Organizational consultant encourages UF leaders to “empower agency” when approaching change

Carsten Tams believes the best way for an organization to successfully navigate change is by creating power among its employees while maintaining a deep sense of trust in the human desires to learn, create and seek new challenges.

In November, Tams brought his humanistic approach to management to the University of Florida when he met with cabinet members and led a discussion with participants in the UF Leadership Network (UFLN) on the topic of “From Breaking Resistance to Empowering Agency – Rethinking Organizational Change Management.”

As the principal of Emagence, a New York-based consulting agency, and a columnist for, Tams works with clients to develop evidence-based strategies rooted in behavioral science for solving organizational challenges. Key to his philosophy is the concept of “collective efficacy” that evolves from employees’ sense of self-efficacy, or confidence in themselves as moral agents.

“Human agency is essential to what I do,” Tams explained to those who gathered for the UFLN discussion.

During his visit, Tams encouraged UF leaders to shake off some of the top-down assumptions they make about employees during times of change — including anticipating resistance and believing employees want to stay in their comfort zone. He offered six ways organizations can transform change management from a resistance-centered approach to a community-building approach. These ideas are outlined below with links to Tams’ articles that provide additional details and strategies.

  1. Refine the problem: Shift the perception of change from a problem requiring governance to a challenge to be solved by a coalition.
  2. Make it human-centered: Identify employees’ intrinsic motivations and opportunities to provide a supportive environment.
  3. Be co-creative: Involve “customers” in shaping the change, relying on their wisdom and intelligence.
  4. Make it social: Recognize that hierarchy can hinder the diffusion of ideas, while open physical spaces catalyze them.
  5. “Nudge” it: Find intuitive ways to make the change an “easy choice” by observing social norms and providing ease and convenience.
  6. Share leadership: Create increased capacity through the identification of talents throughout the organization.

To learn more about Carsten Tams’ principles of human-centered design or to subscribe to his blog, you can visit the Emagence website or follow him on Twitter.