Without change agents, successful change cannot happen. This is true no matter the size of the organization, whether it be large or small. Change agents may be found internally or externally within an organization, for a change agent to be successful, a good relationship with the decision makers within an organization is vital for successful change. In this research paper I will discuss change agent types, characteristics of change agents and their roles in organization that experience successful change.
“Change Agent is defined as a person who leads change within the organization, by championing the change, and managing and planning its implementation”(toolbox.com, 2008). Change agents are passionate about their causes, and are able to invoke passion in others. They are self motivated and need little direction. Change agents have their eye on the future and are capable to visualizing a finished product. But most importantly change agents must be able to empathize with others and let their understanding of others lead the way.
Many times a change agent can be effective if they are external from the organization. Because they are not bound by internal regulations, the organization’s culture politics, or traditions, they often will bring a different perspective that will challenge the status quo. There are disadvantages of bringing in external change agents if they are not familiar with how the organization implements policy and procedures. They can also be perceived by employees as untrustworthy, making it hard for the external change agents to grasp where the change needs to occur.
Internal change agents are those who work from inside the organization. They are individuals who work within an organization, have experienced its problems and have experience in improving those conditions. To bring about a fuller understanding of how to initiate change, organizations will sometimes bring in external change agents and pair them with an organization’s internal representative. Then a team of line managers will be called on to work as a team. If an organization is large enough, they will keep a change agent specialist in house. Within the change process, an external specialist would no longer be needed and will work directly with the change team to bring in change efforts.
FOUR DIFFERENT TYPES OF CHANGE AGENTS
There are four different types of change agents; outside pressure types, people change technology types, analysis for the top types, and organizational development types (Stephen, 2010).
Outside Pressure Types- These change agents challenge the status quo. They work externally from an organization, are sometimes radical in their approach. They have been known to exert various pressure tactics such as civil disobedience, mass demonstrations, violence and other direct actions tactic. Often times, actions such as this do not work alone. They usually are used to bring attention to the issues that will bring forth more conventional means to affect change. When these tactics are used, it results in examining many change alternatives.
An example of an outside pressure type would be ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) (ACT UP) is an international direct action advocacy group working to impact the lives of people living with AIDS, (PWAs) and the AIDS pandemic to bring about legislation, medical research and treatment and policies to ultimately bring an end to the disease by mitigating loss of health and lives. ACT UP was organized as a leaderless and effectively anarchist network. This was intentional on the founder of the group, Larry Kramer's part - he describes it as "democratic to a fault.” We used a simple formula for recruitment, "To a certain extent, this is how democratic politics is supposed to work in general. You convince people of the validity of your ideas. You have to go out there and convince people" (ACT-UP 20, 2007).
People Change Technology Types-These change agents are concerned with the moral and motivation of employees. They will monitor employee absenteeism and turnover, and the quality control of other employees which include the quality of work performed. A lot of times these tasks are performed by managers and supervisors. Quality methods will include setting goals, behavior modification, and how to make the work experience better for employees. These are action goals that will bring forth individual change in behavior and in return will provide needed change for the organization.
Analysis for the Top Types- These change agents focus on the organizational structure of the organization that will enhance efficiency and output. Focus is on using analytical approaches to change the organizations structure or technology, Systems analysis, policy studies, research are tools used by these leaders and managers. Updates to technology have become necessary to keep up in most fields of business.
Organizational Development Types- These change agents focus on how the internal interactions work within group relations, how employees communicate and decision making within those groups. They use strategies that use intervention for a cultural change by analyzing how the culture of the organization works. Some of the tools used to gather this information are survey feedbacks, sensitivity training, and team building skills training. As with the other internal change agents, these types are often roles of managers and supervisors.
An example of organizational development types has been effective education within the HIV/AIDS community. By changing the perception of AIDS in the public arena less new infection rates occur. This can only come to pass when the culture of fear is dissolved and sensitivity training is given.
Management consultant Ric Reichard uses a simple formula to describe the issues which are usually at play TRUST = perceived competence + relationship RISK. Many times the change agent and consumer will over emphasize competency or the relationships when risk increases though the challenge is to balance both in order to develop trust (bdrconsultants.com, 2010).
People change when the status quo becomes too uncomfortable to bear. Most people view change as a last resort and do not like making an effort to change. Successful change agents understand this and can take a leadership role in leading the way in change.
Characteristics of a Change Agent
1. Change agents must identity issues that are disruptive to success within the status quo, analyze its impact and causes, as well as the potential benefits for removing negative elements.
2. Change agents must be capable of communicating the negative impact and possible benefits to key stake holders, take on the responsibility to actively participate in the change effort.
3. Change agents must be capable of in identifying and analyzing solution alternatives. Once identified, the change agent must internalize the solution and coordinate the selected solution.
4. Change agents must be able to network and incorporate partnerships with those they serve, whether in a non-profit or for profit setting. Mutual responsibility within these partnerships will assist in the efforts for change.
5. Change agents must be able to articulate a vision and interpret what the desired outcome should be. Once achieved, the agent must then motivate the workplace with the Vision Statement.
6. Change agents must be capable of setting a leadership agenda that defines ongoing roles typically executed by managers and leaders. Some of these roles include communicating tasks, role modeling, and ongoing reinforcement of desired behaviors.
7. Change agents must be able to solve problems and overcome the emotional and political dynamic that surround problems within the organization. They must also be capable of tuning into what dynamics are at play and have the courage to take sometimes difficult measures to resolve the issues while at the same time being sensitive to those involved.
Roles of a Change Agent
The roles of a change agent include consulting, training, and research. These are activities both internal and external change agents perform (Ludenburg, 2010). As change is implemented in an organization, taking on specific roles will aid in overseeing positive change.
1. Consultant- In the consultant role, a change agent will assist employees in generating data or expose them to data needed for necessary change. Once this occurs, employees can use information to find solutions through analysis of valid data.
2. Trainer- After a change agent assist employees in gathering needed data, they will teach members of the organization how to use the data in regard to the needed change. As a trainer, either the external or internal change agent teach individuals how to use the data to effect change and provide individuals with a new skill set to resolve future problems.
3. Researcher- When the change agent takes on the role of researcher, they are able to teach skills needed to evaluate how effective action plans may be. Within this scope the change agent may also design a component used to evaluate current problems as well as intervene before future problems occur.
Traits of Successful Change Agentry
Researchers have identified characteristic traits of effective change agentry These traits refer to the way in which change agents manage change rather than to any personal characteristics they may possess Included in these traits are empathy, linkage, proximity, structuring, capacity, openness, reward, energy, and synergy. (Anderson, 2011). Even with calculated data and structured programs policies, unless the human aspect of how people react to other isn’t taken into consideration, effective change will not happen. Change agents and organization members who are willing to communicate by listening, interacting, and being influenced by one another will be successful in fulfilling change goals.
1. Empathy –Being tuned into empathy will improve communication through understand and acceptance of the organizational members and change agent.
2. Linkage – When the change agent and organization member are connected through collective involvement and linkage is tight between individuals, the more likely change will be successful.
3. Proximity –is the physical and psychological connections between the change agent and organizational member. The closer the proximity, the easier it is to develop linkage.
4. Structuring – relates to the planning and organizing a clear plan and coordinating activities for the progression of the change effort.
5. Capacity – providing needed resources for a change effort to be successful.
6. Openness – Organizational members and the change agent’s willingness to listen, respond to, and allow each other to influence the other.
7. Reward - This would refer to the end result of positive outcomes in the change effort. Part of successful change agentry is to reward for the desire change.
8. Energy – the effort expended towards the change effort from both the change agents and the community members.
9. Synergy - and finally, the reinforcing effects the above factors have on each other. In other words, the synergy of the variety of people resources, and activities that are involved in the interactions between the change agent and community members.
Every organizational change, whether large or small, requires one or more change agents. A change agent is anyone who has the skill and power to guide and facilitate the change effort. Change agents may be either external or internal. (Stevens, 2008). The success of any change effort depends heavily on the quality and workability of the relationship between the change agent and the key decision makers within the organization.
When discussing the effectiveness of change agents, we have to look at the characteristics of a change agent, the types of change agents and the traits of successful change agentry. The four different types of Change Agents are Outside Pressure Types, People Change Technology Types, and Analysis for the Top Types, and Organizational Development Types. The characteristics Change agents vary depending on the needs of each role the change agent plays. Change agents effectiveness will be successful when external and internal change agents work as a team with organization members. Change agents cannot afford to ignore power dynamics, but be capable of identifying dynamics in the organization and using the knowledge towards effective change. Ultimately, we conclude that change agents will be more or less effective, when using collective data and incorporating the human aspects of communication, such as empathy and reward to a finished effective change.
ACTUP Capsule History. (1987). Actupny.org. Retrieved December 17, 2011 from
Anderson, L. A. (2011). The change leader’s roadmap: How to navigate your
organization’stransformation. New York, NY: Routledge. Burke, W. W. (2011).
Hartley, J., Benington, J. and Binns, P. (1997), Researching the Roles of Internal- change Agents in the Management of Organizational Change. British Journal of Management, 8: 61–73. doi: 10.1111/1467-8551.00040
Ludenburg, F. (2010). Managing change: The role of the change agent. Retrieved December 19, 2011 from http://www.nationalforum.com/Electronic Journal Lunenburg, Fred C.Managing Change The Role of Change Agent IJMBA, V13 N1 2010.pdf
Stevens. (2008). IT Management and Strategy. Retrieved from
What is the change agent role?. (2010). Retrieved on December 19, 2011 from