Originally published on September, 3rd 2019 on changeleadershipadvisors.com.

Create a Movement with a Change Agent Network (Part 3 of 3)

You’ve identified the characteristics you seek in a change agent and intentionally selected people to be part of it. Now it’s time to activate your network. But what do they need to be effective?

Change agents are expected to learn about the change, represent their organization to the project team (and vice versa), communicate the impact of what is happening and solicit employee input on how best to prepare them for change. Change agents also offer a point of view on the effectiveness of program and change activities and support us by positively influencing change adoption in their teams. With all this, we need to be sure they have the right resources to do their job well.

  1. Remember the basics. Change agents need logistical knowledge about the change – project team structure and participation, timing for when the change will happen, the people who are impacted, the plan to roll it out, definitions of success and how success will be measured. Consider creating a package of materials they can use in talking about the change in their teams as well as for gathering information, input and feedback. My information packages usually include talking points, a couple of crisp, well-designed slides that illustrate the change more graphically (and support the talking points), a graphical representation of the high-level plan and opportunities for employee involvement and specific assignments for the change agents to complete. Because I’ve engaged their leaders early in the process, my change agents often find themselves immediately giving presentations to their teams about the change. Better to make sure they are prepared and confident right from the start!
  2. Give change agents a clear understanding of the purpose of the change – the WHY for the larger organization so they can help translate that WHY into something meaningful for their own teams.
  3. Make sure they understand their role and related responsibilities. They also need to know what kind of support they can expect from the change lead and/or project team.
  4. Educate change agents on the topic of change leadership. It helps them understand what change leadership is, how their work fits into the larger change strategy, plus in some cases, I find there are some strong future change practitioners among the team!
  5. Hold a formal kickoff to initiate the change agent network. Think of the network as a team. You want to build this team and have them work together in support of preparing the rest of the organization for the change. Remember they will have to work through their own feelings about the change, too.
  6. Don’t start a network when there’s nothing for the change agents to do. They will lose interest and it makes the effort feel more like you’re just checking the box on a change plan. That will make it harder to engage your network when you really need it. Align your change network kickoff timing to actual work they will do.

Keep in mind that participating in a change agent network is an experience. It’s a way to engage people and help them see that their point of view matters. Change agents have the chance to develop a deep understanding of and commitment to the change, generating momentum that can turn your change into a movement. In return, you and your team gain priceless insight into how the change will be received before you launch so you can build the credibility and commitment you need for success.

If you missed Parts 1 and 2 of this series, click the links to read the articles. What Makes a Good Change Agent? and How Do You Find Participants for a Change Agent Network? 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.”