Even though it is not four letters, politics is often regarded as a dirty word. Many associate it with efforts to place individual or tribal affiliation ahead of good sense, good management, and even loyalty to moral and ethical principles. Yet success in facilitating change efforts, a trademark of organization development (OD), depends partly on skillfully navigating organizational politics.
What five secrets can be instrumental in helping OD practitioners deal with the realities of organizational politics as they may affect change efforts? Answering that question is the focus of this blog.
Secret #1: Align Yourself With Powerful PeopleAccording to French and Ravens’ well-known 1959 work on the sources of social power, there are five sources of power: (1) reward power; (2) punishment power; (3) affiliation power; (4) knowledge power; and (5) charisma. Aligning yourself with powerful people is associated with #3 on this list. Find out who is on the fast track for promotion and who exercises the greatest influence on others—a sign of present or future leadership. Then, make friends with those people and curry their favor by trying to help them succeed. That will lead to a positive relationship. When OD practitioners work to facilitate change, having powerful allies can be most helpful. It can give them access to other sources of social power—such as reward power and punishment power.
Secret #2: Build Powerful CoalitionsGetting help should not be limited to powerful people. It helps to have allies in strategic locations at every level on the organization chart and in as many functional siloes as possible. Pick people at different levels, locations, and functions, and make friends with them. That will help when facilitating change.
A quick story about that. Years ago, I had a friend who joined an organization as an internal director of OD. She wanted to be accepted. I advised her boss, the CEO, if she could spend a week working with the hourly workers on the night shift. After securing approval, she spent the week on the graveyard shift working next to hourly workers. She ended up the special darling of the toughest union in the industry. She had so many friends in the union that she often used that union support to overcome management opposition.