The IT manager’s inner self

Before you begin your next SAP implementation, Eugene Kaluzniacky wants you to get in touch with your feelings.

Kaluzniacky, an instructor in the department of Applied Computer science at the University of Winnipeg, believes that the

use of psychological testing and refined training programs can shave some of the time IT projects take because those involved are better able to work together. It’s a thesis explored in his book, Managing Psychological Factors in Information Systems Work: An Orientation to Emotional Intelligence, which will be published in a few weeks.

“”It’s like switching channels on a TV,”” he says. “”Depending on what we’re doing, is the intellect in control? Are the feelings in control? Or is the body and sensations in control? What I’m proposing is the possibility of opening up oneself to a deeper layer of the person.””

Kaluzniacky took some time Tuesday to talk with about how IT managers can tap into their emotional intelligence. In your book you discuss the need to involve the “”whole person”” when dealing with IT problems. What do you mean by that?

Eugene Kaluzniacky: I promote that concept a lot in my book. It talks about the fact that we don’t necessarily think that using the intellect alone can provide all the necessary resources an IT professional would need in the course of his or her work. In other words, there have been IT people calling for that — Kent Beck, who is one of the founders of Extreme Programming, has said we have to learn to grow the whole person, for example. Joseph Weisenbaum, a computer scientist at MIT from the ’70s who wrote a book called Computer Power and Human Reason also talked about the whole person. What I think is meant here is that there are intuition, there is wisdom, there are those kind of things that do not come strictly from a machine-like intellect, where the IT professional can use those things to fine-tune relationships with end users, with working on a team.

ITB: Why do you think we haven’t tapped into those deeper layers until now?

EK: Well, I think it’s not just in IT, it’s in Western society. Since the Industrial Revolution over a hundred years ago, it seemed to go more towards control and the intellect. In other words, we could figure out industrial things with the intellect, we could control things, and that provided security. Now this technology has gotten out hand — it’s proliferated itself so much that it’s given rise to a lot of uncertainty, rapid change, insecurity in terms of knowledge because knowledge becomes obsolete very quickly, particularly in the IT profession. In IT that’s specifically acute because of the rapid changes, both in methodology and in technology and approach. If you took a medical doctor and told him right now that 80 per cent of what he learned in medical school is obsolete, how would this person react? Where would they get their security? This is what’s happening in IT, yet there are continuous calls for IT having to develop soft skills, having to work on a team, to manage stress.

ITB: How do you begin this process of orienting towards emotional intelligence?

EK: There are already programs in place. There’s something called DRH, which is in my book’s fourth chapter, which originated in France in the early 1970s and is now in 32 countries. There’s also a very famous one called the Hoffman Quadrinity program offered by the Hoffman Institute that was started in California in the late ’60s. Basically what that involves is people looking at their whole life and seeing where there may have been emotional blockages. Now, this doesn’t have to be people who were severely traumatized, but people that grew up in a certain culture which did not address all parts of them. Particularly the talented, the sensitive people, a lot of them may have blockages from their deepest selves. And these programs show you steps on how to go unblocking this type of thing. It’s not a matter of intellect. It’s a matter of inner experience and feeling, and so on.

But that’s only part of it. I do describe other psychological factors, such as personality type. Myers-Briggs (a test which describes personality types) for example, is useful on another level, because people with different preferences either for intuition or for thinking, feeling, structure, for open-endedness — they have different ways of attacking IT problems.

ITB: Give me an example.

EK: I was testing people in one of the IT organizations here in Winnipeg. There were two ladies who were similar on three dimensions of the Myers-Briggs test but different on one. One likes a lot of structure and one liked open-endedness. I asked them what in the course of their work really stresses them out. The one who likes structure said, “”I’m really stressed if I have more than one thing on my desk at once. I like to finish one thing, put it away and start another.”” The one who was open-ended said, “”I’m really stressed if I’m only working on one thing. I have to have many things going on at the same time.”” Now you see, if managers were aware of that, how they could much more easily assign people to tasks and jobs which fit the natural rhythm of their inner dynamics.

ITB: How could IT professionals argue for more investment into this kind of training and testing?

EK: I hope that the book will give some introductory insight — “”Okay, maybe there’s something to it.”” Following the book, I plan to have a Web site where people can go and post notices and have discussion groups. That’s the next thing. After that, what I’m looking for is small groups of eight or so IT professionals with their project manager who would like to participate in an experiment with me. We would do the Myers workshop for a week or a weekend, then write down in a journal everything they do in their teams that has a specific relationship to Myers-Briggs — can they design user interfaces better because they know this person is intuitive and that one is a sensing person? If I can get six or seven teams across the country making journal entries, then in six months to a year we can really try and get consensus out of all that.

ITB: It sounds like a great project.

EK: What I’m hoping happens with this is there’s a kind of awakening to the fact that we have a lot of psychological resources within us, and we’re not using them. We’re choosing “”default”” options on that.

Comment: [email protected]

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