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Being a successful change agent: models and techniques

change agent (CA) is someone who brings about change in another person, process, set of circumstances, group, environment, family, organization, institution, community, or theory. He or she can work for example, from the outside or the inside of a community, business, or organization, etc., to alter values, motivations, procedures, knowledge, communications, products, physical and psycho-social environments, and policies. A CA usually assists as a process helper, catalyst, resource linker, or solution giver.

Effective change agents are assisted by resources such as talent or skill, charisma, facts, techniques, access to funds, and access to influencers and key stakeholders. Internal change agents generally act in accordance with their prescribed roles or job description, whereas external change agents are paid a fee for their services by the employer. Exceptions for example, are government change agents who provide services to others, as part of their duties. The active relationship (duty or contract; ongoing or short-lived) between the CA and his or her audience/client, is called the interface.

The internal model of change has the following interface features:

  1. Objective and subjective factors tend to be minimized, due to familiarity;
  2. systems are task, human, structure, technology;
  3. functions are goal attainment, integration, adaptation, pattern-maintenance;
  4. agent brings knowledge, skill, loyalty/duty
  5. change time is relatively short;
  6. outcome bias tends to be high;
  7. knowledge is academically derived, or a reformulation of current;
  8. change impact is parochial/amorphous.

Advantages

  1.  he knows the system;
  2. he speaks the language
  3. he understands the norms;
  4. he identifies with the system’s needs and goals;
  5. he is a familiar figure.

Disadvantages

  1. he may lack perspective;
  2. he may lack the special knowledge or skill relevant to the innovation;
  3. he may not have an adequate power base to elicit support;
  4. he may have to live down his past failures;
  5. he may  not have the independence ofmovement within the organization;
  6. he may have to face the difficult task of redefining his on-going relationships with the other members of the system;
  7. he may place duty above reason.

The external model of change has the following interface features:

  1. objective and subjective factors tend to be maximized, due to unfamiliarity;
  2. systems are task, human, structure, technology;
  3. functions are goal attainment, integration, adaptation, pattern-maintenance;
  4. agent brings knowledge, skill, neutrality, motivation;
  5. change time is relatively long;
  6. outcome bias tends to be low;
  7. knowledge is acaademically derived, or a reformulation of current or new;
  8. change impact is substantively pervasive/durable.

Advantages

  1. he starts fresh, unburdened by possible negative stereotypes;
  2. he is in a position to have perspective and objectivity;
  3. he may have access to a wider spectrum of resarch facilities and data
  4. he is independent of the power structure of his client system;
  5. he is in a position to bring to the interface, something genuinely new most of the time.

Available change strategies to both internal and external CAs:

  1. rational-technical (reasoning, data, majority vote, utopian thinking, instrumental);
  2. normative-reeducative (fosters personal growth, consensus, value change, norms, group process);
  3. power-coercive (strategies of non-violence, confrontation, edicts, manipulation).

CAs who have professional credentials, e.g., economist, community developer, mental health worker, psychologist, engineer, etc., may, in their idealizations of professional ideology, separate out several distinguishable, but often intermeshed, sets of activities. These are:

  1. researcher (emphasis on objectivity; experimental/laboratory; field surveys, sampling);
  2. ‘sociotherapist’ (emphasis on subjectivity; advocate/activist [action researcher]; enabler, catalyst, facilitator).

Professional CAs adhere to codes of ethics often supplied and proscribed, by their respective professional associations. These codes act as control devices, implicitly or explicitly, to protect the public, organizational members/clients, audiences, from exploitation or incompetent delivery of services.

I will write more on professional ethics in my next post. Feel free to contact me by email (hillphd2@gmail.com).

 

© Terry Hill, PhD

 

 

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