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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.

This doesn't mean you have to become "buddies" but know them well enough to predict behaviour, know where they will form alliances, who they won't cooperate with. Things can much smoother if we have a grasp on these factors that we normally consider outside our control.


2. Determine where the power bases are

Gain an understanding of the of the clout that various stakeholders have within the organisation. This clout is a result of the combination of people's position (the power based on the where someone sits on the organisational chart) and their ability to influence others. People that are high at both of these are the ones to pay the most attention to. But also never forget some of the most influential people can have no positional authority.


3. Distinguish between your friends and foes

Don't assume that because you are excited about your initiatives that everyone else is too! Your stakeholder analysis should let you identify who will be impacted by your project and this can help you predict who your friends and foes will be.

They will align themselves based on their common interests as well as the quality of relationship they have together. Common interests and relationships create friends while opposing interests and relationships create foes. Then you have those who will overlook a relationship issue if it supports their interests strongly enough. By considering this, IT professionals can develop strategies to move people toward alliances as a result of shared interests and relationships.


4. Predict the pitfalls and chart the course

The information from the first 3 steps will allow you to predict what will happen from a political perspective on your journey. Think of this like doing a risk analysis but instead of considering technology risks, you are uncovering political ones.

Once you predict the pitfalls, you can determine how to head them off. Again quoting Sun Tzu, "Every battle is won before it begins" and our aim is to succeed by achieving our objectives without it ever reaching a point of conflict.


5. Stay the course

Recognise that this is on ongoing process. It is an orientation that must be maintained throughout a journey not just a task that is completed and forgotten about. You must be prepared to make course corrections and adjustments if your initial approaches don't work work or hit resistance.

As IT professionals that understand "we are the business", we can not just be at the impact of organisational politics. We don't need to become devious politicians, we just need to develop the savvy necessary to positively influence or overcome the inevitable politics that occur in any organisation.


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