I wonder how many pieces of gum are on this wall. Yes, you can measure this!
When looking up measure in the dictionary, I was struck by one of the core definitions:
reach the required or expected standard; fulfill expectations
Admittedly, most of my work has had ambiguous or ill defined measures. But as I am maturing as a leader, I have started looking for ways to measure what I am doing, either for myself, management, or the company. Here are some lessons I am learning:
Anything can be measured
Don’t believe me, then check out the book “How To Measure Anything“! This is a fantastic read that just gives plain common sense to measurement. I now use ranges and confidence levels to communicate effectively as a measure. For example, I was helping a couple of new developers come up to speed in the code base. I started by asking them how long it would take to solve a problem that they knew nothing about. After a couple of back and forth conversations, we were able to get a 90% confidence measure that it could be done between 1 and 3 days. After all estimation is a measure.
What doesn’t get measured, usually doesn’t get done
Everyone can relate to this statement who has to spend dollars and commit people, especially when planning. You may get away with measures not being set the first time, but the next time you ask for the appropriate resourcing, you probably won’t get it unless you show a measured success. This is why a lot of projects fail. The don’t start with thinking about how to measure success at the beginning and track to it. Instead, fuzzy ideas of success permeate through projects or initiatives. I have personally changed my work style to get answer to the following measure questions:
- Defining measures of success
- This also means defining the quality
- Understanding how those measures are going to be tracked
- Figuring out both Leading and Lagging indicators of success
- What will it cost to measure and is it worth it
I hope you will take time to measure.
Meetings. How many of them can be changed, disregarded, and not even attended? Can one spend their time on more valuable work?
Automatically as I was writing this my only focus was on work type meetings, as those seem to be the least edifying and the most wasteful. Meetings can be beneficial:
- Casual meetings to build relationships
- Informational meetings to build up knowledge
- Crisis meetings to solve urgent and hard problems
- Regular meetings that have outcomes that are action oriented
- Impromptu meetings that spark ideas
So not all meetings are monsters that feed on time and energy. Just ones that are poorly run.
Being uncomfortable gets my Spidey senses going. It is uncanny how I can see problems with much more clarity. The smallest details become chasms that I need to conquer or cross. Now combine being uncomfortable with new surroundings. It is like when Superman first discovers his superpowers of seeing everything blurring by and he can’t take it all in till he focuses.
This is me now, with a new job and different environment. Here are steps I am taking for better clarity that may help you.
- Slow down. Not everything has to be solved right away.
- Find those who are comfortable already. Listen to what works for them. Be careful not to assimilate and look for opportunities to add value to their processes.
- Know the long term vision. Keep referring to it as you are doing day to day work. Remove the work that doesn’t progress toward the vision.
- Embrace mistakes as valuable lessons.
- Be bold and courageous in your decision making.
Be comfortable with uncomfortable.
Saturday morning weeding has turned into a quick 1 hour endeavor which I share with my wife. There was one area I neglected for about a month though and figured I would tackle it head on. As I was digging and pulling, similarities of software that has been neglected started coming to mind.
- The more time that you let weeds grow, the harder they become to pull out. The tiny thistle for instance, can be quickly grabbed just below the surface and usually the root just comes straight out with it. I often see code that may not be optimal get reused and reused because no one wanted to refactor it. The next thing you know you have a very stubborn area of your code that you will need to clean up
- The sprawling weeds. These are the ones that don’t have a lot of roots but they pop up all over the place as little nuisances. I liken this to inline styles in html, or a set of code that get’s copied over and over again with comments and all just to change a variable. Pretty soon, it becomes a mess when you need to change it all up.
- The worst are those weeds that infiltrate the root system of the good plants. In software, you can see this manifest as design pattern overload or global variables (I hope no one does that anymore).
What are the weeds in your software?
Today I thought I would focus on some productivity tools and tips I use with Outlook.
I have taken an approach where my task list is separated from my email. Wunderlist includes a great add-in that will turn any email into a task. In addition, you can subscribe to your task list feed as a calendar list and see what tasks you said were going to be do on any day.
This is perhaps my favorite part of Outlook for productivity. Quick steps enable me to quick do repetitive actions and assign them to shortcut keys. For example, I have a folder where I put reference emails. The quick step has been configured to move the selected item to my “Reference” folder. I then bind that quick step to CTL+SHFT+1 and voila, I can get through my inbox to zero real quick.
Unlike quick steps, rules allow you to manage emails before you even see them in your inbox, or process after you send an email. For instance, you can create a rule that delays sending by 1 minute. I currently have over 20 rules that apply to my inbox before email even comes in. My favorite: Moving all of my meeting requests to a special folder for processing.
How do I rub off on others? I had to really think about this question after listening to the EntreLeadership podcast featuring Dr. Jackie Freiberg on being a Person of Impact. In the podcast, three ways were mentioned on how our impact rubs off on others, Positively, Negatively, or Inconsistently. What is great about the definition of impact that Jackie gave, was that everyone has impact and we can choose how it lands with others. Of course, we all want positive impact, but we also need to be realistic to know that we can exude negative and inconsistent results as well. In transparency, I can tell you there is a lot of room for improvement for my impact. Hopefully you can glean some insight from my reflections in each category:
Think of the purpose that this chandelier was made with. Alexandrinsky Theater, St. Petersburg, Russia
This was a poem I created a couple of years back around how we shape purpose in our lives. Feedback becomes an essential component. In the last few months, I really have been focused on getting clarity of purpose and have shared a lot of my thoughts to garner feedback. It has been a very healthy and productive exercise. Now when I read the words below, I am really encouraged that feedback is making me into a better person and one of purpose, leading a life that is of significance. Let me know after reading your thoughts on feedback and purpose and how they fit together.
The Christmas holiday season is upon us and people are taking time off to visit friends and family or just taking a well-deserved rest. The last thing that anyone wants on holiday is to be interrupted by work. However, for many of us, the connected world is just too darn connected and people tend to think we are always available. We see the “urgent” response required email and no matter if we try to put it off, it will nag us until we complete a response.
There are few things more enjoyable then sledding on a Christmas vacation. Don’t let the interruptions that are insignificant happen.
Fences are the ultimate picture of a boundary.
The project was already 1 week behind schedule according to the customer. I tried to find the humor in that assumption since the project was only 1 week old. Couldn’t they read the milestones and our current sprint plan? I could hear the voices in my head crafting up the blame game quips and quotes already. I mean really? Do you think the team has just been sitting around? I did my best form of Adam Sandler’s rendition of meditation in Anger Management and suddenly the true problem hit me.
I had failed to set the expectations of what the Start and Finish lines looked like with the customer.
Recently, I have tried to take a step back and look at the transformations that are occurring all around me. I am seeing my seventeen year old now as a young adult making choices for herself, that used to be part of our role as parents. At work, I see the decisions of last years organizational shifts starting to solidify. I look in the mirror and see the grey hairs of wisdom where youthful ignorance used to be. My pastor described transformation as a deep changing of the mind, body, and soul to be more like Christ. The more I dwell upon that definition, the more I think about some of the core elements of our metamorphosis as individuals.