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The Business Forum Journal


World Class Change Agents


by David J. Gardner



Change is hard.  Losing marketplace relevancy is even harder. Just ask anyone at Blackberry, Blockbuster, Radio Shack or Kodak to name a few. The world is littered with companies that crashed and burned as their relevancy declined.

The technology marketplace has always been intolerant of the status quo.  A company in motion must stay in motion.

Some leaders display that rare ability to both create a bold vision and also to drive the implementation of a new and brighter future.  But, there is one additional critical ingredient in leading change: the leader charged with the task must be an evangelist � and the committed advocate for the change that he or she is leading.



World class change agents see vision, implementation and evangelism as a three-legged stool. A stool is solid yet a weakness in, or absence of, any leg renders it useless.  It is insufficient to merely see the need and then create the change: the change agent must continuously sell the change � the dream � to all stakeholders and customers affected by it through an evangelistic process.

Leading change is not a 40-hour per week occupation, particularly in a global company.  It invariably takes an enormous amount of mental, psychic and physical energy to first create the vision, and then drive the implementation of that vision through to completion; it needs an evangelist to carry through and complete for that vision.

There will always be trade-offs that must be made along the way.  While a change agent is refining one area, a brush fire can often pop up in another critical area resulting in a shifting of attention to that area for a time.  Removing one's attention away from one critical area often leaves other areas more exposed than they would normally be.  A change agent's mission reminds me of the Chinese acrobats who spin plates on long thin wooden rods.  If the acrobats do not keep putting energy into each plate, eventually the plates will drop and break.

The change agent however cannot be in all places at the same time and cannot be party to all conversations that need to take place during the process.  And, this is therefore one of the main risks of taking the lead in managing change � the change agent is not always aware of some of the attacks that may be being organized to undermine the change.

There will always be people, groups and constituencies who will resist any change. They do not require a good reason or even a better idea � they do it just because they can or, more often, because they just fear change, any change; remember the Luddites?  The threat of change and the fear that it can bring, alone is sufficient in many cases.  Some people are not open to any new ideas or change of any kind.  For them, the status quo is both safe and comfortable.

But then, there will always be extraordinary leaders who lead change on a scale and complexity that most humans just cannot even comprehend.  If there it were not so we would still be avoiding horse droppings in the High Street.

David J. Gardner is a Fellow of The Business Forum Institute and held senior management positions in Product Development, Manufacturing, Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and Product Management.  He joined Tandem Computers in 1979 where he was responsible for Corporate Documentation Standards for Tandem's highly configurable and expandable computer systems. In 1983, he designed and implemented a Configuration Guide for Dialogic Systems instituting a process that greatly simplified a complex, modular product such that the field sales organization and international OEM customers could easily define their order requirements. This methodology satisfied the product definition needs of sales, marketing, engineering, manufacturing, customer service and finance. David founded his consulting practice in 1991.  He is a graduate of San Jose State University (BA) and Santa Clara University (MBA). David is a member of the Society for the Advancement of Consulting (SAC) and has been Board Approved in the Area of Configurable Product & Services Strategy and Implementation. In 2010, he was inducted in the Million Dollar Consultant Hall of Fame.  Out of over 1,000 consultants who have completed Alan Weiss�s mentoring program, only 26 have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Note:-- Dave Gardner can be reached on Twitter and you can check out his video describing why he is in business.

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