I've been asked to write a chapter for a new textbook on Organization Effectiveness. As always this seemed like a lovely opportunity when it was first suggested, and I accepted it cheerfully. Unfortunately, now that the deadline is looming (January 19) and I haven't yet done more than think about it at odd moments, the whole notion of writing 8000 words feels like a tremendous ordeal.
The book's working title is "Transforming Organizations: reconnecting and redirecting OD and HR" and
"will examine the increasing evidence for an integrated HR/OD approach to enhance organizational performance at a time of unprecedented austerity in the public and private sectors. The collection of chapters will deal with the competing challenges faced by HR functions, which are under massive pressure to demonstrate how they can contribute to organizational performance and wellbeing. It will also address the growing debate within Management and HRM Journals about the need to address the increasing distance of research from its user base. "
My chapter outline – submitted in November – was accepted, so now I'm committed to four segments, each with subsections, plus a case study, making a total of 8000 words, as follows:
1. A discussion on the purpose and scope of organization development : Why organization development? What do organization design practitioners hope to achieve? What is the scope of organization development and how does this relate to organization design, change management, resistance, etc.?
2. A perspective on the history of organization development Definitions: why so many, what are the similarities and differences among the, why do definitions matter? Core historic/underpinning theories and the 'founding fathers' of organization development including systems theory, complexity theory, chaos theory, behavioral science, social psychology, motivation theory, learning theory, etc. Current theories including models from a world view, a socially networked view, and a sustainability view Values and ethics practitioners subscribe to
3. An outline of intervention phases and methods: The classis consulting sequence and how does this work in practice? The commonly used methods: use of self, action research, change processes, resistance, and multiculturalism, appreciative inquiry, culture assessments, etc
4. A discussion of the relationship of organization development to organization design. How they are different lenses on the organization (development = informal elements, design = formal elements)
How they work together to shape the formal and informal organization elements. Shaping the formal and informal elements to meet organizational goals
The elements above then have to be illustrated by a case example. This is likely to be a traditional organization with hierarchy and bureaucracy facing dramatic external context pressures to become customer focused, adopt new technologies, do more with less, and beat off competitors. Commentary on the case study will illustrate the definition of OD adopted by the organization, the predominant theory in use, the reason for the choice of intervention methods, and the interweaving of design and development perspectives. (Good, I have a case study in mind, so maybe I'll start with this and work backwards).
The "contributor guide" (aka instructions to authors) is almost a book in itself. There are 17 very detailed instructions and then three appendices including one on how to reference materials in Harvard style (not America Psychological Society in case you were wondering). Now that I've read the guide – and it is fortunate that I did this before I began writing, experience with IKEA bookshelves have clearly reinforced in me the discipline to read instructions before beginning assembly – I know that:
Chapters should be 8,000 words, including key learning outcomes, the case study, guide to further reading, and any material in boxes. This word count does not include figures and tables or references. It is very important that this word count is not exceeded. Once all the chapters are combined, relatively small over-runs will have a large combined effect on the total page count. (I don't think there's much fear of over-run in my case)
This is a textbook for students. Please be careful about the use of language: do take time to explain important and difficult ideas (if necessary saying the same thing more than once, slightly differently, in order to make sure the point is getting across) and do not use jargon. Do use interesting examples to keep up the interest of the students. Do signal what's coming up, and what has gone before. Avoid the passive voice.
It is important that contributors use the same type and similar numbers of headings. This helps to ensure that chapters do not look and read very differently. Headings need to give a clear and uncomplicated map of the chapter, there needs to be a similar number in each chapter; and they should follow the same broad format.
So with all this in mind it is "once more unto the breach dear friends". Writing requires the ability to "Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood." I can't quite say that I am standing "like greyhounds in the slips, Straining upon the start." But at least I'm ambling towards them and know "The [writing] game's afoot:"