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Embedding Change Agents Using Local Transition Leaders (LTLs)

Updated on December 7, 2014
Change in Jamaica
Change in Jamaica | Source

In order to successfully support the many change efforts occurring within an organization and / or simply be ready to respond to the rapid pace of change confronting organizations in the Twenty-first Century, it is important to engage employees at a grass roots level. Many academic and organizational studies have shown that employees often oppose change initiatives that disrupt the established way of doing things (Whelan-Berry, 2010). The creation of Local Transition Leaders (LTLs) could assist an organization to more effectively implement the strategic priorities at a local level as the organization moves forward through change.

What is an LTL?

It is widely documented that Individuals are most effectively influenced by their peers (Brass and Burkardt, 1993). Therefore, the LTL role is an opportunity to leverage peer influence to help accelerate the transition process for all change initiatives and allow an organization to embed change within the organization throughout all levels of the organization. Additionally, LTLs can help identify potential roadblocks and pain points to help facilitate the overall transition effectiveness.

How does the LTL Program work?

The program goal of creating local transition leaders is to create a critical mass or network of individuals that can greatly expedite change (or help to create or accelerate achieving the "tipping point"). Additionally, this will allow the organization to embed the value of change and the skills to achieve change initiatives throughout all levels of the organization. For organizations that are comprised of a large sales organization, it would make sense to nominate at least one manager from each regional area and one sales representative from each district to be LTLs.

Every company faces a critical point when it must change dramatically to rise to the next level of organizational performance. If the Company fails to recognize the needed change and seize the moment, it will struggle and then start to decline. The key, of course, to taking action is to have courage. But there are other things organizations can do that don’t rely on having courage alone. An organization can prepare and ensure that it has developed an organization that is ready for change as it occurs. There are many ways to go about readying an organization. This article will focus on only one idea: the creation and value of Local Transition Leaders (LTLs).

LTLs are in essence a change network that is comprised of individuals representing all layers of the organization who are prepared to support and facilitate change within the organization.

Now, the creation of a change network isn’t a new concept. Leveraging a change network to implement change in organizations spans nearly a half century but organizational readiness for change is still a relevant topic today and organizations still struggle to determine what to do to be more agile and change-capable in the Twenty-first Century.

There are many benefits to creating change champions to support change efforts occurring within an organization. Of the four stages of implementing successful change: (1) initiating the change, (2) planning the change, (3) executing the change, and (4) making it stick or sustaining the change; sustaining the change can, at times, be the most difficult. Although LTLs can play a role throughout all stages of change implementation; Stage 4 or Sustaining the Change is where local transition leaders can play the most vital role.

What is the Role of an LTL?

The role of the LTL is to: (1) assist in leading transition among peers, (2) help onboard colleagues or peers during major changes (e.g., processes, systems, structural changes, share best practices, etc.) by understanding and sharing the rationale or case for change and working through local obstacles and challenges, (3) support leaders and managers during the roll-out of major change initiatives (model the way, help explain the value, enable others to act, offer encouragement, be solution-oriented, etc.), and (4) represent the organization in the change effort, provide feedback, and advise of transition obstacles, potential pitfalls, and blind spots.

Jamaica with Change
Jamaica with Change | Source
What are the Qualifications of an LTL?
Ability to inspire and encourage behavioral change by connecting with others
Influences an effective collaborative, diverse, and inclusive approach or style
Able to mitigate skepticism, complaints, conflict, and resistance to change
Comfortable and willing to speak up, challenge ideas, and champion change
Recognized the need to embrace change as a vital skill
Regarded as a leader among peers
Frequently offers to help others and is willing to take on additional responsibilities
Comprehends the company "big picture" strategy and is able to see the bigger picutre of corporate initiatives

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The management team should nominate LTLs based on the qualifications listed above.

How do LTLs Facilitate Change in the Organization?

First and foremost, LTLs can assist with managing the unavoidable ambiguity and uncertainty that is often associated with implementing major change initiatives. LTLs help to reduce the burden on the centralized or headquarter-based team who is delivering the change. LTLs can help to raise issues quickly to the project team. LTLs can gather feedback on the communication, change, and training plans and LTLs can identify key resistors of change and assist with managing resistance to change among their peers at a local level. LTLs can become trained in change and, therefore, assist in helping the organization to understand the local impact of change.

LTLs are not the same as Change Agents

An LTL is not the same as a change agent who is often a certified or trained specialist in organizational change management or change leadership. Although, it would be highly beneficial to provide some basic training on change for all individuals identified to take on the role of an LTL providing them with additional skills in the area of influence during times of ambiguity and change.

Ideally LTLs should be launched at the start of a major change project to ensure that the LTLs get up to speed and are able to provide support to the project team as quickly as possible. Additionally, due to the pace of change, LTLs should be engaged at the start, during, and when the change concludes, rolling them over into the next change effort if the organizaton wants to maintain momentum since continuous change is the new norm for businesses today.

Centuries of Change
Centuries of Change | Source

Role of the LTL during the Major Change Project

After identifying LTLs and onboarding them at the outset of a major change initiative, the LTL will be responsible for:

  • Understanding the key project milestones
  • Attending virtual and live meetings held by the Change or Project Lead as appropriate (virtually)
  • Assisting with disseminating change communications
  • Providing support to peers post Go Live
  • Busting rumors
  • Supporting new team mates after hire
  • Providing critical feedback and input as needed

Other Key Considerations:

Priority #1: Prepare the Leadership Team

It is important to brief the management team on how the LTLs can be leveraged so make sure to share the criteria or qualifications of an ideal LTL, the roles and responsibilities of the LTL, the time commitment and the ability to leverage and use the LTLs for the benefit of their respective regions. This should allow management to make faster decisions on the appropriate individuals for the role. Preparing for this discussion in advance will ensure that the leadership team is onboard and supportive of the change network of LTLs.

Priority #2: Conduct a Kick-off Meeting / Training Session

It is valuable to conduct a Kick-Off Meeting or Training session for the LTLs to explain their role, their responsibilities, and the expectations for how the project team and the LTLs will work together to ensure successful change is implemented throughout the organization. This is a perfect time to review the Case for Change, general change management, and the possible obstacles that can derail a major change initiative.

Priority #3: Establish How the LTLs Should Collaborate

It is important to establish how the LTLs should collaborate with the project team and each other. For example, a collaborative workspace on the Company internet could be established to allow the LTLs to download useful project information and also to share success stories and feedback. This will increase their engagement with the project team and other team members so that they feel vital to the success of the team. LTLs should also be involved in conference calls arranged to keep the LTLs updated on the project progress and upcoming activities which will impact them and their peers. It is critical to keep the LTLs one step ahead on all next steps so that they are prepared to respond to questions from their peers. When major change initiatives die down which doesn’t seem probable given the pace of change, the LTLs can be moved to help with cultural change or embedding other new ideas or elements into the culture of the organization.

Priority #4: Determine the Duration of the LTL Role

LTLs should ideally be in their role for at least a two year period of time and while it is okay to swap people out remember to leverage the larger group as needed. NOTE: This role is not designed to be a large time-suck, so make sure to leverage the LTLs time wisely (their primary job is to drive the business on behalf of the organization).

Priority #5: Communicate the Official Roll-out of the LTL Change Network

It is important to do an "official launch" of the LTL team and share how individuals can reach out to their peers. The official communication should come from the Project Sponsor or a Senior Leader and outline how the LTLs will be used to support the local team and the organization during change.

Priority #6: Reward and Recognize the LTL Change Network

It is important to remember that LTLs will assume this role in addition to their day job and so it is important to determine how they can be rewarded and recognized for their effort. The LTLs can also be used to capture “Bright Spots” which refer to significant movement forward of a team who has decide to embrace the change effort. These “Bright Spots” can be leveraged as success stories within the Organization and to capture the meaningful effort put forth of various teams during times of change.

Other Ways to Leverage the Impact of the LTLs Following Project or Major Change Initiative:

After the major change initiatives are embedded and sustained, the LTLs remain a solid informal network that is able to continue to link disconnected groups and individuals during both incremental and transformative change on an ongoing basis. The power of the LTL is in their communicating “live” with their peers and in their building a skill as a motivator of change. Consequently, they can be used to build pride in the larger mission, vision, and values of the organization. The LTLs can help to generate ideas and solutions that inspire behavioral changes in peers on other organizational topics. If an organization desires high performance, the LTLs are a group that can help to model the way. If the organization needs individuals to vet concepts prior to dissemination to the entire organization, the LTLs should be considered for this purpose as well.

Jamaica
Jamaica | Source

Summary

In making the change stick or sustaining the change, it can be very helpful to identify change champions or local transition leaders (LTLs) to assist with embedding the change throughout all levels of the organization. Additionally, the network of LTLs creates a small but influential team of individuals to extend the change management strategy down throughout the lowest levels of the organization so that every individual within the organization can learn about, understand, embrace change, all while moving forward to apply or implement the latest change.

References

Brass, D.J., & Burkhardt. M.E. (1993). Potential power and power use: An investigation of structure and behavior. Academy of Management Journal, 36, 441-470.

Project Management Institute. (2004). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide). Newtown Square, Pa: Project Management Institute.

Whelan-Berry, K. (2010). Linking Change Drivers and Organizational Change Processes: A Review and Synthesis, Journal of Change Management, 10(2), 175-193.


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