Getting Results book
I recently came across a pointer to a book called Getting Results which is available on the web site in draft form while it's being written. I've spent some good amount of time over the last few years really thinking about productivity and efficiency and am always interested in new techniques. My existing time/task management system has been working well enough for quite a few years but definitely has some blind spots and shortcomings. The first chapter lays out the framework for the system itself, in what I felt to be a clean, concise fashion. A few of the concepts that I particularly liked:
Time as a First-Class Citizen. In Agile Results, time is a first-class citizen. Windows of opportunity are important. It’s about doing “good enough” for now, and versioning your results. Time changes what’s important. What was important last month or last week might not be what’s important now. That’s the agile part – be responsive to what’s important now. This also includes using timeboxes effectively. For example, rather than try to figure out how long something might take, start by figuring out how much time you want to invest in it. Identify up front at what point do diminishing returns become unacceptable. This will help you cut your losses and figure out how to optimize your time.Of course this makes complete sense to read but there is a difference between knowing the truth and practicing it. The temptation to just work harder is often very strong but rarely sets up a system for long term success. While I do always enjoy thinking further out towards the horizon, I am yet to see anything other than clear, incremental steps ('versioning results') actually make measurable progress towards it. One of my other favorite topics - testable outcomes and measurement - also gets a good mention:
Test Your Results. Have a bias for action. Rather than do a bunch of analysis and commit to a big plan up front, start taking action and testing you results. Use the feedback to improve your plans. Testing your results is a way to find the risks and surprises earlier versus later. A simple way to remember this is “do it, review it, and improve it.” You’ll find that action creates inspiration. A lot of people wait for their moment of inspiration before they start, but what they don’t realize is that simply by starting, the inspiration can follow. It’s like going to see a movie and then enjoying it more than you expected. Tests for Success. Your tests for success answer the question, “What will good look like?” Simply by figuring out the three outcomes you want for the day, the week, the month, and the year, you identify your tests for success. You have an idea of what you want to accomplish and what good will look like. Knowing your tests for success helps you prioritize.Excellent! Having a plan, working to it and meeting it aren't worth anything if it's the wrong plan. Likewise, heavily investing time, effort and creativity into something that isn't well aligned with a problem at hand can be particularly detrimental to the sense of progress. Catching these patterns early saves so much time later (although that itself is actually quite a hard hypothesis to prove/demonstrate.) I'm looking forward to reading further.
March 17, 2010