I have a confession to make: I have been very disillusioned with the competency of internal change agents.
The use of this generic term includes leaders responsible for change, internal change management consultants (an oxymoronic term for me), those pretending to be change agents and those tasked with some component of change (whether they like it or not). I have been disillusioned because these agents read a little (and mostly I do mean a little or a lot just the business books that would bore my 11-year-old), participate in a few things organizationally that are a little different (which they call “change”) and then take on more than they can handle. Or they get swept up in the evangelical approach of some templated change company thinking if they fill in the cells and answer those questions change will happen (and they will get big credit for it).
It is as simple as this: anyone who tries to own change (except for the actual owner) I am suspect of.
An agent of change should be guiding, mentoring, facilitating, helping to get change to happen. And NOT taking credit for the success.
Could it be that change management has matured? Because those loud voices, those overpowering personalities that got caught up in the first wave of CM are being replaced by organizers, people/people, business focused individuals and externals turned internal. I also have to confess that in the last year or so I have been genuinely impressed with some change agents I have worked with, come across. They are clients. They are partners in change initiatives. They are team leads. They are, and I thought I would never say this, also HR people.
So to the wonderful
These true agents (in my mind with my reference point and perspective, but 72 different company cultures I have seen probably gives me a pretty fair vantage point) GET it. They get this change thing. The wonderful part is that they know STUFF HAS TO GET DONE. They know decisions HAVE to be made. They understand that they are not supposed to be responsible for those things- change management just does not work that way. (And if the change agents are doing all the work they have become project managers). Yet they often quietly (remember no rewards, but thank you’s in this career) get a few of those things done. They often quietly make a decision happen. The good ones can even steer the change process in different directions than they would personally choose, because they have end states in mind.
I am seeing, and this is truly refreshing, templates used as dialogue sheets. PowerPoint as discussion. Pictures before stats. Squares, circles and colors before cells and every-other-row-shading.
I am hearing a different tone in virtual meetings. It is a makes sense tone. What is possible, what can we do, but also what is perfection? Getting nowhere near perfection is much better than never having tried.
I am sensing some boldness too. Change initiatives are budgeted much smarter now. CM is more than a line item, it has become a necessity. When there are not enough resources agents are demanding more (in a nice way of course, that is how we operate). I can now say that I have been pulled in at the beginning, in the middle, toward the end and after end states for initiatives big and small. At the beginning is preferred, but seeing CM inserted all through the change timeline is encouraging.