The stated and unstated power in organisations

Over the weekend, an investigative article on power and passion in corporate Australia appeared in the Age. It is well worth a read. One of the most striking elements of the article is the “degrees of separation” of power; so it appears that it is not just who you know, but who you know that knows who, that is important.

Of course, many organisations are cognizant of this power and influence play at board level and CEO level and actively use it to their advantage where they can in the marketplace and beyond.

The trick is to use those very same principles when implementing change within an organization.  Change management is gaining so much momentum, that many organisations now “know” to have a change plan, a subset of which is a communications plan and stakeholder analysis.  Mapping the power goes one step further and allows the organization to quantify the degree of influence and/or that a stakeholder has.  This is sometimes formal, overt power and influence, but often informal influence (therefore more difficult to define and identify).  There are a variety of different tools available. Here’s one example from MindTools, but more important than the specific tool is that the process has been gone through in a systemic and considered manner.

This map provides clarity around who you need to influence, to what extent and in what order in order to maximize your chances of a successful change.  This can also help with determining the specific messaging and approach for each individual.

There will be elements of this mapping that are obvious, but the magic of it comes from when you discover what is not so overt, and not so easy to instinctively glean.

Whilst there is no doubt that a proper power mapping exercise does take time, and is more complicated than a typical stakeholder analysis; the benefits far outweigh the time spent.   The likelihood that the specific, targeted message “resonates” with each influencer is significantly increased when that message has been considered with that person and their power base in mind.

There is many a story of where organisations have had to backtrack because of a key person “not in the loop” who then actively championed against the change rather than for.  It’s additional effort, and it dilutes the overall impact of the change process. Better, if you can, to get it right the first time.  And if nothing else, you know what and who you are dealing with.

Have you ever experienced an informal power structure that has unstuck a change effort? Or conversely, undertaken a mapping process that has highlighted surprising influencers that you had been ignoring?

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