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Do Project Managers Have to Deal with Politics?

Do project managers have to deal with workplace politics? To gain a better perspective on this question, it might be useful to ask the reverse: “Are politicians required to deal with project management?” Perhaps these aspects are simply two sides of the same coin. In a PM Hut article by Bruce McGraw, the power behind the project is revealed, but as McGraw states:

…there can be positive political networks and affiliations which actually help managers and PMs to obtain success in their projects.

Projects are Politics are Projects

By taking the reverse perspective on this quote, by stating that a successful political or legislative activity relies on sound project management, illuminates their interchangeable nature. All projects require a degree of politics–delegation of tasks, judicious use of authority–while all politicians are required to handle some details and timing of workloads and processes.

The Positive Side of Power

As McGraw illustrates in a quote about workplace politics, it all comes down to one word – power. But the negative connotations associated with that word can distract from the real need for judicious use of power in: 1). Establishing integrity, 2). Building Relationships, 3). Dealing with a “Shadow Organization” (they do exist), or in 4). Forming Coalitions (to assist in executing project goals). These are just a few areas of PM that can be enhanced by having knowledge of how power makes the workplace work.

The Real Project is Political?

The idea that projects and politics go hand-in-hand should not be surprising. After all, humans are social animals and are most effective when we work together in teams or as part of an organization. When something in a project goes wrong, it can often be traced to bad politics. Therefore one might, in some instances, view the social power behind the project as the real project, or at least as a primary goal for the PM.  

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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