Change – Whose Job is It? The Players in Change

About a month ago, I had the pleasure of being the first speaker at the Change Management Institute in Brighton. The topic was ‘Change – Whose Job is it anyway?’. There I presented some of the characters that I’ve met and their role in change. Here is a bit of an updated summary from what I spoke about.

Now if you put the topic of ‘whose job is change’ into Google, you’ll get many results around changing jobs, roles and companies and how, in short, it is your job to change yourself. Now whilst this all might be well and good for personal change – what about those changes in work that are ‘pushed’ to you and you have ‘no choice’ – well I think we can all agree that the dynamics shift and it’s then the organisations job.

This got me thinking about the characters that I’ve come across over the time that I’ve been supporting and leading organisations through change. Often when I first start working with an organisation, we would undertake some discovery work to find out about how people work, their attitude to the status quo and (I think more importantly) their attitude to change. These normally generate a set of personas that we’d work with to implement change successfully and tell stories that resonate with people.

These are the characters that I’ve come across (so far) when working with organisations on change:

Cruncher

To understand the change, they need facts, figures and to know details of what will change.

These are the people who want to know about how much is being spent, and what are the expected financial benefits. They’ll need to understand about they when and the return in investment. Go in armed!

Follower

The Herd mentality. These people will follow the group and need people to go ahead of them. They will bring others.

We’ve all been there – people don’t always like to lead and would prefer to go with others – especially peers. They need to see enough people transitioning before them to make it ‘worth their while’.

Observer

Neutral or cynical. These people will stand by and watch the change unfolding. They play a role to understand resistance.

Be careful with the observer as they can change in a heartbeat and become actively against the change. It’s not fair to say that they ‘sit on the fence’ but they might be keeping their opinions private until more information is known.

Visionary

Those who provide the vision of the end state. These are the dreamers and the thinkers.

These people are great. They are the people who inspire and can really see that end state though all the challenges and set the tone for the rest of the project. They can be a useful sponsor at the start, but if they don’t want to know enough detail – they can become a blocker without realising.

Agent

The people who go out and represent the change. They can be both a formal or informal agent of change.

Call them Change Champions, or Ambassadors or whatever other title fits in with the organisations culture – they are going to be one of the most valuable people you work with. They will be honest and open in their feedback and that should never be ignored. Note that these people don’t have to be a formal role – other people who will champion the change will emerge without having the formal title (or maybe even time to dedicate). PA’s are very good unofficial agents.

Enabler

Those who will rollout and enable the change. They coordinate the effort and track/report progress.

Often the project managers and team surrounding the change. They are the ones to keep things on track, monitor progress and make sure any risks are logged. These people keep me going and make sure I keep to a plan. Enablers can be sponsors as well but might want to go into the weeds too much – making it more difficult to have those conversations at the senior level.

Navigator

Those who sit outside the change but need a map to understand what to do when, and the direction to take.

These people will find their own way through the change and need very little signposting or guidance. They do however appreciate a roadmap or something similar to know what’s coming down the line with the change. They are impacted by the change but are more likely to be like a self-cleaning oven and manage it themselves.

Orchestrator

These people support a change but without guidance. They move people in the right direction and signpost them.

These people might be in favour of the change or have been through something similar before. They want to help and will make sure people are moved in the right way. If given the right support, line managers make good orchestrators as they will help their team through the change and make sure they complete any actions required.

WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?)

Those who need to understand WIIFM. They need benefits bespoke to them – not the wider impact.

Bluntly, they want to know how it will impact and change them. They don’t really care about the wider organisation or team – but how it will change them. Make sure change impacts are known as well as the individual benefits – they might need to know the narrative but ensure there are tangible examples.

Supporter

Those who have an alliance with the change. They can be neutral or visibly positive about change.

People who support the change but are probably not involved in the project/programme or any agent network. You’ll be able to identify these supporters through the language they use and how they interact with the change. There will be small offers of help – even if just pointing you in the right direction or sending an email on behalf of the change.

Emoted

Those who are concerned about change. They are emotionally driven and need support to transition.

In all organisations and change, you will come across people who are driven in their communications and thought process by more emotive responses and reactions than others. This does not mean that they become visibly upset or concerned but instead might take time to send a long email with concerns about the change and the impact on them/others. It’s important that their concerns are listened to and responded to. I know that I’m not the best person to respond to such concerns as I will often give a short and to the point response –  therefore I make sure that someone in my team can and does empathise in the right way with these players.

The Terrorist

Those who will wait or sit on information that is critical/valuable to the change and then release it at the exact moment to de-rail progress.

Interestingly this came up after the Brighton event where I presented the personas. The comment was that overall the personas were too positive/neutral. So, after some thought I did recognise that there are those people who are actively there to sabotage the progress and stop change. This is where you need to use the sponsor or any coalition you have to challenge this behaviour. 

So, whose job is it? ^ See above. Shockingly after that, the answer is EVERYONE! It cannot be just one person’s job to enable and make change happen. It’s a collective effort where people have to come together. The only point to make is that as the change moves forward, people can and will change roles – they will move into more accepting and (hopefully) positive roles.

There might be some more players in change – let me know who you’ve come across.