Change agent networks are becoming increasingly common in assisting change management efforts and building broad support for change across organisations.
45% of participants in Prosci's 2018 Best Practices in Change Management Research are leveraging the power of change agent networks, an increase of 6% from the 2016 research.
Using a change agent network can help extend your project support from those directly involved in the delivery of the project, to those who will be impacted by it. This can expedite change by reducing the number of obstacles and bringing greater focus to the project.
So what is a change agent network and how do you build it?
A change agent network is composed of individuals fulfilling a variety of roles, from across the organisation. When creating a network, employees are often asked to volunteer to take part, or are recommended by their manager or peers. Volunteering and recommendation ensures the right level of desire in the employee to take part in the network and it provides a suitable level of trust between the impacted group and the nominated individual. It also helps the credibility of the messages that are disseminated by the network. Ideally individuals will have a certain selection of traits, attributes and connections across the organisation that will help support the change effort. These traits can include: willingness to participate in the change, credibility among peers and knowledge of the organisation and its workings.
How do you use a change agent network?
Change agents can be used to positively communicate information about change to their peers, enhancing clarity and managing the flow of these messages to ensure it lands in the right way. They can also facilitate training of others about the change, provide implementation support, lead and act as a role model for the change and assist in managing the change.
Another desirable trait for individuals who become change agents, is they need to be personally invested in the success of the change. This could be manifested by incorporating their participation in the network, and the resulting success of the change, into their performance reviews or evaluation.
Whilst at an individual level change agent networks can support the change in a variety of ways, at a group level, they can also bring together groups of change champions, impacted individuals and influential leaders (Prosci Best Practices 2018). These networks can prove highly successful for supporting your change effort, embedding and sustaining the change within the organisation long after the official change management endeavour has ended.
So how can you ensure success?
Whilst choosing the individuals for the network, you will want to consider the optimal distribution of these agents across your organisation. Furthermore, without the right skills, these agents will struggle to help support your change management. Training and engagement with this group to develop their understanding of the change, their enthusiasm for it and their ability to coach and mentor their peers, will provide the foundations you need to build a successful network.
Tell us about your change agent network! We’d like to hear how others have implemented this approach to assisting your change management efforts. Get in touch.
To find out more about the importance of different roles in Change Management, Prosci have written an article that explores:
• The five key roles in change management
• Why each role is important
• What each role must do
• Action steps to support each role
Or join CMC for the next “How to in change management” webinar series where we focus the common challenges and obstacles when implementing change management for your change projects. Topics include; how to integrate change management and project management,how to write a business case for change management, how to manage employee resistance during change and finally how to build drive adoption with five strategic plans.
Imogen Parnham works in the Prosci® Training Team combining the role of Training Manager, with Junior Change Consultant, supporting CMC’s change capability and capacity building.