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We all know one (or more) of them: They seem to have a pulse on everything of significance going on in their department and/or the organization. They may or may not have formal authority (usually not), but they can nevertheless make things happen with relative ease. They serve as bellwethers for how the wind is blowing, and in some cases even serve as catalysts to guiding it in one direction or another.

…I am talking about influencers, and according to an article in McKinsey Quarterly organizations should be doing a lot more to leverage their clout and insights when implementing changes across the enterprise than they currently are. Unfortunately, right now most organizations don’t even know who their key influencers are.

In their piece, Mckinsey advocates using snowball sampling – a non-probability statistical sampling technique wherein future survey subjects are selected by referral from existing subjects – to identify key influencers in the organization and bring them into the fold as organizational change agents. The idea is that a company asks survey participants questions like “Whose advice do you trust and respect?” and then identifies key influencers by seeing which names come up over and over again. These people are then asked to join key committees and teams tasked with architecting and/or communicating large-scale programs and initiatives throughout the design process and implementation phase.

…Does this sound Machiavellian? Perhaps it is… a little. But I would also argue that change efforts are often excruciating when rolled out poorly; ergo, if they are inevitable in healthy organizations then it serves the best interests of everyone in the company to ensure such efforts are rolled out only with the feedback and collective buy-in of the entire workforce.

What do you think of this concept? Would your organization consider putting together such committees? Does it already? How have they been received?

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.