The Three Ds

The Three Ds

This post is not rocket science however I am prepared to offer a 100% money back guarantee there is some useful wisdom to be found here. This is also not about To Do lists although that’s where is starts.

To Do or not To Do

Over many years the customers that I work with and my own teams always seem to be both impressed and intrigued when they see my huge To Do list and the rigor with which I maintain it. It’s embarrassing but true that I keep an A3 hardcopy of it on my desk so I can scribble all over it before updating it online. I also only print out the ‘work’ To Do list as it’s my most dynamic list within a relatively stable life – but I do have other To Do lists for other parts of my life (oh dear).

My To Do list for work usually prints to at least three A3 pages – that’s hundreds of tasks, and I bring it along to meetings, teleconfs, stand ups – whatever. Pretty much everything I have to do is on the To Do list. My key goal in keeping track of all these tasks (and possibly the first bit of useful information here) is not to track what I do but to always know what I will probably never get to do!! I have found it very helpful to keep track of the status and priority of tasks that I know I will not have time to do as often these apparently ‘top priority’ tasks have a tendency to actually disappear or magically get done without my involvement – and with me not having spent anytime at all on them not actually being an issue – knowing about these tasks that I thought I had to do but managed to get sorted out without me can be very useful for future reference – you see like most of us I am too busy to do everything I am expected to do.

To manage my To Do List I use the app Remember The Milk and I have been using it for years and years. It could actually be the single app I have used continuously for the longest time going right back to the 2000s when I had my very first, very cool at the time, Compaq IPAQ 3800 series ‘Pocket PC’. For Galaxy Note 9 users can I just say here that it had a stylus!!  Check it out. Those were the days. I had become a Team Lead and was seriously getting into ‘personal productivity’. This meant I used to spend hours and hours of non-productive time with cables and docking stations getting my IPAQ To Do List to sync with Windows Mobile so I could look at my To Do list in the office but also on the bus – it was a revolution.

Time Management

These days, like so many things. it’s less about the hardware and more about the content – I am constantly tweeking with and over-thinking the structure of my To Do list. New lists, new categories, new task naming conventions, new priority schemes etc. I even bought a pro edition subscription for Remember The Milk and got my wife and kids to install the app on their smartphones so we could update each other’s task lists – that has not worked out so well…”Dad just send a message to the ‘Squad-Family’ FB messenger group – that’s what we use”. I now have to accept To Do apps are just so Gen X. But anyway this post is really about ‘Time Management’ and The Three Ds so let’s dial things up…

Beyond the Valley of The Three Ds

I cannot quite remember when I established the link between playing with gadgets to improve ‘personal productivity’ and ‘Time Management’. It might have been circa late 2000s in some Remember The Milk article about ‘Getting Things Done’. GTD was interesting and is still around. It was developed by productivity consultant David Allen. You can even read about it here.  While you can learn more about ‘Mind Like Water’ I think the interesting bit is that for David Allen there are two key elements to GTD: control and perspective. The task management workflow is the centre of the control aspect. The goal of the control processes in GTD is to get everything except the current task out of your head and into a trusted system external to your mind. Ahh getting more ‘head space’ – now we are talking. You use brief reflection to move things from your mind to the trusted system. Allen recommends reflection from six levels, called “Horizons of Focus”:
Horizon 5: Life
Horizon 4: Long-term visions
Horizon 3: 1-2 year goals
Horizon 2: Areas of focus and accountability
Horizon 1: Current projects
Ground: Current actions

To me it’s a simple process but still feels a bit ambitious. Thinking about which horizons for tasks is a bit like thinking about ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’ and I usually don’t think about that when I am really just thinking about a major go live in one week. Life is complex and work is busy, so it’s pretty hard even just to sort out the things for ‘Ground’ through to ‘Horizon 2’ and get through the week. Allen argues many goal-setting theories focus on top-down goal-setting so it can often be difficult for individuals to focus on big picture goals if they cannot sufficiently control the day-to-day tasks that they frequently must face. After years of personal experience, I can confirm he got that right – I don’t spend a lot of time each day thinking about whether something I have to do before I can go home will lead me towards Maslow’s self-actualisation and transcendence. In GTD Allen recommends that by developing and using a trusted system that deals with day-to-day inputs, an individual can free up mental space to begin moving up to the next level. I believe this but guess what? I use my own trusted system and I call it ‘The Three Ds’…

The Three Ds

The Three Ds can apply quite broadly but I find I get all I need from it just by using it for work. By managing my time at work well I have plenty of time outside of work I can use to not be thinking about work – and really getting into some deep contemplation on where I am in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but more often just listening to music, or riding my bike, or wasting time on Facebook.

Over many years now I have tested and retested and confirmed that a good To Do list and The Three Ds work together (make a note of this). At work if I proactively keep on top of my To Do list and apply to it the filter of The Three Ds then I can effectively and strategically manage my time and my career:

So, for any task I must do one of the three Ds:

ONE: Deflect
Deflected tasks are the most important category of tasks for time management. Every task deflected is more time for the tasks that you will delegate or drive. When you consciously and openly deflect a task that someone wants you to do or expects you to do there is a whole art around “How to say no” but the key thing is to show empathy. The structure of your conversation is “Yes I really do care about this task and I want to help ensure it succeeds but you do understand why I cannot do it because…”

TWO: Delegate
Delegated tasks are the most important category of tasks for developing your own leadership skills and empowering your team. Remember that with delegation comes trust. And also remember the difference between ‘effective delegation’ and ‘desperate delegation’. When you can effectively delegate then you are actually building capacity – the capacity to allow yourself to take on more things to personally ‘drive’ towards success for your own benefit or the benefit of your team. For example, you might be building up a strong 2IC who is going to allow you to relax more on your holidays!!, or through delegation you simply move your tasks to free up the capacity to lead more work and increase the success of your team. You still stay close, so your team members genuinely learn and grow. Your management sees not just a strong Team Lead but a strong team, one that the Lead can count on. Finally, and most importantly, the more you delegate the more the trust and loyalty increases between you and your team, meaning your best team members are likely to hang around longer. Seems pretty easy? – I have seen too many Team Leads who feel threatened by delegation with trust and who end up becoming single point failure points and burn out or are moved on. I have moved a few on myself – “sorry you’re just not a team player”.

THREE: Drive
Drive tasks are the most important tasks of all for managing your career and achieving your strategic goals. Drive tasks are the end-game in The Three Ds. You want to free up as much time as possible for these tasks as ALL the tasks you drive really need to ALL be a success – if not you probably would have been better off to have simply deflected them or delegated them. And if they fail you cannot really blame others as that’s a cop out as you were seen as driving. It is also here where you make real choices on what you want to run with and to be seen to run with. The most important thing to remember with Drive tasks is that if you spend all your time on tasks you could have/should have deflected or delegated then you probably won’t succeed because generally speaking Boards, CEOs, and Executive Management notice drive before they notice a list of completed tasks on a To Do list. By the way carefully managed delegation can help with drive tasks, getting a trusted 2IC to help the most important tasks you are driving hard on is a win-win for both of you.

And what about the backlog? – this is an interesting opportunity. Lots of items on your lists and the lists of others are actually really important stuff but never get a look in because of the never-ending higher priority tasks. I like to put a few of these backlog items in ‘Drive’ and just quietly get on with them – improved documentation, whitepapers, process improvement, team training etc. People really notice when these longer term ‘too hard’ strategic things actually get delivered.

So try an experiment and sort out your To Do list and apply The Three Ds clinically over say a month or two – understand what you deflect and what you drive – and see how you go. And I would love to hear your thoughts.

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one for the next UX workshop…


Remember these babies from the 80s?… I was thinking about them yesterday as the cabin crew on my Qantas flight politely checked in before take-off with at least 10 passengers who had without realizing it placed their elbow on the ‘call’ button of their inflight controls ‘cleverly’ embedded in the armrest in the ‘refurbished’ Airbus for my flight from Sydney to Perth. The button is right where you put your elbow especially if dealing with tricky elbow etiquette with a fellow economy comrade sitting next to you – it was a 4 hour flight so I had time to ponder how many times, and how much time, the crew had spent doing these checks, and on how many flights they have repeated this ritual… not sure how long ago the innovative refurbishment was but it was a simple reminder of the most basic of design principles “user experience”… I like that you could not accidentally press the buttons in the ‘old school’ design… one for the next UX workshop…

P.S. I love how the buttons are below the indicator screen which takes up 50% of the unit. If the buttons were above the screen, then there would be a further 50% reduction in the potential for wandering elbows leading to unintended cabin crew calls.

I love how the buttons are below the indicator screen which takes up 50% of the unit. If the buttons were above the screen then there would be a further 50% reduction in the potential for wandering elbows leading to unintended cabin crew calls.

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The Tablet Paradox (aka looking for disruptive User Experience design)

kevin spacey

I am quite interested in User Experience design. We actually do a lot of it at work and we try to take it seriously – we have to. One thing I have increasingly noticed recently is what I now call the ‘Tablet Paradox’ and it suggests (well to me at least) that although tablets initially bought huge innovation to UX design, now in 2016 they have simply become a huge ‘leveller’ and possibly represent a new race to the bottom with an almost standard swipe-based UX creating a ubiquitous and boring website experience. This is especially the case with applications that are not specifically targeted to leverage any of the innovative technology capabilities within the mobile platform such as location awareness, 2-way cameras, movement awareness, and general convergence – and this means almost all websites and ALL corporate websites. This lowest common denominator keeps being reinforced to me when I watch how people interact with devices. In particular, when I watch my son as he interacts within his reality, which is his online world. Yes – he picks up the tablet – and he might swipe through Facebok or Instagram, or send a Snapchat, but if there is any serious interaction – real time interaction then its straight to the PC – and usually within a game – and with a group of friends all online and in the same game. What amazes me is the richness and variety of different PC/game user interfaces he uses and understands – and how he and his teenage buddies whilst focusing on the core activity of killing each other, avoiding being killed, and navigating vast online worlds, will be having a sidebar conversation about what they like and don’t like about the UX – and here I find myself having a bit of a listen. The adaptability is also something to be watched carefully as they navigate the complexity of twin 19 inch monitors running multiple applications and multiple user interfaces, video, and chat all concurrently – but then 5 minutes later go and lie on a beanbag for an hour with just a tablet.

I wanted to think of a good example of a disruptive user experience design so I could use it in design workshops, in particular with corporates who run UX projects with a strategic goal of providing a single UX that will provide the same experience whether running on the most advanced hi-spec dual monitor PCs  or an entry level tablet – this ‘cross-platform consistency’ goal feels a little to me like part of the race to the bottom. My son for one does not look for consistency across platforms,  he looks for which platform is best for what he wants to do and moves between platforms – there is a big disconnect here with this consistency goal – and one that is tricky to address.

Anyway that is the context and here is the example…


Nothing Here, Move on… ABC iView

In our house we use iView via an old PS3 hooked up to the TV (we probably should get an ‘Internet TV’ or a PS4 but the big screen Bravia cost a fortune and had a free PS3). The new iView interface released last year when accessed via PS3 is a shocker. It takes forever to load the images, its a nightmare to navigate the top menus. A bigger nightmare to navigate the show ‘image’ horizontal menus – all different sizes and no logical order that seems remotely obvious – is it chronological? – is it by popularity?. For a while you still could access the ‘classic’ interface via a PS3 browser session. It was fast and efficient. That is also when I realised all they had done was simply re-skinned the UI. I wonder if I can ‘register’ and ‘customise’ my profile – so 90s!! – Seriously what a poor evolution of UX and definitely no disruption here.

sbs on demand

Nothing Here Move on…SBS On Demand

Mmmmh slightly better. I am sure there is some irony here as the SBS UX was probably delivered on a tenth of the iView redesign budget. The left side old school menus are functional, navigation is easy and the side-bar works quite well with the inner image based menus. But alas no disruption here.


Stop the Bus – Disruptive UX design here…Netflix

Sure not a bad UX to use – intuitive with some neat ‘it remembers me’ features but the overall UX is not where the disruption is. By now you have guessed where it is, right? – and yes it is a game-changer and one so simple that its described in a beautifully understated way on the Netflix Online Help: “Netflix’s Post-Play feature will give a brief countdown before automatically playing the next episode for you”. It started way back in 2012  as the UX team began playing around with various ways to do it. You sit there and when the episode finishes you watch a countdown  timer  ‘in seconds’ before the next episode starts which you usually then watch. This single small UX feature has changed our viewing habits and evolved ‘binge-watching’ from old-school 80s midnight cine-plex marathons, and beyond 90s DVD Box sets, to now completely change the whole streaming and distribution model in ways that are probably irreversible. Watch one episode at a time?  – bah – never again. Offer me one episode at a time – no way! – Yes – you can turn it off in the settings but who wants to do that… I started watching the first season of ‘House of Cards’ about a month ago, had heard it was great but had never got around to it – after binge-watching the first season I realised Season Four was out in March. Thinking Season Four would surely be one episode per week I quickly moved through Season Two and Season Three planning that things would then slow down with Season Four and one episode per week only to discover after episode one that the full Season Four was available for immediate ‘binge’. Well that’s all over now, it was over in just a few nights and days of avoiding friends and ALL social media to remain spoiler-free, and now, well, I just have to die for a year or so waiting for Season 5. This is not the way I watched two seasons of Special Agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks, and it is not the way I watch iView – Netflix what a beautifully disruptive little piece of UX design you have delivered.

Have you got any other great examples of Disruptive UX design. I would love to hear of them? – I am still trying to think of others as simple but as influential.

next episode


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Robo Advice – Articles and References List

My current role as Platform Development Manager at Decimal Software requires me to stay ‘out front’ with understanding of what is happening in the digital wealth management space.

In relation to the emerging Robo Advice sub-segment, within the Fintech sector there is currently plenty of hype – but even more poor quality journalistic endeavours and very ‘average’ industry coverage – and just much too much vendor click bait out there.

As I steer my way through this and find any interesting and useful articles I will post the links here.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission  consults on Robo-advice (March 2016) – Download the consultation paper

Robo Advice Explained by Matthew Townsend

Digital Wealth Management and the Icarus Deception by Efi Pylarinou

Digital Wealth management in 2016: The year of re-shaping by Efi Pylarinou

Robo advice laws: are they technology neutral? by Jon Ireland

Australian Fin-Tech Overview and Directory


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Digital wealth management and the Icarus deception


Digital wealth management requires willingness to change the current comfortable and seemingly safe business practices… it’s far more dangerous to fly too low than too high, because it feels safe to fly low. “

The article Digital Wealth Management and the Icarus Deception is by Efi Pylarinou, Founding Partner of Daily Fintech Advisers




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Where should the Enterprise Architecture function ‘sit’ in the Org Chart?

From a Linkedin thread “Where should The Enterprise Architecture Practice within the corporate structure reside?” here which discusses the article by Vance King Saxbe  here

Summary  and Proposition

The short but concise article by Vance King Saxbe explores how EA typically sits in either location 1)  or 2)  in the diagram below. Aspects of EA also sit in locations 3)  – 6).

My commentary below on the article which is below the diagram suggests that where EA sits has moved between 1) and 2) and offers some reasons and also suggests that 3) – 6) are where Agile Enterprise Architecture is emerging.

Where should EA Sit

I think where EA ‘sits’ is a real dilemma and does not have a single correct answer that changes over time – this is also a reflection of the changing role of EA, in particular within large enterprises, and increasing mainstream/corporate acceptance of previously ‘niche’ IT practices such as Agile that challenge the fabric of traditional EA ‘top-down’ views.

To me in a number of large organisations I have worked at the trajectory of where EA ‘sits’ within the Org Chart tends to follow a path very similar to the Gartner Hype Cycle. During the ‘peak of inflated expectations’ EA is positioned with corporate strategy as understanding and managing an organisation’s Enterprise Architecture is seen as a key enabler for achieving its business vision (i.e. use EA frameworks to ensure business plans are understood and their execution is managed concurrently across all domains). In reality in most of the larger enterprises I have worked in EA simply just moved up the food chain and became a ‘strategy support’ activity. With its most visible face into IT as ‘governance’ and policing of ‘adherence’ to published largely conceptual models. Over time the prominence of Solution Architecture then re-emerges as it is really the vehicle for execution, and is a devolved activity largely IT focused and ‘within’ projects where the only interaction across projects, or with ‘Corporate’ EA are the obligatory and largely under-valued ‘EA review and EA compliance steps’. And this view does not even reflect the C-level staff count issues if EA if EA is positioned higher up the chain highlighted in the post already where EA is seen as an expensive staff overhead – and where the EA budget is an even more visible aspect of the where does EA sit challenge.

So where should EA sit?

For organisations that have been through this journey reaching the ‘plateau of productivity’ means striking a balance – Solution Architecture within and across projects evolves to be more like ‘Agile Enterprise Architecture’ (see Scott Ambler etc) working with a reduced sized corporate EA function that primarily assists the strategic planning group by adding value on ‘what’ to document and model to best ensure the vision can be executed and then measured. The Corporate EA role needs to work with rather than ‘govern’ the devolved ‘Agile Enterprise Architecture’ function.





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Architecture with Intent


I think more people working in IT and especially in architecture need to get across ‘Moravec’s Paradox’ and ‘Nouvelle AI’ and how they work together.

‘Moravec’s Paradox’ suggests that, contrary to traditional assumptions, high-level reasoning requires very little computation, but low-level sensorimotor skills require enormous computational resources. For IT planners working with business and customers this means in practice that the mental abilities of a four-year-old that we take for granted such as recognizing a face, lifting a pencil, walking across a room, or answering a question, are all much harder to automate, than say achieving adult level and expert-level performance on rules-based and reasoned-based processing such that an Adviser, or a Clinician might exhibit.

‘Nouvelle AI’ challenges classical AI by aiming to produce, instead of supercomputers, simple robots with intelligence levels similar to insects. Overall intelligence can emerge organically from simple repeated behaviors as these insect intelligences interact – remember the ants and bees.

By ‘peeling away the onion’ of task complexity and decomposing seemingly very complex tasks into their component  ‘insect’ units, and then using an IT ecosystem to bring them together into new solutions – leveraging both the IT expertise of the ‘share’ economy  and leveraging the computing power of the cloud to do this – the resulting solutions solve what  at first appears to be very complex process challenges such as ‘advice-automation’, ‘risk management’ ‘HR candidate selection’ or ‘clinical diagnostics’. To me this is where ‘understanding’ the business problem meets ‘leveraging’ the technology solutions.  This is a higher architectural pursuit than time spent modelling ‘information’, ‘business’, ‘application’ and’ technology’ domains – this is architecture with intent…

Yes I am working on a whitepaper – some yet to be determined big IT conference in Las Vegas here I come…hopefully…

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