Chapter 89. Effectively Navigating Organizational Politics

Joshua Zimmerman

Where there are people, there are politics. Despite the negative views that many engineers have of office politics, they play an important role in our organizations. Put simply, politics is the way humans make collective decisions. Pain from organizational politics is a result of broken processes. The ever-increasing complexity of building and running software in the cloud makes understanding and navigating these processes an essential skill for shaping our socio-technical systems.

Before engaging in organizational politics, you need to identify the political structures in your organization. When you see that a decision has been made, ask yourself the following questions: Who was (or was not) involved in making the decision? Who does this decision impact? What did that process look like? Are the decision makers perceived as having the authority to make this decision? Who is accountable for the impact of this decision? The patterns that emerge from the answers to these questions provide the beginnings of a map of political structures. You’ll even find patterns across organizations. For example, flatter organizational structures often produce more complex political structures as authority is obscured by the lack of structural definition, while members ...

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