Internal or External Change Agents?

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Topics: Agent, A Good Day
“have you seen any break-downs for internally led changes as opposed to Consultant led?”

My answer was “no”, I hadn’t seen any, I did mention that with the generally accepted success rates I tend to quote that 70 – 80% of change efforts fail … but then go on to reframe by saying 70 – 80% of change efforts fail to meet 100% of their original objectives. Which makes a lot more sense I think. And I guess we’re talking more about planned change where there is a clear set of measurable objectives upfront unlike more emergent change.

But the question did get me thinking about the question and the different reasons that organisations use internal and external change agents. Indeed I have written something about this in the latest edition of our book Making Sense of Change Management:

“Some organizations rely on outside help whilst others believe that they have the change agency capacity in-house. Although the core competencies of internal and external change agents are similar it is worth considering some of the differences between the two, partly so one can consider what may be best for any particular change situation, and partly so that the change agent can understand some of the nuances.”

Lacey (1995) identifies some of these different factors:

Consulting process

Internal Change Agent

External Change Agent

Entry Ready access to clientsReady relationships
Knows company jargon

Understands root causes

Time efficient

Congenial phase

Obligated to work with everyone

Steady pay

Source [find] clientsBuild relationships
Learn company jargon

“presenting problem” challenge

Time consuming

Stressful phase

Select client/project according to own criteria

Unpredictable outcome

Contracting Informal agreementsMust complete projects assigned
No out of pocket expenses

Information can be open or confidential

Risk of client retaliation and loss of job at stake

Acts as third party (on behalf of client), or pair of hands

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