Out Takes

As I'm writing the current book – the second edition of my first one – and as I learned to do in writing previous books I collect a lot more material than I use. I fling these into a document or folder called 'spare bits'. Then I wonder if I'm ever going to have any use for them as I pretty much instantly forget what's in them!

However, I was watching a film the other day on a DVD and it had a series of clips that weren't in the film. I found these more interesting in some respects than the film itself. Because they made me ask myself a whole lot of questions: why had the editors cut out those sequences? What impact would it or would it not have had on the story line? How did leaving them in or taking them out affect the way the actors thought about their role? Were some actors more deleted than others? And so on.

Unfortunately, there was no-one in the know to address these to. The person I was watching with was not really watching – he calls it having his eyes closed but I think it's more akin to sleeping – so no fascinating theoretical debate there. And in any event he hadn't been party to the making of the film so would have been hypothesizing just in the same way I was.

Anyway, this took me on to the notion of what I was doing when I was selecting things in or out of a book chapter. What exactly does go into the deleted pile and why am I hanging on to them in their own special file that quickly becomes a mysterious black box? I decided to take a look at some of these and see what treasures the search yielded.

Well here's one of the out takes from Chapter 1 of my just published book on organizational health:

  • The process of staging cancers offers both an apt analogy and good model for assessment.
  • Staging describes the extent or severity of a person's cancer. Knowing the stage of disease helps the doctor plan treatment and estimate the person's prognosis
  • Staging systems for cancer have evolved over time and continue to change as scientists learn more about cancer
  • The TNM staging system is based on the extent of the tumor (T), whether cancer cells have spread to nearby (regional) lymph nodes (N), and whether distant (to other parts of the body) metastasis (M) has occurred
  • Most tumors can be described as stage 0, stage I, stage II, stage III, or stage IV
  • Physical exams, imaging procedures, laboratory tests, pathology reports, and surgical reports provide information to determine the stage of the cancer (National Cancer Institute, 2010)

The notion of stages of health is useful because it confirms that organizational health is not an all or nothing static state. One of the key characteristics of organizational health is the capacity to learn and adapt. The question is how to do this consciously and systematically in a way that "brings the same degree of rigor and robustness to the development of health as to the development of performance".

I think I cut this for two reasons. First, because it is a potentially scary example, or perhaps one that people would be put off by, and second because at the end it appears to contain a quote which I see I didn't keep the reference to.

I don't like not knowing where I got things from and aim to always keep a record, but more often than I'd like I fail to achieve that aim and have to search around (again) which in the jargon is 'unnecessary rework' and/or lack of ability to 'control variance at source'.

So then I turned to the current book I'm writing (a second edition of the first book I wrote in 2004). Chapter 3 that I completed a couple of weeks ago had its document 'spare bits' that contained a list of websites. So what was on those?

Well I came across the SCARF model of 'applying insights from social cognitive neuroscience to enhance leadership effectiveness'. I remember that at the time I was rather taken with the idea that you can manage change better by looking at Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness. But suddenly I felt my 'fad meter' on high alert. And I think that's why I rejected that one. Lots of good ideas but is it a sales pitch? The word 'neuro' seems to be attached to a lot of things right now and I haven't got enough knowledge to know whether to go with this flow or treat it with skepticism.

I think I must have investigated a bit because the next rejected item was 'Your Brain on Organizational Change but my take at the time was to keep an eye on this neuro change and see where it goes, meanwhile trying out some of the principles myself. One of my tasks is to write a Point of View paper for my organization NBBJ on organizational change so those particular out-takes will be worth a re-visit. (If I remember they're there).

The next reject in the chapter was social business predictions. I've read so many of them in the past few months(for my future of work TEDX talk and at the end of the year) that I find it hard to make any sense of any of them. They could all be right or wrong in some dimensions. Nevertheless I am attracted to them as thought provokers, more or less as I am attracted to reading my horoscope, so they have a purpose. I rejected this one because I found some better ones on social business predictions (but can't lay my hands on the reference right now!)

In this spare bits document I also found a link to the Association of Change Management Professionals a new body about which I know nothing so again I will check back on this at some point. Its site is embryonic but it will be interesting to see how it shapes up and whether it has a different take on being an association than other professional associations. (Can we change the organization design of associations?) I decided not to mention it in the chapter because it is too new and may not be around when the book goes to print.

In the book on Organizational Culture I have a folder called 'Chapter 1 Spare Bits'. The chapter is titled 'What is culture?' In this, I found an interesting statement 'National cultures belong to anthropology; organizational cultures to sociology.' Why didn't I put this in the book? I think because it is too complex a suggestion to debate in the number of pages that I had available.

So this small trek through the 'spare bits' proved interesting – the next challenge is to make it findable i.e. design a personal knowledge management system, and then remember to look in the system. Maybe Google can help on this?

And of course it has raised yet another question in my mind. When we are doing organizational change, design and development are we out-taking people and events that we should leave in? What are we seeing in the organizational film and how are we developing the story of it by what we cut and what we leave?

Your thoughts welcomed.