Our Key Approaches
The concepts underlying PDM originate from the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) field. We apply the approaches when there are a number of stakeholders who need to work collaboratively to resolve existing or potential conflict or problems or make better decisions.
The third party stakeholders
The process usually involves an independent, facilitator/mediator who focuses on the “process” by which the work is done, without having any stake or interest in the “content” or “result/outcome” of the work. The role of this “third party” is essential in helping stakeholders work together (or negotiate), creatively, on a level playing field, toward mutually acceptable or beneficial outcomes.
Each process is designed for the specific job in hand. The design element is critical because the process has to be right for the stakeholders involved as well as the challenges they collectively face. Consequently, it is common for the third party to work with a smaller, broadly representative group of stakeholders in advance of any other work to clarify objectives, consider stakeholders needs, look at how the objectives might be met (preliminary design) and address any practical/logistical issues. A similar group may be formed to discuss process management issues during the course of an extensive process.
The learning process
The way of working and the approaches itself is cyclic, rather than linear; reflecting the fact that it is also implicitly a learning process for all involved. As stakeholders consider (and learn from) one aspect of their challenge, they may need to return to review (apply the new learning to) previous work. In this way a more robust and strongly owned output can be achieved. More linear processes of working have a tendency to “gloss over cracks”, for fear of delaying progress; a false economy when ownership of outputs is as important as their quality.
This type of process or dialogue requires commitment from stakeholders (including time and resource) and a willingness to embark on an explicit process of “agreement forming” with little certainty about precise outcomes, at least not at the outset. It is a collaborative effort with stakeholders and the facilitator(s) working together; the former bringing their content knowledge and the later bringing their process experience.
Participation in a dialogue process can be frustrating because there are likely to be strongly held underlying views. One of our roles is to help participants agreee clear boundaries to behaviour so that any meetings we run are fair, open and free from aggression or intimidation.