16.1. The day I became political
My first major lesson about organizational politics came in 1997 from Chris Jones, who at the time was group program manager for Internet Explorer. The group had gone through a chaotic couple of months, with several reorganizations and direction changes, and things still hadn't settled down. There was one particularly important role on the team—responsibility for a feature called channels (part of the ill-fated "push technology" craze during the browser wars)--that had never gone well. This role was so critical to our plans, and so poorly managed, that the entire team was negatively impacted by it. Many of my peers and I were upset, but we didn't know what to do about it. Feeling powerless, we mostly blamed the politics of our management team. To make matters worse, at the time, I had the most cynical view of organizational politics. It was something like this:
Politics (n): The things evil, weak, self-serving people do.
I didn't know exactly what those things were, or how they were done, but I was sure the evil and weak self-serving people in the team (whoever they were) were doing it. I couldn't precisely identify them because my assessment of people, at the time, had two settings: smart and moron. I was ignorant and arrogant (interesting how often they come together). But my saving grace from these failings was that I had the highest opinion of Chris, and the good fortune to have an office next to his.(1) One day, frustrated and upset by the ...