Beginning a long-haul project

This week, I start work on the next edition, number 6, of Management Theory and Practice. Its new publishers have already started work on it, doing the mysterious preliminary work that publishers do. My bit starts today, in about an hour’s time, in fact, although I’ve already done my pre-planning (more on that below).

The entire project will be completed in 21 months, which is when you’ll see the final result. If that sounds like a long time, it isn’t; that’s how long big text books take to write, so nothing has changed in that regard from earlier editions! A project of this length can seem pretty daunting, to say the least. I thought I’d share how I’ve planned my contribution to it.

In a way, I started work on this next edition the day the current edition was finished, when I began researching, collecting and filing information, facts and figures for the upcoming edition that I’m about to start working on today. That is an endless task, a bit like Sisyphus pushing his boulder, but thankfully, far from a thankless task, although rather tedious at times.

A few of weeks ago, with the arrival of my 2014 calendar, I wrote in when I am to begin revising each chapter and when each chapter is to be completed. While I was in planning mode, I went through my file of ideas for the next edition, tossed some, fleshed out others, and filed them in the appropriate places.

Top of today’s To Do list is to go through the pile of Competencies for the Certificate, Diploma and Advanced Diploma of Management with a fine-tooth comb. There are some very big changes and lots of little ones and armed with these details, I can map out the book so that it captures all the Units and Elements.

Then the writing starts. Once the chapters are written, a copy editor goes through them—yes, folks, chapter by chapter, word by word—and fixes up grammar, spelling, punctuation, incorrect facts, silly statements and absolute balderdash. Then I get it all back again, read through it, make any more changes. It’s all very time-consuming, as you can see.

During this time, our illustrious illustrator does his thing, with faxes and scans flying backwards and forwards between us to get everything exactly right.

Meanwhile, just like in the Gantt and PERT charts in Chapter 17, the publishers will be designing the book, literally from cover to cover. Colours, fonts, layout, everything you can imagine. Technical wizards work on the website to support the text and other technical wizards work on the e-text, all very tricky technically, never mind the actual content.

Early-ish in 2015, I’ll receive the ‘page proofs’ to check over and a copy editor at the publisher will check over the publisher’s page proofs; these are exactly what the pages of the text itself will look like. The object is to spot typos and other errors and have one last chance to update statistics; the errors we spot are then fixed and updates added, while an indexer reads the page proofs to prepare the index. Then the text can actually go to the printer.

That’s when I get back to work on the next big chunk of the project, this time on the portions I provide for the website, for the general section and the teachers’ and readers’ sections.

By the time the text is out, many brains and many pairs of eyes and hands have worked on it, all pulled together by the acquisitions editor. Teachers should start seeing the 6th edition towards the end of September 2015 and everyone else will see it in early October, when it hits the shops. At that point, I think I’ll have a Becks and a lie down. And start researching for the 7th edition.

Discussion questions

How do you go about tackling long-term projects?

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