Tag Archives: goals

Lessons from an Ironman

My husband completed his first Ironman in Panama City, Florida. Something remarkable happened during the race and it makes me ponder similar implications in the work place. My husband’s watch broke. Actually, his second watch broke. The first one was kicked off and now sits on the ocean floor of the Gulf of Mexico. The second watch went black 90 minutes into the bike ride. So here he is, doing his first Ironman and he has virtually no ability to pace himself. The only way that he can ‘tell time’ is to watch the path of the sun and the only way he knows his relative position is to pass a mile marker, gauge his approximate speed and use that information to make decisions about nutrition and his pace.ironman2

As I am sure you can imagine, Ironman races are incredibly difficult. It is a 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bike following by a 26.2 mile run (a full marathon). Many well-experienced athletes have made the mistake of going too hard in the swim or the bike, only to find that their body doesn’t have enough energy left to finish the run. This is a very real risk and one that should not be taken lightly. So how do you, as a first time Ironman, pace yourself on the bike when you have no timepiece? Well, you do your best. And you listen to your body. And guess. And maybe pray a bit.

Lessons from an Author

The fact that I can title this blog “Lessons from an Author” is both amazing and surreal.  You see, my first book was just published so I guess I can officially say that I am an author.  (Buy it here!) Holding the book in my hands led me to reflect on the last 18 months and the journey that my co-author, Sondra Ashmore, and I have been on.  For what they are worth, here are the lessons that I have learned along the way.cover

Persistence Required

When writing a book, or doing any meaningful and challenging undertaking, you must have persistence.  This is obvious, I know, but let me share the backstory.  There were two chapter in our Agile textbook that were particularly difficult – the chapter on roles and the one on culture.  Not that we didn’t have plenty of content, that was never the problem.  It was trying to figure out a way to convey the information in a logical and cohesive fashion.  Each chapter was re-written nearly from scratch three times.  By the time you are writing a chapter for the third time, it is easy to get frustrated, depressed, aggravated, annoyed (can you tell that the memories are still fresh??) and a whole host of other emotions.  This is when you need someone to pull you back to the surface.  In my case, I was lucky to have Sondra.  In my time of doubt, Sondra reminded me that this is the time and circumstances that separates published authors from those with unpublished work sitting in a drawer.  It is persistence.  Pure and simple.  There are lots of great writers out there.  But persistence is the distinguishing trait for true authors.

Step 3: Write a scene for success

In our previous blogs, we have outlined two key steps to take before you dive into that new project or idea that you are so excited about.  Those were: Step 1 – Set your Goals and Step 2 – Define your target audience, or personas.  Now it is time for the final step – decide what success looks like and the best way to do that is to write a scene.  I wish I could say this was my idea, but it’s not.  The smart people at Wharton wrote a great article on this concept called Visionary Leadership: Creating Scenes that Change the Future.   The idea is to define success for your project/challenge/opportunity by creating a scene – like in a movie – of what success would look like in the future.  We did this at a company that we are consulting with and it was a great exercise.

Write the Scene

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Image Source: http://www.squidoo.com/screenwriting_tips

Our effort was an Agile implementation at a company with lots of legacy software and its fair share of legacy processes and ideas.  We sat down and pretended that we were through the Agile adoption and the core tenets of Agile were alive and well.  Our scene involved speedy response to a changing market condition, reprioritization of work, team execution of a new deliverable, finding out that deliverable was not the correct response, immediately incorporating that feedback, course-correcting and quickly deploying a more suitable solution.  This scene included management and stakeholders playing a supportive role without judgment, finger-pointing or unnecessary meetings.  Sounds like a dream world, right?  This was a great exercise because it forced us to think about all of the attitudes and practices that would need to change to make this scene a reality and that was eye-opening.

Step 1: Set Goals

When we get a good idea, it is natural to jump right in and start working.  In recent weeks, several people have had so much enthusiasm about their project that they want to dive right in without any real preparation or fully formed vision of what they want.  To address this, here is a three part blog series on steps to take before you start.  This week’s blog is dedicated to Goals – or defining what you want to accomplish.  Part 2 will be defining your target audience and we will discuss personas.  Finally, part 3 will define what success will look like by creating a screenplay.

SMART Goals?

lighted-path1But first things first.  What are your goals for the project?  Now, many will tell you that you have to define SMART goals – goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.  I am going to disagree.  While SMART goals are great, I don’t think you need that much structure for every project.  There is a saying attributed to Voltaire which says “Perfection is the enemy of the good.”  I feel like this applies to goals too.  You can spend so much time trying to define metrics that are measurable and time-bound that you delay the project or miss a critical window.

Managing Conflicts in Agile

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Image Source: http://www.reachingout.me/general-stuff/

Moving to Agile or Scrum introduces a lot of change and that can lead to conflicts in an organization.  There are a number of key factors to consider when managing those conflicts so that they are resolved quickly and collaboratively.

1. Level Set on the Goals

Here is a common scenario that we see in Agile.  The development team is frustrated because the Product Owner doesn’t have all of the answers and the Product Owner is frustrated that the developers ask for everything before they will work on anything.  Does this sound familiar?  In this scenario, we need to get back to basics and remember our main goal.  We want to deliver working software that adds business value as quickly as possible.  Both the development teams and the Product Owner share this goal and we need to remember that.  No product owner is knowingly going to withhold information about the marketplace or the product and no development team ever plans to write crummy code.  We all want the same thing, we just have different roles in how to achieve that.  So if you find yourself at a stalemate, think back to the original goal and realign on that.  It can really help to get everyone back on the same page.

52 Blogs – Determined or Nuts?

Like everyone, I have some personality quirks that drive my behavior and response to situations. One of those – my determination to adhere to self-assigned goals – has been top of mind lately. You see, I set a goal of writing 52 blogs in 2013, one per week. No one asked me to do this and I am not sure that many people even read them. But I established this goal and I had a 4 week lapse in my delivery. Others might consider a job change and all of the associated networking, traveling and interviewing as a good excuse for a hiatus, but not me. I said 52, darnit, so I have some catching up to do.

52-weeks-to-awesome-500This personality quirk makes me smile. The need to honor my commitments to myself, even if it is inconvenient, is just part of who I am. Hopefully my tenacity will suffice and I will be able to write the full 52, even if that means I am blogging on New Year’s Eve!

But this gets me thinking – why am I this way and how can I turn this ‘quirk’ into an asset? Here’s is what I have come up with:

  1. Set meaningful goals –  Blogging for the sake of blogging might not be the best use of my time so I need to ensure that blogging is also contributing to a higher purpose, like furthering the brand of my company, or my personal brand. Or conveying information about subjects like Agile and Product Management that others might benefit from.
  2. Manage time effectively – make sure that the goals are achievable. Saying that I am going to work-out every day or write three thank you notes each morning or read for one hour each evening – those aren’t really achievable. I need to give myself the time to do what I committed to do and the flexibility to know that life will inevitably get in the way.
  3. Avoid tortuous activities – I need to only commit to the things that I enjoy and that serve a noble or entertaining purpose. For me to commit to gardening or (heaven forbid) cooking would be disastrous. I don’t enjoy those things, I am not good at them and I really have no passion develop an aptitude for them. I need to stick with what I enjoy – while certainly stretching and going outside my comfort zone – but not undertaking something that I would dread.

I hope this resonates with you and can help you set new goals and see them through. It is a great sense of accomplishment when you reach the finish line and you can say “Oh yeah, I did that!”