Sunday, January 23, 2011

Change Agent

Do I See Myself as a Change Agent?

In general terms, I do see myself as a Change Agent because I ask a lot of questions and am interested in listening to people's stories. I have taken quite a few Cultural Anthropology courses in college and am always interested in why people do what they do.

When I was a teenager, I watched my mother go into a company, interview all of its administrative employees and write several procedures manuals for their positions. In some cases, the workflow was changed based on her recommendations. She even hired me to help her with the filing.

Although I can be rather pessimistic at times, I strive to maintain a positive attitude. I think about many possible scenarios and look to other people for sides of the story that perhaps I missed. In the Myers-Briggs Career Personality & Leadership Tests, I scored so close to the middle in all categories that a Human Resources Specialist described me as truly being able to understand all points-of-view.

With further professional training, I think that my natural skills could be honed to develop the Change Agent characteristics in any position I hold or even as a viable career choise in and of itself.

What is a Change Agent?

A Change Agent is a professional systems' integrator who has the skills to motivate groups of people into changing their workflow behaviors for the benefit of the entire organization.

Jim Canterucci of explains in his article, Are You a Change Leader? that "change leadership is the ability to energize groups who will be implementing change projects that they may or may not buy into. It's important for change leaders to understand the need for change and demonstrate a high tolerance for ambiguity and a positive attitude."

Canterucci further explains the skills that a Change Agent needs to succeed. These include but are not limited to "planning, project time management, coalition building, decision making, active listening, meeting management, and communications." In another article by Canterucci, Change Leadership is just common sense...isn't it?, change leadership is described as "an art" because the Change Agent must do the "soft work" of "influencing scores of people to change their mind-set and behavior" oftentimes in a highly stressful situation. This can be a real challenge when you consider that everyone in an organization from senior executives to technology specialists to administrative employees are asked to change how they work at their jobs.

How Does a Change Agent Motivate Others?

A Change Agent motivates others by actively listening to all concerned parties and determining on an individual basis what motivates them to want to do what it takes to improve the workflow for the entire organization.

In the article Change Management-Understanding the Science of Change by Christopher Koch via, a big mistake that companies make is "assuming that everyone is motivated by ambition - as many CIOs are. But many people, especially IT professionals, are motivated as much or more by the work they do (the craft of software development, for example) as they are by the opportunity to move up in the hierarchy."

Koch reports from other leaders that the reward and punishment approach to change doesn't work on a personal level even if it motivates some people on the large-scale. He quotes research psychiatrist Jeffrey M. Schwartz of the School of Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles that "change hurts...and the brain pictures prove it." This article goes into great detail about the brain, how it works, and how to get around its limitations to induce pleasure at the thought of change.

In quoting Michael Wakefield of the Center for Creative Leadership, Koch reiterates that "learning is the antidote to change resistance." He suggests that people with similar workflows should be grouped together to discuss their common issues so that each individual has a chance to discover on their own the great ideas that will improve their situation. According to Schwartz, "moments of resolution or insite - call them epiphanies - appear to be as soothing to the prefrontal cortex as the unfamiliar is threatening."

How Do We Change With the Technology?

"The technological change that occurred slowly over centuries (such as the invention of the wheel) accelerated to change measured in decades ( the impact of the automobile, for instance), which has now been transformed into continuous and pervasive change brought on by the computer chip." Charlie Feld

(The best way in which to change our business as technology changes is to either hire or become a great Change Agent.)

Change is definitely something we all have to face in our careers as new technology develops. Even as the technology increases, people from every industry find new ways to implement new products into their own specialties. Inevitably, new terminology arises and is coined for some proprietary piece of technology that may quickly become outdated, such as "interactive videodisc or CD-i;" or people usurp an old term and change its meaning, such as "media."

Elaine England and Andy Finney - ATSF wrote a definition of the "new media," also termed "multimedia":

"Interactive media is the integration of digital media including combinations of electronic text, graphics, moving images, and sound, into a structured digital computerized environment that allows people to interact with the data for appropriate purposes. The digital environment can include the Internet, telecoms and interactive digital television."

I think the technologies that will have the biggest impact on our careers in the next 5 to 10 years are the continuing development of interactive websites for all business large and small and the adaptation of these websites for mobile devices.

These websites will not only announce to the world that they are in business but the websites will be portals to their employees and customers to interact through blogs, social networks, and information delivered by podcast, video, and live-interaction, even if the live-interaction is scheduled.

Technology improvements occur across all disciplines and often differing terms arise for the same or similar things. The difficulty with this is when the lines between unique industries blur, as is happening today. What do law, graphics, health, broadcasting, education, and journalism have in common with one another? In a word, technology.

Computer programs, e-commerce, videography, Internet connections and more permeate the heart of running any kind of business in today's world. So, how do we manage to constantly update our businesses in this ever-changing technology environment? Learn more about hiring or becoming a Change Agent. According to England and Finney, a Change Agent is a person with the "vision and skills to implement a change in organizational culture or business practice."

The following figure from England and Finney shows the center person, a Change Agent, who specializes in Interactive Media and is able to integrate the processes of the new technology into every spectrum of traditional industry specialization as represented by the spokes of the wheel.

Fig 5- Traditional Subject or Sector Areas can be found at
Elaine England and Andy Finney - ATSF

Continuing to Be a Change Agent as the Technology Changes

Marcia Xenitelis in the article How To Engage Employees With Technology Based Change from says that "it's prudent for any organization to know that employees understand and embrace the reason behind the changes in technology..."

Xenitelis tells an example of taking workers through a simulated customer experience to learn for themselves about the problems that need to be overcome. She says, "this way we created the 'Aha' moment, employees got the message better than any intranet, information session or small bulletin could have conveyed it."

I think that it is natural to be afraid of changes especially when we feel comfortable in our daily routine. However, it is inevitable that technology will continue to advance and force everyone to change if they want to remain viable in the business.

Change can be made easier with experiential education that allows for a psychological safety net for people to push beyond their natural fears by participating in generating the ideas for improvement and integration of new technology into the unique workflow of their business.

"Education Reduces Brilliance?"

For your entertainment, here is a video I found on Jim Canterucci's website presented by Sir Ken Robinson on making changes in the educational system.

Resources in the Order of Appearance:

1. Myers-Briggs Career Personality & Leadership Tests:
2. Are You a Change Leader?:
3. Change Leadership is just common sense...isn't it?:
4. Change Management-Understanding the Science of Change:
5. Charlie Feld:
6. Elaine England and Andy Finney - ATSF:
7. England and Finney:
8. Elaine England and Andy Finney - ATSF:
9. Marcia Xenitelis:
10. How To Engage Employees With Technology Based Change:
11. video I found on Jim Canterucci's website:


  1. Loved the video and enjoyed your blog. Are you not just a little bit afraid of change?

  2. Hi Tammy,

    I am definitely afraid of change and I like my comfort zones especially with the important things like family relationships and job security but workflow and job practices are not dire enough to remain attached to when there may be a better way of doing things. I am reasonable and willing to change my habits if I buy into the reasoning.

    I have a fear of the unknown and I really prefer to know what I'm doing and where I'm going before I start; however, when I feel frozen with fear, I visualize the part of the second Indiana Jones movie when Indiana has to take a leap of faith across the chasm. His first step was to take a step out onto thin air over a deep ravine. When he found that it was solid, to his relief, he stepped back, grabbed up some dirt and revealed the rest of the bridge that had apparently not been there a moment before.

    I find that I'm less afraid when I'm actually doing something as opposed to anticipating the worst. When I was flown over the Grand Canyon in a Sessna plane, I was so terrified I couldn't move. Everything changed when I pulled out my camera and started taking pictures out of the window. By focusing my attention, I was able to reduce the stress. You see this in animals too. When backed into a corner, perhaps in a stand off with another creature, they preen themselves as if they're ignoring the scary thing in front of them.

    So, yes I'm afraid of change but sometimes we have to do things no matter how we feel. I just find thoughts, mental images or affirmations that help me guide my emotions toward a better feeling so that I can move ahead.

  3. The hard part is not changing ourselves, but rather changing the perspectives of our clients. It is often hard to convince them they need to do things a different way.

  4. Thanks for the comment Jonathan.

    I have learned from my instructors that the professional designer is in charge of what can and cannot be done and then the client is given choices as to the overall appearance of a project. What can be done by the designer is based on an organizational level or rather on what the technology allows. In regards to personal preferences within the allowable scope, I think the designer should listen to what the client wants and then offer possible solutions. Continuous communication is important to develop a final answer if there is disagreement. The designer should somewhat educate the client as to why one choice is better than another. Most people are reasonable but a determined client will just have to be notified of the consequences of their choices, such as charging a higher price, taking a longer time, or being told to go find another designer.

    I think in order to change someone else, there has to be a point of reference, a common ground to relate to one another. This requires active listening on my part. Once I have an understanding of where they are coming from, then I can be assertive in my next step. I could be aggressive and usurp authority over the other person to make them change, such as occurs in a parent/child relationship, but this approach backfires. In being assertive, I speak with self-confidence and communicate in a way that I believe the other will understand me. In other words, use their lingo, jargon, and phrases in a rational conversation.

    I also need to remain unattached to another person’s choices while holding on to my own opinions with enthusiasm. By my listening, I let the other person know that I understand them but then I steer the conversation to what I want. I do reserve the right to change MY mind.

    Ultimately, I lead by example, remain true to myself, and speak confidently about what I believe in. Change occurs in others when they feel motivated to change. Some people are motivated by the competition in conflict and some people are motivated by an atmosphere of safety and enthusiasm. Either way, the best thing I can do is to remain centered in my own self-confidence and allow others to make their own choices.

    There is also the theory that change does not occur at the level of the individual but at the level of the organization. This is where the Change Agent comes in. It is said that change is painful, so it is the job of the Change Agent to convince others of the benefits of changing so that they will be willing to move out of their comfort zone and into a better way of doing things.

    The organization has to change its rules, rewards and consequences first before many people will even consider changing themselves. If the Change Agent has done a good job at the beginning, the voices and opinions of all levels within the organization will have been heard and understood so that the organization can address those issues for the benefit of all.

    This idea still works on the one on one level of a freelance designer to a single client because the designer must still work within the confines of the organization of the available technology. Color choices and usability issues can be discussed in a way that gives the client enough information to make an educated decision. In the end, the client will decide whether or not the designer’s knowledge, skills and ability to communicate best practices are worth their time and money and the designer will decide how and if they will proceed with the project based on the client's choices.