Structuring Collective Change Agency Internally: Transformers, Enforcers, Specialists and Independents

Nick Wylie, Andrew Sturdy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
401 Downloads (Pure)


This research paper aims to identify, describe and evaluate the different ways in which formal collective change agency is structured in specialist units inside 25 diverse organisations. As such it is oriented towards a range of practitioners operating in HR, project management or with responsibility for delivering change in public and private sectors.

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 credibility from clients, added value, effective relationship management and with the use of consulting tools. The units’ 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 have 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
Early online date22 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018

Structured keywords

  • PolicyBristol
  • alternatives to external management consultancy


  • Change agency
  • change management
  • internal management consultancy
  • organisational structure


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