Structuring collective change agency internally: Transformers, enforcers, specialists and independents

Nick Wylie, Andrew Sturdy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
178 Downloads (Pure)


This practitioner-oriented research paper aims to identify, describe and evaluate the different ways in which formal collective change agency is structured in specialist units inside diverse organisations.
Using a qualitative design, exploratory interview and case study research was conducted in organisations across the UK public and private sectors to explore how different change agency units operate within organisational structures.
Four dominant types of internal change agency unit are identified, varying in terms of their change impact scope and degree of structural embeddedness in the organisation. These units are described as Transformers, Enforcers, Specialists and Independents (TESI) and share key concerns with securing client credibility and added value, effective relationship management and the use of consulting tools. Their roles and the tensions they experience are outlined along with hybrid forms and dynamic shifts from one type to another.
Research limitations/implications
The study could be extended outside of the UK and conducted longitudinally to help identify outcomes more precisely in relation to context.
Practical implications
Each of the four types of change agency unit identified is shown to be suited to certain conditions and to present particular challenges for collective change agency and for specialist management occupations engaged in such work. The analysis could usefully inform organisation design decisions around internal change agency.
We extend debates around the nature of internal change agency which has typically focused on comparisons with external change agents at the level of the individual. Developing the work of Caldwell (2003), we reveal how emergent, team-based or collective approaches to change agency can be formalised, rather than informal, and that structural considerations of change need to be considered along with traditional concerns with change management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-328
Number of pages16
JournalEmployee Relations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2018

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