A new change project seldom represents a completely new beginning. Here, as in most of the affairs of life, past is prolog. The success of a client's past encounters with change and with change agents will greatly color the success of future relations with you. When starting out on a new project, you are likely to be in one of four situations:
Each of these situations has special advantages and disadvantages.
A good relationship is a complex and delicate bridge, very difficult and expensive to build and very important to maintain. One can only really appreciate this fact when starting a completely new effort. In a relationship, nothing can be taken for granted. You must be acutely aware of norms and values, leadership, influence patterns, and so forth, while at the same time you are maintaining an image of complete trust and serene confidence. The number of concerns which will tax your energy and absorb your attention is greatly multiplied.
A completely new relationship is beset by a host of uncertainties and unknown quantities. The change agent is faced with the task of acquiring information from every available source, while at the same time making crucial decisions about the project. Such decisions will inevitably be based on partial and distorted knowledge which may make or break the project. Needless to say, it is a delicate task.
On the other hand,, there are many benefits in the brand new relationship. First of all, the new change agent is not initially identified with any special internal faction. Thus, the change agent may have a chance to become and to remain an objective observer as well as a friend. Secondly, the change agent may derive special benefits from his or her initial "guest" status. For a complete newcomer, even potential enemies will be polite and will not try to shout him/her down or shove him/her out without a fair hearing; he/she may be granted a kind of honeymoon period during which he/she is relatively free from critical scrutiny and harsh judgments. If you sense that most members of your client system start out with this open-minded attitude, you should take full advantage of the opportunity to assure all factions of your own open-mindedness and eagerness to bea friend and helper to all. A new face may suggest to the clients that new things are truly possible, whereas an old face with new ideas may merely be seen as an old face with old ideas.
If the client already knows you and values your past service, you have a very strong base from which to begin a new change project. Such an advantageous starting point, however, should not be taken for granted. The cautious change agent might ask the following questions in preparing for a new project with an old client:
By preparing in advance to deal with such potential snags, you can insure that your relationship will continue to grow -from a solid base.
It is difficult, but not impossible, to make a fresh start with a client with whom the prior relationship was problematic. In such a situation it is mandatory to create a positive atmosphere and confidence in the 'new you.’ The client must be led to believe that the prospects for success are now much better. You can evaluate the probabilities for success by answering the following questions:
Have you made an adequate analysis of problems in the prior relationship?
If the previous encounter was, in fact, a failure, it would be unwise to begin all over again before the problems in that relationship are resolved and new expectations are instilled. Even then you should have evidence that a new start is likely to be successful despite past experience. Examples of such evidence might be:-
Very frequently, in assuming the role of change agent, you are moving out of a previously held role with which the client system has firmly identified you. This is almost always true of the change agent who emerges from the client system, itself, as the teacher or administrator who becomes director of a new project or program. Special suspicions and resentments can build among peers if it is perceived that:
Modifying or redefining an existing relationship may require a good deal of diplomatic skill and sensitivity to human relations. The change agent has to be especially aware of the perceptions of all the key persons and interest groups who constitutes the client system and of the relevant outsiders as well. To properly reconstitute your image you may have to consider doing each of the following:
The website's content is relevant to today's business, education, government and non-profit organizations as they attempt to implement new ideas and innovations in their organizations. It also provides case studies to help help understand the roles of Change Agents and the processes related to Change.