Cobb, Anthony T. (1986). Political Diagnosis: Applications in Organizational Development. Academy of Management Review, Vol. 11 Issue 3. 482-497

Topics: Political philosophy, Power, Politics Pages: 7 (2142 words) Published: June 6, 2008
Bibliographic reference:

Cobb, Anthony T. (1986). Political Diagnosis: Applications in Organizational Development. Academy of Management Review, Vol. 11 Issue 3. 482-497

Abstract (Quoted from the article):

The political side of OD intervention is receiving more consideration by those in the field. Most of this attention focuses on how the consultant can increase and use his or her power in the client system. Little attention has been given, however, to the diagnostic requirements of effective political action. An overview of issues and techniques is provided here for the political diagnosis of client systems.


The objective or purpose of the article is to enable an OD consultant to effectively diagnose political situations in an organization and identify sources of power which can act as change agents during interventions.

The author, Anthony Cobb is Associate Professor of Management at Virginia Tech. and specializes in organizational politics and justice. In this article, he analyses the power base of individuals, coalitions and organization networks and recommends the procedure to try and read the political situation in an organization across these three levels.

Anthony Cobb aims the article primarily at OD consultants and provides ways and means to them to effectively read political pulse in the organizations and identify key elements therein.

The article has its base in the basic social phenomenon of politics and power and its translation and importance during organizational change and OD interventions.

It also gives an indirect indication of different interactions and relationships an OD consultant might have during the course of the intervention process.

Reflections from the article:
The article comprehensively establishes the importance and the impact of political analysis during diagnosis for OD interventions.

A dispositional approach is used wherein the allocation and nature of power resources are studied in more detail as opposed to an episodic approach, where an attempt is made to define and conceptualize a model for effective political diagnosis. Thus the focus throughout the article is on understanding the sources of power in an organization and predicting a shift in that power when subjected to interventions or change.

A clear foundation is laid for methods of political diagnosis through three levels of analysis ; namely, the individual, coalitions and networks. A very detailed explanation of power and its impact is provided across several contexts through approaches involving decision making analysis, reputation analysis and position analysis of power across each level of influence in an organization.

The author starts with individual power and graduates to coalition power and network power. This mode of analysis is synonymous with part to whole methodology of systems where the system’s individual units are studied first, followed by the loop or sub system that they form a part of and finally the linkages between them.

The analogies can thus be drawn very clearly although Cobb chooses to use the nomenclature micro, intermediate and macro for the respective levels. Within each level, a methodology is suggested for analysis involving the position of the power source, the reputation or information provided on that source and finally the purpose for which each source uses power.

Coalitions are also touched upon and their stability is another factor considered in the recommended diagnosis procedure.

The article pays significant respect to the upcoming issue of informal linkages or networks in organizations and their influence on the power structure. Networks and types of linkages are described with sufficient clarity and a holistic view of linkages and reasons for the same is provided through parametric descriptions such as information flow, resource flow, alliances etc.

In conclusion, the author is attempting to paint as clear a picture as...
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