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Reflection – Kate Bogh

by on November 21, 2007

Realities of Change Agents

While reading Facilities of Change I was thinking about what it takes to create change in the workplace. In many workplaces, any deviation from the normal work tasks, schedules and behaviors is considered inappropriate during work hours. There are some work places where the environment is so controlled that being a change agent is unrealistic. In other situations, people do not generate ideas they just do their jobs and leave as soon as they can at the end of the day genuinely relieved to leave the office. In still other situations, idea generation is squelched as soon as it is shared thus hindering any possibility of future idea generation. Change agents start with ideas or problem recognition. In some environments change agents cannot survive much less influence change.
I am always impressed with people that find ways to be change agents while conforming to environments that do not allow change. I wrote a paper last quarter on BestBuy and how a manager and a few of his team members presented a case for agile project management to executives. They were told that their ideas would not work, could not be tested and would not be implemented. After the meeting, in a daring move, the manager decided to quietly implement agility and agile methodologies on his team. Within months productivity had risen dramatically, customer and employee satisfaction was higher. The benefits were too good to be ignored and it was not long before execs noticed the changes. Soon BestBuy increased the number of agile teams and started to look at the possibility of organizational agility. Really, anyone can be a change agent. Sometimes it involves a certain amount of risk or not giving up too quickly or learning what kind of small changes catch the attention of decision makers.
If you are a potential up and coming manager or you are interested in change management it is important to learn what adds to and detracts from a work environment conducive to change. Lots of times, I believe, managers are trying hard to create a good work environment, encourage employees and be good leaders but sometimes they do not realize little things that detract from productivity, idea generation, change and employee satisfaction.
I have to recommend a fantastic read I just finished titled, Zapp! The Lightning of Empowerment by William C. Byham. Actually, I have some personal history with this book. When I was 9 or 10 years old, my Dad, who worked for GE, was seeking to move up in the company. There had been some recent organizational change and he was moving through it well. In a management seminar my Dad was asked to read Zapp!.At home my sister and I always got a bedtime story. As the older kids, my Dad read to us from chapter books and Mom read kids books to the other kids. (Now you can see how I turned out to be such an angel 😉 Anyway, my Dad killed two birds with one stone by reading Zapp to us. I loved the book and during the day, when everyone was busy I would sneak the book and read ahead to the next chapter to see what was going to happen. (Okay, so not totally angelic, but close.) I was recently thinking about the book, in relation to our class and picked it up again. I finished the short read 200 pgs large font, in 2 hours and really enjoyed it. This time though, I understand the points rather than just the story.
The book reads like a story about a manager who, seeing success in another department, wants to translate it to his own work area but it takes a lot of change and effort on his part. One of his employees acts a change agent who can see behind the scenes into what works and what doesn’t. The manager learns about Zapps! which, when deployed, energize and motivate employees while Sapps¡ deplete employee motivation and moral. Readers come away with a list of managerial do’s and don’ts when working with individuals and teams. It all seems simplistic but the pointers are very specific and things I would never have considered like actual specific examples of how to increase employee morale, self-esteem and presence in the work place.
This book really is a fun, must read for anyone interested in change management. After a quick search of Amazon there are a number of very inexpensive used copies available. I got mine for $3.00. If you are planning to be a manager, change agent, co-worker or peer, this book is a must read. It is important to get these concepts ingrained now to encourage a smooth transition into the work place once we get there.
Byham, William. Zapp! The Lightning of Empowerment: How to Improve Productivity, Quality, and Employee Satisfaction. 1997.

BusinessWeek. (2006). Smashing the Clock. [Online Serial]. Available, Robert. Management Agility. Edward de Bono & Robert Heller’sThinking Managers. [Online Serial]. Available

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