The Role of Organizational Politics in Strategy DevelopmentIn January, Knowledge@Wharton published an article describing assistant professor Sarah Kaplan's latest work on "framing contests," a subject she has been researching for several years.
A framing contest is a process in which groups of employees champion alternate scenarios for how the organization's market environment and opportunities will unfold in the future. Each group engages in activities aimed at mobilizing others to adopt their particular point of view.
There are a number of lessons suggested by Kaplan's work, two of which are of particular interest to me because they fit with ideas that I've found fruitful in my own experience.
First, a group of employees with a point of view concerning the strategic direction they consider most promising, can't simply depend on the logic of their position, or on the clarity of the evidence they're using to arrive at their position, to have their point of view prevail. Instead, they will need to use political skill to get others to see things as they do, and to mobilize support for what they are proposing.
Second, the fetish some have for rapid decision-making, especially in a time of crisis, is a problem in itself. If it is not possible for contending points of view to be brought into alignment, the best course of action may well be deferring a decision until further reflection and/or evidence leads toward consensus sufficient to enable the organization to motivate engaged employee effort to achieve whatever strategic goals have won the framing contest. (In a similar vein, see this earlier post on negative capability.)