Monthly Archives: September 2016

PDQ Pro Writing Retreat: Week One (3/6)

PDQ Pro Writing Retreat: Week One (3/6)

Book Pages on the Wall

Book Pages on the Wall

The first week is behind us. It is amazing to see real progress. I like to call this type of effort “digging sand” – there is a pile and everyone with a shovel just starts digging.

To finish the week, we printed 65 pages and taped them to the wall. After digging sand for the week, a structure naturally starts to appear. It’s almost like sculpting a block of marble. Part 2 (the “red” chapters in the picture has plenty of material for chapter 1 and 3, but very little for chapter 2. So that gets added to the work list for week #2. Same thing for chapters 5, 8, and 9.

We are using the four disciplines of execution, originally popularized by Franklin Covey and explained well in these videos (link). Here is how we have applied the four disciplines:

  • Discipline 1: Focus on the Wildly Important
    The wildly important goal (WIG) in one where failure to execute on it renders all other effort inconsequential. In our case, the wildly important goal is to generate words on the page, based on our experience.
  • Discipline 2: Act on the Lead Measures
    A lead measure is one that is 1) Influenceable, and 2) Predictive of Success. In our case we have two lead measures: daily work sessions, and words written. The schedule has three work sessions each day, and 1,000 words from each of us per day.
  • Discipline 3: Develop (and use) a Compelling Scoreboard
    We talked about the scoreboard in update #2, but here are some numbers:

    • Day 1 Work sessions complete: 3. Words complete: 2604/2000 (+604)
    • Day 2 Work sessions complete: 3. Words complete: 3639/4000 (-361)
    • Day 3 Work sessions complete: 3. Words complete: 6198/6000 (+198)
    • Day 4 Work sessions complete: 3. Words complete: 8503/8000 (+503)
  • Discipline 4: A Cadence of Accountability
    In this case, it is the daily report-out of words. I ask Bill for his numbers and put them into a spreadsheet. The sheet calculates our progress and there it is in black and white. Are we ahead or behind? The numbers don’t lie.

Sunday is a day off, completely, from any work on the project. We won’t even be thinking about it!

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PDQ Pro Writing Retreat six part series

PDQ Pro Writing Retreat: Day One (2/6)

PDQ Pro Writing Retreat: Day One (2/6)

White board brainstorming

White board brainstorming

We were both up early to start work. And there was no coffee. A 6am run to the grocery came up empty too, because of course there were closed. So it was off to Dunkin (because America runs on Dunkin) for java and a pound of ground.

Back at the loft for a light breakfast and the kickoff. First things first, plot the entire book. Bill came up with a new pyramid structure to explain the meat of the system, and that replaced the existing linear (but really dry) theory sections. Our strategy going forward will mix theory with real-world examples and tactical assignments at the end of each chapter.

For this type of work the painted white board wall turned out to be a great tool. Although originally skeptical, I am now a convert to the paint. What would have taken hours using remote software got done in 30 minutes face-to-face. It helped that we have both been using and working with this system for over 20 years.

Then it was time to discuss work flow. We could wander off willy-nilly, writing all over the place, but this effort is about sticking to (loose) metrics. We will each write in our own document, stored in a shared, synced workspace. Any creative team is probably required to use something like Box or Dropbox nowadays, and we are using Nexsan’s File Transporter products. These little “private cloud” devices have been on the job for over a year and really improve our collaborative workflow. Sure we could use some other cloud storage service, but who knows where those public servers have been, right?

With workflow sorted, it was time to get down to writing. My first topic was performance assessment and Bill worked on skills and knowledge. The writing is rough but the words are in, with a daily total of 2,704. We both tried to bank some words because tomorrow Bill has an interview, then we are both attending a job fair.

Looking ahead at the rest of the week, we will settle into a daily routine. Flipping the switch from one mode of living to forced and focused writing wasn’t perfectly smooth, but it will get easier, I’m sure.

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PDQ Pro Writing Retreat six part series

PDQ Pro Writing Retreat: Day Zero (1/6)

PDQ Pro Writing Retreat: Day Zero (1/6)

Chairs in the executive loft

In the executive loft

For the next 12 days I’ll be holed up in southern New Hampshire with Bill Parry, in the attic loft space, working on a book. PDQ Pro is an adaptation of a military training process called Personnel Qualification System, but streamlined for use in the corporate world. We took it on the road to conferences in Hartford, Orlando, and Austin. The method has matured over the last couple years and has helped transform training for a half-dozen consumer electronics and high tech manufacturing companies. It is time to bring it to everybody.

Here we are on day zero, getting set up. Bill spent last week painting a magnetic white board on the walls of the loft. My job was to overhaul the Evernote that has been our brainstorm dumping ground since December 2014 to see what is there. I extracted all the text to a word document and discovered we already had 10,000 words. Formatted for an industry standard 5.5″ x 8.5″ book, it is already over 50 pages. Our goal will be an additional 20,000 words in 10 work days.

It goes without saying that “writing a book” is a task always fraught with danger. So I built a strict schedule, and to keep us moving we’ll be using the 20 mile march technique, whereby we each write 1,000 words per day and stop. We are both actively pursuing interviews and employment, and there is no way to write for eight hours each day anyway. Plus we don’t want to burn out. We set a goal of three 90-minute work sessions every day, each with 300-400 words.  We will change topics for each work session to keep the ideas flowing.

Here’s the general plan:

  • Wednesday: prep strategy, workflow, assignments, and metrics; 2×90.
  • Thursday: writing to the daily target (and a job fair north of Boston), 2×90
  • Friday: writing to the daily target, 3×90
  • Saturday: writing to the daily target; 3×90, review progress, rerack the schedule for week two
  • Sunday: day off
  • Monday: edit and review progress; write to daily target; 2×90
  • Tuesday: write to daily target; 3×90
  • Wednesday: write to daily target; 3×90
  • Thursday: write to daily target; 3×90
  • Friday: write to daily target; 3×90
  • Saturday: editing; review progress; close out the loft

As the retreat continues I will post five more updates, and link them all. If you have experience with “crash” writing a book, please chime in down in the comments – we’ll take any help we can get! And if you have questions, we will answer those if we can in future updates.

Thanks for following along. Here we go!

Bill & Ed

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PDQ Pro Writing Retreat six part series