Local Change Agent

By: David Donaldson |  Published: DECEMBER 2017

Another road trip, a tour across the country to visit 15 remote offices across 6 time zones, work to ensure this change is effective, after all, failure is not an option. The expense and time needed for the richness of face to face contact is justified but there has to be a better way. Good news: there is. In the world of change management, a Local Change Agent is the most valuable and effective arrow in the change manager’s quiver. Let’s explore why that is and how we, as change managers, can leverage this very valuable resource.

A Local Change Agent is a resource that has been trained and coached to act as the change manager’s representative in the field. There are several advantages to this model:

•Rich communication: all communication can be gauged on a scale of rich to lean. Rich communication has more channels. Consider in person vs. email communications. In person we have what is said, how it is said, gestures, and facial expressions. Compare that to an email with only one of those channels, it is no wonder we often misread the intent of an email.
•Boots on the ground: while a site visit is extremely valuable, nothing can replace local boots on the ground – an agent who is there fulltime, seeing what is happening, delivering and supporting the message. Consider how that message is received when delivered by a local, a peer, one of the team vs. the visiting change manager.
•The right stuff: managing change is a skill, one that takes training and experience to develop. Through training, coaching, and support we can help develop and support our local change agents, effectively spreading our skills across multiple sites via carefully selected and prepared agents in the field.

So, what can we do with this Local Change Agent? It is critical that we, as change managers, have an accurate and clear picture of what is happening, especially in remote locations. From the perspective of the line managers and the change targets, where can they go for support? Think of the message that is sent when there is a local resource there to support the team through the change. Given the choice of remote support (regardless of the technology available) and a local person who we can turn to in order to get needed details, support and to be our voice as we work through the details. This will also help keep the message consistent across all levels of the organization; a key factor when we are looking to enhance the believability and acceptance of the key messages of the change.

For your next change initiative consider doing what the news media has done for hundreds of years, put a local agent on the ground, where the news is happening. The direct observation, face to face interaction, and peer level influence of an individual who is tasked with supporting the change enables success. By leveraging Local Change Agents we can extend our capabilities, better support our remote teams’ work through change, and all of this while reducing the need for the road trip.