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Sharpen your savvy: 5 steps to navigating organisational politics

Lou Markstrom | June 9, 2017
Tech chiefs need to become adept at digging out information that does not live in facts, but in the hidden world of rumour, innuendo, and personal relationships.

"In any engagement, it is critical that we get to know the terrain and environment that we are operating in." - Ancient Chinese general and military strategist, Sun TzuImage source: 663highland
"In any engagement, it is critical that we get to know the terrain and environment that we are operating in." - Ancient Chinese general and military strategist, Sun Tzu. Credit: 663highland

Organisational politics are a reality and we can either take the approach of burying our heads in the sand and pretend they don't exist or recognise that political savvy is an essential skill for all levels of an IT organisation. 

As IT professionals, we have no authority over the business clients we work with but plenty of responsibility and accountability for delivery. Because of this, we must become skilled in the arts of influence, negotiation, managing conflicts and political savvy. Political savvy is just one of the tools we have to be successful as part of the business and not separate from it.

So, what is politics? Most often our initial response is a negative one. We view it as a way to manoeuvre or manipulate in a group to gain control or power. But when used in a positive way, politics can bring people closer together.

It's a legitimate way of having people with different interests work out a collective purpose and then work together to make it happen. Simply, the difference between the two is, is it being done from an intention of integrity towards moving the organisation toward its strategic objectives or merely out of an individual's personal interests.

Being politically-savvy has several benefits. They often include: getting projects moved up the priority list, cutting through red tape, achieving greater recognition, gaining management support for projects, obtaining a bigger budget, and getting the people you need when you need them. It also means having your ideas heard, and having the ability to bring IT initiatives and projects to successful conclusions.

Here are 5 steps to developing your political awareness.

 

1. Start your radar

The first step is getting outside the world of IT and assessing who will be affected by your actions and activities. Who are the key stakeholders, their connections, relationships, and previous history with one another? Go beyond the obvious and also think, 'who are the people who believe they should have some say?' As one of my favourite strategists Sun Tzu stated: "In any engagement, it is critical that we get to know the terrain and environment that we are operating in."

To do this, we need to become adept at digging out information that does not live in facts, but in the hidden world of rumour, innuendo, and personal relationships. Get to know stakeholders on a more personal level.

 

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