As Field Service News Editor, Kris Oldland continues our exclusive series looking at Change Management we move onto the third major consideration when undertaking a change management program, establishing a change agent network…
First of all lets have a quick recap. This series is focussed on managing change within your organisation and is based around the approach Sharon Moura, VP of IT Transformation and Strategy with Tyco took when the fire and safety giant moved to the ServiceMax field service management system.
Part one of the series explored some of the key principals of Change Management, including a look at some of the well-known approaches such as Kotter, Prosci and Lewin as well as looking at the five step approach which Moura took and which we are looking at in more detail in this series. In the following features we looked firstly at “Assessing the Change” and then the third feature of this Change Management series looked at “Engaging the Head & Heart”.
Now in this fourth instalment in our Change Management series we look at an area, which personally I believe to be perhaps, the most integral element to ensuring any change management program you undertake is a success. This is what Moura defines as building a change agent network. So lets look at this concept in a little more detail…
Understanding what a Change Agent is and why they are key to Change Management:
Well another term for a Change Agents would be Peer advocates and Gartner’s Elise Olding neatly sums up the approach stating,
“Change resistance is a myth. Employees support enterprise goals when they understand what needs to be done. Peer advocates put a face on change and leverage trusted informal leaders to create understanding among employees and influence organisational change”
In simplest terms when we are facing a change to our daily working lives, it’s not some distant figure from the boardroom that will convince us that this change has our interest at heart, it’s the people sat around us, those who we work with on a daily basis, our colleagues, our direct supervisors, our peers.
it is often the case that this tier of middle management is often left out of the change management process, more often than not because their primary role within the company absorbs of all their time. However. This is definitely not the way a successful change management program should flow.
These middle managers are absolutely key to establishing your change agent network and enabling the success of your change management program.
As Moura herself comments “If you are going to bring that level of middle management into the change management process at all, which of course you need to do, then they need to make sure change management is their number one area they should be spending their time on”
However, it is not just those in middle management that can form part of your change agent network. We touched on an example in the last feature within this series on change management to highlight some of the tools of persuasion that can be used to engage with employees on an emotional level. That example was for us to take a selection of end user employees such as field engineers and to bring them into the decision making process when selecting the new hardware to roll out to the field.
This is in effect building a change network in itself as you can almost guarantee if this group will feel both empowered and obligated to push through the change amongst their peers. Some of them may be supervisors and mid-level management; however, they could equally be regular employees.
What is important for your change management project is that they are (or have the potential to be) leaders and influencers amongst their peers. Active mouthpieces for why the change is a benefit to their peers on the individual level, so these are the audience you need to convince first. Show them that they will see and feel the benefit of your change management program and they will help spread the gospel amongst the wider staff.
you must remember that change management is not about hard and fast rules that will work every time
As we mentioned in a previous feature within this series Change Management is an on-going process of evaluation and alteration, not a one shot effort. Similarly you must remember that change management is not about hard and fast rules that will work every time. Change management is about people and therefore different factions of your workforce, may adapt quicker than others. Certainly there is no “one-size-fits-all’ approach to either change management itself or the way you communicate it.
What makes a good Change Agent:
So who in your organisation would make a good change agent? A few suggestions as to what makes a good change agent are:
- A willingness to embrace change
- The desire to participate
- Good team players
- Mature responsible attitude
- Effective communicators
- Credible at grass roots level
Deploying your Change agent network:
Finally it’s worth taking time to consider how you will structure your change agent network. One of the most efficient means of doing so would likely be to distribute your change agent network within streams that each relate to a specific division within the business. For example, field engineers, dispatch, sales etc. In fact this is the approach that Moura took when rolling out ServiceMax to her team at Tyco.
“We created change agents by work streams” she explains “then we put change agent leaders in place in those work streams.”
“The responsibilities of those leaders was to anticipate issues, act as a sounding board for the organisation, provide suggestions and recommendations as to how we address the change, and of course communicating the change to the end users.”
This last point i.e. communicating the change is of course the primary reason for their endeavours and where they truly come into their own.
Simply ‘translating’ the reason your organisation is going through this change management process from corporate speak and into the workers language and outlining what is in it for them will take you a long way towards a successful change management project. Having that translation come from trusted and respected members of their work force will take it even farther.
Remember the lesson from the previous feature… change management is about people and people like people like them.
Therefore establishing a change agent network is absolutely integral to the success of your change management program.
This series on Change Management is sponsored by: