Progress review


Regular progress reviews are something I advocate in organisation design work.  Applying this advocacy to myself this week’s blog is a report on how the writing of the third edition of my book, Guide to Organisation Design is coming along.   I’ve used a simple template ABCD that I use on projects – usually as weekly report. But today’s is a longer time frame, covering the 9 weeks from 1 January.


Well in quantitative measures I’ve now written, and submitted to the editor five (of nine) chapters. From experience I know that chapter submission is not the end but the beginning of a whole process of re-drafting, re-thinking, switching things around and so on.  But I’m trying not to think about that too much.  My focus is on getting all nine chapters written.

The schedule that I prepared last November – for chapter completion and blog posting – I have amended in the light of slower progress than I anticipated.  I was originally planning to have chapter 6 completed by the end of February but have not got to that – I’m about a third of the way through it right now.  I start re-writing each chapter with optimism that it doesn’t need much work, just ‘tweaking’.  Not the case.  Each chapter has seen major changes to the second edition chapter.   Amending the schedule, I think is an achievement (Ed: Really, why !!??) – reflecting the reality of other stuff going on in my life.  I think I’ll still make the end-May deadline assuming sticking to the new schedule and helped by a project flow chart my daughter sent me – see the accompanying graphic.

A lovely group achievement is maintaining the alternate week discipline of a 30-minute meeting with the five people helping me think through the book.  For me, it’s a fantastic, energising, learning, fun discussion, each of the six of us contributing from various angles, and examplifying one of my messages about the value of diverse views.

The blog posting of extracts and commentary feels like an achievement in that there has been a posting each week.  Writing the blogs feels less like a distraction and more like a focus for refining my thinking and a related achievement, not mine though, is that it generates really helpful discussion/comments from readers.   (More on this in next paras).


Hmm, what is the benefit in writing a book?  The Project Management Institute defines benefits as ‘Value that is created for the project sponsor or beneficiary as a result of the successful completion of a project’.   For me, first it is an opportunity to really think about how I practice organisation design, what it is, why it has that label, are organisations designable, what is its value … ?  (I can hear voices saying, ‘Stop over-thinking, just get on with it’). Second, it’s an opportunity to learn from the comments and additional sources of information people are posting on the blogs. Thanks you readers for that.   I had to buy the book Jim Stockmal referenced, Orbiting the Giant Hairball. I loved the title.  It reminded me of another book I enjoy ‘Sacred Cows Make The Best Burgers’  – a good design principle to consider.

In ‘book-as-project’ terms the publisher, I guess, is the project sponsor, and the beneficiaries are the readers of the final book.  My task as ‘project manager’ is to ensure ‘benefits realisation management’ i.e. the ‘Collective set of processes and practices for identifying benefits and aligning them with formal strategy, ensuring benefits are realized as project implementation progresses and finishes, and that the benefits are sustainable—and sustained—after project implementation is complete’.

So, the processes and practices of blog posting, collaborative working with the book group, encouraging myself to write something everyday, and saying ‘no’ to other stuff coming my way are ways of aligning with the strategy of ‘get the book written’.  I think these various processes and practices are contributory to benefits realisation as the book progresses.   They are honing my thinking and giving rise to quite a different take on organisation design from the current second edition.  From this, I’m hoping that the benefits to readers will be sustainable in the next few years.  Sidebar: I make an exception on saying ‘no’ to extra  grandchild care i.e. beyond what we’ve agreed, as I learn a lot from being with a 3-year old.  The jelly-snake negotiation I got involved in the other day required employing tactics that may be applicable to leaders at impasse as each holds their own ground.


Concerns are several:

  • Those reading the extracts/blogs don’t have a full map of the book – the chapters, the preface, the approach, the target audience, etc. So, comments on what I’m posting relate only to the extract.  I wonder if it would be helpful to give more info on the map – the chapters, the rationale, my thinking/’philosophy’ of organisation design, and also the territory that the book covers, otherwise the comments feel a bit like the story of the blind men and the elephant.  (But see above on benefits).
  • Readers of the blog post seem to be in the field of organisation design/development/systems but those are not the target audience. The target audience is organisational leaders and line managers who reach for an organisation chart when trying to solve an organisational issue/opportunity.
  • The swiftness of the context change makes it hard to position the book for a shelf-life of 3 – 5 years. Every time I give an example of an organisation a couple of weeks later the example becomes out of date.
  • The examples are skewed towards well-known large private-sector organisations – where are the SME’s,  the big players in smaller countries, the non-profits, the governments, etc. The well-known examples are often not generalisable e.g. not every organisation can, or should, copy the Spotify model (which in any event has come in for criticism).

 Do next week

Doing next (this) week is Chapter 6, on measurement,  I’ve started work on it – the article by Toby Lowe ‘Made to Measure’ stimulated my thinking, as did the video ‘Quantify the Un-quantifiable’.  I’ll also be following up on some of the comments and taking them into consideration as I both review the written chapters and write the subsequent ones.

Additionally, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for good organisational examples to illustrate points made in coming chapters. I keep a running list of useful ideas, articles (popular and research), quotes, references, and so on.

And, I’ll be continuing discussions with people about the chapters.  (The four left to write are Measurement, Comms and Engagement, Leadership & Organisation Design, Culture).  The fifth chapter, just completed, ‘Continuous Design’, I’ll be selecting an extract from for next week’s blog.