Increase Project ROI by Building a Change Agent Network

Posted by Paula Alsher on Thu, Feb 19, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

Making certain you have the appropriate number of Change Agents, with the desirable skills, in the proper places is a critical component of organizational change management and achieving value realization for your project. In other words, creating a Change Agent Network is crucial for implementation success.  Change Agent Network

Before understanding the value of a Change Agent Network, it’s important to recognize the different roles and responsibilities within an implementation. Don Harrison defines these roles as a CAST of Characters (Champions, Agents, Sponsors, and Targets) in his change management consulting methodology, Accelerating Implementation Methodology.

  • CHAMPIONS: Believe in, and want the change.  Champions attempt to obtain commitment and resources, but may lack the Sponsorship to actually drive the change. Your change is accelerated when the other three roles (Agents, Sponsors, and Targets) are also Champions.
  • AGENTS: Implement change. Agents have responsibility from planning through execution of the change.  At least part of their performance evaluation is based on the success of this implementation. Agents must therefore know that they are accountable, and that they are being evaluated on implementation success. 
  • SPONSORS: Authorize, legitimize, and demonstrate ownership for the change.  In order to be a Sponsor, an individual must have sufficient organizational power and/or influence to either initiate the resource commitment (Authorizing Sponsor) or reinforce the change at the local level (Reinforcing Sponsor.)  A leader can't serve as a Sponsor outside of his or her area of positional authority. Therefore, you may have multiple Authorizing Sponsors, particularly in a matrix organization structure. 
  • TARGETS: Change behavior, emotions, knowledge, perceptions, etc. 

Picking the right Change Agents is definitely a critical step that should not be overlooked. A common mistake is that Agents are often selected based on who is available or who is the most technically knowledgeable, rather than on who has the right skills to influence others. 


"Who has the time to take this on?"

Question :

"Who has the skills, knowledge, credibility, and trust" to be successful in this important role?”

Change Agents must be individuals with trust and credibility of both Sponsors (leaders who must reinforce the change) and Targets (those people who are impacted by the change.)  The success of your change will depend on having the right Agents, with the right skills, traits, and characteristics working with Sponsors in an established change structure.  

But remember, it’s not just having the right Change Agents at work. It’s also essential to have the appropriate number of Agents in the correct places that will lead you down the path to implementation success.

One of the first things we do in our own change management consulting is to develop a change structure that includes identifying Agents in all areas of the organization that are going to be impacted by the change.  

Implementation takes place at the local level, so local Change Agents are a MUST! Once a Change Agent Network has been built keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Build Agents' belief in the outcome of the project - Treat Agents as Targets first.

  2. Identify and align rewards for Agents - Agents need to be reinforced, too!  Remember that rewards need to be in the Frame of Reference of the recipient.  Rather than guess what will be meaningful, ask! 

  3. Invest in Agents' skill development - It's always surprising that organizations will ask people to serve as Change Agents without any skill development in what is required, without clear definition of roles and responsibilities, and without ongoing guidance and support!  Even when Agents have the right personal characteristics, there is a need to have specific skills and knowledge.  

  4. Make the Agents' assignment a full time job when possible - 25% of 4 people’s time does not really equal one full-time Change Agent.  When you have people devoting small portions of time to transformational change, or complex enterprise-wide change, you end up spending a lot of time keeping people up-to-date on what happened.  It's simply not efficient.  

  5. Plan for Agent succession. (Not if, but when) - We tell Change Agents to plan for the fact that Sponsors will change roles over the course of a project.  The same is true of Change Agents.  It's a reality in today's organization that Change Agents will come and go over the course of a project, particularly a multi-year transformational change.  Plan for how you will transition people into the role.

Building a Change Agent Network is an essential step in any implementation project. Ensuring you have the right number of people with the right skills in the correct places will always lead you down the path to ROI.

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Topics: Change Agents, Value Realization/ROI