The idea of advocating change
Change advocates both promote change in a business and help protect staff from poor change implementation. They do this by advocating the change on behalf of the business and being a channel between affected staff and senior managers. The role demands trust and respect from both staff and managers; here is how it works.
The problem the Change Advocate role tries to solve is how to get buy in to major changes where the change is managed by a central Change Team. We have worked with Cheshire West and Chester Council to help implement this concept. The project is now on the shortlist for an Award at the Training Journal Awards.
The Change Advocate Role
Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWCC) realised that centralised project management was efficient for doing change but tended to cause resistance from the front line staff so it was not as effective as it should be. The Change Advocate is a member of front line staff (manager or worker) who is trained and supported in delivering change. They have two aspects to the role which each advocate needs to balance.
The Change advocate promotes the proposed change to front line staff. They communicate directly with affected staff about the change, using communications skills they have learned on training. Advocates expect to be involved in planning change; stakeholder engagement is key to successfully designing an effective and acceptable change. With prior engagement, selling a change to staff is much easier. Advocates will be involved in rolling out the change, continuing the communication. They will lead in solving problems in a way that both reduces risks to the benefits and increases the confidence of staff in the changes.
Promoting the interests of staff
Change advocates are themselves affected by the change they are promoting so they have a vested interest in a successful and acceptable change. They have the ability to put the staff side of an argument (with the central change team) to senior managers and advocate on behalf of staff. Very often this role leads to more creative solutions to change problems which are based on reality.
What makes an Advocate?
An advocate needs to be self motivated (and is usually self selecting as a volunteer). They need the trust and support of the staff they are working with. Often the basis of this trust is both a transparent approach to work and knowledge of the front line based on experience. They also need to be able to talk directly to senior managers as peers in problem solving change issues. In many organisations this can be challenging. CWCC are working hard to create a culture of support and challenge to make these conversations easier all round.
Supporting Change Advocates
In creating the first cohort of Change Advocates, CWCC worked with us to support the role with three specific components:
It is very important for an individual advocate to realise they are not alone and that others are having similar difficulties. Regular networking events with the opportunity to share experience and problems are essential. CWCC held networking events every month for the whole cohort. These were carefully timetabled with time to chat and share, as well as more focused discussions and learning sound-bites to reinforce training associated with identified problems.
The cohort were randomly allocated to small Action Learning Sets. The purpose of these was threefold:
- To train the cohort in a specific supportive problem solving technique.
- To provide the basis for ongoing collaboration with a small group of colleagues across the Council.
- As further networking, but on a smaller, more intimate, basis.
The Action Learning Sets were initially facilitated to establish the format and procedures. After a few meetings they became self facilitating.
A short training course on some soft skills for change was used to introduce the concepts of people change and effective communication recognising individual preferences. Change Advocates then took a vocational Level 4 assessment to achieve a qualification in Managing Change from C4CM.
How is change organised in your organisation to make effective and efficient use of resources to deliver beneficial change? Comment in twitter and let us know. @C4ChangeMgt