I haven't always done that. That's me on the right there in the picture. I'm in the Erg Chebbi dunes in Morocco with my trusted Landrover Defender. On its spare wheel cover you see 4x4 Discovery Travel. You may have to zoom in to read it.
How I built trust in my travels
With 4x4 Discovery Travel I organised adventurous off-road trips for groups. These have given me dozens of stories - some even with a business point. Paul, one of the travellers on a journey through Portugal in 2016, wrote to me:
"[the trip] combined amazing scenery, good company, lovely accommodation and food, and really learning how to drive a 4x4 off road. We did things I never thought I could achieve, but you gave me the necessary confidence and then it seemed so effortless."
I enable people to learn by providing the right context, I share my expertise and give confidence. I do the same in my trainings and consultancy work.
What it means for you to work with me
Well, it means you work with someone who's got quite a bit of experience in the business world. I am an optimist, look for ways forward. Resilient and resourceful. And I have maintained my sense of humour.
Who am I?
I studied English language and literature at the University of Amsterdam. Graduated in 1979. I became a teacher at a secondary school, got a family, we moved to England.
Upon our return to The Netherlands, I followed a training programme at IBM to become a computer programmer. I gradually moved into consulting (remember Lotus Notes?). I had a 2-year stint at Arthur Andersen to help set up its Dutch Lotus Notes consulting practice. In 1995 I started my own business with three others. We called it Maatstaf, yardstick in English.
Why I understand business thinking
Overall it was great fun, though not always an easy ride. We grew, were successful with what we called attractive projects for attractive clients - that was the fun bit. We derived less fun from a merger with another business, grew too quickly, made a few mistakes and went bust in 2001.
Although painful, it was also an enriching experience. It taught me the importance of a longer-term view. It showed me that good people can produce bad results. You have to consciously create the circumstances in which their talents and skills can shine. We hadn't done enough of that. I learned who my friends were.
How I made my business knowledge work at ABN AMRO
Two other diehards and I rose from the ashes, setting up a new company BoldStroke. It worked out well. I got an assignment as interim global head of Business Information Services (BIS) at ABN AMRO Bank. There I applied all my knowledge of how organisations work and how you can change them.
Dean Armond, an ABN AMRO colleague, wrote in 2009:
Mark Janssen is an excellent consultant who creates a high performance culture by consistently driving himself and others to achieve change management results, overcoming problems and maintaining quality.
His very effective communication skills allow him to relate to junior staff, peers and senior management.
And then for something completely different
In 2013 I decided I needed to recharge my batteries. I switched to something completely different. I had a Landrover, took it greenlaning in the UK and thought "This is fun! I'm going to organise group trips in the Pyrenees." It took a bit more thinking than that, but it's what I did. I created more tours in Galicia, Portugal, Morocco, even venturing out into Kyrgyzstan.
How to make a journey memorable: use stories
People on the journey told each other stories in the evening about what they had experienced that day. These stories make a journey memorable. Even years later they remember them.
The same Paul I mentioned at the beginning of this page, introduced me to Anecdote. They are a pioneer in the world of storytelling for business. Since October 2020 I have been an Anecdote business partner. I have already co-hosted several of their Storytelling for Leaders open programmes.
Leading an organisation is like being on a permanent journey. As a leader you wish to take your people along on this journey and make it memorable. Stories can do this for you.
You may have asked yourself where the name Ploughed Field comes from.
Ploughed field is a metaphore for organisational change that my friend Barry Stein and I cooked up for our book Not Seven Steps to Success. We never got round to publishing the book, but you can find the gist of it here.
Ploughed field is about behavioural change
The idea of the metaphore is that you want people in your organisation to behave in a way that you, as a leader, think is desirable. Your best bet is to make it as easy for them as possible. Remove all obstacles; make sure they understand what's expected of them and why; give them the means; enable them with the right skills; reward them. There's no guarantee of success, but the numbers will be with you.
I thought this was rather appropriate for storytelling for business. It is about making your message stick so that people are more likely to act in line with it. Ultimately it is about behavioural change.
It sounds good
I asked friends what they thought of this peculiar name. They all agreed that it sounds good. And you can have a nice picture of a ploughed field. I realise that the pictures show fields that have been worked on further after they had been ploughed. In a sense that's also appropriate: you need more than just ploughing to harvest a crop.
And finally, the url was still available.