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17 May 2012

Change Management Strategy: Find & Consolidate the 5%

This entry is part 1 of 8 in the series Change Management Strategy

A great change strategy focuses on finding the right people who will support it.

In 2008, a study by Professor Jens Krause, then of the University of Leeds, indicated that it only takes a purposeful minority of five percent to influence an entire crowd. The implication of his work for change management is this: we can initiate change with a small minority, we don’t need everyone at the outset. A passionate minority can often be very successful against an inert majority.

In general, there are four types of personalities when it comes to change:

  1. Initiators: want to initiate change because the status quo doesn’t serve them
  2. Adapters: adapt once they see the change working for the initiators
  3. Followers: will follow the other two types once they believe it’s “the thing to do”
  4. Resistors: will resist change because they don’t want to change or can’t change

The five percent will usually include Initiators. The problem is that many companies have them scattered across the company as in Figure #1. However, if we can consolidate them so they can work together and mutually support one another, they become Figure #2. Even though it’s only five percent of the total picture appears quite more powerful than the five percent spread randomly throughout Figure #1. The same happens in groups and organizations especially if some are in leadership positions.

Any insurrection begins with connecting supporters. This might mean reorganizing so they can work together: assigning them to the same project team, task force, product development team, call center or marketing campaign. The grouping should be as cross functional as possible down to the support people.

To cement the team’s camaraderie, it should receive attention from top leadership and ample dose of interpersonal techniques from it. Their momentum will encourage the adapters and followers leaving only the resistors with whom to work.


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