Driving Culture Change in a Large-Scale Blue-Collar Environment

A prominent global company had 10,000+ people working across various locations. Their people were on the road, in the shops, and in headquarters – showcasing a workforce that is about half blue-collar, half white-collar.

The company’s executives and strategists in the headquarters recognized that initiating a culture change would be extremely challenging. They knew that the formal reporting from all the different locations barely scratched the surface of the actual dynamics at play. This created too many blind spots in the whole organization. Therefore, the traditional top-down approach to culture change from headquarters needed to be rethought.

How did headquarters address the challenge of reaching a decentralized workforce?

They approached Innovisor for expert guidance. The primary goal was to find the most effective way to reach and influence the decentralized and dispersed workforce. They used Innovisor’s Ready to Go Solution, Change Accelerator, to get to know their unknown secret to change as they learned about in the book “Another Change Fiasco! Now What?” – their change catalysts across all locations.

What did Innovisor discover about influence within the company?

Innovisor’s diagnostic revealed a crucial insight: the workers were far more influenced by their peers within local networks or cliques in the locations than by communications from leadership within the headquarters.

This finding underscored a fundamental principle of successful culture change: initiatives must be done BY the people and WITH the people, not merely imposed ON or TO the people, especially from headquarters.

Who were the right people in these cliques in each of the locations?

Innovisor employed its #ThreePercentRule algorithm to identify the right people – better known as the change catalysts, through close to 100,000 relationships.

Like in many other cases, a small group of employees, representing just 3%, was found to drive the opinions and attitudes of the rest of thhe organization. In this specific case, the 3% influenced 84% of the organization.

The discovery of the limited influence of headquarters and the powerful influence of the 3% of employees was a game-changer for their culture change initiative.

They realized that to foster a genuine culture change movement, they needed to engage these informal change catalysts. It was not enough to push directives from the top, and HQ; they needed to understand whether these change catalysts supported the initiative and felt aligned with the changes being proposed. The heart of the challenge was to make these change catalysts feel connected and positive about the change, as their buy-in was crucial for the broader acceptance across the company.

How did understanding the network lead to effective culture change?

Mapping the network and identifying the right people – the change catalysts – was not enough.

The real power lies in engaging and activating the change catalysts. These change catalysts needed to be insiders on all fronts that are being decided by the headquarters so that the ripple effect of the culture change interventions to the broader was maximized. Innovisor provided a roadmap for targeted interventions, enabling the headquarters to craft strategies that resonated with the change catalysts and, by extension, the rest of the workforce.

The integration of network analysis with stakeholder engagement strategies meant that the company could now execute precise and impactful actions. By focusing on the 3% who shaped the opinions of almost the entire organization, HQ could ensure that their culture change initiative was not just a top-down directive but a movement that was embraced and driven by the people themselves.

Understanding and leveraging informal networks within a large, decentralized workforce is crucial for successful culture change, achieved by identifying key informal influencers and securing their support to foster authentic and sustainable transformations that engage all employees.

Case written by

Richard Santos Lalleman

Connect directly with Richard via one of his social platforms

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