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New Building, New Challenges: How Change Management Contributed to a Successful Relocation

By Alex Blum, Process Improvement Intern
Posted: September 27, 2018

CDOT Old HQ

CDOT Old Headquarters

Moving is hard. People spend a lot of energy acclimating to their environment, learning how best to work in the space that they are in. Even if that space can no longer support you, where you work is just as much a part of your job as the work that you do. So when it came time to upgrade to new buildings for Region 2 and Headquarters/Region 1, The Colorado Department of Transportation knew that navigating the people component of this relocation was just as important as the construction of the space. While none would argue that the old Headquarters was not meeting the needs of CDOT’s employees, there was still anxiety around leaving the building they had grown accustomed to. Where will I sit? How will my commute change? What accommodations will the new building have? What about my favorite lunch spot? This is just a small number of questions and concerns that people are faced with when relocating offices. Couple this with the added complexity of combining Region 1 and Headquarters into one building, and you have the potential for a lot of uncertainty and resistance. CDOT, recognizing the stress that this move could cause to its employees, created a Change Management plan to smooth the transition and get people comfortable with their new space as quickly as possible.

A team of subject matter experts was assembled to execute this plan. These included Move Coordinators, Furniture Coordinators, Records Management and Change Managers. This team worked to ensure that questions were answered, concerns were addressed, and that people felt confident that they and their work would be taken care of during the move. A robust communication plan was created, focusing on raising awareness of why this change is important and a good move for the agency. This plan heavily relied on executive involvement, which played a significant role in people feeling invested in the success of this change. David Fox, the Project Manager for this effort, stated “having those monthly town halls for nearly a year leading up to the move allowed people with concerns to raise them in a safe way straight to our EMT (Executive Management Team). This consistent interaction by our Executives helped show our employees that we care about their transition, and that we are serious about making this change successful for everyone.” The communication plan had several prongs to it, and also took advantage of the Change Agent Network (CAN) to help spread messages and important details about specific impacts to people’s jobs with managers from HQ and R1.

CDOT New HQ

CDOT New Headquarters

Even with a strong communication plan in place, David Fox and his team knew that there would be resistance. Taking principles from Change Management, they met these fears in a collected, respectful way, using different motivations in a variety of mediums to help as many people as possible feel supported. “First people were afraid of an open work environment, so we brought specialists into the workspace and installed a full suite of new office furniture for people to touch, feel and sit in. They could then picture themselves in the new building and what that might look like. This helped people prepare for the new environment before they ever set a foot in it.” They created a central information board, where people could find information as they needed it. This included everything from a countdown to the move, announcements, and incremental information about what people needed to know or prepare for during that block of time. Addressing people’s concerns “was perhaps the most difficult aspect since the move impacted so many people, each with their own worries about what the changes would mean to them and how the change would impact them individually,” Janet Gerak, a lead on this effort shared. “It was important that the move team recognized these pain points and addressed them in a straightforward manner and didn’t minimize their concerns.”

Even with all that effort to support others through this process, eventually there is the actual move. People will discover new benefits and drawbacks that they hadn’t previously been aware of, and perhaps not all of their suggestions had been implemented. The Change Management team had a plan for post-move support as well. “Restaurants were located and shared, local community support organizations were identified and support encouraged, nearby walking trails were found, and I can’t forget to mention the food trucks.” Janet shares how they continued to highlight the benefits of the building and the community it lives in to reinforce the personal ownership of their new workspace.

When asked if Change Management played a role in the success of this relocation effort and what to take away from this project, David had this to say: “Overwhelmingly I would say the relocation was a success, as a direct result of the efforts of the Change Management team. There is no possible way to make 100% of the people happy, but we definitely moved the needle from fear to excitement prior to moving.” This ensured that employees could enjoy the workspace, and pick right back up saving lives and making people’s lives better through transportation.

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!

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