"This new kind of business hero... must learn to operate without the might of the hierarchy behind them. The crutch of authority must be thrown away and replaced by their own ability to make relationships, use influence, and work with others to achieve results." [Rosabeth Moss Kanter, When Giants Learn to Dance]
When you hear the word politics you'd like to cover your ears and start humming to yourself, I'm quite sure of it. I have many friends who work in the career counseling and outplacement field and they tell me that the number one desire of people in career transition is for their next job to be free of office politics.
We might as well just decide to become hermits. Put two people together, you have politics. If we look at the Wikipedia definition:
Politics is the process by which groups of people make decisions.
I like Hannah Arendt's: "political power corresponds to the human ability not just to act but to act in concert." Some of the greatest thinkers and philosophers from Confucius to Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, and Russeau spent considerable time on the subject.
With the flattening of organizations and the increased number of free agents who collaborate on a project-basis, there is an increased need to make decisions in group. Yet, group settings are the worst places to make decisions. Instead, we would be best served if we learned to build those relationships that are crucial to the success of our projects ahead of time.
Did I whet your appetite? I just finished reading the advance copy of GUST, The Tale Wind of Office Politics by Timothy L. Johnson. Tim blogs at Carpe Factum and was one of the very first people to welcome me to the blogosphere. This was not the first book on the subject I read, it was probably the easiest to digest. It's a complex topic; one charged by our own assumptions and ideas.
Are you starting a new job? Did you get that promotion you wanted? Have you succeeded in getting that big account? Are you working on a new project with a large team? The successful outcome of all these activities hinges upon your ability to embrace change (sometimes to initiate it) and to get the attention that is critical to your projects.
Tim's medium is the fable, which may be a very good way of making the subject approachable and concrete. Two themes jumped out at me as I began reading:
- The characters' victim status was compounded by the fact that they felt out of control and helpless so they whined a lot -- take a moment and reflect on this observation, I did. Quite sobering.
- The top person was completely clueless about what was happening inside the organization -- executives have many things competing for their attention. They juggle, while running and ducking.
When you have two or more people working together, what matters is that they are aligned towards a common goal. Knowing how to build relationships, use influence and work with others is crucial to achieving the results you seek. If you are looking for one resource to get you started on this topic reach out to GUST, and begin comprehending how to best communicate with the people and companies you work with.
In a world where we exist more and more as fuzzy people in David Armano's parlance -- "It's about putting aside egos, getting out of silos and mixing it up with each other—I mean really mixing it up." -- it becomes essential to be able to work effectively across teams and projects. We have new technologies and tools at our disposal, yet the make or break point remains the domain of the decisions people make.
Interface is not only for systems, it's for people too. Did you have a situation that could have been solved by a deeper assessment? How do you handle politics?