3. Pride builders: people who are respected as peers and are part of the groups where change is targeted. They embrace new behaviors as early adopters, and influence others in turn. The importance of pride builders has been evident in the work of other researchers, including University of Illinois psychologist Leann Lipps Birch (who convinced resistant children to eat peas in the late 1970s by seating them at tables with other kids who liked the vegetable) and Booz & Company Senior Partner Jon Katzenbach (whose book Why Pride Matters More Than Money: The Power of the World’s Greatest Motivational Force was published by Crown Business in 2003). In Huntington, some of the teenagers Oliver worked with became role models for their friends. In your organization, gaining the cooperation and support of such individuals will help instill the voice of the employees into every new approach and policy. Pride builders can also help refine your view of what changes are needed and how to implement them.
When they work in harmony, these three categories of individuals can accelerate the pace of change, and help one another see what is being accomplished. For example, in a customer service environment, the culture carriers can put forth an aspirational message of service excellence, explaining why it will attract customers. The authority figures can mandate new behaviors that demonstrate service excellence, and put in place the incentives, rewards, and metrics needed to track progress. The pride builders might include frontline service workers who are willing to embrace this new ethic, and who can show others how to translate the idea that “the customer is always right” into new types of behaviors. Every time you introduce a relevant change, all three types of influencers can be drawn in to reinforce it.
Formal and Informal Change
After several months in Huntington, Jamie Oliver managed to catalyze change among many groups of people — at the elementary school, the high school, and in the community at large. Jamie’s Kitchen is still operating; according to its website, it is funded by four local organizations, including a clinic and a not-for-profit hospital. There were other efforts in place to change attitudes about food, but Oliver’s energetic outreach brought many more people to embrace the idea that eating healthy gets easier over time and feels better.
Oliver’s West Virginia story can serve as a crash course in bringing about change. Some elements — defining the aspiration, finding key influencers, targeting behavior — are analogous to the informal elements of any organizational change initiative. Oliver’s success in Huntington came in part from his uncanny ability to energize and motivate the citizens, build informal networks, and help individuals experiment with new healthy eating behaviors.
But Oliver also deployed formal mechanisms — the same kind to which executives often turn when embarking on a transformation initiative in a corporate setting — such as redesigning reporting structures, setting goals, and communicating priorities to the whole organization. These top-down, rational activities are commonly seen as primary levers for aligning the organization in the same direction. For Oliver, these formal mechanisms included finding food suppliers for the school kitchens that could meet the budget criteria, working with the state inspector to modify policies concerning what counted as serving “a healthy meal,” training the kitchen staff in cooking healthy food from scratch, and ensuring that forks and knives were available in the school cafeteria. His attention to the formal side of change management appeared later in the series, as he clearly came to realize the importance of some of these less-showy organizational modifications.
To achieve sustainable success when implementing cultural change, you must integrate formal and informal efforts. For example, a new performance management system may require shifting the reporting structure of the HR function, alongside an agreement among key leaders to conduct appraisals differently. With both types of mechanisms working together, new, contagious ideas can reach the large scale necessary for impact in a global company.