Shall I write a third edition of my Economist Guide to Organisation Design?

Although I’ve promised my family that I will never write another book, I feel the temptation to contemplate the idea.  First – why did I make that promise?  Because the package of writing – books, blogs, tweets –  working full-time (and with additional work sometimes) and sustaining family and related social commitments is something I’ve tried and realised is too demanding.  Family and related social commitments are more important to me than a book.  They deserve more than knowing I have churned out another 100 words, or a chapter.

Second, why am I feeling the temptation to write another book.  Well, I enjoy writing on organisation design. Each week I find myself writing a blog on the topic and I’ve done that for the last 10 years.   Actually, (in case anyone looks at the archives on my site) it’s 11 years but in 2008 I only wrote 8 in the year.  It was 2009 that I got into my blogging stride, so I count ten years –  if it were a marriage, I’d mark it with an anniversary gift of tin or aluminium.

And in the vein of enjoying blog writing, I seem to be trying to convince myself that it’s not really another book I’m contemplating, it’s rather a kind of extended blog.  Easy enough then? Especially since it wouldn’t really be a new book.  Rather, the third edition of my book The Economist Guide to Organisation Design.  And it’s not just me contemplating it, the publisher has contacted me saying they are thinking a third edition would be timely and asking if I’d be interested in writing it.

I noticed in the course of the phone call with the publisher that the words ‘No, definitely not’, seem to have dropped from my vocabulary – I made an attempt at saying ‘no’ without using that word.  I said – ‘I couldn’t even begin to start before August 2020’, to which the response came ‘we’ll work around your schedule’.  Ultimately, I finished the call saying, ‘I’ll think about it.’ Which is what I am doing – along with wondering why I’d shelved the ‘saying no’ skills I learned during months of assertiveness training, many years ago.

My thinking is running along the lines of rather aimlessly listing pros and cons, except that the pro list only has one item – it gives me the opportunity to update the book for readers, and the cons list has many items, including:  it will take large chunks of time which I could be using with family/running/reading novels, I’ll have to do a ton of research, it doesn’t square with my plan to go cold turkey on all things organisation design, the terrain is moving too quickly for a book to have any value, it’s a vanity project …

Pros and cons feels like an unsatisfactory decision making tool as the items have different weights and trade-offs.  Out of curiosity I looked at the second edition of the book to see what my younger self has written about decision making.  I’m surprised to see five pages on the topic (234 – 239).   They’re followed by a shorter section on problem solving where there’s a quote from Laurence J. Peter author of The Peter Principle that strikes a chord: ‘Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them’.  I’m not sure whether solving the problem of writing the third edition of a book is complex or whether I’m converting a simple ‘yes/no’ into something more complicated.

Reading the quote, I remembered an article on the Cynefin framework as a decision-making tool: ‘The framework sorts the issues facing leaders into five contexts defined by the nature of the relationship between cause and effect. Four of these—simple, complicated, complex, and chaotic—require leaders to diagnose situations and to act in contextually appropriate ways. The fifth—disorder—applies when it is unclear which of the other four contexts is predominant.’   I briefly wonder how I can apply this to my question, and then think I’m getting side-tracked.  However, it has suggested to me that a discussion of the Cynefin Framework, not in the second edition, would be useful to include in a third edition of an organisation design book.  (Oh, dear – have I decided without deciding?)

Maybe the second edition, published 2015, still has a shelf life?  Certainly, the participants on an organisation design programme I was facilitating this week thought so, and we referred to it throughout the 2-days.  And a November 2019 review of it by Sergio Caredda says ‘it is evident that there is an effort to have a contemporary view on the topic of organisational design, including most recent trends and ideas’.

But I think four years after publication things have moved on.  Casting an eye over my blog titles, since book publication, I see a lot on more on critical thinking, power and politics, ethics, data/AI, collaboration and involvement than is in the book.  So maybe it is time to revise it.

As I’ve been thinking, Winnie the Pooh appeared.   He says “When you are a bear of very little brain, and you think of things, you find sometimes that a thing which seemed very thinkish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”

Whether or not to write a third edition of the book is very thinkish inside me.  But I’ll let the thought into the open and have other people look at it.  Do you think I should write it?  Let me know.

Image: Number three wall art

3 thoughts on “Shall I write a third edition of my Economist Guide to Organisation Design?”

  1. I believe you should. I found your book to be a great tool for HR and managers alike to understand what Organisation Design means. In a moment where everybody talks about Transformation, and many try new organisational models, having a disciplined and innovative approach is key. Especially as Design needs now to consider a lot more the “network” of external workers/partners/stakeholders.

  2. As much as I would love to read an updated version of your book, I wonder about a few things. One is a question of the impact of working on a new book might have on your blog posts. I find them thought-provoking and a rich source of secondary reading and could imagine might need to shift in priority. I’m also curious if a new text is the next best way to update the broader community. All the topics you mentioned that would benefit from research and a more comprehensive view, may also be more digestible in small outputs (a la smaller printings or online content channels linked to your book and put into theoretical context.)

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