By David Miller, CEO, Changefirst
The recent 2014 Pulse of the Profession report by PMI confirms something we've always known – that the most effective organizations integrate consistent change management processes within their project structures to drive successful project deployment. In other words they take a structured approach to change.
When we talk to experienced change agents they tell us that they have two big challenges. Firstly, they need to be able to apply change tools and techniques to projects but secondly, and just as importantly they need to have the change skills and attributes to turn that information into insightful and meaningful action while influencing others to do things differently.
It’s an understatement to say “this can be tough” in modern organizations with multiple change projects. They tell us that the challenges can range from building sponsor support, increasing user adoption, building real-time commitment to change and finding ways to sustain change so it doesn't evaporate the day they leave the project.
A few years ago we surveyed nearly 200 (mainly very experienced and well-trained) change agents. This survey - The Role of the Change Agent - revealed a number of challenges and potential solutions for change agents. We asked them about eight potential challenges. The two biggest were 1) nearly 80% of respondents said that helping people develop commitment was their biggest challenge 2) 70% told us that gaining support of front line managers was highly challenging as well.
The survey also showed a very high need for more focus on change agent development. On average there was a 25% gap between how change agents rated the importance of a skill to their work and their own personal skill levels.
Based on this survey, if you were building a development plan for change agents the ‘top 3’ areas to focus on would be:
- Using different forms of influence to build active sponsorship – 80% gap between importance and skills
- Influencing top managers and team members – 70% gap between importance and skills
- Demonstrating personal adaptability to manage uncertainty and ambiguity – 40% gap between importance and skills.
Think about the list above and how you rate your own and your organization’s skills versus the importance you place on each of them. Further questions would be:
- Do you have a set of consistent change tools, processes and techniques that work?
- Do you have a set of change agents with the right skills to ensure that those are applied effectively on change projects?
- Do you have formal processes to select and develop change agents?
- Do change agents in your organization have executive support?
- Do you give agents feedback on a regular basis?
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