5 Questions to Ask About Your Organization’s Politics

Politics in an organization is about influencing others by using official and unofficial power. Official power comes from management titles while unofficial power comes from peers, juniors and even outsiders. Every day in organizations official and unofficial power is used to (1) frame problems, (2) influence changes and (3) make/guide decisions. This power can affect organizational structures, business processes, technologies, and even innovation. Thus, it becomes imperative that organizations understand this power and how this power can affect organizational cultures. However, despite the strong relationship between politics and culture, most organizations are unaware, unwilling and/or unprepared to address it. The three main reasons politics is not directly addressed is because of:

  1. The inaccurate thinking that politics is always negative
  2. The fallacy that politics only happens at an individual’s personal level
  3. The inability to understand how politics can destroy/enhance capabilities

An organization’s politics is the total complex of relationships between people inside and outside of organizational boundaries. What this means is that people play politics even if they are unaware of it. While these people might have the best of intentions but their experiences/biases may or may not be best for the entire organization. By not keeping this in mind, organizations might not be able to self-assess if the IT vs. Business tension is a myth or reality, if the most optimized and continuously improving processes are present, if the correct technology is being selected for collective efficiency, if the right people are asking the right questions and if questioning the status quo is just a checkmark. In order to understand politics, the following questions need to be asked:

Strategic Perspectives on Politics:

 

Today

Tomorrow

1.Who is incentivized at the executive level to understand politics?Who should be incentivized at the executive level to understand politics?
2.What governance structures are in place to address holistic vs. specific unit/function/team strategic needs?What governance structures should be in place to address holistic vs. specific unit/function/team strategic needs?
3.Where is technology being affected by politics?Where should technology affect politics?
4.When and how often political motivations are revealed?When and how often political motivations are revealed?
5.Why political understanding is critical to achieving strategic objectives?Why should political understanding be critical to achieving strategic objectives?

Tactical Perspectives on Politics:

 

Today

Tomorrow

1.Who is incentivized at the middle management level to understand politics?Who should be incentivized at the middle management level to understand politics?
2.What business units, functional areas, and teams are included to bring forth political implications?What business units, functional areas, and teams should be made aware of political implications?
3.Where technology hinders understanding politics?Where technology might hinder understanding politics?
4.When is the start and end of political motivations?When should be the start and end of political motivations?
5.Why political understanding is critical to achieving tactical objectives?Why political understanding should be critical to achieving tactical objectives?

Operational Perspectives on Politics:

 

Today

Tomorrow

1.Who sees politics as an obstacle?Who might see political understanding as an obstacle?
2.What business processes provide views on the organization’s power plays?What business processes should provide views on the organization’s political boundaries?
3.Where is technology part of your understanding of the organization’s politics?Where should technology be a part of understanding the organization’s politics?
4.When were you informed about the political objectives?When should you have been informed about political objectives?
5.Why political understanding is critical to achieving your daily tasks?Why political understanding should be critical to achieving your daily tasks?

Politics and culture are two sides of the same coin and each lurking in the shadows or showing in broad daylight to change the direction of the organization every day. To address this, (1) be transparent, (2) create an atmosphere of trust, (3) be genuinely helpful across business units, functional areas, and teams.

Politics-Culture

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5 Questions to Ask About Your Business Transformation

Business transformation is the process of transforming (1) how things are made, (2) how things are bought, (3) how things are sold and/or (4) how services are provided. It has been pursued by organizations ever since the first organization came into being and would continue to be pursued in the foreseeable future. It is the way for organizations to know their current state (i.e., know where they are), their future state (i.e., know where they want to be) and their transition (i.e., what steps to take) by considering the people, business processes, services, products and technologies that can help them achieve their objectives. To be clear, business transformation is not merely a “business” only pursuit but rather it is an organizational pursuit that encompasses Information Technology (IT) and digital transformation journeys as well.

While the promise of business transformation is great, it is still something that organizations consistently struggle with. There are multiple factors that can lead to failed business transformation efforts but the number one reason seems to go back to a typical conversation within organizations. In the 21st century, technology for organizations is not just an enabler but paramount to their success. But how many times have you said or heard someone say, “business” wants this and “business” wants that and that “business” does not understand that systems cannot be developed overnight. Ingrained in this sort of thinking is the idea that somehow IT is different from “business”. Somehow there is this “us” vs. “them” mentality.

It is time to change this “us” vs. “them” culture. It is time to think about IT as not something that is outside of “business” but is part of “business”. To have this conversation there has to be a mutual understanding that neither should downplay the importance of the other. This requires an understanding that all technical and non-technical aspects of the organization are there to support the end objectives of business transformation and that collaboration works much better than just mere animosity.

When organizations’ bread and butter business models are shattered in light of the new digital and sharing economy, “business” and technical folks have no one else to blame but themselves. As such it becomes imperative that organizations don’t get lost in complacency and infighting. These organizations should view business transformation as a holistic endeavor by paying enough attention to people, business processes, products, services and technologies that directly and indirectly affect them otherwise business transformation is just a pipe dream. In order for organizations to figure out their own business transformation journey, they need to ask the following questions from internal and external perspectives:

 

Today

Tomorrow

1.Who is helped by business transformation?Who should be helped with business transformation? (E.g., management, employees, customers, shareholder, etc.)
2.What does business transformation teach us?What should business transformation teach us? (E.g., better internal communications, governance, standardization, discipline, branding, etc.)
3.Where does the business transformation start?Where should business transformation start? (E.g., IT, marketing, operations, customers, vendors, partners, etc.)
4.When is business transformation considered?When should the business transformation be considered? (E.g., customer-employee conversations, competitors’ disruption/re-imagination of business models, new innovations, new methods, etc.)
5.Why is business transformation is being done?Why should the business transformation be done? (E.g., optimization, cohesiveness, long-term value, positive societal ripples, etc.)

When you ask the above questions, keep in mind that without effective and unbiased feedback loops most business transformation journeys would be just nearsighted one-time initiatives and not something that would make organizations self-improving entities. Smart organizations have realized this and are taking advantage of not only technological changes but also setting themselves up for the future before they themselves get disrupted.

Business Transformation 5Ws

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5 Questions to Ask About Your Organization’s Culture

Peter Drucker, one of the most influential management consultants in the world, is often attributed to coining the phrase “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Organizations that can harness the power of culture can create environments where everyone can contribute towards the attainment of strategic objectives. However, most organizations are unable to create such environments and hence their pursuit of strategic objectives never fully comes to fruition. The three main reasons for this failure are:

  1. The fallacy that culture is considered something fuzzy thus unquantifiable
  2. The lack of a holistic approach to forming/enhancing positive attributes of the inherent cultures
  3. The half-baked idea that culture equates to only people

An organization’s culture is a way of thinking, behaving and working within the physical, virtual, legal and mental organizational boundaries. What an organization thinks about its place in the world is shown by its vision, mission statement and (un)displayed values that directly influence internal and external stakeholders. How an organization behaves is shown by leadership examples, levels of (un)trustworthiness, encouragement and discouragement of cross-collaboration and camaraderie. How an organization works is shown by its (un)biased business processes, (non)adoption of technological advancements, (un)approved frameworks/methodologies/approaches, employee (non)recognitions, (un)real career ladders, risk averseness, salaries, (non)physical locations, clothing, and subcultures.

Culture is not just one thing but it is a collection/combination of different things/subcultures that can be observed and also measured. Thus, how organizations measure, incentivize and reward from the selection of the right people to optimized processes and efficient use of technology becomes crucial towards achieving organizational objectives. In order to understand and effectively bring cultural change, the following questions need to be asked:

Strategic Perspectives on Culture:

 

Today

Tomorrow

1.

Who is incentivized at the executive level to transform culture?

Who should be incentivized at the executive level to transform culture?
2.What governance structures are in place for strategic cultural transformation?What governance structures should be in place for strategic cultural transformation?
3.Where is technology integrated into transforming culture?Where should technology be integrated into transforming culture?
4.When and how often cultural transformation objectives are communicated?When and how often cultural transformation objectives should be communicated?
5.Why cultural transformation is critical to achieving strategic objectives?

Why transformation should be critical to achieving strategic objectives?

Tactical Perspectives on Culture:

 

Today

Tomorrow

1.

Who is incentivized at the middle management level to be champions of transforming culture?

Who should be incentivized at the middle management level to be champions of transforming culture?
2.What business units, functional areas, and teams are included to bring about transformation?What business units, functional areas, and teams should be included to bring about transformation?
3.Where technology hinders in cultural transformation?Where technology might hinder in cultural transformation?
4.When is the start and end of cultural transformation communicated?When should the start and end of cultural transformation communicate?
5.Why cultural transformation is critical to achieving tactical objectives?

Why cultural transformation should be critical to achieving tactical objectives?

Operational Perspectives on Culture:

 

Today

Tomorrow

1.

Who sees cultural transformation as an obstacle?

Who might see cultural transformation as an obstacle?
2.What business processes provide views on the organization’s culture?What business processes should provide views on the organization’s culture?
3.Where is technology part of your understanding of the organization’s culture?Where should technology be a part of the understanding of the organization’s culture?
4.When were you informed about the cultural transformation objectives?When should you have been informed about the cultural transformation objectives?
5.Why cultural transformation is critical to achieving your daily tasks?

Why transformation should be critical to achieving your daily tasks?

Culture transcends most of our thoughts and how we function within organizations and outside of it. This overarching effect of culture can create biases in terms of what people we hire, what processes we put in place, what technologies we choose to use, who we talk to and what we care to observe. By asking the right questions and putting the right measurements in place, we can have a quantifiable understanding of the baseline cultures and enhance it for the better. In doing so we have to be cognizant of our own biases, biases of others and any prevailing biases that result in cultural stagnation.

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