My Road to The Roadmaps Group
I first started really thinking about where my career was going and why a couple of years ago. These notes are a personal recollection of how I migrated from a 20 year career with a world class 8,000+ person systems integration company (Logica) to what promises to be an exciting time with a world class virtual organization of 6 –10 people (Roadmaps).
I wrote at length in an earlier article (Why I Became a Consultant) about why I left Logica, but the following are the key points. I was alternating for many years between a line position with direct responsibility for numbers of people and a business unit, and staff positions where I was responsible for helping the business in some way. I seemed to find the latter more personally enjoyable, but felt that I needed to figure out how to succeed and enjoy the former. That appeared the "right" path to success. It was through questioning this personal dilemma two years ago and finally wanting to resolve it that led me on my current journey. Jim Spivey helped me ask myself the right questions, and after several months it gradually dawned on me that it was OK not to want to be a CEO, but instead to want to help businesses succeed, working in the form of an advisor. I had engineered myself into this kind of a role within Logica, but it was ultimately not satisfying since I was one step removed from the customer – I wanted to do this for a living. Hence I stepped out on my own, and realized I was on a journey that was not going to end. This journey has to date lead me to The Roadmaps Group, and where it will go next I cannot predict.
From the beginning I was not really just on my own. I worked collaboratively with Jim Spivey and secured my first contract with Jim at Metamor Worldwide. We continued to explore our working arrangement, finding value to our customers and enjoyment ourselves in a blending of our different skills. Jim introduced me to some of his colleagues and friends, and from time to time we discussed how we might work together. A few situations arose in which Jim could see how one or other of us might help in an engagement, and this was valuable for some of our clients. I also got to know these people better, and that was (and still is) a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I had discussions about the differences between project management in the IT and civil engineering industries with Don Maxwell. I learnt about a mentoring architecture for implementing change in an organization from Chip Bell. Katie Laine showed me tools for improving interpersonal skills. On these and other occasions I both made new friends and learnt things I have been able to directly apply to my engagements.
As these new relationships were unfolding I was also finding existing relationships changing. People I had worked with at Logica now became my client (thank you Karen Roche for your business) or potential business partner as they also became consultants and we investigated synergies amongst our core competencies (Bob Eubank, Frank Winters). Sometimes it is not clear what form the relationship will take but it is worthwhile (such as Daren Coudreit, who is setting up an e-business in the utility sector and getting advice from a number of people including me).
In parallel with relationships new and old unfolding, since leaving Logica I have undertaken a number of more individual activities. I have been enhancing my focus, and a great way to do that was to setup my website. Figuring out what to say on the home page about what I do took several iterations, and was only possible with helpful comments from friends and colleagues. I also pursued a personal goal I had set myself for the year of getting more involved with the Project Management Institute. I delivered a training course on project communications management to the local chapter, attended as many of the local chapter meetings as I could, and went to the PMI’s annual symposium recently during which I got involved in setting up a new special interest group about Project Management Consultancy. Other things I did on my own were create a number of templates to support project management which I have made freely available on my website, and just in general read up more about the subjects that interest me. Figuring out how to work at home is still a work in progress. I started by shutting myself behind the door for the day with polite "keep out" signs for the kids, but soon realized that this was not what I really wanted to do. I feel like I have swung too much in the other direction and have too open a door. Eventually I’ll get this balance right, but it certainly takes time.
So the above indicates that in the 9 months since leaving Logica there are a number of relationships that have been unfolding along with more individual activities – I suppose just what you’d expect. So how have I ended up at Roadmaps?
Well, there are probably a couple of strong reasons. I am not a person who really enjoys getting out there and drumming up business, even when talking to friends I have know for years. This can be a problem when working as an individual consultant! So from the outset I wanted to explore opportunities with others to find new business collaboratively. Combine this with the gradual recognition that with Jim and colleagues I had found a group of very diverse people who potentially could blend their individual skills, and I was almost desperately wanting something like Roadmaps to emerge. So I kept going down to Texas, justifying the not inconsiderable cost in time and dollars to myself and my supportive wife to see if we could turn an objective into a business.
Initially our meetings went well, but seemed to stumble at one point – everyone had plenty of other things to do, and it appeared we had almost lost sight of an overall objective to keep us together. I wanted to find out if we were going to end up as a "dating service" (where we got to know each other and could bring each other into engagements) or a "business" where we would develop an offering and make money from it. So I brought this to people’s attention, and a smaller number of us (with some others there in spirit if not in actual attendance) got together for two days to really address this. I was pleased to say the least when the discussion about "do we want to be a business" was over in less than a minute, since everyone present wanted this. Having two days also meant that we had time to figure out what this meant. The combination of having an ongoing relationship with wonderful people with complimentary skills from whom I can learn, with the real prospect of working together where we can combine our skills for our clients benefit, where some of these people are expert at positioning this offering to clients, is a fulfilling group for me to participate in.
So this brings us to the present, where our late September two day breakthrough meeting is being followed up by further refinement of offerings, initial meetings with potential (and actual) clients, and by who knows what? We will probably all retain our own individual offerings; for my part it is essential to my value to Roadmaps that I remain committed to my individual activities. Even if nothing more comes of this I have learnt a great deal which I have already put to use, but I know that we have just started, and I can’t wait to see this unfold further.
Mike Cooper, October, 1999