Updated: Oct 11
Change Agents can be an organised group, leaders or individuals that undertake the task of leading, communicating and facilitating change in an organisation. They are basically advocates for organisation change. They tend to embrace and lead change within the organisation, they are comfortable with it, see the positives and should be the organisation’s early enablers in developing capability and moving the organisation towards adoption and sustainable change. The role is one of a trusted adviser throughout the change to ensure adoption and benefits realisation.
“Without trust you will not change people" ~ Peter F Gallagher
Change Agent Role:
Change Agents can play a pivotal role in organisational change, especially in supporting the sponsor and communicating the change message to the employee groups involved in the change journey. These three groups of employees can be classified as: ‘Advocates’, ‘Observers’ and ‘Rebels’. Each group will react differently to organisational change and the Change Agents will provide different levels of focus, change readiness and implementation support.
Advocates: Change Agents are very much aligned with the ‘Advocates’, their positivity and energy should be captured and become part of the Change and Communication Plan. The coalition of Change Agents and ‘Advocates’ can have a massive impact in the organisation.
Observers: ‘Observers’ will monitor the ‘Advocates’ and assess if the change is benefiting them. If this appears positive, they will tend to move towards being receptive to the change. To facilitate the transition of the ‘Observers’ from the current state “a” to the desired and improved state “B”, the Change Agent and ‘Advocates’ should work together to create employee desire to move towards the ‘Tipping Point’. Communication, direct engagement, targeted messaging and events such as socialising the future state will help the ‘Advocates’ to adopt the change.
Rebels: They tend to resist change blindly, even if the change is to their benefit. The default reaction is that change is a bad thing and will put them at a disadvantage. While this can, in some cases, be put down to bad experience, there is also fear of the unknown and the new skills required. The Change Agent can help greatly in this area by directly engaging this group or the individuals face-to-face. They should listen with empathy to understand their concerns, communicating the organisation change business case. The concerns and communication feedback should be recorded and fed back to the Change Team and Sponsor so the change approach can be modified to reduce resistance and increase change adoption.
Change Agent Resources:
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 verses External Change Agents. External consultants as Change Agents are flexible and skilled resources and the organisation can bring them into the business at times of resource demand peaks. External Change Agents can be released immediately during resource troughs, with no challenge of having to reintegrate them back into the business, compared to using Internal Agents.
There are both advantages and disadvantages for external Change Agents that should also be considered and not one size fits all. The value of an External Change Agent with their Change Management skills, Tools and registered Change Management Framework® (a2BCMF®) cannot be ignored or discounted in the cost benefit analysis. Further to this, there are other important elements such as organisation credibility and personality characteristics. The ability to communicate with people, personal integrity and business acumen are usually the most important.
“Change Agents with organisation credibility, Change Management skills and the desire to improve an organisation can greatly enhance Change Adoption and Benefits Delivery" ~ Peter F Gallagher
Peter F Gallagher is a Change Management Global Thought Leader, Expert, International Speaker, Author and Leadership Alignment Coach.
Ranked #1 Change Management Global Thought Leader: Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Change Management (May 2020) by Thinkers360.
Business Book Ranking: Change Management Pocket Guide - Leadership of Change® Volume 2, ranked within the top 50 Business and Technology Books (Jan 2020) from Thinkers360 Thought Leaders.