Editor's Note

The Project Manager – March 2013

Simon Capstick-Dale
Simon Capstick-Dale
It’s funny how, when I mention the ‘P’ word, the first thing you probably think of is something quite vulgar and not really appropriate to the discourse of project management. Well, not necessarily. What I really refer to is politics, of course – the topic of our March issue’s leading story. The truth is that just about everything we do – whether in the home, in the workplace or while alone looking in our bathroom mirror – is dictated by politics in some way or another.
Loosely defined as ‘the activities associated with the governance of a country’, we need only replace the word ‘country’ with ‘organisation’ and we’ve arrived at a fairly adequate definition in terms of our purposes and the discipline of project management.
As a science, politics studies the acquisition and application of power and is the practice of influencing people on a civic or individual level. At the crux of modern political discourse is the relationship between people and politics, which is very relevant to a project management discussion.
So why do project politics really matter, and why is it even worth knowing about it?
Project politics is informed by the culture of an organisation, which describes the ways things are done and how power is exercised, which is mainly determined by people occupying the most senior roles within any given organisation.
Having special knowledge about how things work, allows us to be more efficient change agents through our projects. In other words, emotional intelligence and the know-how to get things done in a complex modern organisation is the most important aspect of leading a change process, and yet it is not even on the curriculum of most project management training courses.
An firm grasp of politics teaches us that what works in terms of getting things done in one organisation may not work similarly in another.
Politics is central to understanding exactly what motivates stakeholders, particularly senior managers with power and influence.
Since politics is inevitable for project teams, especially for project managers, we need to learn how we can work with and utilise it to deliver successful change and target benefits on which the justification for our work depends.
Elsewhere in this March edition, we discuss shareholder value: how the right tools, people and principles can allow project managers to effectively manage shareholder risk and guarantee them value. In another story, we discuss the importance of effective project recovery for failing projects to negate the further wasting of time and money.
We also talk to a project manager working on South Africa’s latest pride – the Square Kilometre Array, one of our biggest projects to date, and certainly the most significant ever undertaken in the desert! Bravo.
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