In the absence of objective analyses, strategy decisions too often are based on the politics of the moment. With development of improved strategy formation tools, political factors become less important in making strategic decisions. In the absence of objectivity, political factors sometimes dictate strategies, and this is unfortunate. Managing political relationships is an integral part of building enthusiasm and esprit de corps in an organization.
A classic study of strategic management in nine large corporations examined the political tactics of successful and unsuccessful strategists. Successful strategists were found to let weakly supported ideas and proposal die through inaction and to establish additional hurdles or tests for strongly supported ideas considered unacceptable but not openly opposed. Successful strategists kept a low political profile on unacceptable proposals and strives to let most negative decisions come from subordinates or group consensus, thereby reserving their personal vetoes for big issues and crucial moments. Successful strategists did a lot of chatting and informal questioning to stay abreast of how things were progressing and to know when to intervene. They led strategy but did not dictate it. They gave few orders, announced a few decisions, depended heavily on informal questioning , a sought to probe and clarify until a consensus emerged.
Successful strategists ensured that all major power bases within an organization were represented in , or had access to , top management. They interjected new faces and new views into considerations of major changes. This is important because new employees and managers generally have more enthusiasm and drive than employees who have been in the firm a long time. New employees do not see the world the same old way ; nor they act as screens against changes. Successful strategists minimized their own political exposure on highly controversial issues and in circumstances in which major opposition from key power centers was likely. In combination, these findings provide a basis for managing political relationships in an organization.
Because strategies must be effective in the marketplace and capable of gaining internal commitment, the following tactics used by politicians for centuries can aid strategists:
- Equifinality- It is often possible to achieve similar results using different means or paths. Strategists should recognize that achieving a successful outcome is more important than imposing the method of achieving it. It may be possible to generate new alternatives that give equal results but with far greater potential for gaining commitment.
- Satisfying- Achieving satisfactory results with an acceptable strategy is far better than failing to achieve optimal results with an unpopular strategy.
- Generalizations -Shifting focus from specific issues to more general ones may increase strategists' options for gaining organizational commitment.
- Focus on Higher Order Issues- By raising an issue to a higher level, many short term interest can be postponed in favor of long term interests. For instance , by focusing on issues of survival , the airline and automotive industries were able to persuade unions to make concessions on wage increases.
- Provide Political Access on Important Issues- Strategy and policy decisions with significant negative consequences for middle managers will motivate intervention behavior from them. If middle managers do not have an opportunity take a position on such decisions in appropriate political forums, they are capable of successfully resisting the decisions after they are made. Providing such political access provides strategists with information that otherwise might not be available and that be useful in managing intervention behavior.
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