The Guardians of Organizational Cultural Change

This week, we are starting a new conversation about organizational culture change. We have invited Bernie White from New Zealand to join our conversation that will be held in the upcoming weeks. Bernie is a partner at Better Change, our strategic partner consultancy specializing in “helping people change for the better every day” in New Zealand. He is an expert in organizational change management and will share his experience about a cultural change project that took place in a large public service department in New Zealand.

This week’s insights

  • Change generates emotions, so employees must search for peers whom they can trust share their feelings with, and ask for advice.
  • Key employees, who are identified as influencers, need to identify themselves as a group that holds many responsibilities relating to the communication of change amongst the employees.
  • Selflessness, vulnerability, and an openness to exploring imperfections are key leadership characteristics that facilitate successful organizational culture change.


 “Cultural Kaitiakis” as the guardians of organizational culture change

Kaitiakitanga: New Zealand term for Māori concept of guardianship for the sky, the sea and the land. Kaitiakitanga is a broad notion which includes the following ideas: guardianship, care and wise management.


Bernie and his team were involved in a culture change project with 600 employees of the IT department of a large governmental organization in New Zealand in 2016. To better develop their organizational culture, the governmental IT department wanted to create a second communication channel to the leaders alongside of the formal communication routes. They also aspired to inform leadership decisions towards the employees to reach higher performance and create a better place to work.

OrgMapper | INFLUENCE is a leading organizational change management software that detects key influential employees and screens internal communications. In this project, the software was used to identify 30 influencers within the governmental department. They were nominated by their peers, who recognized them as the most influential, capable, and best-connected employees willing to put enduring effort into helping the company achieve its goals.

In this article, we will summarize the four main insights of the project that Bernie has highlighted.

#1 – The group of influencers became the second communication channel to the leaders

The identified group of influencers indeed became a second communication channel to the CIO and an invaluable resource to the leadership. This group’s voice is not just the voice of one person, but rather represents the opinion of the entire workforce. The message that spread from the influencers in the heart of the organization has been heard, understood, and RESPONDED TO by the whole IT division.

#2 – Influencers are the guardians of the organizational culture change

The influencers care about employee satisfaction, strengthening relationships among colleagues, and improving work motivation across the silos of the department. Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, use the term “kaitiakitanga”, which means guardianship and protection of the sky, sea, and land. According to the Māori culture, the peer-nominated influencers are the guardians of organizational culture change. They are the cultural ambassadors, or the “kaitiaki” for the whole organization.

#3 – The real guardians of organizational culture change are the trusted advocates of the leaders

The identified group of influencers is significantly more constructive than the broader group of employees. The leaders have realized that these influencers can create a path for successful culture change. To be successful, the newly identified “guardians of culture” need to first explore and then define themselves as a group that will take on the responsibility of communicating the culture change to the employees and function as a reliable and trusted advocates for broader strategic development of IT capability.  

#4 – A remarkable leader is essential for a successful organizational culture change management project

Selflessness, vulnerability, and an openness to exploring imperfections are key leadership characteristics that facilitate successful organizational culture change. Selfless leaders empower influencers to lead and allow them to move beyond the role of acting as a communication channel. When influencers can facilitate dialogue, and become a powerful force for creating a positive future, it lays a strong and lasting foundation for successful organization cultural change.

For further details on the project, please visit our new podcast channel here!

If you have ever used influencers for organizational culture change, then we are very interested in hearing about the insights that you found exciting and unexpected. Next week, we will share the point of view from the perspective of the client from New Zealand.

Join us for our next webinar on the powerful role of influencers held on Thursday, December 7th! For further information, please click the button below:


If you have any comments, we are looking forward to hearing from you! Please join the conversation via any of OrgMapper’s social channels!


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