Stage 6.5.3  Solidifying New Roles

Any new sub-system such as a change project, however temporary, sets up new roles and new expectations that the larger, older system must relate to. At first these new ways of relating can be extremely awkward and uncomfortable. There will be a tendency to deny the existence of the new subsystem, to continue to act as if everybody is doing what they were doing before. Signs of this will appear in people not showing up for meetings, failure to put out announcements and insert agenda items into meetings, using the wrong names or giving out wrong or misleading information about the new activity, and so forth. The change team is thus always struggling to set these "mistakes" right, reminding people of who they are and what they are trying to do.

In the first cycle of change activity such forms of resistance, while annoying, may seem relatively trivial, but after the first cycle and as you move toward the development of an internalized change function, role definitions, designations, duties, and reciprocal expecta­tions need to be clarified and accepted by an ever-widening circle of actors in the parent system. This means writing down what the roles and arrangements are, discussing them with key actors in the parent system and getting consensus on labels, designations, and their meanings. An important part of this is deciding where something belongs: what department it goes in; who reports to whom; what offices or other spaces they occupy; and when and how they get reviewed.

Labels can be very important. Be careful not to pick labels that confuse what you are trying to do with some other type of activity. Be careful not to pick labels which might be red flags to one or another constituency (the term "change agent" might, in fact, be a red flag to some).

Training can also be an important part of the role solidification process. Training for role holders gives them images of what they are supposed to be and an opportunity to practice new role behaviors in a protected environment. For designated change agents and specialists in change process there needs to be specific training in the process of change. Training of some sort would also be desirable for other members of the system who will have significant relationships with the new change unit.