How to Become a Change Agent

By Mike Hugos
Sat, October 15, 2005

CIO — I have always been fascinated by how information technology can be used to make an organization more competitive. And so I redesign existing business processes and design new processes and then try to get people to buy into these ideas.

In short, I am a change agent.

Sometimes I am welcomed like a new coach who the players believe can turn around a losing team. Other times I am received like a government tax auditor at a shareholders’ meeting. Leading change is a delicate business. We all agree that companies need to innovate and become more agile to compete in today’s global economy. But on the road between this general agreement and any new way of doing something, there are many pitfalls awaiting the change leader. Change stirs up a lot of resistance in people. As Mark Twain put it, "I’m all for progress. It’s change I don’t like."

A leader has to get past this resistance and convince others to embrace new ways of doing things. But first, he needs to get people to listen to what he has to say.

Leading by Doing

Some years ago I was hired to be a director of systems development at a company that distributed electric wire and cable and electronic communication systems. After I had been with the company for a few months, the COO called me to his office. He told me that the four regional sales vice presidents wanted to streamline the sales process, but that IT had saddled them with clunky, hard-to-use systems. So they had requested money to hire consultants to build the new systems they wanted. "They are not getting their own IT budget," the COO told me. "Your job is to figure out what they want."

When you don’t know what people want, you need to ask them. So I decided to spend time in the field. One day I was visiting a regional headquarters, talking with a salesperson about his job. He was telling me about the difficulties he was having with the existing computer system. I noticed the sales vice president watching me from his corner office.

After about 15 minutes he walked up to the cubicle where we were sitting and said, "Move over, Steve. Let Mike take your calls and see for himself what it’s like." I looked up at him and I knew he could see the fear in my eyes. He said, "Don’t worry if you screw up. We screw up too." Then he went back to his office.

Continue Reading

Our Commenting Policies