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Coalitions

 

Disciplines > Politics > Power in politics > Coalitions

Avoiding coalitions | Handling coalitions

 

When threatened or otherwise stressed, people form into groups to defend against a common enemy. They may also band together to achieve a common goal.

This can be bad news and the bottom line is that if you are trying to get something done in an organization, you really do not want to have to do battle with a coalition.

Avoiding coalitions

It is best if you can first act to avoid coalitions starting, for example by:

  • Managing information to demonstrate that they are not needed.
  • Managing the sequence of information to guide their thinking and at least avoiding the worst forms of coalition.
  • Increase the visibility of specific issues to show the irrelevance of a coalition.
  • Break down the problem into separated issues, so a coalition cannot form around impossibly big issues.

Handling coalitions

Coalitions are more powerful than individuals, not only because they represent mass action, but because they also build in social obligations such that individual coalition members will be loathe to act individually and against the interests of the coalition as a whole.

This makes handling them very dangerous. Macmillan and Guth (1985) suggest the following tactics:

  • Form a pre-emptive coalition, including some of the key people who would otherwise join the opposition.
  • Form a counter-coalition if the opposing coalition appears anyway, although watch out for this causing war games.
  • Change the power of the coaltions leaders, for example by restructuring their jobs beneath them, removing their position power.
  • Co-opt coaltion members onto plum jobs, especially the waverers and key people.
  • Increase communication and persuasion, because it is surprising how often just talking works.
  • Remove coalition leaders, for example by sacking them or sending them overseas.

See also

Macmillan, I.C. and Guth, W. D. (1985). "Strategy implementation and middle management coalitions" In R. Lamb and P. Shrivistava (eds), Advances in Strategic Management, Vol 3 (Greenwith, CT: JAI Press, 233-254)

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