Use In-House Experts to Expand Your Team’s Reach
Every change effort is difficult. Additional resources can make all the difference in the world. But who are these “additional” resources?
They go by many names: Business Readiness Reps, Business Transition Reps, Early Adopters, or Change Champions. Most often, they are called Change Agents.
Change Agent /CHānj/ājənt/
- hand-picked individuals from all areas of the business who act as liaisons between the business and the change effort
- resources who are coached to support employees in their part of the business through the change
- teammates who help communicate the business’ vision for the change
- people who highlight benefits and impacts of the change
- seekers of feedback from their colleagues and active listeners when in conversations about the change
- ambassadors who answer some questions and concerns from their areas of the business, given content and coaching
- liaisons who circle back to the project team to share those questions and concerns, get answers and share with their teams
- role models for the change
Obviously, Change Agents can’t do it all on their own. So, how does the project team create a strong Change Agent Network?
- Identify early adopters. Everyone reacts to change differently. At Emerson, we often begin with a working session to place people and teams on a continuum based on their natural tendencies around change. This allows us to identify “Innovators” and “Early Adopters.” If we can enlist those folks to our effort, they will help make the change feel safe to others, which accelerates adoption across the board.
- Recruit those Innovators/Early Adopters and other employees willing to embrace the business’ vision for the change and show a commitment to the goals of the change.
- They should have credibility with their peer community.
It’s important for change agents to have (or develop) excellent communication and listening skills. Coaching and facilitation skills are helpful as well.
- Facilitate a kick-off and training event (or events) to prepare the Change Agents for their role. During that initial meeting, provide project schedules, communications (briefs, bullets, key messages, etc.), coaching (on delivering communications and responding to questions), and support (their key contacts and answers to their immediate questions
- Deploy Change Agents with a schedule, plans, tools, content, and one-on-one support. Track the milestones your Change Agents are responsible for. Someone on the project team should maintain oversight of the Change Agent Network, to make sure it’s working.
- Stay in touch. Conduct regular check-ins to collect feedback, share new assets, and offer additional coaching and support. Keep in mind, this is NOT a full-time commitment. Typically Change Agents devote 1-2 hours per week to fulfil their role. So make sure your Change Agents are comfortable with their level of effort.
- Make sure it benefits them. The best Change Agent Networks are a win-win-win situation. The project team gets critical information and help, the organization gets better outcomes, and the Change Agents get development, opportunity, and rewards. So don’t forget about that third part. The agents should gain skills, influence, access to leadership, and a few kudos along the way. Make sure to recognize their critical contributions in both tangible and intangible ways. Hint: public recognition and treats are a dynamite combination.
An Emerson Case Study on Change Agents
One of the auto industry’s biggest tech providers was facing a huge change. After it spun off from its parent company, major functions like Finance needed to operate independently. At the same time, they took aim at some impressive profitability targets. And that was just the start.
There were many more waves of change scheduled to hit the same group of employees. To accomplish its vision, leadership realized they needed a consistent approach to change. They asked Emerson for help.
We quickly performed triage on their change portfolio of 230+ projects and then organized key stakeholders to develop an approach and a model for their new Change Center of Excellence (CoE). We guided the team to identify high-priority behaviors and build robust messaging. Key leaders, armed with a consistent story, deployed the new CoE. We then built a change toolkit for their new change agents.
The first test of the model: the change team applied its new approach and tools to their Oracle CPQ implementation.