In my last article, I explored the evolution that I’ve experienced in the time that I have been writing this blog, and publishing my newsletter on a (pretty) regular basis. It’s been a decade of transition, over which I’ve found and refined my voice and clarified my focus, even as the work that I do and the clients that I do it for has progressed and change. While my central ethos—that my clients are people and not organizations—remains true, the practical implications of what this means has shifted. I still work organizationally, but much of my focus is targeted towards individuals—people like you—regardless of the organization they work for.
I’ve worked hard to make my writing here relevant, resonant and meaningful. That has involved getting clear about what I’m writing, and more particularly why I’m writing it. It would be easy—and dangerous—to fall into the trap of writing every week just for the sake of writing something. That would serve no one; not me, and particularly not you. Clarity of purpose also requires clarity of audience. In particular, I need a clear understanding who I am writing for.
Getting a picture of my audience has been a gradual process that has matured over the history of my writing also. At the beginning, I was still teaching regularly, delivering an advanced project management curriculum as part of the executive education program of a large university. My presumed audience was an amalgam of the various individual that came through the program, reflecting their experience, challenges, aspirations and questions. Many articles were inspired by conversations that happened in the classroom, examples that were shared with participants or insights I developed through facilitating that I felt had broader relevance here.
Sadly, that face-to-face interaction with participants disappeared a few years ago, although it has been replaced with a significantly growing webinar audience, both on projectmanagement.com and as part of the Technobility webinar series. There is some overlap between those spheres (and readers here are drawn from both, as they progressively found more of my writing and activity here), but they are still very distinct and have very different expectations. I still get questions and feedback in both contexts, and it certainly helps to know that what I am doing is finding a responsive audience and keeps me connected to what people are doing, experiencing and aspiring towards.
Just managing the audiences I’ve outlined, I’m writing for three different outlets that have different expectations associated with them. What I present on Technobility is different than what I write or deliver webinars on for projectmanagement.com. More particularly, the way that I present is different for those audiences. I have a different underlying structure and pattern that I follow, a different development process and I am ultimately producing different content. Who I am writing for—or speaking to—is different on each platform.
What frames and characterizes each audience for me—and keeps me focussed on who I am producing for and why—is a definition of a worldview. Like the name implies, worldviews frame how a particular person or audience sees the world. Worldview speaks to who they are and what they value. That can vary, from what they like to do in their spare time, to why they are attracted to different information or activities (or web sites) to what they respond to and how they communicate to others. Worldview also deals and addresses some of the larger questions of life: whether life has a purpose, whether the universe has an organizing force, how we learn and gain knowledge and whether or not we have free will.
If you’d like a good introduction on worldviews, what they do and dimensions that they address, this is a great primer.
A couple of years ago, as I refined my focus and reassessed what I was writing here and why, I developed a worldview that represented my assessment of the typical reader of this site. I had promised last week to share this with you, and while the specifics are contained in a very large mind map, I have paraphrased the essence of it here. It’s my view of the person I hold in my mind’s eye that I am writing for, for any contribution that I make on this site.
You are someone that has endeavoured to be successful in life, in most of the areas that you have pursued. You’ve never settled for “good enough.” You drive to do exceptional work, and value being recognized for delivering excellence. From the outset, you have known that you need to earn your way and prove your value, and demonstrate your capabilities and talent. You know that effort and hard work matters, and that no one is going to give you what you want out of life; you need to go out and find it, ask for it, earn it.
Over time, you have come to appreciate the value of learning, and appreciate that there are few barriers to developing new insight, knowledge and skills. You need to want to learn, but you have come to recognize that you can do what you set your mind to. You might make mistakes along the way, but you pride yourself on never making the same mistake twice. Complexity can be mastered, uncertainty isn’t something to be afraid of and building skills is an essential pathway forward towards your desired future.
In your work, you value thinking and learning, and work to bring new perspectives to the table. You are not afraid to challenge conventions, and you don’t accept the default explanation of, “this is the way we have always done things here.” You appreciate that accepted wisdom and previous practices can have value, but you are always seeking new and better ways to respond to the situation and circumstances that you find yourself in today.
You value this site because it brings new views, different perspectives and resources that you rarely find elsewhere. You value that the information is thoughtful, grounded in research and credible. Every week, you find a reminder that is useful, gain a perspective you hadn’t considered or learn something new. You value that you gain insights that you can apply and resources you can use. You know that you can make a difference in the world, and you value the insights that help you keep moving forward.
That was my take on my typical, ideal reader. You might read that and have it resonate. You might also feel that it misses the mark in some particular way. That’s fair. I am of necessity distilling my focus down to a representative amalgam of the people I write for and the insights I believe they value, as if that could be embodied in a single person. You’re unique, every single one of the more than 1,300 of you that get my newsletter every week. You are here for different reasons, you found me through different avenues, and you’ve stuck around for different insights.
How I got there was a process of listening, reading, interacting and intuition. It was my composite sense—and therefore stereotype—of who I view as the typical reader of my content. It is also, in no small part, a profile of who I want to be attracting to my content. We all go through life looking for like minds. Signalling who you are—and who you are not—is a valuable part of finding them. It is tempting to try to be all things to all people. Rather than attracting your tribe, though, that’s a strategy to repel pretty much everybody.
While the worldview I’ve built is a good proxy for who I think I’m reaching, actually asking is so much more effective. To that end, I asked you to invest in completing a survey, telling me about who you are, why you found me originally, and what you are looking for now. I’m pleased to say that twenty-seven of you responded (and while that’s less than I might have liked, I’m grateful to every person who took the time to respond and share their perspective).
Most of you have known and followed me for years and years and years (yes, that was one of the choices). You have found me in very different ways. Some through PMI, or through projectmanagement.com (and particularly the Project Headway webinar series). Others through the Technobility webinar series on which I partner with Peter de Jager. I have taught many of you project management at one point or another. Some attended a conference presentation, including two of you that attended the same New Zealand conference in 2009 where I was a keynote, an event that seems an eternity ago.
You are here because what I do aligns with your interests, personally or professionally. You come for the writing, and stick around for the resources (whether links to articles, information about courses and workshops or upcoming webinars). Many of you arrived because my work elsewhere intrigued you, and you gravitated to my web site to find out more of what I am doing. As one person said, “I found Mark’s presentation interesting, and seriously, just subscribed to keep reading interesting stuff.” Another respondent noted, “I wanted an extension of the Project Headway webinar series. In the giant heap of webinars available on projectmangement.com, there are only a few which I have deemed a worthy investment of my time. I would dare say that most if not all of the Project Headway webinar series has been a great investment of my time. “
What you are looking for tends to hew pretty closely to what I’ve been writing. Yes, strategy and project management. But in particular, dealing with the messy complexities of life in organizations: politics, bureaucracy, inefficient and ineffective decision making, lack of executive understanding, incivility, people pulling in different directions. In other words, all of the continuing challenges of trying to succeed and thrive in organizations where personal agendas often trump organizational strategy.
Many of you enjoy the eclecticism of what I write about and the resources that I find. As one person shared, “I will say that I find the newsletter a refreshing note in my inbox at the start of the week. Many of the topics explored hit close to home on frustrations I’m dealing with. From best practices, to frustrations with presentation software, and a single paragraph detailing the experience of being on a standards board, are definitely refreshing topics, some of which I shared with colleagues.” Another added, “I read your newsletter because you inspire me and get me thinking (I thought your articles on liminality were superb). “
What’s particular rewarding is that while practical guidance and honest critique finds a welcome audience, you aren’t just looking for simple “how-to” explanations. When asked what you would like to see going forward, a significant number of you highlighted that you place value on the theoretical ponderings, explorations and thinking-throughs that have dominated a fair bit of my writing. As one respondent noted when asked what they would like more of, “I find Mark gives insights into things I haven’t thought of before, so more stuff I haven’t thought of before.” Another added, “Anything Mark wants to write about. I wouldn’t want to attempt to constrain a creative thinker to any specific topic.“ One reader shared, “I think what you do now is pretty awesome. But if you made any changes I’d still be around.“
Those that contributed did so honestly, and wrote from the heart. Some of you wrote whole volumes, sharing where you are at, what you are experiencing, the challenges that you are facing and the solutions you are looking for. While it will take me a little bit, I plan to reply to each of you with a more personal response. It will take a bit (I’m coming down to the wire on a conference I’m running in two weeks, and I have a charity motorcycle ride right after that) but it will happen.
Several of you just wrote to say thank you. “The first time I came upon your work was a Project Headway webinar shortly after I received my PMP. I originally came for the PDU however what I discovered was a mentor who is willing to pass along his years of work, study and experience so others can improve themselves, professionally and personally. Thank you for what you do and the content you provide.” Another commentator offered “Mark, you’re a wonderful resource to the profession. A wide range of interesting and relevant reads. Keep doing what you’re doing and your evolution should look after things.” Another note added, “Mark’s newsletter has been wonderful. I look forward to reading it every Monday, especially his reflection on life and current situation. Thank you!“
I want to thank all of you. Clearly what I do here continues to strike a chord and resonate with people, and that’s awesome to know. I don’t necessarily hear that every week, so it’s great to have a chance to connect more directly and ask specific questions about what’s working, what’s not, what you’d like more of and what you’d like to see change. The fact that most of you want some variation of what you are currently getting thrills me to no end. Thank you for being here, from the bottom of my heart. I’ll see you back here again next week.
The survey will be open for a few more days. I’d welcome you taking the time to respond, if you haven’t yet:
Rollie Cole says
As I said in the survey, I think how many people one works with on a regular basis (e.g. solo vs small group vs team vs huge organization) really matters to the types of topics Mark addresses.
Mark Mullaly says
Many thanks, Rollie. And a very true observation (some topics scale better than others, of course).
Thank you so much for the feedback, the support and the survey response.
Michael Hilbert says
Thank you for sharing your inner thoughts and for your willingness to not only undertake a self reflection of your purpose, mission and direction, but also for having the courage to ask others for their perspective on you as well. Yet another lesson you have taught your loyal audience.
Good luck with the conference, be safe on the ride!
Mark Mullaly says
Thanks, Mike. It’s been a big source of reflection of late. I recognize as I make my own shifts, they may or may not align as well with those that have found me here (especially those that have been here for a while). It has been a useful exploration, with some really interesting insights and observations.
Thanks for the on-going support!