Is Your Organization Infested with Office Politics? You Can Still Choose the Right Software

  • Written By: David Clark
  • Published On: July 18 2012

We wrote previously on the jerk effect and how it can sabotage your software selection project.

But that's not the only thing that can turn your selection project into a sinkhole (in fact | the list of things that can | is quite long).

Office politics can wreck IT projects too.

You'll know this if you've ever had to work in a highly politicized workplace. According to Lawrence B. MacGregor Serven's book The End of Office Politics as Usual (excerpted here, Amazon link here), internal politics can

• undermine trust
• stifle innovation
• drive turnover
• distort communications
• corrode pride in work
• lead to bad decision making [emphasis mine]

There are two very different schools of thought when it comes to pushing past the problem of office politics:

1. Bone up on The Art of War and The Prince. And then annihilate all your enemies. The ROI of this approach is famously uncertain.
2. Achieve consensus.

I'll explain what you need to do to achieve this consensus.

First, though, a caveat: jackasses will always be jackasses. And the further up the chain they are, the worse it is for you. In the worst case, when it's your CEO who's jackass-in-chief, the best you can hope for is a well documented software selection process. Get it in writing.

6 Steps to Surviving the Internal Politics of Software Selection

Paradoxically, the key to surviving office politics is to give the trouble-makers a voice. This is particularly important in the case of software selection, where stakeholder buy-in is crucial.

Now imagine you've got all your stakeholders, with all their backstabby opinions, in a room.

Here's what you need to do in order to make a software selection decision that will benefit your organization as a whole:

1. Focus the attention of people on results as opposed to position. That said, document and display the positions of all parties. This allows them to save face.

2. Put contributions in context—but not too high, and not too low. In other words, no "this changes everything," and no "this is insignificant." Context is important for people to see: it provides people with the ability to see how their voices fit into the overall picture. This in turn reduces defensiveness.

3. Provide information structures that allow a display of the overall picture. This gives parties the information they need to come around to "Aha! What I was saying doesn't really matter."

4. Provide ready-made options that people can choose: if you ask open-ended "What should we do?" questions instead, you get answers that are hard to integrate, especially in a multidisciplinary crowd.

5. Create rational decision criteria. This will help desaturate the emotional content of the project.

6. Most importantly, base decisions on the present, as opposed to focusing on the baggage of the past.

When it comes to software selection, TEC Advisor is an online environment for accumulating and displaying information so people can see it in "new time"—AKA the present. Try it.

You control the conversation. And ultimately, you control the decision.
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