Power architecture

The basic relationship in most enterprises is that of employer and employee, extended through limited power sharing to that of boss and subordinate. Manifestations of power include responsibility, accountability, authority, autonomy, etc.  Power is kind of the dark side of sociality, and not often explicitly described aside from the formal organization chart.  But “everyone knows” the power of the boss’s secretary, the superstar developer, etc. whose power is incommensurate with their formal role.

Elements:

  • Role-player
  • demand
  • constraint
  • reward
  • sanction

A key dimension of power within the enterprise is described by Berle and Means in their book The Modern Corporation and Private Property , 1932, Adolf Berle and Gardiner Means:  “have we any justification for assumption that those in control of a modern corporation will also choose to operate it in the interests of the owners? The answer to this question will depend on the degree to which the self-interest of those in control may run parallel to the interests of ownership and, insofar as they differ, on the checks on the use of power which may be established by political, economic, or social conditions... If we are to assume that the desire for personal profit is the prime force motivating control, we must conclude that the interests of control are different from and often radically opposed to those of ownership; that the owners most emphatically will not be served by a profit-seeking controlling group.”

Purpose:

The purpose of a power-oriented viewpoint is generally  to understand how things get done, how power structures align with roles and accountability, with processes, and other aspects of the enterprise.

  • Descriptive - Just describing the power structure clearly and candidly may be valuable, but is almost certain to be dangerous.  It is important to consider how public to make this understanding, but it is always useful to any service provider to understand the decision-making power structure in their area of interest and intervention.
  • Prescriptive - There has been a lot of prescriptive work around the idea of empowerment.
  • Predictive - It seems intuitive that different environments and features can make it possible to predict power structures.  A simple example might seem be presented by the military, which is a canonical form of command structure.  On deeper examination it can be there are many different power structures even in the military -- formal protocols in the Pentagon, opportunistic improvisation by empowered squads in the field.