Survey Analysis: What Makes a Change Agent Great?
Toward the end of 2014, XONITEK and Smart Work | Network, Inc. (SW|NW) initiated a joint research project. This research will ultimately produce a psychometric profile that can be used to predict which potential Change Agents are statistically likely to be successful in that role. As the first step in this project, XONITEK and SW|NW published a brief, multi-part survey asking “What makes a change agent great?”
The goal for our survey was to establish an empirical basis for evaluating individuals regarding their ability to create mission-critical deliverables and demonstrate desired behaviors while leading change initiatives. This short list of performance metrics will then be used in phase 2 of the project (i.e., the Validation Study) to distinguish effective, high-performing Change Agents from less able performers so that their psychometric profiles can be compared and statistically analyzed. (View the brief video below for more information about the Validation Study process.) The performance metrics need to be generic enough to work across industries, since organizations of all types can pursue operational excellence by driving change.
Thirty-three completed surveys were received, representing 17 different industries and several countries. Obviously, this is a small, convenience sample with limited statistical validity; however, it does reflect input from a variety of industries and individuals, and therefore provides a more robust basis for developing a list of performance metrics than would have been generated solely by the research team.
Recommended Performance Metrics
Responses to the survey were analyzed, and several key aspects of change agent performance emerged as being consistently valued by the participating organizations. Details of this analysis are available on request.
Incorporating the fundamental requirements for success in any project and taking into consideration the top-rated and top-ranked characteristics from the survey, the research team proposes using eight performance factors as the empirical metrics to use for evaluating practicing Change Agents in this research study. We believe that individuals who are exceeding expectations in these areas would reasonably be considered high performers, and individuals who are not meeting expectations would be characterized as low performers.
The recommended performance factors (to be rated on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 = Significantly Misses Expectations, 3 = Meets Expectations, and 5 = Significantly Exceeds Expectations) are:
|Performance Factor||Rationale: Based on Elements from Survey
A change agent…
|1. Completes change initiative/project tasks on time||Is deadline-driven; moves organization toward desired future state; creates sense of urgency; classic project management metric—Schedule|
|2. Completes change initiative/project tasks within budget||Understands the organization’s financial structures and situation; classic project management/business metric—Spending|
|3. Achieves agreed-upon deliverables for change initiative/project tasks at the level of quality desired (e.g., financial targets, waste reduction, productivity improvement, etc.)||Sets clear, realistic objectives that move the organization toward desired future state; classic project management metric—Scope|
|4. Demonstrates thorough understanding of organization’s current culture||Understands organization’s context; politically aware; understands unwritten rules and assumptions; manages conflict effectively|
|5. Communicates effectively||Communicates need for change; creates compelling vision of the future; networks with individuals at all levels of the organization; listens effectively; diplomatic ; charismatic|
|6. Engages all stakeholders in the change process||Builds a sense of ownership in others; service-oriented; collaborative; persuasive; seeks out differing perspectives|
|7. Builds trust with stakeholders at all levels||Trustworthy; listens effectively; responds appropriately to emotional needs of others; effective negotiator; optimistic; realistic; selfless|
|8. Works effectively in volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous (VUCA) environments||Effective under pressure; demonstrates initiative; appropriate employs informal power; self-aware; courageous|
XONITEK and Smart Work | Network has published these findings and the proposed Change Agent performance factors. After a brief period for comments and confirmation regarding the proposed performance factors, the Validation phase of the project will commence. XONITEK will provide information to its clients and friends about the procedure for participating in the Validation Study.
A copy of the survey plus the complete analysis and supporting documentation are available to interested readers. Email Claire@SmartWorkNetwork.com to receive the survey study or to inquire about participating in the upcoming Validation Study.
By Claire F. Kuhl
Claire F. Kuhl is a Senior Consultant with Smart Work | Network, Inc., a talent consulting practice based in Greenville, South Carolina. During her extensive business career, Claire has managed multi-million-dollar projects, motivated teams, led change, and generally instigated trouble in a variety of disciplines and industries, ranging from international behemoths to sole proprietorships and non-profits. She co-authored the recently published book, Lean Potion #9: Communication—the Next Lean Frontier.