Power and politics in organizations

This summer I'm taking one course at Wash U: OB 523 Power and Politics in Organizations.

Course Overview: This course focuses on the factors necessary for an individual to have an impact on and within an organization. ‘Informal leadership’ is a critical determinant of one’s ability to initiate positive change, to secure the cooperation of others who are below, above and lateral in the organizational hierarchy, and to generate career success.  Many talented people miss out on opportunities for impact and achievement because they lack sensitivity and skill in this areas.  The course is designed to help you develop a more sophisticated understanding of power and influence and to learn how you can apply this knowledge ethically, and guided by a set of principles.

The farther I get into this MBA degree, the more I appreciate the courses on "softer" topics. The "hard" topics—more analytical things like data analysis, operations, and so on—are still appealing, but they seem (to me) easier to pick up outside of class because they have clearer rules and logic. I can work those out if I invest the attention.

This other type of class—leading change, negotiation, and now power and politics—is a bit harder to pick up. On one hand, some of the topics seem like things you might pick up with experience at work; on the other hand, wouldn't it be nice to not have to wait to get that experience, which may never come anyway? These courses focus on reading and discussion and explanation and persuasion. It's not hard (as in logic) but it is hard (as in effort to understand).

This course seemed interesting because it covers influence and informal authority. I'm not good at either, really—except when I am. Why does it work for me sometimes? Why does it not work for me most of the time? I'm not approaching influence or power or anything like that intentionally. When it happens, it happens. But hey—here at Middle Age, why not go out and get after it?

I'll grab a list of the course reading soon so you can have your own weaker version of the class. Here's the course outline:

  • SECTION 1: POWER: THE CAPACITY TO INFLUENCE OTHERS
    • Topic 1.1 : When is Power Used & Why?
    • Topic 1.2: Allies & Resources as a Source of Power
    • Topic 2.1: Networks as a Route to Create Allies & Access Resources = Networks as a Route to Power
    • Topic 2.2: Performance & Reputation
    • Topic 4.1: Personal Characteristics
    • Topic 4.2: Testing the Limits of Formal Authority
  • SECTION 2: LEADING WITH INFORMAL INFLUENCE
    • Topic 5.1: Influence Tactics I
    • Topic 5.2: Influence Tactics & Style
    • Topic 6.1: Influence Style
    • Topic 7.1: Developing Influence Skills I
    • Topic 7.2: Developing Influence Skills II
    • Topic 8.1: Developing Influence Skills III
    • Topic 8.2: Intentional Influence – Plan & Review
  • SECTION 3: NAVIGATING POLITICS
    • Topic 9.1: Success Syndrome I
    • Topic 9.2: Success Syndrome II – Good Start
    • Topic 10.1: Success Syndrome III: Stretch Projects
    • Topic 10.2: Managing Relationships with Bosses and Authority Figures
    • Topic 11.1: Managing Relationships with Mentors and Advisors
    • Topic 11.2: ‘Selling’ Issues to Initiate Change
  • SECTION 4: PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
    • Topic 13.1: Influence in Action: Perspectives and Stories
    • Topic 13.2: Politics of Organization Change
    • Topic 14.1: Generating Impact through Informal Leadership
    • Topic 14.2: Generating Impact through Informal Leadership (continued)

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