Janet R. Jensen and Andrea R. Campbell, Wichita State University
Editor’s Note : The following article is based upon a presentation at the 2007 Kansas Academic Advising Network (KAAN) Conference.
In the classic 1962 movie by the same name, James Bond defeated the evil Dr. No. Like James Bond, advisors can feel that the Dr. Nos are taking over their worlds. However, advisors can become positive Change Agents to defeat Dr. No.
In the work environment where advisors function, Dr. Nos are people, places or things that prevent advisors from flourishing and growing. In our advising world at Wichita State University, Dr. No was a new computer system. We were asked to adjust to using the new system despite initial kinks and larger, systemic issues. We had a choice. We could either become negative influences who spread gloom throughout our work world, or we could become positive Change Agents who encouraged advisors to share better ways for managing this change. Fortunately, we decided on the latter and made a positive impact on campus.
What is a Change Agent? Wikipedia (2007) defines a Change Agent as someone who intentionally or indirectly causes or accelerates social, cultural or behavioral change. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Urban Transportation Studies suggests that the ideal Change Agent is outgoing, cooperative and persuasive yet also broad-minded. He or she is also: 1) articulate but a good listener; 2) sensitive to but not overcome by the “political” environment; 3) energetic yet patient; 4) probing but not disruptive; and 5) intelligent but not overly intellectual. Change Agents should be unselfish, enthusiastic, sensitive, disciplined and precise.
Advisors should have a clear understanding of their preferred methods for dealing with change before seeking to become Change Agents. This knowledge can help advisors understand what issues they may need to address. We use a short “Change Agent Survey” adapted from the book Promoting a Development Culture in Your Organization by Peggy Simonsen (1997, 136). Results from this survey can help advisors discover whether they were already acting as Change Agents or need help in improving their skills.
Advisors must make conscious decisions to become positive Change Agents. Those who choose not to become Change Agents miss opportunities to become smarter professionals. They lose opportunities that can lead to new career horizons and the acquisition of new skills which can make advisors more marketable. In turn, being a Change Agent can expand networking possibilities which could offer opportunities to reshape the destiny and reality for advisors.
Change Agents can take on several different roles in creating an environment that incorporates change. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Urban Transportation Studies suggests that these roles be classified by the characteristics defined as:
- The Linker– passes information about needs and solutions from one group to another
- The Champion– actively campaigns against bureaucratic objections in an influential way
- The Translator– translates needed information into an “easy to read and understand” format
- The Broker– offers good advice and assistance to various parties involved in the change
- The Advance Man (Woman)– smoothes the way ahead of the change so the transition is easier to make
- The Hand Holder– checks up on the progress of the change and offers assistance as needed
- The Problem Solver– realizes problems related to the change and uses skills to solve problems before they become bigger issues
- James Bond– Our character inspiration, of course
Once advisors have the necessary skills and tools to incorporate change, they may encounter a resistant Dr. No. Graham (2007) proposes that strategies helpful in overcoming the resistant Dr. No include:
- persuade with influence
- be prepared to ask a favor
- always consider compromises
- be sure to involve key people
- communicate reasons effectively
- most importantly, the Change Agent must support the decision
In our presentations, we use Dilbert™ cartoons to demonstrate the positive change process. Each cartoon serves as an example of a Dr. No idea we want to change in our work environment. Small groups determine the Change Agent needed for each cartoon situation and what strategies could bring about a positive change in the environment. Upon completion of the mission, advisors are given “License to Change” cards that “certify” them as “Change Agent Advisors.” These cards serve as reminders of the importance of being a positive Change Agent.
We know that change is inevitable and desirable. Advisors must educate themselves on the change process, show confidence in their plan for change, be prepared to accept changes that cannot be controlled, and when in doubt, act according to their plan. Change Agents should keep in mind that all changes create a few “hiccoughs” along the way. Furthermore, Change Agents need to plan and work toward reducing unknown factors. The final and most important change advice advisors can follow is to stay positive, because negativity in the work environment will never accomplish Change Agents’ desired results.
Janet R. Jensen
Senior Academic Advisor
Barton School of Business
Wichita State University
Academic Advisor & Scholarship Coordinator
College of Education
Wichita State University
Adams, S. (2007). Dilbert. Retrieved November 29, 2007 from www.dilbert.com/.
Broccoli, A.R. (Producer), & Young, T. (Director). (1962). Dr. No. [Motion picture].United Kingdom: Eon Production, LT.
Change Agent. (August 8, 2007). In Wikipedia, The free encyclopedia. Retrieved November 29, 2007 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Change_agent.
Graham, G. (February 26, 2007). Managing change in the workplace. Wichita State University (KS): Center for Management Development.
Cite this article using APA style as: Jensen,J. & Campbell,A. (2008, March). Defeating dr. no: How advisors can be positive change agents. Academic Advising Today, 31(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]