Power and Politics


This post is part of a series on IT consulting.

Power and politics are far more nebulous and complicated than alignment with an organisational chart. Power is a concrete manifestation of influence, and is often the driving force behind political alignments, fallouts and agendas. Getting anything accomplished means understanding the political landscape, and knowing where the power lies.

It's difficult to pin down how power operates. However, you might try:

  • Pay attention to who's words are heard and repeated.
  • When two or more people always sit in the same place in meetings or at hot desks, they're protecting positions or relationships.
  • Watching who enters and leaves meetings together, eats lunch together, and so on, provides insight into relationships.

Try to discern:

  • How is power obtained or bestowed?
  • How is power used to accomplish aims?
  • How is it maintained and protected?
  • How is power passed on to others (e.g. delegated)?
  • Is someone's power positional (job title) or personal (charismatic, or other attribute)?

There are three types of power:

  • Formal - Power is proportional to the importance of a position.
  • Informal - Power is proportional to the centrality of a position (e.g. CEO's personal assistant).
  • Autonomous - Power is proportional to people's freedom to choose.

Powers manifests itself through people's will and skill at making decisions. Architects (or managers) unwilling or unable to make decisions lose power. Architects who make wrong decisions lose power.

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