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Teamwork Makes the Dream Work for DOTs Implementing Change Management

Shalice Reilly, Office of Process Improvement Intern
December 5, 2018

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Building Collaboration of Change Management Efforts

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) uses the ‘Three Peaks’ analogy to elaborate on their mission and vision statements; these peaks are ‘a Healthy Multi-Modal System, Leading-Edge Technology and Our People.’ In an effort to progress towards all three of these peaks, CDOT trains its employees in Change Management practices so that they are equipped and empowered to successfully implement positive change throughout the department. In addition, CDOT also makes efforts to spread awareness of Change Management to other state DOTs. Doing so not only helps all DOTs to successfully implement change but also leads to national and international collaboration, creative problem-solving and innovation.

Carl Greer, Organizational Change Manager for the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT), began to lead his DOT into implementing Change Management practices seven years ago after a consultant recommended he take a 3-Day Change Management course. The course was offered by Prosci, a company that “combines scientific principles and a focus on the people side of change to deliver superior training programs”(Prosci.com). “At the end of the first day, I remember leaving thinking ‘...What? I don’t understand any of this,’” reflected Greer, “I was really worried about it! But then on the second day our instructor helped walk us through each step of the process, and by the end of the day I was diving right into Change Management.”

Greer also explained how during the course, the instructor often referred to CDOT as an example of a transportation department that had successfully implemented Prosci courses and practices into the structure of its organization. After the course, Greer was motivated to get Change Management going at WSDOT. When the instructor gave him the contact information for Michelle Malloy, CDOT’s Senior Program Manager of Strategy & Change Management Services, Greer was excited to reach out.

“Gary [Vansuch, Director of the Office of Process Improvement at CDOT] and Michelle have just been a huge resource for the people here at the State of Washington. They helped us figure out how to get the ball rolling,” explained Greer. In order to incite Change Management at WSDOT, Gary offered to give a presentation on Change Management to the ‘higher-ups’ of the department to include managers from Washington State Employment Security Department, which got them all very excited about implementing it in their own organization.

The Public Sector Change Practitioners (PSCP) community of practice has been a great resource,” continued Greer, “Just providing that community of practice is impressive, but then also inviting people from Washington and other states to talk on it and listen in is making a big impact.” PSCP is a bi-monthly webinar hosted by Malloy, and other board members, Meagan Brown and Clair Anderson.  CDOT’s Office of Process Improvement (OPI) helps to bring it to life with assistance from their intern team. The webinar is open for anyone to attend, they just need to sign up for the PSCP mailing list on the group’s website.

“The PSCP group is really beneficial for all change practitioners working in the public sector. The nature of this work can be challenging and stressful so it's nice to have others to reach out to for advice and to discuss problems with” said Craig Crick, Employee Development Manager for Nevada’s Department of Transportation (NDOT) and recently added participant of PSCP. “The webinar is really creating a network to all other DOTs and Change Management advocates.”

About three years ago, Crick met Gary Vansuch through another one of CDOT’s Communities of Practice, called the Transportation Lean Forum, which focuses on Lean Process Improvement practices within transportation organizations.

“Before meeting Gary, I didn’t know how well change management could be applied in a governmental organization,” recalled Crick. Since then, Crick has become Prosci certified through the 3-Day Change Management Course and plans next to become certified to teach those courses throughout NDOT.

In 2018, Crick and Greer were connected through a collaborative Change Management email sent out by CDOT to a number of DOTs around the country. Greer responded to the group, offering help if any DOTs that were still working to implement Change Management in their organization. Crick responded to the offer, and the two began collaborating over NDOT’s Change Management program.

In the past few months, a representative from Michigan’s DOT has also reached out to Malloy, and after collaboration with her, is very interested in beginning their change management journey.

The Value of Change Management in DOTs

DOTs are very dispersed organizations, as they live and work to enhance travel throughout their entire state. With large stretches of roads to build, maintain, and operate, comes a significant number of employees who, more often than not, are affected by change happening outside of their immediate office. This factor alone makes change initiatives in DOTs particularly challenging.

“Before we started implementing change management, our headquarters was seen as this disconnected authority that would send out demands, but never stopped to see what their employees thought,” expressed Greer. “We have begun to see a culture shift when we started implementing Prosci’s Change Management practices. The regions became more excitable about the information coming from headquarters,” continued Greer, “Now when my team goes out to regions, the workers invite us to come to see what they are doing day-to-day in these mountain passes or ferries. Most of the time it isn’t even relevant to why we are there, they are just excited to have people from headquarters that genuinely care and want to learn about how they contribute to WSDOT.”

“The bottom line is that when any kind of change is implemented, it is the people that have to make those changes happen. So the value of change management is that it forces you to focus in on the people most responsible for making those changes, and to be prepared to support them through that change,” explained Crick, “Without those individuals being on board and appropriately educated, the project is going to fail, which will cost NDOT more money and cause unnecessary stress for everyone.”

together we can

Advice to New Implementers of Change Management

“Change is hard” warned Crick. “Even the best, most positive change can still be difficult for people to adopt. People have a natural fear of changing their routines. Change management helps manage that fear, and keep it from being a barrier to positive change.”

“It is all about those everyday opportunities to spread awareness,” said Greer. “I make sure I am available to anyone in the organization that needs help implementing Change Management. Even if I cannot meet up with them in person, I tell them I'm only just a phone call away’. Taking those five minutes to build support can really benefit you later on.”

“My advice is to start small,” explained Crick. “Start where you can make the most difference with certain individuals or sponsors. Try to mine change champions and supporters, because they will help you to sway groups that may be resistant at first.”

Continued communication between DOTs is so important. There are many different governmental departments across the globe that are going through the same challenges with implementing Change Management--to share and connect with each other over those challenges continues to elevate the efficiency and recognition of change management around the globe.

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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