Introduction A change agent is someone who can change an individual’s or organization’s ability and enable them to achieve higher levels of outcome and help them move up the needs hierarchy. (Stevenson, 2008) A change agent is, “a person who leads a change project or business-wide initiative by defining, researching, planning, building business support and carefully selecting volunteers to be part of a change team. Change Agents must have the conviction to state the facts based on data, even if the consequences are associated with unpleasantness. ” (Six Sigma Dictionary, 2003)
A change agent has to see the future and over look the present because if he starts to think of the present then he will not be able to bring about the changes that he wants. The vision leads the agent to act a certain way and perform certain activities and functions. Bringing about a change is not simple; it requires a lot of hard work. Hard work is not the only thing that can initiate and implement the change, the agent needs to be passionate about the change and believe in the vision. His passion will ultimately lead the others around him to be passionate and the change to be successful. (Stevenson, 2008)
As we all know that motivation is one of the key factors for anything to be successful. Nobody else can motivate the change agent, he needs to motivate himself. He needs to be strong individual who can overlook the comments of others and be misunderstood and not appreciated and still do his job. Most important of all these things is that the change agent needs to be able to understand people and their needs. Without the people it is impossible for the change to be successful, the change agent should not forget them in the process of bringing about a change, because otherwise the change will be useless. (Stevenson, 2008)
In today’s world change agents are a common phenomenon, businesses frequently have to redesign business operations to stay up-to-date and enhance their position in the business world by having a comparative advantage, the latest technology and business process. To enable this to happen in their company, the management hires change agents. The change agent analyzes the company and its operations and then develops a vision as to where he wants to see the company. Then he sees what the basic requirements for the change are, training for the employees, re-layering for the organization, new system, investment and many other things. (Hugos, 2008)
Once all this has been established, the change process starts, the time period can vary according to the type of change and the extent to which the change is taking place within the organization. During this time period, the change agent interacts with all the people and helps them adapt to the new system and overcome any problems that they might be facing. Once the system has been implemented, the change agent also judges the successful rate of the change. If there has been a productivity increase and a generally better environment than the change has been successful otherwise another theory or method may have to be used for the change.
(Hugos, 2008) People resist change, they do not like it when outsiders come and change something in their territory. They feel uncomfortable as the environment changes because they had become used to the previous environment and even though it had some shortcomings, it was their haven. That is why change agents are treated badly and are not liked by the employees of the organization because they think he will change their territory which will change the way things are done and maybe the layout of the office. The change agent will enter their comfort zone and distort it. (Hugos, 2008)
The first thing that the change agent needs to do is to get to know the people around him and especially those that are involved in the change process. The agent needs to talk to them and see what they want. He needs to make sure that these employees are comfortable around him and understand the change process and are willing to support him. The best way to get to know the employees and get them to talk to you is to get down working with them. The second thing that the change agent needs to do is take the information he finds during this time very seriously. Things he will learn here are the basic reasons for the change.
This information will help in developing the vision later. The third and last thing that will happen and will be consequence of the first two steps will be that the employees will start to trust the agent and will open up to him. (Hugos, 2008) Up till now we have talked about how change agents need to maintain a relationship with the target group. We will now discuss who the target groups are. The target groups are the people on which the change will be implemented. In these include, the employees whose attitude, feelings, beliefs, values, and perceptions might need to be changed.
Then there are groups or organizations, whose size, composition, structure of authority, hierarchies, communication styles and channels, and many other things may need to be changed. Another category is the community, in which change might be needed within the inter-group relations that exist on the basis of ethnicity, race, gender, class, religion etc. and finally there is the society as a whole. Change in the society will be on a very large scale, such as globalization, urbanization, modernization, a change in policies and international relations, the environment, agriculture, education and much more. (Hugos, 2008)
The categories of change agents are the directors of a company, administrators, political parties or supporters, the financial backers, volunteers, employees, technical and professional people such as lawyers, sociologists, scientists etc. the types of change strategy that the change agent will adopt will depend on the situation and the type of change that is required, in some ways it will also depend on the relationship between the agent and the target of change. (Hugos, 2008) Change Strategies Then type of change that is needed and the way the change will be implemented is known as the change strategy.
There are four strategies that a change agent can follow: empirical-rational strategies, normative/re-educative strategies, power/coercive strategies, and environmental-adaptive strategy. (UNCW, 2008) The empirical-rational strategy is used when the relationship between the target and the agent is unequal on some levels but on the other levels the inequality does not exist. This strategy is used so that the inequality can be reversed. The strategy is most effective when the targets of change are individuals and not groups and organizations.
The aim of this strategy is to provide the targets with the information; it assumes that the targets are rational beings that can use this information to gain knowledge and make the best decision possible from the information that is available to them. (UNCW, 2008) The normative/re-educative strategy is used when the agent wants to convince the target. It is not a battle or a debate where the agent wants to defeat the target but the agent wants the target to understand his point of view and finally agree with him. In this strategy the target is brought face to face with the changed ideas and views.
They are persuaded to adopt these new values and internalize them so that they become part of the group and are something that the group does unconsciously. To make people believe and accept these values, the emotional and the rational appeal are used. They can either be convinced with scientific facts and figured or can be convinced emotionally. The targets of such a strategy are organizations, groups and the communities. (UNCW, 2008) The third strategy is the power/coercive strategy. This strategy will only work when the target is dependent on the agent such as in the case of children.
In this strategy there is the use of power, money and authority. The targets may be bribed to follow the change or otherwise face the consequences. The authority in this case may or may not be legitimate. The agents in this case want to be ahead of the target and want to defeat them. It can also be that the agents may be oppressed by the target and will eventually revolt against the target, there have been such cases in history but they have been on a very large scale, for example; the French Revolution. (UNCW, 2008) The fourth strategy of change is the environmental-adaptive strategy.
In this strategy the people are not immediately transferred into the new environment, it is a gradual process. The new organization is created and the employees are made to go through a transition phase. In this the targets will be upset with the change but will quickly adapt to the new environment. (Nickols, 2006) The Change Process The way the change is brought about or the processes that the change is brought about in are known as the change process and there are a few methods for doing this. Each will be discussed individually in the following paragraphs. The basic process of change is the unfreezing, changing and refreezing process.
The things that need to be changed will be unlearnt by the employees; they will then learn the new way of doing things or can come up with their own way of doing the job. The best method will then be learned by all the employees. The method will then be refrozen, by learning it. Another process of change is by solving a problem and finding a problem. The thing that needs to be changed is referred to as the problem. The change agent needs to move the target from the state of problem to the solved state. This has to be done in an orderly and disciplined fashion. When this is achieved the problem is solved.
This is basically known as the planned change model. (Nickols, 2006) When the change agent is trying to solve the problem he is basically looking for the solution thus, the problem solving part comes when a course of action is looked for to solve the problem. The problem finding part is when the action or thing that needs changing is being found. In this the change agent is finding the thing that is causing the problem and that which will eventually need to be changed. Thus, the problem is first found and then solved in a systematic manner. Some questions need to be answered about the problem.
The first thing that needs to be understood is that how the problem has occurred so that such situations can be avoided in the future. (Nickols, 2006) Another thing that needs to be analyzed is that what has caused the problem, so that that can also be solved. The problem has occurred because of a reason and that reason needs to be found and analyzed. There must be something that is lacking in the current situation, and to solve the problem the change agent needs to know these things so that in the solved situation these things are not present. (Nickols, 2006) Conclusion
A change agent does not require a specialized set of skills, there is no professional degree needed to be a change agent. There are only a few things that an individual needs to be aware of and know how to manipulate. He needs to be aware of the people around him, but this he needs to limit. If he becomes too aware it can hinder his job or if he completely not aware then he will not be able to implement the change successfully. A change agent needs to know what the situation is and after careful analysis he should be able to solve it in his mind before actually solving it in real life because otherwise it might just end up as a disaster.
One thing we can conclude from the paper is that the process of forming a relationship with the target is of extreme importance and that without the support of the people involved the change agent cannot achieve his goal. The whole process of will be useless. References 1. Dennis Stevenson (2008). What is a Change Agent? Retrieved on August 24, 2008, http://it. toolbox. com/blogs/original-thinking/what-is-a-change-agent-23764 2. Fred Nickols (2006). Change Management 101: A Primer, Retrieved on August 24, 2008, http://home.
att. net/~nickols/change. htm 3. Mike Hugos (2008). How to become a Change Agent, Retrieved on August 24, 2008, http://www. cio. com/article/13091/How_to_Become_a_Change_Agent? page=3 4. Six Sigma Dictionary (2003). Change Agent, Retrieved on August 24, 2008, http://www. isixsigma. com/dictionary/Change_Agent-393. htm 5. University of New Carolina Wilmington (2008). Social Change Strategies. Retrieved on August 24, 2008, http://people. uncw. edu/pricej/teaching/socialchange/Social%20Change%20Strategies. htm