Change is hard, especially in a large organization. Numerous studies have shown that employees tend instinctively to oppose change initiatives because they disrupt established power structures and ways of getting things done. However, some leaders do succeed—often spectacularly—at transforming their workplaces. What makes them able to exert this sort of influence when the vast majority can’t? All of our findings underscore the importance of networks in influencing change. First, formal authority may give you the illusion of power, but informal networks always matter, whether you are the boss or a middle manager. Second, think about what kind of network you have—or your appointed change agent has—and make sure it matches the type of change you’re after. A bridging network helps drive divergent change; a cohesive network is preferable for nondivergent change. Third, always identify and cultivate fence-sitters, but handle resisters on a case by case basis. We saw clear evidence that these three network factors dramatically improved managers’ odds of successfully implementing all kinds of reforms. We believe they can do the same for change agents in a wide variety of organizations.
Read also: The Secrets of Great Change Agents