Tag Archives: PMBA

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:

    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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)

Unnecessary code, finance class edition

Ever since classes went fully online in the spring semester, I've had a horrible time concentrating during lectures. There's the usual self-caused distractions—the phone, the browser, literally any other room of the house besides the one with the lecture playing—but even when I'm there, trying to focus like a Good Boy, it's really hard to lock in and take something from the class. Since the classes are three hours long, only twice a week, it's a real grind trying to force focus. Don't look to me for advice on how to do it.

Except today—I tried something accidentally. In the finance class we were doing some calculations on bond values, and I went to Excel like I normally would for calculations. And we occasionally needed to shift the term length on the bonds, and calculate the annual value like we would on a timeline, and Excel was just feeling a little too stiff—changing the number of rows or columns or whatever on the fly, manually. And I was focusing that great anyway, so I popped open Eclipse and started trying to create the calculations in Python instead.


I never really got the thing to do much yet (finance_sandbox.py) but there was a different kind of focus that set it once I started doing it. Setting up classes and thinking about what attributes of the bonds I had to capture from the lecture, trying to quickly think of abstractions so that I could calculate problems with different features from the lecture—having to create and re-create the most basic aspects of the things we were learning about turned out to be very helpful.