Take a Chainsaw to Speed Barriers

Take a Chainsaw to Speed Barriers

“You own the accelerator for the speed of your own work and the work of those that you lead.”   — Immutable Law of Speed #1 From “Lead With Speed”

There was a tree down across the road. Speed limits were suddenly irrelevant. The engine power of any of the cars waiting had also been made irrelevant.

We have had many storms in the area recently, and trees down across trails and roads have been a more frequent experience than usual. Road workers have become the leaders who own the number one key to speed in this situation. They have chainsaws.

Over the years, and especially recently, I have worked with numerous leaders who encountered various types of metaphorical storms that put multiple barriers in the way of speed. These barriers have ranged from the impacts of the pandemic to events like significant changes in tools that affect everyone’s workflow.

The best leaders I work with are on the constant watch for anything from a speed bump to a roadblock impacting their teams. These leaders walk around with their own ‘chainsaws’ to clear those barriers. They do and say things that are different from those said by less attuned leaders. For example, these exceptional leaders say things like:

  • “Put in a purchase request for the things you need.  I will ensure they are funded.”
  • “I see what the technical issue is.  I don’t know how to fix it, but I know who can.  I will ask person X, and you will be flying again.”
  • “I understand the policy I put in place is negatively impacting your ability to get things done. I will modify it to address your issues.”

The most extraordinary thing great leaders do is give people their own chainsaws and teach them how to use them. 

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

You may also like:

Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.

ANNIVERSARIES ARE IMPORTANT MARKERS

"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...

LEADERSHIP ON FATHER’S DAY

"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...

SUDS MAY SPILL, BEER SHOULD NOT

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

ANTICIPATE INFLECTION POINTS

"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.

Experience Leads to Better Designs

Experience Leads to Better Designs

“I was startled to learn that I didn’t have 20 years of experience. I had one year of experience repeated 20 times.”— Anonymous

When I first started playing the beautiful strategy game of go, otherwise known as baduk, I was encouraged to play many games very fast.  My mentors wanted me to finish whole games with other students in fifteen minutes.  This was a high contrast to the master players I watched who took fifteen minutes for just the first ten moves of their games.

Understanding the difference between those stages of learning is critical to “leveling up” your wisdom at any difficult skill.

The masters of the game encouraged me to play many games fast, not just so I would lose many games fast, although that was part of it!  What they were really doing was putting together rapid feedback loops so I would start to see which moves led to problems and which moves led to better outcomes.

Indeed, by playing many games quickly, I began to get better. Those games helped improve my play a little bit at a time.

True learning came after the games were played. The key was the Go-Master taught me how to review my games lost and won and learn from them.  It was then that I learned that the opening of my games had such flaws that even if it looked like I was significantly ahead of my opponent at the start, things fell apart in the endgame.  The flawed foundation collapsed.  

The rapid learning loops needed the addition of analysis and expert guidance.  With that, I rapidly improved my game.

Often the engineers I work with have had the first part of the learning equation. They have done many engineering projects.  However, they have not been trained in the skills of how to learn from their experiences.   For example, when I look at some experienced people’s programs, they look the same as a beginner’s program.  No matter how many programs they do, they are repeating the same experience over and over again. 

I have two suggestions for those looking to improve their skills.

  • First, start by looking at the endgame results of your project and consider the early stages.  How did the early stages contribute to the results?  If the project is late, look back at the planning and consider what could have been done better.  If the project has quality issues, what was lacking in the design?
  • Second, learning on your own is much slower than learning with someone who is a master at not just the game itself but the learning process.  Find a master who can not just review your work but review your process.

Doing these things will lead to the rapid improvement you seek.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

You may also like:

Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.

ANNIVERSARIES ARE IMPORTANT MARKERS

"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...

LEADERSHIP ON FATHER’S DAY

"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...

SUDS MAY SPILL, BEER SHOULD NOT

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

ANTICIPATE INFLECTION POINTS

"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.

Bring in the Team for Support

Bring in the Team for Support

“It is support that sustains us on the journey we started.”— Marci Shimoff

 A mini-drama was unfolding before me. It was a familiar scene, but I was noticing it in a new way.

We were at a baseball game for the first time in over a year, watching the home team the “Binghamton Rumble Ponies” play on a gorgeous Friday evening. It was a bit cloudy, there was a light breeze, and it was just the right temperature.

The home team’s pitcher was starting to struggle. The catcher stood up from behind the plate and let the umpire know he was taking a time-out. He walked out to the pitching mound to talk things over with the pitcher. Soon the rest of the team came in to join them on the mound for a mini-summit.  

The mound visit is a method used to clarify communications between pitcher, catcher, and the rest of the team.  It is also a way to support the pitcher and show that the whole team is rooting for his success.  

That need for support should be obvious because for any team to win, everyone has to work together for success. However, I have seen that in many of my clients’ teams the team doesn’t seem to realize the need to support each other.  In those situations, each team member is focused on their own “impossible” task. They don’t take their eyes off it to even notice if others are also struggling. Those teams, more often than not, fail.

Exceptional leaders create a culture where the metaphorical mound-visit happens without any intervention from the leader. When it is clear someone struggles with their part of the overall mission, the other team members will gather around. They will work together to figure out a strategy to help everyone be successful.  

In our game, the mound visit broke up after the umpire told them to get back to playing baseball.

The pitcher struck out the next batter. A little support goes a long way.

You may also like:

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.

ANNIVERSARIES ARE IMPORTANT MARKERS

"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...

LEADERSHIP ON FATHER’S DAY

"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.

Warning: Rapid Perspective Changes Ahead

Soon after watching the sunrise in a city very near Death Valley in California, I was talking with one of the residents.

Fleeting Delights

It was startling, unexpected, and… great. I was rushing from one place to another thinking of the far too many things I had to accomplish.
I heard a “wooossshh.”

Exceptional Leaders Build Consensus To Get

When I vote today, I know that I am voting for people. I am seeking to vote for people that will work to build each level of our government towards a common goal and a common good.

Do You Need Noise Canceling Headphones to Work?

Do You Need Noise Canceling Headphones to Work?

“All that noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!”— Dr. Seuss, The Grinch

I just went three days (long weekend) without reading most of my emails and now have 312 waiting for me.  (Wait, now it’s 318 and growing.)  This is not unusual for me and most likely not for you.

Just walking into a grocery superstore provides an abundance of visual noise. Walking down the aisles, it seems there is an infinite number of choices all calling for my attention.

Meanwhile, Netflix has an array of distracting choices, all just a click away.  And Netflix is just one in an abundance of streaming services to choose from.

You get my point. There are many, many things vying for our attention. Some of them are contained in the vast amount of external pressures, such as those 323 (current count) work emails waiting to be sorted and addressed. Some of the distractions are self-created as you are tempted to watch the latest videos your friend sends you or yearning to read the last few chapters of that book you started.

Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!

But there is hope.

In chaotically loud environments, noise-canceling headphones reduce ambient noise so the listener can focus on the soundscape of their choice, and there are similar mitigations for metaphorical noise.

The following are noise-canceling strategies to help you focus on your goals and lower the distraction factor of all that other noise.

Start your week with a clear set of focused goals.
Without a clear target for the week,  it is easy to be trapped into reacting to everything that occurs and ending the day with the question, “Now, which way was I actually going?”

Focus not on the tasks you do but the value you provide.
Your task list itself can be noisy if you allow the list to dictate to you. Instead, focus on the value and impact you are working to provide. With that focus, you’ll find simple, fast ways to accomplish the value the task list aimed to achieve.

If you can’t say no, say later.
We often have a strong desire to be helpful. When distractions come up, it is often that others have requested help from you. Yet, we need to remain focused on the long-term greater good for the organization and our clients.  Practice saying no, or at the very least later.

Practice “noise prevention”.
There are some types of noisy problems that come up over and over again. If this is the case, find the source of those noises and seek to resolve them.

Optimize for joy. 
Do the activities you engage in increase your joy? The best noise cancellation technique is to identify what is noise to you. If the activity you engage in increases your feeling of joy and worth in the world, it is like pure music.

The more you can focus on these types of tasks; the more noise disappears into the distant background.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

You may also like:

Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.

ANNIVERSARIES ARE IMPORTANT MARKERS

"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...

LEADERSHIP ON FATHER’S DAY

"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...

SUDS MAY SPILL, BEER SHOULD NOT

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

ANTICIPATE INFLECTION POINTS

"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.

Without Data, Talk About Quality Is Just Talk

Without Data, Talk About Quality Is Just Talk

Immutable Law of Speed #4:
The higher the cost of rework, the slower you are going.— From Alan Willett’s book, Lead with Speed

This old picture I found well represents what I am talking about today. That broken axel has disrupted everyone’s workday. This disruption removes everyone involved from any creative work they were doing to advance the goals of their organizations.

Now consider some of the headlines I have collected about defects that escaped into the world, disrupting people and organizations.  

Two years ago:  Fiat Chrysler recalls 4.8 million US vehicles for a cruise control software defect.

Last year: GM is updating a brake controls recall they originally issued in December of 2019 because the first recall caused additional problems.

This year: Southwest Airlines cancels 500+ flights after a computer glitch grounds their fleet.

I have collected hundreds of headlines like these over the years. Each of these issues represents problems with customer loyalty. It cost hundreds, even thousands, of hours of lost productivity in the organization. Sometimes it even cost lives.

There is a problem I see consistently across many organizations. Quality is typically assumed. Leaders ask a lot of questions about dates. They want to know when the project will be done. They also have many requests for more features.  

However, there are typically few if any questions about quality. But those questions must be asked. And the answers to those questions must be based on data.

Here are a few examples.

  • Our quality levels in system test show 0.05 defects per thousand new lines of code compared to the average of 2 defects per thousand lines of code we found in our previous releases.
  • Our inspections had a defect removal efficiency of 42%.  58% of the defects escaped into testing or out to customers.
  • Our economics of quality numbers show that the defects captured in the system test are costing the organization an average of 125 hours per defect.  The smallest cost was 30 hours, and the greatest cost was over 1,000 hours.
  • Only 27% of product features were delivered to our customers within our criteria for high quality with no critical or level 1 defects. This is unacceptable. We are taking action to address the root causes.

You may not know what these data descriptions mean, but you should.

Claiming quality without knowing data like this is just talking.

And if it is just talking, the results you get will be talked about just like in the headlines I mentioned.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Find a list of quality questions you should ask in this free download.  100+ Questions That Lead Teams to Build Smart, Aggressive Project Plans.

Contact [email protected] to learn more.

Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

You may also like:

Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.

ANNIVERSARIES ARE IMPORTANT MARKERS

"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...

LEADERSHIP ON FATHER’S DAY

"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...

SUDS MAY SPILL, BEER SHOULD NOT

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

ANTICIPATE INFLECTION POINTS

"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.

Heed the Evidence You See

Heed the Evidence You See

“Observation opens the windows of knowledge around us.”
— Sukant Ratnakar

While walking across a bridge in a local park, I noticed a bunch of mysterious items hanging on wires strung parallel to the bridge across the inlet’s waters. It took me a moment to recognize that fishing lures were dangling from the wires – many, many fishing lures.

There are quite a few very nice spots to fish along the inlet, and they are actually straightforward to get to. However, none are quite as convenient as standing on that bridge. The ample visible evidence of lost lines and lures is apparently not enough to dissuade many fishers.

It seems that too often, businesses, and many of us individually, are tempted by the convenient bridge where it looks like it is so easy to get quick benefits.

I have seen many teams skip the difficult design phase to see if they can quickly catch a fish. Likewise, I have seen many people skip inspections because they are boring, and it is another 200 paces to the fishing spots around the corner.

Then repeatedly, I see them have to spend hours and even weeks in rework. This is because their fishing line got caught on the same wires that caught so many fishing lines before them.

The warning signs are clear if you keep your eyes open and watch for them.

I encourage you to learn from those who came before. Walk the extra paces to the bank up river a little way. If you want to catch some big fish, invest in a boat to take you out farther.

Catching the big one is worth it.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Are you ready to do exceptional leadership in technology development?  Learn about the Exceptional Difference programs here.

Contact [email protected] to learn more.

The lost fishing lures perhaps should have been a warning.
You may also like:

Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.

ANNIVERSARIES ARE IMPORTANT MARKERS

"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...

LEADERSHIP ON FATHER’S DAY

"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...

SUDS MAY SPILL, BEER SHOULD NOT

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

ANTICIPATE INFLECTION POINTS

"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.

How Much Conviction Do You Have?

How Much Conviction Do You Have?

“Those who don’t jump will never fly.”— Leena Ahmad Almashat

The manager said, “I am sorry. I can’t support you going to that training at this time.”

Respond to this situation by showing your conviction.

This post continues the focus on ensuring your organization is making investments that return great value. In my first post, Why to Invest $ in Training, Coaching, & Making Leaders Better?, I proposed five key steps. This post is an elaboration on step #5, have conviction.

In my experience, if the first four steps I outlined are done well, the outcome is most likely a yes.  If you understood the needs of the executive, and if you focused on value based on their needs, and if you researched to ensure that others had greatly benefited, and if you made a plan that showed your commitment, then it is likely they will say yes.

You still must be prepared for a “no.”  Here are four possible responses that demonstrate your conviction.  

  1. Ask, “What is the main barrier? If the main barrier is budget, you may find budget items in your personal control that can be sacrificed. You may have the ability to attract new clients to ease the budget concern. Having these discussions keeps the possibility open.
  2. Ask, “What can I do to make this possible now?”  This shows that you are ready to do more to make this investment a reality.
  3. Make an offer.  If you really believe that you want this to happen, be prepared to make an offer.  The offer could be unpaid overtime. The offer could be taking on an additional special project. 
  4. Pay for what you want yourself. This sounds extreme to some people, and I suppose it is. However, doing this shows you are convinced that this investment will benefit you and the organization.

I have had to use option 4 a couple of times.  Each time, management was quite startled but was quickly convinced of my conviction. I went to the training I believed in. I received the world-class coaching I wanted.  Each of these experiences was greatly beneficial to my organization and me.

The question is, how convinced are you of the value?  Show your conviction.  Today’s quote is correct. If you don’t jump, it’s hard to fly!

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Are you ready to do exceptional leadership in technology development?  Learn about the Exceptional Difference programs here.

Contact [email protected] to learn more.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

You may also like:

A Paradigm Shift in Leadership

The CEO of a 500+ person high-tech development organization had recently hired a very strong CTO. He began to wonder if perhaps he was “too strong?” The CTO seemed to be doing the right things, but in doing so was upsetting many of organization’s employees.

The Case of the Slow Software Development Team

Management and the software team were at odds. Each blamed the other for the slowdowns and delays in their development process.

The Case of Bickering Leadership Team

The CEO’s leadership team was constantly bickering. After achieving great success, they seemed to have lost their way.

ANTICIPATE INFLECTION POINTS

"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...

Is It Time To Add Another Point?

I was using a phone app to measure an awkward shape. The app chided me to add a point. It needed new data to be able to better understand the task it was being asked to do.

Make a Plan to Ensure Investments are Useful and Used

Make a Plan to Ensure Investments are Useful and Used

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”— Dale Carnegie

Have you ever purchased something and never used it?  

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t done that. One of the key reasons people hesitate to invest in training, coaching, tools, etc., is that they have often seen the opportunity squandered. Even if they can’t articulate exactly why they are hesitating, this is often the hidden barrier to signing the check.

This post continues the focus on ensuring your organization is making investments that return great value. In my first post, Why to Invest $ in Training, Coaching, & Making Leaders Better?, I proposed five key steps. This post is an elaboration on step #4, show your commitment.

Before investing, you must have a realistic plan to ensure the investment will be useful to you and the organization. We discussed that in the previous newsletter on value. Before you write the check, ensure that the investment will be useful and used.

Before I make any significant investment, I do the following steps.

  1. Gut check on value. Am I confident in the value that this investment will provide?  If that is true, I need to make a plan to ensure I get the value.
  2. Start your project notebook now. A significant investment in training, coaching, or tools is akin to a project.  You expect value from a project. You expect a project will take time.  You expect a project will provide results. You expect a project to have a plan. Start the plan and the associated notes now before the check is written.
  3. Identify what is needed for success.  Any investment like this implies that there will be a change that has to be made to ensure the value is used and the value is realized.  Change implies that there will be barriers and enablers. Know what they are!   Note, once you get started, identifying the barriers and enablers will become even clearer. However, start with eyes open wide to the fact that the required change might not be easy.
  4. Plan how to be successful.  One of the key barriers is always habits or current practice. When people are under pressure, they will revert to whatever they have done previously. Have a plan to ensure that this new “thing” is actually used.  For example, with the previous example of training in Python, how will you make sure what is learned is used?  I encourage clients to do more than the training. They must also make some changes to how Python code is reviewed before being added to the system. When people take Exceptional Difference programs, they have expert guidance in immediately applying the learning from their assignments to their work environment.
  5. Make a plan to check on results.  When investing, positive results are expected. In previous newsletters, I strongly suggested that clear measures of success be identified. In this step, it is imperative you make a plan for when to check on the results and who will measure them.

When you are being challenged on whether to invest, the biggest barrier is fear that the investment will not be worthwhile.

Show your commitment by making a plan to ensure the investment is both useful and used. 

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Are you ready to do exceptional leadership in technology development?  Learn about the Exceptional Difference programs here.

Contact [email protected] to learn more.

You may also like:

Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.

ANNIVERSARIES ARE IMPORTANT MARKERS

"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...

LEADERSHIP ON FATHER’S DAY

"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...

SUDS MAY SPILL, BEER SHOULD NOT

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

ANTICIPATE INFLECTION POINTS

"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.

Investments are Leaps of Faith

Investments are Leaps of Faith

It always feels too soon to leap. But you have to. Because that’s the moment between you and remarkable.”— Seth Godin

Are you ready for a leap of faith?

That is the question any leader is answering when they choose to invest in something new. This question applies to training, coaching, new tools, or anything that costs time and money.

Do they trust that this investment will be worth it?

This newsletter continues the focus on ensuring your organization is making investments that return great value.  In the first newsletter, I proposed five key steps. This newsletter is an elaboration on step # 3, Ensure the investment is highly recommended.

The question almost always comes down to “How do I know the expert I am hiring is worth the investment?”   Even if you are buying new tools, you are putting your faith in the people who will train and support your use of those tools.

The number one way to discover this is to research the people who came before and found great value working with those experts.

When I say this out loud, everyone knows this. However, it is interesting how few people do the proper research. Here are three suggestions to get the information you need to make the leap of faith.

  1. Read the reviews. This one sounds easy, and most people do it.  However, bring your critical thinking skills to this step. Dig deeper to see what’s behind those reviews.
  2. Talk to those who are recommending this solution.  What value did they find?  How did they ensure that they received the best outcomes from their investment?
  3. Judge the quality of the expert and their solutions from the quality of their students.   When I see people being greatly successful, I often find a mentor in the shadows smiling at their success. 

I have followed these steps whenever I make a large investment. The third step has given me the greatest confidence to make the leap of faith and invest the money and time.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Are you ready to do exceptional leadership in technology development?  Learn about the Exceptional Difference programs here.

Here is a quote from one of the heroes from the program.

“One of the mantras we discussed in depth in the Leadership Experience is that design rules. I couldn’t agree more. I now have much more influence on my teams and organization to ensure that great design powers our speed.”

—Dylan Greiner, Chief Product Architect, Team Leader

Contact [email protected] to learn more.

You may also like:

Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.

ANNIVERSARIES ARE IMPORTANT MARKERS

"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...

LEADERSHIP ON FATHER’S DAY

"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...

SUDS MAY SPILL, BEER SHOULD NOT

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

ANTICIPATE INFLECTION POINTS

"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.

Focus On Improvement to Value

Focus On Improvement to Value

“I am building a fire, and every day I train, I add more fuel.”— Mia Hamm

When preparing a proposal for an investment, such as coaching, training, or new tools, there are some critical questions that must be asked:

  • How will the investment help the organization in the short term and the long term
  • What tangible improvements will the investment bring?

Ask these questions when making a proposal to the person with the checkbook. Get these questions answered even if the idea is yours and you have control of the checkbook.

This post continues the focus on ensuring your organization is making investments that return great value. In my previous post, Why Invest $ in Training, Coaching, & Making Leaders Better?, I proposed five key steps.

This post is an elaboration on step #2, A Focus On Value. In it, I gave an example of a team leader justifying the investing in computer language training with this phrase:

“The python training will show us how to use advanced methods for better data dictionaries.” 

The training was denied.

Consider this alternative approach which more clearly states why the investment is important to the person with the checkbook.

If management cares about speed to market, and most do, this is a much more compelling argument and almost certainly funded. Here are three critical items to examine when considering coaching, training, and other investments.

“The python language training will improve our speed to delivering content to our customers by between 30 and 50%.

The majority of our applications are using more complex databases than ever before.

This training by a leading expert will provide us with the skills to move our products faster to the marketplace.”

If management cares about speed to market, and most do, this is a much more compelling argument and almost certainly funded. Here are three critical items to examine when considering coaching, training, and other investments.

  • Objectives?
  • How broad of an impact will this investment have on the value we are delivering to our customers?  How many people and teams does this investment help?
  • How will this improvement yield benefits year over year?

When I learned to base all my investments on answers to these questions, something very exciting happened.  When I knew why I made the investment and what I expected from it, I ensured that I got those results.  For example, I went into the training or coaching with a clear vision, and I held the experts I hired accountable to get the results I needed.

To paraphrase Mia Hamm, I am building a fire of value for my customers. Every investment must add a log to the flames.

Next week I explore the next step, “ensure it is highly recommended”.  I will answer the question, “How do I know the expert I am hiring is worth it?”

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Are you ready to do exceptional leadership in technology development?  Learn about the Exceptional Difference programs here.

Exceptional Difference graduates have improved their speed to value in the following ways:

  • Improved team productivity by 5x.
  • Improved the quality of delivery to customers by 4x.
  • Improved the speed of onboarding new team members to be productive by 6x.

Contact [email protected] to learn more.

Photo by Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash

You may also like:

Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.

ANNIVERSARIES ARE IMPORTANT MARKERS

"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...

LEADERSHIP ON FATHER’S DAY

"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...

SUDS MAY SPILL, BEER SHOULD NOT

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

ANTICIPATE INFLECTION POINTS

"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.

Pin It on Pinterest