Friday, January 30, 2009

One of the world's most dangerous jobs: change agent

This article (registration required, sorry) from Booz & Co's "Strategy and Business" will send a chill up your spine. The article, "Stand by Your Change Agent," by Stratford Sherman and Marisa Faccio, describes the results of a survey of 84 change initiatives between 1995 and 2005.

The initiatives themselves were successful, in the main: 85% met or exceeded the goals set out for them.

The leaders, though, didn't fare as well. Sherman and Faccio write: "Some 70% of the executives who led these major transformations went unrewarded, or were sidelined, fired, or spurred to leave."

The authors go on to describe types of companies at different levels of performance and how the change agent role is very risky in all but the very strongest companies. My take: large-scale changes disrupt the organization, stir up resistance, much of which gets focused on the change leader. If the change fails, the consequences are self-evident. If it succeeds, however, the pain endured in achieving it takes a toll on the person running the initiative.

If you're considering taking this role on, do it for the experience, the resume fodder, and the feeling of accomplishment if you're successful. Don't do it, however, for the recognition of your peers and leaders. Chances are, that won't be coming your way.

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