How To - Adopt the 12 Core Practices of Agile Results

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-- J.D. Meier


Summary

This article shows you how to adopt the 12 core practices of Agile Results: you’ll review the 12 core practices, and then systematically adopt the practices. You don’t have to adopt the practices all at once, but the more you adopt, the better the results. These practices are complementary. By putting the practices in place, you structure yourself for success. When you fall off the horse, you have a system in place that will help you get back on.


Contents

  • Objectives
  • Overview
  • Summary of Steps
  • Step 1—Review the 12 Core Practices
  • Step 2—Create Your List of Scannable Outcomes
  • Step 3—Adopt Daily Outcomes
  • Step 4—Adopt Weekly Outcomes
  • Step 5—Design Your Week
  • Organizing Your Action and Reference Information
  • Adopting 30 Day Improvement Sprints
  • Adopting Additional Practices


Objectives

  • Learn how to adopt the 12 core practices of Agile Results.
  • Learn how to have a more effective day.
  • Learn how to have a more effective week.
  • Learn how to spend more time in things that matter most to you.
  • Learn how to reduce open work and executing the work you have way more effectively.


Overview

The 12 core practices of Agile Results are

  1. Action Lists
  2. Daily Outcomes
  3. Growth Mindset
  4. Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection
  5. Monthly Improvement Sprint
  6. Reference Collections
  7. Scannable Outcomes
  8. Strong Week
  9. The Rule of 3
  10. Timebox Your Day
  11. Triage
  12. Weekly Outcomes


The core practices of Agile Results help you build a personal results system for daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly results. It combines practices from software engineering, sports psychology, and positive psychology, as well as principles, patterns, and practices for time management and personal productivity. It’s holistic in that it combines time, energy, and techniques to produce more effective results at work and home. By investing in your life Hot Spots (mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships and fun), you end up with a system for sustainable results. In addition, you consistently renew your skills and energy as you spend more time in your strengths and the things you enjoy, while learning and responding to changing environments.


Stop taking on more until you finish what's on your plate: eat the hot stuff first and let stuff slough off. Letting the right things go is realistic, practical, and effective; people that don't let stuff go, tend to be the ones that fail—everything ends up a priority so there is no priority. Get more effective at cycling through what's on your plate, so you can flow results. It's this little idea of reducing open work and executing the work you have way more effectively. Some ways to do this include the following: reduce task switching; play to your strengths (as this renews your energy, and you get these things done faster than other people can); say “No” effectively (by pushing for your strengths and setting/getting clear on your requirements for success: “I can do this, if …”); and know your capacity (by cycling through The Rule of 3 each day, each week, each month, each year).


Summary of Steps

  • Step 1—Review the 12 Core Practices
  • Step 2—Create Your List of Scannable Outcomes
  • Step 3—Adopt Daily Outcomes
  • Step 4—Adopt Weekly Outcomes
  • Step 5—Design Your Week


Step 1—Review the 12 Core Practices

Familiarize yourself with the 12 core practices of Agile Results. These definitions are found in “Chapter 3 – Values, Principles, and Practices of Agile Results,” but I’ve included it here for convenience:

  1. 30 Day 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. You can always repeat a sprint. The idea is that 30 days is enough time to experiment with your results throughout the month. You might not see progress after the first couple weeks while you’re learning. A month is a good chunk of time to check your progress.
  2. Action Lists. Track your actions with tickler lists. Consider the following action lists: Daily Outcomes, Weekly Outcomes, Queues, and Scripts.
  3. Daily Outcomes. Each day is a new chance for results. Use daily tickler lists for action items, and create a new list each day. Each day, ask yourself what are three things (The Rule of 3) you want to accomplish? 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.
  4. Growth Mindset. This is simply a decision. You 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’s not static. Neither are your results.
  5. Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection. Decide what you want to accomplish for the week. Make progress each day. At the end of the week, reflect on your results.
  6. Reference Lists. Some information is not actionable. This is reference information. It might be helpful information, and good to know, but if it’s not actionable, then it’s reference. You can store your reference information as tickler lists. Here are some example reference lists you might keep: Ideas, Notes, Weekly Results, Monthly Results, and Yearly Results.
  7. 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 action. 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 (body, career, emotions, financial, fun, mind, and relationships).
  8. Strong Week. Each week focus on spending more time on activities that make you strong and less time on activities that make you weak. Do the same with people. Spend more time with people that make you strong and less time with people 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. Better yet, you don’t have activities that weaken you loom over you throughout the day. More importantly, by following activities that make you weak, with activities that make you strong, you can rebuild your energy and spread your energy throughout the day. During your Friday Reflections, you should evaluate your energy levels. Assuming that your regimen for eating, sleeping, and working out aren’t getting in the way, are your activities during the week strengthening you or weakening you? You can do a few things. You can try shuffling around when you do certain activities. For example, you might move them to the morning or move them later in the day. You might try pairing up on some activities. You also might find that some activities really are a drain on you and you should limit them. Worst case, consolidate activities that drain you to your mornings so that you can get them over with when you are strongest. Follow them up with activities that strengthen you so you get your strength back.
  9. The Rule of 3. This Rule of 3 will help you stay focused on the vital few things that matter. Identify your three key outcomes. This is the heart of your Daily Outcomes. Identify 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 are bigger than the three outcomes for the week, 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. If you nail the three items you wanted to accomplish, then go ahead and 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.
  10. Timebox Your Day. If you keep time a constant (by ending your day at a certain time), it helps with a lot of things: work-life balance (days can chew into nights can chew into weekends), figuring out where to optimize your day, prioritizing (time is a great forcing function) Carve up your day into big buckets (e.g., administration, work time, think time, connect time), and then figure out how much time you're willing to give them. If you're not getting the throughput you want, you can ask yourself: Are you working on the right things? Are you spending too much time on lesser things? Are there some things you can do more efficiently or effectively? Without a timebox, you can easily spend all day reading mails, blogs, aliases, doing self-training, etc., and then wonder where your day went. Using timeboxes helps strike balance. Timeboxes also help with pacing. If you only have so many hours to produce results, you’re more careful to spend my high energy hours on the right things.
  11. Triage. Triage incoming action items: Do It, Queue It, Schedule It, or Delegate It. Do It, if it’s the next best thing for you to do, or now is the most opportunistic time, or if 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.
  12. 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).


Step 2—Create Your List of Scannable Outcomes

In this step, you implement the following practices: Reference Lists, Scannable Outcomes, and The Rule of 3. The key is to identify the outcomes that you want for your life Hot Spots, work Hot Spots and personal Hot Spots. Hot Spots are simply areas of focus, projects, or activities that you need to spend your time and energy on.


Identify Outcomes for Life Hot Spots

For each Hot Spot, identify up to three outcomes (results) you want:


Hot Spot Outcomes
Mind
Body
Emotions
Career
Financial
Relationships
Fun


Identify Outcomes for Work Hot Spots

For each project or major activity at work, identify up to three outcomes you want:


Hot Spots Outcomes
Project/Activity #1
Project/Activity #2
Project/Activity #3


Identify Outcomes for Personal Hot Spots

For each project or major activity at home, identify up to three outcomes you want:


Hot Spots Outcomes
Project/Activity #1
Project/Activity #2
Project/Activity #3


Step 3—Adopt Daily Outcomes

In this step, you implement the following practices: Daily Outcomes, The Rule of 3, Timebox Your Day, Triage, and Action Lists.


Create a List of Daily Outcomes

Each day, identify and write down your three results you want for the day. If you already have a to-do list system, simply add your three outcomes to the top. This serves as an Action List to remind you of the three key things you want to accomplish for the day. Here is an example:


Date 2009-09-12
Outcomes 1. First draft of chapter, 30% complete.

2. Great lunch with an old friend.

3. Training material reviewed and signed off.

Actions
  • Write initial bullet points.
  • Research the training requirements.
  • Find the contacts for sign off.
  • Etc.


Keep the following points in mind:

  • Each day, create a new list and name it the current date. This keeps it simple and lets you review your week by each day.
  • Each day, identify the three most important results.
  • Don’t carry over everything each day. Let things slough off based on priority.


Each day you will create a new list of outcomes for the day. The three outcomes help you focus and prioritize everything you do. Make a fresh list each day. Let things slough off. You can carry over an outcome the next day, only if it’s one of the three next best things for you to do. The big thing to keep in mind here is that these three outcomes are your tests for success for the day. You get to define what your best results for the day are. You might decide your most important outcome is that you accomplish nothing. It’s up to you how you set your bar, but the idea is to be mindful and exercise your choices thoughtfully.


Timebox Your Day

Treat your time as a limited budget. Spend it on the things that are most important to what you want to accomplish. To do so, set limits, either in terms of minimums or maximums. Carve up your day into big buckets (e.g., administration, work time, think time, and connect time); then, figure out how much time you're willing to give them. Here is an example:


Bucket Time Budget
Overall Workday 8 hours maximum
Administration 1 hour maximum
Planning 30 minutes minimum
Execution 4 hours minimum
Meeting 1 hour maximum


Keep the following points in mind:

  • Set an overall limit for your work day. This is your time budget. This will help you prioritize where you spend your time during the day.
  • Treat it as a baseline and stay flexible. For example, some days you may need to spend more time in planning. The idea is to know where your time goes.
  • Change the amount of time you spend on things. This is one of the simplest and most effective ways to change your results.


Triage Your Incoming Actions

You most likely have to manage incoming action items throughout your day. Triage incoming items against what you want to accomplish for the day.


Technique Description
Do It It’s the next best thing for you to do, or 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.


Step 4—Adopt Weekly Outcomes

In this step, you implement the following practices: Weekly Outcomes; Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection; Growth Mindset; The Rule of 3; and Reference Lists.


Create a List of Weekly Outcomes

Each week, identify and write down your three results you want for the week. This serves as an Action List to remind you what’s important for the week.


Date 2009-09-14
Outcomes 1. Training courseware complete.

2. Lawn and garden in top shape.

3. 5 power hours added to my week.


Adopt Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection

Use the Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection pattern to drive your weekly results. On Mondays, identify the three most important results you want for the week. Each day, identify the three most important results you want for the day. On Fridays, reflect on your results and identify what’s going well and what needs to improve. Use what you learned from your Friday Reflection to improve the next week. It’s a cycle of improvement. This is how you employ your Growth Mindset for continuous learning.


Item Description
Monday Vision
  • On Monday, identify three outcomes for the week.
  • Visualize: if this were Friday, what would you like to look back on?
Daily Outcomes
  • Each day, identify three outcomes for the day.
  • Prioritize everything you do against the three outcomes.
Friday Reflection
  • On Friday, identify three things going well and three things to improve.
  • Reflect on your actual results against the results you wanted.


Step 5—Design Your Week

In this step, you implement the following practices: Strong Week and Growth Mindset.


Fix Time for Eating, Sleeping, and Working Out

One of the most effective patterns for improving your week is having consistent times for eating, sleeping, and working out. If you set those in place and work everything else around that, you have a great start. This is how many of the most effective people structure their week. They know how much sleep they need, so this helps them figure out what time to go to bed the night before. By making time for your work out and eating, you’re helping ensure that you invest in yourself. One of the most common patterns for successful people is they workout first thing in the morning. This gives them a continuous block of “me” time from the night before into the start of their day.


Set Boundaries and Limits

Set boundaries and limits in terms of time for any life Hot Spots that need attention. Here is an example:


Hot Spot Minimums and Maximums (per week)
Mind
Body Minimum of 3 hours
Emotions
Career Maximum of 50 hours
Financial
Relationships Minimum of 3 hours
Fun Minimum of 3 hours


Keep the following points in mind:

  • When you set a minimum in the right categories, you avoid getting unbalanced and improving other categories.
  • When you set a maximum in the right categories, you learn how to become more effective. For example, if you only have eight hours to throw at your day, you learn to use them wisely.
  • The worst mistake it to throw more time at problems. The key is to reduce time spent, while increasing value and improving efficiency and effectiveness.


Design a Strong Week

Map out your strengths and weaknesses. Consolidate your weaknesses. Add strengths.


Day Schedule
Sunday
Monday 9:00 – 10:00 a.m.—Worst thing first (weaknesses)

10:00 – 11:00 a.m.—Power hour.

2:00 – 3:00 p.m.—Power hour.

Tuesday 9:00 – 10:00 a.m.—Worst thing first (weaknesses)

10:00 – 11:00 a.m.—Power hour.

2:00 – 3:00 p.m.—Power hour.

Wednesday 9:00 – 10:00 a.m.—Worst thing first (weaknesses)

10:00 – 11:00 a.m.—Power hour.

2:00 – 3:00 p.m.—Power hour.

Thursday 9:00 – 10:00 a.m.—Worst thing first (weaknesses)

10:00 – 11:00 a.m.—Power hour.

2:00 – 3:00 p.m.—Power hour.

Friday 9:00 – 10:00 a.m.—Worst thing first (weaknesses)

10:00 – 11:00 a.m.—Power hour.

2:00 – 3:00 p.m.—Power hour.

Saturday


Keep the following points in mind:

  • A weakness is anything that drains you.
  • A strength is an activity that catalyzes you and you’re naturally good at. It’s your talent. Add strengths to improve your energy and results.
  • Get rid of as many activities that are weaknesses as you can. Consolidate the weaknesses you can’t get rid of, to the early part of your day, to get them over with.


Organizing Your Action and Reference Information

Reference information is information that’s useful to know, but isn’t an action item. Action information is anything that represents something you do. If you can’t do it, it’s not an action. The key is to factor reference from action. In doing so, you can quickly scan for actions you need to take, as well as easily scan for information you need as input. When it comes to results, the keys to effective information management include creating scannable lists (think of these as tickler lists where you just need a quick note to remind you what to do); factoring reference from action; consolidating where to look (i.e., one place to look versus anywhere and everywhere); and periodically sweeping your collections (going back and cleaning things up when they get out of control).


Action Lists Reference Lists
  • Daily Outcomes
  • Weekly Outcomes
  • Queues
  • Scripts
  • Ideas
  • Notes
  • Monthly Results


Organize Your Action Lists

Organizing your action information frees up your mind and creates one place to look for your actions. Action information can include your Daily Outcomes, Weekly Outcomes, queues, and scripts.

  • Daily Outcomes. This is your list of Daily Outcomes that you create every day as outlines in Step 3.
  • Weekly Outcomes. This is your list of Weekly Outcomes that you create as outlined in Step 4.
  • Queues. For thing you can’t accomplish in a single day, you need a place to store your actions and ideas. Make a list for each activity, project or chunk of work that you’re focused on. This is where you put actions and outcomes that you aren’t working on today but need to remember. It’s where you store state without cluttering your head. Keeping organized lists, whether on paper or electronically, helps you organize your thinking while letting your mind work on more important things other than task lists. Your queues are inputs into your Daily Outcomes and Weekly Outcomes.
  • Scripts. A script is simply a written set of steps to perform a particular task. Scripts can help with complex activities or when you are trying to build a new habit. It’s easier to follow a script than to have to spend a lot of energy thinking your way through a task each time.


Organize Your Reference Lists

Organizing your reference information frees up your mind and creates one place to look for your reference information: a repository for any notes you might need and a dumping ground for your ideas.

  • Ideas. This is your personal depot of ideas. These could turn into actions, but while they are ideas, they are simply a reference list of interesting thoughts or ideas.
  • Notes. This is your personal knowledge base. It’s all the little tidbits of information and notes you collect. Consolidate these and don’t mix them in with your action information.
  • Monthly Results. At the end of each month, make a simple list of your most important results you accomplished. This helps remind you of what you got done and helps you build momentum.


Keep the following points in mind:

  • This is a baseline system to help you get started. Adjust it as you see fit.
  • The most important thing is that you consolidate and factor out your action items from your reference information.
  • The next most important thing is that you have one place to look for your information, whether you use pen and paper, a simple file system of text files, or some personal information management software.


Adopting Monthly Improvement Sprints

Think of these as monthly improvement sprints. Pick one thing to improve, learn, or try out for the month. Each month, pick something new. This gives you a chance to cycle through 12 things over the year. You can always repeat a sprint. The idea is that a month is enough time to experiment with your results. You might not see progress after the first couple of weeks while you’re learning, but a month is a good chunk of time to check your progress. In fact, your first Monthly Improvement Sprint can be adopting Agile Results; test-drive it for a month. Take your lessons learned from the month, carry the good forward, and use it to refine your approach.


Adopting Additional Practices

You can adopt additional practices as you see fit by drawing from the practices below:


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


For a description of the practices, see “Cheat Sheet – Supporting Practices Defined.”


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