Project Management

Change Whisperer on

This is a blog about Strategy Execution, about implementing change and driving ROI to the bottom line. It is intended for: Leaders and for Program, Project and Change Management practitioners trying to manage the weather systems of change raining inside the organization.

About this Blog


Recent Posts

Enterprise change vs Project change

Insights in Change Management—Interview with Kimberlee Williams, CEO, Ignitem (Part 1 Of 3)

What is leadership’s responsibility for driving and sustaining a nimble organization? Interview with Daryl Conner, Chairman, Conner Partners. Post 2 of 3

The strategic imperative of the "nimble organization" and the mirage. Interview with Daryl Conner

What is the Board’s Role in Strategy and Strategy Execution? Post 3 of 3

Change Management Conferences 2013

Conferences are an important professional development opportunity. Most provide best practices as well as innovation tracks (and the networking is terrific). Please note this is not an endorsement?just a list. I will let you know the ones we will attend. Let’s connect if you will be there also.

Many of the conferences for 2013 are being organized and announced now. In some cases, the “call for papers” is still open.

This post is all about change management conferences in the US and Canada. I have also started tracking Strategy and Strategy Execution conferences. That post will be published shortly.

Drum roll, please. Here is the list for 2013:




Do you know of a conference that I missed? Please add it in the comments section or email me at [email protected]and I will update the list.

Posted on: October 13, 2012 11:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Top 10 Competencies for Change Agents

What competencies should leaders and agents excel at to be successful at change?

Are you building a Change Management Community of Practice or Centre of Excellence?  What’s on your list?

Below is my top-ten list for change agents?with a bonus for change targets. A previous post provided my top ten list for change leaders (

Some might ask why there is no mention of methodologies or tools here—to which I would like to quote my friend Tamara Moore "A fool with a tool is still a fool". Perhaps the two single most critical success factors in executing change are the quality of the sponsor and the agent. So what makes for "quality"?

Change Agents

  1. Trustworthiness—As change agents, we need to earn the respect of leaders quickly so they will seriously consider our advice and factor it into their decisions. This is the foundation of a relationship of partnering that recognizes the value each brings to the relationship. It begins with being trustworthy and demonstrating this every day, in every way?from being on time (i.e., reliable) to being insightful (i.e., adding value). More in “10 Tips for Becoming a Trusted Advisor in Change Management” (
  2. Resilience—Think of the old TIMEX slogan “takes a licking and keeps on ticking”. “Resilience is the ability to absorb high levels of disruptive change while displaying minimal dysfunctional behavior. Resilient people sidestep the dysfunctions of future shock because they are pliable and have a high capacity to rebound.” (“Human Resilience During Change”, Conner Partners White Paper). All individuals in the change benefit from developing resilience. Because change agents are in the fray, I believe they benefit most from this.
  3. Conflict management—Stress often leads to dysfunction that, at its most extreme, expresses itself in conflict. The ability to remain calm and objective and to help others work out their differences in constructive and healing ways is important. Rick Mauer has an insightful summary in his work on resistance: “level one—I don’t get it; level two—I don’t like it; level three—I don’t like you”. Change agents must develop the ability to understand when behaviors expressed as “I don’t like you” (anyone in the vicinity, but particularly change agents) are actually resistance to the change.
  4. Coaching—Few resources (leaders, agents, or targets) in the change process have all the competencies necessary to transition. Great coaching helps resources understand and develop in specific areas. Change agents need to be able to earn the trust of others and confront the difficult conversations through coaching with respect and candor.
  5. Facilitation—Change is about moving people’s thinking. Often this happens in meetings. The role of the facilitator is to objectively structure and run events such that energy is focused on the topic and all relevant participants are heard.  Information and perspectives are shared.  Analysis is generated and decisions are made.  Individuals enter the room with their own isolated starting position and leave with a fuller understanding of the group’s perspectives. Agreement is not necessarily required, but engagement informs the participant’s decision regarding his or her own level of commitment.
  6. Advanced communication skills—Not broadcasting, but rather two-way engaging dialogue, listening and talking. The ability to surface resistance and help individuals talk through it is essential.  Sometimes people don’t want to commit to the change. Getting them to the point that they will make a decision is difficult, and essential (even, perhaps especially, when the answer is “I will not commit to this change”).
  7. Emotional Intelligence—“The ability to manage oneself—to have self-awareness and self-regulation—is the very basis of managing others, in many ways.”  (“Daniel Goleman on Leadership and The Power of Emotional Intelligence”, Forbes, Sept 15 2011 If EQ is important to “managing others” imagine how important it is to helping others transition change.
  8. Tolerance for ambiguity and the ability to manage polarities—One of the distinguishing features of transformational change is that the change is constantly changing. The phrase “we are building the bridge as we walk on it” comes to mind. The varying high levels and dynamic nature of ambiguity and constant changes in direction wears on people. It wears on leaders, agents, and targets. Beginning with a high awareness of the nature of transformational change and resilience helps.
  9. Service mindset—Change agents act in service of the organization, specifically the sponsor. They must develop analysis, advocate for recommendation, and support decisions.
  10. Love of learning—The fields of strategy execution and change management are so broad and so deep that the path to mastery can be both fulfilling and long.

Knowledge Base

  • Nature of change—While this is only one bullet, the content behind it is huge. Understanding different magnitudes of change, and how humans respond to it, is a deep science. 
  • How organizations work(organization design)—and how they really work (politics and other human dynamics)
  • Consulting Skills
  • Project Management
  • Business Analysis 

Bonus List—Change Targets

  • Nature of Change—Change is first an individual journey. An understanding of the nature of change empowers people to take more control in their own lives and in their careers.
  • Resilience(as noted above)
  • Personal responsibility—Employees who take responsibility for themselves make informed choices and they accept responsibility for their actions, and non-actions. They figure out whether they will participate in the change and are self-aware enough to avoid victimization.  

If you still want information on methodologies and tools please have a look at the Strategy Execution Methodologies series.

Note: Many organizations promote a paternalistic culture that perpetuates the notion of “corporate loyalty” (i.e., “If you do a good job the company will provide you with a job for life” [exaggerated for effect]). This was perhaps a well-intentioned but never sustainable premise. If your organization has remnants of this culture, it should be addressed.

A special thanks to partner-in-change T.J. Rzeszotarski for his thoughts on this subject.

Reference Material

  1. “Identifying and Developing Change Agents” with “Change Agent Selection Form”, Change Thinking Blog, Daryl Conner (
  2. “Becoming a “Mindful” Practitioner”, Change Thinking Blog, Daryl Conner (
  3. “Change Practitioner Competency Model”, Change Management Institute (CMI) (
Posted on: September 14, 2012 09:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to."

- Mark Twain