Dialogue gap - why project management is getting harder

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Posted by APM on 4th Mar 2011

The first speaker for the Year of the Rabbit was Peter A. Nixon, founder and Managing Director of Potential Ltd. He delivered a talkentitled Dialogue gap, why project management is getting harder. The aim of the event was to answer the questions: What is causing the growing gap, what are the implications and what can we do about it? It was encouraging to see 53 members and guests attend at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club on 22 February 2011.

By background, Peter is a chartered accountant, author and specialist consultant on communication and negotiation. He has written two books on the subject, the first in 2005 entitled negotiation, mastering business in asia and the latest dialogue gap, on which the presentation was based.

To begin, Peter introduced the perils of the dialogue gap, amidst the explosive growth in digital communication. Most people spend a significant portion of their timeusing computers, phones and television sets rather than inter-personally connected with other people. There is a clear lack of the personal touch and face-to-face interaction among people. People tend to focus on exchange of information digitally with little attention paid to thinking together. This dialogue gap all too frequently exists at home,in the workplace and in society. Worst still,the gap is getting bigger and its impact is becoming more problematic. Peter stressed that communication was not dialogue at all.

Currently, the dialogue skills are insufficient to achieve optimal outcomes. (Note by optimal, Peter referred it to the Pareto optimality.) To bridge the dialogue gap Peter suggested the dialogue leadership skills. These include the presence of mindfulness, respect for others, expression via voicing, writing, absorbing by listening and reading body language to get the full message. Peter further introduced his strategic approach to achieve optimal outcomes from what we have, bridging the dialogue gap. The keys are to get the right people (bosses, clients, others) to dialogue about the right issues (price, time, quality) in the right way (communication vs dialogue) at the right time (depending on the degree of urgency) and in the right space (place, agenda, venue). Good project management can be learned by doing, by watching others manage projects and, more importantly, through dialogue.

At the end of the presentation, the participants were invited to learn by doing a challenge mapping on why makeproject managementdialogues easier? vs Whats stopping us from makingproject managementdialogues easier? The responses were encouraging. They shared their experience, asked questions and discussed the commonality of successful project management approaches. This interactive exercise helps better understand the techniques of bridging the dialogue gap. Finally, according to Peter, the human skill not taught is dialogue. This practical, thought provoking talk is, therefore, very useful to improve ones personal skills.

The slides from the event can be downloaded below.

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