Smart managers and employees know that influence involves knowing one's self and understanding how to navigate the "how to" of the organization. That means paying attention to the corporate culture and learning how to get things done according to the often-unspoken rules.
I try to practice what we preach in our consulting work by offering as many ways as possible to look at--and learn about--a certain dynamic. Influence and Culture Part I showed one useful cultural model; here's another model that I hope will add to your understanding.
Charles Handy’s Take on Culture
Charles Handy has created a typology of organizational cultures
with respect to their priorities and modes of operation. Here is his contribution:
Power Culture:'Zeus' (could be likened to a spider web)
There is only one source of power and influence (a group of leaders)
striving to maintain absolute control over the organization along threads diverging from the center to the outside of the organization.
The horizontal "rings" in the web reflect other relations (functional, social) but they are not as
strong as the central threads. Related decisions are made under the influence of the leaders’
priorities vs. procedures. Individuals
from the heart of the web have information and control. This type
of organizational culture is suitable for an unstable environment needing quick response times. Problem: the quality of the
actions depends chiefly on the leaders’ competence. Power culture seems to work best in small organizations. Too much growth may break down the
culture. In fact, loss of the leader may even signal the end of the organization.
Role Culture: 'Apollo' is reminiscent of an ancient Greek temple. This culture’s strength lies in
its specialization. Every pillar is almost an independent department
or project (think "Greek silos); the specialists and their functions may also be pillars.
Each pillar’s operation and cooperation among them is coordinated by
the senior leadership council/procedural overseers, who could be viewed as the temple’s roof.
These tend to be bureaucratic organizations. Cooperation among
the pillars is based upon procedures and job descriptions. In this
culture, effectiveness depends on rational goal setting and allocating
financial means to the pillars. Power depends on the formal position in
the organization’s structure rather than sheer performance.
The employee’s role is more important than the person assuming this
role. This type of culture is suitable for a stable environment when
the goals don't change much and specialized teams can be
established for each goal. Problems arise when a sudden change takes
place in the environment and one of the "pillars" is no longer needed.
The organization may actually fall apart when the “roof” is gone.
This culture may be portrayed as a
net with some ropes thicker and stronger than others. In this
culture, emphasis is placed on getting the job, task, or project done. Power stems from knowledge and experience in tackling this type
of task. Task culture is targeted at teamwork and a group achieving a
This culture’s chief advantage lies in its flexibility and
ability to adjust to changing conditions. Work groups are created to
handle specific tasks and are dissolved when the task is over. The same
individuals create new teams tailored to the latest needs.
Task culture is capable of rapid actions. It is managed by experts
rather than positions. Control is very difficult to exert; it is
actually possible only when resorting to milestones or by monitoring
the key individuals’ work. Effectiveness is ensured by quickly moving
around resources from individuals to projects and back. Problems may
arise when access to information and resources is limited. With
long-term projects and a stable environment, task culture may transform
into role culture.
Person Culture: 'Dionysus'
In this scenario the organization is all about the individuals in it. These companies
exist to satisfy the requirements of the particular individual(s)
involved in the organization. The company’s role is reduced to
organizing a comfortable workplace. They typically exist among lawyers,
accountants, architects and consultants: specialists often practicing what might be called the "liberal" professions. An individual may leave the company
but the company often exercises no right to make decisions about the employee.
Note: Changing economic circumstances have also brought changes to the cultural norms in these organizations. What was once a collegial assembly of professionals can now be managed as closely as any of the other cultures.
Influence over the course of a career means organizational understanding of what's happening, how, and why. A good way to practice using your cultural antennae is to start with Jackie Cameron's suggestion to sense the mood in the room.