My Analysis Process: APD(P)

Nathaniel Elliott APD

I am often asked to analyze businesses, teams, and/or individuals to see how the processes they work in can be improved. Every consultant (internal or external) has their way of doing this type of work, but over the years I have solidified the method that I take, and the results have created strong wins over and over again for the groups that I work with. It is crucial to apply the following method in an agile approach as it iterates on itself as you go through it. Here is the process at a high level that I work through in each scenario that you can start applying immediately:

  1. Analyze – Analyze the situation that is at hand through 1:1 conversations, focus groups, and open retrospectives with the members that are part of the business or team. Finding and defining the problems at hand is crucial in this step.
  2. Prioritize – Work with those involved to prioritize the output from the analyzation so that those folks take the ownership of the findings and what impact needs to be. Looking for quick wins helps define what problems come first.
  3. Do (Produce) – Build an implementation method with SMART action items. When creating this, each item must have systematic owners who are responsible for making sure it moves forward which will help lead the change that came from the initial step.

This method for analysis was built off of my tag in life: creatively, executing, ideas… Everyone has excellent views and practices to do this work, but I have seen many consulting firms build out an excellent analysis of teams and yet forget that there is ownership and producing that must come as well. Analyzing businesses, teams, and individuals must produce results, not just the document stating the facts. The team needs to own this and deliver the wins/execute on the changes that were built out creatively. Be agile in the application of this, see what works and doesn’t. For example…

Sometimes I call it the APD method or APP method depending on the group that I am working on since “doing” may be the output required while other times “producing” may be the critical component. Building out an analysis works on many levels but needs to be continually done and not a one-time act. And in short, it can be applied to you as an individual as well!

Taking a Break – Work/Life

Nathaniel Elliott Builds Fire

I am someone who loves what they do most days. If you were to ask me how I am, many days I would respond that I am living in paradise! Why? Because I sincerely love what I do and the team that I work with at Inovalon. I understand that this isn’t the case for most, but there is a downfall of doing what you love: work/life balance. Also, when I say work, I don’t just mean the 9-5 you may live in but also the honey-do list and the continual task list that will never be completed. All of these things need to be balanced out, and I’ve seen three significant steps that have helped me and encouraged me to have a better work/life balance:

  • Start Small – Simply start making time outside of a work a priority by taking small moments here/there for yourself that aren’t focused on work or the next to do item. Take a walk and purposefully not think about work!
  • Plan It & Do It – After you start small, start planning the priortized time that you will take and use for the balancing of work/life. More importantly than just expecting it, you must follow through and execute on it and take time for yourself. Take a weekend away with no technology and breath!
  • Separate from It – When you start small, plan your work/life better, and execute, you also need to make sure you separate yourself from the work that you have going on. With a connected world, this is hard, but also with how our brains are wired, we like to solve problems but take a break and separate!

Why is this at the top of my mind? Well, this past weekend I took my wife and kids to a cabin in Maryland only an hour away from home for a reprieve. We spent time outside, we didn’t use technology, we spent quality time together, and it reminded me of the importance of these type of moments for my kids, my wife, and myself. And, when I returned to work, I was rested and ready to tackle what work had coming to me. My mind, spirit, and body were revamped and capable of doing what I do: solving problems.

What steps do you take to help with the work/life balance that we all need?

Managing Time – Especially while Training

Nathaniel Elliott Time Tracking Tool

There have been many updates to my life since I last posted a blog, but it doesn’t negate the fact that time must be managed. One of the major updates in my career at the moment revolves around leading classes specific to agile methodologies (scrum, kanban, SAFe, and others). With that, there has always been a goal of live conversation and feedback during a class which can make time hard to manage while engaging the participants as well! What did I do to fix that? I created three key points to check against when taking questions during presentations as well as a tool in excel to help me manage the time well. Yes, I am all for timeboxing but what about when things are a bit more fluid than that? I ask myself (and sometimes the group) the following three things before going down a rabbit trail:

  • Does this help the group learn and apply what we are discussing?
  • Can we answer this as a group at a different time?
  • Is it helpful to remove time from another area of the presentation to handle this now?

When this conversation has happened, and I do a vote by class, I need to figure out how to keep managing my time moving forward! Below is the excel spreadsheet I created to help me achieve the flow (with delays) that often happens!

Excel Document: TimeDoc

Quirky – Organizing Problems

There are moments in life when you realize one thing…you are behind! I don’t know if I would truly consider myself behind but I would say that I haven’t written in a while. This should be a regular thing, so today I will start making it one. With that being said, let me get organized!

Yes, I really do mean organized. I have been a consultant/working for myself now for almost 10 months. I’m viewing this as a once in a lifetime opportunity (that will probably go on for a long, extended amount of time). In the process, though, I’ve become pretty equated with finding problems and thinking through solutions. One of these places that I enjoy checking out is Quirky. Quirky is a shop that is full of people with one interest and quality in mind: ideas. I definitely recommend that you hop on over and check it out!

After watching this site for almost a full year, I decided to take the plunge and purchase a product. I got the “cordies” to organize my life a bit. Now that I work for myself, I work at a standing desk and have cords wrapped around every possible inch of my work space. But more importantly, it is a problem that needed to be solved and the solution came from crowdsourcing. What an amazing way to solve problems!

Before & After

Back to the cord situation, I was a bit behind in fixing this problem and simply bought a solution. What do you think? Do you think this is a problem? Do you personally want it solved?

But really what I want to know is: what problems do you see around you daily?

Networking Again

There are many places to start this conversation but in short, I quite my job back in August and decided to make the break into the world of entrepreneurship. In this process I’ve learned quickly that I need to understand more about this realm of business. So, the best way to do this? Networking…

Networking is one of the best parts of my new style of life. I’ve been on a mission to learn more from individuals who are having success in areas that I aim to succeed in and Ryan Carson is someone who has had some major success in his startups. My personal goal was to learn his process for building out the startups. If you don’t know who he is, he is an entrepreneur who has started Treehouse. Treehouse is an online education tool that helps you learn new techniques from business to programming. Prior to that, he built out two companies that spun him in the direction of Treehouse. In these two companies, he learned what I am about to share:

  • DropSend
  • Carsonified

I wanted to learn three actionable items to apply to ahWriting and my consulting practice. Here is what I learned:

  1. Find Passion… He shared that why you are building a business, you need to build it around what others are passionate about as well. He explained that his goal was to find a way to not always be needed and this required believing in the team you build and allowing them to be experts in the areas they have expertise in.
  2. Hire Slowly & Fire Quick… Having this expertise means that finding people isn’t as easy as desired. Carson also explained that it meant learning how to have the hard conversations fast and firing when needed. He shared that it is a difficult thing to be comfortable with but that it is key to have the right people at the right time.
  3. Keep Priorities… The final thing that stood out that I will be applying is the idea of keeping the priorities. He aligns his goals and executes on them. He prioritizes and completes by staying focused and keeping excited / passionate about what he is building out as a company. Ryan aims to have a purposeful task list.

What was the biggest take away for me? Prioritize and Complete. He recommended reading How to Win Friends & Influence People… Ryan Carson was a passionate individual who kept his eyes on the goal and took passion and made it action.

PS – He wakes up at 5:00 AM to get going and keeps to a four day week! See his blog here: http://ryancarson.com/

Chromecast Two

Yes, I had been planning on sharing these images of the “unboxing” of the Google Chromecast for a while now and had promised a few people I would do this ASAP. Well, a month or so later, here it is…

And the reason for writing it now, I just got my second one for the other TV in our house. It has been the best $35 spent in technology in a long while for me. Simple and usable. I am a fan on so many levels.

Let’s put it this way, receiving the first of my Chromecast’s was like Christmas, the second that just came a week ago was like a birthday surprise. There simplicity of setup, use, and enjoyment is great. I bought both of my Chromecast’s from the Play Store. The packaging came like so: chromecast box

chromecast chromecast features chromecast unboxing chromecast the product chromecast it's here chromecast what is inside

The set up was extremely simple as well. Honestly, you just go to one link while on your WIFI and it finds the ChromeCast, connects, lets you name it, and then set your preferences for it. Truly, that easy of a process for this. I have those screenshots as well but didn’t know if it would make anyone want it more. So, after one month with this, I finally received my second one and did the same thing. Setup took around 5 minutes from start to finish. It is a must to have in your house. Though, if you have an Apple TV, there really isn’t a reason to get this. But, if you don’t have one, this is the product to have!chromecast plugged in chromecast live

 

So, what do you all think of it? Have you seen it’s capabilities and features? Would you use one? Do you have one? I will be writing an article about this vs the Apple TV soon as well but would love to hear your thoughts prior!

Inspiring TED Talks to See

http://mashable.com/2013/07/08/ted-talks-change-your-life/

Sometimes you may need a quick “inspiration” and that is what I was looking for. In short, it is simply time to follow my passions of entrepreneurship. I quit my job, finished out my last day on Friday and will be consulting 20 hours a week with the other 20 fully vested into being an entrepreneur. It is time and this link helped!

Continually Learning

Continual education is something to be desired, not simply something you are required to do… Khan Academy gives you that ability to turn education into a desire. Khan takes a moment to encourage folks to keep this same learning desire in their lives in his commencement speech. He made points that makes you want to keep learning from day one, or at least it did for me!

Have you used the Khan Academy? Any videos / thoughts you would want others to check out? What sites do you use to keep learning? What do you recommend?

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