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Evaluating Success on the Division of Mobility Operations' Evaluation: How Change Management Made a Difference

Author: Niles Koenigsberg, Process Improvement Intern

November 29th, 2018,

In February 2016, a massive process improvement was delivered by the Division of Mobility Operations, formerly Transportation Systems Management & Operations (TSM&O) of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). The initiative set out to establish a process to evaluate projects and make recommendations to the project team in an effort to improve safety, efficiency, and overall effectiveness. The TSM&O Evaluation is a critical element in CDOT projects because it ensures that we are providing the best products and services possible to the traveling public. CDOT engineers now accomplish this by using the holistic process to encourage stakeholders to consider safety, operations, and technology elements early and throughout the project life-cycle. Instituted statewide, this change guarantees construction projects are holisticly evaluated, improving communication and collaboration between HQ Traffic and Safety Engineers, Regional Traffic Engineers, Resident Engineers, and Project Managers.

tsmo flowchart

It has been over two years since this statewide initiative was implemented and the new tool has saved Colorado residents plenty of time, resources, and headaches. As we look back, it is important to reflect on the people side of the project. Such large changes cannot happen overnight and the institutionalization of a new tool takes time, effort, and a deep understanding of Change Management. “We couldn’t have changed this process without using Change Management principles,” said San Lee, the Project Lead and Change Manager, “It gave us the roadmap to make sure everyone was comfortable with the new structure.”

What Changed?

The new evaluation sought to provide timely analyses of highway operations, safety, and technology within each project’s limits, during the project development process. The analysis would review the project and make recommendations for incorporating operational and safety strategies, proven and creative best practices, new innovations, and technologies. “We formed our interdisciplinary team in June of 2015, did everything we could in the next 8 months to get the infrastructure ready, and have all construction projects from February, and onward, ready to comply,” Lee stated.

At the start, the project team went through a lean workshop with engineers to see how the project could be best adapted for CDOT. “Initially it was called a ‘TSM&O Clearance,’ which received a lot of pushback, as it’s more of a regulatory ‘checkbox’ term,” Lee reflected. While it wasn’t the best start to the process, this resistance to the change was crucial feedback. “Once we started the workshop and brought people back to the table, they started to see that this was a holistic project improvement approach to make sure we had all the right people and pieces. That’s when it became ‘TSM&O Evaluation.’”

The new evaluation process decentralized the existing safety, operations, and technology assessments. “Previously [those reviews] had been done at HQ, but we wanted to give more power back to the regions,” Lee stated. The change management team prepared for this decentralization by scheduling regional trainings and focusing on thorough outreach. The team made sure that information concerning the change was communicated clearly and efficiently, through CDOT’s intranet, the All-Employee News, the Change Agent Network, at staff meetings, and ensuring that regional communications included information about the change.

How was it Rolled Out?

As the change began to go live, the Change Management team developed specific strategies to meet the hard deadline of February 2016. “Initially, we focused heavily on generating awareness statewide,” Lee recalled, “But, we knew the biggest barrier would be education.” One can certainly send out mass emails and communicate clearly, but if staff are not trained on the new process the change will never take hold.

The Change Management team made sure to create and publish informative documents on the intranet, develop and schedule educational webinars, enlist the help of Change Agents across the state, and update their formal documents for projects to follow. “We even made an educational video to answer frequently asked questions about the change,” said Lee, “But, we made sure to go out into the regions as well to make sure everything was understood.”

As the Evaluation is now a part of the project development process, the Change Management team created a maintenance plan as well to ensure the change was fully adopted and to continuously improve the Evaluation process. Their maintenance plan encapsulated their communications strategies and coaching plan as well, but the main focus was on how CDOT could adjust the process afterwards.  “We want to make the tools [resident engineers] have easier and better to use and make the Evaluation tool a little more dynamic,” said Lee.

Measuring Success on the Evaluations

The Evaluation process has been fully implemented across the regions at CDOT and has had many successes to celebrate. “I think Region 4 has adjusted well to the change,” Katrina Kloberdanz, a Professional Engineer II from northeast Colorado, commented, “We’ve become more intimate with the regional projects and we’re more conscious of what we’re doing.” In addition, the process improvement had some unexpected benefits for CDOT both in HQ and in the regions. The decentralization of the process inadvertently helped build leaders in the regions while simultaneously opening up communications pathways. “The culture definitely benefited from it,” Lee noted, “By bringing in so many folks on this project, it really improved collaboration and general knowledge across disciplines.”

tsmo evaluation

However, that is not to say there weren’t challenges along the way. Matthew Jagow, Traffic Resident Engineer from southeast Colorado, believes his region has adopted the change successfully, but they still need plenty of encouragement. “Change doesn’t happen overnight, but without reinforcement, employees can revert back to their old habits,” Jagow stated.

Change is a difficult thing and, although it’s been 2 years, San Lee still manages this change and looks for areas of improvement. “You really just need to listen. There’s not always a clear solution and you can’t always have an answer, but if you listen and adjust, you won’t fail.”

To learn more about the TSM&O Evaluation project, please view our previous article on the effort or view this presentation on the Evaluation project successes.

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!