Even church choirs are political entities. When human being come together to achieve a goal, political activity emerges. Wherever there is competition of ideas and/or people, political behavior exists.
So it should be no surprise if intelligence agencies are to some extent politicized. That is what The Secret Handshake and It’s All Politics are about — how political behavior is manifested in organizations, what types are more conducive to effective work and what individuals and leaders can do to manage politics.
When Mike Pompeo, nominee for CIA Director, was asked in today’s hearing if the CIA is politicized, he likely interpreted that question in terms of political party influence and so replied that he hasn’t observed the problem. But there is another often less obvious and more virulent form of politics in organizations.
The type of politics that every organization must watch has nothing to do with political parties. It is about, in part, how things get done, whose ideas are heard, accepted and rejected, who is rewarded for what behaviors, and the nature of communication types and flow.
It’s imperative that the next director of any U.S. intelligence agency appreciate this type of politics and work to assure that the culture of the organization does not fall into, or anywhere near, political arenas described in The Secret Handshake as “pathological.” When organizations are so infected, they are usually in the process of self-destruction in terms of their more positive goals and often take a lot of good people with them before that destruction is complete.
It’s up to leaders to know enough about organizational politics to assure that the levels are at the minimal or moderate end of the continuum and stay there. This means how organizational politics operate needs to be understood and managed.
I’ve worked with many organizations to achieve this goal. When the work starts after an organization (in whole or part) is highly or pathologically political, ridding it of dysfunctional politics is much more difficult. There is no reason to believe that government agencies are immune to dysfunctional politics. The sooner people on the Hill begin to recognize this and take steps to manage politics, the better the American people will be served.