Change Management Issues: Change Agent

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Change Agent

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Change agent is an OD specialist who contracts with an organization to facilitate the process of change in the organization. He performs a systematic diagnosis of the organization and identified work related problems. He or she gathers date through questionnaires, personal interviews, and observations from meetings and surroundings (Daft & Marcic, 2004). Change agents are often practitioners who provide support to the champions through their processes and organization development. Sometimes change agents are the member of the organization and assist the title holders in those areas where he lacks knowledge. It is also possible that change agents are not the member of the organization and will not continue it after change has brought (Jones & Brazzel, 2006). According to Johnson, change agents can be individuals or they are may be groups who help in bringing change (Hughes, 2006). People who make use of an power on others so as to try to bring about change in those other people and/or their circumstances are generally describe as change agent (Spence, 1994).

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Change agent is the one who has the tendency of altering the human capability or organizational systems in order to achieve a higher degree of output or results from the decision of change (Stevenson, 2008). Change Agent can be defined as the individual or group who takes on the task of introducing and managing a change process in an organization so that it can achieve its objectives in an efficient manner (Nelson & Quick, 2005).

According to Burnes, during 1920’s people believed that change is a continuous, openended and unpredictable process of aligning and re-aligning an organization to its changing environment and they ignored the role of change management as change is change is not a specialist activity driven by an expert, but an important part of every manager’s role (Mitchell & Young). Burnes says that it deflects attention from the specialist skills which are needed to manage change, whether this is being done by a manager or by a change expert (Mitchell & Young). The more complex the change process, the more difficult it is to achieve and the greater the need to utilize the skills and experience of a specialist change agent (Mitchell & Young).

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As change process is subject to many risks and several hindrances are associated with the process of change, which requires a change agent to be more responsible so that the organization can lead to a right direction during the change process (Recklies, 2001). Therefore the change agent has a very important function. The change agent’s or change leader’s capabilities have a major impact on success or failure of the project, and on the extent of potential unwanted side-effects (Recklies, 2001).

Hutton (1994) has emphasized upon the need of change agent that if a company does not identify and realizes the need of a change agent, than the company takes greater risk as if they have everything to have success but the direction to move is not known.

De Caluwe and Vermaak regards that change agent plays an important and one can say that they play the most significant part in achieving change objectives (Hughes, 2006).

According to (Sims, 2002) the responsibility of the change agent is to designed and implements the change efforts to help the organization to respond to the demands of the dynamic economy. The new economic environment puts the tremendous demands on those people who are responsible to bring change (Sims, 2002).

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Change agent play important support roles in change implementation. He guides, educates and he is a facilitator to the management and the employees who will be effected by change and are a part of change processes. They play supportive role for the organization in bringing the change and in achieving the objectives of the change. They lead projects (Powers & Simon, 2003).

They are usually employed as teachers, consultants, doctors, social workers, managers and in similar post which operate on a basis of principles and protection of standards of professional behavior (Spence, 1994).

Some agents deal with individuals when the situation is of that manner. Normally the general nature of change agents often produces the best result with groups. In order to be more effective in social situations the agent normally would try to work in association with known opinion leaders (Spence, 1994).

Balogun and Hope Hailey have identified the roles of change agent which includes leadership, external facilitation and well-designed entrustment (Hughes, 2006). Hutton (1994) says that the change agent’s role is to support the president and the top management team in bringing about the purposeful transformation of the organization. This transformation process involves the following:

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 Helping people to change the way they think about their jobs (Hutton, 1994).  Changing the norms of the organization, including accepted standards of behavior and daily work practices (Hutton, 1994).


Changing the organization’s systems and procedures so that they are better able to achieve the objectives of change (Hutton, 1994).

Change agent performs four crucial roles (Spence, 1994).

Spence (1994) has discovered that before implementing the change process the change agent has to observe the environment, processes, attitudes and behavior of the employees with in the organization .Observation consist in a great deal more then just looking. Observation is the first and the most important task of the change agent (Spence, 1994).

The change agent makes analysis of the information which he gathers so that he can reach to a particular conclusion about the change process .The diagnostic process should be based on sufficient information available. Judgments based opinions can be damaging (Spence, 1994).

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Change agent is a planner and a policy maker. Being strategist he has to take several decisions. The action of strategist is not only to identify, but to emphasis the fact that there are several ways of doing and handling particular problem (Spence, 1994).

Spence (1994) has found that it would be a wise decision to stimulate someone rather than start taking actions and this role of the change agent helps in achieving many objectives of the change process. The following advantages of this role have been identified (Spence, 1994). 1. It helps the change agent as he encourages the individuals to participate (Spence, 1994). 2. It protects the change agent from doing anything wrong (Spence, 1994). 3. It allows the change agent to act as advisor and assessor (Spence, 1994). 4. It increases the confidence level among employees (Spence, 1994).

Bennitt (2002) has identified twenty one crucial qualities present in a good and effective change agent. The change agent should have charismatic powers so that he can be able to attract people and can help other people and care about them. He should be committed and he would get more responsibilities in turn. He should be courageous enough to take actions without hesitation of the consequences (Bennet, 2002).

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In order to be effective a change agent should possess good communication skills to share the knowledge and ideas in a manner that can establish a sense of urgency among the employees. He should have competence so that he can inspire others to new levels of excellence. He should be judgmental enough to reach to the root of the issues (Bennet, 2002). The change agent should be focused so as to strive for what he actually wants to accomplish. A good change agent is generous in sharing influences authority, responsibility and credit. He should take initiatives without waiting for the opportunity to come. He is good listener which helps him to connect with peoples (Bennet, 2002). A good change agent is optimistic and his positive attitude causes the change agent to operate from hope of success rather than fear of failure. He is passionate to achieve his goals. The change gents understands what people need and how they feel. He is proficient in problem solving (Bennet, 2002). Bennet (2002) has founf that he assumes greater responsibilities and set higher standards for him and gives no excuses. The secure change agent gives power to others and celebrates the success of others. He is self disciplined. They are servant hoods and think about others first. He has teaching ability so that he can preach others well ad has a vision about where the organization currently is and where is it going (Bennet, 2002).

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There are several qualities of a change agent and he posses numerous capabilities which makes him a good change agents. However, there is no ‘ideal’ change agent (Recklies, 2001). Requirements for a good change agent are normally related to the actual situation in the organization (e.g. corporate culture, strategic application of the project, approval of the project among management and staff, timeframe, resources etc). Depending on these factors, change agents either may need good project management capabilities in order to guarantee timely progress, or they should be good leaders with the ability to motivate people (Recklies, 2001). Jim Canterucci defines change leaders on five levels. Although he has mainly focused on leadership capabilities and qualifications, his system can easily be transferred to change projects with varying importance (Recklies, 2001).

Level I
The change agent himself accepts the need for change. Communicates this need throughout the organization and defends the need for change throughout the organization. He creates an open and receptive environment for all the employees. He takes small change initiatives with clear direction (Recklies, 2001).

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Level II
The good change agent defines the change in simple manner and he is the one who initiates change. His responsibilities include identifying leverage points for change in processes and work habits of the people of the organization (Recklies, 2001).

Level III
He is the one who is responsible for leading change. He translates the vision of the organization into the context of a specific change initiative and brings this message to the entire organization. He redirects approaches in the face of new prospects. His contributions are valuable in the context of the transformation of a central vision into change initiatives and organization-wide communication (Recklies, 2001).

Level IV
A good and effective change agent is capable of managing and tackling complex changes. He significantly understands the cultural dynamics of the current state of an organization and how it would be affected during the change process (Recklies, 2001).

He creates a planned practical course, balancing the current reality with the need for rapid adoption of the desired future reality. He generates the desire of change with a high degree of transformation (Recklies, 2001).

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Level V
He supports change. He has the capability of challenging the status quo by comparing it to an ideal or a vision of change. He encourages dramatic actions and change efforts and finally transforms the organization. He has a unique Ability to revolutionize the organization by implementing change in a successful manner (Recklies, 2001).

An internal change agent is usually a staff person who has expertise in the behavioral sciences and who helps in bringing change and in the intervention technology of Organizational Development (Jones & Brazzel, 2006).

The role of the exterior facilitator is to help the institution to clarify the embattled outcomes side up with their mission (Sims, 2002).

This would include identifying the key projects, inventorying the current resources and leaders, through quality faculty development grow these individuals skill sets so that they become the internal change agents. Mentor these individuals on a monthly basis growing their knowledge, skills, and identities so that the institution becomes empowered to take on the change them (Sims, 2002).

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Wilson and Rosenfeld (1990) have given long list of possible reasons for external agents of change not being successful in promoting change. The following lists give some of the ways in which an external agent of change has advantages over internal change agent (Advisers as External Agents of Change, n.d.). External Agents can (Advisers as External Agents of Change, n.d.)  Act as "court jesters"  Act freely, not tied to office politics  Get access to a wider range of individuals and departments than internal people can  Use a wider "vocabulary" than organizational members  Send information around the organization which would be impossible or prohibited to others  Avoid responsibility, to some extent, if things subsequently go wrong

The external facilitator must challenge quality consistently and provides evaluation of the key performances so everyone is clear about quality and how to improve it. The external facilitator must bring closure of a change process by helping the institution freeze again so a new foundation of institutional efficiency has been achieved (Mitchell & Young).

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The external agent of change working unaccompanied is not likely to cause noteworthy organizational change and achieving objectives will be difficult with it. The best strategy might be is to work with several internal agents of change who are preferably drawn from different departments within the organization. These internal change agents can provide the external agent with the detailed information which the external agent requires to complete his tasks successfully in a timely manner. They can also act as a medium for trying out new ideas (Advisers as External Agents of Change, n.d.).

Swenson (2001) found that the internal change agent enjoys some benefits as they certainly have better knowledge of the environment, culture, people, issues and hidden agendas .They can develop and keep expertise and resources internal. They create and maintain norms of organization renewal from within (Swenson, 2001).

They provide higher security and confidentiality. They do have trust and respect for the organization’s employees. They have strong personal investment in success (Swenson, 2001).

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They know better about the organization and may have detailed information about the past history of the organization. They are better aware of the political system prevailing in the organization, the norms, values and culture that the employees follow in the organization. Moreover, they are the one who will have to live with this change in the future, therefore, they move in much careful manner (Nelson & Quick, 2005).

They are may be biased and has already taken sides. They are often disliked or mistrusted by some stakeholders. Their previous relationships may contribute to sub grouping or fragmentation. Change agent might ignore his/ her defined duties in the process of bringing change. Change agent is subject to organizational sanctions and pressures as an employee (Swenson, 2001).

The internal change agents are may be associated with splinter groups. They are accused of favoritism and biasness among the employees. They are may be too close to the situation and can’t see the real problem and can achieve objectives (Nelson & Quick, 2005).

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Swenson (2001) has found that external change agent provides fresh ideas, outside experience, focused objectives and diversified perspectives. They are willing to assert, challenge, and question norms. They may have more legitimacy to insiders by not taking sides .They brings skills and techniques that are not available from within organization .They brings diverse organizational experiences to bear; benchmark and compare (Swenson, 2001).

External agent may or may not be available when needed by the organization. They may split time and commitments with other clients. They are more costly. They need more time to become familiar with the system .They can create co-dependency or may abandon the system (Swenson, 2001).

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Advisers as External Agents of Change. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2009, from Bennet, A. (2002, May 02). The 21 Indispensable Qualities Of A Change Agent. Retrieved May 03, 2009, from Daft, R. L., & Marcic, D. (2004). Understanding Management (4TH ed.). USA: Thomson South-Western. Hughes, M. (2006). Change Management. Wimbledon,London: Royal Charter. Hutton, D. W. (1994). The change agents' handbook: a survival guide for quality improvement champions. USA: American Society for Qualit. Jones, B. B., & Brazzel, M. (Eds.). (2006). The NTL handbook of organization development and change: principles, practices, and perspectives. USA: John Wiley and Sons. Mitchell, J., & Young, S. (n.d.). Change agents and the National Training System. Retrieved May 5th, 2009, from Nelson, D. L., & Quick, J. C. (2005). Organizational behavior: foundations, realities, and challenges (5th ed.). USA: Thomson-South-Western. Powers, M., & Simon, J. (2003, June). Key role: The Change Agent. Retrieved April 28, 2008, from Recklies, D. (2001, October). What Makes a Good Change Agent? Retrieved May 03, 2009, from Sims, R. R. (Ed.). (2002). Changing the way we manage change. London: Greenwood Publishing Group. Spence, W. R. (1994). Innovation: The Communication of Change in Ideas, Practices and Products (Edition: 2 ed.). UK: Chapman & Hall.

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Stevenson, D. (2008, April 4). What is a "Change Agent?". Retrieved May 15, 2009, from Swenson, D. X. (2001, January 20). Change Agents:The good, the bad and the ugly. Retrieved May 12, 2009, from

Description: Change agent is an OD specialist who contracts with an organization to facilitate the process of change in the organization. He performs a systematic diagnosis of the organization and identified work related problems. He or she gathers date through questionnaires, personal interviews, and observations from meetings and surroundings.