The dark and the light of being a change agent

Occasionally, at speaking engagements, managers approach me with questions about being a change agent. They see their business falling behind and / or apart and want to know how to effect the change necessary to stop it.

I don’t have a list of actions to offer them. Nor do I have a prescription. But I do give them the advice they need to be a change agent.

To be an agent of change, they need to develop an almost unflinching honesty along with the courage necessary to speak the truth to power. But it’s not about finger-pointing. What I tell them is that they need to cut through the culture and find clarity about what the real issues are that are killing the organization.

Fear of causing waves and disturbing the corporate status quo may give some pause. That’s understandable. But they must be fearless if they really want to help their organization overcome its ingrained problems.

The challenge is to get organizations to see what is working and what’s not, assessing problems without getting caught in the irritating dance of balancing reality with a dollop of ‘good news’, to soften the blow.

If it seems like the above requires less tact than politesse, you would be mistaken. Delivering the message requires using the A3 structure as an objective framing device to present an improved and balanced ‘complete picture’.

The point is to focus on the issue, not those who might perceive the analysis as an attack on them.

There is also the matter of stamina, of sustaining that A3 focus in the face of a corporate culture designed to prevent any light from being cast on the organization’s problems.

Facing reality is never easy, all the more so in an environment with a history of denying it.

And its possible that your newfound role as a change agent could derail your career in a company.

But ask yourself the question. Do you want to stay with an organization living in a  bubble so airtight that it suffocates all within it? Or do you want to be known as the one who sounded the alarm before the ship sank?

You know the answer. I know you do.