When Techies Speak,
The Devil’s in the Details
truth, but for
EVERY IT PROFESSIONAL HAS BEEN HERE: A business person asks you a question, and your thorough answer just isn’t good enough. You try to give more specific information in an attempt to break through the communication barrier. But the more you try, the worse things
Paul Glen is the
CEO of Leading
Geeks, an education
and consulting firm
devoted to unlocking
the value of technical
people. You can
contact him at info@
seem to get. In the end, the business person is
seething with impatience, so you start to get
confused and angry.
Both parties walk away from such encounters convinced that it’s hopeless to communicate with “those
types” of people. They both say of the other, “They
don’t get it.” And as a result, the business people stop
asking questions, and we, the I T people, are relieved.
I’d grown so accustomed to this type of disconnect that I had come to see it as a natural part of
working in organizations. But a recent interaction
made me realize that it is one facet of a deep divide
between business and IT, and that understanding
the root of the disconnect is crucial to resolving it.
I was talking to a smart and articulate business person. Our conversation was following the
seemingly inevitable course toward disconnect
until we took a step back and examined what was
at the heart of our conflict. The conclusion we
came to was fascinating: It wasn’t the language
that was dividing us; it was the fact that technical
and nontechnical people have completely different
perceptions of what constitutes a good answer.
The frustration that these conversations normally produce arises from our completely different understandings of what is true in the world —
as well as our incompatible ways of thinking about
truth, identifying it, defining it and feeling it.
The business person had asked me a simple
question about a project we were working on, and
I had responded with an itemized list of the six
key elements that related to the question. As I in-
troduced each item, she became increasingly agi-
tated. I had seen this reaction many times before,
but it had never made any sense to me. After all, I
was doing a great job of explaining things; my list
was quite complete.