Becoming a Change Agent

What’s a “change agent”? Dennis Stevenson does a nice job of defining a change agent in his article “What is a ‘Change Agent’?” He states that “A change agent lives in the future not the present” [1]. How many times at your workplace have you seen what’s happening around you and wanted to change it? The outdated process, the “way things used to work”. Living in the future is extremely important for a change agent.

Secondly, Dennis points out that “a change agent is fueled by passion, and inspires passion in others” [1]. I love this, because passion is essential. A change agent that I admire and who is very passionate about changing IT Procurement for the better is Clay Johnson (@cjoh). Clay is the CEO of the Department of Better Technology. Here’s his ebook on “Fixing Procurement” which is posted on GitHub. 

“A change agent has a strong ability to self-motivate” [1]. To me, this is key. As Dennis points out, “there will be many days where everyone around does not understand…the change agent needs to find it within themselves to get up every day and come to work and risk being misunderstood and misappreciated, knowing that the real validation may be far in the future and may be claimed by someone else” [1]. That’s a tough sentence to read, but it’s true. Business process improvement projects can feel disheartening at times. As I was working on my Lean Certification I ran into several tough issues that I discussed with my Master Six Sigma Black Belt mentor. His advice was to “walk towards the problem” and I loved him for that!

Finally, Dennis reminds us that “a change agent must understand people” [1] and that “change will really ‘stick’ when people embrace it” [1]. How many times have you seen a new “process” rolled out in your department and no one cares? That’s one reason why I love Lean, because it involves the folks doing the work, not the managers managing the work. It’s truly “going to the gemba” to determine what work needs to be improved. In fact, managers aren’t typically allowed into the Lean process discussions with team members in order to ensure everyone feels comfortable giving their input into how the broken process can be fixed. 

This week I challenge you to put on your “change agent” hat and look for process improvements in your area. Dennis sums it up well when he states, “we can bring very powerful change to our organizations…but in order to do so, we need to embrace the ‘way of the Change Agent’ and not lock ourselves in Ivory Towers of Technology” [1]. 

[1] Stevenson, D. (2008, April 15). What is a ‘Change Agent’?. Retrieved from


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