Your role in being an effective change agent

A change agent, in relation to organisational transformation, is an individual who has a sound understanding of the change in question and can clearly communicate the transformative vision and its effects to all those impacted (Investors in People, n.d.). An effective change agent spearheads this change, ensuring that the transformation is well planned and implemented, and that all stakeholders are informed and willing to partake in the journey.

The Embedding Project, an international public benefit research project that helps organisations embed positive social and environmental outcomes in their operations, outlines some of the key characteristics of an effective change agent:

  • Knowledge of the business: Implementing successful organisational transformation requires comprehensive knowledge of the organisation.
  • Track record of good decision-making: An effective change agent needs to be respected and have credibility within the organisation, and therefore should have a track record of decision-making that has benefited the business.
  • Alignment with business strategy: It is essential to articulate how a decarbonisation strategy supports the wider business strategy and adds value to the organisation.
  • Timing of contributions: An effective change agent should be able to identify when leadership or the wider organisation is more likely to be receptive to and prioritise change.
  • A clear, manageable plan: A change agent should ensure that within a large vision, there are clear, practical, incremental steps that can be steadily implemented in the organisation. The success of smaller incremental steps can also garner support for bigger transformation initiatives.
  • Commitment to the business: It is important to consistently prioritise the business, especially during periods of significant change. In particular, change agents need to ensure that there is a clear purpose to the change by ensuring that it will add value to the business as well as work towards a net zero future.
  • Willingness to be challenged and respectfully challenge others: Where appropriate, a change agent may need to challenge how executive business leaders view the importance of sustainable, resilient initiatives and business priorities. Equally, they need to be receptive to and respectfully respond to questions or resistance.
  • Passion and direction: Change agents must be able to inspire others within the organisation with their passion and enthusiasm for creating a more sustainable and robust organisation. However, it is important that this passion is coupled with objectivity and competency and is not overly emotional, as this can erode credibility.
  • Ability to embed sustainability in organisational operations: Effective change agents need to be able to generate long-lasting change that does not rely on an individual or team to be sustained, but is embedded into an organisation’s practices and culture.

(Bertels et al., 2016)

These are all important features that individuals or teams should consider when trying to generate sustained organisational transformation. The role of leaders in driving change in the transition to net zero has been emphasised throughout this course. As such, it is important that you consider your own role in influencing change in your business or other organisations in order to manage risk and seize new commercial opportunities as part of a decarbonisation strategy.

References:

Bertels, S., et al. 2016. Being an effective change agent: a guide. Available: https://embeddingproject.org/resources/being-an-effective-change-agent [2020, December 18].

Embedding Project. n.d. Being an effective change agent: a personal inventory. Available: https://embeddingproject.org/resources/being-an-effective-change-agent/ [2020, August 26].

Investors in People. n.d. 6 traits of a successful change agent. Available: https://www.investorsinpeople.com/knowledge/successful-change-agent/ [2020, October 26].