Sometimes it’s good to take a step back from the rush of the day-to-day and really look at the bigger picture of what you do in order to take stock. So every year around this time I write a sort of review of what I’ve been up to work-wise as a thinking-out-loud way of doing this. I think I mentioned in the last two reviews what a strange and disconcerting year that they had both been and with everything going on, this year has proved to be even more bonkers. Working for yourself always carries with it a relatively high level of uncertainty but as we go into 2019, that uncertainty feels more present than ever. And in a number of ways 2018 has been one of my most challenging years. Nonetheless, I’ve been fortunate in that this year has seen a succession of challenging but fascinating projects through which I’ve continued to learn, develop and adapt. So in no particular order…
- My biggest project for the year by far was working with the wider leadership team at Vodafone to help them with their transformation to more scaled agile ways of working and to develop the kind of leadership mindset that can more broadly support these ways of thinking and working. Much of this was workshop based, working with the leadership teams at their head office in Paddington and also in the operating companies around Europe. There were 54 days of workshopping, and quite a bit of travel involved but there was also the rare opportunity to work with one organisation over an extended period of time which really gave me the opportunity to get under the skin of how that business thinks and works. It was really challenging but rewarding work and I loved it.
- It was also a good year for Google Firestarters. We ran seven events including one (for Google’s 20th Anniversary) that brought together the planning and performance marketing strands/audiences for the first time in a session focused on navigating the over-polarised debate around the value of data/technology and that of creativity and brand. Rory Sutherland and Rebecca Burchnall’s talks were personal favourites from that. But we also ran performance marketing events on topics ranging from the Future of Search, to automation, to use of audience signals. And we had some exceptional speakers at our planning Firestarters events on the brilliance and brutalisation of insight, learning from the innovators, and Simon Wardley’s excellent concepts around mapping and technology strategy. I can hardly believe that we’re now moving into the ninth year of Google Firestarters.
- Overall, I’ve been doing far more work around agile transformation this year, and that’s taken many forms including an agile transformation consultancy project with a large media owner, agile leadership workshops with companies as diverse as L’Occitane, EY, DFS, Arco, Cancer Research UK, The British Red Cross, Fitflop, Octopus investments, a series of webinars for Centrica and Axa, and latterly a rapid prototyping session at Asda in Leeds and facilitating an innovation day for the Post Office.
- I’d like to do more conference speaking next year but this year there was a talk at the Google Agency Summit, and also talks at Sainsbury’s and at Mediacom’s transformation week.
- Digital marketing capability is the other area in which my work is focused, and this year I worked with teams at Ferrero in Luxembourg, Barilla in Milan, McCormick in Baltimore, a public body in Bahrain, did several fast-track training sessions and ran workshops for General Mills which are continuing into next year.
- I was fortunate to work with the lovely folk at AAR group on a couple of fascinating research projects this year, the output of which were two reports. The first, on evolving agency/client models, looked at the rapidly changing dynamics of how client marketing teams are working with their agency partners (in some ways building on the work that I did for the IPA in 2017 on the future of agencies). The second was a really interesting look at the innovation partnership landscape in the UK and beyond which I think was something of a first.
- I also worked with a couple of agencies this year on projects to help define their proposition, and to think about more agile ways of working with their clients
- This year was the sixth year of me running Econsultancy’s Digital Shift trends service which meant another four reports and eight webinars.
- This was also (unbelievably) the eighth year of my weekly newsletter which saw another 42 episodes. Weekly Fish Food is simply a round up of the most useful/fascinating/interesting/intriguing/funny things that I’ve seen in the week but the subscriber base keeps growing and is now almost 3,000 so I guess people like it.
- It was a crazy year work-wise, but I did (just about) manage to keep writing, and there were 85 blog posts here (actually the same as last year), and another 15 over on the agile business blog. Blogging is still something that I get huge value from
So 2018 has been another very busy work year, and one in which I’ve learned loads, for which I’m extremely grateful. But what didn’t work out so well? Well, once again I seem to have failed to really carve out time to explore, read, think, and write. So again, I’m going to try and focus on that more next year. I need to look after myself better, and keep more time for that. Some stuff outside of work this year (most notably my Mum suffering a bad fall from which it’s taken months to recover) has sucked up a lot of time so I’m hoping that I can manage things a bit better next year. And there’s a few projects this year that have really developed my thinking around some of the things I’ve been working around for years (like how companies manage change in the modern world) so I’d like to dedicate more time to that. As I said at the beginning, the environment we’re in in this country (and perhaps the world in general) feels more uncertain than ever which is something I worry about a lot, but I continue to be grateful to smart friends and good clients, and for all the learning the past year has given me. Long may that continue.