Figuring out your internal landscape is most important when you join a company (even better if you can do so before hand).
But even if you have been at your company for a while, it never hurts to run through the exercise. Especially if you are in a dynamic market, which if you’re in fast-scale, Reptilian organizations, you will see it.
The video for Cohort Alpha members is here https://community.cohortalpha.com/post/1204367431
The first part is to understand at a high-level. According to an article from Harvard Business Review on “4 Types of Organizational Politics”, the quadrant has two axes: individual vs. organization; formal vs. informal.
Take a second for each one to ask yourself how you would describe it (it’s more of an awareness exercise, I found that the article didn’t give a true drill down into the organization and how to navigate)
Woods: Informal Organizational
What are the cultural norms that are organizational wide? These are unspoken. Often it’s by understanding and observing, but that can take a while.
I have found that the best way is to talk about specific, relatable initiatives and ask, “How did that come about?”
There you might uncover hidden rules around:
- Discussion and disagreement
These are all valuable things to understand because no one will write them down!
High Ground: Formal Organizational
This relates more to the rules and policies. What’s interesting is that often the “Woods” is the “real” way to get things done. But the high ground can still feel like a trap because someone, especially a political enemy, can weaponize those rules and apply them to you, even if he is violating them himself.
There is no fairness in an organization, so approach those as a way to get started but then leverage the woods to get things done.
Some things may truly be hard rules so watch for them: expense policies, for example, are a good one where there’s typically not much to gain to go around them.
Hard Rocks: Formal Individual
This is where someone exercise formal, explicit power.
Most people are aware of it since it comes in the form of titles or visibility. But understanding (as we will talk about later) what they see as their bounds, what are the known limits, matters.
Some organizations, for example, have a single autocratic leader....but the formal organizational rules suggest things are actually meant to be democratic.
See how that could put you literally between a rock and a hard place if you don’t recognize this?
Weeds: Informal Individual
This is how people, perhaps some more politically knowledgeable than others, navigate by coming up with their own norms and relationships. This is where you are most in control, in a way, in that you can partner or ally yourself with those who know it best.
What do you think of this framework?
What can you do to make it actionable?
I like to make things very reductive to help drive action and in each category decide:
- Benefits me - I understand it
- Hurts me - I understand it
- Benefits me - Don’t understand it
- Hurts me - Don’t understand it
What do you want more clarity on? Write below!