Since project management dialogues are getting harder - what are we doing about it?
Posted by APM on 19th May 2011
Following the successful Part I series on the topic Dialogue gap, why project management is getting harder presented by Peter Nixon in February, Peters follow-up session on 17th May 2011 helped us prioritize the important challenges and facilitated the identification and refinement of solutions. This event was a workshop entitled Since project management dialogues are getting harder, what can we do about it? was actively attended by 23 construction-related professionals at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club.
By profession, Peter is a chartered accountant, specializing as a consultant, trainer and coach to leading executives in the field of communication and negotiation on which he has written two books on the subjects. The first book published in 2005 is entitled Negotiation, mastering business in Asia and his latest Dialogue Gap on which the workshop was based.
Peter began the workshop with a brief review of the Part 1 presentation. He then built on the perils of the dialogue gap to identify solutions to achieve optimal outcomes needed at work, at home and in society. Peter emphasised that communication was not equal to, or effective as, dialogue, but people spent much more time in the former, but less time in the latter. For example, sending emails is good in communication but not good in dialogue. People have become more connected but feel more isolated. To achieve optimal outcomes, Peter again, as in the first presentation, suggested we should get the right people to dialogue about the right issues, in the right way, at the right time, and in the right physical space; agenda space, trusting space and healthy space, collectively referred to as the right space.
The review was followed by a challenge mapping exercise. Participants were asked to find a problem from the tables handed out in the workshop, take a positive challenge and figure out How Might We (HMW) make project management dialogue easier. The common problems initially identified were:
- resistance to change,
- too many changes,
- difficulties in eliminating unnecessary changes,
- late changes,
- making people take responsibilities,
- clarifying and agreeing ownership.
In the priority challenges exercise, participants were invited to prioritize the challenges. The results, in sequence of priorities accorded, are:
- HMW optimize project outcomes,
- HMW improve efficiency,
- HMW improve stakeholders relationship,
- HMW improve trust between stakeholders,
- HMW identify a common goal,
- HMW reduce frustration,
- HMW bridge cultural differences.
The participants were then asked to vote (three votes per person) the single most important challenge of all. The results show that HMW optimize project outcome is the most important. From the above results, it is clear that the personal concerns of most professionals in the workshop are the stated project objectives.
Challenge mapping is a useful technique that helps managers to understand business and personal challenges and provides them with workable solutions to problems. However, it needs converging and diverging thinking, according to Peter. Finally, he remarked that depending on different situations and businesses, the mapping results might have been so different.
The schematic can be viewed in the file 'How we make project management dialogues easier' and the results of the votes in the file 'Priority challenges by members'.