This blog started in 2010. So, a little more than eleven years ago. That seems astonishingly far away, and yet it also seems like the time has flown by.
The year 2010 was a tumultuous one, at least for me and my family. It’s not a period that I’ve written about lot, but the echoes of it have lingered. Between us, my wife and I lost four parents and very nearly me. It was a year that set in motion a fairly significant personal and professional transition. Following on from those events, we made the significant decision to move back to Ontario, to be with and to be there for the family that we had left many years before. That led to closing our operations in Edmonton, selling our house, putting most of our possessions in storage and decamping for a very small two-bedroom condo in downtown Toronto. We would stay there—largely in limbo—for the next eighteen months.
During that time, I was also completing my doctorate. I was commuting back and forth to Edmonton to work with clients, something that would continue for another eight years. At the same time, I was trying to establish a foothold back in the Ontario market and rebuild a client network that had largely atrophied since having moved to Alberta.
All of the events that have transpired since that time have shaped what I write here, how often I write it and who I believe I am writing it for. The precursor of this blog was a corporate newsletter (initially a literal one, on paper, sent in real envelopes to real mailboxes) that was targeted to be published bi-monthly, and actually managed to come out with a disturbing irregularity. Today I try to write weekly, and share my insights and the resources that I have crossed my path in an electronic newsletter that can pretty reliably be expected to show up in your inbox somewhere around Monday morning (although it’s a long weekend in Canada this weekend, so this is going to be showing up sometime on Tuesday). My track record isn’t perfect, but it’s been reasonably solid and progressively improving for the past few years.
None of the above should be considered lament, regret or apology. It’s a factual retelling of significant events that have shaped me, shaped my writing and as a result also shaped your reading. I’m not the person that I was, and I’m not writing with the same focus and intent I had when I started out. At the same time, you aren’t the same person you were eleven years ago. Your reasons for welcoming me into your inbox may well have changed, also.
You may have been a subscriber from the beginning. You will have observed my transition and evolution first hand. Some things may have been more obvious to you than they were to me; other aspects may have simply evolved by osmosis. You also may have signed up last week, or last month. What attracted you to do so, and what you expect as a result, will inevitably respond to different triggers and have different intended outcomes. You may also have joined the journey somewhere in between.
When I started this blog—and the newsletter that preceded it—it was with a very specific and conscious intent to attract clients and promote the services of my organization. In the early days, those services had a pretty heavy project management bent. From a consulting perspective, we provided maturity assessments, supported the implementation of PMOs, guided the development of methodologies and helped organizations to get a handle on the delivery of the projects that mattered most to them. We also had a significant training operation, teaching project management and supporting PMP certification for hundreds of people every year.
Today, my business focus is difference. I still consult, of course. My consulting focus has evolved somewhat, but my personal emphasis has always been to the more strategic end of the spectrum. That’s meant a focusing and a winnowing of the services my company offers; from an outside perspective we’re very different, although my own perceptions of what I do have a fair degree of continuity to them. There’s still change, of course. When I am working with organizations, my emphasis tends a lot more to strategic planning, project prioritization and the management of big, complex, messy change initiatives in organizations.
At the same time, what I have long maintained as a core principle is that my clients are people, not organizations. That was initially intended to highlight the fact that in any engagement, we didn’t work for a faceless organization; there was an executive with a specific problem to solve and an outcome to deliver, and our role was to go above and beyond in helping to ensure they attained their objectives. Over time, though, it was a principle that played out in different ways as I touched different lives.
Organizational change is messy. Change initiatives also have a shelf life, one that is often defined by the duration of the executives that sponsor them. We continue to have a significant challenge sustaining momentum around organizational interventions after the initial champions move on, whether to a new position or a new organization. What that means in practical terms is that I can point you to many initiatives that client organizations invested significant resources in, that were no longer visible a few years later.
It would be easy to question the point of making change given that reality. What was enduringly satisfying for me, though, was the number of times that I would run into people (at conferences, in airports, in grocery stores) that would speak of the time I had worked with their organization. I would routinely hear how—even though the initiative I was involved with had faded into the mists of time—they remembered well some course, some concept or some tool that I had introduced. They would share the difference that it made for them, and the degree to which they used it—even in some adapted form—to that day.
Today, it is far more likely that my clients are people. I launched a personal strategy workshop, Strategy Making, last fall. It will soon be joined by three more workshops, all of which are pointedly aimed at individuals. Collectively, their intent is to support strategic leaders who want to make a difference in their world to develop the skills, perspectives and tools to make it happen. They are workshops that I’ve been dreaming about for years, that are finally ready to come out and be shared with the world.
They are workshops that I’m inordinately proud of. Being candid, they are the kinds of courses I wished I could have taken much earlier in my career, as I was navigating difficult organizations, making sense of politics and trying to read organizational culture—and figure out how to get done what I needed to given all those variables. They represent the culmination of everything I have learned along the way in getting to here. If you wanted to know how I think, how I operate and how I function in tackling organizational challenges, these would be the best guides I could offer.
Many of these themes have shaped and influenced my writing over the last couple of years. From an early period centred on project management, I’m not more likely to write about strategy, uncertainty, and the dynamic complexities of organizational functioning (which is the very best positive spin I can offer for that little branch of my knowledge). From consciously targeting organizational practices and capabilities, I’m much more likely to emphasize individual strategies and competencies. Rather than addressing organizations that employ people, I’m writing to people that function in organizations. That is a fairly significant shift.
I do still write about project management, but that tends to be in other places (most notably projectmanagement.com, where I am also responsible for their enduringly popular Project Headway webinar series). If projects are still your jam, and those are the insights you are seeking, then you should likely be checking that out regularly (and premium access is free if you are a member of PMI). I speak about a much broader array of subjects on a semi-regular basis in partnership with Peter de Jager, over at technobility.online. Recently, I’ve also become a regular columnist about all things strategy in the municipal sector, over at Municipal World.
While my name shows up as author in each of those outlets, within each my voice is different. I address different themes, I speak of them from a different perspective, and I consciously strive for different impacts. Largely that’s because my target audience is different. For each publication that I contribute to, I have an idea in mind of who I am writing—or speaking—to. With luck, that’s someone that looks a lot like you. The level of resonance will depend, though, on where you are at, and when you found me, and the degree to which my evolution has kept pace with yours—and vice versa.
While I have my own sense of who you are, what your worldview is, and the kind of problems you are faced with and the answers that you are seeking, that’s not to say I’m going to get it exactly right. While I’m prepared to share with you my target profile, I’d like to hear from you first. Where are you at? What are the challenges you are facing? What are the solutions you are seeking? What’s compelled you to subscribe or visit here? And to what extent are you finding the answers you are looking for?
I’ve attached a survey here. It will be open for the next week. It will take you 20 to 30 minutes to complete, and I’d be grateful if you took the time to do so. This web site—and the newsletter that supports it—is a labour of love. On the average week, it takes about six hours of effort to keep it going—writing, researching, maintaining and updating. That doesn’t include the many more hours finding the resources that I share each week. I’m asking you to make a small investment letting me know what drives you, to support a larger investment of me continuing to deliver value that resonates.
My commitment to you is that I will share the results that you provide—good, bad or indifferent. I’ll let you in on my perception of the worldview of the typical reader of this site. I will share what you told me. We will explore the intersection of the two, and what that means for where we go next.
In advance, thank you for your time in responding. Please take the time to do that now—or soon. It’s all too easy to get distracted. Your insight means the world to me, as does your continuing subscription.
Until next time.