When we manage risk, we usually focus on those risks most closely associated with the tasks at hand — content risks. But there are other risks, to which we pay less attention. Many of these are outside our awareness. Here's Part II of an exploration of these non-content risks, emphasizing those that relate to organizational politics.
In Part I of this exploration of risks not directly related to task content, we focused on those risks that are associated with perceptions. Here are three additional risk classes that relate more closely to organizational politics.
- Errors internal, organizational, and contextual
- Internal errors are those that happen within the task, including, for example, premature disclosure of information, misstatements, and faulty estimates. External errors are those that happen within the hosting organization, such as server crashes, or terminations of key personnel. Contextual errors involve elements outside the hosting organization, such as vehicle collisions, fires, floods, or war.
- Relying on organizational processes for protection from all errors is risky. Understand the limits of the protections the organization provides. To the extent possible, provide your own coverage for remaining gaps.
- Resource protection
- Although we usually associate securing resources with task initiation, maintaining access to resources is always important. And we're often surprised when we lose access to resources, even though most tasks experience resource interruptions at some point in their lives.
- Diligence and a strong personal network are vital in maintaining situational awareness with respect to resource predation. Create plans not only for adapting when resources are withdrawn, but also for defending the resources and commitments you already have.
- Bureaucratic inertia
- Organizations tend to continue doing whatever they've been doing, which in many cases, isn't much. One-of-a-kind or first-of-a-kind tasks are therefore likely to encounter difficulties, because of the inherent contrast between them and other work.
- These difficulties are more Diligence and a strong personal
network are vital in maintaining
situational awareness with respect
to resource predationpronounced when the initiative originates somewhere other than the top of the organization. Advocates of such efforts can be effective when they have warm personal relationships with those who serve in gating functions that can impede progress.
- Political sabotage
- Political sabotage includes any effort to disrupt, delay, or terminate the task in order to free its resources for other efforts, or to besmirch the careers of the task's advocates. Tactics of political saboteurs can include spreading disinformation, reassigning key personnel, and manipulating resource streams.
- When political sabotage occurs, it's rarely a surprise. Plan for it. Include in statements of the task vision refutations of arguments saboteurs are likely to make someday. These arguments are far more effective when offered in advance of the sabotage attempts than they are when offered as defense after the fact.
Most important, recognize that the political efforts required to maintain the health and vitality of tasks or projects do take time and resources. Include in budgets and schedules enough time and coverage for those who must execute the political maneuvers that keep the task on track. Political success isn't free. First in this series Top Next Issue
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
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More articles on Project Management:
- Films Not About Project Teams: I
- Here's part one of a list of films and videos about project teams that weren't necessarily meant to
be about project teams. Most are available to borrow from the public library, and all are great fun.
- Emergency Problem Solving
- In emergencies, group problem solving is unusually challenging, especially if lives, careers, or companies
depend on finding a solution immediately. Here are some tips for members of teams that are solving problems
- Nepotism, Patronage, Vendettas, and Workplace Espionage
- Normally, you terminate or reassign team members who actually inhibit progress. Here are some
helpful insights and tactics to use when termination or reassignment is impossible.
- Beyond Our Control
- When bad things happen, despite our plans and our best efforts, we sometimes feel responsible. We failed.
We could have done more. But is that really true? Aren't some things beyond our control?
- Scope Creep and Confirmation Bias
- As we've seen, some cognitive biases can contribute to the incidence of scope creep in projects and
other efforts. Confirmation bias, which causes us to prefer evidence that bolsters our preconceptions,
is one of these.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 8: Multi-Expert Consensus
- Some working groups consist of experts from many fields. When they must reach a decision by consensus, members have several options. Defining those options in advance can help the group reach a decision with all its relationships intact. Available here and by RSS on July 8.
- And on July 15: Disjoint Concept Vocabularies
- In disputes or in problem solving sessions, when we can't seem to come to agreement, we often attribute the difficulty to miscommunication, histories of disagreements, hidden agendas, or "personality clashes." Sometimes the cause is much simpler. Sometimes the concept vocabularies of the parties don't overlap. Available here and by RSS on July 15.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
- Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?
Decision-makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision-makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.