When a project's detractors have been unable to prevent the organization from committing to the undertaking, they sometimes feel compelled to prove their own objections valid by ensuring the project's failure. Unfortunately, there is much they can do. Here's Part II of our catalog, emphasizing tactics that cause chaos.
- Imposed outsourcing
- Although outsourcing advocates often claim cost advantages, results depend strongly on what is actually outsourced. If the outsourced work cannot be cleanly partitioned from other tasks, and if it demands close collaboration with those other tasks, outsourcing it could actually degrade project performance. By advocating for aggressive outsourcing policy affecting the target project, detractors can effectively hinder progress.
- Reorganization, relocation, and system upgrades
- Reorganizing, relocating, or imposing system upgrades on the segments of the enterprise that most directly provide project resources does introduce chaos. But for special harm, detractors can time these changes for the months immediately preceding major milestones.
- Staffing disruption
- Raiding the project and its task teams for staff for other projects can slow development in two ways. First, it deprives the project of needed capability. Second, the project will likely have to be replanned to account for the lower level of availability of the raided staff. Maximum disruption occurs when the staff reallocation takes place when work is already underway.
- Requirements volatility
- Changing requirements mid-project is another powerful approach. For detractors, customer-oriented requirements are difficult to change, unless the detractor is also a customer. For detractors who aren't customers, internal development procedures and regulatory compliance procedures offer rich possibilities. Imposing changes in these procedures can degrade project performance, if a way can be found to avoid affecting other more favored projects.
- Organizational policy changes
- Changes in organizational policies other than those affecting development procedures can also be disruptive. For example, if a detractor's subordinate is assigned to the project and has been telecommuting two days per week, the detractor can require that the subordinate telecommute at most one day per week. For someone with a long commute, such a restriction can be disruptive.
- Scope creep
- Combining the Combining the target project
with another project "to
achieve savings by reducing
duplication" can degrade
project performancetarget project with another project "to achieve savings by reducing duplication" can degrade project performance, especially if the target is combined with a troubled project.
- Reviews and investigations
- If the tactics above work as intended, and project performance falters, the missed deadlines and budget overruns can provide detractors with justifications for demanding a review of the project. The review in itself becomes another hindrance for the project, because it's a further burden on project leadership, and because it can lead to yet more turmoil if its recommendations include reorganization or changes in leadership. Threats of review can also make recruitment and retention of project staff more difficult.
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- Unwanted Hugs from Strangers
- Some of us have roles at work that expose us to unwanted hugs from people we don't know. After a while,
this experience can be far worse than merely annoying. How can we deal with unwanted hugs from strangers?
- Before You Blow the Whistle: II
- When organizations become aware of negligence, miscalculations, failures, wrongdoing, or legal infractions,
they often try to conceal the bad news. People who disagree with the concealment activity sometimes
decide to reveal what the organization is trying to hide. Here's Part II of our catalog of methods used
to suppress the truth.
- Bottlenecks: II
- When some people take on so much work that they become "bottlenecks," they expose the organization
to risks. Managing those risks is a first step to ending the bottlenecking pattern.
- The Perils of Limited Agreement
- When a group member agrees to a proposal, even with conditions, the group can move forward. Such agreement
is constructive, but there are risks. What are those risks and what can we do about them?
- Influence and Belief Perseverance
- Belief perseverance is the pattern that causes us to cling more tightly to our beliefs when contradictory
information arrives. Those who understand belief perseverance can use it to manipulate others.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 13: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: I
- To take the risks that learning and practicing new ways require, we all need a sense that trial-and-error approaches are safe. Organizations seeking to improve processes would do well to begin by assessing their level of psychological safety. Available here and by RSS on December 13.
- And on December 20: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: II
- When we begin using new tools or processes, we make mistakes. Practice is the cure, but practice can be scary if the grace period for early mistakes is too short. For teams adopting new methods, psychological safety is a fundamental component of success. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
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Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.