Saturday, July 03, 2004

Change Agent Cascade

This is a popular pattern of change management.

A change agent adopts and enacts some technology, and also produces a series of messages concerning this technology. This set of actions and messages represents the change agency of this agent, which has some effect (with some delay) on the behaviour of other agents.

The scale of the effect depends on the number of agents influenced, and the degree of influence on each one. This in turn may depend (among other things) on trust.

Many people will be influenced by multiple change agents. There is a positive effect when the actions and messages of different change agents appear to reinforce one another, but without excessive uniformity.

We can make three important observations about this process. Firstly, the technology is disseminated across a network of trust. This gives us ways to think about (and possibly manage) the ability of a new technology to access different parts of a complex organization

Secondly, transmission from one change agent to another often involves some alteration – adopt, adapt, improve. Knowledge and understanding may be attenuated or distorted; working practices may be refined or simplified. Thus the technology is typically not enacted uniformly across the space, but may be transmuted in sometimes surprising ways.

Thirdly, there are many technology cascades operating across the same space at the same time, interacting with one another in complex and unpredictable ways.

In general, therefore, the outcome for a given technology in a given space depends on the geometry of the space, as well as the logic of interaction between technologies. Technology change management must pay careful attention to these matters.

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