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September event : "Politics in Projects - A Positive Factor?"

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The September 2013 APMHK event was held at the United Centre, Queensway, Admiralty on 17.9.2013 with house full audience. The speaker is Mr. Kevin Parry, Managing Director of Cogenic Hong Kong Limited.He brought to the audiences a very interestingpresentationPolitics in Projects - A Positive Factor?.

Parry is an ex-member of the Regional Committee of the Association for Project Management in the U.K. and a committee member of the APM Hong Kong Branch. He is an experienced program director, project manager and change manager with over 10 years of experience in the U.K. and Europe in delivering major projects. He is also an experienced operational manager and director, specializing in managing change on business and non-profit organizations. He is also a frequent writer and conference speaker on change management. The topic he delivered is based on an article in the series he published in Project, February, 2013.

To begin, he asked the meaning of the word Politics. The audience thought that was something about people applying influence of power, and an exercise of power by individuals and group. Organizations are, in fact, living organizations with personality and culture fully reflected in the working environment. Parry later talked about the important issue of culture and its norm. He explained that culture was important because it affected politics and determined how power was placed in an organization. However, it was stressed that corporate culture was mainly determined by people in senior position or leading role through the way they exercised power. Culture had a powerful effect on the performance and adaptability to change, and on the way people motivated and communicated with each other.

Parry further cited the two coins of politics: the positive side and the negative side. The former can be useful and desirable, the desire for a higher profile, for example. The latter could have negative effect on projects, exerting a power at the expenses of the organization to achieve personal goal and / or group goals. Self-protection was the main reason for negative power. This could be very damaging to project team. He cited an UK Health Service example of negative politics, resulting in poor contracting process, no buy-in by powerful stakeholders. On the other hand, he gave a positive politics example of the portfolio change management in Global Telco, where the directors saw it as career development and talent became easier to attract. As a result, the CEO leadership gave the programme credibility an urgency, a sense of pride was instilled and the support paid in the short-term.

Parry later highlighted the importance attached to the sponsors. The role of sponsor is critical to projects and programmes. An effective sponsor encourages openness and dialogue, provides support to the project manager, and uses ones political power to build and maintain momentum for the project, like the previous Telco case.

Finally, Parry suggested the project professionals to harness the political power to their advantage. The ways are to work with other cultures and organizations, to understand ones own political approach and to learn how to influence others more effectively.


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