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:
- How to Undermine Your Boss
- Ever since I wrote "How to Undermine Your Subordinates," I've received scads of requests for
"How to Undermine Your Boss." Must be a lot of unhappy subordinates out there. Well, this
one's for you.
- Workplace Politics and Integrity
- Some see workplace politics and integrity as inherently opposed. One can participate in politics, or
one can have integrity — not both. This belief is a dangerous delusion.
- Allocating Airtime: I
- The problem of people who dominate meetings is so serious that we've even devised processes intended
to more fairly allocate speaking time. What's happening here?
- 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.
- Exploiting Functional Fixedness: II
- A cognitive bias called functional fixedness causes difficulty in recognizing new uses for
familiar things. It also makes for difficulty in recognizing devious uses of everyday behaviors. Here's
Part II of a catalog of deviousness based on functional fixedness.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming April 1: Incompetence: Traps and Snares
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- And on April 8: Intentionally Misreporting Status: I
- When we report the status of the work we do, we sometimes confront the temptation to embellish the good news or soften the bad news. How can we best deal with these obstacles to reporting status with integrity? Available here and by RSS on April 8.
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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.