Each year I do a kind of end-of-year work retro to look back on what I've been doing all year. It's something that I've done now for the past eight years (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020) and is really for my benefit – a chance to take a step back and look at the patterns of what I've worked on and reflect on the balance and direction of things. This year has of-course been another 12 months of upheaval, uncertainty and change, but through it all I'm grateful to still be doing interesting work with interesting people. I think if there's one word that sums up the year for me it would be 'relentless'. As I've mentioned before my natural response to uncertainty has been to throw myself into a constant cycle of generating, delivering and thinking about work and it's often felt this year that the balance wasn't quite right. I definitely need to work harder on that. But I'm also fortunate to have an enormous variety of things that I do and to have had another year in which I've learned a lot and moved forwards in so many ways.
So in no particular order here are the main things that I worked on this year:
- Workshops: this year really did seem to be a year of workshopping. I worked out the other day that over the year I ran 155 virtual and 3 IRL workshop sessions (which is a bit ridiculous if I'm honest). There were a number of longer workshop programmes that I ran with leadership teams at Roche, Legal & General, Oatly, Endsleigh insurance, Colgate-Palmolive, the NHS, Unilever and Statkraft. There were workshops with Future publishing to help teams define strategy. There were workshops with clients like Baxter Healthcare, BUPA, MTR and Shiseido in Asia. There were more with business leaders in Guernsey, H & M product teams, and one off sessions with companies as diverse as CSL Behring, Emperor Works, BOMI, and Travel Counsellors. These organisations are all undergoing significant change and the privilege that you have as a consultant and facilitator is to help leadership teams to understand and develop strategies to navigate the huge shifts that are going on in customer, competitive and company contexts. I find it endlessly fascinating, particularly when you work with a business over an extended period. This year saw the end of a programme with leaders at Astra Zeneca that began with the board and then ran for well over two years and in that time I was witness to how the business evolved which is quite something to experience.
- Consultancy: this year being one of challenge and change for many businesses, there was the opportunity to work on some fascinating consultancy projects with companies as diverse as The Open University, Barclays Bank, Wolverine, Cambridge English, and Endsleigh Insurance. These projects spanned a variety of territories from marketing capability and structures, to building ecommerce capability, to defining an agile operating system for the business.
- Speaking: I always enjoy the speaking gigs that I get and this year featured a number of talks (all virtual of-course) including the Empowering Agile Conference, Econsultancy Live, and in-company talks for GfK, Surrey County Council, L'Oreal, Dassault, Falk Renewables, Cello Health, DeLonghi, UPS, Unicredit, SAP and Meinl.
- Writing: this featured pretty heavily in my year as well. As well as my quarterly trends reports that I do for them, I also wrote a number of best practice guides for the good folk at Econsultancy including ones on Agile Innovation, Implementing CX Strategy, Digital Culture, Data-driven Marketing and Effective Leadership. The good thing about doing these is that as well as getting the (paid) chance to explore a topic I also got to speak to some fascinating people as part of the research. The other big news that I have is that (in amongst it all) this year I managed to find the time to write book number three. This one builds from my previous two books on digital and agile transformation but does a deep dive on the application of agile principles in marketing. I can't say too much about it now but suffice to say that I'm really excited by how it's turned out and will be talking about it much more in the new year. I should also mention my newsletter of-course which is now (unbelievably) in its eleventh year, and there were another 43 episodes of that this year. The list has grown to several thousand, and I've had some lovely feedback on it this year, which is always nice to get. Inertia and busyness has kept me on Mailchimp which is serving it's purpose well but is not the cheapest platform on the planet for the number of emails I'm sending. Let's see if I'll actually get round to moving it onto something else next year.
- Firestarters: I couldn't not mention Google Firestarters of-course, which last year pivoted to video, and this year continued with another 12 episodes with some wonderfully insightful, funny and erudite answers to my questions from the likes of Gareth Kay, Katie Dreke, Tom Morton, Jerry Daykin, Thas Naseemuddeen, Andy Nairn, Lucy Jameson, Tom Roach, Amelia Torode, Emma Cookson, Jim Caroll, and Ian Fitzpatrick. I've so loved doing these, and I'm really happy to announce that Firestarters will be continuing into 2022.
It's been another bonkers year and if I'm honest, a really hard one too, but looking at all that makes me realise how fortunate I am to have such a variety of interesting things to work on, and for that I'm really grateful. When I first started working for myself in 2010 I made a rule to only work with people I respected, liked and could learn from and I'm thankful to still be doing that, and also for the long-term work partnerships that I really value (you know who you are). Before the pandemic began I wrote about how a decline in inputs (reading, listening, watching interesting things) can lead to a decline in outputs (new thinking, blogging, interesting connections). Who knows what 2022 will bring, but I hope it brings a bit more balance for me. I need more time to explore, to think, to read, and to write for pleasure. If there's one thing I'm going to try to keep more at the centre of my work life next year, it's that.