Seven Roles of a Change Agent

A person who implements organizational change must wear many different hats.   Effective change agents demonstrate extraordinary versatility within a broad skill set.  The following are some of the roles you may play as you influence change in your organization.


The Detective

Implementing change is rarely as straightforward as executing obvious activities.  Dealing with people’s behaviors and attitudes usually requires digging below the surface to understand the dynamics of the organization.  Change agents look for clues that give away what is really preventing change from happening, so they can determine the steps most likely to remove obstacles and bring about success.  The Detective is observant and analytical.

The Advocate

Every organizational change needs someone who speaks up in favor of it and keeps attention on it.  Change agents gain support for the initiative and engage people to participate.  They also keep beating the drum of change when everyone else is busy with other activities.  The Advocate is vocal and persistent.

The Counselor

Change happens when individuals alter their own activities, behaviors and attitudes.  People experience varied emotions as their sense of stability is removed.  In most cases, they are required to take risks and step outside their comfort zones.  As a change agent, understand the personal implications of people involved, so you can help people feel better about making the changes.  The Counselor listens and encourages.

The Facilitator

One of the key activities of a change agent is finding ways to help people change.  Change agents clarify the change and make it easier to perform.  As a facilitator, you design systems, tools, forms, and processes to enable people to succeed as they go through change.  The Facilitator is helpful and creative.

The Mediator

Different groups and individuals undergoing change in an organization frequently have opposing priorities.  Change agents manage conflict by helping different parties see the situation from the other’s point of view, and by finding common goals.  They work to improve understanding and reduce friction between multiple parties so they can collaborate to implement change.  The Mediator is a peacemaker.

The Expert

Change agents rely on their expertise to build their authority within the organization.  By sharing knowledge, they demonstrate that they can be relied upon to point people in the right direction.  Sometimes knowledge transfer occurs directly through training, but it also happens every day in meetings and conversations.  The Expert is confident and knowledgeable.

The Law

A change agent ensures that there are goals, targets, and due dates for the project.  Then they keep people on track to achieve them.  Change agents find ways to hold people accountable, and make sure that appropriate rewards – or punishments – are handed out as necessary.  The Law is determined and conscientious.

As you implement change in your organization, pay attention to the roles you play most often.  Determine which hat will make you most effective in different situations.  As you increase your versatility, you will improve your effectiveness as a change agent.

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  1. Dr. Jason Levy says

    “The Counselor” role brought back a recent memory. Our hospital just brought in a guest speaker (Michael Ben Zehabe) because of new directions we are taking. As you stated, “People experience varied emotions as their sense of stability is removed.” Mr. Ben Zehabe developed 22 Hebrew meditations based on the 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The 12th letter (lamed) was our meditation. He theorized 12 portends all the aspects of change. Jesus had 12 apostles; Jacob had 12 sons; Israel had 12 tribes; etc. In science, bacteria grows in initial units of 12. It takes 12 spheres to surround one sphere.
    In any case, organizations aren’t looking for credentials. They need visionaries to relocate them from yesterday’s success to tomorrow’s success. Change Agents harness shared goals and know how to convey an organization’s vision. Great article. i printed it out to share with our management team.

  2. Rudy Rayfield Jr says

    Great article! In my 13yrs of management with 5 of those years now in Executive management. I am wanting to explore this role of Change Agent. I also believe that organizations need more visionaries and not just individuials with long credentials. Thank you for decribing the roles of a Change Agent. I can now reflect on how my experience can help me transition into this role.

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