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Political Awareness

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Let's talk about politics. What? You don't like talking about politics? You don't talk about politics on your projects? I think I might be talking about something slightly different than you're thinking, but in the same wheelhouse, political awareness. This is one of the newer tools and techniques in the PMBOK Guide. It falls under those interpersonal and team skills.

Every organization has politics, and the best way to describe this is the power structure, and the power structure may be formal or informal. Sometimes it's title-driven, position-driven, and sometimes it's just about who you know and how connected you are. As a project manager, you're trying to navigate
through your organization and implement change. One of the key aspects of that is knowing who holds the power within your organization. Again, it may be informal, so be careful. Sometimes we overlook those people that can be very influential, positively or negatively, on our project.

So, when PMI brings up the topic of political awareness, it's not talking about who's sitting in the White House. Although that does come into play on a lot of projects, it's about who holds the power internally and externally.

I'll give you a couple of examples. I worked in an organization where there was a senior vice president. She had nothing to do with my project at all. It didn't impact her group. It didn't impact her teams. Nothing, but everyone warned me, "Hey, make sure Nancy is on board with your project." I was young. I was a little cocky. I'm like, "Yeah. She has no role in my project," and I really didn't do anything with that advice.

It came back to bite me, so I learned the hard way that you really have to be aware of politics within your organization. Sometimes that politics and that power struggle may be external. Maybe you're dealing with regulators, depending on your industry,
maybe government, local government, city government, state government. They can all have power and impact your project.

So political awareness. Again, it's part of our interpersonal and team skills, and as a project manager, you want to know who holds the power.

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