Chapter 3 - Values, Principles, and Practices

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Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own. —Bruce Lee

In This Chapter

  • Learn the key values of Agile Results.
  • Learn the key principles of Agile Results.
  • Learn the key practices of Agile Results.

The foundation for Agile Results is a set of 10 values, 10 principles, and 12 practices. One way to think of the Agile Results approach is that it’s an iterative and incremental system for producing results in your life. Rather than big, up-front design, it’s about paving a path and finding a way forward. Agile Results is optimized for responding to change. It’s a flexible system that you can tune or tailor as needed.

The values provide insight into how I shaped Agile Results into a system, including the trade-offs I made. The principles are guidelines. Whenever I come to a fork in the road, the principles help me choose a path. The core practices are a simple set of methods and techniques for implementing Agile Results; they transform the principles and values into action. The supporting practices (found in “Cheat Sheet – Supporting Practices Defined”) provide additional tools for success.

You don’t have to adopt all the practices at once. Agile Results is flexible. Simply adopt the practices you need. And you can adopt them one at a time. A minimal implementation is simple. Use The Rule of 3 to decide three results you want to accomplish today. Dedicate laser-like focus to achieving these three results. If you find yourself distracted by another focus, ask yourself whether that should be the next best thing to do. If so, perhaps you should swap it for one of your initial three results. If not, consider resetting your focus to one of the three which you’ve defined as the most important outcomes of the day. These three are either the most important outcomes for your day, or they’re not. It’s your call. Next, adopt the Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection pattern: use Monday Vision to define three outcomes for the week; focus each day on three Daily Outcomes (many of which will drive your three weekly outcomes); and use Friday Reflection to analyze what worked and what didn’t. Adopting this pattern, you have a means for achieving daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly results. Next, adopt the Hot Spots. Though Hot Spots are an integral part of Agile Results, you don’t need to pay full attention to them to get started. As you establish a rhythm of results, improve your rhythm by adopting new practices, learning your own strengths and weaknesses, and making adjustments which work best for you. Indeed, it’s a lifetime pattern for results and success.

10 Values

Values set the stage. Values are a way to help make trade-offs when there are a lot of options and possibilities. An effective system uses values to help guide and identify relevant principles and practices. Here are the key values in Agile Results:

  1. Action over Analysis Paralysis. Taking action is the best antidote for analysis paralysis. Rather than over-engineer or try to figure out everything up front, start taking action. Your results will inform your thinking, and you can change your course as needed.
  2. Approach over Results. You can’t control your results. You can control your attitude, actions, and response. Use your results as a gauge and for feedback.
  3. Energy over Time. Focus on keeping your energy strong. You’ll get more done in one power hour than throwing lots of hours at a problem when you just don’t have the energy. In addition to eating right, sleeping well, and working out, the key to energy is following your passion and living your values.
  4. Focus over Quantity. It’s not about doing more. It’s about focusing on the right things. Focus is your force multiplier.
  5. Good Enough over Perfection. Don’t let perfectionism get in the way. It’s better to produce something that you can improve or iterate on, than to continuously block yourself while striving for perfection.
  6. Growth Mindset over Fixed Mindset. A growth mindset means that you can learn and respond. A fixed mindset means that you think something was born that way and won’t change. By adopting a growth mindset, you help avoid learned helplessness. You also pay more attention to your situation and feedback. You also become more flexible in your approach. This flexibility is your key to results. It’s how you will improve over time.
  7. Outcomes over Activities. Spending more time or doing more things isn’t a good measure of productivity. Results are the best measure. By focusing on your results instead of your activities, you can place value on where you spend your time. By getting clarity on what you want to accomplish, you can be flexible in your approach.
  8. Strengths over Weaknesses. Spend more time in your strengths than in your weaknesses. Rather than spend all your energy improving your weaknesses, spend your energy maximizing your strengths. You’ll get more payback. If you do work on your weaknesses, then focus on reducing your key liabilities.
  9. System over Ad Hoc. Having a system for results is a powerful thing. It gives you a firm foundation. You can experiment more. When you get off track, you have something to fall back on or to turn to when you need it. By having a system for the basics, you can move yourself up the stack and automatically invest yourself in higher level matters. Most importantly, you free your mind by having trusted places to look and a trusted process to fall back on.
  10. Value Up over Backlog Burndown. Rather than just work through your backlog, think in terms of creating value. This can be value for yourself, other people, or your employer. This is a value-up strategy. By thinking in terms of value up, you get in the habit of asking, “What’s the next best thing to do?”

10 Principles

Principles are simply a set of guiding rules. Here are the key principles for Agile Results:

  1. 80/20 Action. Rather than spend 80 percent stuck in analysis and only 20 percent doing, it's about shifting to spend 80 percent of your time in action.
  2. Change Your Approach. Tune and adjust as you go. If it’s not working, let it go.
  3. Continuous Learning. As you change and as things change around you, use your learning to improve your results.
  4. Deliver Incremental Value. Find a way to flow value. Chunking up your results helps you build momentum. It also helps you build credibility with yourself and others. Rather than wait for a big bang at the end, you can flow value.
  5. Less Is More. Bite off what you can chew and reduce work that’s in flight.
  6. Factor Action from Reference. You should keep your action items separate from reference. This helps reduce the signal-to-noise ratio.
  7. Set Boundaries. Set boundaries in terms of time or energy. Consider boundaries for the following Hot Spots: mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, and fun. The key is to have a minimum in some categories and a maximum in others.
  8. Fix Time, Flex Scope. Treat time as a first-class citizen. First set time boundaries. Next, bite off what you can chew within those boundaries.
  9. Rhythm of Results. Focus on daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly results. Building a rhythm builds a habit that you don't have to think about. The habit becomes a ritual that produces a feeling of accomplishment.
  10. Version Your Results. You can improve your results on each pass. Version 3 will be better than version 2 which will be better than version 1. This helps you fight perfectionism and produce incremental results.

12 Core Practices of Agile Results

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Action Lists. Track your actions with tickler lists. Consider the following action lists: Daily Outcomes, Weekly Outcomes, Queues, and Scripts.
  12. 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.

The 12 core practices are part of the foundation of Agile Results. Remember to check out the supporting practices; they provide additional tools for success. To see a list of these supporting practices along with their description, see “Cheat Sheet – Supporting Practices Defined” in the Appendix section of this guide.

In Summary

  • Tailor and adapt Agile Results to suit your own needs; it's flexible by design.
  • Knowing the values helps you understand the priorities and trade-offs of the Agile Results system. The principles are guidelines which help you make choices.
  • You don't have to adopt Agile Results all at once; you can adopt the Agile Results practices incrementally. Use the values, principles, and practices as a starting point.
  • The simplest way to get started with Agile Results is to adopt The Rule of 3 and identify three results you want to accomplish for today. Next, adopt the Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection pattern to help you achieve weekly results. Next, adopt Hot Spots to help achieve a balanced life.

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