One of the pitfalls of any large-scale change initiative is ignoring some of the most powerful people in an organization: the Bell Cows. For an enterprise-wide initiative, including Bell Cows in the leadership coalition is critical.

Where the power rests

Power in a business rests with two groups: those with formal authority, the Executives, and those with informal power, the Bell Cows. Bell Cows are people outside the C-suite who have real power and influence. They could be janitors, salespeople, executive assistants…anyone.

How do you find the Bell Cows in your organization? Start by asking people in all functions, in all geographies, and at all levels: (1) “Who do you go to when you need to get information?”, and (2) “Who do you go to for advice?”

When you ask these questions in a large, complex organization, a small group of 20-40 people emerge who are Bell Cows, the leaders whom others follow. Bell Cows, along with Executives, are the people others look to, and they can champion or squash any new change initiative.

Gaining the authentic commitment of both Executives and Bell Cows is necessary for any enterprise-wide transformation.

Ignore the Bell Cows at your peril.


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