Role of Catalysts in Organizational Change

The other articles in this series on Change Management have listed the business imperatives for change as well as the various barriers to change that arise from internal and external resisters. In this article, we examine the other side of driving change and that is to do with the role of people who can act as catalysts in driving change.

Every organization has high performers and those who are steady as well as those who make up the bottom of the performance chart. Though it is not necessarily the case that the top performers are the ones who should drive change, more often than not, that is the case. However, there might be pearls waiting to be discovered as well.

The broader point that we are making is that management and the HR department must institute a program that would identify potential “change agents” who can act as catalysts for the change initiatives which the management might be planning.

Most organizations have lists of employees whom they consider “High Potentials” or “Fast Trackers” which indicate that the people in these lists are being marked for higher positions and they are groomed accordingly. In addition to that, the management along with the HR department can compile a list of people who take initiative in their roles and are not content with merely doing their assigned tasks but are proactive about trying on new ideas and concepts. These people are an asset to any organization and the management must identify such people and get them together to brainstorm about new initiatives and how to make the organization more successful.

The qualities that are needed in such change catalysts are impatience with the status quo, out of the box thinking, a different perspective than others about the strategies that the company is pursuing etc. When we mentioned that such people might not be necessarily the top performers, what we meant is that there might be employees at all levels who given the chance to change the existing paradigm may very well end up as the stars that the company needs. And when there is a need for change, such people turn out to assets that the company had undervalued all the while.

The point about the catalysts for change initiatives is that they have the personal attributes needed to motivate and inspire others to follow their lead. The key point here is that they would be people enablers and leaders as far as leading from the front are concerned. Plus, they would with their infectious attitude towards change be able to convince those who are skeptical about the change initiatives.

Hence, organizations need to rethink their system of rating the employees and include the change agent part of it and maybe, assign it more weight in determining the overall grade of the employee. Though this does not take anything away from the employees who are diligent and produce results, change initiatives can be driven only by a new way of thinking and hence non-linear thinking must be encouraged.


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Change Management