Session type:


Presented by:

Peter Wendorff

Software Research Ltd

Session time:

29 Jun 13:30 14:30

Session duration:

60 minutes

About the session

Agile software development emphasises collaboration among stakeholders. Based on the idea that they are ultimately in the same boat, it is assumed that they cooperate to achieve shared goals. This optimistic view downplays that organisations are also places where stakeholders pursue conflicting goals and compete. Political behaviour occurs when stakeholders use their power to achieve their goals at the expense of others. 

Following the examples of political behaviour, we introduce some fundamental concepts of organisational politics, particularly the notions of conflict, power, political behaviour, tactic and strategy. We provide simple definitions of the concepts and explain how they are related to one another.

As power is the key to effective political action, we describe the four most important bases of power in organisations: positions, expert knowledge, resources and personal characteristics. We provide several examples to illustrate the relevance of the bases in software development. There is a confusing variety of book titles that promise to help professionals improve their political skills. We explain the three aspects of political skill that are most relevant in practice. We then look at a number of popular titles and note that they broadly fall into two categories. Based on this distinction, we provide guidance on further reading.

The talk investigates stakeholder power and introduces a basic framework for identifying and analysing political behaviour and offers listeners an overview of organisational politics. It helps them recognise political behaviour when they encounter it in their workplace and respond more effectively.

For those interested in further study, it also provides an overview of some relevant literature and guidance on what to read next.

Themes: Bases of Power, Dimensions of Power, Causes of Conflict, Stages of Conflict, Conflict Resolution, Self-Organisation, Political Skill, Political Tactics

About the speaker(s)