Thursday, July 23, 2009

Social Skills of IT Professionals

Money is not the only thing that is fungible. Social skills are too. The man who has trouble communicating with his wife and managing his marriage is likely to have similar difficulties with his colleagues and associates. And vice versa.

Two months ago I was interviewed by Meridith Levinson for Levinson asked me to offer some comments on the way IT professionals were or were not communicating effectively with their spouses. Link here.

In the interview I suggested that some of the IT professionals would do well to improve their social skills. I even offered some recommendations for how they might do this.

Naturally, the article provoked a flurry of replies, some positive, some not so positive. I answered these comments in a blog post a couple of days later. Link here.

Given my own point of view I was not surprised to read an article in the Harvard Business review suggesting that IT professionals have difficulty communicating with the business professionals who use their technology. Link here.

According to Susan Cramm the problem lies in the contempt that IT professionals have for their less techno-savvy colleagues. Apparently, IT people believe that their counterparts on the business side are too stupid to learn how to work the sophisticated products that the IT department provides.

Obviously, this contempt provokes a general defensiveness on the business side. Business professionals consider the IT people to be self-important snobs. They prefer to avoid collaboration and contact with them.

Cramm identifies the problem: "Without effective internal collaboration between IT and the rest of the business, technology will continue to be underutilized and its potential underrealized."

CIOs are very aware of this problem. Many of them insist that their staff members spend the time to teach business people how to make the best use of technology. They have found that the best approach involves having the IT person and the business person sit down together for an extended period of time... the better to facilitate an atmosphere of collaborative work.

This causes the two individuals to learn to trust and to respect each other. Instead of seeing each other as alien beings representing alien cultures, they discover the pleasures of teaching and learning.

As Cramm says: "Familiarity doesn't breed contempt; it breeds understanding and empathy-- the foundations of good relationships."

Now, if IT professionals would take the skills they learn in this collaborative effort and apply them to their marriages.

No comments: