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feedback

The Best Stories Must Be Told

Have you ever had a belief that slowly changed until it became the opposite to what it was? I have had a few of them, and my most recent one was about the stories I am including in my book. I wanted all of them to come from my personal experiences and it took a lot of thinking to identify 100 stories (two stories per chapter).


Just because you can do something one way doesn’t mean its the best way. Limiting the stories to my experiences meant that some industries, like health care, natural resources, and transportation were missing. Also, most of my experiences have been in packaged goods, which felt skewed. My readers and editor had counselled me to research new stories, and although my mind was in agreement my heart wasn’t – but what about all my exciting adventures? These stories have to be told!


This week, I came around and started researching new stories. I am glad I did. There are so many fascinating scenarios from all continents and industries, where people have made good and bad decisions around change. It is true that change is universal, regardless if you work in a retail group in China or a telecommunications firm in Argentina – change is about people.


Finding relevant stories has been an adventure. Some I found quickly and others took more than half a day. The search can be discouraging but when you hit the jackpot it’s worth it. The secret is to never give up. Never.


I thought of sharing some of the stories here but I think it’s best to wait for the book. They are worth the wait. Phil

Did I tell you about the time I caught the Dali Lama as he stumbled on a plane?

I realized last week that the book I set out to write is not exactly going to be the book I will complete. And thank goodness for that. My first draft was focused on getting the content right and organizing it in a way that readers could easily navigate. I was determined to capture every lesson learned and successful approach tried so whatever a change leader could face would be addressed. 


My editor, Ken, says there’s the book you intend to write and the book that it could be. The book I had written was technically sound but wasn’t very interesting to read. Why couldn’t my book do both? My first step is to include amusing stories that happened while being on change assignments. The ones I love to tell and people enjoy. Change is about people and not including the lighter side of being on change projects is a miss. Friends have suggested this from day-one, and so has Ken, but not until now have I understood the importance of doing so. 


I see these stories (and pictures) being displayed in sidebar boxes. Not too many; just enough to make it interesting. I am excited about the possibilities. I may even be writing a book I would be interested in reading. So, did I tell you about the time I caught the Dali Lama as he stumbled on a plane? 


Phil

What does your wallet say about you?

I told my son Sam that I was late writing this week’s post, and I had to stay up late to do it. He replied, “If you weren’t you, would you read your blog?” My first response was, “The personal ones, where I show a part of me.” Then I added, “Since I’m into change management, I would read all of them but only enjoy the personal ones.” Sam gave me a look that only a teenager can give: “Are you crazy?” or “What are you doing?” – more like “Are you crazy?” I decided to change my topic to something more interesting. 


It was very cold on Sunday (-13 C/8.6 F) when I reluctantly headed out for a 20 mile run. The thought of running for 3.5 hours outside was not “interesting.” Once I got started my mood improved and it was fun waving at the sprinkling of fellow frozen runners along Lake Ontario. 


As I passed the half-way mark  my mind wandered. I thought wouldn’t it be great to find a wallet on the trail. Four minutes later, right before my eyes, was a huge wallet on the path. I couldn’t believe it. I picked it up and opened it. Everything looked in place: credit cards and I.D. were in their side slots, money and receipts were in the back compartment, and a picture of a loved one was behind the protective plastic cover. I looked around, saw no one, and put it in my pocket. 


As I ran home I wondered who had lost it, how he had lost it, and what he was doing now? “Was there any foul play?” my over-active mind wondered. Once home I looked through the contents to find a phone number or email address by which I could contact him. I found an address but no other information. His number was not listed so I was stuck. Taking a closer look I found a yacht club membership. I called the club and eventually they got in touch with him. 


That evening he came to our home to retrieve his wallet. We talked for a few minutes, which told me more about him than his wallet. Later on, I looked through my wallet and realized it was similar to his (except for the yacht club membership). It could have been anyone’s wallet.


This theme of identity and personal expression has been raised about my writing. My readers and editor have counselled that I need to create more of a personal narrative so that my book will be more reflective of me and be more interesting. I am now making edits. You never know where you will find inspiration – even a wallet or a perceptive question from my interesting son.


Phil

Like a Light Bulb

The weeks that fly by are also the ones that spark the most vibrant memories. I had one of those last week. I was driving hard against an aggressive deadline, but falling behind my plan. There are two options when this happens: cut corners or cut sleep. I chose the latter. I wouldn’t have felt right handing over my draft without cleaning up  my sections. It’s like leaving home with coffee stains on your shirt – it’s something you just don’t do.

Seeing the print out of my manuscript for the first time was emotional. Flipping through the 252 double-spaced pages felt like I was holding a real book. I could sense the day when this will be true. The owners of our local UPS Store were friendly and supportive. They even gladly took my picture in their store.


The highlight of my week, however, was meeting my editor, Ken. We spoke for over two hours about my book. He observed that I talked about what I wanted my book to be. Ken wisely pointed out that he might be able to help me discover what it could be. What a riveting conversation we had. I was beaming as I shared a few of my stories and he shared a few of his views on book-making. I am excited by our partnership and look  forward to reading his notes in January.


But now it’s the holidays, a time for family and friends. It’s also time to catch up on my reading. It will be good to focus on what others have to say.


Phil

Looking at the Stars and Finding the Constellations

This week was very productive. I spent it absorbing feedback I received from my reviewers. An author friend cautioned that reading feedback “…is both exhilarating (because you are making the final product that much better) and frustrating, especially when reviewers offer contradictory advice.” I found it exhilarating and exhausting, but not frustrating. There were more common themes than individual threads. 
                                                                                                                                                                  
The great news is that I am on track to completing the book I wanted to write. Equally great news – there are many ways I can make it better and I still have a lot of work to do.

Reviewing multi-source feedback feels like the role Tom Cruise played in Minority Report; your job is to look for patterns across multiple pieces of information. The challenge is to keep everything in your head while you find the connections. I wonder if Tom got headaches while he was filming these scenes.


Speaking with my reviewers to clarify points and test solutions has been a great help.  Halfway through these discussions, here are the changes I am making:

  • Audience: clarify who the book is written for
  • Navigation: be more directive on how best to use the book
  • Structure: categorize chapters by theme – results, the plan, resources, and communication
  • Format: add graphic elements to help the reader find the information they need
  • Content: open each chapter with one or two quotes and remove the ‘Words of Wisdom’ section
  • Content: Delete the stories that don’t illustrate ‘What works/What doesn’t work’ sections
  • Writing Style: Make it more personal, more ‘Phil’ – some parts read like a text book

Reviewing feedback is like searching for constellations. The stars are in full view, but you need to look hard to find the patterns. Having a team of generous astronomers helps a lot.

Phil

How to Unwrap a Gift So You Fully Appreciate It

The other day, I was scrolling through a technical newsletter (to improve my social media strategy!) and I came across an intriguing article called ‘Unboxing the Kindle Fire.’ A lot has been written about this low cost, high value tablet but this was the first article I had seen about how to properly unveil one. Since feedback is like a gift, this was an apt analogy for opening my reviewers’ comments on the sample excerpt they have read.

Like most things in life, there are bad, good and best ways of doing them. I reasoned it would be wise to put some thought into how best to open my feedback to make the most of the experience. 


Here are the guidelines I follow:


Open one gift at a time
Unwrap it slowly
Look at the whole gift first and then look at 
the details 
Appreciate why the giver chose the features – they were selected  for a purpose
Keep the packaging – care was put into the wrapping, which is an important part of the gift
Enjoy the experience
Be grateful


To push the analogy further, I will line up my gifts and look for trends. Are there common themes? Any types of gift I haven’t received? What is the best order in which to explore them?


It is better to give than to receive, but receiving is great, too!


Phil

All feedback is good, but could you include these things?

As I was preparing my book excerpt to be reviewed by a few peers, I realized I needed to give guidance on the feedback I wanted to receive. All feedback is good, however, I don’t want to miss certain aspects.


Overall, I’m looking for feedback from a reader’s perspective versus a content expert’s. The content is built from my experiences of ‘making change,’ so I expect others will have different experiences and views – no issue. What is far more helpful is feedback on how people take in the book. Specifically, its utility and style: “Is it valuable?” and “Is it interesting?” I am also looking for feedback on how the book is constructed. Finally, I’m curious about what I should call the creation. What title will speak to the reader when looking for a practical change management book? 


Here are the questions I included with my book excerpt:


Introduction

  • Does it effectively convey the reader’s challenge?
  • Does it effectively outline the format of the book?
  • Does it make you want to read on?
Table of Contents (each question  is a chapter)
  • Does the order of the questions look right?
  • Have I missed any essential questions? If so, which ones?
  • Too much, too little, just right?
Six sample Questions
  • How useful is the information?
  • Is the style engaging, boring, etc.?
  • Does the format help or hinder the time-starved reader in finding the information needed?

Possible Title Options

  • Rank order the top three options, including any you can suggest
  • How much do you like your top choice?
Possible Sub-title/Tag Line Options
  • Rank order the top three options, including any you can suggest
  • How much do you like your top choice?

You may be thinking what I am thinking: I am hugely indebted to my feedback providers for taking the time to review my material and give me this feedback. I will appreciate every comment. 


Hmmm, maybe I should have asked one more question: “What do you think about the number of feedback questions – too much, too little, just right?


Phil

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