Modern Middle Manager
Primarily my musings on the practical application of technology and management principles at a financial services company.
Duck and Weave

Tuesday, February 01, 2005  

Part of the art of the middle manager is to duck and weave around the political games played by senior managers. I am apparently a part of three such games running currently:

Game 1: Defining business processes for the investment division. What's the goal? Damned if I know. The investments guy who is supposed to work with us to define his processes doesn't want to step on any internal toes and knows that the senior manager who assigned him the task won't advocate any changes that might involve other departments. My boss has decided that if that department won't fix their processes, he'll do it for them. I have been personally recruited to help implement his vision.

Game 2: Breaking up the company. The goal here is to report the financials of the company's lines of business separately, so that my boss looks good and his rival in senior management looks bad. The bad news is that if the political control of our company fractures, my department (and thus, me) gets exposed as a football between the two rivals.

Game 3: The biggest game of them all, between some senior managers in this company and some in the corporate parent and affiliates. We want to process a majority of the sister division bank deposits and there is at least one corporate "made man" who does not want us to do that. It has devolved into rumors, lies and backstabbing already. Our biggest leverage is that we make the clients happier than their current banking relationships (which are generally determined by the "made man"). I'm part of the latest charge to make us more vital to the sister divisions through some application interfaces.

No manager can exist in a corporation without some political skills. After all, politics is just the art of getting what you want from other people. It involves making deposits in emotional bank accounts, doing favors, generating good will and then calling upon those connections to move people, departments and companies in the direction you want to go.

So what about the games above? Number one will probably leave me tainted with some bad will in the investments department. The senior manager of that department acts as if he is powerless and weak. The leverage in that department is in the form of its chief investment office and one particular analyst. Persuading them of the overall benefits they will have if somebody applies some discipline to their processes is going to be a tough sell.

Number two is going to require some dancing on my part. If I can get both rivals to agree on standard metrics for prioritizing projects and maybe some chargeback scheme, there is a good chance that maintaining the peace will be reasonably easy. Chances are, though, that the senior manager who is not getting attention now will want his with interest. I suspect that an IT Steering Committee will need to be created at that time. I really just can't wait to broker the competing interests of those two. Especially when I will continue to report to one of them. It is a 1 in 100,000 chance that my reporting would change to the CEO. And I'm not sure that would help.

Number three is where we'll earn our money this year. My part of this needs to be executed solidly. We are trying to take a banking application and tie it into another division's workflow application while maintaining control of both our source code and the disposition of the deposits.

That's the game plan. Any questions?

posted by Henry Jenkins | 2/01/2005 04:43:00 PM

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