Why dedicated change agents are ineffective (and unnecessary!)

As the so-called field of change management in a business environment has become increasingly specialized over the last couple of decades, many businesses have ascribed (some would say abdicated) responsibility for 'change programs' to a crop of professionals whose sole purpose is to manage change. We've come to know these experts as change agents.

Perhaps a dedicated change agent has mastered the concepts and theory behind effective change management, but in almost every case, we believe that such a focused role is not only unnecessary but an ineffective use of business time and resources. It ultimately doesn't work because in order for change to be implemented effectively and sustainably, the people managing the process must have a solid, preexisting relationship with the people they're selling it to. And facilitating change is a sales process! This relationship allows for communication to be tailored to the individuality of a team and its people: What impact will the change have on them? How will they react to the change? Why might they resist it? What will motivate them to embrace the change? What information will they need about the change? Why is the change happening? The list goes on.

Can a dedicated change agent, with little to no experience with a team, be able to anticipate the answers to these questions? At a superficial level, maybe... but in the long run it won't be adequate. In order for the communication and actioning of the change (the important bit) to really stick, it must come from and be followed up by those who know the people the best – their line management. Managing change is the leadership responsibility of every manager, not a simple task to be either delegated or abdicated.

There's another reason why a dedicated change agent can't replace what comes with a preexisting relationship: As we established in our blog on how to manage resistance to change, the process is most effective when managers get their people involved from an early stage, in part because it offers them the opportunity to bring their creativity to how the change is introduced. A famous football coach once defined creativity (in business) as "having the ability to understand the forces impacting on us and then being able to utilize those forces as a means to reach our objectives." Only a manager with an established relationship with their people will deeply understand what those forces are.

We generally reject the notion of a dedicated change agent – someone who swoops in at senior management's beckoning, unilaterally introduces a change program and then goes on to the next. How can they possibly know how to best communicate with the team and then consistently follow it up? People respect what we in management inspect, not simply what we expect, which is why follow-up is so critical... and why this issue of driving change generates so much lip service. After all is said and done, more gets said than done! And that's exactly why every manager and leader must be regarded as a change agent. By leveraging their relationships while working with their team, they can introduce, sell and facilitate the change seamlessly, effectively and more quickly.

Posted: 5/31/2011 4:51:14 PM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
Filed under: change, leadership, management
Bookmark and Share

Trackback URL: http://fortune-group.com/trackback/908b7545-a9a5-4c3d-8d81-6aaf164afe78/Why-dedicated-change-agents-are-ineffective-(and-unnecessary!).aspx?culture=en-US

Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.