Category Archives: planning

What I want to talk about in 2010

Following through on my resolution to give fewer talks, I’m thinking about what kinds of talks I do want to give.

I want to help people work together better. I want to talk about the whys and hows of collaboration, helping organizations, communities, teams, and individuals learn how to use these tools and practices. Part of this will include basic step-by-step tutorials on how, perhaps, but I’m much more interested in documenting and shaping collaboration patterns.

I want to help people play to their strengths. As I learn more about being introverted and about having a beginner’s mind, I’m looking forward to sharing what I discover with other people.

I want to help people map and share their lives, insights, and questions. I want to map everything I know, and I want to help interested people do the same.

I want to help people become more at home and discover themselves. I think I’m getting the hang of it, and I want to share that with others, too!

So: collaboration, strengths (particularly learning and introversion), mapping/knowledge-sharing, and self-discovery. Now that I’ve sketched that out, I can think about what questions I want to explore and how I can share what I’m learning along the way.

I’m not quite used to this. I created most of my presentations in response to requests, invitations and calls for submissions. Lately, though, I’ve been creating more and more presentations just because I wanted to. Switching to being more proactive about my topics might be an interesting experiment. =)

Thinking about what I want to do with IBM

It’s almost time to make my personal business commitments. It’s a great time to think about what I want to do with IBM.

There are the existing goals and commitments that come down through the management chain. I want to work with IBM on making those happen because I believe in what we’re doing, and I believe that the work will help me grow. Saying yes to those is easy.

And then there’s the really important question of what I want to do with IBM, if IBM can be this platform that lets me make a bigger difference. What I want to do with IBM is to build a world where work really does flow like water, where people can do and be their best wherever they are.

If we can figure out how to work with the system—if we can figure out how to align and support even a fraction of the energy and talent in this 400,000-strong organization and our extended ecosystem—imagine how much we can help change the world and how much better we’ll work. Look at how much the world has already changed in the past few decades. Wouldn’t it be amazing to find out what we could do if we could help people fully use their talents?

So what does that look like, long-term?

  • People can easily and effectively collaborate with people around the world. This means knowing how to reach out and find resources, work together, and deliver results. Challenge: Lots of growing pains right now, especially as work moves around the world and companies shift towards more diverse workforces. People don’t know which tools to use when, and we’re still figuring out how to work together.
  • People can work on what they’re good at and passionate about. We can get better at connecting people with opportunities and adapting to changing needs.
  • People learn and share as much as they can. Learning from other people and sharing what we’re learning becomes a natural part of the way we work.
  • People work well. We communicate clearly, without too much jargon. We communicate as people, not hiding behind passive words or inhuman abstractions. We connect with each other.

How can I help make this real?

  • Consulting: I can help organizations, communities, teams, and individuals change the way they work by helping them learn about tools, practices, and success stories. I can coach people on how to develop new practices. I can look for what people are doing well, document those practices, and explore how they can work even better. If I can get really good at consulting, I can help people identify the strengths that they can build on, recognize and share what works, and plan how to address the challenges that get in the way of collaboration.
  • Practising relentless improvement: I’m good at looking for small ways to improve processes and building tools to help people work more effectively. If I can get really good at relentless improvement, I’ll be able to identify key changes that help people work much more effectively, shape a culture where people love practising relentless improvement themselves, and formalize and share improvements through processes and tools.
  • Learning and sharing: I’m good at learning tons from people around me and sharing what I’m learning through presentations, blog posts, and other ways to scale up the knowledge. If I can get really good at learning and sharing, I’ll be able to inspire people to learn and share, map out what people need to know, share lots of insights, and organize it so that people can find what they need.
  • Connecting: I’m good at connecting people with other people, resources, and tools. This is partly because of a wide network and broad exposure, partly because I deliberately look for ways I can connect people, and partly because I work on taking notes and thinking of associations. If I can get really good at connecting, I’ll be able to not only help people build on others’ work instead of duplicating effort, but also push the network knowledge into the organization so that people can find relevant people and resources without being bottle-necked by connectors. I could also get really good at connecting and then use this to help clients understand complex technical systems.
  • Showing the big picture: I’m good at showing people how they fit into the big picture, why their work matters, what else is going on, and what they can do next to grow. If I can get really good at helping people see that, I’ll be able to shape people’s motivation to work, help people stay passionate and engaged, and show what the next steps are.

It’s interesting to look at this list. Although I enjoy building systems and developing my technical skills, I think I’ll get closer to what I want to do by focusing on the business side. My technical aspect helps me because I can automate tasks, crunch numbers, analyze information, and build tools for remembering things. For the kinds of challenges I’m really curious in exploring, though, technology isn’t the limiting factor. Technology-wise, things change really quickly, and I’m confident that people can build what we need. What we’re limited by is our ability to change and learn.

What does that look like in the short- and medium-term? What can I work towards for my career?

One of the quirks about planning my career is that I don’t need to work towards a specific position in order to make the kind of difference I want to make. I can already work on this from where I am. My current role already involves all of those capabilities to some extent, and I also contribute outside my official job role. My work with Innovation Discovery helps me learn about all sorts of interesting people and interesting projects. My mentors teach me about consulting skills and facilitation techniques. My tasks provide me with plenty of opportunities for relentless improvement. Learning and sharing, connecting people across the organization, helping people see the big picture and the next steps—these are things I do for work and fun.

So, how can I make the future even better than today?

  • Better alignment: The more closely my goals and my team’s goals are aligned, the more resources I can tap to make things happen, and the better IBM and our clients can take advantage of what I’m good at.
  • Immersion: If I focus on developing one capability (or a set of related ones), I can create and share more value faster than if I spread myself out. For example, if I focused on doing lots of technology adoption coaching, I can build lots of resources around that instead of making gradual progress in lots of areas. (Although touching so many different areas of work also helps me with connecting…)
  • Better inspiration: If I work with other high-performing teams that do connection and collaboration really well, I can learn tons, share insights with other teams, and bring my own talents to the mix. If I work with different kinds of high-performing teams, I’ll learn different things. For example, I’m currently learning a ton about working with decision-makers and spanning boundaries within IBM, because those are the things my Innovation Discovery team excels at. I wonder what other teams can teach me, and how they might benefit from cross-pollination.
  • More leverage: I can learn about contributing through a team in addition to contributing as an individual. People-management sounds like it’ll take a lot more work than individual contribution (and management seems less secure, too!), but it seems to be a good way to break past the limits on how much value I can individually create. I have 24 hours in the day, like anyone else, but if I can figure out how to be a great manager and enable lots of other people to work at their peak, we can create more collective value. I love learning about management and leadership, and I’m curious about what’s possible. I don’t know enough about this because most of my mentors are individual contributors, so I don’t have a good sense yet of whether management would be a good fit or how I can go about exploring it.

There are many paths that I can take. Here are a few paths that people have recommended I think about:

  • Working towards becoming a client IT architect: David Ing recommended this because it involves low travel, takes advantage of my strengths in connecting the dots and keeping complex systems in my head, and helps me build a deep understanding of a particular industry (probably public sector?). It’s a revenue position, so it should keep me relatively safe from resource actions, and it will allow me to continue contributing to IBM.
  • Focus on collaboration, maybe figure out some kind of rotational program between client-facing and staff positions: I would love to alternate between focusing on helping our clients adapt and helping IBM adapt. If I have the capacity to do this simultaneously, even better. Working with IBM will help me deepen my understanding and empathize with client challenges, while working with clients will help me share what we’re learning and broaden our perspectives. David Singer suggested this because being client-facing means not having to worry too much about other people cutting budgets, while the rotational aspect will help me learn more.
  • Working towards becoming a master inventor. Boz suggested this one because I love helping people come up with and improve ideas, I love learning, and I love connecting the dots.

Staff positions are interesting and I know a lot of people who do incredible work. I love the variety of my internal and external network and the things I learn from constant interaction with clients, though. So it looks like I’ll focus on growing as a consultant and figuring out how to be the bridge. Following an individual contribution path will give me more flexibility, I think, than growing into people management.

I’m fascinated by small businesses and entrepreneurship, but an organization of IBM’s scale and influence can do so many amazing things. I want to figure out how to work with an enterprise like this to make things happen. So I’m going to figure out what I can do with IBM, because I want to make a bigger difference than I can make alone. =)

What does that mean for the next year and the next few years?

  • I can deepen the work that I do with Innovation Discovery by volunteering to take on more responsibility for engagements, or by applying relentless improvement to the social networking and collaboration topics that clients are interested in. Scaling the program up is interesting and creates value, but if I’m going to focus on that, I need to figure out how to focus more on the consulting or sales aspect instead of taking the training/staff approach so that it’s in line with my long-term goals.
  • If I want to focus on the client IT architect path, I can find a mentor and look for engagements that will let me immerse myself in other kinds of systems and how to work with them. Yes, even if that means stepping outside my wonderful open source / web application world. After all, our team is good at application services, so I should take advantage of those competencies.
  • If I want to grow towards the strategy and transformation practice, I can find mentors, shadow or support engagements focused on Web 2.0, and build more thought leadership inside and outside IBM around collaboration and technology adoption.
  • I can deepen my technical leadership capabilities by sharing what I’m learning, exploring more virtual leadership skills, and helping people become better technical leaders and individual contributors.

What are some next actions that I can take?

  • Find role models in strategy and transformation, learning and knowledge, and other areas that I’m considering. Find out what their work is like and look for resonance.
  • Negotiate my job role with the Innovation Discovery team so that we can deliberately develop certain capabilities.
  • Invest into learning and sharing as much as possible around collaboration and change, learning about different industries along the way.

If I can build lots of understanding and insight around collaboration both within and outside IBM, then I can help people learn and experiment within the company, and I can inspire clients to learn and experiment as well, and I can (I hope!) convince clients to invest in partnering with IBM so that we can help them create value much faster.

So that’s what I’m thinking, and now that it’s outside my head and in a form I can share, I can work with other people on making it clearer.

Now the hard work begins: clarifying, creating, collaboratig, learning, sharing… =)

What do I want to learn? Making a map

It’s a good idea to plan what you want to learn. One of the good things we do at IBM each year is to put together an individual development plan, which combines formal learning, informal learning, and on-the-job experience.

I’ve written about some of the things I want to learn at work, such as facilitation skills. I’ve also written about some of the things I wanted to learn in life: getting better at storytelling, helping new hires connect, sharing what I’m learning, helping people change, nurturing relationships over a distance, and being more practical. What I hadn’t really done before was to make a map. (Or if I did, I forgot about it, and what use is that? ;) )

So here is what I want to learn, and now I can take that and translate the work parts into an individual development plan, and add next actions for work and life learning to my to-do list. =D I definitely recommend going through the process of thinking about what you want to learn and sharing that with other people. I’m sure that I’ll add or remove things from this, but it’s a good start!

Thanks to TerriAnne Novak for the nudge to think about this.


I enjoy setting goals and planning how to reach them. I have a small notebook that includes sketches and descriptions of what I want to do. I like setting goals not because I’ll be happy when I achieve them (happiness isn’t a destination, it just is), but because they’re good experiments in how wonderful life can be.

I encourage my friends to set goals and track their progress, too. Before I left the Philippines for Canada, I asked all of my friends to write down their two-year plans.

Where did this begin?

Imbayah: My parents gave us plenty of examples of the power of setting great goals. For example, my mom and dad helped organize a festival of traditional games called the Imbayah. I wasn’t born yet, but I learned about it from stories they told when I was growing up. I learned that a good goal can move other people to action. I also learned that you need both vision and execution to make a difference, and my parents work together really well because of that. My parents also told me stories about how they wanted to start a business, how they wanted to build a studio, and so on. I don’t think they ever drifted aimlessly. They were always working on something cool.

Books:  I learned a lot about goal-setting from books, too. My mom had shelves of books on productivity, and she was always trying to help the employees in the company learn how to set and achieve goals.

Encyclopedias taught me an unexpected lesson about the power of setting goals and visualizing success, this by way of a story my mom told me about the time she sold encyclopedias door to door. She told me how she used to get through tough sales by imagining a check written to her for the amount of her commission, and mentally pasting this check on her prospect’s forehead.

 Travel: One of my mom’s goals was to create family experiences through travel. She planned for it, saved for it, and made it happen. I remember a story my parents told us about how my mom had been trying to get my dad to join us on the trip. He didn’t want to go because of work, but one day, he relented and told my mom to go ahead and make plans. A few hours later, he was about to change his mind—but my mom had already booked the tickets. From that and the stories my parents told me of planning, I learned that opportunities are part luck and part planning. It’s good to set goals and prepare, so that you can make the most of opportunities that come up.

Lightpainting: I also learned a lot from how my parents set learning goals for themselves, like the way my dad taught himself photography and techniques like lightpainting. I remember watching him experiment in a darkened studio, trying to figure out how to create the images he could see in his imagination. I learned that you need to set goals for your own growth and work on moving towards them, because people aren’t going to hand you a curriculum and all the course materials you need. My parents gave us plenty of great examples of goal-setting for growth, like the way my dad taught himself digital photography and my mom taught herself business and marketing.

Ultralights: There were big projects too, like the cross-country flight my dad completed in an ultralight airplane. I learned how sometimes awesome projects start as crazy ideas, and you have to be open to pursuing them. I saw how my dad’s vision and my mom’s support in execution came together in making something cool happen, and I saw how lots of people were inspired by it both during and after the flight and the exhibit.

R. Hidalgo: My dad’s always doing some kind of initiative or another. One time, he wanted to help clean up R. Hidalgo, a street that used to be famous for the photographic equipment stores that lined it. Vendors clogged the passage-ways and the sidewalks were grimy. My dad organized the local shopkeepers and photographers, got the street cleaned up and the vendors moved to a different place, and helped put together a street photography exhibit. It was great, and it restored a lot of pride in the place. But it drew bad feelings from the displaced vendors, and my dad even received death threats. The local community wanted my dad to stay involved, but he saw it as a project they needed to take over and own, because they had a stake in it and he was from the outside. This is where I learned that sometimes good goals run into real-life challenges, and that it’s all right if a great idea doesn’t get completely developed.

Alabang: Likewise, my mom had a goal of having a comfortable house that could serve as a nice retreat from work. She saved up for and found a house in Alabang, and we stayed there occasionally. It was wonderfully peaceful, but it was a long way from the studio, so my dad and sister often preferred to stay in Makati instead. Eventually my mom decided to rent out the house instead. I learned that sometimes you need other people in order to fully enjoy a goal.

(must add this to diagram – CookOrDie): I don’t remember explicitly setting a lot of big goals for myself when I was growing up. I remember once trying to read 100 books and realizing that the goal was distracting me from the joy of reading the book. I had smaller goals, like understanding a particular book, and my mom told me that I’d read something again and again in order to understand it. I participated in programming and chess competitions, but I don’t remember telling myself, “I want to win X competitions” or “I want to master Y techniques.” I do remember starting to experiment after I graduated from university: my CookOrDie project (eat at most one meal out a day), for example.

Master’s: Going for my master’s degree in Canada helped me do a lot of goal-setting. I needed to get all the paperwork together. I started managing my own finances more closely. I needed to do research and write my thesis. I needed to establish myself and make friends. There were some goals I abandoned along the way (the courtyard garden box, for example), but the rest of my goals gave me lots of satisfaction. I started setting more quantitative goals, too, like saving X in my opportunity fund.

Projects: Now that life has settled down a bit and we have a stable foundation to build on, I’ve been learning more about setting goals, planning, and persisting through hobby projects. Whether it’s gardening, sewing, or woodworking, there are plenty of things I can imagine and make happen. Work provides plenty of goals, too, and I enjoy making progress towards them.

What have I learned about goals?

  • If you don’t have them, you’ll drift, and you’ll end up following other people’s goals.
  • Goals are great for shaping life.
  • I like process-oriented goals more than outcome-oriented goals. That is, I tend to phrase my goals so that I focus on what I can control.
  • I don’t particularly relate to the kinds of goals lots of people share in their life lists (ex: travel to all seven continents). Introspection helps me figure out my own goals.
  • Drawing goals and regularly reviewing them is fun.
  • It’s okay to let goals go when you outgrow them.
  • Sharing your goals sometimes results in other people helping you with them, which is awesome.
  • Don’t set yourself up for failure and self-hate. Pick goals that help you do better and that help you feel good as you work on them.
  • A small paper notebook is a great way to keep sketches and lists of goals. Keep it handy so that you can add new ideas to it.

Planning ahead

I like planning ahead. Thinking through best-case scenarios and wild successes helps me clarify the decisions I need to make now. Planning for worst-case scenarios gives me confidence that things will work out. I have only one life to live, but with imagination and planning, I can test my ideas before committing to them.

For example, while working on the paperwork for marrying W-, I considered death, disability, divorce, relocation, family needs, and distance, at varying ages and in varying situations (kids? no kids?). I think we can make things work out – and that frees me up to focus on the best-case scenarios.

I’m considering the next steps in my career. My managers and mentors have been very supportive, and they’re helping me figure out what’s next. I’m thinking about the next three years, sure, but I’m also thinking about the next sixty. Who do I want to be? How do I want to change the world?

I think I want to have run my own business for at least ten years by the time I’m 65. Corporate life gets a bit fuzzy around then, but I like how my parents can keep doing what they love doing because they have their own business. That still gives me plenty of time to do what I want to do with IBM: illuminate work with happiness and passion, build tools and teach people to build tools, connect people and make it easier for people to do their best work from anywhere, and help shape the future of organizations.

I don’t need a plan that assumes neat, linear steps to get me from A to B. Life will happen. I’ll change my mind. But planning ahead helps me think. Considering the best, the worst, and the more realistic outcomes lets me exaggerate the tiny differences in today’s decisions so that I can get a better sense of what I really feel.

Thanks to Cate Huston for the nudge to write about this!

Plans for summer: Relationships, work, gardening, biking, drawing and photography, making, and finances

Cate Huston asks for inspiration: What are you focusing on in June? Work is straightforward: Drupal web development until September, at least, and probably similar work after that. Summer also makes it easy to decide what to do. Biking and gardening, yes. Baking and sewing, not so much. Social events, yes. But it’s a good idea to go beyond these vague categories and figure out what I’d like to explore.

This blog post is not really about focus. It’s more of a list of things I’m thinking about, but at least it’s a shorter, more concrete list than just "stuff". =) Focus comes when I go through the different categories and focus on making one item for each category happen.

Short-term thoughts for summer

Relationships: I should take advantage of summer’s long days and warm weather by meeting up with people. It might be awkward in the beginning, but I’m sure it will get easier. I should nudge my friends to organize things more often. Maybe I just happen to be the most get-folks-together-and-feed-them sort of person in the different groups I’m in. This is okay, although I’m curious about what it might be like to get a regular potluck going. Or a regular cookathon going. Hmm… Possible improvements:

  • Shift us to salads and other yummy things to eat during summer.
  • Think through upcoming decisions and scenarios, and write about them.
  • Meet at least one person each week, possibly around events I’m interested in.
  • Think about cool things to offer during get-togethers. Fruits and lemonade, mmm.
  • Set aside social time and proactively reach out to people through the Internet.
  • Set aside driving practice time, too.
  • Schedule Latin-learning dates with W-, so we stop cramming our Latin homework on Saturday evenings.

Work: Development is the way to go for me, I think. I like it more than consulting. I like making things happen, and I like the way it continuously sharpens my skills. Yes, it’s a global marketplace, and the work may be tougher than consulting because it’s more easily virtualized. But that’s good, too – less travel. I can keep growing in this by learning more about Drupal and Rails, and improving my front-end skills. I would like to work on a Drupal 7 project and another Ruby on Rails project this year. I want to be the awesome backend developer or technical lead people like working with in order to make websites happen. Possible improvements:

  • Get even better at automated testing (Selenium for web-facing tests?)
  • Develop more patience for manual testing; yes, coding is fun, but testing prevents embarrassment and increases learning
  • Figure out continuous integration, perhaps with Hudson
  • Make sure I’ve got interactive debugging set up for both frameworks I like working with
  • Learn more about working with other developers: managing projects, workflow, etc.

Gardening: I think it’s incredible. You put seeds in soil, you give them some water, and sunlight and nature do the rest. I want to take advantage of the sunlight to learn a little more about growing our own food. I love how the strawberries are starting to bear fruit, and how the peas race up the string-trellis I made. I want to grow more and more fruits and vegetables so that someday, we can grow most of the produce we eat. Possible improvements:

  • Increase my trial rate (and perhaps success rate!) by planting new things weekly
  • Implement drip irrigation again, or find other ways of keeping seedlings well-watered
  • Keeping a garden journal so that I can track my progress and plan ahead

Biking: I enjoy biking. It’s a great way to get to places. I would like to bike more as casual exercise and a way to get myself outdoors. I tend to bike as a way of getting from one place to another, instead of just taking a joyride. One way to bike more would be to just come to work more often, particularly when it’s sunny. Another way to bike more often would be to plan more events that get me outside the house, because I’d rather bike than take public transit if the destination isn’t too far. Hmm… Possible improvements:

  • Plan more excuses to go biking.
  • Consider getting a lighter second-hand 21-speed bike? Not essential.

Drawing and photography: I’m slowly getting the hang of drawing, and now that W- has a tablet PC, we can make it a relationship-building thing too. Summer is a great time to sketch or shoot the outdoors, use bright colours, and have fun with drawing and photography. Possible improvements:

  • Get into the habit of shooting and reviewing pictures. Shooting doesn’t count if I don’t look at the pictures again!
  • Take pictures of the garden. It’s convenient, personally fascinating, and I can leave the macro lens on the camera all the time.
  • Upgrade my hard disk. Then I might use my tablet PC as my main photo processing device.
  • Practise sketching those cubes! Maybe draw one thing a day, too.

Making: My wardrobe has settled, so sewing is lower-priority, although I like making gifts and accessories. We might make some shelves for the living room and for upstairs, but that’s also not urgent.

Finances: Nothing special here, just saving up. We’re shifting our grocery patterns (lighter summer meals, organic and local produce), so I’m going to do some more price-checking to see if the community-supported agriculture box is a better deal than, say, shopping at the Sweet Potato (a local health food store) or checking out farmers’ markets. I’ve been thinking about experimenting with dividend-focused stocks after I reach one of my savings milestones, but I’m not completely sold on it yet, and I’m fine just putting money into low-MER index funds for now.

Plenty of good things to grow into.