Reflecting On The Year
It feels astonishing to me that we have once again turned the page and found ourselves at the start of a brand new year. My sense is that it was only a very short while ago that I was contemplating my plans for 2022. So very much has happened in the past 12 months, and at the same time it feels like it has been a mere blip. Many others who I have spoken with have felt similarly.
Looking Back On My Work
At the outset, I had a number of aspirations. Part of that was focusing on securing consulting work. The first two years of the pandemic were disruptive and difficult for so very many, and that was no less true here. There was self-directed work during this period that I was extremely proud of, and I was able to do a fairly significant amount of writing. Nonetheless, it was not the most profitable period.
This past year saw a change in those fortunes, which has been rewarding. I facilitated in front of a room for the first time in more than two years, which was a marvellous and wonderful experience. It was refreshing to once again be in my element, doing work that I value and working with clients who appreciate and are grateful for the experience. It was a pleasant and profound reminder that for all that we can do online, there are circumstances and situations where deep, meaningful conversation is triggered by extensive in person collaboration.
I was also pleased and delighted with the variety of opportunities that I have experienced since the beginning of the year. I have received work through word of mouth from past clients, which continues to be the most significant source of new engagements. I was also successful in competitive bids, attracting new clients that I have not worked with before. Perhaps most rewarding was two previous clients re-engaging me for follow-on work. In both of these instances, I had done work in earlier years that they valued, and they sought me out when it was time to continue to build on those initial foundations.
At the start of the year, I made an undertaking that I wouldn’t be writing here as often as I have in previous years. This was a conscious and deliberate choice, and one that had many motivations. I produce a lot of content in a lot of different places. Previously, I had endeavoured to publish here weekly, and while never a perfect track record, some years came very close.
The reality is that this is a lot of content (particularly as many of my posts here started to edge on 1,800 words and more). It’s a lot to write, and a lot to read, and I know many of you had an impressive backlog of posts that you were still hoping to work your way through.
As a consequence, I’ve opted to try to be more intentional about what I post here. My writing has shifted to take a slightly more personal bent, addressing issues I am experiencing, or providing insight, reaction and commentary to current trends and events.
This year, I managed eighteen posts, which proportionally sits pretty comfortably with what I’ve managed when I was trying to write weekly (in the previous three years, I wrote between 40 and 46 columns for the site, so this year is about half of that). The biggest dip was as a result of taking a good part of the summer off. While that wasn’t planned, it was lovely and arguably necessary to get some downtime.
Although the number of posts has been down, the number of visitors to the site has only dipped slightly. The last year saw 7,228 visitors (down from 8,849 the year before) visiting 12,133 pages on the site (down from a high-watermark of 13,631). The most visited posts for the last year are here:
|Exercising Agency: What is Agency?||2015||1,203|
|Tools in the Toolbox: A Diatribe||2017||606|
|Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys||2018||590|
|Exercising Agency: How Do I Develop Agency?||2015||332|
|The Value of Being Helpful||2022||322|
|Simple Project Plans: A Thought Experiment||2019||188|
|Review: Value Proposition Design||2015||121|
|Buzzwords Bug Me… A Lot||2022||118|
|The Ideology of Process||2022||116|
|How Do You Answer “What Do You Do?”||2022||113|
What’s interesting to me is the number of posts in this list that didn’t appear in the last twelve months. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys, for example, was published in 2018, but remains one of my most popular articles—and if I am honest, one of which I am still incredibly proud. Only four articles in the top ten were written this year, and only one of those (just) broke the top five.
Nonetheless, there is some writing that I’ve done here that I’ve been particularly proud of. Some of the writing from this year that I am most pleased with includes:
- How To Be An Ally
- Process Shouldn’t Get In The Way
- Trust, But Verify
- You Have To Do The Work
- Hope, But Pragmatism
I don’t just write here, of course. I write a monthly column for projectmanagement.com, and have done since 2001 (something that sounds enormous and astonishing to say all on its own). Since 2020, I’ve also been writing a monthly column, the Strategy Field, for Municipal World.
What all of this means is that while I still essentially write weekly, I’m spreading the love around in terms of where it shows up.
One additional piece of writing that I was especially proud of was an article about the introduction in the province of Ontario of “strong mayor” powers in the cities of Toronto and Ottawa. In preparation, I interviewed the out-going mayor of Ottawa (the communication staff of the incumbent mayor of Toronto just sent me a press release) as well as some of the leading scholars in municipal politics in the country. While I was very proud of the article that resulted, I was even more pleased to receive the Best Feature Story award for the magazine in their 2022 Awards of Distinction, as chosen by their readership
All in all, that’s a lot of content to be getting on with.
Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone
A venture that I took on to consciously step out of my comfort zone was Strategy Books. Launched at the start of the year, the goal was to record a video review of a book in the (broadly defined) strategy field once every two weeks.
The stretch here was in the format. The reviews were done live on LinkedIn, recorded to video, and shared to a Youtube channel as well as the Strategy Books web site.
I had several goals going into this. First, it was absolutely a motivation and incentive to read more books. On that front, I’ve been remarkably successful. We live in an age of distraction and finite attention spans, and while I have always been an avid reader, I have found my focus waning in recent years. Exercising the muscles of concentration and critical thinking again have been enormously valuable and rewarding.
It has also been an interesting experience delivering and recording the reviews. They’re done live to video in one take, as a conversation between me and all of you. Editing is minimal. The intent is to have a dialogue about an interesting book, sharing what it is about, what I got out of it, what I think is missing and how I think it fits in a broader discussion of strategy.
Being candid, the first part of the year delivering these worked awesomely well. I did ten reviews over the first six months of the year. By the end of that run, I felt I was really finding my voice and getting into a rhythm in how to do a good review. The summer hiatus was a bit of a wrench in the plans to continue, and I haven’t recorded any more reviews since June.
What got in the way, I think, was the commitment to a specific schedule and time. I hit a point where it wasn’t possible or practical to be doing a live review on the same date and time in every instance. Trying to figure that out, and for work reasons not being able to hit a consistent date and time, has resulted in derailing the second half of the year. It’s something I intend to come back to.
Looking to the future, my core commitments will continue. I continue to write for all the venues I’ve been contributing to in the past year: here, projectmanagement.com and Municipal World.
I’ll also be continuing with the Project Headway webinar series.
That is a core and not insignificant commitment that encompasses four articles and one new webinar every single month.
What Will Change
There wil be some differences, as well.
I had originally intended that Strategy Books would go to air on a very predictable, bi-weekly schedule. While that was possible in the first half of the year, it wasn’t sustainable as client commitments picked up. I still value the format and the series and have been receiving positive feedback about the reviews that have been posted. While I intend to still tackle the challenge of delivering them live, I will be shifting the schedule. I intend to at least provide a few days heads up on a when a review will air, but I won’t be sustaining a specific schedule.
The going-forward plans for the Technobility Webinar Series are also evolving. The end of 2022 marks the end of Peter’s participation as a formal co-host of the series. I intend to keep it moving forward, but that will mean some changes in terms of what it looks like and the kind of content that gets delivered. I’m still working through the specifics of what will emerge, but what I know is that while it will be slightly different—perhaps inevitably—the series will still pay an homage to where it came from.
My Hopes For All Of Us
We stand on the precipice of a new and potentially very different year. For me, there will be both continuity and change. That is perhaps true for all of us. My hope is that the continuity will be positive, and the change will be welcome. The last three years have been complicated and challenging. We are by no means done with difficult times, and the difficulties make themselves known in a variety of ways. My hope for all of us is that the successes far outweigh the challenges, and that 2023 is finally a year of being able to move positively forward in a new way.
May you find your feet going forward and feel positive, engaged, creative and happy. Thank you for being here and being a subscriber—however long you have been signed up. I look forward to continuing to share content with you and I look forward to the dialogue that results.