6 Thoughts on Agile Results

I’m reading a book called “Getting Results the Agile Way” by J. D. Meier.

Meier worked at Microsoft, where he developed and refined this system. I’m studying it for ways to be more effective in my work as a graduate student, and hopefully to develop a personalized and refined system beyond graduate school into my work life.

The heart of the “Agile” system that Meier proposes is to do a “Monday Vision”, to plan for “Daily Outcomes”, and to do a “Friday Reflection”. Here’s some of my reflections on the system.

“Rule of 3”

Meier advocates not having more than 3 important things that are listed at different levels of granularity. 3 specific outcomes for each day. 3 less specific outcomes for the week. 3 general outcomes for the month, and 3 goals for the year. Having just 3 things to focus on keeps us focused, and prevents us from getting bogged down by unnecessary things.

“Monday Vision”

The start of the week (whether yours is Sunday, Monday, or some-other-day) is when one defines 3 outcomes for the week. This is a bit like what Covey advocates in his 7 Habits book, where one “begins with the end in mind”. On Monday, one sits down and defines what is important for the coming week. In line with the “Rule of 3” principle, only 3 things are defined for the week. These 3 outcomes are defined such that when one looks back on Friday, one should be able to “check them off” as being accomplished or not accomplished.

“Daily Outcomes”

Here, at the beginning of each day, one defines 3 outcomes for the day that will push towards the “Monday Vision” outcomes. This is like deciding on the 3 things that one will want to get accomplished by the end of the day. Each day, this is done on a “blank slate”, i.e. today’s goals are not impacted by yesterday’s performance. The idea is to focus on continually delivering value towards the “Monday Vision” outcomes, as opposed to clearing up the backlog of things that piled up on the day before.

“Friday Reflection”

At the end of the week, one takes a step back, and looks at the “Monday Vision” list, as well as each of the “Daily Outcomes” lists, and sees where things have aligned up well, and where things have not. One then lists out the 3 things that have gone well, and the 3 things that need improvement. This provides feedback for the coming Monday Vision, when one sits down and plans out the coming week.

“Start Anew and Deliver Value Each Day”

One observation resonated with me while reading: that is, to not let the backlog of things bog us down. In other words, start each day and each week anew, start fresh, without allowing the backlog to weigh down our minds. This provides us with the benefit of focusing on things that deliver value, as opposed to being continually weighed down.

While it sounds good in theory, in practice, I have found that sometimes, clearing up some nagging things (e.g. writing that email or making that phone call that I’ve procrastinated on for over a week), at the beginning of the day paves the way forward for a productive work day, as it removes that mental weight of things undone. This may mean taking an “administrative hour” at the beginning of each week, or to take an “administrative day” every fortnight, to clear up those tasks that need to be cleared up.

“Dredge Sloughs Off”

One other observation when reading the book struck me as being particularly important. Meier notes that dredge naturally sloughs off, while things of value continually change with time. To paraphrase his words (only because I can’t find the original quote now): “Time has a way of changing what is valuable now.” I think it’s a powerful reminder that dredge naturally sloughs off. If it’s unimportant, it’ll go away. All I need to do is just to let go. And if it doesn’t go away, then that’s a signature of it probably being more important than I thought, which means I ought to deal with it.