Updated: Jul 26
Both have advantages
When an organisation embarks on a change journey and they decide to increase the chances of success by investing in change agents, a decision will have to be made to decide on internal versus external change agents. There are both advantages and disadvantages to both types of change agents that should be considered and not one size fits all.
"Change agents with organisation credibility, change management skills and the desire to improve an organisation can greatly enhance change adoption and benefits delivery"
Internal Change Agent Advantages:
Immediate Availability: Internal change agents are already part of the organisation, which means they can be deployed to the change programme promptly. There is no need to spend time onboarding or familiarising them with the company's operations and culture.
Organisational Knowledge: Being a part of the organisation, internal change agents possess a deep understanding of the company's structure, processes, and dynamics. This knowledge is invaluable when it comes to designing change strategies that align with the organisation's unique needs and challenges.
Cultural Understanding: Understanding the organisation's culture is crucial for effective change management. Internal change agents are well-versed in the prevailing culture and can navigate it more easily. This enables them to anticipate potential resistance points and address cultural barriers to change effectively.
Access to Sensitive Information: Internal change agents have access to sensitive internal information, which can be beneficial when crafting change plans. This information allows them to make more informed decisions and develop strategies based on real-time data and insights.
Established Rapport and Trust: Internal change agents are already familiar faces within the organisation, and they likely have established relationships and trust with various stakeholders. This built-in rapport can make it easier for them to gain support for the change initiatives and rally employees behind the transformation.
Cost-Effectiveness: Hiring external consultants can be expensive, especially if the change process is expected to be ongoing. Internal change agents, on the other hand, are already on the organisation's payroll, making them a more cost-effective option for driving change.
Continuity and Commitment: Internal change agents have a vested interest in the organisation's success and long-term commitment. Unlike external consultants, who may be temporary, internal change agents are likely to remain with the organisation, ensuring continuity in change efforts and follow-through on implementation.
External Change Agents or Consultant Advantages:
Expertise Gap Filling: External change agents can provide specialised expertise that may not be available internally. They bring in a wealth of knowledge and experience in change management, which can be crucial for addressing complex challenges and ensuring successful transformation.
Broader Perspective and Experience: External change agents have worked with various clients, markets, and sectors. This exposure gives them a broader understanding of different organisational dynamics and change strategies that can be applied effectively across diverse contexts.
Objective Perspective: As outsiders, change consultants can offer an unbiased and objective view of the organisation's current state and potential improvements. Their neutrality allows them to identify issues and propose solutions without being influenced by internal politics or biases.
Challenging the Status Quo: Change consultants are not constrained by the organisation's existing norms or habits. They can challenge the status quo and ask tough questions that might be difficult for internal staff to raise. This can lead to fresh insights and opportunities for improvement.
Wider Consultant Selection: Organisations have the flexibility to choose from a wide pool of external change agents and consultants. This means they can select a consultant with the right expertise and cultural fit, tailoring the approach to suit the organisation's specific needs.
"Change agents frequently encounter narcissistic and deluded leaders who are heavily invested in the status quo and may react negatively to their initiatives"
Further Reading: Change Management Handbook - Leadership of Change Volume 3.
Peter consults, speaks, and writes on the Leadership of Change®.
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Peter F Gallagher is a Change Management Global Thought Leader, Guru, Expert, International Speaker, Author and Leadership Alignment Coach.
Listed #1 by leadersHum Top 40 Change Management Gurus You Should Follow in 2022 (Mar 2022).
Ranked #1 Change Management Global Thought Leader: Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Change Management (2023-2022-2021-2020) by Thinkers360.
Ranked #1 Business Strategy Global Thought Leader: Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Business Strategy (2022) by Thinkers360.
Ranked #2 Leadership Global Thought Leader: Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Leadership (Aug 2020) by Thinkers360.
Business Book Ranking
Change Management Behaviour - Leadership of Change® Volume 6, listed among the 50 Books from Thinkers360 Thought Leaders to read in 2022.
Change Management Adoption - Leadership of Change® Volume 5, listed among year-to-date’s (Jul 2021) most popular books on business and technology from Thinkers360 member thought leaders.
Change Management Handbook - Leadership of Change® Volume 3, listed among the 50 Business and Technology Books from Thinkers360 Thought Leaders to read in 2021.
Change Management Pocket Guide - Leadership of Change® Volume 2, ranked within the top 50 Business and Technology Books (Jan 2020) from Thinkers360 Thought Leaders.