Handling the four political barriers to strategy execution

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.



What to do when you can’t build a team from scratch

In reality, most leaders do not have the luxury of building up a new team from scratch. Instead they are put in charge of an existing team, which could be the one that created the situation that the leaders needed to fix. When replacing members in the short term is not an option, they should broadly speaking assess, reshape and accelerate team development.

The new manager should quickly size up the dynamics of the team that is inherited, gathering information from preferably one-on-one chats, team meetings, and stakeholders. At the same time, reflect on the business challenges facing the firm, and the kinds of people needed in various roles, and the degree to which they collaborate.

Having that understanding, adjust the composition of the team by moving people to new positions where there is a better fit, redefining their job scope or responsibilities, or replacing them as a last resort. Ensure that everyone’s goals and incentives are aligned by changing the team’s direction if necessary. Also think about how changes can be made to the way the team operates (e.g. creating new sub-teams, frequency of meetings or running meetings differently to focus on strategic or operational issues) to improve team performance. Further, establishing ground rules and processes to sustain desired behaviors or eliminate destructive behaviors, and revisit those periodically especially when there is a change in membership.

Above all, set the team up for early wins. With the initial successes, they will boost everyone’s confidence and reinforce the value of the new operating model, paving the way for ongoing growth.

SourceHavard Business Review


Is ‘holacracy’ up to the latest hype?

In case you’re wondering, ‘holacracy’ refers to a form of self-management that confers decision power on fluid teams that put focus on roles rather than the individuals. Teams become the structure, and within the teams roles are collectively defined and assigned. Teams govern themselves but remain nested within the larger structure. Leadership in roles can vary depending on context. It is believed that such a flat organizational structure will foster flexibility, engagement, and efficiency. In reality, firms intending to utilize this concept to organize themselves shouldn’t go overboard with it. A better way to use this concept is to consider in which parts of the organization would greatly benefit from having elements of self-management where adaptability is paramount; and turning to traditional structures where reliability is vital.

Source: Havard Business Review