Character, conflict and narrative arc

The creative non-fiction writing course I'm following over breakfast each morning is teaching me about character, conflict, and the narrative arc. I'm wondering how I can apply these techniques to my writing of the second edition of my first book Organization Design: the Collaborative Approach in order to give the new version "a compelling sense of momentum that carries the reader toward the conclusion."

On the face of it things look good. Organization design seems to have all the elements for momentum. That is, "strong characters who experience challenges and conflicts and undergo changes as a result." After all isn't this the story of organization design consulting and any organization design project? But how do I write the story in a way that doesn't breach Non-Disclosure Agreements, and somehow transforms the CIPDs HR Profession Map, Organization Design Competences from a series of uninspiring statements like "Leads systematic processes to manage job sizing and levelling, ensuring appropriate governance is in place to maintain the integrity of the grade structure," into vivid prose that captivates the reader?

It's hard work. Hence the grindingly slow pace and the numerous procrastinations, displacement activity, ensnaring by webrowsing, and so on. But this week I've managed to crank out a large proportion of the second chapter which feels like slight progress towards the April 27 2013 deadline. In the course of getting to this I've also got some good information that was worth the time taken to locate. Whether the information gets processed into a gripping story remains to be seen, as for the moment I'm in the hunter/gatherer stage.

What I've gathered this week is an excellent employee engagement model from Linda Holbeche and Geoffrey Matthews's recently published book Engaged: Unleashing Your Organization's Potential Through Employee Engagement They tell the reader that "there are many different drivers of engagement but they fall into four areas of dynamic interconnection between individuals and the organization in which they work." The four areas they describe are

Voice: Being informed, Being involved, Being heard
Connection: Sense of identification, Pride in the organization, Common purpose, Shared values
Support: Treated as an individual, Feeling valued, Fair deal, Enabled to do the job, Well being
Scope: Autonomy and mutual trust, Growth and accomplishment, Meaning and purpose

It's a practical book which weaves together the various strands of engagement. It's relevant to organization design work in that stakeholder communication and engagement are one of the many strands of successful implementation, and using aspects of the engagement model can help ensure that engagement is designed into the organization and then maintained through various means.

I've also come across an interesting piece of Henley Desk Research on HR Models – lessons from best practice. This is a critique of the Ulrich model and ends with a challenge that organization designers face, and not only in designing HR functions. Nick Holley the researcher notes that

"The challenge isn't either local or global but as Beaman and Hock have talked about "How do you build a "chaordic"organisation an organisation that thrives on the border between "chaos" and "order, that is adaptive to changing conditions, controlling at the center while empowering at the periphery, leveraging worldwide learning capabilities, and that transcends geographic and divisional borders?".

This reminded me of the Dee Hock book I read years ago (about 16 years I discover) on the Chaordic Organization. The book itself is now out of print but you can still read a Fast Company article on the theory behind it . He applied the principles to Visa. In 1996 the article recorded that: Visa has been called

"a corporation whose product is coordination." Hock calls it "an enabling organization." He also sees it as living proof that a large organization can be effective without being centralized and coercive. "Visa has elements of Jeffersonian democracy, it has elements of the free market, of government franchising — almost every kind of organization you can think about," he says. "But it's none of them. Like the body, the brain, and the biosphere, it's largely self-organizing."

So are chaordic organizations 16 years on the design of the future? I'm not sure if Visa today still conforms to that ideal, but certainly the principles are ones that 'agile' (another buzzword) organizations are striving to meet.

Then onwards to talk with Amy Kates who kindly sent information on her chapter on Organization Design in the book Practicing Organization Development: A Guide for Leading Change. I started to add the book to my wish list only to be told by the Amazon algorithm that it was already on the list but since I was putting on again it would be moved to the top instead.

And then to the next lesson in creative non-fiction writing which is on the 'three broad categories of narrative arc: the linear narrative, the circular narrative, and the frame narrative. Each is appropriate for different kinds of stories, but the best choice is usually the simplest, most direct form of narrative that will get the job done.' So story design seems to have an eerie similarity to organization design in that there are models, methods, and principles, and the best route to go is the simplest one that will get the job done – just the character and conflict to handle once the design is chosen – oh well.

My chances of winning a creative non-fiction writing award for the second edition of the book are minimal, but maybe worth a shot. More web cruising on this idle thought. The two awards that caught my eye immediately disqualify me. The PEN Center Award because I don't live west of the Mississippi and the Edna Staebler Award because I'm not Canadian. Nothing for it. I must stop procrastinating and plough on with Chapter 2.

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