Politics is part of the weave and weft of humanity. We can no more be non-political than we can stop breathing. Unless you are a recluse then you are engaged in organizations in which politics plays a role. It not limited to the realm of government; every organization: church, synagogue, mosque, arts center, humane society, elks lodge, social club, sports club, etc are political entities. Where you have elections, policy disputes, membership rules, doctrinal disputes, you have politics.
The most common complaint heard today is “why can’t they just get along”. This apparently laudable sentiment is usually uttered by those who are happy with the status quo. People disagreeing might mean that things will change and that will inconvenience the speaker. Its code for why don’t they shut up. So if it’s rife in society why do imagine that it stops at the door of our work? It doesn’t, we all know it: we just don’t want to acknowledge it.
Why if it is so pervasive aren’t there more books on how to play it. Look in any book store and there are rows and rows of books on how to play golf. The number of books on business politics is far smaller than that. I think there are more books on dog grooming than on business politics. Why is that?
Well in my opinion it’s because those who are good at it aren’t going to let the uninitiated in on their secrets. Knowledge is power and political knowledge is power indeed.
If you are a project manager then you have to understand that your project is an isle in a sea of politics.
Everywhere you look there is an interface with another group and where there’s an intergroup interface there’s politics. Their needs and your needs can only be resolved by discussion and all discussions are political in nature. Even discussions within your family are political. If you don’t believe me then just cast your mind back to a recent discussion with your spouse, daughter, son, mother, father, where you wanted something from them that you thought they might not be 100% in favor of; please pass the marmalade doesn’t count. Now it might have been straight forward, but it probably wasn’t. The greater the misalignment of views the more you have to work the argument. The more you shade your arguments the more political you become. Temper tantrums are a political ploy. Some bosses never out grow that behavior.
But your project is not the only island in this sea of politics. There are other islands, in fact it’s an archipelago of projects. And all these islands are only a few feet above sea level. So any change in the political balance can create waves that will inundate your project. These changes can be environmental: corporate re-structuring, merger, strategy change, market change, or they could be structural: budget cuts, managerial changes, fad de jour.; either way they are dangerous to your project and your job. So you need to know the techniques to help you manage or minimize their impact.
We started to explore those techniques in the posting on the O-O-D-A loop. More to follow.