Ever wondered whether you work in politics when in reality you don’t? Something I learned early on is that people have their own agendas, always. People also seem to feel the need to say something when they have nothing to say. Some people tend to compete when there is enough room for everyone to grow. And why do we tend to schedule twenty alignment meetings before making a decision?

In these cases, it can be nice to have clear processes and be straight forward. It can be helpful to have authorization and empowerment. Responsibility however, that seems to be something nobody wants to take.

Obviously, I’m being sarcastic here and amongst all the great projects and people we work with daily, things can become somewhat political and that can be frustrating and demotivating.

I’d like to share six tips that have helped me to navigate when my work environment gets political

1. Identify stakeholders and map their relevance

Good stakeholder management can make all the difference. Collect all stakeholders involved in your project and find out: what are their needs? What are their agendas? What is in it for them? Then map them on interest versus influence on the particular work you’re doing. This will help you define whether you need to manage them closely or if it’s sufficient to simply keep them informed. 

2. Allocate clear roles and responsibilities

When starting a project or in a situation where too many opinions are being raised, align on clear roles and responsibilities. This is where the good old RASCI comes in handy. Every stakeholder should know: what am I responsible for? What am I accountable for? How can I support? How can I consult? And how do I inform and stay informed?

3. Align on “in scope & out of scope”

People tend to neglect that not every problem, solution or project can be solved or scaled right away. When people bring different agendas and interests to the table, things can get tricky. Therefore, I’ve found it helpful to define what is in scope of this specific work and what is out of scope and hence potential material for a follow up project. This should be shared with all stakeholders from the get-go.

4. Update regularly

It goes without saying that people tend to be satisfied and calm when they feel like they are up-to-date. Don’t wait with communicating the status or next steps until people ask. Proactively informing and gathering feedback goes a long way.

5. Take notes and minutes

When things get political and various opinions are involved, minutes and notes of previous meetings, conversations and decisions made can be the ace up your sleeve. Plus, it shows that you manage well and have your stuff together.

6. Don’t take everything so serious

Last but not least, remember that people have personal agendas, have bad days or simply just watch out for themselves – don’t take everything personal or too serious. Choose wisely what topic to deal with and what to simply let go. Also, know your own role. Do you need to be involved in everything?

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