Make time to invest in yourself

My new cat William

It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?
Henry David Thoreau

The days go fast, it’s easy to be busy all day but is being busy good and are meeting short-term goals coming at the cost of your long-term career goals.

We start work, read emails, start doing something, attend meeting then more work, emails, meetings, tasks, deadlines.

Doing project work is the primary focus of our work, but does it align with your career goals.

answer these questions

  • When do you improve yourself
  • When do you learn new skills
  • When do you keep up with the latest changes in Dynamics 365/Power Platform

When do you find time to improve yourself? What is the best investment of your time? Invest in yourself and create skills that will benefit you in the long term.

Set yourself the goal of getting better daily and over the year the small improvements will turn into large improvements. The investment in yourself will compound. The best investment you can make with your time is to invest in improving yourself.

Short term

Projects and day-to-day work will take as much as time as you want to give it, there is always another task or more work to do on a project.

Projects is great for short term and medium term results but it’s unlikely to progress your career and it’s unlikely to improve your skills, knowledge and thinking.

Projects are like a hamster wheel, you get on and you keep running all day until you have no energy left. The tasks progress the project but rarely progress your career because the tasks don’t build new skills.

Step back

You step into work and focus on the details to get work done to a high level. To progress your career, you need to step back and focus on the skills which will improve you in the long term.

When you step back, you see the bigger picture and can plan what you need to do to get promoted or progress to the next level.

little and often

There are lots of small things you can do daily to get into the habit.

  • Reading one article a day on Dynamics 365
  • Read a book
  • Watch a YouTube video
  • Do 20 minutes each day to study for a certification

Invest in yourself and to get into the habit of improving yourself, don’t give all your time to other people and their goals.

Think long term

This quote from Farnam street blog helps you understand why thinking long term gets long-term success.

“If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people. But if you’re willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that.” ― Jeff Bezos

General Mattis says people should have a professional approach to reading and improving themselves

“If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren’t broad enough to sustain you.” ― Jim Mattis, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead

Article — General James Mattis, on the Matter of Professional Military Reading.

If you are too busy to read then you are to busy to learn from the past and improve your knowledge, skills and thinking. You are choosing to learn the hard way by trial and error. Reading and learning new skills helps you in future situations because you might have read about it and upgrading your skills gives you a different perspective on the situation.

The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men. 
Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead. —General James Mattis

Conclusion

Keep improving yourself every day. The best investment you can from your time is to improve yourself because you benefit from the change every day onwards. 

Improving yourself compounds the investment and your brain is the tool you use the most.

Short-term gains are fleeting, to prosper in the long term you have to focus on yourself and improve your thinking, communication skills and knowledge.

The best time to prepare for tomorrow is 5 years ago, the second best time is today, so get going.

What I learnt working on IT projects

Don’t build solutions on assumptions, ambiguity and ignorance #HoskWisdom

IT projects are a challenge, a good deal of fail and all of them are difficult. IT project can need lots of people, time, ideas and hard work.

Projects face obstacles, problems and changes of priorities, these changes can defeat you or you look at them as opportunities to make the solution better, the quote below sums it up.

“The obstacle becomes the path” Ryan Holiday

Challenging projects help you see the best in people, you can’t deliver a project by yourself and at certain times different people will shine, save the day and do something that helps you. Your team will be there to help you when you need it and you will be there to help them.

The better you can work as a team, the better the project will go.

Projects have taught me about myself, about technology and how to work with a group of people to make a team.

IT projects are about people not technology

There is a lot of noise and focus on technology on IT projects but ask yourself these questions

  • People builds the solution
  • People use the solution
  • People make decisions
  • People sign off requirements on the project

People are at the heart of the project and they are reason it for its success or failure.

Slow down to speed up

More people, working hard feels like it would speed up delivery but it can slow things down, when work is half finished, changes conflict.

Why adding more people to a project doesn’t make it go faster

Focus on quality rather than speed of output, fewer mistakes and consistent delivery will create releases, the successful process builds confidence and creates momentum.

Surprises on a project are never welcome because problems and delays follow. Focusing on quality, reducing mistakes and keeping momentum raises confidence in the team, it will reduce the chance of unexpected surprises..

Understand the business goals

Before you start with the technology and solution, understand the business, it’s goals, it’s language and how the business wins.

The purpose of the solution is to create a tool to support users do their job and the business to achieve its goals.

All requirements, features and user stories should focus on business needs and purpose. What is the user doing? why are they doing it? and how does this help the business.

Ask questions

Ask questions, to understand the business, clarify assumptions and work out the goals of the business.

If you have a question, ask it, it’s likely if you are thinking this then others in the room will be thinking it. Question help understand and clarify assumptions. Avoid building the solution on assumptions because these are weak foundations that could crumble later.

Don’t remake the old system

Everyone is influenced by the existing system and they will try and recreate the old system with new technology. People are use to the current system, they understand how it works and resisting change is the comfortable 

Focus on the business goals and what the purpose of the business. The old system will be aligned to the functionality of the old system. When creating a new system it’s a chance to align the process with the out of the box functionality of the software it’s being built with e.g. Dynamics 365 and Power Platform.

Don’t be constrained by the existing system, focus on the goals of the business and how best to deliver those and make it easier for people to do their jobs.

Warning — it will be difficult because people don’t like change and will keep referring back to how the current system works.

The best way to learn is through questions, reframe questions to look at work from the perspective of the teams and persona’s doing the work, understand the goals of the teams and how they fit together as a whole.

Clarify assumptions

Assumptions lead to problems, bugs and changes. You need to clarify the assumptions and get the facts otherwise you will be building a solution on ambiguity and ignorance.

Clarify the assumptions as soon as you can because these are logic bugs and can embed themselves in key parts of a process, which can be difficult to change later.

Focus on what matters

In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks. — Warren Buffett

People devote energy to unimportant and unproductive areas. Work out the key areas and focus on getting those right, focus the energy and stop wasting time on the other areas.

Most areas on a project are unimportant and not worth arguing and discussing.

“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” Greg McKeown

People will try to create meetings for everything and demand your time. If you are not needed in a meeting, don’t attend and spend that time doing productive activities.

Keep it simple

Show the users how Dynamics 365 works, start with a simple solution and then get users to try it before thinking about any complex solutions.

When you give users a blank canvas and ask them what they would like, they will come up with ideas that sound good but aren’t what they need and aren’t easy to build or maintain.

Align the requirements to the out of the box functionality.

Don’t panic, don’t blame

Panicking causes you to make bad decisions, blaming doesn’t achieve anything and lowers morale.

Be prepared for things to go wrong, mistakes to be made. Projects involve getting out of your comfort zone and trying things we haven’t done before. Take this small knock backs on the chin, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and try again.

You can’t guarantee to get everything right, particularly when you do something for the first time. Trust the team, trust yourself, don’t lose faith and keep going.

It will be difficult but you will overcome all the problems in your path. You will do it as a team.

Projects can be difficult but Don’t quit

IT projects are difficult, there will be tough periods but keep going and do not quit.

There will be times when you think the project won’t succeed, the deadlines are too tight, requirements aren’t defined, too many bugs, priorities changing, people leaving, technology failing, super bugs making everyone working from home.

Keep going, don’t quit, you will get there.

Relationships are key

Relationship with the customer and users is important because you want build trust. The customer pays the bills and makes the decisions, you have to influence as the technical export.

Build a good reputation and relationship with the client. This means listening, giving information and building trust. Avoid things which can reduce confidence in your ability, things like

  • Bugs
  • Not replying quickly
  • Hiding information
  • Talking in technical jargon they don’t understand
  • Raising problems without solutions

The customers in an IT Project is not the enemy, they are the partner. You will work together to create a solution

Conclusion

IT projects often start slowly which is fine, as long as you keep improving, fixing problems and build momentum.

Projects are not the same and there is no template to deliver a successful project. You have to adapt to situation, people and requirements. Build relationships, gain trust and find a way to progress.

As relationships grow, the project team can work quicker and the work becomes more rewarding.

Projects are about people, they will be the reason for success.

Management and leadership books I read in the last 5 years

Image for post

  • Leadership
  • Coaching
  • Presence
  • Communication
  • Scrum/Agile
  • DevOps
  • Persuasion

2016

  1. The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way Your Lead Forever: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever
  2. Leading by Alex Ferguson, Michael Moritz
  3. Turn The Ship Around!: A True Story of Building Leaders by Breaking the Rules
  4. Insights Into Liberating Leadership: How to become a great leader and create a lasting legacy
  5. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How successful people become even more successful
  6. How to Lead:The definitive guide to effective leadership: The definitive guide to effective leadership (4th Edition)
  7. Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams
  8. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win
  9. Project Management Lite: Just Enough to Get the Job Done…Nothing More
  10. Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time
  11. AGILE Project Management for Busy Managers
  12. Scrum and Xp from the Trenches 2nd Edition
  13. Talk Like Ted: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds
  14. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You
  15. The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs
  16. Paisley: Smile On Me And Guide My Hand
  17. TED Talks: The official TED guide to public speaking
  18. Building Successful Communities of Practice: Discover How Connecting People Makes Better Organisations
  19. Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works
  20. Inspiring Leadership
  21. Shankly: My Story by Bill Shankly
  22. Leadership:Plain and Simple: Plain and Simple (2nd Edition)
  23. Scrum: a Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction
  24. The Strategy Book
  25. Originals: How Non-conformists Change the World
  26. Eleven Rings

2017

  1. Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean
  2. The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
  3. The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win
  4. Make Your Bed: 10 Life Lessons from a Navy SEAL
  5. Legacy
  6. Parcells: A Football Life
  7. Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play Like a Champion
  8. Winning!: The path to Rugby World Cup glory
  9. A Practical Guide to Leadership: Be Inspired by Great Leaders
  10. The Coaching Mindset: 8 Ways to Think Like a Coach
  11. Steal the Show
  12. Jock Stein: The Definitive
  13. The Anatomy of Peace: How to Resolve the Heart of Conflict
  14. Gravitas: Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority
  15. The Team Building Strategies of Steve Kerr: How the NBA Head Coach of the Golden State Warriors Creates a Winning Culture
  16. How to Think Like Sir Alex Ferguson: The Business of Winning and Managing Success
  17. Jurgen Klopp
  18. Joe Fagan: Reluctant Champion — The Authorised Biography
  19. Quiet Genius: Bob Paisley, British football’s greatest manager
  20. Winners: And How They Succeed
  21. The Agile Samurai: How Agile Masters Deliver Great Software (Pragmatic Programmers)
  22. Scrum Mastery: From Good To Great Servant-Leadership
  23. The New Manager’s Handbook: 24 Lessons for Mastering Your New Role
  24. The Manager: Inside the Minds of Football’s Leaders
  25. How Good Do You Want to Be?: A Champion’s Tips on How to Lead and Succeed at Work and in Life
  26. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most
  27. BOLD: 212 Charisma and Small Talk Tips to Engage, Charm and Leave a Lasting Impression
  28. Communication Skills Training: A Practical Guide to Improving Your Social Intelligence, Presentation, Persuasion and Public Speaking
  29. The Management Ideas of Nick Saban: A Leadership Case Study of the Alabama Crimson Tide Football Head Coach
  30. Bill Belichick: Ten Greatest Coaches of the NFL
  31. Sacred Hoops (Revised): Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior
  32. Mastermind: How Dave Brailsford Reinvented the Wheel (90 Minutes Shorts Book 3)
  33. Strategy Concepts of Bill Belichick: A Leadership Case Study of the New England Patriots Head Coach
  34. Belichick and Brady: Two Men, the Patriots, and How They Revolutionized Football
  35. Patriot Reign: Bill Belichick, the Coaches, and the Players Who Built a Champion
  36. How to Manage People
  37. War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building the Perfect Team
  38. Leadership and the One Minute Manager: Increasing Effectiveness through Situational Leadership
  39. The Education of a Coach
  40. Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process (Addison-Wesley Signature): A Practical Guide To The Most Popular Agile Process
  41. Louis van Gaal: Dutch Courage
  42. Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

2018

  1. Way of the Wolf: Become a Master Closer with Straight Line Selling
  2. Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling
  3. Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great (Pragmatic Programmers)
  4. Exactly What to Say: The Magic Words for Influence and Impact
  5. How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing With People
  6. Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time
  7. Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator
  8. When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi
  9. Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It
  10. The Charisma Myth: How to Engage, Influence and Motivate People
  11. Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager
  12. Pep Confidential: Inside Pep Guardiola’s First Season at Bayern Munich
  13. Finding a Way to Win: The Principles of Leadership, Teamwork, and Motivation
  14. Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management (Pragmatic Programmers)
  15. The Greatest Salesman in the World
  16. Big Sam: My Autobiography
  17. Single-Minded: My Life in Business
  18. The Coaches
  19. The Final Season

2019

  1. How to Have Impossible Conversations: A Very Practical Guide
  2. The Last Couch: A Life of Paul “Bear” Bryant
  3. The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership
  4. Do Improvise: Less Push. More Pause. Better Results. A New Approach to Work (and Life)
  5. The Education of a Coach
  6. Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?- Olympic-winning strategies for everyday success
  7. 12 Essential Skills for Software Architects
  8. A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Idea
  9. Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work
  10. How to Own the Room: Including new HOW TO OWN THE ROOM
  11. The Captain Class: The Hidden Force Behind the World’s Greatest Teams
  12. Graham Taylor In His Own Words
  13. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success
  14. It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy
  15. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
  16. The Power of A Positive No
  17. Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade
  18. Pig Wrestling: The Brilliantly Simple Way to Solve Any Problem… and Create the Change You Need
  19. Utter Confidence: How what you say and do influences your effectiveness in business
  20. Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility
  21. Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong
  22. Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People
  23. The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse
  24. Persuasion Point: Body Language and Speech for Influence
  25. Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization
  26. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
  27. Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart
  28. Brave New World: Inside Pochettino’s Spurs
  29. Persuade: How to persuade anyone about anything
  30. Assertiveness: How to Stand Up for Yourself and Still Win the Respect of Other
  31. How to Sell Yourself, Revised Edition: Using Leadership, Likability, and Luck to Succeed
  32. Sales Genius 1: 19 top sales professionals share their sales secrets
  33. Grinding It Out: The Making Of McDonald’s
  34. Fearless: How an Underdog Becomes a Champion
  35. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others
  36. Confidence: How to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs and Achieve Your Goals
  37. Saban: The Making of a Coach

2020

  1. My Life and Rugby: The Autobiography
  2. Body Language in the Workplace
  3. Great on the Job: What to Say, How to Say It. The Secrets of Getting Ahead
  4. The Inner Game of Tennis: The Ultimate Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance
  5. What the Heck Is EOS?: A Complete Guide for Employees in Companies Running on EOS
  6. World’s Best: Coaching with the kookaburras and the hockeyroos
  7. The Inner Game of Work: Focus, Learning, Pleasure, and Mobility in the Workplace
  8. You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters
  9. Mastering Design Thinking: The Systematic Approach to Improve Considerably Your Business Success
  10. The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering
  11. What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence
  12. Creating Great Choices: A Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking
  13. Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology
  14. The Devops Handbook: How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, and Security in Technology Organizations
  15. Leading the Transformation: Applying Agile and DevOps Principles at Scale
  16. Don Shula: A Biography of the Winningest Coach in NFL History

 

What the winningest NFL coach (Don Shula) can teach us about IT projects

 

I read Don Shula: A Biography of the Winningest Coach in NFL History, Don Shula coached in the NFL from 1958 to 1995 and won more games than any other NFL coach and the super bowl twice.

Shula was successful over a long period, he evolved and adapted to different environments, people and situations.

Adaptable

Environments, customers, people and technology changes. The actions that brought you success in the past might not bring success in the future.

Don Shula success in his earlier career came with a great quarterback at the Colts. He then moved to the Miami Dolphins and had 3 great running backs. Later the NFL changed the rules to encourage more attacking play and make it easier for quarterbacks. Shula adapted and drafted Dan Marino, a hall of fame quarterback. Shula changed his strategy to get the best of his team and play to it’s strengths.

I think what coaching is all about, is taking players and analyzing there ability, put them in a position where they can excel within the framework of the team winning. And I hope that I’ve done that in my 33 years as a head coach. Don Shula

Dynamics 365 has changed, moving from On-Premise to Online, C# or JavaScript code to no code functionality with the Power Platform.

Flows can deliver functionality which previous could only be done with a plugin, the difference is creating and maintaining plugins is more costly. This has changed the solutions created. No code/Low code changes the skills needed in delivery team and empowers consultants to deliver more.

I have seen examples of companies not adapting, Dynamics professionals are still creating solutions using workflows and plugins instead of creating Power Automate/Flows. You would create large Dynamics solutions but now we have to consider several smaller focused PowerApps can be used.

Each project is different, a successful approach on one project could fail with a different customer and team on another. The ability for critical thinking and adapting to situations is key.

Work hard

The sign outside Shula’s office reads — “I’m just a guy who rolls up his sleeves and goes to work”

I don’t know any other way to lead but by example. Don Shula

Shula made sure his team worked hard and prepared well. You won’t win if you are outworked by the opposition and you won’t succeed without being as well prepared as you can.

“Leave as little to chance as possible. Preparation is the key to success” Paul Brown

The better you prepare, the smaller the chance of unforeseen problems causing problems. In IT projects you need to think, design and problem solve before you start building. This starts with understanding the business goals and the purpose of functionality, understand the requirements from a business and technical perspective. Finding problems in design or build makes it easier it is to resolve them and reduces the impact.

Game of errors

“Football is a game of errors. The team that makes the fewest errors in a game usually wins” Don Shula

IT Projects are a game of errors, the focus should be on creating quality, creating best practices to reduce self inflected problems. Testing and automated deployments give fast feedback, helping to find and fix problems in your dev and test environments. Fixing problems closer to creation speeds up the process.

The fewer errors, mistakes and wrong moves made, the smoother and quicker the project goes. Speed up a project with quality not speed. The common method of speeding up is by adding more people but this can slow the project down — Why adding more people to a project doesn’t make it go faster

Complexity slows down projects, you can combat this by reducing complexity and sticking to out of the box. To deliver a project on time, stick to out of the box

Why IT projects estimates are wrong

Team game

NFL games and IT projects are a team game, you need good people and leadership to be successful. There is pressure and expectation, you can’t let these affect performance or decisions, don’t let the highs be to high or the lows be to low.

Success is not forever and failure isn’t fatal. Don Shula

Don Shula spent time with his family and tried to attend his sons matches and have dinner with his wife. It’s important to recharge your batteries, enjoy life outside of your profession and work. To give your maximum at work you need to rest and enjoy life outside of work.

Summary

Don Shula worked hard, adapted to the strengths the people of his team and was more prepared than the opposition. 

The NFL and IT Projects are a game of errors, the few errors you make the smoother and fewer late deliveries. The more you can avoid problems from your execution of work the more trust you gain with the customer. You can control the quality of your work and your execution, do this and reduce the mistakes.

The Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals — Professionals win points by doing good shots, amateurs lose points by making mistakes. Set the standards, minimise mistakes and create quality, in the long run it’s the fastest way to deliver a project.

ps. That is a picture of my cat Rex as a general, I am a fan of animals dressed as general 🙂