One of the key principles of our change management model is that implementation takes place at the local level. So if your Change Management Methodology doesn't provide tools for identifying the right people for the role of Change Agents, you are going to miss a critical element of successful change.
Gaining clarity around roles and responsibilities seems basic, but it is crucial for implementation success. Here’s how the Accelerating Implementation Methodology defines the roles for change, or what we like to call the CAST of Characters (Champions, Agents, Sponsors, and Targets):
- 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.
While it is great to build a critical mass of Change Champions, these individuals don't have accountability for actually getting the change implemented. This means, picking the RIGHT Change Agents becomes a critical step in implementing your organizational change!
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?" is the wrong question. The right question is, "Who has the skills, knowledge, credibility, and trust" to be successful in this important role?
Given the importance of this role, it's critically important to build a network of local Change Agents with the skills and characteristics you need. As you review the potential individuals for your own network, use this checklist to determine whether the individual meets the right criteria:
- Successful personal and organizational history
- Success and credibility with key Sponsors
- Trust with key Targets
- Awareness of culture and sub-culture differences
- Belief in the project
- Knowledge of the business unit and strategy
- Ability to translate the Sponsors' Frame of Reference (FOR) to the Targets' and vice versa, without their own FOR interfering
- Ability to develop teamwork among Sponsors, Change Agents, and Targets by creating common goals and inter-dependence for success
- Comfort level with ambiguity
Once you’ve identified potential candidates for this role, you should also ask yourself:
- Do we have a clear and precise description of this role and responsibility?
- Have we communicated these expectations, and will the selected individuals be evaluated on their ability to implement successfully?
- Do we know how many Change Agents we need based on where we need to develop sponsorship and where we anticipate the greatest disruption?
- Have we selected individuals based on their skill/ability/credibility?
- Have we trained these individulals and provided them with the resources they need (tactics, strategies, templates, and tools)?
Making certain you have the appropriate number of Agents, with the desirable skills, in the proper places is a critical component of organizational change management and achieving value realization for your project.