Power, Politics and Organizational
|Dave Buchanan and Richard Badham
Alistair Schofield, Managing Director, Extensor Limited
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Power, Politics and Organizational Change is a must for anyone interested
in the politics of change. It is a seminal work on the subject that pulls together
and summarises a plethora of information and summarises the work of many other
writers and commentators in non-judgmental style.
Whereas many other books on the subject of politics
of organisational change focus on external agents and consultants, Buchanan and
Badham take an alternative approach by focusing on the internal change agent,
or “change entrepreneur” as
they prefer to call them, and combines an analytical and theoretical framework
with empirical evidence and practical guidance.
The philosophy of the book reflects four basic beliefs:
reality of politics. The first is that political behaviour plays a more
significant role in organisational like than many either recognise or are happy
to admit. We see self-interest, deceit, subterfuge and cunning, as well as the
pursuit of moral ideals and high aspirations. Organisational behaviour cannot
therefore be understood without a knowledge of the role of political behaviour.
repression of politics. The second is that most management literature
does not adequately acknowledge the shaping role of political behaviour in organisational
change. Denying or overlooking it is a serious omission, as political behaviour
unquestionably exists – understanding it is therefore important.
two faces of politics. The third is that not all ‘tricks’ are ‘dirty
tricks’, that political behaviour can act for the good as well as for the
bad. The book provides several scenarios to explain this and to challenge the
reader to sit in judgement upon whether different scenarios justify political
the challenges. The fourth is that management development should help
managers in general, and change agents in particular, to deal with the realities
of organisational life. Denying politics exists is unrealistic, acceptance without
engagement is naïve and recognition without advice is unhelpful.
I particularly like the practical no-nonsense approach
the book takes to politics. The popular notion that ‘power corrupts’ is
balanced against the observation that power also helps in the pursuit and achievement
of valuable social and organisational objectives. If your objective is to achieve
results, then it may be more ethical and professional to deal effectively with
the political dimension than simply to observe the political realities from some
remote moral high ground.
The book is not the easiest of reads as it is written in a highly academic style.
But I believe it more than meets its objectives and provides a comprehensive
overview for anyone interested in the subject.
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