Project Management

Dorothy, Toto And The Diversity Of Human Interaction

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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“How is your marriage?” “Well, we have 2 kids out of the 3 we planned. A mortgage at an y% rate. $x dollars in savings. And we are in our 10th year.”

It’s an answer. Hey! You could even mention a “emotional index” to indicate progress on the “mood”.

Not everybody would be happy with this answer. Pop quiz. Why? Anyone? Come one! Raise your hands!

“What do you do?” “Well, I add value to my customers so they can do the best work they ever did, even without them being good at what it is they do.”

It’s an answer. Hey! We could automate this, and let a machine put in some random keywords! Oh. And let a machine with a metal voice provide the answer. Automation! Yes!

“I-ED-VAL-U” “What? You are Ed Valley?”

Oh yeah. Me. Big fan of the 10 second elevator pitches.

“What is that organization like?” “”We are the best. We are the world. We are the children. In our last management survey, over 50% voted for these values.”

Oh really? Ah. The verbal diarrhea fest called “Name That Shared Value“. The more abstract the keywords, the bigger the distance with human beings.

I have a point. Yes. Really.

In projects we have learned that to make it all work we need to have a couple of essential conversations. With our team members, our stakeholders and ourselves. 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.

We, Project Managers, have learned ways to have or initiate these conversations. We have codified them. We have these conversations by using our tools like Gantt charts, risk logs, simulations, grids and many, many metrics.

We have created “templates” for our conversations. Need to have a talk about uncertainty? We have a grid and checklist for that! Just follow the script and the conversation is taken care off.

“Template” (or scripted) conversations are not bad.

They can be helpful for when you are new, or when you are in a hurry and want to make sure you have everything.

But they also have embedded in them assumptions about the problem, the solutions and the path to take. They also have embedded cultural element in the language used and presentation provided. My main point with the examples at the start of the post.

You can have the same essential conversations without the template. You can facilitate the conversation among the people involved. Focus on the conversation and not so much on which template society says we must follow.

Perhaps you read “Project Management” and think “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.” Well. We can create a metaphor that is human, fun, playful and still addresses the same principles as the scripted approach.

Yes. Yes. For me this would be “The Wizard Of Oz“.

Or pretend I am on a big adventure.

If this is not your cup of tea and you are very comfortable with scripted versions of the conversation, that’s cool. No worries. Keep on doing what you do.

But! You’re not alone… (cue for creepy sounding background music.)

As a Project Shrink I am finding ways to deal with the diversity of human interaction. Diverse. As in. People are not all the same as you. Or me. Or Dorothy. And Toto.

There is a point to the language and illustrations used on this blog. It is the illustration of diversity in interaction.



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: November 04, 2013 05:40 AM | Permalink

Comments (2)

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Such a nice depiction that portrays an emphasis on the core component of every project and that is about people . Human behaviours are the drivers to make up an organizational behaviour.

Decision makers at every level got to deal with every kind of a person who has different culture , illustration , language , fears , apprehensions ,capabilities and skills. It is important to deal core component with a lot of care , clear objectives transformation ,open mentor ship and true delegation.

As long as people are happy , likeliness of success has a great probability to produce good results. Awesome read Bas .

Love the metaphor, although I suspect my interpretation of it goes in a different direction - marriage is like a project, and the reason people describe it in terms of years, children, finances is because that is what both projects and marriage is - an artificial construct placed around a natural entity - whether that is a bunch of people working to do something or a couple who love each other.

Which is why I have not married despite having been with my partner for most of my life, and while I shock other PMs by throwing out and avoiding Project methodology when it isn't appropriate and we need to instead do the RIGHT thing, even if that doesn't meet the formal approach in the book!

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