Many CEOs or managers often find themselves up against organisational politics that impede strategy execution. Historical divisions and entrenched power structures can create barriers to desired change. Navigating these political domains in organisations require awareness of two important dimensions. First is the spectrum at which the political activity takes place between the individual or organisational level. The second dimension is the source of informal or formal power. Using these two dimensions, the four typical types of organisational politics can be described as “the weeds”, “the rocks”, “the high ground”, and “the woods”. Here’s how to approach these situations:
The weeds – The weeds, where individual influence and informal networks rule, can naturally form without any deliberate effort. To deal with the weeds, seek to understand the informal networks at play and identify the key influence brokers, so you can isolate them and increase your own influence.
The rocks – Navigating the terrain here, where individuals have formal sources of authority reign, consists of redirecting the energy of a dysfunctional leader, either through reasoned argument or by appealing to their interests.
The high ground – If you find yourself on the high ground, which combines formal authority embedded within organisational systems such as committees, you can suggest that a separate group or task force (e.g. Innovation Lab) needs to be set up to examine an issue or bridge silos. It can create an unconstrained ‘working space’ outside of the norms and routines of the organisation.
The woods – The woods are characterised by organisations with implicit norms, hidden assumptions and unspoken routines. The key here is to make the implicit explicit and bring those implicit routines and behaviours to the surface. Ask external stakeholders and specialist experts about their observations of the company or get information from benchmark surveys. Once the implicit assumptions are out in the open, ask your team to reflect on how those assumptions are helping or hindering the strategy.
No matter what specific changes a change management program is intending to bring, those aims necessarily involve a sustained changed in the employee’s behavior. Unfortunately, change programs of many firms usually fail to bring about those new behaviours due to four errors that undermine the change efforts. These errors take the forms of neglecting employee’s individual interests, under-engaging the extended leadership team, failure to sufficiently empower the Change Management Unit, and allocating ‘fire and forget’ targets. In order to minimise the occurrence of these errors, the management should strive to make participation in the program individually rewarding. The company should closely engage the extended leadership teams in encouraging change, and empower the Change Management Unit to drive the program. Lastly, the company should also define effective metrics to track progress.
50 years since its founding, Southwest Airlines is still flying high. Despite not being the best in terms of airline performance, the company is ranked second to last on customer complaints. For an airline that many believed would not have succeeded, the CEO credits the competitive advantage to its people. And the company is so zealous about its people that it has a Culture Committee.
The Culture Committee overseas the orientation for new employees. That’s not all of course, the Committee ensures that the right – in this case fun-loving – people get hired into the company in the first place. The belief goes that if the employees are having fun, they will have a happier time serving customers, and ultimately passengers are going to get a better flying experience. In reflecting its people-centric ethos, the company has also created multiple galleries where employees contribute pets photos or even military medals to make all feel at home.
The Culture Committee eventually morphed into the Culture Services Committee, which till today takes it role very seriously. A case in point is the handling of compliments about specific employees: they not only get highlighted to the employee’s manager, but also get highlighted to the manager’s manager. What’s fun if there are no parties? Lots in fact – career milestones with the company or even wedding anniversaries all get celebrated with pomp and fun. The company believes it ultimately pays off to invest in culture through budgeting, resources, and time. If the airline’s expansion plans are any indication, Southwest Airlines may well have a very profitable intangible asset that sustains its competitive advantage.
Using the interview strategies outlined below may help improve your chances of making the right hire:
(1) Tour the office. You can have a better sense of the candidates by watching how they behave when touring the office. As you’re sizing up the candidates, there are two key qualities to look out for: Is the person interested or curious in the work of the organization? Do they treat everyone they meet with respect regardless of their title?
(2) Interview over lunch. The key part is to observe whether the candidate is considerate towards other colleagues — an essential quality of effective team players. Pay attention to behaviours such as: Do they charge into the restaurant, or let others go first; can they keep a dialogue going, or do they dominate the conversation?
(3) Ask personality questions. Unusual questions will get candidates to open up and provide insights into what makes them tick. Do they know how they come across to others? Their answers to a question such as “What is the biggest misconception people have about you” can reveal candidates’ level of self-awareness.
(4) Discuss actual problems. See your candidates in action by discussing an actual problem or issue you’re working on. Ask how they would tackle or break down the problem. Are they engaged in exploring the problem? Are they able to generate solutions? Walking through a short problem with the candidate will reveal how it would be like to work with this person.
(5) Get them asking questions. Leave some time to allow candidates to ask their questions at the end of the interview. Do they ask penetrating questions about the direction of the company? Or do they want answers to questions about vacation? Or maybe they have no questions at all? The questions candidates ask will indicate their interest and whether they done any homework about the company.
(6) Seek another opinion. As we’re often biased, it is important to get different perspectives on candidates by asking a number of potential colleagues to meet with them. After all, the person you hire is going to interact with many people in your company, so they all have an interest in ensuring the person is a someone they can work with.
Source: The New York Times
Compared to employees at either end of a firm’s management spectrum, the middle managers have a relatively complicated relationship with power. They are expected to play very different roles when interacting with different groups, frequently alternating between high and low power interaction styles. This imposes a psychological burden because humans are inefficient when it comes to task switching: It is psychologically challenging to disengage from a task that requires one mindset and engage in another task that requires a very different mindset. There are however some steps that could be taken to reduce such a burden on middle managers, namely simplifying the reporting structure to reduce unnecessary upward and downward interactions, not micromanaging the middle managers, and putting in place a more egalitarian organizational structure.
Source: Havard Business Review
The quest to building strategic skills can be challenging without understanding the process of deriving strategy.
It is difficult to think strategically without the time to reflect on the issues and to ponder options. Once you have time set aside to think about strategy, get a solid understanding of the industry-wide trends and business drivers. Begin exploring and synthesizing the internal trends in day-to-day work, paying attention to the issues and obstacles raised repeatedly in the firm. Seek out and connect with industry peers to learn about their observations of the marketplace, sharing your findings across your network.
By becoming more curious, and looking at information from different perspectives, you will begin to see different possibilities, approaches, and potential outcomes that give rise to strategic options.
Pull together the options through a structure that helps stakeholders understand the core message. Walk the audience through the entire process of identifying issues, developing what is often counter-intuitive insights, and then clearly framing the strategic choices for deliberation.
Source: Havard Business Review