Mar 22, 2011

Change Agentry for Sustainability

Why do some changes occur instantly, appear effortlessly, while other changes fail to occur at all?

Through a combination of hands-on and interactive activities Alan AtKisson’s class, Advanced Change Agentry for Sustainability, examined this thought providing insight on why change in Sustainability is different than change in other contexts and provided a “tool kit” on how to effectively produce this change.

The class began with an introduction to the ISIS pyramid. The ISIS pyramid identifies a clear process needed to induce change. The process begins with developing indicators, thinking about data and trends within the system. Once these are identified, begin building a map and identifying connections in the system you are attempting to change. After careful evaluation of the existing system you will integrate the innovation at systems key leverage points. The final step is developing a strategy to carefully and effectively communicate and incorporate the innovation into the existing system. ISIS- Indicator Identification, Systems Analysis, Innovation, and Strategy. The class reinforced change is powerful to all and it affects different people in different ways. We must know the players and stakeholders at all time.

Early in the class we examined the innovation adoption curve, discussing the importance of the “take off” phase and the different constituents involved in this process. This curve is key to understanding systems transformation. Alan uses an amoeba as a metaphor to describe the roles and relations in the process of this systems change. The innovation or intended change begins with an innovator. The innovator develops the idea, policy, initiative, and works to engage the change agent. The change agents absorb the idea from the innovator and then communicate it to the masses, beginning with the transformer. The transformers are open to ideas and are working to promote positive change, but act as the gatekeeper for the idea and are careful which idea they allow to pass through. The amoeba is reliant on the pieces in the center of the organism, in this case those are the “mainstreamers” and “laggards”. Once the mainstreamers and laggards (those following the critical mass) accept the change, it is difficult to reverse. Those who are unwilling to accept the change or don’t believe the change will occur at all were identified as the “reactionary(ies)” and “curmudgeons”. Do not spend too much time attempting to convince these parties. It is important to remember where to focus your energy throughout the change process.

The class provided five key aspects that may increase the likelihood of the idea/change to rapidly spread. These are;

Relative advantage- Is this idea better than the existing idea?
Complexity- complex ideas are difficult to spread;
Observability- Is the idea visible?
Trialability- Ideas with low trialability are difficult to spread;
Compatibility- Does it fit into the existing system?

These are several important pieces to think about as we change agents move forward with our projects aimed at producing change. To learn more about change agentry and the methods used I encourage you to look in to Alan AtKisson’s readings and publications available at

1 comment:

  1. It was really an awesome class. Alan AtKisson taught us so many practical and insightful ways to be change agents.

    Thanks to Sustainable Seattle for hosting this excellent workshop!