Here are the twelve core practices and supporting practices of Agile Results:
12 Core Practices
- Action Lists
- Daily Outcomes
- Growth Mindset
- Monthly Improvement Sprints
- Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection
- Reference Collections
- Scannable Outcomes
- Strong Week
- The Rule of 3
- Timebox Your Day
- Weekly Outcomes
- Allocated Time
- Batch and Focus
- Chunk It Down
- Compelling why
- Daily, Weekly, Monthly Results
- Diversify Your Results
- Do It, Review It, Improve It
- Fail Fast
- Fix Time, Flex Scope
- Good Enough for Now
- Improvement Scripts
- Just Start
- Lessons Learned
- MUST, SHOULD, COULD
- Next Best Thing
- One Place to Look
- Pair Up
- Park It
- Power Hours
- Reduce Open Work
- Switch Hats
- Test Your Results
- Tests for Success
- Worst Things First
Summary Table of Practices for Agile Results
|Rhythm of Results||
|Mindsets and Motivation||
* Bold indicates that the item is one of the 12 core practices of Agile Results.
12 Core Practices of Agile Results Defined
At the heart of any system is a set of practices. It’s the practices that make or break a system. Combined with the 10 values and 10 principles, the 12 core practices complete the foundation of Agile Results:
- The Rule of 3. This is the heart of your Daily Outcomes. The Rule of 3 will help you stay focused on the vital few things that matter. Identify your three key outcomes each day, each week, each month, and each year. This helps you see the forest from the trees. The three outcomes for the year are bigger than the three outcomes for the month which are bigger than the three outcomes for the week which are bigger than the three outcomes for your day. This also helps you manage scope. It’s all too easy to bite off more than you can chew. Instead, first nail the three items you want to accomplish, and then bite off more. Think of it as a buffet of results and you can keep going back—just don’t overflow your plate on each trip.
- Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection. Decide three results you want to accomplish for the week. Decide what three results you want to accomplish each day. Make progress each day. At the end of the week, reflect on your results.
- Scannable Outcomes. Think of this as what’s on your radar. At a glance, you should be able to see what you want to accomplish and what you’re spending your time and energy on. Outcomes guide your actions. Keep your outcomes scannable at a glance. Organize outcomes by your work, personal, and life Hot Spots. For example, create a list of outcomes for your Life Frame Hot Spots: body, career, emotions, financial, fun, mind, and relationships.
- Daily Outcomes. Each day is a new chance for results. Use daily tickler lists for action items; create a new list each day. Each day, decide on three things you want to accomplish (The Rule of 3). Always start your list with your three most important outcomes for the day. The key to an effective Daily Outcomes list is that you keep your three outcomes for the day at the top, while listing the rest of your to-dos below that. This way you have a reminder of what you want to accomplish.
- Weekly Outcomes. Create a new list each week. Each week is a new chance for results. Always start with your three most important outcomes for the week (The Rule of 3).
- Strong Week. Each week focus on spending more time on activities that make you strong and less time on activities that make you weak. Push activities that make you weak to the first part of your day. By doing your worst things first, you create a glide path for the rest of the day. Set limits; stuff the things that make you weak into a timebox. For example, if the stuff that makes you weak is taking more than 20 percent of your day, then find a way to keep it within that 20 percent boundary. This might mean limiting the time or quantity. Sometimes you just can’t get rid of the things that make you weak; in that case, balance it with more things that energize you and make you strong. Apply this to your week too. Push the toughest things that drain you to the start of the week to create a glide path. Do the same with people. Spend more time with people that make you strong and less time with people that make you weak. Be careful not to confuse the things that make you weak with challenges that will actually make you stronger. Grow yourself stronger over time.
- Timebox Your Day. Set boundaries for how much time you spend on things. If you keep time a constant (by ending your day at a certain time), it helps you figure out where to optimize your day and prioritize. To start, you can carve up your day into big buckets: administration, work time, think time, and people time.
- Triage. Triage incoming action items to either do it, queue it, schedule it, or delegate it. Do it if now is the time: it’s the next best thing for you to do; now is the most opportunistic time; or it will cost you more pain, time or effort to do it later. Queue it (add it to your queue) if it’s something you need to get done, but now is not the right time. Schedule it if you need a block of time to get the work done. Delegate it if it’s something that should be done by somebody else.
- Monthly Improvement Sprints. Pick one thing to improve for the month. Each month, pick something new; this gives you a chance to cycle through 12 things over the year. Or if necessary, you can always repeat a sprint. The idea is that 30 days is enough time to experiment with your results throughout the month. Because you might not see progress in the first couple of weeks while you’re learning, a month is a good chunk of time to check your progress.
- Growth Mindset. This is simply a decision—decide that you’ll learn and grow. If you get knocked down, you’ll get up again. You decide that no problem is personal, pervasive or permanent. Life is not static. Neither are your results.
- Action Lists. Track your actions with tickler lists. Consider the following action lists: Daily Outcomes, Weekly Outcomes, Queues, and Scripts.
- Reference Collections. Some information is not actionable. Yes, it might be helpful information, and yes, it might be good to know. But if it’s not actionable, then it’s reference. You can store your reference information as tickler lists or notes. Here are some example reference lists you might keep: Ideas, Notes, Weekly Results, Monthly Results, and Yearly Results.
Supporting Practices for Agile Results Defined
The Agile Results practices support each other. You don’t need to adopt them all. The following are supporting practices for Agile Results:
- Allocated Time. If it’s important, make time for it. If you schedule it, it happens. Block time for key things on your calendar. One practice that works well for a lot of people is to block a few hours in a row for execution. Another practice that works well is to set aside time for a particular type of task and batch it all at once rather than do it throughout the week. One thing that might surprise you is scheduling your free time. You might find you have less free time than you think, and this is a quick reality check to make more free time.
- Buffers. Buffers are the padding you put in your time to allow for surprises. You can buffer with time. For example, you can allow yourself 30 minutes to get to work instead of 10; this way, if there’s traffic, you don’t get frustrated. You can also create a buffer by keeping your plate only three-quarters full. If you keep your plate completely full, you may not like what spills over; you may also make find yourself lashing out at any threats in terms of more work. Thus, you are unable to respond as effectively to new opportunities. Another way to add buffers is to have transitions. For example, maybe working out after work helps you transition to your personal life. The simple act of adding buffers can help reduce friction, stress, and anxiety in your life.
- Boundaries. This means setting minimums and maximums on how you spend your time. Setting boundaries helps keep a sustainable pace. It also ensures that you spend time in some areas that you might otherwise ignore or forget about. By spending enough time and energy in the right categories, you get synergy. For example, by spending time in your relationships, things get easier at work. By spending time on your body, you keep your mind fresh. By spending enough time in fun, you keep your energy strong.
- Batch and Focus. Consolidate similar tasks. This helps you focus rather than task switch. It also helps you find efficiencies. When you do something more, you find ways to improve.
- Chunk It Down. Chunk your work down. You build momentum as you get results. You can chunk your work down in terms of complexity, such as creating incremental hurdles. You can also chunk down time, such as setting mini-milestones. Another approach is to simply quantify it: for example, three actions, three outcomes, etc.
- Compelling “Why.” Find a “Why” that drives you. This can be as simple as deciding that you want to master your craft. The key is to internalize it, rather than focus on external rewards. This will help see you through the dark times as well as help you live your values.
- Daily, Weekly, Monthly Results. Establish a rhythm of results. Each day, week, and month is a new chance for results. If you fall off the horse, you can get back on. If you miss a train, catch the next one. Having a rhythm for your results helps you build routines and improve your ability to get results. I think of the rhythm of results in terms of daily, weekly, and monthly results. Using The Rule of 3, I can try to accomplish three meaningful results each day, each week, and each month. It adds up fast. Most importantly, it’s a very simple way to frame out results. Rather than get caught up in the details, it’s easy to step back and think in terms of three items. Then, whether I’m looking at a day, a week or a month, I can quickly look at the bigger picture. For example, the three results for the month are much higher level than the three outcomes for the week, which are much higher than the three outcomes for each day. It’s a quick way to traverse a bunch of action that’s spread over time, and not get bogged down in the tasks themselves. It’s a sketch of your results that you can incrementally render daily, weekly, and monthly.
- Diversify Your Results. This is the key to balance. If you look at your results across your life as a portfolio, you can choose where to invest more and where to cut back. You can use different lenses. For life in general, I check how I’m investing in mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, and fun. At work, I check how I’m spending energy across administration, relationships, thinking and doing. In terms of projects, I try to have a vital few that I spend most of my focus on, as well as a few innovation projects for learning and growing. I try not to have all my eggs in a single basket. This means I’m not overly invested in one thing, and I can keep perspective and balance while remaining responsive to change.
- Do It, Review It, Improve It. Decide and go. When you perform tasks, take the action, and then analyze your results. Don’t critique yourself throughout the process. Perform, then evaluate.
- Fail Fast. Fail early and fail often. Failure is part of the learning process. The sooner you hit your glass ceilings or tackle your high risks, the sooner you can adjust as needed. Learn and move on.
- Good Enough for Now. One way to deal with perfectionism is to focus on good enough for now. You can improve it later, once you get some feedback; just get something to done first. Remember, what might be right for you might not be right for some; perfection is in the eye of the beholder.
- Just Start. Taking action is the key. Just get started. This will help you avoid analysis paralysis. You can always correct course once you get going.
- Improvement Scripts. Write down steps to perform a specific action or routine.
- Lessons Learned. Identify three things that worked well. Identify three things that didn’t work well. Carry forward your lessons learned.
- Monthly Results. Each month, review your results. One simple way is to create a tickler list that shows your most important results for the month. This helps you keep score. This also helps you see the forest from the trees. Each month is a good time to take stock of your accomplishments and reflect on what if anything you need to change going forward.
- MUST, SHOULD, COULD. Use MUST, SHOULD, and COULD to prioritize your potential tasks; use it with your to-do list if you have one. Then, focus on your three MUSTs for the day. I’ve found it much more helpful to think in terms of MUST, SHOULD, and COULD; however, if you need to use a prioritization system that is number centric (for example, priority 1, priority 2, and priority 3; or p1, p2, p3), then you can still think in terms of MUST, SHOULD, and COULD by mapping it accordingly. If you get really good at focusing on your MUSTs, you’ll see immediate improvement. Where people fall down is they mix too many SHOULDs and COULDs into their work each day without realizing it, so they don’t actually ever get any meaningful work done. If you are having trouble, The Rule of 3 helps. Getting three MUSTs done each day quickly builds momentum. It’s a sense of accomplishment. You may find as you get more effective, you start to bite off more. Note: If the word MUST creates a sense of heaviness for you or you find you no longer look forward to getting your results, then change your language. For example, rather than your MUST dos, think of your CHOOSE TOs. This puts you back in power, and this simple reframing can help you get your energy back.
- Next Best Thing. Remind yourself to value your time. Ask yourself, “What’s the next best thing to do?” It’s a cutting question that helps you prioritize in the moment.
- One Place to Look. Whether you have a paper system or an electronic system, the key is to have one place to look for all your action items and your reference information. This works in conjunction with keeping your information scannable.
- Pair Up. Pairing up or teaming up can be a great way to complement your strengths and get results. The key is to pair up with the right people. This is especially effective for learning new things; in this case, you find a mentor. This also works well on projects; if you’re a starter, look for a finisher (or vice versa).
- Park It. Sometimes it makes sense to park something you’re working on, at least for the time being. You can come back to it later. If it feels like you’re churning and not making progress, it might make sense just to park it for now.
- Power Hours. Focus on increasing your power hours. A power hour is where you feel like you’re incredibly productive and you’re in the zone. You might find that you have certain power hours throughout the day. Maybe you have power hours in the morning, or maybe you are better in the afternoon or at night. The first step is just noticing when they occur. Some power hours might be due to the type of activity you work on, while others might be driven by your biorhythms. Either way, once you know the pattern for your power hours, you can find ways to optimize to have more power hours. By adding more power hours, you can spend less overall time on your tasks. This improves your efficiency and your effectiveness.
- Reduce Open Work. Reduce the work you have in flight. It’s better to finish one thing before spinning up a bunch of other things. The more work you have that’s not finished, the more chances you won’t finish. When you reduce work that’s in flight, you can better focus on the task at hand and bring it to completion. Task switching is an enemy of results.
- Scripts. You can write your routines down as a set of steps. Writing routines down can help find ways to improve. You can also avoid thrashing or spending too much think time while you’re trying to perform the routine. You can also use your scripts to avoid common mistakes.
- Sweeping. Things get messy. Sweeping is a way to periodically clean things up. For example, you might sweep your lists once a week. You might sweep your notes once a month. You might spend a night every other week cleaning up open issues on your project. Sweeping is a tremendously powerful technique because it frees you up from over-engineering perfection up front or trying to over-police something with a bunch of gates. You let the work run its course; then you do a cleanup when you have a better vantage point or when you can batch the work. This also helps you avoid death by a thousand paper cuts.
- Switch Hats. One technique to change your mindset is to imagine putting on an imaginary hat. Maybe in school you remember putting your thinking cap on. You can use different hats for different purposes. For example, you might need an analytical hat. You might also need a hat for “kicking arse and taking names.” You might need a hat for more tedious or mundane activities. Switching hats will help you switch modes. You’ll improve your overall effectiveness by changing your mindset to match the challenge in front of you. Note that some people like to literally wear different hats for different purposes.
- Test Your Results. Test your results quickly to find out what you know, don’t know, and need to know next. It’s easy to talk yourself out of something or to analyze yourself into a string of impossibilities. Instead, do a quick dry run, or try a show and tell of your results to see what you can do. One effective way is to timebox and see what sort of results you can produce in an hour. This will quickly tell you where your bottlenecks might be or where you need help.
- Tests for Success. If you know what good looks like, it’s easier to move towards your target. A lot of failed results are actually failures to define success. You can think of this as test-driven results. Basically, you should have a strawman in mind of what good looks like; then, you readjust as you go along and learn more.
- Worst Things First. Start your day with the worst things first. It’s when you have the most energy. Rather than having something loom over you throughout the day, you can take it off your plate early and enjoy the rest of your day.