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productivity

Using JIRA to Scale your Business

I recently spoke at the 2017 Capability Counts conference, put on by the CMMI Institute. David Anderson Keynote 2017.PNG It’s an interesting event that isn’t focused just on CMMI maturity models — instead it’s a conference where a few hundred people get together to discuss process improvement, Agile, software engineering processes, and a variety of other related topics.

The keynote (shown in the picture above) is David Anderson of LeanKanban University talking about the core concepts of Kanban, which go far beyond most people’s understanding of 3 column boards.

I spoke on using Atlassian’s JIRA product to help an organize scale — sharing some best practices/recommendations on how to use a tool like JIRA to get information out of email, hallway conversations, and meetings and into a system where work can be clarified, prioritized and tracked.

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CIO 101 for Entrepreneurs

This morning I got to share IT infrastructure, business strategy, and business
architecture tips and recommendations with some local current and future entrepreneurs at The Capitol Post in Old Town Alexandria.  Capitol Post is a great organization focused on inspiring Veteran entrepreneurs to find professional clarity and scale those visions.  They offer several great things, including  a cool co-working space right in North Old Town Alexandria, classes, and a startup accelerator program.

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Here are the slides and strategy template I went through with the group this morning, helping entrepreneurs deal with IT.   We talked about:

We talked about how IT for non-technical entrepreneurs can be like personal finance for non-financial people — it’s very important, but it’s hard to motivate yourself to invest the time you need to understand it, make some solid plans, automate it, and then move on to creating value.

It’s been a year since I last taught at Capitol Post (https://mikehking.com/2015/09/11/talking-technology-bunker-labs/), and it’s great to see how much they’ve grown (the office is beautiful and their getting ready for their next cohort to go through the Bunker Labs DC accelerator.

Don’t get Stuck in the Past, Present, or Future

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how each person has different tendencies.  Some of us are introverted.  Some are analytical.  In addition to personality axes like introverted vs. extroverted, thinking vs. feeling (see Myers-Briggs); people often have a tendency to either live in one of these times instead of balancing their time among them:

  • Past – Looking back at what has happened in your life, learning from mistakes and reflecting on what happened and what they learned about themselves through those experiences
  • Present – Engaging in the present, connecting with people and experiences as they happen
  • Future – Looking down the road and making plans, setting a vision and goals for your life

Each of these perspectives is important in moderation, but people sometimes get into trouble by being too focused one view — they can get stuck reliving the past (they miss life entirely, always looking behind them), living only in the moment (reacting to the present without looking down the road and making any plans) so life happens to them instead of creating the life they want, or only focusing in the future, so life passes them by while they make and refine plan after plan.  Don’t get stuck in only one of these — make time to look at all 3.

To quote the cinematic classic Spaceballs, which is almost partially relevant to this discussion:

Colonel Sandurz: Try here. Stop.

Dark Helmet: What the hell am I looking at? When does this happen in the movie?

Colonel Sandurz: Now. You’re looking at now, sir. Everything that happens now, is happening now.

Dark Helmet: What happened to then?

Colonel Sandurz: We passed then.

Dark Helmet: When?

Colonel Sandurz: Just now. We’re at now now.

Dark Helmet: Go back to then.

Colonel Sandurz: When?

Dark Helmet: Now.

Colonel Sandurz: Now?

Dark Helmet: Now.

Colonel Sandurz: I can’t.

Dark Helmet: Why?

Colonel Sandurz: We missed it.

Dark Helmet: When?

Colonel Sandurz: Just now.

Dark Helmet: When will then be now?

Colonel Sandurz: Soon.

Dark Helmet: How soon?

Organizational Operating System Upgrade?

I’ve started reading Brian Roberton’s book Holacracy, which talks about an organizational
management approach focused around self-organization and protected autonomy.  It’s an interesting attack on the base assumption that we should build companies in the traditional, top-down approach where a CEO directs leaders who direct other leaders, through layers and layers of business leaders.  Holacracy is the first non-traditional approach I’ve seen to business architecture (designing a company) that is cohesive and specific.  Managing teams with a methodology like Agile Scrum is powerful, but Scrum doesn’t scale to an entire organization, without armies of Scrum of Scrum Masters.  Early in the book, Brian lays out this metaphor of a business having its own operating system (including the org chart, business processes, etc.):

…the operating system underpinning an organization is easy to ignore, yet it’s the foundation on which we build our business processes (the “apps” of organization), and it shapes the human culture as well.  Perhaps because of its invisibility, we haven’t seen many robust alternatives or significant improvements to our modern top-down, predict-and-control “CEO is in charge” OS.  When we unconsciously accept that as our only choice, the best we can do is counteract some of its fundamental weaknesses by bolting on new processes or trying to improve organization-wide culture.  But just as many of our current software applications wouldn’t run well on MS_DOS, the new processes, techniques, or cultural changes we might try to adopt simply won’t run well on an operating system built around an older paradigm.

Brian describes an entire methodology, like some of the prescriptive ceremonies and roles you see in Agile Scrum; which I’m still wrapping my head around.  The core tenets of independent, autonomous roles seems incredibly powerful, because it seems to make companies much more scalable.  And it reminds me of the core factors that Daniel Pink identified in Drive as what employees wants in their job:

  1. Autonomy: People want to have control over their work
  2. Mastery: People want to get better at what they do
  3. Purpose: People want to be part of something that is bigger than they are

Holacracy’s concepts explained in 107 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUHfVoQUj54

Work on your life, Not just in it

I was chatting with some friends recently about making time to reflect on your life, and making time to really connect with close friends, digging into each other’s lives.  It stuck me that the concept of ‘You need to work on your business, not just in your business’ (paraphrased) from The E-Myth is very relevant to both business and your personal life.  Gerber is making the point that entrepreneurs often get mired in the distractions of doing day-to-day things (operations) without making time to build a business (strategy, business architecture) — things like enabling the company to scale by defining strategic objectives/plans, processes, expectations, etc.

Just like that, it’s all too easy for me to live my life in a reactive mode, trying to work on the next crisis, both in my job at at home, without taking time to sit down, reflect, think about my priorities and objectives, and what types of mental models/worldviews are informing those goals.  In your life, don’t forget to make time to think about your life — whether it’s in a structured way (e.g. creatingyourlifeplan.comlivingforwardbook.com) or just taking time every month or quarter to reflect, journal, and dream about what you want to change in your life.  Companies are much better at strategic planning than most people are (though certainly not perfect Holacracy Bicycle Metaphor ).

Make your Life Easier by Converting Decisions into Systems

You have a fixed amount of decision making each day (see Wired article, Conserve Your Willpower, It Runs Out), so it’s incredibly valuable to automate the unimportant decisions so you can focus on the valuable ones.

So carve out some time to reflect on what takes your time and energy, and what your goals are; and then invest energy in creating and sustaining systems, instead of trying to make new decisions constantly:

  • President Obama reduces daily choices like which suit to wear and what food to eat, so he can focus on important decisions
  • Personal finances – Ramit Sethi’s great blog post explains how you can automate your monthly savings and investing, so you don’t need to spend time each month managing it
  • Create weekly and daily routines around how you eat — think about how grocery shopping and weekly routines can set your week up for success or failure regarding food (see Scott Adams’ blog or Tim Ferris’ 3 minute breakfast recommendation)
  • I have a weekly work routine where my colleagues share our top priorities for the upcoming week each Monday as a way to communicate priorities, identify ways to help each other, and hold each other accountable (check out Execution:  The Discipline of Getting Things Done)
  • When I come home from work, I put my work shirt on the right side of the closet so I don’t keep wearing the shirt day-after-day (it’s one less thing to remember early in the morning)

How to Copy Photos from Apple Photos to Google Photos with Correct Dates and Times

I recently wanted to copy a large set of photos (over 10,000) out of Apple Photos (Mac-based photo management application/database) and save them on a USB hard drive so I could import them to Google Photos (cloud-based photo management service).  I did an export of all the photos out of Apple Photos, which saved the date and time information in the EXIF metadata, but not in the file metadata itself.  Here’s how I solved this (which I’m sure isn’t the most elegant solution), using a Mac:

  1. I found this thread, which explains how to use a few different tools to accomplish this, on photo.stackexchange.com
  2. I downloaded jhead for my Mac
  3. jhead for the Mac doesn’t support recursive (e.g. -r) calls, so I needed to consolidate all the images from sub-folders and sub-sub-folders — I did that using this command on the Mac terminal using this command “find ./ -name ‘*.jpg’ -exec cp ‘{}’ ./ \;“, which I found on this forum http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1385966:
  4. Then I deleted the folders and sub-folders, as I don’t need them for organization (I just want to get the photos backed up into Google Photos)

The Risk of Oversimplificiation

Have you ever noticed how when something is simplified enough that it doesn’t intimidate people, people start to have a lot more opinions?

It makes sense that people who aren’t rocket scientists shouldn’t make recommendations on rocket ship designs.  But as complexity is reduced, two problems often arise:

  1. People start to make recommendations on things they shouldn’t, due to nuances or context they don’t understand
  2. People spend entirely too much time talking about details that aren’t important

aws_dashboardProblem #1 can be very dangerous.  I was discussing today how technologies like cloud hosting feel so accessible that people often make decisions where they don’t really understand the associated impacts and decisions.  Amazon Web Services (AWS) has a great dashboard that lets AWS users see all their cloud-based infrastructure. This dashboard is very powerful in the right hands, but often makes non-technical decision makers feel like they can manage their organization’s IT infrastructure, without realizing the impact of not having redundant systems, data backups, and disaster recovery solutions in place. (Note:  If you’re looking for AWS cloud expertise, check out JHC Technology or Halfaker.)

Problem #2 can also be very damaging to organizations — organizations sometimes spend shedtoo much time talking about what color the walls of their new office space should be, instead of what they should focus on strategically next year.  This concept is known as Parkinson’s Law of Triviality (Bicycle Shed Principle).  They call it the Bicycle Shed principle because of a story told by Mr. Parkinson about when decision makers charged with designing a nuclear power plant focused most of their time on what materials should be used to build a storage shed. (Thanks Ramit Sethi for introducing me to this concept.)

Watch out for both cases — it’s important for decision makers to be aware of where their expertise ends and where their attention should be invested.  Note:  A leader shouldn’t avoid areas outside of their expertise, but they should realize when they need to focus on certain parts of a decision, or when they need to rely on internal or external experts.

Fire and Forget: Difference Between A Vice President And A Janitor

The military classifies some missiles as “fire and forget” because they don’t need to be missilesmonitored after they are fired.  Great leaders are like this — their boss can give them an objective and know they don’t need to follow up over and over to ensure success.

This concept is incredibly important in your career as take on more and more responsibility.  Junior team members are expected to work hard and be guided by leaders to support the team.  However, there is an inflection point where the the value people add to the organization separates based on those who work hard and those who will ensure success.  It’s great to be someone who works hard to support the team, but it’s a whole different level of value to an organization when someone can be trusted to accomplish an objective without needing oversight.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check in with your boss, or ask for advice or mentorship, or request in-progress reviews (IPRs) or other meetings to touch base — it means that your boss sees you as a person they can “fire and forget”:

This type of high-value leader doesn’t wait for someone to check on them if they have questions or obstacles (they analyze and solve them, or they ask for help, or they bring recommendations to someone for validation)

Business Insider wrote a post several years ago about a related quote by Steve Jobs:  Steve jobs explained that the difference between a janitor and a Vice President is that a janitor can have excuses for not getting their work done, but a VP is responsible to succeed, regardless of obstacles.

“Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering,” says Jobs, adding, that Rubicon is “crossed when you become a VP.”

In other words, you have no excuse for failure. You are now responsible for any mistakes that happen, and it doesn’t matter what you say.

Invest time and energy and become a leader that people can trust to get things done when you say you will, without oversight or reminders.

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