Janlen, Jimmy Janlen

I recently connected with a fellow on LinkedIn called Jimmy.  Jimmy Janlen.  An Agile and Team Coach who touted something he’d created called Jimmy Cards.

(Jimmy if you’re reading this, sorry, my keyboard won’t put the accent above the ‘e’ in Janlen!)

Jimmy Cards are a series of cards you print out and laminate (or there’s a flash boxed set as well) and on each card is a simple question.  The intent is to pick a Jimmy Card at random and ask the question in a team meeting or workshop to help break the ice or to kick-start some meaningful conversations.

There are 3 decks; the red cards perfect for newly formed teams or groups, the blue deck for the leadership team, and the black deck for mature, high functioning teams.

What I thought I’d do for this post is answer a handful of red cards, and in the coming weeks a few from the blue and black decks as well.

Now reading a blog isn’t exactly a team sport, but with the wonders of technology, you can leave a comment at the end if you have any thoughts on your answers to the questions.  Feel free to also reach out via the Contact Page.

Let’s get Jimmy’ing.

How do you know you are working on the most meaningful work right now?

  • I’ve created some time and space to think, and prioritised my work.  Chiefly I’ve determined the difference between what’s Urgent and what’s Important;
  • Of all the items to do on my list, it’s often the most uncomfortable; and
  • I quickly reach a state of flow.

I’m trying hard to move towards a space where I have only 1-3 key goals at work, each with a distinct priority.  The aim is to have them aligned with the goals of the Project and team I’m working with, and to carefully craft them so they capture a wide range of tasks and activities.

Sounds easy right……

So when I do figure out how to write them, the real challenge then comes with checking-in throughout the day and self-assessing whether the activity moves me closer to the primary goal.

If not, should I be doing something else?

I’m trying hard to get there, but honestly I’m miles away from achieving this.  I’m still often tempted to either put out the little fires that pop up every day, or relaxing into tasks I know I’m good at or enjoy.

I’ve found this maxim from Peter Drucker particularly helpful when I find myself at the crossroads of doubt.


Which book do you wish everyone in your team had read?

For regular readers, this will not come as a surprise.

Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink, and Turn the Ship Around by David Marquet.  Yes I know it’s 2 books, but I’m of the firm opinion if teams read them and buy into the concepts within, they’d be simply unstoppable.

Get both.  They’re amazing.

And while you’re waiting for them to arrive, check out the Turn the Ship Around video (again), or if you prefer to listen to podcasts, this one is an interview with David Marquet.  The 40 minute investment is well worth it.

If you could measure technical debt, what would the unit be?

  • Number of ineffective meetings / day

I’ve worked on Projects where this debt is high, and I’ve worked on Projects where this debt is low.

I’m a firm believer that whatever level this debt is in your team, it can be lowered by an old-fashioned concept called thinking.

This doesn’t mean thinking about having more meetings.  It means thinking about how to have better meetings, or the gold standard, thinking about how to have less meetings!

I’m hoping by now we’ve realised despite the dopamine hit ‘being busy’ gives us, having meeting after meeting after ineffective meeting prevents you from doing the deep work that actually counts.

The image below, courtesy of Shine Coaching, is a great set of tips for how to have an effective meeting.


How would someone else notice that you are stressed / not performing at optimum?

My voice gets croaky because I haven’t drunk enough water during the day.  Usually as a result of being in back to back meetings all day…..

It’s amazing the impact having a big glass of water and a sandwich has.  Noticeable improvement in <5 minutes.

I also find myself walking faster around the office.  Seems counter-intuitive seeing as I’m losing performance, but there you go.

So, please, if you come across me racing about like a croaky frog on rocket skates, pull me up, and point me in the direction of the kitchen.

It’d be much appreciated.

So there you have it.  Just a few of the great questions set out in the Jimmy Cards red deck.  I’m planning on rolling out a few questions in some upcoming team meetings, and am excited to see where the conversation goes.  My team are energetic and keen to try new things, even some of the older heads, so hopefully with Jimmy’s help we can take things to the next level.

We’d love to hear from you if you’ve got thoughts, comments, or even better, your own answers to the questions.  Leave a comment or reach out on the Contact Page.

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