Project Management

Essential Conversations. And Where Babies Come From.

From the The Project Shrink Blog
Bas de Baar is a Dutch visual facilitator, creating visual tools for dialogue. He is dedicated to improve the dialogue we use to make sense of change. As The Project Shrink, this is the riddle he tries to solve: “If you are a Project Manager that operates for a short period of time in a foreign organization, with a global team you don’t know, in a domain you would not know, using virtual communication, high uncertainty, limited authority and part of what you do out in the open on the Internet, how do you make it all work?”

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“Where do babies come from?”

I watched the dad move uncomfortably when his kid asked him The Question in a crowded Starbucks.

“Uhm. Well.”

What was there to think? You are in your thirties! I guess you get the picture by now!

Let me step in here for a moment. I know Darwinism, biology, gaming theory applied to mating strategies, and a lot of other important stuff. It is complex you know. Life is. And you need lots and lots of facts. FACTS! And models. MODELS! To explain the true working of life. And meaning. Otherwise you are doomed. DOOMED!

Apparently, this was a conversation that matters, an essential talk, between the boy and his dad. At a certain moment this conversation is important to go further in your life.

“You know when I told you about the flowers and the bees?”


“Well. That’s it.”



You use a simple metaphor to facilitate an essential talk!? And you are both happy with it? Dad can stick to a comfortable storyline and the kid gets enough explanation to get on with growing up?!!


You are not going to tell me that in projects we also have Conversations That Matter?

You are not going to tell me that we can use metaphors for each conversation to make the talk easier?

“Yes. Actually. I am.”

Who are you? This is getting confusing.

“It doesn’t really matter. We moved from the coffee house inside your head. In projects we have a couple essential conversations. About the goals, the roles, what people have done before, the trip itself, the way interaction with the stakeholders is done, how we know how far we are. Stuff like that.”

And we can use metaphors to facilitate the conversations? To make them less awkward, a little fun, get the pressure of the topic, and generally guide you through the process?

“Yes. That's what The Big Adventure project cards are all about.”

Really? Never looked at it like that before?

“I know.”

But don’t people need to know EVERYTHING!? You know. Huge confusing models. Theories. They need certainly THEORIES. Lots. It’s complex, you know.

“Nah. If you get people moving in the right direction, they’ll find their way.”

Oh. Just need to get the essential conversations going with a nice storyline to get them rolling?

“Yeah. That’s it.”

Bas de Baar is a Dutch writer who draws. Documenting a world in transition. He loves to make inspirational cartoonstravel guides and other story-telling structures for the collaborators of our brave new world. 

Posted on: October 28, 2013 04:52 AM | Permalink

Comments (1)

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Interesting. Sometimes getting the conversation started is more important (and difficult) than having all the facts to hand. But what facts are used need to be correct. The problem with metaphors is they can be confusing. Of course if the dialogue is up and running (and continues to run) then I suppose even that will be sorted out. It's up to the participants to want to get to a common understanding. What if they don't (want to)?

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