One of the key principles of organizational change management is that implementation takes place at the local level. This means that no matter how good your project team is, you still have to rely on a skilled cadre of change agents to actually implement your technology, process, restructuring--whatever your change is.
These change agents are often mistakenly selected based on availability. "Who has the time to take this on?" is the wrong question. The right question is, "Who has the skills, knowledge, credibility, and trust" to be a successful change agent for us? You can pretty much be sure that individuals who meet these requirements are very busy people and are highly sought after. People who have a lot of time on their hands are available for a good reason!
Making certain you have the right number of change agents, with the right skills, in the right places is a critical component of organizational change management and it is called out as a step of the Accelerating Implementation Methodology (AIM). There is a Change Agent Assessment tool available to help you evaluate potential change agents so you can be sure you have the right people in this critical role.
Even when you find people with the right raw material to be an effective change agent, it is extremely helpful to equip these people with the resources they need to be successful. For example, a good change agent must be able to contract with sponsors for what they need at any given point in time. This doesn't come naturally to everyone, but you can train people to contract (IMA does that in our AIM Accreditation program) and you can provide them with a contracting template to follow.
Here are some questions to consider when you select your change agents:
1. Do we have a clear and precise description of the role and responsibility for our change agents?
2. Have we communicated these expectations, and will our change agents be evaluated on their ability to implement successfully?
3. Do we know how many change agents we need based on where we need to develop sponsorship and where we anticipate the greatest disruption?
4. Have we selected individuals based on their skill/ability/credibility?
5. Have we trained these change agents and provided them with the resources they need (tactics, strategies, templates, and tools)?
Organizations which select change agents based on who is available or expendable may be making a lethal error. Successful implementation requires change agents who have a formidable range of skills and motivation.