Outsourcing your company's data-center management can be cost-effective, but make sure you first understand the options, <B>The Advisory Council</B> says. Also, compare J2EE and .Net for building distributed, service-oriented applications, and learn how to become a player in organizational politics.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

April 14, 2004

4 Min Read

Question C: What strategies are most successful in a "political" organization?

Our advice: Organizations are designed to achieve certain goals, for example, to provide a particular product or service to the market for a profit. Decision making within organizations is supposedly rational: All ideas are to be heard and then those that are most likely to contribute to the achievement of the organization's goals--as measured by reasonable criteria--are adopted. But since there's no automatic procedure to follow in making important decisions, we must use other methods for reaching agreement on what to do. That involves personalities and power, where some people will have more influence than others, whether justifiably or not. And that is where so-called "organizational politics" comes in.

In nearly every business of any size, organizational politics is the norm and not the exception. But there's no reason why a contributing employee shouldn't advance in such an organization. There are several strategies to follow:

Rule 1: Determine who has the power that will affect decisions made about you and your unit. Obviously, that will include your manager or others above you in the chain of command. But it also may be a colleague on the same level who has control over something you require--resources or personnel--or who may have influence with those higher up. Once you determine who actually influences decisions, you need to figure out how to influence them. What makes those people tick? What do they care about most? And what skills and resources do you have that they need? Those constitute your power. Make those people realize what you can contribute to help them achieve their own goals. It may be possible to trade something over which you have control for something they have.

Rule 2: State your case when decisions are to be made. Honesty will often result in differences of opinion in the workplace, and there's nothing wrong with that. To always agree with whatever others say makes you look foolish. What value do you add if all you do is agree with everyone else? Such a person has no power, because others will have already presented his or her view. Having a different point of view, however, will not only attract attention but also will show independence of thought. Thus when you do agree with someone else, it will mean something.

But always keep in mind the distinction between offering a point of view before a decision is made, and then acting on a decision that has been agreed to. Make sure everyone can see that you're willing to abide by the group decision, even if it wasn't your own. Disagreement can advance your career, as long as it's done objectively and with no personal references. Disagree with proposals and ideas, not with the people who offer them.

Rule 3: In a politicized organization the membership in informal groups often changes quickly, so stay on good terms with members of each group. That makes it easier to disagree when necessary, because you have ensured that those on the other side understand that there's nothing personal about your opposition. What's even more important is that it also makes it psychologically easier for them to agree with you. After all, they like you.

-- Brooks Colburn

Beth Cohen, TAC Thought Leader, has more than 20 years of experience building strong IT delivery organizations from user and vendor perspectives. Having worked as a technologist for BBN, the company that literally invented the Internet, she not only knows where technology is today but where it's heading in the future.

Steve Garone, TAC Expert, has more than 25 years of experience as a professional in the IT industry in software and hardware systems, as well as the semiconductor industry. His recent experience includes his current role as managing partner of The AlignIT Group, chief technical strategist for Sun Microsystems' Software Marketing organization, and program VP at IDC. Steve brings his strong analytical skills to his extensive coverage of software infrastructure, Web services, utility computing, business-process management, software development, operating environments, and hardware platforms.

Brooks Colburn, TAC Thought Leader, has more than 20 years' experience in negotiation and corporate communication at billion-dollar companies. He created training programs in negotiation strategy and techniques for the world's largest information-technology services business, as well as for medium and smaller companies, and has taught them across the United States, Europe, Japan, and China.

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