‘There exists a romanticism about personal and life fullfillment that comes in the shape of our work.’
(To romanticise is to think about or describe something as being better or more attractive or interesting than it really is.)
I once heard, or maybe I read it, I suspect I learnt it; in reality it was all three. ‘Politics is caused by the pursuit of a scarce resource.’
What is phenomenal is that everyone’s scarce resource is different and it can be perverted in many ways. I know Bolman and Deal’s (B&D’s) ‘Framing Organisations’ identifies four key perspectives as structural, political, symbolic and humanistic. Alain De Botton’s also tried to tackle some aspects of this in his book ‘The pleasure and sorrows of work’. Although I read this book cover to cover, and found it quite interesting, I found it particularly lacking that he did not tackle the premise of work that Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) professionals deal with on a daily basis.
What follows is a bit of an attempt at putting into context the follies of romanticising work, in particular in that rarified and silly space that is ICT Management. A space that on a daily basis can feel more like a ‘Game of Thrones’ than the corporate values espoused on the wall, that conceptually we want the workers to follow, yet the leaders can leave at the door.
B&D’s four frames are a great starting point, the challenge is the inverse and shades of each of these frames that results in a multitude of perspectives. The four frames do provide a great way to start a conversation and build out the four perspectives:
- Structural - In this arena the interpretation can relate to the pursuit of power through structure, therefore the scarce resource is postional and structural power. Taking this perspective and understanding this may when recognised enable a person to understand a political framers needs, and therefore enable a person to sell or convince an individual that their next promotion could come form backing your current endeavours.
The inverse of this particular perspective could be that someone at the top of the tree, may feel threatened or challenged if they were to be involved in a catastrophic failure, or worse be challenged by others success that could in truth diminish or remove them from the position of structural power.
- Political - This perspective can be particularly interesting and affected by multiple considerations in the micro and macro environments that organisations exist within. With a focus on building power bases, negotiating conflict over scarce resources and or creating compromises.
In todays working environment the concept of ‘being political’ can be construed as a constraint of character, yet every single person in all situations will exist within some kind of political eco-system. Second to this, without really thinking about it ‘Poltics’ can become a generalisation or sweeping statement for all perspectives on the scarce resource.Finally you could get into the concept of Black and or White politics, dare I even express a view on the blurring of the two, to say grey. The simplest interpretation of this is:
- Black - Politics in the pursuit of self.
- White - Politics in the pursuit of the whole.
- Grey - Mercurial politics in pursuit of the outcome.
Halfway through and B&D has gone from 2 to 6:
- Symbolic - Some would argue that all of these perspectives are taken from the perspective of self, others like me, would not argue with that statement (funnily enough as I just wrote it) that they are. The interesting perspective of symbolism of the self would relate to a or construct of perception by others. The corner desk in an open space office, an ea, the Title of General Manager and more. The idea of people seeing and recognising you for who you are therefore the power.
Again and inverse of this is a nuance of symbolism which could be the aspiration of leadership and role modelling. To be a strong leader of others, to hold and respect it, as the figure head who has the teams back and brings their influence and political power to the whole. The ‘Leader as a servant’ and other leadership aspirations can also be construed as an symbolic approach. To be seen to be an upright and respected individual.
- Humanistic - Finally there is the humanist, or is that the socialist frame. This particular approach focus on empowerment of individuals, one where the view of success is based upon the success of the team with a dedication and commitment to the concept of ‘Developing’ the team, and growing the whole. Interestingly something that is not tenable in an overly ‘political’ and highly conflict oriented environment.
So what does all of this mean?The consideration for the humanistic perspective within IT is particularly interesting with numerous case studies in the current market that reflect this particular approach returning high dividends, and driving many aspirations, models such as Lean and Agile movements.
My 31 days for 2018 has come to a close, I’ve finished some stories through to the end. Others such as this leading attempt at some form of philosophical line of thinking have stopped mid-way and that is ok. The objective of the 31 days is to come up with the ideas, and form a writing habit, to prove you can do it; an I am glad I can. This is my second year, and I will be back.
Http://Storyaday.org Prompt: Was the idea of writing about the endeavours of someone who has just completed a month long writing challenge producing something everyday. It felt a little uneasy for myself, so I thought I’d have a crack at a philosophical/opinion piece that’s been floating through my head.