Stephen R Balzac – The 36-Hour Course in Organizational Development

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course: Organizational Development (McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Courses). The book examines the different aspects of building and running an effective, productive business or non-profit organization and shows how the different parts fit together: you must understand your culture in order to be able to set goals. You must be able to set goals in order to think strategically and develop a strategic vision for the company. You need a vision and a strategy in order to know what sort of people to hire. You need to hire the right people in order to motivate them effectively. If you don’t have the right people, motivation will fail and your teams won’t work well together, which means that leadership will also fail. You need strong, effective leadership in order to have good decision making, problem solving, and innovation. Finally, all these pieces interact with schedule design and time management.

Tell us something about yourself.

I am a fourth degree black belt in jujitsu, a former nationally ranked fencer, an MIT educated engineer, a speaker, consultant, and psychology professor. How’s that for eclectic! I also design serious games.

All of these different components came together to help me see that companies rarely fail because of their technology being inadequate or their competition being too strong, though most will blame their technology, the competition, or the economy. This observation, that the problems are always with how the company treats the people, led me to found my business, 7 Steps Ahead, so that I could help companies overcome the people problems and focus on doing what they do best.

I got the moniker “The Business Sensei” from a client who said, “You’re a black belt? Wow! You really ARE a Business Sensei.”

What inspired you to write this book?

I’d been writing about the concepts that make up the book for some time, in articles and whitepapers, and incorporating them into serious games for business. I’d been wanting to put the concepts together in one place for some time, and when McGraw-Hill inquired if I’d be interested in writing a book on the topic, I jumped at it!

How did you choose the title?

Actually, the publisher did. I figure they know how to market the book, so I left that in their hands.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I used to hate writing. For many years, I never thought I’d want to be a writer. It was when I started designing serious games back in the 1980s that I realized how much I enjoyed storytelling and writing.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I always write at least one article a week, on Friday afternoon. I keep a list of ideas on my calendar and each Friday I sit down and write the article for that week. I may also write additional articles, blog posts, etc, in response to some inspiration, news story, or what have you.

For my book, I found that I could comfortably write about 2000 words a day, excluding weekends. I did need some break! As I wrote, I also noted down ideas for what I wanted to say in subsequent chapters. As a result, as I finished one chapter, I’d effectively have the next chapter already outlined and ready to go.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

This isn’t relevant to my book, as it’s non-fiction. However, when I design serious games I create numerous characters, usually with awful puns for names. I’ve found that injecting the note of humor into something that can otherwise be deadly serious (no pun intended!) reduces tension and stimulates creativity.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I have two projects in the works right now: a book on the “Zen of Leadership,” or how the secret to successful leadership is knowing when and how to not care. The core idea of the book comes from a short article I wrote a couple years ago called “Zen and the Art of Leadership,” which I subsequently developed into a talk. My other project is a book on innovation and understanding how to create environments that foster creativity and imagination.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Be consistent: set yourself a time and place where you sit and write regularly. Also look for opportunities for inspiration: when my kids went to the 4H fair, I brought my laptop. Sure enough, I saw an exhibition (an owl show) that inspired an article, which I then sat down and wrote right there.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

Everyone! Seriously, senior managers, vice-presidents, and CEOs of corporations of all sizes; directors of non-profit organizations; and entrepreneurs would all benefit from reading my book.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Please visit my website, Visitors can also download my free report, “The Pointy-Haired Boss Syndrome: Ten Ways that Leaders Fail Their Organizations.”