By Randi Hanks, Communications Specialist at NxtGov
Published on January 14, 2019
What is a change agent? A change agent is a person within an organization who strategically encourages and promotes positive transformation through innovation and collaboration with others.
All too often, marketing and leadership teams place the term innovation into a mission statement or value list, but fail to promote or implement the strategies necessary to ensure its success. From afar, innovation and change are desirable qualities held by companies and prospective employees; up close, it can be an entirely different story. Anxiety, doubt and fear can be felt when experiencing major adjustments. By assuming that change within an organization is an easy task, one is setting a team up for failure. Read on as we go over four main topics that can help you ease the process of change within your organization.
Question and listen with compassion
Working with individuals to streamline or automate a process that is already in place begins by asking questions and listening for the pain points. It is not uncommon for a change request to stem from a process that is causing frustration or confusion, so expect some initial angst or push back from the individuals sharing their thoughts.
Tip: To help jump start the process, gather your team and the individuals responsible for performing the process everyday and perform a question-storming session. “The Innovator’s DNA” recommends asking a minimum of 50 questions during a session, while only providing or seeking answers after.
Create a safe environment for voices to be heard
Involving those who will be directly impacted by the change ensures details are not missed and encourages successful solutions to be built. In the Business Analyst industry, these individuals are called Subject Matter Experts or “SMEs”. SMEs are the secret ingredient to creating a successful solution. They contain the knowledge of the current process and will be the main source of positivity regarding the streamlined process. If the opinions of the SMEs, or any other key stakeholder, are not considered, they are far less likely to buy into the new process.
Tip: Observe the individuals who are hesitant to share their thoughts and reach out to them directly. Explain how their shared opinions and concerns are valuable and by providing them, an innovative solution is more likely to have a positive impact. If a SME provides insight into the new process, point out where their input encouraged a positive change.
Encourage the 50/50.
The impacted employees’ input and voices are equally important to the change agents’ innovative ideas and final designs. Encourage the impacted individual(s) to take an active role in the project. There has yet to be a change agent who can read minds. Without diverse opinions being shared by the team, the new idea will only be able to grow so far.
Tip: Listen for the word “should” by the designers or managers in charge of the original process. More times than not, it will point directly towards an area of frustration within the process at hand. Simply observe and take note as to why the process is not being completed, as it “should”. This will lead directly to the areas where innovation is most critical. When working with the Subject Matter Experts, testing the new process before going live cannot be emphasized enough. This is the moment where you will find the critical points that have been missed.
Paint a picture or tell a story
Once the idea has sparked in a change agents’ mind, it can be difficult to convey it to the audience. There are several thoughts and past experiences that connect together to create that one big idea. A change agent’s mission is to share those connections in a clear and understandable way.
Tip: Find the medium that works best for describing the new idea to the audience whether that is painting a picture using flowcharts, diagrams and design mockups, or telling a story using dialogue, written word and communication. Build a bridge, connecting the dots of an employees’ day-to-day life, with the new imagined idea.
Forcing a change upon people causes push back, however, incorporating all impacted employees throughout the process, remaining compassionate to concerns and showing how their ideas positively impacted the design, will encourage the acceptance of change.