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?
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
How to Unwrap a Gift So You Fully Appreciate It
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.
– Unwrap it slowly
– Look at the whole gift first and then look at
– 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!