Chapter 2 - Agile Results Overview

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You see, in life, lots of people know what to do, but few people actually do what they know. Knowing is not enough! You must take action. —Tony Robbins


In This Chapter

  • Learn the basics of the Agile Results system.
  • Learn how to map out important areas of your work and life so you can invest your time and energy more effectively.
  • Learn a pattern for weekly results.


This chapter provides an overview of the Agile Results system.


Agile Results is a system for results. It’s a simple system optimized around time. It’s a collection of principles, patterns, and practices for getting results. It draws from lessons learned as well as from bodies of knowledge in project management, software engineering, and personal development. Here are the key parts of the system:

  • The Rule of 3. This is a guideline that helps you prioritize and scope. Rather than bite off more than you can chew, you bite off three things. You can use The Rule of 3 at different levels by picking three outcomes for the day, the week, the month, and the year. This helps you see the forest from the trees since your three outcomes for the year are at a higher level than your three outcomes for the month, and your three outcomes for the week are at a higher level than your three outcomes for the day.
  • Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection. This is a simple time-based pattern. Each week is a fresh start. On Mondays, you think about three outcomes you would like for the week. Each day you identify three outcomes you would like for the day. On Fridays, you reflect on lessons learned; you ask yourself, “What three things are going well, and what three things need improvement?” This weekly pattern helps you build momentum.
  • Hot Spots. Hot Spots help you map out your results. They are the key levers in the system. They’re your lens to help you focus on what’s important in your life. They can represent areas of opportunity or pain. Hot Spots are your main dashboard. It helps to organize your Hot Spots by work, personal, and life. At a glance, you should be able to quickly see the balls you’re juggling and what’s on your plate. To find your Hot Spots, simply make a list of the key areas that need your time and energy. Then for each of these key areas, it’s important to have scannable outcomes—a tickler list that easily answers the question, “What do you want to accomplish?” When you know the results you want in your Hot Spots for your work and personal life, you have a map for your results.


You can use Agile Results for work or home or anywhere you need to improve your results in life. Agile Results is compatible with and can enhance the results of any productivity system you already use.


Agile Results at a Glance

This is a bird’s-eye view of Agile Results.


Figure 2.1 Agile Results at a Glance


As mentioned earlier in the guide, Agile Results is a system for work and life. It’s an adaptable productivity system focused on outcomes over activities. It’s taking action towards compelling outcomes and producing incremental results. It’s being flexible and responsive to change. Creating outcomes is an important concept in Agile Results. They guide your actions. Think of it as working backwards, always mindful of your objectives. This is a sharp contrast from focusing on tasks or task management. While tasks are important, if you focus on the end game, you will find a way there. The key to success is looking ahead just enough to know that the next vital few things you do, contribute to the results you want to accomplish. A shift in thinking about time is required. In Agile Results, you fix time and flex scope. This means you set a fixed amount of time for your results each day. You then bite off only what you can chew.


Agile Results is not a checklist of things to do. It's not a way to do “more stuff” in your life. It's a way to balance what's important, respond to a changing world, live your values, and spend more time doing what you love, while improving your efficiency and effectiveness.


Hot Spots

Hot Spots are key areas that deserve your attention. These could be areas of opportunity or they could be pain points. Either way, they are areas that need your time, energy, and focus.


Figure 2.2 Hot Spots


These could be reflected in projects or simply as either work streams or activities. What’s important is to know at a glance what your Hot Spots are and what you want to accomplish. At a high level, you can think in terms of life, work, and personal. Scannability is important—think of tickler lists where each item is just enough information to remind you. This is a key for agility.


Invest in Your Hot Spots

Invest your time and energy across your Hot Spots. Balance is important since Hot Spots tend to support each other. For example, investing in your mind and body helps with your emotions; investing in your relationships can help with your career. Likewise, Hot Spots can also negatively impact one another. For example, over-investing in your career can damage your relationships; ignoring your body can hamper your fun. You can use Hot Spots as a frame for reflection to keep a gauge on your success. In each of these Hot Spots, you’re either growing or dying. Ideally, you find a way so that it gets easier to amplify your results across the Hot Spots. For example, in the right job, working with the right people, on the right things, making the right impact can take care of several of your Hot Spots. In contrast, if you’re not in the right job, you might find yourself working extra hard to grow your mind, keep your emotions in check, and have fun.


Life Frame

The Life Frame is a set of Hot Spots for life. They are a set of categories that tend to be important for continuous success. You can think of them as a portfolio of results:

  • Mind
  • Body
  • Emotions
  • Career
  • Financial
  • Relationships
  • Fun


Mind includes investing time in learning thinking techniques and keeping your mind sharp. Body includes investing time in keeping your body in shape and learning patterns and practices for health; the basics are eating, sleeping, and working out. The Emotions category includes investing time to keep your emotions healthy, learn emotional intelligence, and keep your emotions in check; it’s about learning skills for feeling good. Career includes your job and professional activities. The Financial category includes investing time to learn patterns and practices for building and sustaining wealth. The Relationships category includes relationships at home, work, and life. Fun includes investing time to play and do whatever you enjoy.


Work Hot Spots

If you don’t work for a living, congratulations, you can skip this part. Otherwise, focus on these areas to get crisp at work:

  • Activities
  • Active Projects
  • Backlog


Activities are anything you need to spend your time and energy on. Active projects are the work projects that you are actively working on. Anything you’re not actively working on, but you plan to, is your backlog. For your active projects, a simple thing to do is make a simple list for each of your active projects. This gives you a place to write down important outcomes. You can do the same for your backlog: make one list for each backlog project. By having a list, you have a place to put things, rather than have them float around in your head. You know you have a good set of lists when you can quickly tell at a glance what your current projects are. If you aren’t used to thinking in terms of projects, you can simply think of all the balls you are currently juggling at work. In each project list, you should see a set of outcomes at a glance. The outcomes will help you see the forest from the trees.


Personal Hot Spots

These are your personal projects and things you spend time on outside of work:

  • Activities
  • Active Items
  • Backlog


Activities are anything from a recurring task to things you need to spend your time and energy on; these are the balls you are juggling at home. Active Projects are the personal projects you are actively working on; this could be anything from writing a book to fixing the house. Backlog is the list of projects you plan to do but aren’t actually working on.


Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection

This figure shows a simple pattern for weekly results.


Figure 2.3 Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection


On Mondays, identify three compelling results you’d like for the week. Each day identify three key results for the day; your three outcomes for the week will help guide you. This is The Rule of 3; it’s easy to remember three things and also easy to prioritize three things. Then on Fridays, you reflect on your accomplishments.


Monday Vision

Each Monday is a fresh start to a new week. It’s your chance to define what a good week will look like. You can then carve out the results to help you get there. A simple way to accomplish this is to ask yourself, “If this were Friday, what are the three most important results that I want to have under my belt?” Here are the keys to Monday Vision:

  • Each Monday, identify the most important outcomes for the week.
  • Take the time to see the forest from the trees.
  • Use The Rule of 3 to help you narrow down to the three most important outcomes for the week.


Daily Outcomes

Ultimately, this is the guiding question, “What three things do I want to accomplish today?”


If you do nothing else, simply write down or remember three of your most important outcomes for the day. The benefit of writing down your list is that it gives you a place to dump things so that you don’t fill your head with noise. Writing things down can also help put things in perspective.


Ideally, start by listing your MUST items. Next, list any of your SHOULD or COULD items. Then, use The Rule of 3 to bubble up what’s most important. Rather than think of it as backlog burndown, think in terms of value up—each day is a new opportunity to deliver value. Value can be for yourself or others. Remember that value is in the eye of the beholder. Each day, is a clean slate.


Note that even if you already have a to-do system, you can use whatever is already working for you. Simply add your three outcomes to the top. Now, whenever you look at your to-do list, you have your tests for success. Your three outcomes will help guide you and help you prioritize your actions and tasks against the results you want to achieve.


Here are the key things to keep in mind:

  • Identify three outcomes for the day. These are the results you’ve chosen as the most important and will therefore get the laser-like focus they deserve.
  • Name your list using today’s date (e.g., 2010-01-11).
  • As you fish your various streams for potential actions, be mindful of your three outcomes. (Your streams include meetings, email, conversations, or bursts of brilliance throughout the day.)
  • Adjust your outcomes as appropriate.


There are several benefits to using Daily Outcomes. While it seems simple, it’s actually combining simplicity with focus, prioritization, and a conscious choice around value and results. You get a fresh start each day. Each day, you focus on the most valuable things (whether for you, your job, or other people). You decide on what to carry forward each day. Rather than base your day on things you didn’t get done in the past, you base your day on what you want to accomplish and on what has the most impact or value for you at this point in time. Lower priority or lower value naturally sloughs off. It’s lightweight and works whether you use pen and paper, a whiteboard, or store things electronically.


Friday Reflection

One of the most important things you start to learn is your actual capacity. The more you check your results, the more you will learn to adjust your own expectations, as well as set expectations more effectively with others. Friday is a great day to reflect back on your week. Here are the key things:

  • Evaluate what you accomplished, or didn't, and why.
  • Identify three things that went well.
  • Identify three things that need improvement.
  • Evaluate your energy levels.
  • Carry your lessons forward to your next Monday Vision.


A good reflection system is not simply listing three things going well and three things to improve. It’s taking the time to use it as a true learning session. It’s your chance to identify things that you want to stop doing, as well as things that you want to start doing, based on your results. Over time, weekly reinforcement will make a substantial difference. It’s a process of continuous improvement that helps you refine your overall process for results. This simple process can have amazing impact across your work and life, especially if you’re using the time to really hone in on what’s working, what’s not, and change your approach. Remember that each week is a fresh start, and each day is another chance to get up to bat.


Action

Factoring your actions from your reference information is one of the simplest moves to improve your results.


Figure 2.4 Action


This is especially true if you tend to have a lot of tickler lists and reminders that are really more notes than actions. Reference is simply input for you. If you have to filter through a bunch of reference to find your actions, the friction adds up. Instead, it’s better to have a home for action items and a home for reference items.


Here’s a summary of each type of information around action items and taking action:

  • Daily Outcomes
  • Weekly Outcomes
  • Queues
  • Scripts


Daily Outcomes is the tickler list of outcomes that you create each day as part of your Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection. Queues are the tickler lists of outcomes and tasks that you created for each of the significant projects and key activities identified for your Hot Spots. This is input for your Daily Outcomes list; it’s also a place to put things that you won’t get done for the day, but that you need to remember. Scripts is your repository for step-by-step instructions; each script is a list of steps in sequence to help you perform a task. Think of it as putting your routines down into writing. By having them written down, you can make it easier to perform a task each time instead of trying to remember what to do, especially when a task is done infrequently. You can also use it as a baseline for improvement by sharing your script with others and getting feedback. Another benefit is that it saves time should you have to delegate the task to others.


Reference

Think of reference as information that you need to refer to.


Figure 2.5 Reference


It may help you perform your action items but it’s not actually actionable information. For example, your to-do list would be your actions, but supporting information would be your reference. You can use collection pools to consolidate and organize your reference information. Consider having a single place to consolidate your ideas, notes, and results. Also consider making a simple way to scan your weekly and monthly results to make sure that you’re moving in the direction you want to go. Here are some examples of collection pools:

  • Ideas
  • Notes
  • Monthly Results


Ideas is a repository for your ideas. Notes are tickler lists of insights or data points or anything you need to refer to as your notes. Weekly Results are tickler lists of actual results accomplished for each week. Monthly Results are tickler lists of actual results accomplished each month. Use the Weekly Results and Monthly Results to keep score. For example, for your Weekly Outcomes, list the three outcomes you want for the week on Monday; then on Friday, list your actual results as Weekly Results. Do the same thing for your Monthly Outcomes and Monthly Results. It’s a great way to keep track of your progress; it also comes in handy if you need to report your status to someone else.


Calendar

Carve out time for what’s important. Your calendar is one of your most important tools. It’s how you organize your time.


Figure 2.6 Calendar


It’s easy to fall into routines simply by how, where, and when you spend your time. If you don’t drive your calendar, your calendar drives you. The beauty is that once you’ve organized your calendar in a way that supports you, you have more energy for everything you do and you get to recharge. Remember it’s not doing less that makes you feel better or stronger. It’s spending more time in your strengths and following your passions, and less time doing things that make you weak. The more time you spend in your strengths, the more energy you will have. The more energy you have the more you can accomplish with less effort and less churn.


Here are the key things to keep in mind:

  • Schedule your results.
  • Block time for what’s important.
  • Make (and keep) appointments with yourself; schedule time for execution or think time as you need it.
  • Spend more time in your strengths than in your weaknesses.
  • Balance is your friend.


The Rhythm of Results

Having a rhythm for your results helps you build routines and improve your ability to get results.


Daily, Weekly, Monthly Results

Think of the rhythm of results in terms of daily, weekly, and monthly results. Use The Rule of 3 to accomplish three meaningful results each day, each week, and each month. The results add 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 you’re looking at a day, a week or a month, you can quickly look at the bigger picture. For example, the three results for the month are at a much higher level than the three outcomes for the week, which are much higher than the outcomes for each day. It’s a quick way to traverse a lot of action that’s spread over time while not getting bogged down in the tasks themselves. It’s an incremental sketch of your results, rendered daily, weekly, and monthly.


In Summary

  • Invest your time and energy across your Hot Spots.
  • The Life Frame is a set of Hot Spots for life: mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, and fun.
  • Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection is a pattern for weekly results.
  • On Mondays, identify three key results you want for the week.
  • Each day, identify three key results you want for the day.
  • On Fridays, think of three things going well and three things to improve.
  • Factor action from reference information.
  • Design your weekly schedule so that you make time for what's important and you balance across your Hot Spots.


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