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08 February 2013

Politics and the Project


Cultural norms include a common knowledge regarding how to approach getting things done. It also takes into account formal and informal leaders who exist in almost every organization. Most organizations have developed unique cultures that manifest themselves in many ways. Which attributes of a company culture is NOT consistent with the discussion of cultural "norms"?

A. shared vision, values, beliefs, expectations
B. policies, methods and procedures
C. consistent political views
D. view of authority relationships

I was given answer as "C".
Shared vision, values, beliefs, expectations; political views; and views of authority relationships are all cultural factors. Each is a valid topic of discussion to the degree that it affects the project and the organization.

Political views include both those related to national government and those related to the company goals, culture, and hierarchy.

Western employees are taught that religious and political views are inappropriate topics. However, Political Correctness (PC) is alive and well. For example, some countries suppress "subversive" or "counter revolutionary" political views. This can affect project success.

Even in the USA, many employers will fire you if you oppose certain movements such as homosexual marriage or affirmative action (discrimination in favor of disadvantaged minorities). The reasoning goes like this:
  • Diversity has value.
  • People who oppose a PC (politically correct) view create a workplace that is hostile to favored minorities and an atmosphere where conflict may arise.
  • This hurts members of those minorities, limits diversity, subjects the company to legal liability, and disrupts teamwork.
  • Thus, inconsistent political views concerning some topics can hurt the project.
You don't have to like PC, but it exists. PMs have to deal with it and sometimes even enforce it.

Consider a different meaning of "political views:" Every organizational hierarchy has "office politics." Competition, conflicting opinions, and popularity can affect whom you can rely on. A stakeholder or resource may oppose you, or others may not support your resource. Such factors affect how one succeeds in getting things done.

We may say (C) is an inappropriate topic, but political views are certainly a part of cultural norms, and some version of PC is enforced anywhere you go. Moreover, the question is not, "what is appropriate," but "which attributes of a company culture is [sic] not consistent with the discussion of cultural 'norms'?"  (C) cannot be correct.

While culture may affect policies, methods, and procedures, they are classified not as part of the enterprise environment (that is, external factors that affect the project), but rather as organizational process assets. (B) is correct.

Copyright (C) 2013, Richard Wheeler. Permission granted for use not involving publication.

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