The importance of the soft issues: communication, negotiation and leadership

The importance of “soft issues” in organizations is often underestimated. In my research on software evolution I have found that the main problems were not technical but involved communication problems and misunderstandings due to developing large software  systems across the world where cultural differences, synchronization across time zones and organizational boundaries matter.

I have documented these findings first in my journal paper Continuous Evolution Through Software Architecture Evaluation: a Case Study. Then I went deeper in the social structure  by studying collaboration in software development teams using social network analysis. This is documented in my other journal paper Comprehend and analyze knowledge networks to improve software evolution.

Communication means also having the ability to listen. Active listening is one of the techniques used to communicate in an effective way. How to listen, communicate and solve problems together are nicely described in a very good book by Thomas Gordon Parent Effectiveness Training. It is very interesting to note that the same understanding is needed in many contexts.

Joseph Nye has written two very good books on leadership and soft power, The Powers to Lead: Soft, Hard, and Smart and Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics, see  the post Joseph Nye’s “Leadership: A Dozen Quick Take-Aways”.

To communicate in an effective way see my previous post marketing and persuasion, with links to Frank I. Lunt’s book  Words that work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear , and George Lakoff’s work, especially his book Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.

Negotiation is described nicely by Max H. Bazerman and Margaret Ann Neale in Negotiating Rationally. Another interesting book is Robert Cialdini’s  The Psychology of Persuasion.

Hofstede has written one of the most influential books on cultural differences Cultures and Organizations: Software for the Mind, and Edgar Schein Organizational Culture and Leadership (JB US nonFranchise Leadership) complements it. From Schein also Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help. See also my posts The importance of cultural differences and Culture, Organizational culture.

The ability to communicate, listen, understand cultural differences and work in a cooperative way are fundamental. These soft issues should have a higher priority in our own personal development and in organizations.

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