Morag Barrett is right; no wonder we lack communication skills…

Anyone somewhat knowledgeable in IT Service Management (ITSM) is familiar with the fact that an IT service is made up by people, process and technology. And, anyone following the developments in the ITSM industry is also noticing the trend that, while processes and technology are important, it is the people factor that can make the difference. Just as Jim Collins mentioned in his book “Good to Great”, having the right people on the bus and having these people in the right seats is what contributes to making good organizations, great organizations.

May I assume that you have no issues with these observations so far? Because if you do, I suggest you read this book. And to get the ITSM version of this awareness, you should consider participating in an ITIL or ISO/IEC 20000 Foundation course.   A quality instructor will help raising your awareness level here.

In case you are still with me, I am asking you to help me understand the following. Why is IT leadership still valuing more that you “learn the trick”, than helping you with your people skills? Why do I state this? When looking at the hottest IT certifications for many years in a row now, the top 10 or 20 consists of certifications expressing that you understand a piece of technology; a database platform, an operating system, a computer system, etc. Very few IT certifications make it to the top addressing the people skills. These certifications are consistently outnumbered sometimes tenfold.

You may say, well, these are Information Technology certifications, so no wonder. Good point. I give you that. So where do I find the top 10 non-IT certifications IT leadership is sending its staff to? Or attends them themselves for that matter? Something is telling me, if there were such list that it wouldn’t look that much different.

What are the certifications that I am referring to you may ask? Well, would you agree with me that many IT organizations struggle with employees working in teams? Or better, not working as a team? And, would you agree with me that communication skills is not the forte of so many IT staff? Or, how would you rank the work planning skills of your IT peers? Recognize the IT worker who can’t wait for the next email to popup to work on? And, ever having given it a thought to work on people’s inter and intra relationship skills? Your account managers or business relationship managers are not the only one responsible for building a relationship with your customers, right? Not to mention what a good peer-to-peer or manager-employee relationship entails. Enough examples, or shall I go on?

In can hear you say, this is the “soft stuff” we don’t care about. It is not hip and makes you look weak on your resume; as if you have all these personal issues. Or you may say we hire the right people that have all these skills, or that have the people skills for the job, so all that is left for us to do is teach them “the trick”. Or how about this one; we assume you are born or you were raised with these terrific people skills. I hope you are giggling now… It is actually dead serious. In her book “Cultivate”, Morag Barrett wrote that during all the years that we attend school, our main focus is to perform as an individual; teamwork is rarely rewarded… So for nearly two decades, our school system programs our behavior the opposite way to what organizations value: individualism vs. teamwork…

Maybe we need to reprogram our school system and our industry?

How about the leaders in our field of expertise, the CIOs, take the initiative here? Some companies have already included in the hiring process a personality test. And continue developing and testing its employees to provide them with the best possible guidance when making career development decisions.

And how about placing employees with people skills in seats they and your organization can thrive? Are you valuing the cross-departmental position of the Process Owner or the Service Owner as much as the position of your Director of Infrastructure?

Or what about the continuous increase in dependency on third parties, i.e. vendors and suppliers? Do you have the right people on your team managing these relationships? And, do they have the right focus? Meaning, we’re building a mutually beneficial relationship instead of a “them-and-us” relationship?

And then there was this CIO I once consulted for. He had a full-time Public Relations person on his team. All she did was building bridges between IT and the business and between IT departments.

And I could go on. Make sure that next time you go over your training plan or career development plan you offset the technology-focused training and career choices with people-skill-related development steps. And for the CIOs who are reading this, make sure you prepare for some tough questions from the readers of this article (not a joke).

Visit to learn more about Morag Barrett, her book and how she can help you and your organization.


Mart Rovers has over 30 years of experience in IT and has been consulting and training in IT Service Management and Information Security Management since 1992. He currently serves as the President of InterProm USA, ITSM Manager and of the ISO/IEC 20000 Special Interest Group. Mart is a certified ISO/IEC 20000 and ISO/IEC 27001 Internal Auditor and ISO/IEC 20000 Executive Consultant/Manager (Master). He holds the ITIL® v3 Expert certification is a prISM Fellow. He has led dozens of organizations towards becoming ISO/IEC 20000 and ISO/IEC 27001 certified and is an accredited instructor for ISO/IEC 20000, ISO/IEC 27001, COBIT and ITIL certification training courses. Mart received his MBA degree in Information Analysis and holds BS degrees in Mathematics and in Marketing. He authored and co-authored more than a dozens of IT Service Management and IT Management books.