Back in 2010 I wrote a post about how to Tap Into Informal Leaders to Influence. The basic premise of the post was that I learned that in order to turn or change an organization, you only need to find the square root of the total employees and focus on spreading the word through that number of people. For example:
Organization size- 5,000 employees
Square root of 5,000- 70.71 employees
So, in order to make change stick in this example, you would need to find the 70 employees who are the informal leaders/ influencers and get them on board. Messaging should still come from more formal channels, but by getting the influencers to spread the word with you, you can make a more significant impact on the organizational change.
I have been thinking about this as I have conversation after conversation about organizational culture, influence and employee engagement. I’ve talked to leaders over the years who sincerely believe that company culture comes from the top down, and maybe that is a possibility. I tend to embrace the idea that with each new employee you add to the organization, the company culture shifts a bit. They each help form the ever-evolving culture. I’m not sure that either opinion is 100% correct and that’s alright.
What I am sure of is that if this theory is true, a company can be changed by a relatively small number of people. If you’re in a position to want to make your workplace better, more inclusive, more productive and more welcoming to all employees, it really doesn’t take much to turn the whole ship around. The same holds true for the reverse and this is why a small group can also make a workplace unbearable.
When I first heard this theory, I began reaching out to the informal leaders in my organization whenever a more formal message was coming out. I would find those influencers who may not have a fancy title or years of service, those who had the ear of the other employees though. I would make sure they knew what was coming and that they felt like part of the process. It really seemed to make a difference in getting ideas from management accepted.
What do you think? Have you experienced this before? Let me know in the comments.
Interesting – in 2011 I wrote on Fistful of Talent that researchers also found that when 10% of a population holds an unshakeable belief that belief will ALWAYS be adopted by the majority.
Similar concept – we don’t need to get everyone on board – just the few that transmit the meme and then get a small portion of the population to commit to it. We often give up or think a task is too monumental when we really only need to get the ball rolling and let inertia take over.
Post link here: http://fistfuloftalent.com/2011/08/hr-should-only-give-10-to-changing-culture.html
Very interesting thoughts here! I do think it is very true that even a small number of people (maybe not exactly the square root….!) can make big changes in an organization. Thanks for sharing your insight!