"Unitics" Over Politics: Mastering the Art of Cutting through Politics to Achieve Optimal Performance By George Pitagorsky, PMP
Does politics get in the way of optimal performance?
Politics is a reality. Chances are it won't disappear anytime soon. At best, it stimulates dialogue and promotes a synthesis of ideas into practical action. At worst, it leads to dysfunction. It promotes divisiveness. It results in poor performance because ideas are judged based on belief and rhetoric rather than fact and logic, because people fail to seek creative solutions and because compromises are reached that blend the worst of both sides and leave out the best. Politics are about polarities – each party is dancing around his pole and viewing the other pole as being less than or bad.
Focus: Politics in Organizations and Projects
Politics in organizations and projects are disruptive and dysfunctional.
In organizations and, particularly, in projects we have the luxury of relatively clear objectives, fairly well defined authority and accountability, and performance measurement. That, of course, is if the organization is relatively healthy. To the extent that these are missing, we have a higher probability of the kind of politics that keep us from achieving optimal performance.
Optimal performance is sustainably achieving multiple, often competing objectives in an ever changing environment, balancing resources and the demands on their time and effort. If optimal performance is your goal then make the effort to eliminate politics.
Causes and Effects
Politics arises in projects because the stakeholders carry organizational issues into them. Organizational politics are caused by desire for control, power, security, or advancement; by personal belief systems that value individual or small group objectives over the health and welfare of the larger group; and by either-or thinking (“this is right, that isn’t”) as opposed to this-and-that thinking which recognizes that there are often many right answers. Politics promotes a win-lose conflict approach and makes for unhealthy relationships and low morale.
Politics is felt as arguments, unnecessary conflicts and poor decisions. For example, one person or group wants to have a particular design not because it is objectively better but because it promotes a favored vendor or gives more power to them or their group. Politicians influence decision makers using deception, emotionality and rhetoric. They attempt to disparage their competition and alternative ideas. They resist seeking hybrid solutions that blend the best of many alternatives. They are divisive, not collaborative.
What we need is unitics. I have coined this term to get across the idea that we can work from a base of unity rather than one of multiple polarities. Unitics promotes interaction to synthesize outcomes that can be implemented to meet goals and objectives , whether they be governmental or business focused.
Unitics seeks to get even the most diehard adherents of their pole, even fundamentalist believers, to find that there is a common thread amongst us. What are our mutual goals, objectives and values? Do they override our differences? These are the questions that are often over looked. Answer them and, particularly in projects, much of the unnecessary conflict will be replaced by collaborative decision making and action, and win-win results.
The principles of unitics are simple - do no harm, help if you can, seek to find common cause with others, use conflict to further understanding, be willing (within reason) to subordinate political or individual goals to the common good.
Unitics seeks unity. Politics seeks win-lose outcomes, or at best, compromise. Politics is about conflict. Unitics is about resolution, healthy relationships and optimal performance.
Is unitics only for lunatics, dreamers and saints? I think not. The time has come for us all to become “uniticians” instead of polititcians.
How do we do that? Ask questions, listen - seek to understand. Seek to be understood. Be open to the creative solutions that arise out of dialogue. Rely on facts, objective criteria and logic as opposed to emotions distorted by rhetoric. Use organizational and project goals and objectives rather than individual interests as the basis for decisions.
When politics do arise, patiently continue to focus attention on project and organizational objectives and shine the light of rationality on self-serving politicians and angry, divisive ideologues. They do not do well in the light.
George authored The Zen Approach to Project Management and Project Management Basics™ and directed development of Unified Project Management™ Methodology (UPMM™) and of a global training provider’s project management curriculum and PM competency model. He has been published on project management, process improvement, and personal development subjects. George teaches applied meditation and is on the Board of the NY Insight Meditation Center.