Communication


I have an observation to make.

For a group of people that claim to deal with products and systems that encourage and facilitate communication, we, as a whole, suck at communicating.

I’m talking about IT people in general.

I’ve seen so many example in the past weeks, that it’s becoming frightening.

We need to face the facts. IT people are not good communicators.

Based on my extensive and highly non-scientific research, there are a few reasons why.

#1 – We are too busy.

I’m not making excuses. Everyone is busy. But IT people seem to always (I mean a constantly) be in a state of near panic. We run around like decapitated chickens and don’t really stop to try and communicate

We deal with really complex subjects and systems. Topics and processes that can impact every single aspect of a business.

And yet we rarely take the necessary time to have the discussions necessary to handle these things.

The reasons we are too busy are typical. Not enough staff, too much work, unrealistic deadlines, clueless upper management that set said unrealistic deadlines, and a general assumption that we can get our points across in twitter-like fashion.

It doesn’t work.

#2 – We rely too much on email.

This is because we are too busy.

We take complex topics, policies and subjects and try to boil them down into emails people read.

Problem is, we write too much and we do’t read them (See #1). Write too little and the points aren’t made and problems ensue.

No one wants to take the time to write an email that really explains a situation and even if we do, no one will really read it. We’ll skim it.

Salient points get lost, confusion sets in, and problems ensue.

I see it constantly.

#3 – Email as a medium sucks.

Person to person communication is a multifaceted process. People communicate with more than just words. Facial expressions, body language, tonal inflections. They all are part of the communicative process.

ALL of that is lost in email. Sarcasm is lost in email. Irony falls flat. Hesitation and doubt played out in a voice don’t exist.

Email is great for short, brief, factual communication. But when you try and have meaningful dialogue in email, it doesn’t work.

When you are trying to explain something complex, the look in a person’s eyes can tell you they are not on the same page. So you have a change to go back over the topic. They don’t have to put themselves “out there” by asking you to repeat something. You can just tell they don’t get it.

Face-to-face communications are much better. We need to get back to them.

#4 – Egos

IT people (in general) have huge egos. We tend to be smart people (did I mention we deal with complex topics) and most are very good at what we do.

So we don’t like to seem stupid or appear to be lost in a conversation. We can hide that in email. We can’t hide that in person-to-person communication.

We don’t like to seem like we don’t understand something and even though we dispute it, most of us are confrontation adverse.

Talking to someone, and more importantly, really, really listening to them is hard. It opens us to to challenge and to seem “less”.

This isn’t a bad thing in my opinion.

#5 – Meetings

Meetings have a bad reputation. Some of it deservedly.

Personal communication often requires meetings. More meeting are bad things in today’s world. So it stands to reason that we try and avoid them.

However a good meeting, run well, with a clear agenda (listing goals) can be a tremendously productive situation.

We need better meetings. Not more. Not less…better.

Fundamentally, it comes down to people skills.

IT is a technical field, but in the end, it is about manning people. It’s not about process, or policies, or computers, or smart phones. It’s about people. Engaging them, empowering them, make them more efficient and better at what they do.

It’s about people. It’s about communication.

We as an institution, need to realize that and get back to that.

If we don’t, the issues we have in out own “house” aren’t going to go away.

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