Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Internal Politicking

Dave just wrote a good post about trying to find the ‘right’ level of transparency in his blog. Coincidentally, Microsoft is dealing with this problem right now. The ‘right’ level of transparency infers a tension between too much, and too little – and an equilibrium between the two. Is Microsoft materially damaged by this week’s memo leak? No. So, why do people care? I know: it is internal politics.

I have been surprised by the importance of politics in small start-ups. People, and me, generally associate politics with large and ponderous institutions – but consider this: the fewer people on a team, the more important it is for each member to personally buy-in to the current goals. A corollary is that in a small team, even a single opt-outer can be lethal to success because all hands are needed. Further, organizational structure tends to be more fluid than in a larger organization, both in name and in practice. Managing up, and managing across are nearly as common as managing down. The established, institutional momentum (and inertia) of a larger organization often help wrangle workers on to the right plan – without politicking.

Basically, in a small start-up, if you spot a hole, or a glaring need, you have to go around and lobby everyone to build consensus.

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