Power, Politics and Organizational Change: Winning the Turf Game

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 1 March 2000




Coghlan, D. (2000), "Power, Politics and Organizational Change: Winning the Turf Game", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 21 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/lodj.2000.02221bae.002



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Power, Politics and Organizational Change: Winning the Turf Game

Power, Politics and Organizational Change: Winning the Turf Game

David Buchanan and Richard BadhamSageLondon1999272 pp.ISBN 0 7619 6222 0£17.99 (paperback)

Keywords: Organizational politics, Managerial power, Organizational change, Management development

The authors' stated purpose in writing this book stems from four beliefs. First, there is the reality of politics in organisations. Second, there is the repression of politics, through unrealistic denial, naive acceptance without engagement or unhelpful recognition without advice. Third, there are the two faces of politics, what might be called its nice and nasty faces. Fourth, there is the challenge to management development to help managers deal with the realities and complexities of political behaviour in organisations. The book is directed to the practising manager and the internal change agent.

Chapter l - How far are you prepared to go? - explores the broad nature of power and politics in organisations, defining power as what is latent and political behaviour as the action. The authors present a useful framework for the change agent (p. 33) which sets out issues of context, formal and tacit personal warrants, outcomes and accounts, and reputation. The organisation may have a formal warrant of what it wants in the organisational change agenda, while the change agent has a tacit personal warrant for political activity. Accounts take typical political behaviour - provide justification, defeat opposition, deny responsibility for failure and so on. Through all this the change agent has to maintain credibility as an effective driver of change and as an astute political player.

Chapter 2 - The terminology game - reviews the literature on power and politics in organisations. The competing definitions which see power as the property of individuals, as the property of relationship, or of social and organisational structures are contrasted and critiqued. The use of conversation, controls, influencing tactics and impression management are discussed. In chapter 3 - Sit in judgement - the reader is invited to engage in a series of real cases and then assess, through a template at the end of the chapter, whether political behaviour in the cases was ethical or not.

Chapters 4 and 5 go together. Chapter 4 - Men behaving badly - contains a review of organisational politics from the 1960s on, with a particular emphasis on Machiavellian organisations, while chapter 5 - Entrepreneurial hero - explores the contemporary model of risk takers.

Chapter 6 - The politics of failure and the failure of politics - reviews the failures of the total quality management and business process reengineering movements and notes the failures in these approaches to manage the organisational and management factors, particularly organisational politics.

Here the authors introduce the central notion of the book, that change agents need to be "political entrepreneurs", which in their view combines political astuteness with critical self reflection. In chapter 7 - Power assisted steering - they provide practical advice and recipes for managers. The final chapter - The triggering factors - explores individual, decisional and structural roots of political behaviour and reviews Foucault's notion of power in the post-modern organisation.

This is a very important book. For the academic reader, it reviews much of the literature on power and politics, and will be an essential text for courses on organisational politics and organisation behaviour. For the manager or internal change agent, it provides valuable frameworks for reflection and advice for action.

David CoghlanUniversity of Dublin, Ireland

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