Three Scenarios

If you are in the category of people who still find politics not their cup of tea, let me give you another way to look at it. There are, in fact, only three distinct cases to consider.

1. You are the king

You might think that politics is irrelevant in this case. The simplistic view might be that even if you are a benevolent despot, you pretty much get to do what you want, and your vassals obey. If politicians crop up, you suppress them; dissident serfs get thrown in the oubliette,[2] so you don't have to deal in politics. In a business organization, the equivalent behavior is to fire any employee who shows political tendencies.

[2] A pretty awful place in the nether regions of the castle. The word derives from the French oublier, "to forget."

But this is an oversimplification. Even kings need to build some support amongst their circle of advisors in order to stay in power. There is a good reason today why we don't have very many absolute, powerful kings left. But, if you are the king and want complete control over your realm, you can keep politics at bay for a while. In today's world, it is just not a really good, viable, long-term strategy.

2. You are not the king

Now you have two choices: one, convince the king to do what you want to do, or two, band together with other vassals to either reason with the king or overthrow him. I will point out that both alternatives imply a political process. If you are unclear on this concept, go back to our earlier definition of a political process.

3. There is no king

This often occurs in organizations in which there is no strong leadership. You might even call this nascent democracy. In this instance, people have to get together and decide what to do, as there is no king telling them what to do. People will tend to have differing opinions, so we once again get to decision-making by consensus-building (also a political process).

Whether or not you consider technical organizations "democracies" (and we all know managers who strongly believe they are not!), it is important to understand that we exist in a culture that encourages participation of all its members. In fact, the strongest technical organizations are the ones that engage the talents of all, in a free marketplace of ideas. Ideally, one wants to create a high-trust environment[3]that is, an environment where there is a high degree of trust among employees at every level, and where intellectual honesty reigns and politics are minimized. But we've just shown that politics is inevitable in all organizations, and technical organizations are just another form of organization. How do we deal with this apparent paradox?

[3] This is a very important concept, and I will return to it later in the chapter. High-trust environments are valuable to all organizations, and I have found that they are especially important in technical organizations.

The Software Development Edge(c) Essays on Managing Successful Projects
The Software Development Edge(c) Essays on Managing Successful Projects
Year: 2006
Pages: 269 © 2008-2017.
If you may any questions please contact us: