An organization is not really analogous to a chessboard. But, similar to chess, players have relationships, moves, and targeted goals. Each “play” eliminates or opens up another player’s move. The analogy might be closer if there were multiple interconnecting boards in the chess game. That said, when influencing we don’t always consider the use of other player’s or the value of anticipating two or three plays ahead.
When you are dealing with one or more players, you should sketch the map of:
- Each player
- His or her key stakeholders (whether they are involved or not)
- Your other key stakeholders (e.g., related functions, etc.)
Add two different types of information as a layer to your map.
- Strength of relationship or affiliation. As we did for our VP-Technology scenario, you can note your opinion of whether there is strong affiliation, problematic discord or a neutral quality to the inter-relationships.
- Patterns of action. If the issue is mostly about the sequencing and dynamics of players, you can organize your map in a flowchart to show the most common flow of ideas, behaviors, or decision, etc.
In the scenario below, a team was working to understand how to influence the head of Information Technology. They mapped out the players to include his key relationships (simplified in the picture to the right).
When looking at the map, what struck the team most was that their key target of influence appeared not to have any strong relationships other than his AVP, a long-time colleague. That sparked a strategy to influence the AVP and focus on understanding what the VP cared about most, which they decided was likely his standing with the technology community. The next challenge was considering who and how to influence the AVP (a tough nut himself).
In addition, they needed to consider the patterns of action (e.g., communication dynamics, sequence of decision-making, etc.) that would enrich the influencing work further. The opportunity was to then map that understanding on the targeted decision, finding ways to insert the right player to make the best move at the right time.
Can you do this in your head? Or in a conversation with a colleague? Yes, you can. But, I guarantee you will have a better view of the playing field and far insights and ideas with all that data in front of you. Grab your drawing board and sketch the scenario. See what alternative paths emerge/