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Understanding the Five Types of People

Updated: Dec 17, 2023


Navigating organizational change in the oil and gas industry, an environment often marked by high risks and complexities requires a deep understanding of the diverse reactions of employees to change. As a HSE Consultant with extensive experience in leading change, particularly in safety culture, I've found the "Five Types of People in Organizational Change" model extremely useful. This model helps categorize individuals in your company, providing guidance for your approach to change initiatives, which is particularly relevant in the safety domain of oil and gas operations.


Understanding the Five Types of People in Organizational Change


  • Pioneers: These are the trailblazers who embrace new initiatives with enthusiasm. In the context of safety in the oil and gas industry, they are invaluable for championing new safety protocols or cultural shifts. They can effectively model and advocate for these changes across the organization.

  • "Yes" People: These individuals generally agree to participate in new initiatives when prompted by their superiors. They may not be proactive like the Pioneers, but their willingness to comply can be instrumental in implementing new safety practices, especially when driven by leadership endorsement.

  • Crowd Followers: This group typically adopts a cautious approach, joining in once they perceive a change initiative as successful or beneficial. In safety changes, once they observe the practical benefits of new protocols or cultural shifts, they are more likely to get on board.

  • Skeptics: These are the data-driven individuals who need solid evidence and logical reasoning before they buy into new ideas. In the oil and gas industry, their analytical skills are crucial. Convincing them with robust safety data can turn them into powerful allies, as they often have a following who respect their conclusions.

  • CAVE People: Standing for "Citizens Against Virtually Everything," this group resists change. They can be particularly challenging in safety initiatives due to past negative experiences or skepticism about the efficacy of new safety measures. Addressing their concerns thoughtfully is key, though in some cases, if you have the authority, they may need to be transitioned out of critical roles if they obstruct essential safety changes.


Implementing a Strategic Approach to Change

Start by engaging Pioneers, leveraging their enthusiasm for early buy-in on safety changes. Then, involve the "Yes" People, capitalizing on their willingness to follow directives. As momentum builds, the Crowd Followers will begin to see the positive impact of the changes and join. Skeptics will require time and evidence but can become strong supporters once convinced.


While CAVE People pose a challenge, focus your efforts on garnering sufficient support from the other groups to drive the change forward. Direct confrontation with CAVE People is often counterproductive; focus instead on building a robust majority to support your safety initiatives.


Recognizing these different types of individuals during organizational change is essential for successful implementation, especially in an industry as dynamic and high-stakes as oil and gas. By tailoring your approach to leverage each group's potential, you can effectively drive change from within. Remember, effective change in safety practices requires strategic planning, understanding your workforce's dynamics, and harnessing the diverse strengths within your organization.

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