By January 6, 2009 Read More →

Improvement Frame

Improvement Frame

“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” — Aldous Huxley

As a mentor at work, I like to checkpoint results.  While I can do area-specific coaching, I tend to take a more holistic approach.  For me, it’s more rewarding to find ways to unleash somebody’s full potential and improve their overall effectiveness.  Aside from checking against specific goals, I use my Improvement Frame to gauge progress.

I’ve used my Improvement Frame as a very effective lens for quickly finding areas that need work or for finding sticking points.  It also helps show where there’s been dramatic changes.  While situations or circumstances may not change much, I find that changes in strategies and approaches can have a profound impact.  My take on this is that while you can’t always control what’s on your plate, you can control how you eat it.

Key Categories 
Here are the categories I use for my “Improvement Frame”:

  • Thinking / Feeling
  • Situation
  • Time / Task Management
  • Domain Knowledge
  • Strategies / Approaches
  • Relationships

The Improvement Frame
Here’s a sampling of the questions I use.

Area Prompts
Thinking / Feeling
  • Do you find your work rewarding?
  • Are you passionate about what you do?
  • Are you spending more time feeling good?
  • What thoughts dominate your mind now?
  • Is your general outlook more positive or negative?
  • Do you have more energy or less in general?
  • Are you still worried about the same things?
  • Are you excited about anything?
  • Have you changed your self-talk from inner-critic to coach?
  • Situation
  • Are you spending more time working on what you enjoy?
  • What would you rather be spending more time doing?
  • Do you have the manager you want?
  • Do you have the job you want?
  • Are you moving toward or away from your career goals?
  • If your situation was never going to change, what one skill would you need to make the most of it?
  • Time / Task Management
  • Are you driving your day or being driven?
  • Are you spending less time on administration?
  • Are you getting your "MUSTs" done?
  • Are you dropping the ball on anything important?
  • Do you have a task management system you trust?
  • Are you avoiding using your head as a collection point?
  • How are you avoiding biting off more than you can chew?
  • How are you delivering incremental value?
  • Domain Knowledge
  • Have you learned new skills?
  • Have you sharpened your key strengths?
  • Have you reduced your key liabilities?
  • What are you the go-to person for?
  • What could you learn that would make your more valuable to your team?
  • Strategies / Approaches
  • What are you approaching differently than the past?
  • How are you more resourceful?
  • How are you finding lessons in everything you do?
  • How are you learning from everybody that you can?
  • How are you improving your effectiveness?
  • How are you modeling the success of others?
  • How are you tailoring advice to make it work for you?
  • Relationships
  • Are you managing up effectively?
  • Are your priorities in sync with your manager’s?
  • Has your support network grown or shrunk?
  • How are you participating in new circles of influence?
  • How are you spending more time with people that catalyze you?
  • How are you working more effectively with people that drain you?
  • How are you leveraging more mentors and area specific coaches?
  • My Related Posts

    6 Comments on "Improvement Frame"

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    1. Evelyn Lim says:

      The questions that you posted here are definitely very helpful. They form a good framework to getting some basic understanding of the current situation and what to do next.

    2. JD says:

      Hey Evelyn

      Thank you. I love how the right questions can illuminate.

    3. Diane says:

      JD,

      I’d love it if you would expand on increnmental value! I just read your ebook love the story of when your aha moment came!

    4. JD says:

      @ Diane

      Thank you!

      I’ll try to illustrate incremental value using some examples. When I was working on my books, I originally did them scope driven. I didn’t know how long the overall book would take. I only knew I had to be done within six months. As I worked on each chapter, I kept them module so they could be standalone. The problem was, there was no way for customers to use each chapter until the entire book was done. This meant that from the time I started the book until the time it was available, was a range of 6-9 months. This meant that everybody had to trust me (my stakeholders and myself included), that I would deliver the right results.

      The heart of the problem was the value of a big book was blocking the value of the nuggets. I had to find a way to flow value. I did a few things. I chunked chapters down into How Tos, Checklists, Guidelines, Patterns, and made these available as I went along. I also made my chapters available in a Wiki. At the end of the project, I would have a fully vetted guide, with real customer feedback and a following. I would then ship the final guide with confidence. By shipping throughout the project, I gained confidence and trust from my manager, stakeholders, and customers.

      Now, let’s generalize that. How did I know how to chunk? How did I know each nugget would be useful by itself? How did I right-size the items? I did it two ways. First I used scenarios as a guide. Each nugget had to solve a meaningful problem. If it wasn’t useful by itself, then it was wrong. The other test I used was time. Could I find some nuggets that I could within a day? It turned out that most How Tos could be created in a day or two and tested in a day. This gave me the ability to do rough estimates for smaller items.

      So the real key here for incremental value is scenarios. By doing scenario-driven development, you can effectively ship incremental value. The beauty is, you can also talk in terms of scenarios with management or with customers, without having to get into technical details. It’s simply a chunk of value. You can also prioritize scenarios with customers or stakeholders and get agreement at a higher-level before getting mire in the muck.

      Here’s another example that relates to the home front. Let’s say you let your house slide and you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. Start by listing scenarios. For example, let’s say you want to have parties in the summer on your deck. Then, scenario 1 is, fix the deck so it’s ready for parties. Let’s say that when you come home each day, you aren’t happy with your front yard. Scenario 2 becomes, improve the front yard experience. You basically continue this exercise of writing down experiences you want to improve. This let’s you chunk up the laundry list of things to do. Better yet, because you know that each scenario you tackle will improve the experience, you now have incentive and motivation. The other beauty is, if you have to prioritize a lot of things to work on, now you can start by agreeing to scenarios that are important. Nothing’s worse than spending all day or days or weeks fixing things around the house, only to find out it wasn’t valued. When you start with scenarios and experiences, you know that what you’re working on is valued.

      Does that help?

      (BTW – I’m working on a new book that may help pull together and elaborate on these concepts)

    5. Lisa says:

      I loved stumbling across your site.

      Great post, some useful questions! thanks for sharing!

    6. JD says:

      @ Lisa

      Stumble on by anytime — thank you!