Cheat Sheet - Supporting Practices Defined

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This is in addition to the 12 core practices found in “Chapter 3 – Values, Principles, and Practices of Agile Results.”


Supporting Practices for Agile Results Summary Table

Category Practices
Rhythm of Results
  • Daily, Weekly, Monthly Results
Mindsets and Motivation
  • Compelling “Why”
  • Switch Hats
Time
  • Allocated Time
  • Boundaries
  • Buffers
  • Fix Time, Flex Scope
Energy
  • Park It
  • Power Hours
Learning
  • Improvement Scripts
  • Lessons Learned
  • Pair Up
Planning
  • Diversify Your Results
  • Reduce Open Work
  • Tests for Success
Doing
  • Batch and Focus
  • Chunk It Down
  • Do It, Review It, Improve It
  • Fail Fast
  • Good Enough for Now
  • Just Start
  • Scripts
  • Sweeping
  • Test Your Results
Organizing
  • One Place to Look
Prioritizing
  • MUST, SHOULD, COULD
  • Next Best Thing
  • Worst Things First


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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Improvement Scripts. Write down steps to perform a specific action or routine.
  14. Lessons Learned. Identify three things that worked well. Identify three things that didn’t work well. Carry forward your lessons learned.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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).
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. 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.
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