Win the Change with your Frenchman
January 11th, 2022 | From our CEO
A transformation director engaged the informal organization as change catalysts including the Frenchman, who had double the influence of all others even though he just joined the company.
Learn what traits made the Frenchman so influential, and how the transformation director won the change together with the people.
Innovation, Improved Decision Making and Agility – But Above All Survival!
The objectives were many, as the company wanted to transform itself: Innovation, Improved Decision Making, and Agility, but above all, it was about survival. Times had never been more challenging since the company was founded in the 1980’ies, so the support of the people was needed more than ever.
Unfortunately, the company had a poor track record of succeeding with change. Changes had been run top-down, and the organization did not buy in. The change failure rate was above 60%. Something had to be changed in the approach!
Winning the change
The new transformation director was to make the change a success.
Understanding the complexity of the challenge, he knew he needed facts to make top leadership understand that top-down would not win the change. A different approach to change was needed. An approach that engaged the people in the informal organization. He decided to run an analysis of the informal influence flows.
It was an approach he had tried with success before with his previous employer.
Who was sought out for advice? – who energized colleagues? – and who was trusted?
The Frenchman Who Joined Only Four Months Before
It only took three weeks to idea the results, and the facts were surprising. The most influential employee had only been with the company for four months. It was the Frenchman.
“But he is just talking all the time?”. Leadership could not believe it. The transformation director countered: “Maybe that is what we need? People that speak with people”. The facts spoke for themselves. The “Frenchman” was more than twice as influential as any of his more tenured colleagues.
What Made the Frenchman So influential?
How had the “Frenchman” become so influential in only four months.
Firstly, he was likeable. He was smiling and he was paying interest to small things in his colleagues work life, but so was other people in the organization.
Secondly, he was also competent. His intelligence and expertise were felt in any discussion around ‘how to solve things’ in the organization. His advice was reliable, and he was quickly earning a reputation in the word-of-mouth as a go-to person.
Thirdly, he was trustworthy. He was disciplined in getting back to his colleagues with a reflected answer when he did not have an immediate answer. It could take 1-2 days, but he would always get back to you. He had high integrity and was consistent in his behaviors.
He was just a good person, asking curious questions and helping colleagues with their everyday challenges.
The Most Influential Employee After Four Months
These characteristics made him the most influential employee within four months. The employee the transformation director needed to have on board if he wanted to succeed. The employee that had the informal power to IGNITE or BLOCK any change. The person others reached out to when they were trying to make sense of what was going on.
Switching the Informal Networks On!
Luckily, the transformation director now knew. He could now mobilize the Frenchman and other influencers across the company – a total of 3% of the employees, who collectively shaped the perceptions of 91% of their peers.
He listened to them in a series of informal conversations, shared the reasons for transforming, and invited them to co-create activities and plans for succeeding. Eventually turning them into insiders for the change that would speak his ‘case’ in all the informal conversations happening every day across the company and catalyze the change.
Quickly, it started to go viral. People across the organization could make sense of it, buy into it – and that is where the real change happened.
Do you know the Frenchman in your company?