A Year Gone Quite Mad

I made the comment last year—as I reviewed the year that had been 2017—that I don’t write about myself much. That’s shifted some. While I’m not writing about myself specifically (last year’s reflection was also the last time I published something under the category of “Personal“) I find myself showing up more when I do write. More perspective, more opinion and a little bit more presence. I suspect that’s a good thing. It has certainly been an interesting thing to watch emerge.

I’ve been writing less, unfortunately. Or at least, that’s been my perception. My commitment to myself has been to publish one post (which usually comes in around 1,800 words or so) here every week. This year, I’ve published exactly 26 posts. So an average of one every two weeks (with a newsletter to match). This is post number 27 for the year.

Interestingly, I thought that was a decline from the previous year. I just went back and counted, and it’s not. After a pretty awesome 44 posts in 2016, I only managed 23 of them in 2017. So I’m up this year, and that’s a happy thing. At least for me. Hopefully for you also.

Going forward, I do hope that I’ll be more consistent. But I’m not going to promise anything. I learned a long time ago that regardless of what you expect to happen, reality will emerge somewhat differently. I anticipate that to continue to be a true statement as we move into the new year.

As we come to the end of this year, and this evening we celebrate the winter solstice, it’s satisfying to look back on the year that has been. And it’s intriguing to contemplate the year that is to come. For the last two years, I’ve commented that the year has been far busier than I expected and anticipated. That’s certainly no less true—and it’s arguably more true—this year than it was then.

That the year has been a bit of a crazy ride is a massive understatement. It started with more than a bit of uncertainty, and has had more than a few lurches in direction since. I began the year knowing that a significant project management implementation project that I’ve been working on would come to an end. What’s exciting is that internal staff are now taking up and continuing with the work that I started. It’s incredibly rewarding to see that happen. If I’m honest, it’s still more than a little surprising how often internal transition DOESN’T happen.

Even more impressively, it’s the second time that I’ve been responsible for the development of a significant capability for this particular client that ultimately continued to be championed by internal staff. That’s a pretty impressive track record (for them) and I wish those responsible all the best of success in continuing to move the work forward. The potential for value and lasting impact is enormous, and I look forward to seeing where they take it.

The year started with one other project, which has continued to navigate its own course. More in the realm of change management, it has seen a department within a significant public-sector organization work to adopt a consulting mindset. The investment that this client has made in undertaking this has been nothing short of spectacular, and it’s been amazing to watch as people take up and use the tools that I’ve supported developing. It’s an initiative that will continue in 2019, and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

What I didn’t know at the start of the year was that I would also win a significant strategic planning project. It was the result of an RFP I had responded to in 2017, that I genuinely thought was long dead. We had been short-listed in December, and had given what I thought was a capable presentation to the evaluation committee. But when I hadn’t heard by March, I had given it up for dead. I nearly fell out of my chair when I got a call in April that we won.

It’s a fascinating challenge, in that we are building five separate-but-related strategic plans for five different municipalities. The work essentially has five clients. Each strategic plan will be uniquely the product of the municipality it belongs to, but will also be aware of, connect and interact with all of the other strategic plans being developed.

We’re firmly in the middle of the public engagement process right now, and the feedback we’ve received to date has been incredibly valuable and relevant. We built several scenarios for each municipality as a means of inspiring input and challenging perspectives as residents, businesses and service groups define their ideal future. What has been especially rewarding is how well the scenarios have been received and responded to. Not that everyone likes what they have to say, mind you. They are getting people to dig deep in defining what matters and what they care about for their community. And that is the entire point of the exercise.

In my reflection for the last two years, I’ve consistently said that I’ve been busier than ever before. I have also consistently said that I have been doing the best work of my career. I can genuinely state that both of those statements continue to be true. And that is an awesome thing to say. To be at this point in my career, and to continue to be growing, evolving and challenging myself, is in my view a fantastic thing.

As I turn my attention to 2019, it will be interesting to see what will come next. Client work has dominated the last year, at the expense of many of the other ideas that I talked about in last year’s reflection. There’s still a book brewing (and possibly more than one). I’m still reflecting on how to leverage the training materials that we used to deliver the advanced project management curriculum with the University of Alberta. And I’m still collaborating with a dear friend of mine on a framework that explores how to manage, lead and cope in the face of uncertainty.

My intent is to move forward on all of those fronts in the coming year. Each will have its own timeline and pace, and that’s fine. But each of those activities is something that matters deeply to me. So I intend to keep investing in them as I am able. You’ll see aspects of each emerge in the coming months. I will also be likely seeking input and feedback as that happens, so I hope that many of you will be willing to enthusiastically contribute when the time comes.

Client work will also play a significant focus, I’m sure. I start this year as I began 2018, knowing that I have two significant and interesting client projects that will shape a good part of my workload in the next few months. There will be more opportunities beyond that, I’m sure, although I’m less confident of what those will be. Not that this is an unusual occurrence. As I approach 30 years of being a consultant—and I’m really not sure how that happened—the one thing that I retain confidence in is that as doors close, new doors open. And I’m extremely curious to see what will be behind those doors.

My writing here will certainly continue. Peter and I will also continue to collaborate on the Technobility webinar series. I’m still writing for projectmanagement.com, and also doing a monthly webinar series for them on a variety of project management topics. I’m continuing to research and explore the spaces of strategy, complexity and decision making. So I most assuredly won’t be bored. And I think I can promise that if I get half the stuff out in the coming year that I hope to, you won’t be bored either.

I want to thank all of you for your ongoing interest in my work, and your continuing attention to my writing. All of you are the reason that I keep doing what I do—writing, presenting, thinking, sharing and reacting. I hope that the journey has been a worthwhile one for you, and that it continues to be as we cross the year boundary and face 2019 head on.

Evening has fallen on the winter solstice, and I’m going to sign off here. To all of you—each and every one alike—I wish you my very best for the holidays. I trust that you’ve had a rewarding and insightful year, and that you have a wonderful holiday season with those that you genuinely care about. My best wishes for the new year. I look forward to all of us discovering together how it unfolds.

3 Comments to “A Year Gone Quite Mad”

  1. Michael Hilbert says:


    Thank you for your humor, guidance, suggestions and wisdom this past year. I have found your postings to be a source of education and also inspiration in my efforts to grow and improve as a project manager. I appreciate what you contribute to the project management community as I am sure others do as well !

    I wish you a blessed New Year and look forward to reading about your work in 2019.


  2. Santosh says:

    Hello Mark,
    It is delightful to read your blogs. I read each of them and gain some insight.
    Please continue to write & we continue to benefit!
    Happy Holidays!

  3. Mark Mullaly says:

    Thank you sincerely to you both for your comments and kind words. It’s great to know that my writing is of value, and is finding a receptive audience.

    Best wishes for the new year. I look forward to keeping in touch in 2019!

    Best regards,

Leave a Comment