Organisation design book: progress review 2

progress review

Regular progress reviews are something I advocate in organisation design work.  Applying this advocacy to myself, this week’s blog is the second progress report on the writing of the third edition of Guide to Organisation Design. I wrote the first progress report 9 weeks ago.  As last time, 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 10 weeks from then.


All 9 chapters are completed in the first go-round and have been submitted to the publisher’s content editor for comments.  She’s sent back 8/9 and I’ve spent the last 2 weeks re-writing chapters 1-8 to reflect her comments and the comments of my splendid review/improvement team. 

Several of her comments are about the jargon of it all.  It’s a salutary process as I try think of a way of explaining ‘leverage points’, and ‘content moderator’, and ‘open-source code’ and ‘jump the s curve’, and many others, in simpler terms.  Originally, I thought a glossary might be redundant.  Now it seems essential.  A couple of people reviewing the whole book are going to highlight the words and phrases they think should be in the glossary, and I’m doing the same.

This language hurdle does raise the question, ‘Do organisation design practitioners confuse potential clients with difficult language?’  

We’ve achieved a blog contribution from each of the 5 review/improvement group members. (Thank you for this).   The way it’s worked is that I post a chapter extract one week and the following week one of the group writes a blog on the topic.  Seeing the different takes, writing styles, and then reader comments on their blogs is lovely (and I enjoy taking a blog-break!)

It’s felt a bit like a book club – we all read the book/chapter and then discuss it and then someone writes about it.

It’s another all-group achievement that the bi-weekly meetings have continued past the point of the final chapter being written.   It’s turned into a form of action learning group.

Another achievement is that the book is not a ‘how to’ guide.  It probes and challenges thinking about organisation design and its inherent tensions, complexities and possibilities.  Nevertheless, it has practical tools, ideas to try out and examples of where things have and haven’t worked.  (The content editor rejects the word ‘things’ which has also caused me some searches of synonyms and several moments of displacement activity while I ponder an alternative).


What benefits have been realised over the last 10 weeks?  (Ed: please explain what you mean by realised.)   Well, I guess there have been benefits – is it ok to say that one of the benefits of having written the full 9 chapters is that I can see the book publication in sight and thus some time released for me to do other things than, as my dearly beloved says, ‘hunch over the computer’. 

Also, I have got a treasure trove of new resources – articles, references, contacts, insights, and fresh thinking as I’ve worked with people on the book.   Many of them are now nestled in the rewritten first draft, which I think is much improved over the first draft.  (I’m awaiting editor’s comments on this last point).   

And I’ve developed my knowledge and thinking on systems and complexity.  I came across a very good, free. Open University, downloadable course that is a good intro for people who want to dip their toes in the systems water.  And on complexity – just to show you the complexity of it – the wonderful complexity sciences map by Brian Castellani.  Looking at that, I did pause to wonder if I needed to challenge my thinking that the complexity sciences are dominated by white western men.   (I think not!)

One of the group, Jim Shillady, did a quick analysis of the LinkedIn ‘likes’ on the blogs so far.  He’s observed that the audience have been most/more interested in the pieces on ‘What is OD?’, on structure, on alignment, and on systems.  He says, ‘It feels as though the focus of their concern (or puzzlement) is still on how to deal with complexity, dimensions, interconnections and the like. They seem to want to comprehend frameworks before they can think about behaviour and important, but fuzzy, notions such as values’.   The book is organised in that order so hopefully will benefit the readers.


It isn’t exactly a concern, but the scope of the book came under discussion,  triggered by a conversation I had with a couple of Equality, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) researchers who were asking is it possible to design EDI into organisations.

I touch on EDI in the book but doesn’t explore it in any depth.    (My view is that the three things –  E,  D,  I –  are not amenable to being lumped together and need very different design approaches). I wondered if I had sufficiently acknowledged it, as it is a topic on almost everyone’s agenda right now. 

Which led to another discussion on fads – is EDI a current fad? Is hybrid working?  What is the role of organisation design in responding to ‘hot topics’ like these?  One of my books had a chapter on trends and fads, and I’ve written several blogs on them. Given the book has to be current for a few years the concern is to make it so and not fall for what might be a bandwagon.  

Sidenote on hybrid working:  I am joining a panel discussion on this on 27 May, 09:15 if you would like to register.

Do next week

The list is long for doing by 31 May.  There are the detail things – not my forte.    The glossary will take time.  I also have the detail of checking every reference and citing it correctly.  Then there’s the permissions I have to get for various graphics and images – this can be a difficult, long-drawn out process, and I hope I haven’t left it too late – some organisations want to charge for giving permission.  I have to get all the figures and tables out of the draft and into separate files, correctly numbered and referenced. 

Then there are the publicity things –  I must invite some people to provide back cover endorsements for the book.  And think about how to launch the book. (First step find out publication date).

Finally, there’s what are called the ‘prelims’ to write – acknowledgements, foreword, preface, and so on. And I mustn’t forget I still have to do the next go-round of chapter 9.

Closer to the time there’ll be the book sub-title and jacket to consider – then I’ll really feel the end of the process is in sight.   I wonder if I’ll stick to the ‘never again’ statement I made so firmly after the second edition?