reputation for terrorizing vendor reps.

After reading Born to Win, I’ve finally realized that there was more depth to Ziglar’s message than I ever gave him credit for.

Overwhelmed by busywork?

Want more time to focus on the things that are most important to you?

Join the Flowbox – a subscription service containing short videos, tools, and templates to help you overcome overwhelm, reduce meaningless busywork, and find flow in your work and your life.

Use the coupon betatestmonthly for 20% off the first 6 months of your subscription.

10% of all subscription fees received through December 31, 2018, will go to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Worry and Disasterizing

Just stop worrying. Really.

from Sarah’s Scribbles

I don’t know about you, but there seems to be an awful lot of “danger” in the environment today.

Purposeful instability and insecurity have been designed into many of our organizations – often in the name of “agility.”

Noise and exposure have been designed into many of our working environments – often in the name of “collaboration.”

The fear-mongering in our society seems shriller and inescapable.

The demands for our attention are higher, greater and louder.

Is it any wonder that more than 300 million people suffer from depression and more than 260 million people suffer from anxiety globally? (2017 World Health Organization study)

1 in 5 American adults experiences mental illness in a given year. 

A …given…YEAR.

My suspicion is that the number is higher – given that less than 20% of Americans with moderate depressive symptoms seek help or say anything and less than 41% of adults with ANY mental health issue sought help. (Fortune, October 2017)

I’m beginning to think that anxiety, depression, and PTSD – rather than being mental illnesses – are really humane reactions to the environment we have created for ourselves.

I’m beginning to think that anxiety, depression, and PTSD are appropriate reactions to the major and minor traumas we experience, often on a daily basis.

I’m glad that there are now conversations about de-stigmatizing mental illness.

Maybe we should start having conversations about creating environments and workplaces that don’t trigger anxiety, depression, and PTSD in the first place?

Maybe we should start having conversations about developing relationships built on support, respect and, dare I say it, love, regardless of the context?

Overwhelmed by busywork?

Want more time to focus on the things that are most important to you?

Join the Flowbox – a subscription service containing short videos, tools, and templates to help you overcome overwhelm, reduce meaningless busywork, and find flow in your work and your life.

Use the coupon betatestmonthly for 20% off the first 6 months of your subscription.

10% of all subscription fees received through December 31, 2018, will go to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

My Why

This is the original TED talk for Start with Why.  If you have not seen this before, it is worth 20 minutes of your time.

Before I left my last job, I watched many highly skilled employees drop out.

These are the types of folks that employers say they want – intrinsically motivated, hard-working, intelligent, and creative.

These are people that have in-demand skills and knowledge.

The people that employers say they can’t find and there aren’t enough of.

These employees dropped out to pursue other interests in things not having to do with computers.

These employees dropped out because they were tired of the politics and the pushing and the treadmill.

Some went into real estate, or started their own business, or joined up with friends.

And if they didn’t drop-out physically, many dropped out mentally. Burned out.

Gallup’s most recent State of the Global Workplace found that 85% of workers are either not engaged or actively disengaged in their jobs.  That means that only 15% of workers are engaged at all!

And who can blame them?  A 2016 Korn Ferry study of 800 CEOs discovered

Two-Thirds of CEOs Believe Technology Will Be Their Firm’s Greatest Competitive Advantage–Nearly Half Say Robotics, Automation and AI Will Make People ‘Largely Irrelevant’

Is it any wonder that many of our workplaces have become inhumane?  We have leadership who don’t want us there.

Furthermore, many organizational cultures purposefully attract and feed on the insecurity of over-achievers.

Does anyone else see anything wrong?

When I started my business, I discovered very quickly that my ideal customer looks a lot like my friends.

These folks are middle-aged, in middle-management or are senior individual contributors, and have been around the block a few times with a few different organizations.

They aren’t success-driven, political, ladder-climbers.

They want to create cool things, serve their clients and customers well, and keep their head above water.

They are overwhelmed with conflicting and competing demands that make no sense.

They are frustrated by tasks that never end and new tasks that keep piling up along with the expectation that they continue to do all of the old stuff too.

They are concerned about the lack of opportunities for professional development and being left behind because they are too busy doing their jobs.


My friends deserve better.  The vast majority of the knowledge workforce deserves better.

And I am going to openly admit that I am losing patience with executive complaints that they “can’t find people.”

Chances are, what you want is under your nose and desires to become that person.

Are you going to give them the time, space, focus, and opportunities to become the people you claim you are looking for?

Are you valuing what you already have?

My personal “why” (in the format: To ___ so that____)

To use my personal experience so that I can support others and help them find personal success in whatever environment they find themselves in.

And if that means helping them flee, I’m cool with that.

Do you want to reduce your current level of overwhelm?

Subscribe to the newsletter and I will send you a free PDF to help you with personal prioritization.

I hope you can join me on this journey! 



Sunday, February 25, 2018

#52books Find Your Why

#52books Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team

Format: Kindle

This book is the “how-to” for Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.

Simon Sinek, David Mead, and Peter Docker give incredibly detailed instructions for facilitating what they call “Why Discovery” and provide instructions for finding a personal “why” and finding a team/organizational “why.”

They talk in detail about potential pitfalls and failure points, particularly when trying to do this yourself (not recommended) or if you are working within an organization that is so dysfunctional that it is hard to have a civil conversation.

They also noted that directly asking for “why” may trigger emotional resistance.  Instead, it’s best to come at it sideways – asking more “what” and “how” questions.  Asking “why” tends to trigger an emotional, occasionally defensive, response.  I’ve seen that in my own practice, so it was nice to have that impression validated.

I’m impressed that they were willing to provide the entire how-to guide for their team workshop, including time codes facilitation tips, exercises, and question pools.

If you haven’t read or purchased Start With Why, I would recommend watching Sinek’s original TED talk, then purchase Find Your Why instead.  This book is the result of almost 10 years of practice in this space and provides everything you need for you and your team to determine your “why.”

Let me help you find your why!

Subscribe to the newsletter and I will send you a free PDF to help you with personal prioritization.

I hope you can join me on this journey!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Flow-Friendly Environments

8 characteristics of flow

These are Csikszentmihaly’s 8 Characteristics of Flow

We can influence environment

We cannot MAKE someone experience Flow.

They have to do that for themselves.

I think we approach many of our change initiatives the wrong way.

We seem to be focused on changing behavior.

We don’t ask whether what we are doing is going to help provide the environment to encourage that behavior change.

  • Can they concentrate?  How many other activities are you having people do at the same time?  Is it additive? Are you subtracting ANYTHING? Or is it just “MORE.”  How much “multitasking” are you asking people to do?
  • Have you provided them clarity or at least a sense of direction?  How often does your goal change?  Do your changing goals, combined, lead somewhere – or are you still running in circles?  Do your people have any chance of succeeding?
  • Will they have some semblance of control over the new tasks?  My assumption is that you hired them because they know what they are doing or can learn quickly.
  • Are you giving them the space and the time to learn new skills so you can take on new challengesAre you complaining that your workers don’t have the skills, then not investing in the people you have? How much is it costing you to attract, recruit, and onboard new workers who come in with the skills?  How much productivity are you losing as you onboard your new employees (because that takes resources from your existing employees)?

We can’t force anyone to internally experience anything.  Why not focus on creating the right environment?


Let me help you visualize your work-in-process!

Subscribe to the newsletter and I will send you a free PDF to help you with personal prioritization.

I hope you can join me on this journey!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Faulty Assumption of Control

Autopsy of a Failed Holacracy: Lessons in Justice, Equity, and Self-Management

The assumption behind any change model is “I can change you.”

No wonder projects fail and people are resentful.

We approach these things thinking we are going to change someone else.

Worse is when we approach these things thinking we are going to change someone else, but I don’t have to change myself.

People are going to see right through that.

In a recent Non-Profit Quarterly article outlining a failed holacracy initiative, the author identified three assumptions within that model that can easily make the actual execution of Holacracy de-humanizing:

  1. That maximizing autonomy and coordinating behavior (emphasis mine) is central to good governance
  2. That explicit, linear, and reproducible meeting structures and language is preferred
  3. The system provides space for everyone to have and use power

The problem with each of these assumptions:

  • Good luck with “coordinating behavior”, especially if you are not willing to walk the talk yourself.
  • Those structures and that language usually wind up becoming another set of acronyms and code-words that few people understand.
  • The same people who tend to go after power will be the same people who have power in this structure.  There is nothing inherently in the structure (or in any structure) that equalizes how people experience power in its various forms.

My assumption is that an organization is a networked group of individuals and that culture derives from the interactions between these individuals and how the environment influences individual behavior.

The only thing we should attempt to influence is the environment the individuals work within – much like fertilizing and mulching a garden so that your plants can thrive.

What are you working with now?

  1. What are the characteristics of the people who “hold power” in the organization?
  2. How is your organization currently treating people who act autonomously?  Is it encouraged? Discouraged?  Is it encouraged verbally and discouraged behaviorally?
  3. What is your percentage of aggressive go-getters vs quieter thinkers and how are each of these groups treated?
  4. What environmental changes can you make to make your organization more inclusive?  Are there policies that need changing? Do different people need to be in leadership positions? Do the working environments accommodate different working needs?

Let me help you visualize your work-in-process!

Subscribe to the newsletter and I will send you a free PDF to help you with personal prioritization.

I hope you can join me on this journey!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

#52books The Art of Living

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Format: Kindle

It’s been awhile since I have studied Ancient Greek philosophy.  When I was studying it, as part of my graduate studies in History, we didn’t spend much time on the Stoics.  Much of my time was spent with Asclepius, Hippocrates, Galen, and the other characters in Ancient Greek medicine.

The Art of Living is an interpretation of a translation of transcribed discourses from Epictetus.

The book is easy to read and easy to pick up and put down. Strict translations from the original Ancient Greek text tend towards painful reading.

You can see the gist of some key ideas that have carried over into modern day thinking.

  • Control what you can, accept what you can’t. (Serenity prayer, anyone?)
  • You are responsible for your thoughts.
  • Don’t adopt other people’s views as your own.
  • Clearly define the person you want to be.
  • You can choose how you respond.
  • Harmonize your actions with the way life is. Don’t try to make your own rules.
  • Appreciate what you have.
  • Happiness is within.
  • Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.

From this interpretation, I can see why Stoicism and Epictetus are going through a resurgence in popularity among the entrepreneurial set.  Many of the messages have been passed down through the business/sales arm of the self-help community for generations.

The academic in me is “this close” to grabbing and reading a more literal translation of Epictetus’ discourses.  The inner academic would like to see how muddied the message is in today’s translations of Stoic philosophy.  Then there is the (larger) part of me that knows it has much better things to do than slog through literal English translations of Ancient Greek.

This translation/interpretation of Epictetus strikes me as a decent start.  If nothing else, I’d put this in the category of “distraction book” – something you can pick up and put down easily in short stints, close the cover, and feel just a bit better for having spent time with it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Types of Work

The authors of The Phoenix Project identified four types of work that appear in IT departments:

  • Business projects – the temporary activities that create something new with an eye towards creating a return on investment for the business.
  • Internal projects – the temporary activities that help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of internal business operations
  • Changes – work that needs to happen to accommodate a desired adjustment to an operational system (either a technology configuration or a business process). Often a result of projects.
  • Unplanned work – activities we didn’t see coming, but we have to do anyway. Often a result of projects, changes, and life.

I would argue that these types of work appear in all departments, not just IT.

These 4 types of work essentially define the whirlwind.

Too many projects.

Too much work in progress.

Maintaining broken systems and the unplanned work that results.

Saying “yes” to activities that, on the surface, don’t look like much.   “It will be quick.”

A death by a thousand cuts.

I think we are guilty of planning projects and activities in isolation.

Never accommodating ALL of the pieces of the whirlwind.

Never looking at what work is in progress right now, or lying around unfinished, or waiting for someone to have some bandwidth to finish the work.

I think we are also guilty of never pausing and asking whether the good idea is a good idea for US.

Never analyzing whether that good idea will move us towards our greater vision – or if it is just a distraction from the path.

Why are we not OK with letting that great idea go to someone else with the resources and bandwidth to execute?

Why the fear that good ideas will never appear again?

Or that we are “missing something” if we don’t do something with the idea.

We have so much inspiration, influences, and opportunity!

Where has chasing all of the things led you?

Let me help you with your goals this year.

Send me your name and email and I will send you a Personal Prioritization exercise and a weekly one-page newsletter!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

#52books The Phoenix Project

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#52books – The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win

Format: Kindle

It’s a luxury to sit and consume a book in one sitting.  Having the time to do that is half of it.  Finding a book you can’t put down is the other.

Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford use storytelling to share a way to think about DevOps and IT as a key business driver.

They have obviously spent time in the trenches.  The stories ring true, the characters seem to be modeled after people they have encountered, and I get the sense that some of the situations are thin disguises for real-life episodes.  Admittedly, they also try to cram those characters into typical IT and corporate stereotypes (the guru/mentor, the politician, the “CEO,” the savior engineer, etc). They also follow the hero’s journey as the framework, so you pretty much knew how things were going to end.

Thankfully, I was not reading this as a novel or expecting much of a plot.

I could have easily read the back of the book and get what I needed out of it.

Reading the whole book, however, helped to provide context to the ideas in the back of the book.

I also found myself going on the learning journey with Bill, the main character, as he tried to parse what Erik, the guru/mentor, told him.

It’s impressive when a book gets my attention enough to make me engage like that.


Let me help you visualize your work-in-process!

Subscribe to the newsletter and I will send you a free PDF to help you with personal prioritization.
The first newsletter will be coming to you by the end of this week!

I hope you can join me on this journey!

Thursday, February 08, 2018

The Step Before the SMART Goal

Yeah, if you could create smart goals, that would be great.

I’ve noticed that people sometimes resist creating SMART goals.

That resistance strengthens the less certain they are about whether that goal (or even getting things headed in the right direction) is achievable.

I’m thinking there could be an in-between step.

Over ten years ago, I found myself carrying about 25 pounds more than I usually do.  The weight snuck up on me, of course.  A few incidents set off some alarms that maybe I ought to do something about it.

  1. I was wearing my mother’s hand-me-downs.  She had just lost a bunch of weight.  Her hand-me-downs were larger than anything I had worn – ever.  And some of them were too tight.
  2. A professional colleague made the harmless comment that I looked “old.”  I work in IT, so tact isn’t a strong suit for most people in the field.
  3. Clothes I’ve worn for years didn’t fit. Too tight.
  4. I was feeling tired, bloated, slow and fat.

Yes, I knew I needed to set SMART goals, but I’ve never needed to diet or lose weight before.

Furthermore, I wasn’t entirely sure what caused the weight gain to begin with.  I didn’t think I was doing anything differently.

I figured that a good approach, for me, was to see if I could change the momentum.

I didn’t set a target to fail at, then go through the whole shame-spiral thing when I missed.

It was more of an “if I do this, will the trend move in the right direction?”

In my case, I decided to start exercising. I tracked how often I did it and what I did.

After a month, I had enough data to start setting SMART goals.

What was that data?

  • Yes, in my case – exercise helps me lose weight
  • I also found that exercise dampened my appetite and I naturally made better food choices
  • I could exercise 2-3 days per week without feeling the “shoulds”
  • During my exploratory measurements, I lost 5 pounds and started to fit into my old clothes again.

Awesome!  NOW I can make a SMART goal because I have a good chance of achieving it and I have the data available to make it realistic.

If you find yourself resisting making a SMART goal, do some exploration.

  1. Where are you at now?
  2. Is there something you can try to change the trend?
  3. What happened?
    • Did your experiment have the desired result?
    • If yes, at what pace?
    • If not, is there something else you can try?  Or is there another variable at play?

With that data, you can then start setting specific, measurable, ACHIEVABLE, relevant and time-bound goals.

And you won’t get as stuck with the “achievable” part.

Let me help you set goals, prioritize, and plan.

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I hope you can join me on this journey!