Managing sponsors & politics

Articles and posts about navigating the political situations associated with managing technology projects and teams

Politics Are the Job

Posted by on Sep 13, 2010 in Managing sponsors & politics | 0 comments

In the course of consulting for and coaching IT managers, the complaints I hear most often involve politics. “I’d love my job if it weren’t for the politics.” “This would be a great place to work if not for the politics.” “Politics aren’t my job. Why do I spend so much time on them?” These frustrations are usually expressed with an underlying sadness or even anger. The persistent presence and gritty reality of politics come as a surprise and a disappointment to most technical managers. I think this is so because many managers hold the...

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Using sponsors effectively

Posted by on Sep 13, 2010 in Managing sponsors & politics | 0 comments

It has become an article of faith that projects without sponsors will inevitably crash and burn. But unexamined beliefs can lead us astray, and we need to be thoughtful about how we apply any maxim. In the case of project sponsorship, more is required of us than checking a box on a form and holding monthly status meetings. In fact, some projects don’t need a sponsor. Pure infrastructure projects, for example, are unlikely to attract a real business sponsor, any more than a revamp of the office restrooms would. You can call it aligning the business with the underlying plumbing if you...

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Changing the Subject: The Real Power of Managers

Posted by on Sep 13, 2010 in Managing sponsors & politics, Managing teams | 0 comments

If you want to really help your organization, one of the more subtle things you need to learn to do is to effectively change the subject. Over the years that I’ve advised technical managers, young and old, some patterns have become apparent. One is that most seem to go through a series of distinct stages in their understanding of the role of manager. There are different stages for different aspects of the role, but the patterns are relatively consistent. When it comes to beliefs about managers’ roles in information flow, the pattern is interesting and instructive. Stage 1: The...

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Get Political to Get Aligned

Posted by on Sep 9, 2010 in Managing sponsors & politics, News & commentary | 0 comments

One of the perennially favorite issues on year-end surveys is the alignment between business and technology. It’s one of those things we always talk about but rarely succeed at improving. That’s not because we’re bad people with ill intentions, but because it’s very difficult to actually figure out how to fix this persistent problem. Most attempts to improve alignment involve changing project processes and adding interviews, documentation and meetings in an attempt to coerce people to agree. Generally, this seems to translate into the practice of holding a project...

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Customer Satisfaction is the Wrong Goal

Posted by on Sep 9, 2010 in Managing sponsors & politics | 0 comments

Most IT departments I encounter say “customer satisfaction” is among their key goals. Unfortunately, this idea seems to lead too often to poor results. While the sentiments are laudable, the law of unintended consequences seems to interfere. Goals are tricky things. Well-intentioned yet poorly selected goals frequently lead organizations to do exactly the wrong things. For example, think about the Avis car rental people. Their slogan is “We Try Harder.” I imagine them emphasizing the importance of trying harder every day. And being a good company, the staff responds by...

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Soap Bubbles and Customer Relationships

Posted by on Sep 9, 2010 in Managing sponsors & politics, News & commentary | 0 comments

When was the last time a bubble crossed your path?  I’m talking about a real bubble, a soap bubble, and not some metaphorical thing.  Recently, one crossed mine and jogged a long lost memory and the lesson that it taught me.   During high school I worked in downtown Chicago at a newsstand right in front of the public library.  It was just a wooden shack with an immense collection of newspapers and magazines.  The primary distinguishing feature of this newsstand was its location. It was right in front of the main entrance to the commuter train station and at rush hour the sidewalk...

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