Becoming a Change Agent & Being a Change Manager: What does it mean?

- Change Management

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An article by Mateus Rocha, Management 3.0 Facilitator from Brazil, looking into Change Management: How to support Transforming organizations as an organizational Change Manager.

We’ll be looking into the following aspects of becoming and being a Change Manager:

In a world of constant change and technological innovation, where volatility and response time become a survival factor in organizations, companies are beginning to look for new ways to respond to these changes, including new practices and models. Here, we can cite several practices and frameworks that have become prevalent in the market, such as Scrum, SAFe, nexus, Kanban, OKRs and so many others. You have to understand that the organization is a living organism, composed of people who dance with the system, bringing complexity to a set of practices, interacting with roles and processes formatted in a box and that don’t predict that certain human behaviors will become emerging. Poor humans we are, addicted to systems and certainties!

Fortunately there is a role that has been gaining a lot of prominence in the market during this time of transition and that helps organizations implement the changes necessary for their business to become more agile and with better management: The change manager, widely used within the context of Management 3.0.

What is Change Management?

To start, we first need to define what change management is, which, as its name suggests, is a structured strategic management approach that aims to ensure that changes are implemented efficiently. According to Wikipedia, Change Management is an area of study that focuses on the need for constant adaptation of contemporary organizations. The intensity and volatility of internal and external pressures impose challenges on companies, fostering the real need for change and thus the breaking of paradigms. Conceptually, it seems obvious. Basically it’s the halfway between point A to point B. In practice, change management appears in our companies in questions such as:

  • How can we transform our company?
  • How can we become more agile?
  • How can we be ready for the future?

It is at this moment of searching for answers to these questions that the role of someone who can orchestrate these changes is vital: The change manager.

What does a Change Manager do?

A change manager is a professional who has experience and knowledge in organizational change processes that help a company or group, reach new market levels, positioning and working methods.

It is very common for this professional to have strong skills in negotiation, management, empathy, emotional intelligence, in addition to mastering the respective market techniques in which the company proposes to change.

For example: A company that has average management based on command and control, with low innovation and retention of professionals and wants to change this. The Change Manager is someone appointed to lead this process, someone who creates a movement of change in the organization, can involve people, can make it go viral and implement Management 3.0 practices. 

Can the Project Manager be the Change Manager?

When I’m asked this question, I usually answer a different question: Do you want a change or to repeat habits in a different way?

A project manager, in his most traditional function, is focused on achieving the success of a project looking at its scope, time and costs, presenting reports to stakeholders, controlling the process phase by phase and designing value deliveries.

The project manager has a responsibility to plan and control the execution of projects in various areas of activity.

A Change Manager already has a stronger performance in the transition process of a team, area or process from one point to another, can move from the current state to the desired state and motivate and negotiate not only with a team but with the organization as a whole.

A project manager can become a change manager, but the responsibilities are different. It’s like putting a project manager in the role of a product owner and waiting for him to stop delivering gantt chart plans and share responsibility with the team. That’s not how it happens in real life.

Change Management from the perspective of a Change Manager

In 2018 I had the opportunity to lead the management of organizational change in a large group in Brazil. The challenges were immense, both from the point of view of ongoing processes, with a strong need to be able to bring agility together with indicators and metrics, as well as a more decentralized and innovative management with Management 3.0 as a strong and loyal ally in this initiative. So, in this article, I’m going to focus on the challenges of a trench Change Manager, focusing on successes, learning, and failure.

Something very important to note is that you don’t learn to be a manager of organizational changes in classrooms, books or colorful powerpoint slides. Not all. You’ll need skills, experiences and joy with experiments, plus a lot of resilience to deal with the different profiles of people, positions, areas and all that good old bureaucracy you’ve come to help solve.

One of the experiences I like to remember most was how in 2012, when I was still a traditional project manager in the best command and control style, I was hooked on Scrum. I studied the Scrum Guide, did the PSMI certification test and ventured for the first time to change the work process in one of my teams from waterfall to agile.

I arrived in the room on a Monday morning, said good morning to the team and presented my magnificent plan: Let’s do agile, I said! I created a Kanban board with three columns (To Do, Doing, Done), separated the tasks of the team members, saying who would do what in the sprint and when. I defined the delivery box time (two weeks) and started sprint, warning the team that the other day in the morning I would pass by their room at 10 am to ask three questions that resembled more of an abusive command and control than a role of facilitator.

As you can imagine, everything went wrong! They didn’t even know what I was talking about and I didn’t bother to explain! I spoke miserably about a change in the work process to a team of five people.

What did I learn from that?

The number one skill a Change Manager needs to have is…

I learned that one of the first skills a Change Manager needs to have is the awareness that a Change Manager is like someone who comes into our homes and changes all the furniture. The difference is that the furniture will spend much of the time in the middle of the room and it may be that someone hurts his or her toe, meaning there’s a good chance they won’t like you for a while, until the proposal is well understood. Therefore, the best you can do in the beginning is to listen to people, understand their behaviors, longings, fears, joys and sorrows before defining how the format of work. Tools that help you understand people like empathy mapsMoving Motivators and  ADKAR® (Prosci) models are very important. With them it is possible to map behaviors as well as people’s intrinsic and extrinsic motivations in the workplace.

From the point of view of an organizational Change Manager, when you enter an organization the people who really want the change end up looking for the Change Manager and creating the first impressions about the company. My tip is that you listen carefully, using the technique of active listening and powerful questions, to understand what the problems are that the company is trying to solve. After this process, we think about the practices that can help solve this problem.

How Management 3.0 can help Change Managers

Various Management 3.0 practices come in handy for Change Managers and Change Agents:

  • Change Management Game
    A fun way to share stories of successful change management processes, set of 34 questions to play with your team.
  • Moving Motivators
    An exercise based on ten intrinsic desires, meant to help us reflect on motivation and how it affects organizational change.
  • Feedback Wrap
    The feedback wrap helps people focus on both personal and systematic improvement.
  • Celebration Grid
    A great tool for retrospectives, learn from experiments and celebrate learning. (More tools for retrospectives here)
  • Kudo Cards
    Appreciate the good things that happen: Peer-to-peer and bottom-up

Management 3.0 modules for Change Agents:

Change Management-Sketchnotes
Click to enlarge Change Management sketch notes

Read on:

An organizational Change Manager wins the battle, but the war is always reborn in some way, and you need to be prepared for it.

Is the change done at any point?

After a while the system begins to emit signals that the change needs to reach new steps or change again, such as with methods, tools, practices, content, or anything else that happens, like remote work because of the pandemic. How do you work with this? Are you trying to put order to chaos? Here is the trap of stopping too early, thinking that change is already established in all areas of the company. Especially in exceptional scenarios, our tendency is to  repeat old behaviors  again, which become old habits, repeating the culture we do not desire and the guilt of failure. I’m sorry to tell you that there is no silver bullet to prevent old habits from returning.

What you can do as a Change Manager is to positively strengthen the system so that the best behavior is amplified and ends up generating positive peer pressure for growth, with dialogue and autonomy for people to actively participate in the change.

My intention is to make you see organizational change not as a destination, but as a path, a journey, road, that takes organizations from one point to another, working with people, their desires, fears, and dreams, in addition to their own motivations. It’s an extremely rewarding job to be able to see people and businesses reaching new heights and moving new directions based on the path you, the Change Manager, helped design, develop, track and continually improve.

Organizations need to change more and more and at all times, the Change Manager is the key to potentiating that change.

How to land a job as a Change Agent?

One of the best ways to get a job as a change agent in Brazil, or anywhere in the world, is to participate in communities on the subject, network, experience new things, share with communities of practices and take workshops to develop further.

Header photo by (via Unsplash)

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