“As a manager, you may have the power to change your organization’s policies with the stroke of a pen. And you may have the ability to hire, fire, promote and demote people with relatively little effort.

But changing an entrenched culture is the toughest task you will face. To do so, you must win the hearts and minds of the people you work with, and that takes both cunning and persuasion.” - in his book, ‘The Wall Street Journal Guide To Management’, Alan Murray has perfectly described how incredibly difficult it is to change culture in an organization.

shutterstock_89543437According to a survey conducted by PwC Strategy&’s Katzenbach Center, 84% of 2,200 managers and employees say culture is critical to their organizations’ success, yet merely 53% of businesspeople say culture is an instrumental component of the leadership agenda in their organization. Even fewer firms are able to manage culture effectively, according to 35% of surveyed employees.

Why culture change is difficult

It is a widely known fact that over two thirds of all change initiatives fail (approx. 70%). Therefore, it is safe to say that effective change management is as critical as culture is to the success of a firm. So what happens when organizations find themselves in the position when they have to manage culture change? They are likely to struggle and perhaps even fail, unless they have sufficient knowledge of their employee networks, and an actual plan to facilitate this culture change by involving and empowering the hidden influencers of those networks. But do all organizations possess that knowledge? Do you?

shutterstock_95948578The primary reason for the failure of change initiatives is employee resistance, which may spring from poor communication, unclear goals and because change may be perceived by employees as an undesired process that is being imposed on them.

Although organizations are increasingly making attempts at identifying their change agents in order to include them in organizational development initiatives, it is more often than not that business leaders are mistaken about the identities of these employees. This is because managers typically assign as change agents people they interact with the most, as opposed to objectively determining who are their current employees most equipped to help management design and implement change programs. This bias, or lack of knowledge about the real opinion leaders within the organization, affects the pace at which and the context in which successful change initiatives happen. These management-identified change agents will seldom be motivated to support and drive the new goals and vision, as their newly given roles will feel like another burden.

Overcoming the difficulties of change

Organizational network analysis uses a simple, yet powerful methodology to detect the employees most likely to help you support change initiatives. The methodology is grounded in common sense, organizational studies, and network theory, and promotes change management from within, based on transparency, trust, and peer-nominated recognition of employees’ real knowledge and skill sets.

Instead of cunning and persuasion, you can use the encouragement and support of your own employees to make sure that your change initiatives will succeed. Peer-nominated change agents are the most central and motivated cultural assets your organization possesses, and they are naturally influencing their networks of peers and managers. So choosing an organic solution for leading cultural change in your organization is both more cost-efficient, as well as more humanizing and effective.

Empowering your hidden influencers helps you:

  • speed up the process of aligning the entire workforce to the new strategies,
  • gain their trust and appreciation through effective and open communication,
  • use the power of personal networks to design and implement real change, rather than leave them to waste in rumors and misguided talk.


Identifying change agents, however, is only one leg of the job. Managers must have a plan to involve them in the creation or execution of the new strategies. These employees are usually highly committed and independent, and therefore must be viewed as co-creators and thought-partners, rather than mouthpieces. That will not suit their agendas.

All in all, organizational culture is highly valuable, while change is often risky and difficult, hence the change of culture is viewed as the toughest task a manager can face. In order to be successful, managers must have a clear vision and a solid plan about involving influencers. With the help of organizational network analysis, this is possible.

Learn more about the power of hidden influencers


Are you interested in learning more about how hidden influencers can drive culture change?

Listen to András Vicsek, OrgMapper’s head of research, and Mike Lehr, #1 Key Opinion Leader in Change Management, in our upcoming webinar (December 1, 4PM CET/10AM EST) as they discuss how organizational network analysis can help more effectively identify change agents, and better manage employee communication programs.