Originally published on August 19th, 2019 on changeleadershipadvisors.com.

How can you turn your change into a movement with momentum in your organization? One way is to establish a change agent network, giving your change the chance to go viral more organically than traditional change plans alone will. Your network can build credibility and employee commitment to the changes coming. It can also provide insight back to the project or change team so they can plan what’s most useful to get people ready for the change.

In this series, I share information about characteristics of a good change agent (Part 1), finding participants for your network (Part 2) and resources you should provide your network to increase the change agents’ effectiveness (Part 3).

Part 1 – What Makes a Good Change Agent?

  1. A good change agent has influential power more than hierarchical power. Other employees listen to and trust them, looking to them during change to find out what’s “really” going on.
  2. Good change agents learn about the change and then express it in terms their employee teams will understand. They also synthesize feedback from their employee teams into a coherent perspective to share with the project and change teams.
  3. Effective change agents see the opportunities that come from change, communicate in a positive, persuasive way and demonstrate empathy for others who are trying to make sense of what’s happening to them.
  4. A change agent is knowledgeable of the company’s culture and how the culture may support or act as a barrier to the change. While you may include people new to the company in your network, make sure to balance this with enough tenure to understand how culture plays into your preparations.
  5. Comfort with ambiguity is a critical change agent skill. Part of the role is learning new things and operating in the grey while working to make sense of it for others who are impacted by the change.

When I request participants for a change network, I’m often directed to include leaders. I have to reiterate that I’m seeking influencers rather than hierarchical leaders. If there are more leaders than team members on your list, consider engaging the leaders in a leadership forum or sponsor coalition rather than in the change network itself. I don’t want to dampen leaders’ enthusiasm because they are essential in championing the change and motivating others to champion change as well. At the same time, we need our change network to create the groundswell movement we want for the change throughout other levels in the organization.

In an upcoming article, Part 2 of “Create a Movement with a Change Agent Network,” I’ll share some ideas to consider when finding participants for your network. If you have questions or want help building your change agent network, drop me a line at erikam@changeleadershipadvisors.com.

Also, check out my podcast interview by Heather Stagl of Enclaria on “Building Change Capability Through Change Agent Networks.”