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:
- Impasses in Group Decision-Making: II
- When groups can't reach agreement on all aspects of an issue, the tactics of some members can actually
exacerbate disagreement. Here's Part II of an exploration of impasses, emphasizing two of the more toxic
- Problem Displacement and Technical Debt
- The term problem displacement describes situations in which solving one problem creates another.
It sometimes leads to incurring technical debt. How? What can we do about it?
- Reframing Revision Resentment: I
- From time to time, we're required to revise something previously produced — some copy, remarks,
an announcement, code, the Mona Lisa, whatever… When we do, some of us experience frustration,
and view the assignment as an onerous chore. Here are some alternative perspectives that might ease
- Unethical Coordination
- When an internal department or an external vendor is charged with managing information about a large
project, a conflict of interest can develop. That conflict presents opportunities for unethical behavior.
What's the nature of that conflict, and what ethical breaches can occur?
- High Falutin' Goofy Talk: III
- Workplace speech and writing sometimes strays into the land of pretentious but overused business phrases,
which I like to call "high falutin' goofy talk." We use these phrases with perhaps less thought
than they deserve, because they can be trite or can evoke indecorous images. Here's Part III of a collection
of phrases and images to avoid.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming January 29: Higher-Velocity Problem Definition
- Typical approaches to shortening time-to-market for new products usually involve accelerating problem solving. Accelerating problem definition can also help. Available here and by RSS on January 29.
- And on February 5: Unrecognized Bullying: I
- Much workplace bullying goes unrecognized. Three reasons: (a) conventional definitions of bullying exclude much actual bullying; (b) perpetrators cleverly evade detection; and (c) cognitive biases skew our perceptions so we don't see bullying as bullying. Available here and by RSS on February 5.
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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.
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.