Build Habit, Enjoy Life 3 - Create first milestone, tracking and feedback mechanism

With previous two posts, and with some time thinking, you should have your annual mission statement and annual goals now. My two biggest challenges are:

1. Lose 17.85 Kg to reach my health weight (now I have lost more than 15Kg)
2. Speak at one conference, I did that in August

What are your first milestone goals? First,  I will suggest to pick one hardest and easy to measure goal and don't setup first milestone with other goals. And you should simply set first month as your annual goal for the time period. I choose three months as period because there are too many uncertain just for one month. In my case, I chose weight lose and set first milestone goal as losing 4.5 kg. Your annual goal should be reviewed or updated after every 3 months so that you will have right values and when you start to understand more. 

How would you achieve your first milestone? There are many ways to do that. Don't be ambitious and try all of them. Focus more and see whether it works. My weight losing just started with walking 45 minutes minimum each time and minimum 4 hours a week. And it helped me losing 2 kgs in first month. When time goes on, there is a require of different way to keep you on target. But first, it is as simple as just one. It is much better to do with JUST one. 

Find a tool for tracking your progress. It make everything visible and easy to understand. I have chosen Run Keeeper for my personal fitness goal setup and tracking. Their web interface is excellent. The only glitch is that logging weight function is buggy and it takes long time to log in their Android mobile app. But I do like the web interface for tracking goals like following. 

And I haven't found a good tracking tools for learning and development. I am building one called "KareerTracker" at the moment. The goal setting and tracking are very convenient and easy to do because it is much faster than RunKeeper. And another advantage of the KareerTraker is that it will give you alert if you are far behind. I love this one a lot because it instantly tells me whether I am on track or not. But it still growing and we are still building social tools and rewards tools around goals using theory around becoming master with 10,000 hours from Outlier. (Follow us at http://www.linkedin.com/company/kareertracker )

All these tools give us feedback mechanism and that is why I love those tools. And dont worry if you are behind. Just try and adjust, find new ways to improve if you find yourself stuck. And there always a plateau from time to time. If you see that more than 3 weeks, you should try to find a new way to conquer it and don't give up on old ways in short term. 

Coming Soon
    Time Management with Prioritization and Kanban


"Fail First" Now

I read "Fail First" concept around 3 years ago. The learning from it was that we need to deploy as often as to test market. But the reality is that it doesn't produce better than before knowing "Fail First". So what is stopping us?

Around 3 months ago, I started to build my own startup - KareerTracker. It brought me better view about business and product development process. I am using Lean Canvas to iterate my business mode. 

The striking point is about more than 90% of new products and new businesses failed statistically. What does this number mean? If you dont have strong believe of values on your products or businesses, please dont do that. You need an value more than a product to believe in. The value needs to guide through your hard time because we need to go through hundreds failures. Just in three months, I went through several failures, like just can't recruit more than 10 customers for first batch customer interview, one customer group just don't like our product at all and others and many more. But fortunately part is about that if you have "fail first" in mind, you will experiment those ideas with minimum cost (mostly free) and without even programming or writing a script. As normal start-up, we are resources constraint business including both money and time. To minimize risk, we need to be very careful. Otherwise, we gona die very soon.

And another side of "Fail First" is that you need to understand what to test before and actively learn from it from both business and technical views. Without them, you mostly will take an action to do different things without any evidence.

Now, looking back, What I will do differently if I knew three years ago. There are many ideas which can be done without programming/developers. And they can be tested and validated before going into development team backlog. While doing development, involving customer in the process is most effective way to "fail first". And code bases will be much nicer and it will save a lot in maintenance costs.

My understanding of "Fail First" is that "fail" early with minimum cost and learn from it. While I am going through the journey, I believe that my understanding may change again.

What is yours?


Cutting Corner Every Day - How we change that

I have been thinking about writing about this for long time. But I have been too much focusing on my startup, KareerTracker. But recently, I have been hearing about "cutting corner" almost every week in software development teams. Is that kind of "crap" built into our industry?

There are two problems that I often have seen:

1. When we fix problems, teams often take shortcuts and never look back and invest money and time on long term solutions. All our wish is that we won't have the problem again. But they will come back again.

To fix the problem, I have adopted post mortem and  the counter measurement board idea from Jason Yip. And we implemented monthly board review meeting to make sure that we are make progress on long term solution and prioritize them.

The outcome is really positive and we got several big improvement done with the help from the board. At start of my journey in a business, there are issues almost every week. After two and half years, there was only one issue for three months and impact was much smaller too.

The best impact of that is development team have more time focusing on improvement and innovation instead of fixing issue. That is bigger than anything else.

2. Teams mixed prototype and software development. Teams often either grow prototype into production without architecture design or we just write prototype into existing production code base. And in worse case, business people will sell the prototype as a product and we can't remove them even there is no market demand for that.

Another similar problem is that business people wants to experiment in production environment but there is NO proper architecture supporting that. Then we HACK and never clean because it has been hard.

You normally can have a sense of problem at story grooming and sprint planning sessions. The typical symptoms of the problem are that product owners use general word, such as customer, as user for story,  or hear "dont have enough money", "dont know whether they gona buy",  "there is one customer asking for this", "it will be a big success" without signup paid customers and others which propose there are limited number of customers or unknown number of customers in the coming 3 or 6 months.

The first thing that we have done is to develop an architecture which will decoupling code between features, "vertical slicing architecture" (I will write more about this in later posts) + feature flipping. Each major feature has its own component and we can easily  add and remove one feature from production. In experiment and explore stage, we can plugin a new feature / component in with quality just enough.

But there is another thing must be done. That is educating people about difference between prototype and production. Prototype will be used to discover customer needs, just enough quality is enough. But production code needs an excellent design and easy to use provision.

I often found that there are more effective ways to prototype without write a piece of software to test customer demanding. Product managers just need to change mindset and be more innovative. If you want to understanding more about prototype, you can read the wiki post.


Build Habits, and Enjoy life - 2 - Quantify your missions as Annual Goals

The blog posts will introduce my experience and learning for past 7 months about course changing of my life. What I have done? Lose 16kg and have a healthier life, find my passion, start a business to pursue my passion, and starting to solve problems instead of ignoring them in workplace.

If you haven't read my first blog about "Build Habits and Enjoy Life Part 1", you can read at: http://agile2lean.blogspot.com.au/2014/09/build-habits-enjoy-life-1.html

This blog post is about how I start a journey about my missions and do something which are "impossible" 7 months ago.

When I was a child, I had a big dream to have my books with my choices. With limited incomes from parents, it has no money left for me buying books after buying essential supplies like food, clothes and stationary. I still remembered my mum bought me a book and parents didn't buy anything for themselves for months. I decided to find a way to earn myself money and buy books for myself. There was a manufacturer who put rubbishes which contained some steel parts at back of factory.  I did a hard work to find those and sold that to a recycle center. I earned 2 dollars for first month. But the money was not enough for a book and I felt a very disappointed and try to give it up. But dad told me that, "A book is around 3 dollars. If you continue doing for one more month, you can buy a book." I were happily after that and continued for another month. I bought a book after that. After several months, I had around 20 books with my own choices and rent them to kids around me.

One biggest learning from the childhood experience is that having a specific and measurable goal can help you going to achieve something hard to be done or even sometimes they are impossible.

I have applied same theory into my missions. I will talk about setup measurable goal for healthier:

1. Lose weight so that my BMI (Body Mass Index) back to health one. As my height won't change with my age, I am targeting 70kg util Jan 2015; Now I am at 71kg. At start of of this year, I weighted around 87.5kg.
2. Keep most of blood testing results as now which is healthy and change one of metrics from risk to normal by Jan 2015; Low that metrics to low-risk around July; I just got my blood testing done last week. It is on the track.
3. Back to monthly 10km bush walking between Nov 2014 and Jan 2015. Now I am doing that every quarter. And shorten it gradually. 

The specific and measurable goals have helped me overcoming plateau period and keep focusing on what I need to do.

There is a popular SMART goal criteria. Except specific and measurable, a goal needs to be attainable, relevant and Time-bound.  Every part of SMART is important.You can read more about SMART from wikipedia.

To quantify mission, you definitely need to bound your goals as annual goals or more than one year.  If it is not your case, it is not big enough for you to treat it as a mission.

And I want to highlight the "relevant" part for being healthier, it is very important that people should understand longer benefits come from healthier not from fitter or thinner. Healthier is some degree measurable from medical point of view. Routine check and use that as one of goal settings are essential and important. Bush walking is not only physical exercise, but also mind training to me. You may find other activities will help our mind training and please include that in one of your plan. Your mental health will impact everyone around you a lot esp your family. 

About attainable part of "SMART",  feel free to change your annual goal around first and second months from start and but try to stick to that afterwards. You can't create attainable goal if you never try them before, but you need to stick to them to achieve something outstanding. So allowing yourself to modify it at start is as important as sticking to it after 2 months.


Landing your dream job sooner

Since January 2012,  I started using resources on the internet for my career development because of a limited training budget. I felt so excited that I had world-class trainings from Amazon, Twitter, Udemy, edX and General Assembly without a big budget just like friends from big corporates. But I did find there are several roadblocks:

  1. What is next step for my career? I don’t know
  2. Time wasted on low quality resources
  3. Time and knowledge wasted while changing topics

During the last one and half years, I personally discovered several ways which help me focus and improve effectiveness for informal learning.

As I am from a software development background there are two choices, either continue being an individual contributor and becoming an architect or improving my leadership and people management skills. As I was not a native english speaker and my communication skills were not great,  an easier choice would be to become architect. But I love working with people and helping others grow in their career. So I have been working toward the people management direction with a guide from several good friends and mentors.

With that in mind, I started cleaning up twitter followings which were my major social resources for learning so that I can keep focused. A great resource I recently found was LinkedIn Pulse which had some great articles, however I did find their recommendation didn’t work well for my learning purpose.

Since December 2013, I started to create  monthly goals for a skill with one or two keywords from books and online courses. I found that works really well to keep me focused and bring up my specific skills. With a goal in mind, I am not so distracted by different topics and interests too. Of course, I can still learn other topics. But those are chosen with more care now.

This year during Melbourne’s LAST (Lean Agile System Thinking) conference I presented “Agility for Big Data” . This helps businesses deliver big data application into the market with shorter timeframe.  

We are developing a product that defines career paths with mentors, recommends high quality resources and keeps track of your activities toward goals.  Even better, we can develop the product with your input to bring an innovative and affordable learning experience.

Please find my contact details below:

Mobile: 0401 651 178
Email: charlie@kareertracker.com

How to join as our ProUsers (Android App only at the moment, iOS app out around Decmember 2014)
1. Register as our ProUsers by registering to this group:http://groups.google.com/d/forum/kareertracker-prousers
2. After that, wait around 4~5 mins, then access the following URL to confirm as beta testing user for Android App:https://play.google.com/apps/testing/com.studyisfun.kareertracker
3. There is download link after confirm as testing user, download and you have a KareerTracker in your hand now


Build Habits and Enjoy Life - 1

A day in December 2013,  my days started with I pushed my little girl going to kinder garden. She cried and I still tried to push because I definitely would be late. And in the office, I faced with many "urgent" issues. It made myself feel important. But there is NOTHING important which has been done. After coming, I read a story to my little girl in a hurry and try to come back either trying to catch-up in technical front or catch-up in people management books. It was a typical day for me in any day in 2013. But luckily, I start listening an audio book "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" (Stephen Covey) from audible.com. The book opens me new view about my life and with my knowledge lean Kanban, I started a journey of changing myself from January 2014.

With identify my missions, quantify my goals and measuring my progress towards goals, my life has changed a lot.

In past 7 months, I have lost 16 kg and much healthier than before. Now my day starts with waiting for my girls prepares herself for kinder garden. My job doesn't full of "urgent" things. I starts to focus more value generation instead of just solving problems. And I have more free time to improve myself and start dedicating one of weekend to my family. And I am starting to find out my dream and starting build a startup for that.

I want to share my experience with you.

Build Your Mission

The missions has guided my activity in past 8 months. The biggest benefits that I get from these is that I can prioritize things in my life very easily with these. I personally compared the ordered books from me in Amazon.com. This year's books are all about two topics. But last years, it is around five topics. Although I dont read as many books as last year, I did feel that my skills around two topics have become much better comparing with last year. In the job, I personally tried to involved less in the activities that I don't have in my mission statement. With that, I can focus on the things that I have more interest on.

And in summary, I have focus things more important for my long term goals.

With guidance from the book, I personally classified my missions into 4 parts. They are:
  • Career Development and Path
  • Family and its value
  • Community (People around you and what is your value to community)
  • Healthy and other long term goals
All of them are important to my personal growth and feelings. 

There is the tool at Franklin Covey website, http://www.franklincovey.com/msb/, which help me a lot on building my personal mission and my family mission. 

If you have any question, feel free to let me know. In the following sessions, I will share about my experience in the following topics:

  • How to create quantified annual goals from your missions
  • Create first milestones for you goals and how to create feedback loop
  • Time management with prioritization and Kanban
  • Try different solutions but keep focus
  • Dont forget about celeberation