We see how change agents are key to successful change projects. Our clients work with us mainly for big IT infrastructure change though at the heart of change projects are business processes, many of which are based on how people communicate. And when you have up to 180,000 people, as one of our largest clients had, that’s a lot of communication.
If you read Jeff Skipper’s useful article on change agents, he has great pointers on what makes a good change agent. One nudge to Jeff’s piece is that being a ‘strong communicator’ should be a mandatory quality of a change agent to be successful.
The importance of communication
While your network helps cascade information and is the human face of change, they should be approachable support for end users. We’re more inclined to say, ‘help me’ to someone we know and trust than to strangers or people senior to us. (Even more so at work because we want to be seen as good at our job.)
A strong communicator helps process this. They can also listen so they can recognise when colleagues have different levels of understanding – or optimism – for a project.
How many change agents does it take?
You need people from the many different constituencies in your organisation. That’s not just geographic – the needs of a branch office in a rural area may be different from an urban-based head office or international satellite offices. Within each space, job functions bring in wildly divergent expectations and pressures. And a diverse workforce means diverse needs too. So a network of agents is key – they will tailor support to each group.
Where to find change agents
Look beyond your established contacts, especially if there’s more than one project in your organisation. Overloading people supposed to advocate for your project could backfire wildly! And you need people connected to the end users you want to reach – they may not be people you’ve worked with so much in the past.
Three ways to support your network
When you have change agents, show them some love. That means:
- Proper support and training to understand the project and their role (while respecting their day job)
- Space and time to meet (virtual or physical) to learn from and support each other
- Recognising their contribution – something tangible for their appraisal or a digital credential
While you want your change agents to stay authentic and true to their networks, you can also consider involving them in shaping and promoting your messages. We put together some handy tips about positive communication and this could be useful reading.
And keep your change agents involved long after the main project phases end. For change and best practice to embed, you need custodians. They’ll nudge things back on course and stop old methods creeping back in.
This article is based on Samantha Kinstrey’s LinkedIn article of August 2019. Would be great if you could add your comments to her article on what makes a good change agent of her piece so we can talk about it and share your insight.