Thomas Goebel


    We’re hearing the word all the time.  “Let’s start a dialogue!”  “We need to have a dialogue about this!”  “It’s time to start a national dialogue!”  And on and on.

    Can we stop talking about dialogues long enough to open the door for a dialogue?

    People are dialogue-ing all over the place without saying anything of substance.  Dialogue has, unfortunately, been supplanted by social media.  Social media is the most un-dialogue-y of any communication available.  Perhaps you’ve heard of social media.  That’s where people who are entirely uninterested in hearing your opinions are only too happy to dump theirs on you.  People talk at each other, instead of to each other, often with unintended results.  It is the most unrepublican institution (in the guise of Republicanism) since the guillotine.  Twitter got its bird wrong.  It should be a seagull.

    When I was growing up (okay, let’s just assume for now that it happened), there were always maxims and aphorisms about what dialogue should and should not entail.  The Golden Rule told us, we thought, everything we needed to know.  Who doesn’t want people saying nice things about them, and what better way to ensure that than to speak highly of them?  One saying that got bandied about a lot went something like this: “Great minds discuss ideas.  Average minds discuss events.  Small minds discuss people.”  This is sometimes apocryphally attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, but has actually been around – in one form or another – since long before Miss Eleanor.  But the saying holds true, and is often used to highlight the pettiness and mean-spiritedness of gossips.

    What does all of this have to do with Project Management?  Quite a bit, as it happens.  The project manager is often dropped into situations where he or she gets to entertain opposing philosophical, religious, societal, cultural, or political viewpoints.  All of these, whether the project manager realizes it or not, affect the work environment of a project.  All need to be recognized and addressed, at least superficially.  The Project Manager holds all the cards, in many cases, and can set the tone for civility and (here’s that word again) dialogue.  He or she can choose to listen respectfully to colleagues and convey the message that the same consideration is expected in return, by all team members.  This will (or should) result in harmony among team members.  Harmony equals productivity equals results equals bottom line improvement.  Equals happiness all around, which is kind of self-explanatory.  But the lesson here isn’t that the results are driving the happiness and respect.  The reverse is true, and you can spot this dynamic a mile away in a good project. 

    Why not give this approach a try in your next project… or your current one?  Take the high road and engage your team members and stakeholders in conversations about ideas instead of each other.  Listen to them.  And for Pete’s sake – go easy on the social media!