After reading this article you will learn about the meaning and role of change agent in an organisation.
Meaning of Change Agent:
Though change is a continuous process involving managers at all levels, who should initiate change and how has to be deliberately decided in planned change. Planned change can be introduced through change agents. Change agent is the person who initiates change in the organisation to increase organisational effectiveness.
Planned change may be change in people, structure or technology. Any resistance in introducing change is overcome by the change agent who motivates the employees to accept the change. Internal management takes help of external consultants in introducing planned change.
Change agents can, thus, be:
1. External Change Agents and
2. Internal Change Agents.
1. External change agents:
They are generally the behavioural scientists who specialise in human behaviour. They work as consultants for the company and devise its change strategy.
2. Internal change agents:
They are continuously involved in the change process. They belong to the organisation only and depending on the need where the change is required, they are selected from different levels and departments. Internal change agents are usually the managers who are trained by the consultants (external change agents) to implement change as on ongoing process.
They introduce change within the broad framework of change strategy devised by the external change agents.
They also lead the members to implement the change process. Internal change agents may also be change advisors appointed from specific departments for specific periods. After the change programme is completed, they go to their original departments.
They convince organisational members to accept and implement the change. What they learn from the consultants, they communicate to the managers and promote behavioural skills to smoothen the change process.
Change advisors should have the following qualities for making change programme successful:
1. Diagnostic skills.
2. Behavioural skill.
3. Attitudes of acceptance.
4. Personal qualities to provide emotional support and reassurance. — Watton
External Change Agents:
1. They take total view of the organization as a system.
2. They are not much affected by norms of the organization.
3. They do not view change as an on-going process as they are appointed by the organization for specific tasks.
4. They use diagnostic skills to diagnose the problem and plan the overall strategy for change.
5. Their role is comprehensive in nature.
6. Their role is primarily that of process consultation, that is, deciding the process of introducing change.
7. They help the organisation move towards self-renewal and growth
Internal Change Agents:
1. They accept the system as given
2. They apply change practices suitable to the needs of the organization within the organisational norms.
3. They view change as an on-going process with minor or major changes in the components of the organization
4. They use problem-solving skills to deal with problems related to change.
5. Their role is secondary to that of external agents.
6. Their role is primarily of implementing the change process. They work as trained by the consultants. Their role is primarily educational as they educate people about the need for accepting and implementing the change.
7. They sustain the organisation to maintain their competitive position.
Though, external and internal change agents have different roles, the difference is only in the perspective. Their focus is the same; to move the organisation to a new state of equilibrium with better competitive advantage.
While external change agents are specialised in their work, internal change agents work under their guidance to deal with people internal to the organisation and implement the change process smoothly with no or minimum resistance.
At the initial stages of change, both internal and external change agents work together to understand the need for change, areas where change can be most beneficial for the organisation and behavioural problems of people who will be affected by change. Working of internal and external change agents together develops mutual trust, smoothens the process of change and makes it move as an ongoing process.
Change process is effective when external change agent acts as a process consultant and actual implementation is done by the internal change agents. Internal change agent is more conversant with the problems in the organisation and can, therefore, manage the change process better. Various diagnostic and problem-solving skills can, however, be taught by the external change agent.
Role of a Change Agent:
Though role of a change agent varies with the nature of organisation, problem and management, change agent usually performs the following tasks:
1. He announces the need for change in the organisation. Members usually want to maintain status quo which is resistant to change. Change agents help to overcome this resistance.
2. He diagnoses the present situation in the organisation, foresees changes in the environment and helps the client company in adapting to the changing environment.
3. He helps in smoothly carrying out the change process. People accept change naturally without feeling that they are forced to accept it.
4. He formulates strategies for change. These are known as change interventions or OD (organisation Development) interventions.
5. He trains the internal change agents to implement the change process and introduce it further in the organisation. Change, thus, becomes an on-going process in the light of ever-changing dynamic external environment.
6. He uses behavioural skills to deal with emotional and social problems of employees in accepting and implementing change.
A change agent, thus, acts as a:
He facilitates change by developing awareness about the importance of change.
He draws major plan for change based on his diagnostic skills.
He studies the attitudes, personality, perception, beliefs and expectations of organisational members to the change process and motivates them to accept change and continue in the changed environment till a change is introduced again.