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From change agent to change manager to change master

By Ruth Tearle

Anyone who helps a team or organization to achieve a specific goal, is involved in change management.

A change manager may be a full time internal change consultant, an organizational development professional, a leader of a division, a middle manager charged with the responsibility of bringing about a change in his/her area or a team leader who gets employees excited about a change. Depending on the type of change he/she is tasked with, a change manager or change agent may perform a few of the following roles. However a change master, is able to perform all of these roles.


implement-changeLike a medical practitioner, the change manager will begin by diagnosing the organization or team in order to identify specific issues that need to be addressed. He/she will begin by analyzing:

  • The existing problems or issues highlighted by leaders.
  • The current reality of the organization/division.
  • The desired future ideal state.
  • The barriers preventing the organization from achieving that desired state.
  • The forces for change that exist within the organization
  • The dreams, goals and values of the key stakeholders within the organization
  • The organization's future strategy.
  • The organization's values.
  • The organization's readiness and capacity for change.
  • Changes occurring in the organization's external environment that may impact on the organization and its customers.

From this the diagnostician will determine the type of change required by the organization or division.


A change master doesn't just 'manage change.'

He/she does whatever it takes to solve a specific problem or achieve a clearly defined goal.

The most complex role of a change manager or change agent, is getting others to 'buy in' to the change process. The means he needs to get them to do something to make the change work. This could involve them learning new skills, playing a new role, or changing a habit.

The change manager in his role as a facilitator gets involved in:

  • Identifying the key stakeholders of the change.
  • diagnoze change
  • Involving these stakeholders in the diagnostic process using a highly participative tool such as "The Change Puzzle". This means helping them to agree on the changes the organization needs to make. This participative process helps create ownership for change.
  • Helping the stakeholders to set clear goals for their change process.
  • Educating these stakeholders about the changes they want to make and helping them to understand how the changes they've selected will impact on the rest of the organization (systems thinking.) Magic Change Toolkit.
  • Helping the stakeholders to understand how these changes will benefit the company, their division and themselves. This in turn builds commitment to the change.
  • Helping the stakeholders understand how to understand the 'costs' and lost opportunities of not making these changes.


Designing a change process that will achieve specific change goals, is a creative process. In his role as a designer, the change manager gets involved in:

  • Reviewing all the change tools and interventions that are available.
  • Selecting those specific change tools and interventions that will help the organization to achieve its change goals.
  • Creating additional activities and interventions to fill any gaps.
  • Checking that each intervention supports every other intervention, and that all interventions support the company's values and strategies.
  • Arranging and integrating these interventions into one simple, seamless, step by step process.
  • Deciding on the roles that need to be played to support the process. This could be done in a participative way, using a tool such as "Winning the Game of Change".


Many different roles are required for a change process to work. Often a change manager or change agent will play the role of a project manager and coordinate the activities of the different role players. Typical roles in a change process include:

  • A change steering committee.
  • The CEO of the company.
  • The executive team.
  • Regional coordinators (in large scale changes).
  • External consultants.
  • Internal consultants.
  • Middle managers.
  • Departmental, divisional or branch change agents.
  • Communications coordinators.
  • Change web designers.
  • Marketing professionals.
  • Individuals within the company.



Those involved in managing the change, and those who will be affected by the change, often are surprised by their feelings when confronted by change. Resistance, frustration and confusion are common emotions associated with change.

A successful change agent or change manager educates people about what to expect from the change process. This includes dealing with topics such as:


Many individuals dislike change. While they see that it may benefit the company, change to them simply means additional work, inefficiencies, feelings of incompetence, and maybe a more limited career path.

The skillful marketer creates the belief that participating in this change will be:

  • Fun and rewarding.
  • An opportunity to develop new useful skills.
  • An opportunity to increase one's visibility within the organization
  • Like embarking on an exciting adventure through which every individual discovers his/her personal magic.

To do this, the marketer applies innovative marketing techniques more often found in the advertising, communications industries. These include:

  • Advertising.
  • Competitions.
  • Participative media such as web sites, theatre, and clubs.
  • Creative media such as themes, logos, slogans, story telling, art, music, songs and 'war cries.'
  • Themed gifts to reinforce the change. Awards and prizes. Role models and success stories.


Why is the Oprah show so successful? People react with love, energy, excitement and creativity to anything that touches their soul.

inspiration-cardsAn inspiration agent finds ways to use the change process to:


change-strategyOften individuals who contribute to a change, get discouraged when they find they are being punished rather than rewarded for their efforts. This situation arises when the reward and recognition systems in the company are not aligned to the change. The change agent often needs to ensure that the following systems support the change he/she is making.

  • Budgeting.
  • Performance management.
  • Compensation systems.
  • Incentive and reward systems.
  • Reporting systems.
  • Measurement criteria.
  • Promotions criteria.

He/she needs to integrate all the changes that need to occur, to support the major change being made, into a comprehensive change strategy.

Some larger scale changes such as a culture change, involve a journey of multiple phases, with multiple players going on different journeys. Here the change co-ordinator needs to ensure that while different players are going on parallel journeys, they still all support one another.


Since organizations are integrated systems, any change to one part of the system may trigger or unexpected changes to other parts of the system. Similarly, unless you consider changes to the culture of your company, you may find that certain elements of the system may prevent your change from working.

The monitor role regularly measures progress towards the change goals. He/she constantly questions "what is working", "what isn't working" and "what do we need to change".

He/she provides regular feedback on progress to:

He/she encourages everyone involved in a change to:

  • Identify obstacles to change and find creative ways of overcoming these at their own levels.
  • Identify obstacles that require changes to the entire system and may require approval from the CEO.
  • Identify and share success stories.
  • Turn successful people into role models to encourage others.
  • Recognize and reward those who contribute to change.


While many people will find that they can perform one or two of the agent agent roles with ease, a change master would be able to perform all the change roles. The ideal change master would have the following qualities: Courage

  • Common sense. And the courage to use it.
  • Credibility and trust - the ability to work at all levels in the organization
  • A wide range of business experience - for example someone with experience in 3-4 different areas of the business, or an MBA, or a general management experience.
  • Knowledge of a range of change management tools and how each tool is used in different situations.
  • The ability to work with teams of people both inside and outside the organization This includes the ability to work with people across all departments and functions.
  • The ability to do very unstructured work.
  • Creativity.
  • The ability to custom design processes to meet the goals of the organization
  • Self confidence balanced by humility.
  • Superb facilitation skills.
  • Design skills.
  • Coaching skills.
  • A love of innovation and learning new ways of doing things.
  • A sense of humor and a sense of fun.
  • A spirit of caring.
  • Rational, emotional and spiritual intelligence.
  • The ability to inspire people. To bring out the magic within every individual and every team.


There are many different titles given to people involved in change management. These include: change manager, change consultant, OD manager, OD consultant, change lead, change agent, change analyst, change implementer, change specialist, head of change management or leader of the change management department, leader of a center of excellence, manager of change managers, and change or OD integrator.

The different titles reflect the different levels that those involved in change management may work at. For a large scale change to work, each role player in change needs to play a role appropriate to his/her level of skill, political power and the requirements of the organization.

You may also like:

  • Change management for organizationsA library of practical articles, guides, diagnostic tools, case studies, dashboards and solutions to use when doing organizational wide change.
  • Change management for teamsA library of practical articles, guides, diagnostic tools, case studies, dashboards and solutions to use when managing change in teams.
  • Change management resources Practical change management kits to give you instant results and credibility - from our store.
  • OD Interventions library Use this library of 1 and 2 hour OD and change interventions when you need quick, practical activities for a meeting, conference or workshop.

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