Official TEKConn Blog

A hostage negotiator’s lesson in IT management

Samuel L. Jackson played a hostage negotiator in the aptly-titled film "The Negotiator," using many of the tactics needed to tackle IT in the business world.

Samuel L. Jackson played a hostage negotiator in the aptly-titled film "The Negotiator," using many of the tactics needed to tackle IT in the business world.

It may sound strange to some to draw comparisons between IT management and hostage negotiation, but that's exactly what a recent CIO article has done – and it makes sense when you think about it.

George Kohlrieser, a former hostage negotiator and professor of leadership at the International Institute for Management Development, was interviewed for the article. As Kohlrieser explained it, negotiators must handle volatile situations by working toward incremental goals with individuals they rarely see eye-to-eye with. However, the interaction must remain authentic and constructive if these goals are to be met.

"As a hostage negotiator, you have to create a relationship with someone  … [and] through that relationship, you have to help the person change his mind, convince him to give up weapons and come out, knowing he will probably go to prison," he said. "Hostage negotiators have a 95 percent success rate because of the way it's done."

When using the same approach for IT, stressful situations can be de-escalated and helpful solutions agreed upon. The trouble is, small and midsize businesses (SMBs) often lack the depth in their IT ranks to be able to handle these cases in such a manner.

The end result is the opposite of what the ultimate goal is: tensions riding high and departments butting heads over how best to proceed. With outsourced SMB IT support, employees and management can focus on critical aspects of their day-to-day operations and moving the business forward, while support providers communicate with each department and work toward incremental goals. One by one, these milestones will put everyone on the same page.

In the case of SMB IT support, the role of the negotiator is played by the provider while the "hostage" is a company's future success. Taking this approach can save everyone and everything involved.