Getting Results the Agile Way: Book Review

Getting Results the Agile Way by J.D. Meier

This is the third book I have read for this SDMBA program and it was good, but not nearly as well polished as Getting Things Done. At a high level, you want to create a system where you go into a day with three outcomes you want to accomplish. Step back and look at the top 3 things you want to accomplish this week, month, quarter, year, hell you could even go out to a 3-5 year plan. Meier only goes out to a year, but it could be scaled to be used with the (six level model for reviewing your work in GTD). At my current work, we have a very similar system to this. this book might have even been the basis of the the system at work. At work we have it at groups of 5s. 5 daily, weekly, monthly, semiannual goals that are reviewed based on your responsibilities. The thing I like about 3 is that it makes it easier to prioritize. J.D. Meier in this book mentions that you have to take small bites, jump smaller hurdles, etc. If you want to prioritize 5 things, what is really the priority?? I know it also varies depending on your responsibilities and goals, but you also need to prioritize the top 3 things. I am going to just bullet out a bunch of the key takeaways and action items to try and keep this post as short as I can.

  • Must Should Could- in that order of prioritization. Start by listing out your MUST items, then go in descending value. Remember that “value is in the eyes of the beholder…. Then start each day with a clean slate.
  • You want to combine simplicity with focus, prioritization and conscious choice around Value and Results
  • Mentions having a Friday reflection– incorporate into GTD weekly review:
    • Evaluate what you accomplished, didn’t, and why
    • Identify 3 things that went well
    • 3 things that need improvement
    • Evaluate energy levels (throughout week, finding power hours, etc.)
    • Carry lessons forward to next Monday vision to full circle
    • This should be a learning session. Make a Start, Stop, Keep doing list
  • Create Flight lists whenever possible
  • Tickler lists are just checklists to remind you of something. keep no details here just a single word or so that will catch your eye to remind you of the next action
  • Three Meaningful results each day, week, and month
  • Hot Spots are a theme here. he talks about the Hot Spots being Mind, body, emotions career, financial, relationships, and fun. You want to set minimums and maximums in these hot spots and review them in the Friday reflection. where do you need to spend more/less time. Each Hot Spot can have groupings within them:  Activities, Active Projects, Backlog… examples on pages 46-48. Remember, if relationships aren’t growing, they’re dying.
  • Values, principles and practices of Agile results. I am not going to list all of them out, but this is all outlined in Chapter 3. the high level is that you want to structure your life around being optimized for responding to change. Some of the key ones that struck me were: Action over analysis paralysis; Energy over time; Focus as a force multiplier. talks about the growth mindset vs. Fixed mindset (see The Art of Learning); results as the best measure; maximizing your strengths vs. trying to improve your weaknesses. For Principals, 80/20 Action is a good one to apply as well as Fix time, Flex scope.
  • Design your days and Drive your weeks
  • Batching activities helps a lot with items like conversations, calls, emails, etc. Do all of them at once. Take TF’s advice and limit how often you check email… If it is that important, the person will likely call you, leave a message, etc….
  • Craft success stories: “working in your backyard” could be something like mowing the lawn with the smell of the fresh cut grass, then imagine feeling the soil as you plant a garden and sip a cold beer when you are done. This can be done for any scenario, but make it something you can imagine with multiple senses.
  • Understand your customer, Value is in the eyes of the beholder. I ran into this issue with my Coster Lite post. The issue is that the key stakeholders in that scenario were not talked to early enough in the process and “success” never got defined to begin with. I just went with my concept of success.
  • Meier argues you should start your day with defining the 3 most important things vs. the night before. Make sure the 3 things are OUTCOMEs, not Tasks
  • He talks about his Startup routine… It struck me a bit how methodically he is trying to get to work and his morning routine is very relaxing to get him ready to be the most efficient during the day. The goal here is to not overload yourself.
  • Carve out time for what is important i.e. Yoga example of practicing daily. If it is important to you, do it.
  • Power hours are basically dedicated hours at your most productive times of the days that you are normally “in the zone”. Look at The Art of Learning for more info on how to induce “getting in the zone” mentality.
  • Dump your state at the end of the day. here are a couple of ways to do it:
    • Get everything they were working on down so they can easily pick it back up the next day right where they left off.
    • 4 questions to cap your day
      • what did I learn?
      • What did I improve?
      • What did I enjoy?
      • What kind act did I do?
  • Have worry breaks – designate a half an hour for worrying. If you know it is scheduled, you will not randomly entertain these thoughts throughout the day.
  • Creative hours- basically a state of daydreaming. creating new ideas from scratch, pulling ideas together or simply reflecting. You can sometimes leverage your creative hours with your Power Hours to maximize results.
  • Make it work then make it right- this is the idea that you just want to get something to completion, don’t drag your feet. Then you will find that you can go back and fix it, but just getting it down. TF mentions this in his writing process as well in many podcasts.
  • Batch and Focus- don’t keep changing tasks, focus, and hopping around. You will never get into a rhythm.
  • Learn when in the week/day you have the most energy and do your weakest tasks at those times. Also consolidating your weaknesses helps you power hour through them to get on to the items that make you stronger vs. weaker.
  • Schedule breaks so that you stay more engaged. If you know you have a 15 minute break coming you will be able to power through to the finish.
  • Think through in my Friday reflections what recharges me vs. drains me????
  • Don’t spend $20 on a $5 problem. Really good advice for how much time to spend on something
  • Month at a glance – good format on page 94. maybe take a look and convert it to Excel
  • The “design your year” chapter was really good.
    • Design your year by picking the 3 most important changes you want to make in our life in a 1 year scale.
    • Go through the exercise to grant yourself 3 wishes. For me the first things I thought of were 1. Travel 2. Start a Business 3. Utilize my time better- basically getting out of 50 hour workweeks and finding more passion in my work. Otherwise, what the hell are we doing here?
    • A useful exercise is to make a list of all the people, resources, and skills that can help you make your dreams happen.
    • The power of 3 is important. if you are trying to remember your four or five most important things the you lose the power perspective and focus of keeping the three most important results right in front of you.
    • Yearly planning tools on pages 107-110
  • Productivity personas. There are several different types of people:
    • Starter, finisher, thinker, doer, simplifier, maximizer, critic, can do, opportunist, perfectionist, details, big picture, facts and figures, controller, tinkerer, marketer, achiever, randomizer, daydreamer, procrastinator…
    • These all have explanations on page 116 and everyone has portions of each one. what are the strongest traits? what hats can you wear.
    • How do you team up with someone that complements your predominant persona? Starter with a finisher, etc.
  • Productivity pitfalls and explanations on how to jump these ditches: pages 118-120
    • Analysis paralysis
    • do it when you feel like it
    • don’t know the work to be done
    • lack of boundaries
    • perfectionism
  • Its a bit cliche, but turn failures into lessons. The most successful people do it. Fail fast and react
  • You cannot control all events, outcomes, but you can control your attitude, approach and response. Keep an eye on your actions and let the score take care of itself.
  • What is my “sweet spot” where Passion, value, and talent converge?
  • Are you in the right line of work??
  • Motivation is not enough, you need technique too.
  • Your best results come at the intersection of your time, energy, and techniques. I view it as a balanced triangle.
  • Above/Below the line. Basically what projects and responsibilities are below the line, or are expected as your role in your regular responsibilities
  • Learning has 3 levels:
    • intellectual: you can conceptualize something intellectually
    • Emotional: you have an emotional connection to it
    • Physical: It’s burned into your body.
    • One example of all of this is driving a stick. you understand it conceptually, then start to gain an emotional connection to it. then finally it is so automatic you do not really even notice it.
  • Results build momentum, build your network, leverage people,
  • Energy flows where your passion goes. If you are struggling here create a new metaphor for inspiration
  • Create SMART Goals:
    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Actionable
    • Realistic
    • Timely
  • Knowing yourself is a good strategy for results: see pages 152-154. understand weaknesses and ways to get around them
  • Turn projects into adventures, connect your values to find your passion in whatever you do.
  • Teaching is the highest form of learning.
  • Use music as a trigger for flow state
  • Many people die at twenty five and aren’t buried until they are seventy five- Benjamin Franklin
  • Ask yourself ” whats wrong with this picture?” or  flip it and ask “What’s Right?” Framing a question differently can help you switch mindsets and change the way you approach a question.
  • 3 mindsets that support you:
    • Abundance mindset vs. scarcity mindset: basically assume that there’s more space and resources that you may see by default. Then rather than compete for resources you can focus on opportunities and collaboration. Then you can create more alternatives, expand opportunities, and FIND ABUNDANCE.
    • Positive mindset: Spend more time finding solutions than finding problems. Don’t get dragged down by your own pessimism.
    • Adopt a Growth mindset over a Fixed mindset. there are 15 different bullets to go through on page 182, but here are a couple that stuck out to me
      • Remind yourself you are growing or dying
      • Fail Fast
      • give yourself time
      • start with something small
      • Learn what “growth” feels like. – That “new” experience feeling
      • Have a learning approach
  • Change mindsets
    • Ask different questions
    • Adopt different assumptions
    • Adopt different metaphors
    • Wear a different hat
  • Have heroes, comic book heros (GUTS) or real-world ordinary people. What makes them great is that they do something great despite the odds or against the odds. let them inspire you to new levels. remember that everyone has flaws. Find different hero for each thing you strive for: a productivity hero, relationship hero, etc.

Overall it was a solid book, a lot of things that can easily be applied and integrated. Good look at some high level thinking exercises. One issue I had with the book is that it gets pretty repetitive. A lot of the strategies are beat to death a bit. But overall a valuable read and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. Combined with more of the refined psychology in the Getting Things Done book I think you can pull together a solid productivity program.


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