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PERGAMON International Journal of Project Management 18 (2000) 85±91

Understanding the role of politics in successful project

Je€rey K. Pinto
School of Business, Penn State ± Erie, Erie, PA 16563, USA
Received 1 November 1998


Successful project management is directly linked to the ability of project managers and other key players to understand the
importance of organizational politics and how to make them work for project success. While most of us view politics with
distaste, there is no denying that e€ective managers are often those who are willing and able to employ appropriate political
tactics to further their project goals. This paper o€ers some thoughts on the role of politics in successful project management,
identifying ways in which project managers can use politics in a positive and e€ective manner. # 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd and
IPMA. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Power; Politics; Project implementation

1. Introduction tiating for a multi-million dollar commitment of

money for a new project to as mundane as determining
One of the most powerful but frequently overlooked who will attain a corner oce; as predatory as the
in¯uencers of successful project management concerns willfull attempt to derail another's career to those as
the roles played by knowledgeable personnel in using benign as deciding where the yearly oce party will be
power and political behavior to promote successful im- held. The key underlying feature of each of these and
plementation. Most of us tend to regard political ac- countless other examples is that the processes by which
tivity with a sort of repugnance, ®nding the conduct of we make decisions and seek power, the issues we deem
politics to be both personally distasteful and organiza- `power-laden', and steps we go to to maintain our pos-
tionally damaging. There is an interesting paradox at ition are often an emotionally-charged sequence having
work here, however. Common experience will demon- important personal and corporate rami®cations.
strate to both practitioners and neutral observers that The ®eld of project management is one that is par-
for all our often-expressed personal disdain for the ticularly fraught with political processes for several
exercise of politics, we readily acknowledge that this unique reasons. First, because project managers in
process is often one of the prime moving forces within many companies do not have a stable base of power
any organization, for better or worse. (either high status or over-riding authority), they must
Political behavior, sometimes de®ned as any process learn to cultivate other methods of in¯uence in order
by which individuals and groups seek, acquire, and to secure the resources from other departments necess-
maintain power, is pervasive in modern corporations. ary to attain project success. Second, and closely re-
Examples can include activities as signi®cant as nego- lated to the ®rst reason, these projects often exist
outside of the traditional line (functional) structure,
Portions of this article were excerpted from Power and Politics in
relegating project managers to the role of supernumer-
Project Management, by Je€rey K. Pinto, 1996, Project Management ary. Almost all resources (®nancial, human, informa-
Institute: Upper Darby, PA. tional, etc.) must be negotiated and bargained. Finally,

0263-7863/00/$20.00 # 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd and IPMA. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 2 6 3 - 7 8 6 3 ( 9 8 ) 0 0 0 7 3 - 8
86 J.K. Pinto / International Journal of Project Management 18 (2000) 85±91

many project managers are not given the authority to for improving the discipline, power and political beha-
conduct formal performance evaluations on their pro- vior, one of the most pervasive and frequently perni-
ject team subordinates, denying them an important cious elements impacting on project implementation
base of hierarchical power. Without the authority to has rarely been addressed. Even in cases where it has
reward or punish, they are placed in the position of been examined, the discussion is often so cursory or
having to in¯uence subordinate behavior into engaging theory-driven that it o€ers little in the way of useful
in appropriate behaviors. Consequently, they must advice for practicing project managers. Whatever our
learn important `human' skills such as bargaining and current level of understanding of power and politics in
in¯uence, con¯ict management, and negotiation. organizations, we must all come to the realization that
Senior and successful project managers have long its presence is ubiquitous and impact is signi®cant.
known the importance of maintaining strong political With this acceptance as a starting point, we can begin
ties throughout their organizations as a method for to address power and politics as a necessary part of
achieving project success. Indeed, it is the rare success- project management and learn to use it to our advan-
ful project managers who are not conversant in and tage through increasing the likelihood of successfully
knowledgeable of the importance of politics for e€ec- managing projects.
tively performing their jobs. That point illustrates an
important underlying aspect of the characteristics of
political behavior: it can either be the project man- 2. Authority, status and In¯uence
ager's ®rm friend or most remorseless foe. In other
words, whatever decision one comes to regarding the When one examines the sorts of options that project
use of politics in the quest for project success, it can- managers are able to use in furthering their goals, it is
not be ignored. useful to consider their alternatives in terms of three
This statement does not have to make the reader modes of power: Authority, Status and In¯uence. This
uncomfortable. No one would argue that project man- Authority, Status, and In¯uence model has been pro-
agers must become immersed in the brutal, self-serving posed by Robert Graham [2], as a way to make clear
side of corporate political life. Clearly, there are so the methods by which project managers can achieve
many examples of predatory behavior that most of us their desired ends. The model is valuable because it il-
are leery of being considered `politically adept'. lustrates clearly one of the key problems that most
Nevertheless, the key point is that project management project managers have in attempting to develop and
and politics are inextricably linked. Successful project implement their projects in corporations.
managers are usually those who intuitively understand Much has been written on the sorts of power that
that their job consists of more than simply being tech- individuals have. One framework suggests that each of
nically and managerially competent. us have available two distinct types of power: power
In my research and consulting experience, most that derives from our personality (personal power) and
companies spend thousands of hours to plan and im- power that comes from the position or title we hold [3].
plement a multimillion or even multibillion dollar Let us de®ne authority as this latter type of power:
investment, developing intricate plans and schedules, one that accrues from the position we occupy in the
forming a cohesive team, and maintaining realistic spe- organization (positional power). In other words, the
ci®cation and time targets, all to have the project positional power base derives solely from the position
derailed by political processes. This is a pity, particu- that managers occupy in the corporate hierarchy.
larly in that the end result is often foreseeable early in Unfortunately, the nature of positional, or formal
the development of the project: usually as the result of power, is extremely problematic within project man-
a project manager's refusal to acknowledge and culti- agement situations due to the temporary and
vate political ties, both internal to the organization `detached' nature of most projects vis a vis the rest of
and externally with the clients. the formal organizational structure [4]. Project teams
At some point, almost every project manager has sit `outside' the normal vertical hierarchy, usually
faced the diculties involved in managing a project in employing personnel who are on loan from their func-
the face of corporate politics [1]. Recalcitrant func- tional departments. As a result, project managers have
tional managers, unclear lines of authority, tentative a much more tenuous degree of positional power
resource commitments, lukewarm upper management within the organization. Other than the nominal con-
support, and hard lessons in negotiation are all charac- trol they have over their own team, they may not have
teristics of many project manager's daily lives. Set a corporate-wide base of positional power through
within this all-too-familiar framework, it is a wonder which they can get resources, issue directives, or
that most projects ever get completed. enforce their will. As a result, authority, as a power
It is ironic that while project management theory base, is not one that project managers can rely on with
has sought for years to ®nd new and better methods any degree of certainty in most organizations.
J.K. Pinto / International Journal of Project Management 18 (2000) 85±91 87

Likewise, the second mode of power, Status, is often degrees on their ability to cultivate and e€ectively use
problematic for most project managers. Status implies in¯uence as a negotiating and power tactic than either
that the project manager, due to the nature, import- of the other two forms of power. Formal, broad-based
ance, or visibility of his or her project, can exert power authority rarely exists for project managers to use in
and control over others in the corporate hierarchy as furthering their project's ends. Likewise, while some
needed. Unfortunately, while some projects and project projects and/or project managers have the status to
managers do, indeed, possess an enormous degree of gain the resources they need, it is much more likely
status due to the importance of their projects (e.g., the that the typical project manager can learn to develop
project manager for the Boeing 757 program or the the skills to use in¯uence as a power tactic. The key is
project manager for the recently completed `Chunnel'), realizing that in¯uence is a form of corporate political
the vast majority of project mangers toil in relative behavior that can be utilized for the bene®t of the pro-
obscurity, working to bring their projects to fruition ject and ultimately, the organization. In order to better
while receiving little public recognition for their work. understand the relationship between the use of infor-
Although it would be nice to think that most project mal in¯uence tactics and political behavior, we need to
managers can rely on status as a form of power and explore in some detail exactly what organizational
control over resources to enhance their projects' likeli- politics implies.
hood of success, the reality is that very few projects or
project managers can depend upon their status as a
persuasive form of power. 3. The implications of project politics
This, then, leads us to the ®nal form of persuasive
control that project managers may possess: in¯uence. An understanding of the political side of organiz-
In¯uence, as a technique, is usually highly individua- ations and the often intensely political nature of pro-
lized. That is, some individuals are better able to use ject implementation gives rise to the concomitant need
in¯uence to achieve their desired ends than are others. to develop appropriate attitudes and strategies that
One of the best examples of in¯uence is the power an help project managers operate e€ectively within the
individual possesses because they have a dynamic per- system. What are some of the steps that project man-
sonality or personal charisma that attracts others. For agers can take to become politically astute, if this
example, well-known athletes are popular choices for approach is so necessary to e€ective project implemen-
endorsing new products because of the personal char- tation?
isma and `referent' appeal that they hold with the pub-
lic. Other examples of in¯uence include informational 3.1. Understand and acknowledge the political nature of
or expert power. To illustrate, if only one member of most organizations
the project team has the programming or computer
skills that are vital to the successful completion of the Research on politics and organizational life demon-
project, that person, regardless of their title or man- strate an interesting paradox at work: the vast ma-
agerial level within the organization, has a solid base jority of managers hate engaging in political activities,
of in¯uence in relation to other members of the project believing that they waste time and detract from the
team. more important aspects of their jobs. On the other
The key point to bear in mind about in¯uence is hand, these same managers acknowledge that, while
that it is often an informal mechanism for control [5]. they do not like politics, `politicking' is an important
Project managers who use in¯uence well in furthering requirement for business and personal success [6]. The
the goals of their project usually work behind the underlying point is important: we have to acknowledge
scenes, negotiating, cutting deals, or collecting and politics as a fact of organizational and project life.
o€ering IOUs. In¯uence, as a power tactic, is most Denying the political nature of organizations does not
readily used when managers have no formal positional make that phenomenon any less potent. This impli-
authority to rely on. Hence, they are forced to use less cation argues that before managers are able to learn to
formal means to achieve their desired ends. In¯uence utilize politics in a manner that is supportive of project
is most widely seen as a power tactic in situations in implementation, they must ®rst acknowledge: 1) its
which there is no obvious di€erence in authority levels existence, and 2) its impact on project success. Once
among organizational members. we have created a collective basis of understanding
What is the implication of the Authority, Status, regarding the political nature of organizations, it is
and In¯uence model? Graham notes that the nature of possible to begin to develop some action steps that will
project management work, the manner in which pro- aid in project implementation.
ject managers and their teams are selected, and the re- It is also necessary to understand that all organiz-
lationship of projects to the formal organizational ations have a political component. Whether the project
hierarchy force project managers to rely to far greater organization is manufacturing or service-oriented or
88 J.K. Pinto / International Journal of Project Management 18 (2000) 85±91

construction, project managers must acknowledge the in any activities that could smack of political behavior
political realm as one to be addressed in furthering or the use of in¯uence tactics.
project goals. The focus of such behavior may shift. Since the purpose of all political behavior is to
For example, it may be the case that within a manu- develop and keep power, I believe that both the politi-
facturing organization intent on new product introduc- cally naive and shark personalities are equally mis-
tion, much of a project manager's political activity guided and equally damaging to the likelihood of
may be geared toward other line managers within the project implementation success. A project manager
organization. On the other hand, in a construction set- who, either through naivete' or stubbornness, refuses
ting, the project manager may have to work with sta- to exploit the political arena is destined to be not
keholders both internal to the ®rm and external, in the nearly as e€ective in introducing the project as is a
form of sub-contractors and clients. The bottom line project team leader who knows how to use politics
still suggests that regardless of the type of organiz- e€ectively. On the other hand, project managers who
ation, project managers must understand how best to are so politicized as to appear predatory and aggres-
use politics to further their project's goals. sive to their colleagues are doomed to create an atmos-
phere of such distrust and personal animus that there
3.2. Learn to cultivate `appropriate' political tactics is also little chance for successful project adoption.
Pursuing the middle ground of political sensibility is
This principle reinforces the argument that although the key to project implementation success. The process
politics exists, the manner in which organizational of developing and applying appropriate political tactics
actors use politics determines whether or not the politi- means using politics as it can most e€ectively be used:
cal arena is a healthy or unhealthy one. There are as a basis for negotiation and bargaining. Politically
appropriate and inappropriate methods for using poli- sensible managers understand that initiating any sort
tics. This distinction is illustrated in a simple way in of organizational disruption or change due to develop-
Table 1, showing three alternative attitudes regarding ing a new project is bound to reshu‚e the distribution
political behavior. Some individuals seem to eagerly of power within the organization. That e€ect is likely
adopt political attitudes, particularly of a predatory to make many departments and managers very ner-
nature. For them, politics becomes a game of career vous as they begin to wonder how the future power re-
advancement regardless of the cost to their colleagues lationships will be rearranged. `Politically sensible'
or others unlucky enough to get in the way. Following implies being politically sensitive to the concerns (real
the term developed by Lynch and Kordis [7], I have or imagined) of powerful stakeholder groups.
labeled these individuals `sharks'. Their loyalty is to Legitimate or not, their concerns about the new pro-
themselves and political behavior is merely the expedi- ject are real and must be addressed. Appropriate pol-
ent means in pursuit of personal success. itical tactics and behavior include making alliances
The opposite extreme is characterized as being with powerful members of other stakeholder depart-
`naive' in its belief that politics is an unsavory practice ments, networking, negotiating mutually acceptable
that is best avoided at all costs. Naive individuals view solutions to seemingly insoluble problems, and recog-
politics as unappealing at the outset and make a ®rm nizing that most organizational activities are predi-
resolution never to engage in any behavior that re- cated on the give-and-take of negotiation and
sembles political activity. Their goal is, in e€ect, to compromise. It is through these uses of political beha-
remain above the fray, not allowing politics in any vior that managers of project implementation e€orts
form to in¯uence their conduct. As project managers, put themselves in the position to most e€ectively in¯u-
they will under all circumstances refrain from engaging ence the successful introduction of their projects.

Table 1
Characteristics of political behavior

Characteristics Naive Sensible Sharks

Underlying Attitude ±
``Politics is....'' Unpleasant Necessary An opportunity
Intent Avoid at all costs Used to further project's goals Self-serving and predatory
Techniques Tell it like it is Network, expand connections, use Manipulation, use of fraud and deceit when
system to give and receive favors necessary
Favorite tactics None, the truth will win out Negotiation, bargaining Bullying, misuse of information, cultivate
and use ``friends'' and other contacts.
J.K. Pinto / International Journal of Project Management 18 (2000) 85±91 89

3.3. Understand and accept `WIIFM' I have previously suggested that authority and status
typically do not accrue to project managers in most or-
One of the hardest lessons for newcomers to organ- ganizations. One approach to giving project managers
izations to internalize is the primacy of departmental a measure of status vis a vis the formal functional hier-
loyalties and self-interest over organization-wide con- archy is to give them the ability to conduct perform-
cerns. There are many times when novice managers ance appraisals on their project team subordinates. On
will feel frustrated at the foot-dragging of other the surface, this suggestion seems to be simple com-
departments and individuals to accept new ideas or mon sense and yet, it is often resisted in organizations.
systems that are `good for them'. It is vital that these Line managers want to maintain their control over
managers understand that the beauty of a new project subordinates through keeping sole right to this evalu-
is truly in the eyes of the beholder. One may be absol- ation process and hence, may resist allowing project
utely convinced that a project will be bene®cial to the managers this measure of equal footing. Nevertheless,
organization, however, convincing members of other it is a powerful tool because it sends the clear message
departments of this truth is a di€erent matter throughout the company that projects are valuable
altogether. and project contributions among team members will
We must understand that other departments, includ- be remembered and rewarded [8].
ing project stakeholders, are not likely to o€er their
help and support of the project unless they perceive
that it is in their interests to do so. Simply assuming 3.5. Learn the ®ne art of in¯uencing
that these departments understand the value of a pro-
ject is simplistic and usually wrong. One of my col- How does a project manager succeed in establishing
leagues, Bob Graham, likes to refer to the principle of the sort of sustained in¯uence throughout the organiz-
`WIIFM' when describing the reactions of stakeholder ation that is useful in the pursuit of project-related
groups to new innovations. `WIIFM' is an acronym goals? A recent article [9] highlights ®ve methods man-
which means `What's In It For Me?' This is the ques- agers can use for enhancing their level of in¯uence
tion most often asked by individuals and departments with superiors, clients, team members and other stake-
when presented with requests for their aid. They are holders (see Table 2). They suggest that one powerful
asking why they should support the process of imple- method for creating a base of in¯uence is to ®rst estab-
menting a new project. The worst response project lish a reputation as an expert in the project that is
managers can make is to assume that the stakeholders being undertaken. This ®nding was born out in
will automatically appreciate and value the project as research on project manager in¯uence styles [5]. A pro-
much as they themselves do. Graham's point is that ject manager who is widely perceived as lacking any
time and care must be taken to use politics e€ectively, sort of technical skill or competency cannot command
to cultivate a relationship with power holders, and the same ability to use in¯uence as a power mechanism
make the deals that need to be made to bring the sys- to secure the support of other important stakeholders
tem on-line. This is the essence of political sensibility: or be perceived as a true `leader' of the project team.
being level-headed enough to have few illusions about One important caveat to bear in mind about this
the diculties one is likely to encounter in attempting point, however, is that the label of `expert' is typically
to develop and implement a new project. a perceptual one. That is, it may or may not be based
in actual fact. Many of us are aware of project man-
agers who cultivate the reputation as technical experts.
3.4. Try to level the playing ®eld Unfortunately, in many of these cases, when faced
with a true technical problem, the `expertise' that they
Functional line managers often view the initiation of have taken such pains to promote is shown to be woe-
a new project with suspicion because of its potential to
upset the power balance and reduce the amount of Table 2
authority a line manager has with his or her sta€. To Five keys to establishing sustained in¯uence
a point, these concerns are understandable. A project
. Develop a reputation as an expert
team does, in fact, create an arti®cial hierarchy that . Prioritize social relationships on the basis of work needs rather
could compete with the traditional line managers for than on the basis of habit or social preference
resources, support, status, talented personnel and . Develop a network of other experts or resource persons who can
other scarce commodities. However, it is also clear be called upon for assistance
. Choose the correct combination of in¯uence tactics for the
that organizational realities which mandate the need
objective and the target to be in¯uenced
for project managers and teams also need to set these . In¯uence with sensitivity, ¯exibility, and solid communication
individuals up with some degree of authority or status
to do their job most e€ectively. Source: Keys and Case [9].
90 J.K. Pinto / International Journal of Project Management 18 (2000) 85±91

fully inadequate, perhaps even obsolete. A reputation appeals, successful in¯uencers are often those people
as an expert is very useful for gaining in¯uence: truly who can articulate their arguments well, read the non-
being an expert helps immeasurably with a project verbal signals given o€ by the other person, and tailor
manager's credibility. their arguments and in¯uence style appropriately to
A second technique for establishing greater in¯uence take best advantage of the situation.
is to make a distinction between the types of relation-
ships that we encounter on the job. Speci®cally, man- 3.6. Develop your negotiating skills
agers need to make conscious decisions to prioritize
their relationships in terms of establishing close ties An important aspect of almost every project man-
and contacts with those around the company who can ager's job involves negotiation. They are forced to
help them accomplish their goals, rather than on the negotiate on a daily basis with a variety of organiz-
basis of social preference [9]. Certainly, there are per- ational members and external groups. Nevertheless,
sonality types and interest groups toward whom each with the exception of some seasoned project managers
of us are more prone to gravitate. However, from the who have developed their skills the hard way, through
perspective of seeking to broaden their in¯uence abil- trial and error, most project managers are inherently
ity, project managers need to break the ties of habit uncomfortable with the process. Further, because they
and expand their in¯uence ability, project managers ®nd it distasteful, they have never sought to actively
need to break the ties of habit and expand their social improve their negotiation skills or learn new tech-
networks, particularly with regard toward those who niques and approaches.
can be of future material aid to the project. Negotiation is an often distasteful side-e€ect of the
The third tactic for enhancing in¯uence is to net- project management process. All project managers, in
work. As part of creating a wider social set composed order to improve their in¯uence abilities, must hone
of organizational members with the power or status to their negotiation skills. As part of this task, we need to
aid in the project's development, canny project man- learn to recognize the tricks and ploys of our op-
agers will also establish ties to acknowledged experts ponents who sit across the table from us. Once we
or those with the ability to provide scarce resources learn to anticipate and recognize their techniques, it
the project may need during times of crisis. It is always becomes easier for us to develop appropriate re-
helpful to have a few experts or resource-providers sponses; that is, those with the greatest likelihood of
handy during times of muni®cence. We never know succeeding. The key is to use a form of principled
when we may need to call upon them, especially when negotiation [10] in which you search for fairness, Win-
resources are lean. Win outcomes, and mutually acceptable solutions. A
A fourth technique for expanding in¯uence process: negotiation is not an opportunity to take advantage of
it only works when it is done well. In other words, for the other party. It is a chance to gain the best terms
in¯uence to succeed, project managers seeking to use possible for your side while seeking to address the
in¯uence on others must carefully select the tactic they other party's interests as well. As such, all negotiations
intend to employ. For example, many people who con- should be treated as long-term deals, whether or not
sider themselves adept at in¯uencing others prefer this is the case. When we recast a negotiation as a bar-
face-to-face settings rather than using the telephone or gaining session between long-time colleagues, it
leaving messages to request support. They know intui- changes the dynamic from one of manipulation and
tively that it is far harder than through an impersonal coercion to one of mutual problem-solving.
medium. If the tactics that have been selected are not
appropriate to the individual and the situation, in¯u- 3.7. Recognize that con¯ict is a natural side-e€ect of
ence will not work. project management
Finally, and closely related to the fourth point, suc-
cessful in¯uencers are socially sensitive, articulate, and Many managers react to con¯ict with panic. They
very ¯exible in their tactics. For example, in attempt- view any squabbling among team members as the ®rst
ing to in¯uence another manager through a face-to- step toward team disintegration and ultimate project
face meeting, a clever in¯uencer seems to know intui- failure. This response is natural and understandable;
tively how best to balance the alternative methods for after all, it is their responsibility if the project fails. As
attaining the other manager's cooperation and help. a result, the most common reactions to intra-team con-
The adept in¯uencer can often read the body language ¯icts are to do everything possible to suppress or mini-
and reactions of the `target' manager and may instinc- mize the con¯ict, hoping that if it is ignored it will go
tively shift the approach in order to ®nd the argument away [11]. Unfortunately, it almost never does.
or in¯uence style that appears to have the best chance Con¯ict, left to fester beneath the surface, is simply a
of succeeding. Whether the approach selected employs ticking time bomb and will almost always go o€ at the
pure persuasion, ¯attery and cajolery, or use of guilt worst possible time later in the development process. If
J.K. Pinto / International Journal of Project Management 18 (2000) 85±91 91

willful ignorance does not work with con¯ict, what it is employed that has earned it so much animosity.
does? Successful project managers are keenly aware that poli-
Project managers need to better understand the tics, used judiciously, can have an extraordinarily posi-
dynamics of the con¯ict process. In fact, we need to tive impact on the implementation of their projects.
recognize con¯ict as progress [12]. The natural results
of individuals from di€erent functional backgrounds
working together are professional tension and person- References
ality friction. In suggesting that project managers
[1] Beeman DR, Sharkey TW. The use and abuse of corporate poli-
adopt a more sanguine attitude about con¯ict, I am tics. Business Horizons 1987;36(2):26±30.
not arguing that all con¯ict should be ignored. Nor [2] Graham RJ. Personal communication, 1989.
would I suggest that all con¯ict must be either immedi- [3] French JRP, Raven B. The bases of social power. In:
ately suppressed or addressed. Instead, project man- Cartwright D, editor. Studies in Social Power. Institute for
agers need to use their discretion in determining how Studies Social Research: Ann Arbor, MI, 1959: p. 150±167.
[4] Goodman RM. Ambiguous authority de®nition in project man-
best to handle these problems. There is no one best agement. Academy of Management Journal 1967;10:395±407.
method for dealing with con¯ict. Each situation must [5] Thamhain HJ, Gemmill G. In¯uence styles of project managers:
be dealt with as a unique and separate event. some project performance correlates. Academy of Management
Journal 1974;17:216±24.
[6] Gandz J, Murray VV. Experience of workplace politics.
Academy of Management Journal 1980;23:237±51.
4. Conclusions [7] Lynch D, Kordis PL. Strategy of the dolphin: scoring a win in
a chaotic world. New York: Morrow, 1988.
Politics and project management are two processes [8] Payne HJ. Introducing formal project management into a tra-
which, while very di€erent, are also inextricably linked. ditionally structured organization. International Journal of
No one can go far in project management without Project Management 1993;11:239±43.
[9] Keys B, Case T. How to become an in¯uential manager.
understanding just how far politics will take them in Academy of Management Executive, 1990;IV(4):38±51.
their organization. It is in confronting their frequent [10] Fisher R, Ury W. Getting to yes: negotiating agreement without
failures at getting their projects successfully im- giving in. New York: Houghton Mi‚in, 1981.
plemented through traditional power means that most [11] Pinto JK, Kharbanda OP. Project management and con¯ict res-
olution. Project Management Journal 1995;26(4):45±54.
managers are forced through expedience to adopt
[12] Pinto JK, Kharbanda OP. Successful Project Managers:
methods for in¯uence and politics. These are not `bad' Leading Your Team to Success. New York: Van Nostrand
terms, in spite of the fact that the majority of man- Reinhold, 1995.
agers in our organizations, 1) do not enjoy employing
political means to their ends, and 2) do not understand
the political processes very well. Too many of us have Je€rey K. Pinto is the Samuel A. and
learned about politics the hard way, through being vic- Elizabeth B. Breene Fellow and
Associate Professor of Management
timized by someone who was cannier, more experi-
at Penn State ± Erie. He is the past
enced or more ruthless than we were. Given that our Editor of the Project Management
®rst experiences with politics were often unpleasant, it Journal and is current Editor of the
is hardly surprising that many of us swore o€ political Project Management Institute's
behavior. Reprint Series. He has authored or
edited nine books and over 90
For better of worse, project managers do not have
research articles, many on project
the luxury of turning their backs on organizational management and the implementation
politics. Too much of what they do depends upon of innovations in organizations. His
their ability to e€ectively manage not only the techni- most recent book is the Project
cal realms of their job, but also the behavioral side as Management Institute Project
Management Handbook published by Jossey-Bass (1998). In addition,
well. Politics constitutes one organizational process
he has consulted widely with numerous Fortune 500 and inter-
that is ubiquitous; that is, it operates across organiz- national companies, on a variety of topics, including leadership, pro-
ations and functional boundaries. Political behavior is ject management, and information system development and
not inherently evil or vicious; rather, it is only in how implementation.