Jeffrey Pfeffer is Professor of Organizational Behavior in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, California. Previously he has been at the University of Illinois, the University of California at Berkeley, and as a Visiting Professor at the Harvard Business School. He has written several business- and management-related books.
This book consists of four parts, with each part consisting of 3-to-6 chapters. Pfeffer starts with a definition of power: "... the potential ability to influence behavior, to change the course of events, to overcome resistance, and to get people to do things that they would not otherwise do." This power is utilized and realized through politics and influence. Based on above definition the book discusses the details to the implementation process which consists of seven steps:
1. Decide on your goals.
2. Diagnose who is important in getting your goals accomplished.
3. Have a sense of the game being played, the players, and what their positions are.
4. Ascertain the power based of the other players, as well as your own potential and actual sources of power.
5. Determine your relative strength, along with the strength of other players.
6. Diagnose what is going to happen in an organization, as well as preparing yourself to take action.
7. Consider the various strategies or tactics that are available to you, as well as those used by others.
I believe it is important to keep these steps in mind since the book does not follow the sequence of these steps. The other chapters in Part I - Power in Organizations provide help both in diagnosing the extent to which situations are going to involve the use of power and in figuring out who the political actors are and what their points are likely to be. Some important quotes in this part are: "Power is a valuable resource [and] those who have power typically conserve it for important issues [scarcity and importance are correlated]." "Knowing the power of various organizational members and subunits is important, and so is understanding whose help you need in order to achieve your goals."
Part II - Sources of Power, consisting of 6 chapters, considers where power comes from, or some people and some subunits have more power than others. It offers implicit lessons on how to acquire more power and influence for ourselves. "Power comes from being in the 'right' place. A good place or position is one that provides you with: 1. control over resources.; 2. control over or extensive access to information; and 3. formal authority." By using both well-known and practical examples, the author discusses each of these aspects in detail. His view is that although individual attributes are important, being in the right place (in particular, the right subunit) is more important.
Once we know where power comes, we need to know how to use it effectively to get things done. This is the subject of Part III - Strategies and Tactics for Employing Power Effectively, which consists of 6 chapters. It begins with the topic of framing and how the way we see things depends upon the context in which they are seen. This, in turn, is affected by the principles of contrast, commitment, and scarcity. There is also the consideration of interpersonal influence by examining the impact of what others are saying or doing, the effects of liking, and the use of emotional contrast. Understanding this make it possible for us to consider some strategic elements in the exercise and development of power. "It is not enough to know that power exists. It is also critical to know how power is used - to have an arsenal of strategies and tactics that translate power and influence into practical results."
However, the discussions of the strategies and tactics for employing power might us lose sight of what organizations are all about - getting things done. Therefore the final section of the book, Part IV - Power Dynamics, begins by providing some cautionary ideas about how power is lost. It shows how even the mighty fall, and consider what this means for us as we think about own personal relationship to power and influence. This part also considers how power dynamics can be productive or unproductive for the organization. "The book is about managing with power, and it is also about managing power." The final chapter returns to the main subject of the book: getting things done through understanding and using power and influence. "... there is a greater sin than making mistakes or influencing others - the sin of doing nothing."
Yes, I do like this book. It discusses a subject with which most of us have to deal day-in day out, whether we like it or not. Jeffrey Pfeffer provides us with an excellent handbook for understanding power and influence, but also with strategies and tactics on using it. Pfeffer also recognizes that certain individuals are obsessed with politics and power (I think that most of you will know what I am talking about), and therefore finishes the book with some excellent cautionary advice. Although the author has a strong academical background the book is written in a very practical manner complemented with good, understandable examples. Highly recommended.