07 March 2016

Is corporate politics that bad?


Corporate Politics...
"the process and behavior in human interactions involving power and authority"
I used to hate it. Managers stabbing each other in the back while smiling to their faces, stakeholders with-holding key information, business cases filled with twisted numbers to make their project seem more important.
Of course, if "Knowledge is Power" then Knowledge Management certainly runs in to it's fair share of politics, both at the personal, corporate and even the international level.
New Eyes
I remember the exact moment when I saw a new way of looking at it.  I was studying for my Masters degree and we had to read a chapter of a book called "Strategic Organizational Communication" by Conrad and Poole (I remember the name because of the effect it had on me).  After reading the chapter I glanced at the next one and started reading out of personal interest.
Chapter 8 is about power and politics in organisations and the way it holds companies together. It got me thinking: kind of like how ligaments hold the body together. The people are the bones, but the ligaments control how everybody interacts and works together to lift the load.  To quote Penn & Teller, I immediately called Bullshit! This wasn't my experience of politics, but I started reading about the different types of political power anyway....until it described mine.
My first reaction was "Hold on! That's not politics! That's just making sure I am effective and stopping people from undoing my hard work!" and then in a millisecond it dawned on me. That is what everybody else would say too. I had been political all my career, I just hadn't seen it that way.
So when I see people try to play their games or manipulate circumstances for what appears to be personal gain, I no longer immediately think incompetence or politics. I wonder what the underlying personal, emotional, financial and organisational needs are that they are trying to meet or keep in balance.  I'm not saying I'm right, I am sure sometimes people are just covering their tails because they really are incompetent, but I guess that's one of those needs as well - security.
In any case, if you are experiencing political games or push back in your projects, I encourage you to give Conrad and Poole a read. It has served me well and helped me keep my professional diagnostic hat on when dealing with sick or injured organisations, and lets face it, if they didn't have any problems then they wouldn't need me in the first place, right?