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Change Management Series, Part III: Angel of Death or Agent of Change?

By: SEI Team

At the onset of any transformational project, you will often hear the term “Change Management”. When you do, it is often followed by a roll of the eyes, or an immediate throat clearing – often indicating this is the first place where project budget cuts will occur. Worse than these reactions is when you mention the term “Change Agent” or “Agent of Change” and request a resource for such a position. The role of a “Change Agent” is often subjected to intense criticism, scrutiny, and stereotyping. However, the value of such a role is critical to any project’s success; Change Agents turn strategy into reality.

Imagine being blindfolded in the woods and your destination is in the near distance that you must reach prior to sunset. You couldn’t possibly get there safely – How would you navigate through trails with rocks, cliffs, and trees? Of course there may be areas that have no obstacles; but, for the most part your journey would be unpredictable, uncontrollable, and a race against time – Much like change management in transformation projects.

What Makes Change Agents Effective in Transformation Projects?

Successful Agents of Change have the ability to:
•    Translate the vision into reality
•    Diagnose / Solve Problems
•    Build Trusting Relationships with ALL Stakeholders
•    Achieve Goals through Implementation and Engagement

Translate the Vision into Reality

An effective Change Agent is able to translate the strategic vision of the organization into the context of a specific change initiative and bring this message to the entire organization. More specifically, the Change Agent is able to articulate this vision such that every employee understands how this change will affect his/her daily job.

Diagnose & Solve Problems

Change Agents must be able to identify performance issues and analyze their short and long-term impact on business results. Because issues identified are often saturated with political and emotional dynamics, the Change Agent must be able to recognize the problem, diagnose its sensitivity, and be courageous enough to take difficult measures to resolve it.

Build Trusting Relationships with ALL Stakeholders

Trust is a Change Agent’s most valuable asset. Stakeholders, at all levels, must trust a Change Agent enough to lead them blindfolded, through the woods, and into safety at the end of the initiative.

Achieve Goals through Implementation and Engagement

Successful transformational change on any scale can be attributed to the correct strategy when dealing with the culture of any organization. Effective Change Agents must ensure people, policies, systems and processes are supportive of one another. Alignment of these four elements is critical for success. Try to establish milestones or “quick wins” throughout the initiative to ensure engagement remains high throughout the initiative’s life cycle.

Change Management is important. However, to implement change effectively, organizations must hire Change Agents. There is an old Chinese proverb saying: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”Change occurs when Change Agents teach individuals how to alter their attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs; to step outside their comfort zones and embrace a new way of working. With years of experience in Change Management and Project Management, SEI understands the personal implications of every stakeholder involved in the transformational change. Our consultants coach individuals how to transition from current to future state successfully.