Every external change agent knows the time has to come when you have to let go. Over the past weeks, it became clear that I was reaching the end of the road with a project I have been running for a client company for the best part of 17 months.
Several things have been unusual about this one. For a start, I was involved in managing and driving four very different areas: ICT infrastructure; software development of an inhouse business support system; e-business (from SEO all the way to design and build of web solutions used in the sales channel); and knowledge management. And then there was the intensity of the programmes – many things had to be built from the base up – and the longevity of the project. A lot happens in 17 months. Bonds are made. You become part of the furniture.
Change Agents can can only be effective if their passion for change is matched by the appetite of whoever championed it. Still, the writing is always on the wall when it is time to move on.
Symptoms a Change Agent needs to look out for in determing an exit:
- Those who initially denied there was a need for any change (and put spokes in your wheels) start telling you things you told them months ago
- The team you set up to implement change needs little direction to get on with the day-to-day
- People start lifting parts of your presentations
- The CEO starts behaving as if you are a subordinate /direct report
- Targets have been surpassed
- What used to be change is now process
- You start getting restless
Sometimes I think there is something seriously dysfunctional in the work change agents do. We identify problems, devise solutions, roll our sleeves, get on with it, win some friends, make some enemies, build a legacy, and then.. just as things start to purr… we move on. We devise the exit strategy, agree handover timeframes and prepare to go back on the outside.
At times like this, I always delve into Patrick Dixon’s excellent Building a Better Business. Open any page. If you see something that resonates, in the change you have been driving, you will know that you have done a good job. And that it is time to get on with something else in your life.