Change Agents and the Future of Change Management

Change Agents and the Future of Change ManagementRecently I was identified in a mini research study as one of the top Key Opinion Leaders in change management on Twitter by Maven7, and they were curious about some of my opinions about organizational change, and asked me these two questions for an article titled ‘14 Insightful Quotes from Influencers in Change Management‘ on their blog.

1) In your opinion, how will change management evolve in the next 10 years?

2) Why is change agent involvement essential during a change initiative, and what best practices are there to involve them?

The article on their site just highlights a few quotes from the insights I shared with them surrounding these two questions, so if you’re more interested in hearing the full responses, please continue reading.

Question: In your opinion, how will change management evolve in the next 10 years?

I believe that the field of organizational change will evolve first by moving beyond change management. We currently speak about change management and maybe change leadership, but I believe we need to make the conversation about The Five Keys to Successful Change™ more pervasive. These five keys are:

  1. Change Planning
  2. Change Leadership
  3. Change Management
  4. Change Maintenance
  5. Change Portfolio Management

When we start moving the conversation beyond change management, we can start focusing as change professionals on achieving excellence in practice in all five areas, creating more efficient and effective tools and techniques for each. The new Change Planning Toolkit™ introduced in my book Charting Change (Feb 2016) is focused on making the planning of a change effort of any size (up to the level of mergers & acquisition, and down to the level of the project) more visual, more collaborative, and more human.

In today’s environment it is innovate or die, and the reason that most organizations are bad at innovation is that they are bad at change. So, the ability to create a culture of continuous change in an organization, and a commitment to empowering employees with the tools, techniques, and mindsets that lead to the creation of a new organizational capability in change for the organization, will lead to THE most important competitive advantage an organization could possibly possess – greater organizational agility.

This evolution of change management will lead to a group of companies with incredible organizational agility and a collection of companies that will join Blockbuster, Montgomery Ward, Borders, and Tower Records not because of mismanagement, but because of a refusal to move beyond change management to embrace The Five Keys to Successful Change™. Which will you be?

Question: Why is change agent involvement essential during a change initiative, and what best practices are there to involve them?

I don’t like the notion of a change agent. Instead I prefer the notion of a change movement inspired by a motivated change leadership team. The notion of the change agent confers the idea that one person can affect lasting change, and that’s just not reality. We might like to attribute a successful change to a single individual, but the truth is that in those situations a movement was created where people eagerly participated in affecting a certain change, where imagination and creativity were captured and harnessed to create a new reality.

The truth is that successful changes are led by a passionate change leadership team with a clear plan that empowers and engages people with a clear, and often tailored, vision for the new reality they hope to create with the broader team. Successful change leadership teams build a clear plan that can be easily shared in order to start creating movement, in order to overcome the inertia of the organization, and then they focus on building and sustaining the momentum necessary to realize the desired transformation, whether that is a “BIG C” change or a “little c” change.

Successful change leadership teams build a shared vision of the change process, and a common language for the change effort, with the support of something like the Change Planning Toolkit™. Unfortunately, 70% of change efforts fail, and one of the big reasons is the lack of alignment, and frankly, an understanding of why the change is necessary, important, and how it might be achieved. At the same time, organizations fail to provide the support necessary to help the change participants successfully adopt the desired change. If you focus on change agents instead of empowered change leadership teams, people will be less likely to adopt the change, or to sustain it. So, choose wisely.

About Braden Kelley

Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker and workshop leader, helps companies build innovation cultures and infrastructures, and plan organizational changes that are more human and less overwhelming. He is the author of Charting Change from Palgrave Macmillan and Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. Braden has been advising companies since 1996, while living and working in England, Germany, and the United States. Braden earned his MBA from top-rated London Business School. Follow him on Twitter and Linkedin.
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