Scott Hanselman

Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection for Remote Team Management

January 15, '17 Comments [5] Posted in Productivity
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Monday Vision, Friday ReflectionMy friend J.D. Meier has an amazing blog called Sources of Insight and he's written a fantastic book called Getting Results the Agile Way. You can buy his book on Amazon (it's free on Kindle Unlimited!). I put J.D. up there with David Allen and Stephen Covey except J.D. is undiscovered. For real. If you've seen my own live talk on Personal Productivity and Information Overload you know I reference J.D.'s work a lot.

I've been a people manager as well as an IC (individual contributor) for a while now, and while I don't yet have the confidence to tell you I'm a good manager, I can tell you that I'm trying and that I'm introspective about my efforts.

My small team applies J.D.'s technique of "Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection" to our own work. As he says, this is the heart of his results system.

The way it works is, on Mondays, you figure out the 3 outcomes you want for the week.  Each day you identify 3 outcomes you want to accomplish.  On Friday, you reflect on 3 things going well and 3 things to improve.  It’s that simple. - J.D. Meier

We are a remote team and we are in three different time zones so the "morning standup" doesn't really work so well for us. We want a "scrum" style standup, but we're a team that lives in Email/Slack/Microsoft Teams/Skype.

Here's how Monday Vision works for us as a team. We are transparent about what we're working on and we are honest about what works and when we stumble.

  • On Monday morning each of us emails the team with:
    • What we hope to accomplish this week. Usually 3-5 things.
    • This isn't a complete list of everything on our minds. It's just enough to give context and a vector/direction.

It's important that we are clear on what our goals are. What would it take for this week to be amazing? What kinds of things are standing in our way? As a manager I think my job is primarily as traffic cop and support. My job is to get stuff out of my team's way. That might be paperwork, other teams, technical stuff, whatever is keeping them out of their flow.

These emails might be as simple as this (~real) example from a team member.

Last Week:

  • DevIntersection Conference
    • Workshop and 2 sessions
  • Got approval from Hunter for new JavaScript functionality

This Week:

  • Trip Report, Expenses, and general administrivia from the event last week
  • Final planning for MVP Summit
  • Spring Planning for ASP.NET Web Forms, IIS Express, EF4, WCF, and more 
  • Modern ASP.NET Web Forms research paper
  • Thursday evening – presenting over Skype to the London.NET user-group “Introduction to Microservices in ASP.NET Core”

Again, the lengths and amount of detail vary. Here's the challenge part though - and my team hasn't nailed this yet and that's mostly my fault - Friday Reflection. I have an appointment on my calendar for Friday at 4:30pm to Reflect. This is literally blocked out time to look back and ask these questions....

  • On Friday evening on the way out, email the team with:
    • What worked this week? Why didn't Project Foo get done? Was the problem technical? Logistical? Organizational?
    • Did you feel amazing about this week? Why? Why not? How can we make next week feel better?

What do you do to kick off and close down your week?

Related J.D. Meier productivity reading


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Optimize for Tiny Victories

September 13, '15 Comments [15] Posted in Productivity
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I was talking with Dawn C. Hayes, a maker and occasional adjunct processor in NYC earlier this week. We were talking about things like motivation and things like biting off more than we can chew when it comes to large projects, as well as estimating how long something will take. She mentioned that it's important to optimize for quick early successes, like getting a student to have an "I got the LED to light up" moment. With today's short attention span internet, you can see that's totally true. Every programming language has a "5 min quick start" dedicated to giving you some sense of accomplishment quickly. But she also pointed out that after the LED Moment students (and everyone ever, says me) always underestimate how long stuff will take. It's easy to describe a project in a few sentences but it might take months or a year to make it a reality.

This is my challenge as well, perhaps it's yours, too. As we talked, I realized that I developed a technique for managing this without realizing it.

I optimize my workflow for lots of tiny victories.

For example, my son and I are working on 3D printing a quadcopter drone. I have no idea what I'm doing, I have no drone experience, and I'm mediocre with electronics. Not to mention I'm dealing with a 7 year old who wants to know why it hasn't taken off yet, forgetting that we just had the idea a minute ago.

I'm mentally breaking it up in work sprints, little dependencies, but in order to stay motivated we're making sure each sprint - whether it's a day or an hour - is a victory as well as a sprint. What can we do to not just move the ball forward but also achieve something. Something small, to be clear. But something we can be excited about, something we can tell mommy about, something we can feel good about.

We're attempting to make a freaking quadcopter and it's very possible we won't succeed. But we soldered two wires together today, and the muiltimeter needle moved, so we're pretty excited about that tiny victory and that's how we're telling the story. It will keep us going until tomorrow's sprint.

Do you do this too? Tell us in the comments.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Totally stressed out? Sync to Paper

May 29, '15 Comments [57] Posted in Productivity
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Messy Moleskine photo by Alexandre Dulaunoy and used under Creative Commons

One of the things I often talk about when I give presentations on Personal Productivity is that more people should Sync To Paper. I first had this idea in 2006 while working on a completely overwhelming project at my last job. I was already deeply into using OneNote, which was rather new at the time, so I was putting everything onto my laptop. I was convinced that my unorganized brain could "get organized" if I just wrote everything down in some cloud-based text file.

The problem is, at least for me, is that there isn't a great way to see the big picture when you've just got pixels to look at. Life is much higher resolution than I think folks realize. I'm frankly surprised that so many of you can feel organized and productive on those 11" laptops. What a tiny window into your life!

Anyway, when I was working on this huge project the database was extremely complex. Hundreds of tables and relationships to manage. It was far too much for anyone to keep in their heads or view on a screen. So they turned to the plotter. Remember those? The database team would print out massive posters and hang them on the wall. They'd stand together in front of them and stare and think.

You see syncing to paper a lot with user interface/user experience teams (UI/UX). We'll wallpaper entire hallways with mockups of what the system should look like, putting them in high traffic areas so everyone can absorb them and collaborate.

When my life is overwhelming and I am at PEAK STRESS, I do a three things.

  • I get a haircut, because at least I got that handled.
  • I clean my office, so I'm not reminded of the chaos of my life by the chaos of clutter around me.
  • And I sync to paper. I get a Moleskine notebook (Here's how to pronounce Moleskine, BTW) and I find a clear page and I write down what's stressing me out. I sync all my devices to paper. Calendars, Todos, thoughts, life, to paper.

The physicality of it is very satisfying in a visceral way. I've tried to do the same on a Surface or iPad with a stylus, but it doesn't work for me. The removal of technology and the scratch of a good quality pen on paper (I use a space pen) is very cathartic. Often I'm working on solving a technical problem so stepping away from tech is as important as the paper. It's a forced context switch. Even more, as a kinesthetic learner I feel like the moving of my hands differently, even if I never refer to the written notes again, the process helps cement the issues.

True Story: If you watch the Microsoft BUILD Keynote (a big deal, in tech circles) you'll see me come out for my 15 minute demo holding my Moleskine notebook. No one else does this. In fact, they tease me a little about my notebook. In fact, I'm usually given a 30 page typed script to memorize. It includes screenshots, talking points, gotchas, demo instructions, passwords, all the stuff I need for my demo. Folks work on these scripts for weeks and then deliver them to me. It's VERY stressful for everyone. We sit together for days and go over these huge documents and I freak out and panic and then get out my Moleskine and synthesize 30 pages into one. Here's what I took on stage with me for the BUILD 2015 keynote. Insane isn't it? But without it I would have freaked out. Now the stage crew knows me as "the guy with the notebook." And yes, I know my handwriting sucks and that this is an unintelligible pile. It still worked, and worked well. ;)

I have horrible handwriting

When I'm completely a mess OR I'm trying to get my head around a large problem, I'll cover the floor with paper, or find a wall or large whiteboard and try to work it out.

We focus on touchscreen and pinch gestures a lot these days, but for me "zoom out" means literally and figuratively taking a step back from a piece of paper and trying to absorb the big picture.

Paper is the cheapest retina display you'll ever use. Give it a try, at least until I can afford a Surface Hub for my office. ;)

Microsoft Surface Hub

Do you sync to paper? How does it work for you?

UPDATE: I was pointed to a post from Robert Greiner who promotes the same idea! Great minds think alike. I encourage you to also read his thoughts on the concept, as they are different from mine. He likes the temporary aspect of paper, and the pain of writing as ways to keep one focused.

Related Links

* Messy Moleskine photo by Alexandre Dulaunoy and used under Creative Commons

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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"Simply terrible advice" - If the shoe pinches, don't wear it.

September 10, '14 Comments [41] Posted in Productivity
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Photo by Ben Grey used under CC

There's few things that get me too riled up when it comes to advice. I love hearing about other people's lives and their life systems. From the mundane and familiar, like how they pack their kids lunches, how they manage their finances, or how they manage their email.

The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself. - Oscar Wilde

We are an amalgamation of all the advice we've ever been given. The first 18 years of my life I was trapped in my parents' house and subjected to their "advice." Most of which turned out to be spot on. I am currently forcing my children to take my advice until their brains full form (which I suspect will happen in about 25 years).

A word to the wise ain't necessary - it's the stupid ones that need the advice. - Bill Cosby

I did a post yesterday called "Don't Check Your Email in the Morning." It's not that controversial, I think. However, it's been characterized as "The singular most life-changing productivity tip I've received" as well as "Simply terrible advice."

Come on. This is simply an issue of self-reflection. Look at your personal habits, your routine, and how you go about your day. Do you go about your workday on auto-pilot, or with a sense of intentionality?

Don't check email in the morning is a rule of thumb. The essential point is "Don't get caught up in the minutiae of unimportant morning email checking if you're unknowingly using email checking as an way to procrastinate."

Maybe checking email every 5 min works for you. Perhaps that morning quick email sweet is essential to your business. Hey, more power to you. You check email 365 days a year. I wonder what would happen if you didn't check it in the morning for a day? Might be useful advice. Totally might not. You'll never know unless you try.

I like trying on shoes. But if the shoe pinches, I don't wear it.

Consider not checking your email in the morning, if you think it might help you. Enjoy the comments.

Related Links


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Don't Check Your Email in the Morning

September 9, '14 Comments [68] Posted in Productivity
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Hanselman's Productivity TipsIn my productivity talk "How to Scale Yourself and Get More Done Than You Thought Possible" I include a challenge to the listener. It's kind of insane, but it's actually proven very useful to me when I really need to get important work done.

Don't check your email in the morning.

Insane right? I believe that checking your email in the morning is the best way to time-travel to after lunch.

Why DO we check email first thing in the morning? Well, because something crucial might have happened overnight.

There's a few things wrong with that sentence, in my opinion. Words like "something" and "might" stick out. We check our email because of fear, a sense of disconnectedness, and (in some cases) a feeling of urgency addiction.

We often go to bed with our current project or work on our minds. It's THAT project that we should probably wake up and start working on. It's that project that we kind of left unfinished when we went to bed in the first place.

We SHOULD get up and start working on our project first thing. Instead we check our email, get sucked into it, answer a few, get stressed, answer a few more, threaten to delete the whole inbox, and then it's lunch time.

When I'm not really focused, sometimes the day just slips past me. I find my feet around 5pm when the day is winding down, not at 9am when it should be winding up.

If something really really important happened it won't be in your inbox. Your phone will be blowing up. Someone will be sitting in your seat when you show up at work. They will find you.

When they DO find you, you should be working. Go to work and resist the urge to check your email. Start working immediately, head down, sprinting. There's HOURS of time before lunch to be discovered.

Here's your homework. Go to work tomorrow and don't open email until afternoon. You might be staring at first, wondering what the heck you're supposed to do. Do that project. Write that code. Work on that book. Update that blog. Do literally ANYTHING except email.

When you open email for the first time after lunch, you'll have hours of amazing work already behind you and you'll feel amazing.

Try it.


Sponsor: Many thanks to Aspose for sponsoring the blog feed this week! Aspose.Total for .NET has all the APIs you need to create, manipulate and convert Microsoft Office documents and a host of other file formats in your applications. Curious? Start a free trial today.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.