Xiang Ye: Change agents support the change at the grass-roots level

Changing peoples’ way of thinking and acting in a big organization is a challenging process requiring several various communication and support activities. The change needs to be described and reminded of in a relevant way and tone for each stakeholder group. You might need trainings and info sessions of different contents and aspects in several languages. New instructions can continuously raise questions among various teams, operations, and locations. The resources and influence channels available for the project team executing the change are often limited and thus they do not enable sufficient presence nor quick support in every corner of a big organization. In such cases, the core team can build an organization-wide network of change makers to help them in their mission.

Change agents 

  • Share the ownership of the change
  • Support and drive the change to be successful
  • Listen to the signals in the organization
  • Bring the strategy messages to everyone in daily work
  • Take active role in change execution

Change agents help in concretizing the change and its benefits

A change agent knows their team’s and unit’s needs and challenges in the change and can filter the relevant contents from all the available information. An agent also has the capability to bring up the greatest benefits achieved through the change from the perspectives of the people in their networks. At its simplest, change agent tasks include sharing news and reminders of the change via discussion channels and meetings and answering to related questions. In addition, the activities can cover organizing and implementing e.g., trainings, workshops, and support clinics. When employees feel they do not have time, desire, or capability to dig into yet another new change, the change agent is there for them. Change agents can be seen as local guides, mentors, or champions in the change – thanks to their support, people receive information and answers quickly, which helps them in adopting new ways of thinking and acting in their own work.

Change agent network is a useful source of reflection

When you want employees to put active effort on changing their own behaviour, it is very important to be constantly aware of how they are reacting to the change and change support. Change agents act as ears in their own networks and communicate the observed feedback, requests, and deficiencies to the responsible change team. From them the team receives valuable updates on how the change is progressing in various parts of the organization, and whether some activities should be performed more, less, or differently. Change agents working in different units and operations have a great opportunity to learn from each other’s opinions and experiences. Furthermore, change agents and the team executing the change can together produce and process ideas as well as discuss on how to continue with the emerging requests and challenges.

Network needs managing

Building, maintaining, and utilizing a change agent network requires active work. It is recommended to run regular network meetings, in addition to which you can organize specific trainings and campaigns when needed. Network manager’s objective is to ensure that change agents understand what is expected from them, and that they get sufficient support in their role. Change agents are often volunteers in their role and thus they might not have actual work time allocated to it. Hence, it is important that being an agent is meaningful and motivating. The workload of change agents needs to be controlled and the work needs to be facilitated as much as possible. In practice, this means quick replies to questions and that e.g., materials and messages to be forwarded are well prepared needing minimum or no modifications from the agents themselves.

In all, driving a change agent network requires reasonable input from the team executing the change. However, a well-managed network can efficiently multiply the impacts of the change execution work, and hence is worth the effort.