A new subscriber recently shared with me her top challenge: finding change agents in her organization to be local advocates for her project.
The question had me thinking about a process improvement initiative from many years ago. To help manage and implement a process improvement program, I recruited people from all over the organization to ensure a cross-functional perspective. The people I invited highlight the qualities to look for in a change agent.
To find change agents, first you need to know what you’re looking for. Consider the following:
Dominic was a manager in the Quality department. He had previous experience with implementing process improvement initiatives at other companies. Who has experience with implementing a similar project?
Ed was an engineer and had the analytical skills and subject matter expertise that would be helpful for process improvement projects. Bill worked in the marketing department, and although he was not an expert in process improvement, his marketing expertise would help us communicate the change. What expertise would be helpful for this project?
Jen was an administrative assistant, and thus had access to executives in the organization, either directly or through the network of admins who all coordinated together. She could easily get us an audience with people who had authority if we needed it. To whom might you need access, and who has that access?
Ken was in sales and was a creative person with a big personality. Not only would he be a vocal advocate for change, but he represented the creativity we wanted to emulate in our process improvement projects. What are the characteristics you want to spread, and who embodies them already?
Donna was a production scheduler and process ineffectiveness often made her job harder. She was enthusiastic about the concept of process improvement and had ideas for what needed to be fixed. She readily volunteered to be a part of the initiative. Who already cares about this project and wants to be a part of it?
On the other hand, Ron from accounting had a reputation for shooting down new ideas. As a part of the team, he became an advocate for change instead of a resistor, while still providing the much-needed contrarian position. Who might not like the change unless they are a part of it?
Juan was the head of HR. He had a broad understanding of how to get things done in the organization. Since the process improvement project was really also a culture change initiative, he made sure the team looked at the people perspective. Who knows how things work in the organization?
Everyone on the team was well respected within their span of influence. They were known to be willing to speak up when necessary. Even more important, most had a reputation for listening and engaging others.
Once you’ve identified the change agent qualities that will help implement your specific change, you can watch out for them. How do you find change agents? There are three ways I’ve seen:
- Invite people you know
- Recruit volunteers
- Ask for referrals based on what you’re looking for.
To enlist change agents in your organization, first determine the qualities that will help with implementation. Once you’ve recruited change agents, clarify their role. Provide some training on change and influence, in addition to any project-specific skills. Provide continuous support as they encounter challenges.
Do you have a question or challenge you’d like to get some input on? Please let me know, and I’ll be happy to provide any insight or point you to resources that may help.