Change Agents: The Power Behind Effective Change Management

Change-agents are those within our organization who help facilitate strategic transformation. We need change agents on our side to clear the path, especially when it comes to making “game-changing” change. But how do we enlist the type of change agents to make critical changes possible?

When you consider the components of successful organizational change the qualities of a game-changing change agent become clear. Change Management

  • Successful change within an organization requires a psychological understanding of what change truly means.
  • It requires the capacity to generate and use power or influence in the change process.
  • It requires the organizational leadership to provide the vision and support for the change efforts.
  • And it requires a tried-and-true process for getting from where the organization is today to where it ultimately wants to be.

Change Agents Must Have Power

The most essential quality of an effective change agent is power. These leaders of change can be found throughout the organizational hierarchy. By way of their job title, status, expertise, and/or political importance these key people have the power to become the all-important game-changing change agents.

Power is not a dirty word.

Why is it that most managers shy away from the “power” word? This appears especially true in a society where attitudes of entitlement prevail and empowerment is a popular leadership notion. The word “power” brings to mind a politician, Mafioso, or cold-hearted businessmen. Yet a dictionary definition of power is the “ability to act or produce an effect”. It turns out that power, when applied appropriately, is exactly what it takes to promote action and make transformation happen.

But it needs to be the right type of power.

Potential change agents tend to possess power but let it be known that some “power types” are better than others when it comes to selecting your change agents:

  • Coercive power
  • Formal power
  • Expert power
  • Moral power
  • Referent power
  • Relationship power

Coercive Power

Coercive power is often held by an individual with the ultimate authority to fire subordinates. And while the mere threat of coercive power may be enough to elicit a reaction from employees, it is insufficient to produce the type of “game-changing” change we seek from a change agent. Instead, coercive power often produces covert defiance and resistance among individuals – the opposite of what we’re looking for.

Formal Power

Formal power gives an individual the power to change corporate structures, create new compensation systems, and allocate resources differently. And while yes, these elements are essential, when looking at strategic transformation it is not enough, in and of itself, to produce game-changing change.

Expert Power

Expert power is a necessary ingredient in the transformation process and one that we should look for in a change agent. These leaders tend to have a positive impact on staff members who believe recognize and respect the leader’s expertise and track record. These leaders as believed to have a unique ability to see the organization more clearly and understand problems more accurately than anyone else in the organization.

Moral Power

Moral power can be another effective quality of a change agent. These leaders look to seize the organizational high ground by using inspirational language to define the organization’s vision. Persuasive rhetoric that helps create alignment among employees. Google says, “Great just isn’t good enough.” Of course, for a vision to be effective, a leader must embody its tenets. And the vision must be believable and authentic. It is not worthwhile to preach product quality when employees see that is really being rewarded is the number of products that are released.

Referent Power

Celebrities, patriotism, and other well-respected people hold referent power. Wikipedia defines referent power quite appropriately as, “Individual power based on a high level of identification with, admiration of, or respect for the powerholder.” Those with referent power inside your organization are excellent candidates to become game-changing change agents as their influence and leadership are driven by the value and respect others have of them.

Relationship Power

Relationship power can also be an effective quality in a change agent. This type of power is derived from competencies such as humor, charm, and great soft skills. Relationship power is held by people in many types of relationships and is hallmarked by the, “do it for me” favor.

Who will be the game-changing change agent in your organization?

Every organization is unique in the types of power they have available to draw upon in the course of affecting true organizational transformation. An experienced management consulting firm can help to guide your change management process.

At Method Frameworks, we use our proprietary framework to help our clients plan effectively for transformation and avoid the many possible mistakes that can compromise the mission. We begin with the development of a roadmap for the change that charts the course every step of the way from your current day model to the new organization. The resulting transition plan is thoughtful, thorough and can be implemented on your own or with our help.

Learn more about our organizational transformation and transition services.

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Joe Evans serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Method Frameworks.  

Method Frameworks provides management consulting services to commercial enterprises with strategic and operational planning solutions using the firm’s proprietary Plan4 process. Visit Meth...

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