Jan 24, 2007

Power Influence and Politics

There must be some invisible meme in the blogosphere. Some weeks ago Astha posted about power, Anu then linked to Penelope Trunk's post and then articulated her thoughts on politics and now David Maister posts his thoughts on politics in organizations.

Here's the news dear readers in your first jobs or who are not yet working: Power, Politics and Influence are a reality of organizational life. They are a reality because these are human behaviors in groups and communities, which is true of firms too.

Even if there was no resource shortage in organizations, even then politics would be rife.

Some people think politics is bad and any organization that has politics would not be a good place to work.

So long as the politics does not become the 'purpose' of the employees to the deterrent of customers and services and products, it is the output of group dynamics, the result of different worldviews and the desire to influence others to one's own worldview.

Power takes many forms, like expertise power, power due to hierarchy, referral power (you have power because you are close to someone powerful) and coercive power (you can punish people who do not listen to your cause), power due to passion and charisma.

Any behavioral change involves the application of influence by the change maker and therefore many levers of power are pulled. Any change has also people who have stakes in the status quo, and who don't want things to change, coercive power is usually used on these stakeholders.

Influence is a skill that one has to build in today's organizational world, and the use of coercive power is only the last resort. Work places today are more about distributed teams, cross functional groups, working with clients and partners. Influence is the only way you can get work done. Influence is the ability to ideate and showcase your expertise. Influence is also the ability to articulate a middle path between two opposing views and to show them why working together is a better idea than working at cross-purposes.

How do you plan to build your influencing skills?