Challenges of the Modern Change Agent
31st January 2022

Challenges of the Modern Change Agent

3 minute read

Takeaway: Those seeking to create real, lasting change need an integrated change readiness approach. In order to see real change, here are four challenges to be aware of and anticipate.


“Change Agents” have long been seen as a useful role in any business that is planning, designing, implementing, or stabilising change. For instance, in IT change, ‘super-users’ are used to help with configuration, training, and deployment. ‘Process and Data Owners/Stewards’ encourage data and process quality and act as the go-to source of knowledge for a particular business process. In a People context, ‘reps’ act as a sounding board and connector between those leading the change and those receiving it – often utilised as part of anticipated consultation processes. In large organisational change, a more holistic change agent role is integrated into the core design team to support in the design, implementation, and stickiness of the change. There are, however, several challenges to introducing these roles and ensuring they are effective.

Firstly, preventing any one of the roles from operating in a functionalised and siloed capacity. The mistake is not establishing an integrating mechanism to ensure the roles stay connected with the wider operating model and the implications of the detailed choices and changes made in their immediate remit. Without the right mechanism, People reps only focus on people implications, super-users only focus on the system or application change, and data governance stewards only focus on data. It leads to fragmentation right from the start.

A second challenge is the methods to deliver sustained success and impact of the roles, to prevent the initial hype being short lived once a “go-live” date has been crossed.

A third common challenge is the authority in which the role has; all too often “change agents” quickly become passive and unable to influence in the manner the change really requires them to.

And finally, everybody reports to somebody. For a Change Agent to be effective their line leader cannot act as a political barrier, or influence the Change Agent’ actions to be biased towards their own functional gain.

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All these challenges arise from an immature change readiness approach. The default is often change management: inserting process and roles to manage and execute. OTM’s stance: complex change requires more than change management, change readiness should be embraced as a more holistic, integrated and inclusive approach.

The big question is how to create alignment and impact as a Change Agent and remain an active and influential catalyst to pre-empting, designing, and embedding change.

From close to 500 organisation redesigns, we have learnt that a Change Agent needs two things: a well-defined role to act as a free radical, and critical enabling conditions in the operating environment to achieve sustained impact. This must be an integrated part of a wider change readiness approach.

Learn more in part 2/3 of this blog series: Leverage Change Agents Effectively Across Your Business. Want to skip to part 3? Find it here.


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Chris Furnell is a Consultant at ON THE MARK. 

OTM is the leading global boutique organization design consultancy with offices in the USA and UK. With over 450 successful redesigns and operating model modernizations completed, OTM is the owner of the industry’s most integrated, comprehensive, and holistic organization design solution. OTM enables its clients to realize their future ambitions.