Question Thembelani Business & Management

The roles of internal and external change agents

Compare and contrast the role of an external and internal change agent and evaluate their importance in organizational change.

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Answer Internal Staff

Internal and external change agents both fulfil the same purpose. The purpose of a change agent is to transform an organisation by focusing on how the organisation can improve, develop and have increased effectiveness. It is often the case that a change agent will focus on the effects of a change in the business environment (e.g. technological changes) and how this affects structures, tasks and relationships within the organisation. While fulfilling this purpose the change agent (both internal and external) will play a variety of roles. For example, they are likely to have to adopt the role of a researcher, trainer and counsellor to help facilitate change.

Both internal and external change agents are very important for effective organisational change. There are numerous reasons as to why an organisational change may fail. For instance, employees may resist the change because it changes the status quo of their daily routines. Internal and external change agents can be used to reduce such resistance by ‘selling’ the benefits of the change to employees and easing employee concerns about how it will impact on their daily routines.

When deciding whether to use an internal or external change agent the context of the change needs to be considered. For example, if it is a small-scale change then an internal change agent is likely to be most effective. However, if more of a large-scale change is required an external change agent may be the best option. This is because the external change agent will not be clouded by organisational norms and will instead bring a fresh perspective. However, a downside of this is that they will lack understanding of personnel and how best to communicate with them.