It is a rarely spoken truth. All change is political. Power shifts are an inherent part of every change. As I will discuss below, this is as true at the personal level as it is at the organizational and the social levels.
We know this when we think in terms of national change. Certainly it’s true of political races, whether local, statewide, or national. There is not a broad social movement that doesn’t quickly engage—or scare off—politicians. Politics come into play in school board races, in social club elections, and in community-based organizations. They show up in our religious institutions. Parents attempt to coach their children’s athletic teams, or lead their youth groups, in order to have some control over their children’s experience. Those in power run for re-election to retain power. Those out of power run for election to continue the path of a retiring incumbent, to build on but shift the path, or to put things on a completely different path forward.
In our organizations, we have all heard of “office politics.” Every big change messes with them. While it is rarely, if ever, part of the official planning process, these changes result in power shifts which can be of significant magnitude. One place we often do see acknowledgement of the power dynamics of a change is in the leadership of acquired organizations. While it is not unusual for their contributions to be acknowledged, for a significant payment to be made, and for a place to be found in the new organization, it is unusual for them to remain in that new place any longer than necessary to receive the maximum personal benefit; they no longer have the power—the political influence—they had before the acquisition.
But underneath the surface, politics is hard at work during major organizational change. This often starts in the C-suite, where colleagues are vying for power, often at the expense of the change, and even of the organization they are purporting to serve. Following their leaders’ examples, the politics cascades through the organization as rapidly as (or more rapidly than) the change itself.
But how is personal change political? [Read more…]