Posted by: kerrywills | November 26, 2010

Being politically savvy

At the apex of the consultative approach is being politically savvy. These are people who understand their organizations, can identify who the key players are and know what is needed to successfully navigate the company. There are several common characteristics of people who are politically savvy within an organization.

  • They manage to consistently get things done despite obstacles that arise and organizational barriers
  • They recognize the impacts of decisions and trends on their work and other areas within the organization
  • They are able to accurately predict what organizations and individuals will do in certain situations
  • They seem to always select the right approach for situations


Vote for me as your favorite Project Manager

Because of the increasing number of stakeholders and organizations involved in projects, it is very important for Project Managers to improve their ability to be politically savvy. This is no longer just a skill needed for senior leaders.

Understand the organization – The first step in being politically savvy is to understand the entire organization that the project is working in. This allows the Project Manager to identify the key players, know what divisions perform what functions, and see the context of their project. There are several ways to get this understanding:

Develop coalitions – Once there is an awareness of the organization, the Project Manager should then look to create a coalition of allies. This builds on the “relationship focus” that was discussed earlier in this chapter. Beyond just having relationships with key stakeholders, the politically savvy Project Manager has support from them as well

Observe others – One of the best ways to build political skills is to watch others and their effectiveness at using different techniques. A Project Manager should observe people who are good at “playing the game” to see what they are doing and how they do it. Also be cognizant of people who are not successful to understand their mistakes and the results of them. Watching people succeed and fail in an organization will help the Project Manager to learn the values and culture of an organization. Plus they can learn from others mistakes as opposed to learning the hard way and repeating them.

Know personal style of politics – Watching others is helpful to see what styles work but the Project Manager has to use an approach that is genuine to their own nature, or it will not be effective. This relates to the “self awareness” skills listed earlier in this chapter. A Project Manager should be aware of their personal styles and use an approach that is comfortable for them. For example, if a Project Manager is not very social or gregarious then it may not be natural for them to interact on a social basis. They might want to consider building allies based on a common interest in work areas, such as a belief in process rigor or a shared professional goal.

Be viewed as politically savvy versus political – To be successful, a Project Manager needs to be viewed as being politically savvy and not as being political. Having a reputation as acting manipulative or sneaky will impact the Project Manager’s ability to influence others and motivate the team for success. In order to be viewed as successful in the organization politics, a Project Manager should focus on the following

Note: this text is an except from my book and is therefore copyrighted


  1. Always enjoy your posts, Kerry, and the value they add to my approach. I am revisiting your advice with new eyes in my own new PM Adventure and have recommended your coalition building techniques to a struggling PM at my organization. Your book is her Christmas Gift. (Shhhh, don’t tell)
    Happy Birthday to the blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: