Complete Guide to Establishing the Best Change Champions & Change Agent Networks

This guide is designed for Change Practitioners, Change Champions, Change Agents, Project Managers, HR, and other practitioners. It provides best practices for launching, managing, and supporting the best network of change champions and agents.

Before doing a deep dive, and providing you with everything you need to know about getting the best change champions and networks for your organization, group or project, let us first provide some quick definitions.

What is a Change Champion? What Does a Champion Do?

A change champion is an individual who supports and champions a change that is impacting their organization or group. A change champion is often part of a network of change champions who represent the groups that will be impacted by any type of change including business change, climate change, economic change, cultural change, or other types of change.

What is a Change Agent? How is an Agent Different from a Change Champion?

A change agent is an individual like a Change Manager or a Project Manager who is responsible for planning and managing a change. Their role is focused on driving change. That is their job, and what they do on a day by day basis. A champion on the other hand has other key operational roles that he or she performs on a day to day basis. Being a champion is in addition to their regular job or role. 

What is a Change Network?

A change network is the collective group of individuals that includes both change champions and change agents. A change management network of change champions and change agents is critical to any mid-to-large scale organizational, government or group change as it helps to increase awareness at the grassroots level, reduce resistance to the change, support leadership engagement, and provide a 2-way communication mechanism.

Change Champions, Change Agents, and Change Management Champion Networks

Let us know if you have any questions or comments about this guide for planning and managing a network of champions.

Change Champion Network – Everything You Need to Know

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Want a jumpstart managing a change champions network? You can use AGS’ #1 Ranked Change Champion ToolkitAGS Cloud to help. This is an online change manager that is designed to help you plan, manage, and execute a successful change project.

Click below to preview this toolkit for managing all aspects of your network – change management.

Change Champion / Agent Toolkit

    Change Champions & Change Agent Network Tool

Benefits of Change Champions and Change Agents

What are the benefits and advantages of setting up a change champion and change agent network?

Decades of organizational change management studies, including those conducted by Prosci, have shown that people get through organizational change by relying on their relationships with others in the workplace.

It is much easier for you to understand the driving factors, as well as the benefits of the change if that information is conveyed to you by your colleague. This is one of the biggest benefits of change champions and change networks.

Other benefits of change champions and change agent networks include the fact that it is easier for impacted individuals to share concerns about a change when they know they are sharing it with someone who is in a similar position as them: someone who will experience similar levels of impact from the change as they would.

While leaders and managers play a vital role in increasing the successful implementation of a change, people need an informal environment to share their fears, joys, and concerns in order to eventually commit to the change. That is human nature. And, at the workplace, we relate best with people that are similar to us in profession and function: our colleagues and co-workers.

A change management change network is of great value and benefit because it consists of change champions – front line employees (peers) and individuals across the company who have accepted the change and are willing to become advocates for the change. These individuals are willing to engage their coworkers to increase buy-in and acceptance of the change and are often early adopters of the change.

Change agent network Prosci-min
Change agents and champions having a brainstorming session.

Summarized List of Benefits – Change Agent Networks and Change Champions:

  • Change agents help facilitate change across groups
  • Change champions assist in identifying and mitigating resistance
  • Change champions provide others with an informal environment to share their fears, joys, and concerns
  • Change management agents help impacted audience to embrace, learn, and adopt the change
  • Change networks are implemented at the grass-root, impacted audience level
  • Champions make it easier for those impacted by the change to better understand the factors driving the change
  • Change agent networks provide a mechanism by which impacted individuals can freely voice concerns and get empathy

Standing up a network for change management requires an upfront investment, but change agents and champions are true differentiators in driving change adoption.

Change champion roles and change agent responsibilities are very important because these individuals will be helping to manage the inevitable ambiguity and uncertainty associated with implementing change.

Additional benefits of change agents and change champion networks include:

  • Reducing the pressure on the centralized transformation team to deliver change
  • Identifying issues on the ground and raising them quickly to the change and project teams
  • Gathering feedback on the communications campaign and providing detailed level feedback to the change teams
  • Identifying key resistors of change
  • Assisting with managing resistance to change amongst their colleagues  
  • Becoming super users and assisting in the training of users

There are many more benefits of change champions. The above section only highlights some of the key benefits.

Change Champion Roles and Responsibilities | Change Agents vs Change Champions vs Change Leaders

How are change champions different from change agents? How are change agents different from change leaders? These are all great questions. See below for answers on the role of networks in organizational change.

What is a Change Champion?

A change champion is an individual that volunteers to support a change and help facilitate adoption and acceptance within their groups. Driving the change is not part of a change champion’s normal job role. Instead, their change champion role is something they are doing in addition to their normal day-to-day job.

This is very important for you to note when you are developing your champion network plan including setting the time-expectations, roles and responsibilities, and expected champion activities for each change champion.

What is a Change Agent?

A change agent is an individual whose job function involves driving a change (requirements gathering, planning, designing, testing, rolling out, and managing a change). Change agents vs change champions: unlike change champions, a change agent’s day-to-day job involves managing and implementing the change versus limited to supporting the change.

Examples of change agents include Change Management Practitioners and Project Managers. Other examples of change agents include Prosci Certified Organizational Change Managers and Certified Change Management Professional™ (CCMP™).

Prosci, CCMP, and all other certified or non-certified Change Agents are primarily responsible for developing strategies for implementing business changes, and also delivering the strategic and tactical phases of the change implementation.

What is a Change Leader or Change Sponsor?

A sponsor or change leader is responsible for the successful implementation of the change within their respective organizations. Impacted individuals often look to their leaders for direction in the time of change, which makes it critical that leaders are willing to support and visibly advocate for the change.

Not every leader is a change leader. Change Leaders are those leaders that are willing to support the change; they generally show their commitment via visible and active behaviors. In essence, they lead from the front and advocate for the change.

The sections below provide additional information and examples of the key roles of change champions, agents, and leaders.

See the very last section for an overall on a champion’s role, as well as an additional “change champions definition” and the role of networks in organizational change that you can include on your change management plans for championing a change. 

Identifying Change Agents and Change Champions

The first step to identifying change agents and champions is to define the roles and responsibilities that you need the change champions to fulfill. In other words, what are the qualities you seek in a champion and an agent? Every change and every project is different, and so you might need to customize the list of change champion roles presented below. 

Sample list of change champion roles

  • Assist with disseminating and cascading communications
  • Become early superusers, and be involved in the testing process
  • Understand how the change impacts their fellow colleagues, and help train and coach impacted employees to use the new processes and tools
  • Facilitate engagement with group leaders and managers
  • Continue to support, coach, and engage impacted users after Go-Live
  • Help identify points of resistance
  • Help to remediate points of resistance
  • Assist in gathering input and feedback at the grass-root level on communications, engagement, and training campaigns, and providing feedback to the Change Management and Project Management managers

Sample Template for Managing a Change Champion Network

Change Champions Toolkit

Preview AGS’ Change Champion Management Cloud Tool

Change Agent Role in Change Management

The role that a Prosci, CCMP, or other change agent plays for a change management project includes:

  • Planning, designing, and implementing the change management plans
  • Identifying change champions and additional change agents
  • Establishing and managing the champion and change agent networks

The second step to identifying change champions is to define the criteria for selection.

Sample criteria includes:

  • An individual that is respected and liked by peers within impacted groups
  • Someone with good interpersonal skills
  • An individual that can be committed to the success of the organization
  • Someone who is flexible and courageous in speaking up for what they believe in

The next step in identifying change champions and agents involves engaging with leaders and managers of the impacted groups to identify a potential list of candidates that can either volunteer or “be volunteered by their manager” to be part of a champion network.

See also: Champion Tools for Managing Change Networks.

Meet with Managers to Identify Champions

Start out with 1-on-1 meetings or group meetings with the managers. During the meeting sessions, provide an overview of the business change initiatives, and walk them through the benefits of a change network. Review the change champion roles and responsibilities and the process and timeline that will be used to establish the network of champions.

The key objective of the meeting will be to solicit each manager’s help in identifying change champion candidates from within their group.

For help, click here: Step-by-Step Plan for Establishing Change Networks

When asking managers to identify potential resources that can be change champions, why is it useful to present the criteria and roles of a change champion? This is useful because knowing this information will enable managers to make faster decisions on which employees can best fit the change champion role, and then to propose these individuals as potential champions. 

At the conclusion of the meeting, provide a mechanism and a deadline for managers to submit the names of potential change champions.

Change champions must see their role as a good opportunity and not something being forced on them. One way to accomplish this is for managers and senior leaders, rather than the project or change teams, to communicate to change champions that they have been nominated and explain that it’s an honor to be selected as a change champion, and also highlight the characteristics that contributed to each person’s nomination.

For help, click here: Step-by-Step Plan for Establishing Change Networks

How to Engage Change Champions & Agents

After identifying a top list of best change champions, the next step is to engage with these champions.

But, how do you engage change champions?

The process for engaging change champions and agents is to first reach out to them to seek their commitment. Just because a person’s manager has proposed that person’s name does not mean the person will be interested in being a change champion for the project. It makes a world of difference to have a change champion that wants to help and is looking forward to the experience, rather than someone who feels forced into the position. 

After getting commitment, you then need to schedule a kick-off session to engage the finalized list of change champions and change agents. This kick-off meeting will be the point of the official launch of the change champion network.

Need help? Click here: Kicking Off the Change Network – Step by Step Plan & Agenda.

Managing & Rewarding the Network of Change Champions

After launching and establishing the network of change champions, you will want to communicate the launch of the network to the organization, to impacted groups, and to senior leaders.

In managing the network of change champions, you should meet less frequently in the beginning stages of the project when the purpose is to build awareness. And as the project progress further into the implementation and tactical phase, then you will need more frequent meetings of change agents and change champions.

Meeting Agenda: In the beginning, you will want to cover items such as the project scope, purpose, benefits, and challenges.

And as the project progresses into its tactical phase, then meeting agendas can revolve around more detailed reviews of the change and its impacts, system demonstrations, training plans, and most importantly, a continuous explanation of the change champion’s role at each stage.

And throughout the implementation, it is essential that you reward and recognize the change champions and agents.

Such rewards can involve taking them out to lunch or drinks – most importantly having senior leadership take them out to events or outings. If they are all based in different regions within the country, then schedule an In-Person All-Day workshop, invite all champions to travel to the designated venue for the workshop.

Part of the workshop can involve taking the whole group out for food/drinks or have senior leadership also take them out to events such as golf events, baseball games, hockey games, tournaments, team building events, escape rooms, etc.

For recognition, you should send out emails to senior management, and provide concise updates of the champion roles, and how the change champions are making a major difference in the change implementation.

Recognition to senior leaders will mean a lot to change champions and change agent networks because they know that their leaders are aware of the effort they are putting into the change. 

Rewarding Change Champions, Change Agents and Change Networks 

See Also: Best Change Network Management Toolkit.

How Many Change Champions Are Needed?

How many change management champion roles do you need to fill to support your change or project? A ratio of 1 champion for every 60 impacted end-users is a typical ratio for change management champion roles.

This enables flexibility for which change champions can support the full group of end-users without causing a significant resource drain. Depending on the scale of the project, it might be possible for you to have a 1-100 ration (1 change champion for every 100 impacted individuals).  

Learn more: Change Champions Network Tool.

What is the Time Commitment for a Change Champion Role?

Time commitment ranges from 5-15% of a person’s weekly work hours, which ranges from 2-6 hours per week. And don’t forget that this change management champion role will be in addition to the person’s normal job and work hours. 

End-to-End Process for Establishing a Network of Change Agents, Change Champions, and Change Leaders

In standing up, launching, and managing a best change champion network, change management change agents should apply a process similar to the one outlined below.

Process for Standing Up Change Champion Networks with Change Agents & Champions

Manage Change Champions in Less time!

Our AGS Cloud Change Network Management Toolkit provides you with a structured change champions template that enables you to effortlessly capture and document information on all change champions.

Use the first few columns on the template to capture the first name, last name, and other details of the change champions and agents. It is also very important to identify the change management experience level of the change agents and champions.

Those individuals that have low and mid-level experience will require more coaching, hand-holding, and support than those with a high level of change management experience.

Illustration – Change Champions Tool – Template Database With Sample Data

what is change management in networking

Use the Organization, Department, and Group columns to capture the organizational details of the change agents and champions.

The AGS Change Champions Toolkit includes a best-in-class champions database template, samples, a 360-degree analytics view of your change champions network, and much more that you can leverage to simplify and optimize your change champion management.

Illustration – Change Champions Tool – Analytics Dashboard With Sample Data

Change champion toolkit analytics

Real-time analytics give you an instant snapshot of your champions network.

AGS Cloud is a full-featured cloud platform to help you plan, manage, and execute a successful change project, end-to-end, whether this is your first change project or your one-hundredth. You can choose all nine modules in the tool or just choose the Change Champion Network Toolkit. 

Click below for a tool that you can use to manage all aspects of your change champions network. Get started right away!

Change Champion / Agent Toolkit

 Best Change Champions Toolkit – End-to-End

What is a Change Champion?

A change champion is an individual who is an advocate for, and a supporter of a business change. A change champion is often a part of a group that will be impacted by a change, and who is willing to engage their colleagues to increase awareness, acceptance, and adoption of the change. Change agents and change champions play a key role in transformational change because they are able to facilitate change at the individual level within their organizations.

What is a Change Champion Network?

A change champion network is a collection of individuals from groups that will be impacted by a change. A change champion network is a powerful part of any change strategy; it moves ownership of the change to the business units impacted by the change, which decreases end-user resistance, and increases stakeholder buy-in.

What is a Change Agent Network?

A change agent network is a network of change champions, as well as agents of change. Change agents are those professionals like change managers and project leads that are responsible for leading organizational change. A change agent network is slightly different from a change champion network.

How do You Define a Change Agent?

A change agent is any professional whose job function involves implementing change. A change agent includes a change management manager or a project lead.

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Authors: Ogbe Airiodion (Senior Change Management Lead) and Francesca Crolley (AGS Cloud Content Producer)
Content on Airiodion Global Services (AGS)'s website is copyrighted. Questions? Contact Airiodion Global Services (AGS) .

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