Exercising Agency

Navigating A Not-Quite-Rational Planet

We know people are messy and awkward. We recognize that decisions aren’t as rational as they should be. We know things are not always as they seem. It begs the question: just how are we supposed to make it through all of this, get things done, and stay sane in the process? The good news is that there are things to which out for, and processes to follow, all of which add up to somewhat of a recipe for navigating the complex world of organizational politics.



Mapping The Levels Of What Gets Discussed

There are untold levels of interpretation and perspective that shape our meaning, interactions and experiences. Making sense of these levels is the challenge. Understanding the dimensions that are at work, why they exist, and the nuances they bring to what is being said, how it is being said and what remains unsaid is fundamental. The good news is that there is structure at play that can help to uncover undercurrents, build meaning and provide perspective. The secret lies in knowing where to look.



It’s Levels All The Way Down

Things are not always as they seem. While this is true enough, it belies a complexity of interaction and meaning that makes up the whole messy, awkward and complicated way that we communicate and collaborate as human beings. We use levels of meaning to obfuscate and deceive. But we also use them to find freedom and agency. Once we understand that, we open up a whole different perspective on power, play and opportunity.



First, Do No Harm

We shape our own existence, and we define our own experience. While that might not be a popular sentiment, it’s no less real nor true. The biggest challenge is that we are often fundamentally aware of the underlying beliefs that create our experience. If we want to make a difference in the world, we may first need to make a difference in ourselves.



Either You Can Or You Can’t

There is a lot written about getting work done. And a lot more about procrastination. When it comes to results, though, our ability to be successful depends largely on our perception of the situation.



The Will to Lead

Leading change is a challenging undertaking. In particular, we must as individuals find the confidence to lead in the face of indifference, uncertainty and sometimes outright opposition. One of the key influences on our motivation, and on our will to lead, is a curious quality called agency.



Exercising Agency: How Do I Develop Agency?

While we have explored what actually constitutes agency, and illustrated it with examples, a fundamental question is how it emerges. How exactly do individuals develop the ability to exercise agency?



Exercising Agency: What To Do When Politics Gets In The Way

Politics is a challenging concept. We tend to view the term ‘organizational politics’ negatively, often seeing it as competitive, antagonistic, manipulative and dysfunctional. Certainly organizational politics can be all of these things, but it doesn’t have to be.



Agency Illustrated: Breaking Out Of The Box

In a post last week, I explored in depth the question of what constitutes “agency.” I build on that here as a result of a bit of awesome serendipity, courtesy of Apple’s Tim Cook.



Exercising Agency: What To Do When Process Gets In The Way

While most organizations claim to have formal processes for project initiation, in a large number of instances these do not lead to better initiation decisions. The challenge is what to do when faced with ineffective process.



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