The Role Of Conversation In Projects


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Conversations play a critical role in projects. Intentionally Improving the method and timing of conversations can greatly improve the performance of projects.

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  • The Role Of Conversation In Projects

    1. 1. Talk the Talk & Walk the Walk How Effective Conversation Improves Project Management Success
    2. 2. Today’s Conversation <ul><li>Show you new ways to approach conversations that will: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Help you be more effective personally </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>improve the performance of your project teams </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. Project Issues Today <ul><li>Issue 1: Work has changed from mass production to knowledge work </li></ul><ul><li>Issue 2: Projects are important, increasing in frequency and complexity…and hard to do well </li></ul><ul><li>Issue 3: Our common sense methods of managing work has its roots in mass production and process theories of management </li></ul><ul><li>Issue 4: Projects are done by humans. Humans are different than machines and must be managed differently </li></ul><ul><li>Issue 5: On human projects, it is more important to manage learning and commitment than process </li></ul>
    4. 4. Projects Idea Actionable Request Functional Deliverable Production Capability Conversation is the basic technology for business improvement <ul><li>Historically about improving business process </li></ul><ul><li>Today they are the business </li></ul><ul><li>– when people are involved every instance is unique </li></ul>
    5. 5. What is a conversation?  The use of language to exchange thoughts, ideas or information Conversation  One of the continual challenges we face in projects is being able to generate meaning in others that ensures we get the responses we want
    6. 6. Projects are conversations What are the business rules? What is needed to achieve our business goals? Whose job will this be? What is the right process? Where should we put the servers? How will we validate everything? What do the customers and end-users want? How will we account for this? How does this interact with the other parts of the system? Technology Process People Customers Business Conversation
    7. 7. Where do we intervene to improve? Manage the Transfer of Knowledge Formalize process and standards to address all possibilities Conversation
    8. 8. Private Conversations – How We Participate in Making Meaning Private Conversations, or Narratives, form Personal Meaning I wouldn’t do things this way. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about! This project is a waste of time!! I’m not sure I want to help with this. Nobody understands my story. My wife and kids are mad at me. The Other Participant The Project Ourselves Our Mood and Other Concerns How things “ought to be”
    9. 9. Conversation Theory – the real conversation Private Conversations from Personal Meaning Private Conversations from Personal Meaning Shared Meaning and Distinctions (Mental Models) Background of Obviousness Content Conversation
    10. 10. Conversation Theory Applied Private Conversations from Personal Meaning Private Conversations from Personal Meaning Shared Meaning and Distinctions (Mental Models) Background of Obviousness Change our personal narratives about conversations (meta conversation)
    11. 11. Does this work? <ul><li>Establishing new ways to converse allows methods of interaction to emerge that are more effective than trying to formalize the process </li></ul><ul><li>Responsibility elevates when both participants have understanding and accountability for the success of the conversations </li></ul>
    12. 12. Lean: Eliminate Conversations Rework Idea Actionable Request Functional Deliverable Production Capability Is this what you wanted? Rework  Rework kills the pace of delivery and compromise reduces business value delivered and feels like broken promises  Having conversations for understanding to early or too late creates rework and compromise No, you must have misunderstood
    13. 13. Lean: Improve Conversation Flow Idea Actionable Request Functional Deliverable Production Capability What are the business rules again? Waiting <ul><li>Delays kill the productivity of resources by increasing the number of open issues and increasing confusion </li></ul><ul><li>Increases stress, moves big chunks of delivery to the end of the project, and dramatically slows down delivery </li></ul> Not having clear conversations, early enough, leads to delays
    14. 14. Conversation Theory Applied <ul><li>Three areas where this theory achieves tremendous results </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Common Understanding </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Competing Concerns </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Coordination of Action (Promising) </li></ul></ul>
    15. 15. Common Understanding - Applied <ul><li>Gain agreement that the end result is a shared understanding of meaning </li></ul><ul><li>Each participant articulates their understanding of the situation </li></ul><ul><li>Each participant listens to the understanding of others </li></ul><ul><li>Bring distinctions from the private conversations to the content conversation. </li></ul><ul><li>Generate shared understanding of meaning and distinction </li></ul><ul><li>Keys: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Structure this purposefully </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Listen </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ask questions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hold other participants as legitimate </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Over time, new ways of participating arise, creating more effective conversations </li></ul>
    16. 16. Competing Concerns - Applied <ul><li>Reasonable People Don’t Do Unreasonable Things </li></ul><ul><ul><li>People always participate, consciously or unconsciously, with a background commitment to take care of what matters to them. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>This is why crisis brings people together </li></ul><ul><li>The objective is to articulate the consequences, relevant experiences, compromises, and fears that obstruct a course of action. </li></ul><ul><li>Listening is not compromise, don’t sacrifice anything, find ways to identify and address both participants real concerns </li></ul>
    17. 17. Coordination of Action Making a promise Assessment Setting the Context Performance
    18. 18. Making a Promise – Applied <ul><li>Both participants are responsible for making a reliable promise. </li></ul><ul><li>Five elements of a responsible promise </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Sincere Intention </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accountable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Competence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Course of Action </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Shared Meaning </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ask both parties to specifically articulate agreement on all five points. </li></ul><ul><li>When promises become slippery, figure out where the breakdown occurred and address it </li></ul>
    19. 19. Flow <ul><li>View the conversations of projects as the work being performed. </li></ul><ul><li>Apply Lean and TOC concepts to the flow of conversations through the organization. </li></ul><ul><li>Reducing the WIP, or the number of things that have to be talked about, will greatly increase understanding and flow </li></ul><ul><li>Look to improve quality in </li></ul><ul><li>Look to reduce rework and waste </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Is work ready? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do I understand done? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do I an the next person in the flow have a common understanding of how to do this best? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What is the next most important thing for me to work on in the context of the project? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How do we account for uncertainty in estimates and understanding? </li></ul></ul>
    20. 20. Getting Conversations Right <ul><li>Although each conversation seems to take longer, at the end of the day, reducing rework, delays, and conflict will greatly accelerate the pace of delivery of the project while reducing the personal and business costs </li></ul><ul><li>Learning to listen to our private conversations, and taking responsibility for the success of the conversations we participate in, are keys to successful projects </li></ul>
    21. 21. Contact Information <ul><li>Dennis Stevens </li></ul><ul><li>Founder & Managing Partner </li></ul><ul><li>Synaptus </li></ul><ul><li>A New Way of Thinking, A New Way of Doing </li></ul><ul><li>770-851-8025 </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
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