Secret Musings of a Change Agent

| Kath Smythe

Kath Smythe is a change consultant and coach with 25 years experience in many different public service departments. She’s all about creating a bit of “good trouble” to shake things up and working with others to change themselves. And she’s just launched a brilliant blog series that you need to read if you’re interested in how we make change happen. In the series she is going to be talking to some fabulous “ordinary people who are really great at making change happen” to try and discover what it is that underpins their skill. We’ll leave Kath to fill you in on the rest…

A bee in my bonnet

In organisations we tend to organise our “change people” into defined teams, often made up of people from similar professional identities such as Organisational Development, Transformation or Reform so that they can support the organisation with the changes they need to implement.

And yet, some of the best people I’ve come across who are brilliant at delivering change sit outside these defined teams or professions. I’ve got a bit of a bee in my bonnet that the way we currently think about who makes change happen creates a sense of “us and them” which unless we are very skilled and careful ends up (usually unintentionally) feeling like change is being “done to” rather than us feeling empowered to change. 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a downer on these functions per se – I’ve worked in many of them myself with some brilliant colleagues and I think specialist advice and support when done well adds huge value.  But do we really understand what makes a great change agent?  And by organising into function specific teams are we creating divisions that we end up having to try to piece back together later down the line?

I’ve got a hunch that people who are great at making change happen share some important characteristics and I’m on a mission to delve deeper.  And why does it matter?  Change, now more than ever, is a constant in our lives.  It’s how we get better at what we do, how we adapt and change to unforeseen circumstances and pressures and ultimately how we improve peoples’ lives.  We need to build skills and capacity but until we really understand what makes ordinary people great at making change happen, how do we know what we need to develop and how we do it?

I’ve launched my blog series in an attempt to help us learn what really matters in developing our workforce to have what it takes to make change happen.  I’m going to be talking to some fabulous “ordinary people who are really great at making change happen” to try and discover what it is that underpins their skill.  I’m going to be agnostic to the level of seniority, professional identity, organisation and sector and see what we learn.  I’ve a few hypotheses I’m going to be testing along the way: 

  • Somewhere along the line some lived experience has come into play which has given them a different perspective
  • Great change agents are less likely to have followed a linear career giving them a more diverse range of experience to draw on
  • They are people people and a big part of their craft is relationship-based

I’ve got some fabulous people lined up ready to share their wisdom so why not follow me LinkedIn so we can learn together. First up is Vicky Charles: down to earth, modest, straight talking, funny and incredibly talented when it comes to making change happen. Click here to read the first instalment in the Change Agent series with Vicky.

This blog was originally published on Kath’s own website on 4th May 2021 here and reprinted by us with permission.

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