Managing change: Office politics is a game you have to play, says Nottingham Business School expert

Change managers should relish office politics and embrace the principles of Machiavelli if they want to succeed, according to a Nottingham Business School expert.

Change managers should relish office politics and embrace the principles of Machiavelli if they want to succeed, according to a Nottingham Business School expert.

David Buchanan, a visiting professor of organisational behaviour, believes unwillingness to play the game of office politics could prevent managers from implementing the changes they desire.

Typical office politics might involve image building, scapegoating, alliances, networking, compromise and positioning, said Professor Buchanan.

But he added that this doesn't mean change managers must be dishonest , underhand or unscrupulous to succeed.

"The Prince, written by Niccolò Machiavelli in the 16th century, was all about a leader who would do whatever it took to protect his principality but if you are described as being Machiavellian nowadays, it is taken as an insult, a negative," he said.

"But people that might be described as highly Machiavellian are often the people who stick to their positions, focus on the task in hand and wont be swayed simply because it could make them more likeable.

"They might manipulate individuals or situations to help them drive through the changes they require but they will also take control and, ultimately, inspire others, simply because they are the ones who get things done."

He added that the best change managers would often use their political skills to develop a number of champions, distribute responsibility and share the credit to help drive through desired change.

"They will do what it takes to win but they must be able to relate to people and demonstrate appropriate behaviour that inspires confidence, trust and sincerity," he said.

Professor Buchanan was speaking after delivering his first session as a visiting professor to members of the Boots Leadership Development Programme.

Nottingham Business School developed the post-graduate diploma in management and leadership, especially for the pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant.

It is one of a number of innovative tailored programmes run by Nottingham Business School, part of Nottingham Trent University, for major organisations including Rolls-Royce, Barclays and engineering corporation Kentz.

Professor Buchanan has more than 30 years of experience in management development and consulting assignments for clients around the world, including United Distillers, Polaroid, The Children’s Society, Volvo Car Corporation and HM Prison Service.

He is a visiting professor at Cranfield University School of Management and works as an independent consultant and author, specialising in change management and organisation politics.

Roles have featured change planning and implementation, employee surveys, organisation audits, and the design and implementation of management development programmes and organisation politics.

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Managing change: Office politics is a game you have to play, says Nottingham Business School expert

Published on 17 February 2014
  • Category: Business; Nottingham Business School

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