The best project managers never ignore organisational politics

Every project is influenced by some form of organisational politics. Because all organizations are political in some way.
Politics and personal agendas of senior executives are often the top three factors that affect project success.
Many PMs are upset by the political shenanigans that have an impact on their projects. These feelings are understandable. Project management is hard enough. Most PMs can handle the extra work of dealing with politics and skulduggery from senior managers.
Experienced PMs are familiar with the challenge of winning supporters and friends at the top of an organisation’s power circles and table. It’s why smart PMs are able to foster trust and affinity among their stakeholder communities, especially at the top levels.
The best PMs understand that building and maintaining a strong network of supporters and cheerleaders among bigwig stakeholders is crucial. While technically sound PMs are often able to tackle the organisational hurdles associated with advancing their projects, average PMs are not.
The best PMs are not political animals. They recognize that the political landscape is an integral part of the organisational terrain. They have learned from experience that it is dangerous to ignore workplace politics. They are sensitive to organisational dynamics and political intrigues and incorporate these factors into their stakeholder management approach in ethical and healthy ways.
All PMs can benefit from our traditional knowledge and tools for managing stakeholders. They are often insufficient to manage the politics and power plays that ultimately determine the success of our project and the nature and quality of our organisational life. Life can be sweet for both us as PMs, and for our project team: We have a growing fan base at the top table, we are happy at work, we have credibility, and our projects move more smoothly. Life can be very frustrating if we don’t understand the organisational dynamics. Our project agendas can get stalled or hampered, stakeholder alignment can seem impossible, and getting investment funding approvals or project gateway approvals can feel like climbing Everest.
Organisational savvy requires us to look beyond traditional stakeholder management approaches. We have to understand the dynamics of power, politics and human idiosyncrasies that are at play in every organisation.
Sweet Stakeholder Love explains that stakeholders are not static beings. They are human beings. Humans are not like computers and light switches that can be turned on and off. We are not rational or able to behave in reasonable ways. We are complex beings with behaviours that can be idiosyncratic due to a combination of environmental, psychological, and personal influences.
Personal factors can sometimes influence our behaviours, such as age, gender, marital status and religious beliefs. Personality types, values, and attitudes are all psychological influences. The environmental factors include things like political orientations and financial or economic circumstances. It’s not surprising that handling some people can feel like you are dealing with jelly when there are so many influences.
We are also driven by many invisible and visible forces, such as our personal motivations, our struggles and problems, and the emotions that run through our soul at any given time. A stakeholder who is going through a bitter divorce might not be the most pleasant person to work with. A stakeholder with severe health issues or who is dealing with other traumatizing circumstances might not be a good fit.
Even more frustrating is the fact that you have to deal with it.