Empty promise?

A few weeks ago (end April). I promised my family I would never write another book. It's too demanding of my time on top of a full time job that involves almost continuous long distance air travel. They're not getting the look-in they need. So when I'd mailed off my second edition of Organization Design: the Collaborative Approach which is coming out in November 2013 as a complete re-write with a different title (Organization Design: Engaging with Change). I considered my book writing chapter closed. My daughter bought a bottle of champagne to mark the send-off and the start of different doors opening for me.

So was I to do when shortly after that the editor of my two Economist books said via email: 'I have been thinking that it's time to schedule a new edition of the Guide to Organisation Design, as it helps to refresh these guides every few/several years …. Would you like to give some thought about what you would/might do in terms of revising and refreshing the guide for a new edition and how long it might take you to do the work?'

I tried to bolster my resolve by re-reading an HBR blog post I had just sent to someone who is thinking of writing a book: Should You Write a Book I had previously just skimmed it enough to know that writing a book is a useful but daunting process. (I wasn't the blog author but I can verify the points made). This time of reading I also followed the link in that blog to a different blog How Long Does it Take to Write a Book? Also, exactly my experience. Book writing takes a long time and is hard work.

Following receiving the editor's email I met him in London in person to assure him that I was not going to write another book. He is a skilled salesperson/persuader/case presenter, and face to face is rather different from asynchronous email. (A useful input to my current research on collaboration which will be a webinar on July 24, via Agilquest)

In a few short minutes I learned that a 'refresh' is not at all the same as a re-write. In fact it's so different and straightforward that my family may not even need to know what's going on. Not that the editor is in favor of subterfuge but 'refreshing' is just adding in a few up to date examples and some 'new bits'.

Oh, and during the conversation I mentioned that organization design and organization development are becoming intertwined as organizations continue to move away from hierarchy and towards the 'leaders everywhere' type of thinking. (Gary Hamel is persuasive on this, as is a useful article Organizing for Advantage).

His eyes gleamed at that notion: 'How about you refresh the Organization Design and the Organization Culture together and they become a kind of boxed set which shows the complementarity of design and culture? People could still buy the books independently but there'd be references and linking ideas.' I was sorry I'd mentioned interdependency. But too late and it set me thinking.

I put aside some time to consider what has changed in the world of organization design and organization culture development since the books were published (2007 and 2010). It's a lot, and there's torrents more coming. Within a couple of moments I had a long list: easily enough to do two total re-writes – the very thing I'm nervous about!

But then. perhaps foolishly, I asked myself the question (adapted from blog writer John Butman's one!) Should I refresh the books? And I answered it with his question: ' Is it impossible for me not to?' My answer to that being 'Yes'. I will set off down this path and see how far I get.

So now the first thing is to prune all that I can out to leave enough for my family to feel I have not reneged on my promise by abandoning them to words, and for me to feel I am balancing stuff without going demented.

The second thing is to get the answer to the questions – would you buy a refreshed copy of the books? Should I invest my time in writing them? Your answers welcome.

(All book royalties go to Freedom from Torture)

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