The type of person that became a change agent was willing to experiment, ready to change, and had a good understanding of educational developments.
From changing teaching and learning styles case study
The change agents are those people that really make the difference implementing the change at a local level. This will depend on the nature of the change but the role often falls to middle managers because they have the influence and authority to make the change take place.
Care needs to be taken, as middle management shouldn’t be treated as ‘the meat in the sandwich’ – effective change agents need to be dedicated to the change process and should be provided with the support and given time to adjust and accept the changes before they are to summon commitment from their departments.
Work needs to be undertaken to get commitment from this key group of staff when implementing change – they are the key to implementing change processes effectively.
Change agents are responsible for facilitating the change through:
- Gaining commitment for the changes.
- Facilitating evaluation activities.
- Monitoring and reporting progress of change.
- Consulting and identifying bottlenecks/sources of resistance.
- Disseminating lessons learned.
The following seven winning characteristics of the successful change agent is derived from a study of the implementation of change in higher education.
Has a sense of purpose
- Is fully aware of the need to change.
- Has a vision of what can be achieved.
- Is realistic about the scale and timescale for change.
- Is flexible about the means to achieve the change.
- Understands the change process.
Has the capability to act
- Has leadership and interpersonal skills, with political awareness.
- Has a means to promote change (i.e. a role, a project, resources or influence).
- Has knowledge of the institution, its history and its influential characters.
- Develops the influential team.
- Ensures that early successes are achieved.
- Focussed on spreading successful practice.
- Has a communications strategy for selling success.
- Builds appropriate networks to facilitate communication.
- Understands others’ priorities in order to offer them clear benefits.
- Offers support and encouragement, not another problem.
Is strategically connected
- Is well connected with sources of power and influence.
- Builds a critical mass of senior people or a senior champion.
- Ensures senior links will last and do not depend on one individual.
- Understands the senior management agenda and sells benefits.
- Makes the link between strategy and operations.
- Encourages senior people to learn by experience.
Is critically reflective
- Builds a non-threatening environment.
- Encourages learning from failure as well as success.
- Makes critical reflection a part of all plans and agendas.
- Promotes reflection at every level i.e. personal, team department, and institutional.
- Records important learning points so they don’t depend on memory.
Builds supporting structures
- Ensures mechanisms are in place to continue the innovation and to spread it.
- Embeds the innovation by making it an important part of a wider strategy.
- Supports the innovation with appropriate resources for teaching and learning.
- Ensures that future innovation will also be supported and embedded.
- Develops processes to respond to the needs of institutional ‘stakeholders’.
- Predicts and uses external and internal levers for change, including political forces.
- Makes use of all available resources, including students, employers and alumni.
- Notices and secures external funding which will support (not dictate) the change.
- Encourages innovation, for example with protected money for innovative projects.
These are the early adopters, colleagues who want the change implementation to succeed, and believe that the change will be beneficial to the institution. The change champions will be members of staff affected by the change. They do not have to have management responsibilities.
The change champion will make an excellent change agent, but may not always want the excess work associated with the change. The change manager must decide how to make use and reward the enthusiasm and support of the change champions.
The change champions are the natural marketeers for the organisational change and act as catalysts for others. They will speak positively about the change, show that it can be done and support colleagues at an informal level. They give recognition when new behaviours are demonstrated.