Business Center

Change Management: The Universal Tool

By John Palmer, Region 5 Section 3
Deputy Maintenance Superintendent

Edited by Ginger Kloska, Process Improvement Intern
February 29, 2020


In August of 2014, I participated in the Prosci workshop on Change Management. Over the course of this three-day program, I learned a lot about myself and the need to better utilize this methodology. In the early days of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT)’s learning portal (also known as SAP) integration, I was asked to be a change agent for Region 6 where I was working as the Transportation Maintenance Worker (TM) II for the newly formed Walden patrol. Our section had recently gone through the process of introducing the new TM III program. We were attempting to increase the depth of our candidate pool for succession planning, and in the process we combined patrols in certain areas of the section and the state. These changes combined with the introduction of SAP created an environment of stress. Without some sort of change management, this would have resulted in serious adverse conditions. Unfortunately, the SAP modules final product was nowhere near what it was portrayed to be through our various training sessions. It was the change management network that CDOT elected to use at that time that really saved us from ourselves. This network was why I decided to take the next steps so many years later when the opportunity presented itself through the three-day seminar.

Becoming a Change Agent

With our first iteration of change management, the main focus was building awareness and desire. However, this is not how it was presented to those of us who were to be Change Agents. Essentially, we were asked to help provide a positive face to the next round of changes through some basic knowledge of what was coming, help build that desire to learn more, and be accepting of what we were about to experience. For me personally, being positive wasn’t an issue. My partner for this particular instance was a pretty upbeat individual as well, so we really didn’t have much of a struggle in getting others onboard with the program. Not long after SAP had been integrated into our business processes, our Change Agent Network was dissolved, or at least not used as much as it should have been, and I moved on to another section where there was no change agent network.

Changing to Fit CDOT's Needs

In September of 2013, the floods occured in Region 1, and change began to happen more and more frequently from that point on. There were several operations that were identified early on that needed to change in order for us to receive proper reimbursements for our expenditures during this period of time. In addition to the changes within the SAP program, there was a movement afoot to create a new division within CDOT, the Division of Highway Maintenance. The impetus for this change was to bring about consistency with respect to reporting, workmanship, and accountability.

I routinely utilize the ADKAR model to help facilitate change, identify areas of improvement, and incorporate the changes that have taken place over the last five years. One of the first changes developed through the Division of Highway Maintenance was the goal of developing a more consistent reporting protocol for SAP. There was also the need to gain buy-in for the new Division of Highway Maintenance, and it seemed that change had gone into overdrive. Creating awareness and desire would have been next to impossible without a defined process that is outlined through the ADKAR model. So much change was happening so quickly, a decision was made to bring more people into the Change Agent Network. Here in Region 3, that assignment went to the LTC_OPs (Labor, Trades, and Craft Operation Supervisors), which was a total of six people for Region 3 including myself and each area foreman.

Region 3 has used the ADKAR model for a multitude of programs; the most recent of which was to develop a process by which we could administer knowledge exams through Google Forms. We started with demonstrating that we would first need to improve our knowledge base in order to work toward succession planning. We have also used this model to help facilitate the use of Work Manager, the latest SAP module that once all of the bugs were worked out, didn’t take much effort to gain buy-in through ADKAR.

Advice for Others in Change Management

After using this model for the last five years, I find that the greatest challenge that we all have as leaders is developing reinforcement, or at least identifying the need for reinforcement once the change has been instituted for a period of time. We tend to tell ourselves that once our jobs are done, we have sold the goods and it is time to move on. However, with people, “fast is slow.” We tend to forget to reinforce things expecting that we have completed our task,we need to move on. My way of handling this particular element of the model is to frequently tell our leaders to reinforce what is important every three to six months. It can be tedious at times, but is well worth the effort.

Want to learn more about Change Management at CDOT? Check out our improvement efforts at the Office of Process Improvement’s website! Or, for CDOT employees, stop by the Change Hub on our Intranet (Note: this link will only work using the CDOT VPN)!

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