DAVILA Juan Pablo
Mastère Génie Industriel 2000-2001

Economie industrielle
Enseignant : Yvon PESQUEUX


Jeffrey Pfeffer

Managing with Power

Harvard Bussines School Press, 1992



Biography :

Jeffrey Pfeffer is Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior in the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University. He received his B.S. and M.S. from Carnegie-Mellon University and his Ph.D. in business administration from Stanford. Dr. Pfeffer has served on the business school faculties at the University of Illinois, the University of California at Berkeley, and as a visiting professor at the Harvard Business School. He has directed executive programs and management development programs and has taught executive seminars around the world, in addition to lecturing in management development programs in companies, associations, and universities in the United States. He has spent his career studying people and organizations around the world in an attempt to understand why some companies win in the marketplace while others do not fare as well. He is also a member of many professional organizations, has served on the editorial boards of scholarly journals.


Bibliography :

Organizations and Organization Theory, Power in Organizations, Organizational Design, and co-author of The External Control of Organizations: A Resource Dependence Perspective, as well as more than eighty articles and book chapters


Postulates :

The first part of the book explain the postulates that today most of organizations have, all related to politics in public and private sectors organizations some of the postulates that he describes are:


Hypothesis :

His hypothesis postulates:


Development of the book :

The author develops his book in 18 chapters all in order to answer the question "What does it mean to manage with power" which is the title of his last chapter.

The first 4 chapters are about the definition of power, decision taking, the use of power in organizations, dependence and interdependence related to power, basically is how to decide, implement and accomplish a change, when and where develop and use power and how to asses power distribution in an organization. In his very same words ‘diagnosing power and dependence’.

From chapter 4 to 11 he explains the mainly sources of power, ‘where does power come from?’ how to acquire and keep allies, our position in the communication process of an organization, authority (formal, informal) reputation, and interpersonal influence. He explains his ideas by giving different examples of cases in industry and most of all using terms of social-psychology and organizational-psychology.

The next 4 chapters (12-15) he describes the best practices to consolidate power in an organization. As the use right use of information and information sources, learning of past failures. Also changing structures to consolidate power in order to put our allies in a position of control over resources, information and formal authority. How to gain organizational territory.

Chapter 16 and 17 are focused on the lost of power and how to avoid loosing it. He talks about power shifts and its affectation to persons or person who had the power. How to manage in a changing organization an how to understands its power dynamics. The main idea of chapter 17 is ‘managing political dynamics productively’.

And finally in the last chapter of his book he concludes what is to manage with power, he gives four definitions that complement one to each other and with the precedent chapters.


Summary :

Chapter 1 : Decision and Implementation

Accomplishing Innovation and Change

To accomplish innovation and change in most of organizations requires more than the ability to solve technical or analytic problems it is that innovations almost invariably threatens the status quo, and consequently, innovation is an inherently political activity.

The lack of ability to get things done, to have ideas and to implement them, is widespread in public and private sector organizations. It is, moreover, a problem that seems to be getting worse. It has led to calls for better leadership, and laments about the absence of leadership in many spheres and sectors . It is the author thesis that problems of implementations are, problems in developing political will and expertise—the desire to accomplish something, even against opposition, and the knowledge and skills that make it possible to do so. It is necessary to study power and to learn to use it skillfully, since we cannot otherwise hope to gain individual success in organizations or the success of the organizations themselves.

Power in Organizations

If we doubt of politics and of large organizations, we may conclude that smaller organizations are a better alternative. There is evidence that the average size of establishments in the United States is decreasing . Managers and employees who were stymied by the struggles over power and influence that emerge from interdependence and differences in points of view have moved to a world of simpler organizations, with less internal interdependence and less internal diversity, which are, as a consequence, less political.

"If leaderships involves skill at developing and exercising power and influence as well as the will to do so, then perhaps one of the causes of the so-called leaderships crisis in organizations is just this attempt to sidestep issues of power"

Our Ambivalence about Power

The ambivalence that we have about power also from lessons we’ve learned in school. One is that life is a matter of individual effort and ability. After all, in school, if you have mastered the intricacies of cost accounting, or calculus, or electrical engineering, and the people sitting on either side of you haven't, their failure will not affect your performance—unless, that is, you had intended to copy from their papers. In a classroom, interdependence is minimized. It is always you versus the material, and as long as you have mastered the material, you have achieved what is expected. Cooperation may even be considered cheating.

Another lesson we learn in school, , is that there are right and wrong answers, which may be even more difficult to unlearn. We were taught how to solve problems, and for each problem, that there is always a right answer, or at least one approach that is more correct than another. We think that the right answer is what the professors says it is, or what is hidden in our textbooks. "Life appears as a series of "eureka" problems, so-called because once you are shown the correct approach or answer, it is immediately self-evident that the answer is, in fact, correct".

An Alternative Perspective on Decision Making

There are three important things to remember about decisions.
First, a decision by itself changes nothing : just remember how many times you "decided" to quit smoking to get more exercise, to eat healthier foods, or to lose weight. Such resolutions often fizzle before producing any results.
Second, at the moment a decision is made, we cannot possibly know whether it is good or bad. We have to wait for the decision to be implemented to see the results clear.
The third is that we spend more time living with the consequences of our decisions than we do in making them.

Because decisions by themselves change nothing; and, at the time a decision is made, we cannot know its consequences; and if we spend more time living with our decisions than we do in making them, then it seems evident that the emphasis in much management training and practice has been misplaced. "In this sense, good managers are not only good analytic decision makers, more important, they are skilled in managing the consequences of their decisions".

The Management Process: A Power Perspective

The process of implementation involves a set of steps:

  1. Decide what your goals are, what you are trying to accomplish.
  2. Diagnose patterns of dependence and interdependence: what individuals are influential and important in your achieving your goal?
  3. What are their points of view likely to be? How will they feel about what you are trying to do?
  4. What are their power bases? Which of them is more influential in the decision?
  5. What are your bases of power and influence? What bases of influence can you develop to gain more control over the situation?
  6. Which of the various strategies and tactics for exercising power seem most appropriate and are likely to be effective, given the situation you confront?
  7. Based on the above, choose a course of action to get something done.


Chapter 2 : When Is Power Used?


Power is used more frequently under conditions of moderate interdependence.
It is important to develop power and influence when the people with whom you are interdependent have a different point of view than you, and thus cannot be relied upon to do what you want.
Interdependence results from many things, including the way in which tasks are organized. One factor that is critical in affecting the nature and the amount of interdependence is the scarcity of resources. Slack resources reduce interdependence, while scarcity increases it. As an example, consider the case of promotions. If an organization is growing rapidly and there are man promotional opportunities, the competition for promotions will be less intense.

Differences in Point of View

"The greater the task specialization in the organization, the more like there will be disagreements. This is simply because, when work is divided into different specialties and units, it is more likely that the organization will have people who differences in background and training will cause them to take different views of the situation".

Power : An Important Issue

Power is a valuable resource, if something is important, it will be sought by many, making it scarce.
It is necessary to recognize that importance has both a substantive and a symbolic component. "The appearance of power can actually provide power, and thus these efforts to maintain the symbols of power are significant".


Chapter 3 : Diagnosing Power and Dependence

Diagnosing Power and Dependence

The tasks required to assess power distribution in an organization are:
The relevant sub-units or subdivisions must be identified.
Have some indicators of power and apply them to the identified units to assess their relative power ranking.
The patterns of dependence and interdependence among them must be considered in order to determine an effective course of action.

All these tasks require judgment and experience, as well as knowledge of the particular situation, but there are some general ideas that can help.

The best way to identify the meaningful political categories for a given issue is to choose categories that are:

  1. As inclusive as possible
  2. Internally homogeneous with respect to the issues under study.

Identifying the political categories is, in other words, a problem of clustering, in which the criterion is to cluster people together to maximize their homogeneity in opinions and preferences that are relevant to the questions being studied. This involves the exercise of judgment, to discern whether the differences between given sets of people are important enough to justify considering them as separate political groups.

Assessing the Power of Subdivisions

To assess the relative standing of the power of various departments of an organizations, one might consider the following indicators:

Diagnosing Patterns of Dependence and Interdependence

In order to diagnose interdependence, it is necessary to ask the following questions:

  1. Whose cooperation will I need to accomplish what I am attempting: whose support will be necessary in order to get the appropriate decisions made and implemented?
  2. Whose opposition could delay or derail what I am trying to do?
  3. Who will be affected by what I am trying to accomplish, in either a) their power or status, b) how they are evaluat4d or rewarded, or c) in how they do their job?
  4. Who are the friends and allies of the people I have identified as influential?

Where Power Comes From

What is the "right place" to obtain power? A good place or position is the one that provides you with:

  1. control over resources such as budgets, physical facilities, and positions that can be used to cultivate allies and supporters;
  2. Control over or extensive access to information—about the organization's activities, about the preferences and judgments of others, about what it going on, and who is doing it.
  3. Formal authority.

Much of being in the right place comes from being in the right organizational subunit.


Chapter 5 : Resources, Allies, and the New Golden Rule

What Are Resources ?

Resources can be almost anything that is perceived as valuable, from building contracts to press exposure to control over systems and analysis.

Control of Resource Allocation and Use

Because it is so important to control, and not merely to possess, resources in order to obtain power, there is often a great deal of hue and cry in organizations about the right to exercise discretion over resources.

The control of physical space is another resource that can confer great power. Facilities people in corporations often are not powerful in a formal, organization chart sense, but they frequently exercise enormous influence because of their control over large building budgets and the allocation and use of facilities.

Power is vested in us by the dependence of others, and that dependence is a function of how much others need what we control, as well as how many alternative sources for that resource there are. "Another strategy for developing power is to ensure that there are no alternative ways of obtaining access to valuable resources we control".

Power : The Most Precious Resource

The most precious resource in any organization is an incremental resource, not already spoken for, that can be used to solve the organization's current problems.

So it is, quite possible to control, or substantially affect, the operations of a much larger entity, as long as one possesses discretionary control over a source of incremental resources.

Acquiring and Keeping Allies

One of the most important is the significance of finding others with common interests and building long-term relationships with them. "Coalitions survive over time because each element recognizes a commonality of interests. Deals are onetime, one-shot transactions, with no commitment on anyone's part for the future."

One of the ways in which we can build alliances and coalitions is by helping people with whom we have ties to obtain positions of powers.
Alliances are built not only by putting people in critical positions, but also by doing favors for others whose support what you want and need. The idea here is to capitalize on the norm of reciprocity, which says that we are obligated to future repayment of favors, gifts, invitations, and so forth.
What distinguishes the development of allies through reciprocity are the following features:

  1. the favors are not necessarily sought or even desired by the individual receiving them;
  2. the extent of the obligation is not specified at the time the favors are granted;
  1. the gift therefore creates, not a specific expectation (such as a vote in return for money), but a diffuse, generalized obligation.

One needs friends and allies to:

Allies and resources are important sources of power, and as such, such not be wasted.


Chapter 6 : Location in the Communication Network

Measuring Your Knowledge Power

Freeman has described three related conceptualizations of centrality:

  1. Betweenness, is a particularly useful indicator of information control; it assesses the extent to which a person falls between pairs of other individuals on the communication paths that link them.
  2. Connectedness, simply describes the number of others with whom one has contact, and it is more a measure of communication activity than of one's centrality in the network.
  3. Closeness, measures the distance between the focal individual and all other individuals in the communication network, using the shortest communication paths that exist between them.

Becoming Central in a Communication Network

There are times when we can choose where we sit, where we work, and what types of projects we seek out or avoid. The effects of such choices on communication centrality, and consequently, on power and influence need to be considered.
There are also things that we can do on our own to increase our access to influential people in the web of social relationships that constitutes an organization.
Working to achieve centrality is particularly important for people or groups who would otherwise have little power. Various forms of discrimination against women, for instance, have been extensively documented. This means that women need to be even more conscious of the important of networks and proximity, and more willing to be proactive in overcoming the obstacles and disadvantages that confront them.


Chapter 7: Formal Authority, Reputation, and Performance

Some Implications for Developing Power

Formal position its important because it confers control over certain resources and the ability to take certain implied or specified actions. As it is noted in the preceding chapter, resources are crucial in the quest to obtain power. Thus positions with control over resources and with actual decision-making authority are more desirable in terms of developing and exercising power. In this sense, line positions are generally better than staff assignments, even though various staff, internal consulting, and assistant-to jobs can be more interesting, fun, or intellectually challenging. In organizational battles, one needs an army and some supplies, and control over resources is important in securing power.

Because reputation is affected by first impressions, it matters to develop a good track record early. If you get off to a poor start, it may be necessary to switch to a different unit within the organization, or even to a different organization, in order to get your career moving again. Because of the interconnected nature of reputation, performance, and position, it is exceedingly difficult to work yourself out of a hole. It is better to start somewhere else, presumably having learned some lessons about how to be more effective in the future.

One of the lessons we learn from reading political and business biographies is that those who maintain power and influence over protracted periods of time do so because they are conscious of how power is developed and what its sources are, and because they work to acquire and maintain these sources through planned effort.


Chapter 9 : Individual Attributes as Sources of Power

Individual Attributes as Sources of Power

Organizations are characterized by interdependence, and frequently are arenas for competition and conflict among both individuals and subunits. For that reason, it is logical that attributes that are related to the capacity to garner support and allies—for example, sensitivity, flexibility, and being able to submerge one's ego when necessary—are important sources of power. And similarly, attributes that are related to the ability to survive in a competitive arena—such as focus, energy and stamina, and the willingness to engage in conflict—are also significant sources of individual power.


Chapter 10 : Framing: How We Look at Things Affects How They Look

How Issues Are Framed

We have seen that how things are viewed depends on the context—what they are compared to, whether there is a committing history of action, whether they are perceived to be scarce. In much the same way that pictures are framed, questions and actions are framed, and the context in which they are viewed and discussed determines what gets done. Establishing the framework within which issues will be viewed and decided is often tantamount to determining the result. Thus, setting the context is a critical strategy for exercising power and influence.


Chapter 11 : Interpersonal Influence

Social Proof and Informational Social Influence
Relying on the judgments of others to help us form our own opinions economizes on our cognitive work.
There is a second advantage . . . If we use others as a source of our views, then, obviously, we will come to hold the same views as they hold, and vice versa . . . Sharing views with others constitutes an important foundation for interpersonal attraction and social solidarity . . . A third advantage is that is reduces the likelihood of being ostracized or rejected.

Influence Through Emotions

Emotions are important techniques of interpersonal influence, there are two points to the argument that displayed this fact:

  1. Emotions displayed to others can be managed or controlled. If emotions, at least as experienced by others with whom we interact, were not controllable, then there would be little possibility for using expressed emotions strategically.
  2. Behavior of others is contingent, at least in part, on the emotions we display, and that consequently, expressed emotions can be effective in influencing their behavior.

The implication of the first two facts is that not everyone will have an equal ability to influence others by using emotions tactically. This skill can, in part, be learned or acquired, and it is one of the attributes that helps distinguish comparatively effective from less effective members of organizations.


Chapter 12 : Timing Is (Almost) Everything

The Uses of Delay and of Speed

There are numerous advantages to acting first. By staking out a position, by taking some action that will be difficult to undo, we can compel those who come later to accommodate themselves to our position.
Also, being first often provides the advantage of surprise, and the possibility of finding your opponent unprepared. Surprise is, on occasion, determinative in organizational politics.
One of the best ways to stop something is to delay it, and a very successful way of delaying something is to call for further study or consideration.
As a tactic in the process of decision making, delay is often made to appear accidental. Delay can also be used deliberately and openly, however, as when we choose to make others wait for our arrival
Causing others to wait, or not waiting yourself, is more than a symbol of your own power—it is a tactic that can be used to increase your power.


Chapter 13 : The Politics of Information and Analysis

Selective Use of Information

A good strategy is to employ an outside expert, such as a consulting firm, to produce the answers you need. Moreover, given that it was done by a legitimate, reputable firm with an aura of expertise, the analysis must be correct. And furthermore, since the work was performed by an outside organization, with apparently no particular political stake in the results, the recommendations must surely be objective and impartial.

Using data selectively comes from simple self-interested behavior. But, it more than self-interest that produces the selective use of both data and a particular perspective. Through a process of commitment, individuals come to believe in what they do. And under conditions of uncertainty, which often characterize managerial decision making, individuals would prefer to use both data and decision-making processes with which they are comfortable. Thus, it is not surprising that finance types, often unfamiliar with engineering or with manufacturing processes, rely on quantitative indicators of operations and forecasts of economic return, while engineers rely more on technical factors and on their sense of the product design or the design of the operating system. We do what we know how to do, and we make choices according o the criteria that are most familiar to us.

Why There Is Often No Learning

Just as there is collective responsibility for decisions, there is a collective unwillingness to determine the causes of past failures. Organizations are notorious for avoiding evaluation and avoiding looking backward. They are incredibly non introspective.
It is important to recognize that the connection between results and what happens to people inside large organizations is quite tenuous, for all that reasons that I have presented. What this means is that we should probably not hesitate to use information and analysis to exercise power in organizations, since the strategy is an effective one and the likelihood of our being called to account for our actions is not very great.


Chapter 14 : Changing the Structure to Consolidate Power

Changing the Structure to Consolidate Power

Structure can be used to divide and conquer the opposition. I can be used to consolidate your own power, by placing your self or your allies in a position to exercise more control over resources and information.
Breaking up independent units or reducing their power almost always tends to increase the power of those in more centralized positions.
Structural power is developed by obtaining control of a unit rich in resources, information, and formal authority, on the one hand, and by preventing your opponents from gaining structural bases of power, on the other. Once you have gained control of a unit, structural reorganizations can be employed to expand your unit's sphere of influence, thereby enhancing power at the expense of competing units in the organization. Territory is one source of power, and organizational territory—the reach or span of activities—is something that structural modifications can profoundly effect.


Chapter 15 : Symbolic Action: Language, Ceremonies, and Settings

Symbolic Action

Language, ceremonies, and settings are so important in the exercise of influence is because we are often scarcely conscious of their effects on us. The influence of appropriately chosen language, well-conducted ceremonies, and carefully designed settings can escape our conscious attention. And because of our focus on the rational and the analytic, we are likely to downplay their potency.


Chapter 16 : Even the Mighty Fall: How Power Is Lost

How Power Is Lost

To avoid losing power we need to be sensitive to sometimes subtle changes in the environment, and to understand how a particular style, a particular set of activities, and a particular approach are effective because they fit the customs and concerns of a specific era. We also need the flexibility to adjust our behavior to accommodate the new reality, even if this means abandoning well-worn habits. People in power are seldom challenged or given bad news, and even when challenged, they have a tendency to reject the discrepant information. Having developed a particular skill at one way of doing things or thinking about problems, they are not always skilled with alternative approaches. It is no wonder, then, that changing circumstances often produce, with some lag, a dynamic that causes those in power to lose that power.
People who arrive at powerful positions without working their way up, without experience in acquiring and holding onto power, often lose power simply because they lack insight about its dynamics.
"What we want to learn, then, is both how to avoid losing power prematurely and how to leave our positions gracefully. Understanding our role in the system by which organizations operate and are governed will help us to achieve both of these goals"


Chapter 17 : Managing Political Dynamics Productively

Managing Political Dynamics Productively

There is an old saying that goes, "Education means you know more and more about less and less," and the same can be said for experience in an organization.
One problem with power dynamics is that it takes time, energy, and effort to engage in attempts at intraorganizational influence, and some see these efforts as a waste of organizational resources.
One way of ameliorating this problem is to reduce the incentives or reasons to engage in political activity. This can be done by dividing organizational rewards more evenly. If there is nothing substantial to be gained from attempts at influence, because everyone fares abut the same in any event, the influence attempts should diminish. For instance, it may be efficient to reduce the variation of wages among organizational members; this will lessen influence attempts to affect career outcomes such as promotions and wages. In general, distributing organizational resources (such as capital budgets, additional personnel, and so forth) more equally can be an effective way to reduce influence activities and the time and effort consumed by them.


Chapter 18 : Managing with Power

What Does It Mean to Manage with Power?

Managing with Power means recognizing that in almost every organization, there are varying interests. This suggests that one of the first things we need to do is to diagnose the political landscape and figure out what the relevant interests are, and what important political subdivisions characterize the organization.
Next, it means figuring out what point of view these various individuals and subunits have on issues of concern to us. It also means understanding why they have the perspective that they do.
Third, managing with power means understanding that to get things done, you need power—more power than those whose opposition you must overcome—and thus it is imperative to understand where power comes from and how these sources of power can be developed.
Fourth, managing with power means understanding the strategies and tactics through which power is developed and used in organizations, including the importance of timing, the use of structure, the social psychology of commitment and other forms of interpersonal influence. If nothing else, such an understanding will help us become astute observers of the behavior of others.
Managing with power means more than knowing the ideas discussed in this book. It means willing to do something with that knowledge. It requires political savvy to get things done, and the willingness to force the issue…


Comments about the book.

Jeffrey Pfeffer’s book is about politics and influence in organizations here he describes the road-map to obtain power in an organization in four important points:

He compiles basic ideas of socio – psychology and organizational-psychology in order to show the reader, after presenting ideas and examples of cases that sometimes are easily to understand, the relation personal and organizational. To manage with power by following the basic knowledge of this book we have to remember the points above and use them with common sense and most important human sense.


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