What is Sensemaking?

Sensemaking is literally about "making sense". It is all about taking an obscure situation, clouded in uncertainty and complexity, and making it understandable for the purposes of decision making.

Why is sensemaking important? Well most projects of a considerable size, requiring the talents of a well-formed team, tend to suffer from a lack of clarity which can quickly lead to confusion, frustration and irritability – all the aspects of a doomed project environment.

What is Dialogue Mapping?

Dialogue Mapping is a novel facilitation method that allows groups to better deal with the sort of tricky, complex problems that typically cause a group stress, chaos and pullback. This is achieved by a trained dialogue mapper, facilitating the conversation, while capturing the various threads of an issue and then expressing it visually in the form of an argument ‘map’. This visual map represents the collected rationale in a simple, easy to understand form that allows participants to see all of the points of view in a cohesive fashion. The information collected during a discussion (or ‘mapping session’) is broken down into questions, possible answers to those questions, and supporting and opposing arguments of those answers. Relationships are then drawn between the captured components of the conversation. The ultimate purpose of the map is to capture and share the collective knowledge of all the participants without prejudice. The map is presented in a format that can be easily understood by all observers.

Dialogue Mapping

How Can Dialogue Mapping Help?

The process of Dialogue Mapping results in the capture of tacit information (stuff that usually stays in people’s heads) and presents it in a manner that supports further collaboration. From a knowledge management point of view, the capture and management of tacit information have always been seen as a holy grail. However, many complex problems get mired in adversarial situations and meetings can become very inefficient through tangents, endless repetition, grandstanding and people talking at each other and not to each other. An issue map is the ideal platform on which to base discussions of complex issues and gain a shared understanding of the varying points of view. Meetings become much more efficient, because the need to cover old ground is significantly reduced and participants’ points of view are acknowledged via incorporating them into the map.

The current debates and challenges being faced by global climate change present a perfect example of an extremely complex problem (also known as a ‘Wicked Problem’) for which many varying, yet equally valued, opinions exist. The topics that require exploration are not just confined to the science behind global climate change but there are sociological and economic repercussions that need to be considered as well. Additional to the vast array of opinions and ideas, each of these areas requires a deep level of understanding before meaningful analysis of the value of their content can be performed.

Whilst the global climate change might seem like an extreme example of a wicked problem, the balance of the science, sociological, environmental and economic considerations is extremely common at a regional or local level. Seven Sigma routinely facilitates the stakeholders of complex planning challenges, where the complexity of the problem is at first seemingly endless. We have performed mapping for community envisioning workshops, enquiry by design workshops, relationship building, town planning and expert roundtable discussions.

As Seven Sigma’s foundations originate in software engineering and the IT services industry, Seven Sigma has had a great deal of experience with the design, development and deployment of web-based applications. Seven Sigma also employs the use of Dialogue Mapping facilitation techniques to provide in-depth analysis of business requirements for IT and software projects with great success. Additionally, through our skills in this area, we are also experts at the tools and techniques that allow the captured issue based rationale to be communicated to a wider audience via the medium of web-based technologies such as SharePoint.

Cognexus Designated Partner

Seven Sigma is proud to be the only Cognexus Designated Partner in the world. All Seven Sigma staff have been trained by Cognexus and we have the only two Dialogue Mapping practitioners in the southern hemisphere to have trained directly under Dr Jeff Conklin, founder of the Cognexus Institute.

Whether it is a board of directors determining their corporate strategy or engaging with the local community on a local planning issue, Seven Sigma has the skills and runs on the board to help your stakeholders get onto the same page, to drive a collective outcome.

Daniel Heymans, Senior Strategic Planning Officer, City Planning on the value of Dialogue Mapping

The Stirling Alliance utilised dialogue mapping to help resolve the long standing Stephenson Reserve issue that could not be resolved using traditional methods.  Dialogue mapping significantly shortened the time frames to discuss multiple options, ensuring that repetition on contentious issues did not recur.  After participants were familiar with the process, meetings followed a much smoother format with a lot less tension.  The Stirling Alliance found that dialogue mapping, together with value management and enquiry by design helped us achieve a preferred option to deal with Stephenson Reserve.

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