The first task of the change agent is to develop some sense of what the concern is, a sense of where the system seems to be hurting, and where the need for change is most pressing. This may be obvious enough from signs and symptoms everywhere. It may be a 'given' if the change agent has been asked to work on a particular problem. But this 'given' may not be what is really the most urgent issue for the system. The change agent needs to look around and listen to what is being said by different members of the system before determining what the real concern is.
CARE Sub-Stages: Thirteen Things for the Change Agent to Consider
What the Change Agent Needs to Know Most in the CARE Stage
There is a beginning to every "change," starting with a growing sense that something is wrong with the status quo.
There is always an initiator, someone or some group which articulates and amplifies the concern. This ‘someone’ may either be inside or outside the client system. They may be a leader or a sponsor or an advocate at any level, but who they are may affect how the change agent operates and how much of a license he/she agent has to guide the process.
This "care" and "concern," at whatever level and with whatever urgency expressed, is the engine driving the change process. Your initial task as a change agent is to evaluate the status of this CARE impulse, to understand how the system works, to identify who the key players are, and to assess where the CARE is felt most keenly Such an analysis will then guide the process and give an initial estimate of the chances of success.
A concern may sometimes be so intense or seen as so urgent or overwhelming that it vitiates rational action. The client's sense that bold action is immediately required forestalls serious problem diagnosis, extensive search for resources, and consideration of alternative solutions. Thus, the change agent may need to develop strategies to buy time, to create space for reflection and for allowing the client to view the array of concerns without intense pressure for solutions.
To learn more about the CARE stage, download the full Chapter on the CARE stage from the Change Agent's Guide eBook.
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