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The One Thing You Need To Understand About Your Company’s Culture

Changing corporate culture is hard, and many companies make it even harder by not understanding the different segments that make up their company.

In every company, there are different groups, each of which have a different willingness or resistance to accepting change and you need to have a strategy and plan for each group.

In my experience these groups fall into five different categories, and I have reflected these on the Culture Adoption Profile Chart below.

Active Advocates

When you look to do things like improving operational excellence, customer service, etc., roughly around 5 percent of your organization are already exhibiting the qualities and characteristics of the new culture you are looking to implement.  

You need to identify these people, give them positive recognition and feedback, and look to use them as role models for the behavioursthat you are looking for others to copy.

Early Advocates

Around 10-15 percent of your organization will fall into the early advocate’s segment, these are people who are highly engaged, but need direction and guidance and will readily adopt the changes that you are looking to implement. With the right guidance and encouragement, this group will also act as role models for the new organization.

Passive Followers

This group is probably the largest segment within your organization, amounting to around 40-50 percent. They will eventually adapt to the new culture rather than readily adopt it and the new culture will not become the norm until this group has started to live your desired culture. With this group you need to provide clear guidance and direction, you need to demonstrate the benefits both for the company and also to them individually as well.  

This cannot be a one-time communication process, there is a fair degree of inertia, as most people are resistance or don’t like change and you need to ensure that you start to build momentum, using recognition, positive reinforcement and highlighting the role models that you want them to emulate. 

Passive Resistors

Some fear change, some reject and hope that it will go away, and your passive resistors fall into this group. In my experience, this usually accounts for 10-15 percent of the organization. They don’t do anything to sabotage the change, but they do drag their heals in the hope that eventually the change will be abandoned and they can return to their comfort zone.  

Even when they can see benefits for themselves they may still be unwilling to change. As this group is not critical to the culture change, you want to make sure that they are informed, involved, but I wouldn’t suggest expending too much effort here. Oncethe first three groups are onboard with the change and are exhibiting it, these will eventually follow.

Active Resistors

In every company there are those who just want to resist change, it doesn’t matter what it is, they are just unwilling to accept it. This group whilst small can have a high impact on the success of any cultural change program that you are looking to implement. Usually are around 5 percent, sometimes lower, this group is also silent leaders, and they tend to act as role models for the rebellion. They may even speak out against the change, looking to encourage the Passive Followers, and Passive Resistors to ignore the change. 

I remember in one company I worked, a senior manager who didn’t agree with the organizational change being implemented, readily told people, just ignore this change, management is constantly implementing changes, none of which work, so why should we bother to get involved in something that is doomed to fail.

This kind of negativity can have a damaging effect, and it is often done out of sight, so can be difficult to spot and then counter.

You need to look to identify these Active Resistors and give them a chance to get on board, but if they refuse, then it’s time to move them on, either into another role, or even another company.

To drive cultural change you need to understand these different groups, their motivations and you need to have a strategy and plan to deal with them. The better you can do that the  better the chance that your culture change will have of being successful.


This article first appeared on LinkedIn.


Gordon Tredgold is a Global Gurus Top 30 Leadership Expert, Speaker & Executive Coach. Over his career he has led teams of 1,000 employees for Fortune 100 companies, successfully delivered programs saving $350m in Operational Costs and transformed delivery – from <35% to 95% – and service levels from 57% to 99.7%. Gordon is the author of the critically- acclaimed book FAST: 4 Principles Every Business Needs to Achieve Success and Drive Results which was a finalist for Management Book of the year in 2017. An International Keynote Speaker recognized by Inc. Magazine as a Top 100 Leadership Expert and Speaker, he is also a Contributing Author at Inc. Magazine, Fortune, Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Business Insider. Gordon works with organisations on implementing results-based leadership initiatives to accelerate growth and improve performance.

Gordon Tredgold

Gordon Tredgold is a leadership transformation expert ranked #25 in Global Gurus Top 30 leadership gurus for 2019. Over his 25-year career Gordon has led teams of 1000+ staff in Fortune 100 companies, delivered operational cost savings of $350m and transformed delivery (from <35% to 95 %) and service levels (from 57% to 99.7%). A critically-acclaimed author, Gordon's latest book, FAST: 4 Principles Every Business Needs to Drive Success and Achieve Results, was a finalist for Management Book of the year 2017. He is a regular contributor for Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fortune and Business Insider and an international keynote speaker, recognised by Inc. Magazine as a top 100 leadership expert and speaker. Gordon works with organisations to transform culture, drive results-based leadership and rapidly accelerate organisational growth and performance.