Management development programmes should stop shying away from the issue ofcorporate politics, says David ButcherIt is high time that politics took its rightful place as the centrepiece ofmanagement work. Yet the “P” word, as some managers coyly refer toit, is more likely to be seen as a dysfunctional aberration than anindispensable means of getting results.The closest management comes to acknowledging the part politics play inorganisations is worldly-wise recognition of the inevitable. Some profess to beindifferent, but usually there is more than a hint of disapproval when thesubject comes up. Those who preach the value of trust and openness won’t evendiscuss it, clambering on to the moral high ground, leaving everyone else tosully themselves in organisational mire or worse, stir some bubbling cauldronof back-stabbing intrigue and treachery.Few see politics as legitimate activity, let alone official managerialcompetence.This is a strange state of affairs when one considers the sheer range ofcompeting agendas in organisations.These were probably always there, but they have been made all the morelikely by the democratisation of the corporate world through business unitstructures and widespread empowerment processes.Unity is a mythSimple unity of purpose is a complete myth in these circumstances, yet theold mindset of corporate rationality refuses to bow out gracefully. It takesmore than a couple of decades of non-hierarchical organisations to eradicatehierarchical thinking, and it is this that ensures politics continues to have abad name.Management developers would do a rather better job of serving the interestsof managers if they set about clarifying the critical role of politics inorganisations. Too much of management development leaves the official corporateagenda unquestioned rather than deal with messy reality. But helping managersto understand the constructive side of politics would provide them with anew-found scope to deliver.More fundamentally, such a focus would accelerate the process of ushering ina political mindset – inevitable in any case since the old pyramid model oforganisation is now far too simplistic. What is needed is a learning processwhich uses the dysfunctional effects of the rational mindset to impress upon managersjust how much energy they waste on fruitless attempts to force fit competingagendas into grand corporate strategy.Re-drawing managerial roleAdd to this a view of politics as good, not bad or indifferent, and there isthe possibility of a re-drawing of the managerial role. Give them the skills togather power to themselves and use it judiciously, lobby effectively, read theorganisation with real insight, and you have a formula for true competence.If managers see the political process as constructive they will use it welland it will become simply “part of the job”.Politics will surely come of age in organisations, but managers could usesome help in speeding up the process.David Butcher is senior lecturer in management development and directorof general management programmes at Cranfield School of Management Time to grasp political nettleOn 1 Apr 2000 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed.