Business Center

Two Residencies, One Goal: ADKAR Increases Collaboration between Teams

Alex Blum, Process Improvement Intern  
May 1, 2018

Steve Harelson

When Steve Harelson began working at the Colorado Department Of Transportation (CDOT) 16 years ago, engineers were making the transition from specialized residencies to residencies that encompassed both design and construction work. Dubbed “Total Project Leadership” engineers were exposed to both specialties to round out their skills and provide a more holistic skill set to their projects. However, engineers gravitated to the areas that they excelled or were interested in while relying on others’ expertise less.   Due to this organic alignment, an initiative was launched to revert back to the specialized residencies with updated and robust processes for collaboration between the two specialties. Steve, now a Program Engineer with 5 of these residencies reporting up to him, recognized the need for using Change Management to address the perception of undoing progress and “flavor of the month” changes for his 30 direct reports.

Integrating Change Management with Project Management

When CDOT reorganized its regions from 6 to 5, there was more that could have been done in terms of Change Management to equip those affected. The change made obvious sense to leadership. It streamlined processes and interactions with local governments, and better fit the geographies and characteristics of each region. Unfortunately, the awareness of the ‘why’ we were changing and building the desire to do so was not integrated into the implementation plan. This created frustration within the regions. Determined to not let allow this to happen again, CDOT implemented a Change Management Program and created a Change Agent Network (CAN).  The CAN was to serve to help socialize the changes across the state and support the managers and supervisors who fill the CLARC roles (Communicator, Liaison, Advocate, Resistance Manager and Coach) using regionally located leaders. Steve was selected to serve as a Change Agent in his region and has since used that expertise for these large initiatives as well as in his daily work as a supervisor.

This was especially beneficial for this specialized residencies transition. “When the rules change mid-game, people get frustrated and expectations are unclear, so not only are your people unhappy but they can then become unproductive. Using ADKAR helped me ensure my teams were Aware of what is changing and why we were moving in this direction, but also to help them buy in and support this change by addressing their Desire- what concerns or confusions they needed to address before they could get on board.”

Fostering Desire needed several approaches to account for the varying pain points his reports were experiencing. Steve converted the strongest dissenters, or “Gloomy Gus” as he likes to call them, to be responsible for the flaws they found. This not only brought them on board, but those who looked up to these influential employees also bought into the change. Not only that but addressing these legitimate concerns actually made the solution better, benefitting both CDOT and those affected.

The other area that needed to be addressed was this notion of regressing. The perception that we are reverting back to the old way of work, even as the standard way proved ineffective, created some mistrust in those championing the effort. Steve didn’t do anything special to remedy this. Instead, using the ADKAR model, Steve focused his meetings and 1-on-1’s to target this mistrust; listening to their objections, and debunking any myths or misconceptions. “My philosophy has always been to treat people with respect, and remember that I used to be the young guy listening to my boss thinking, ‘They aren’t hearing me.’ I try to not be that guy.” This helped not only to make this transition smoother, but it created a more positive team dynamic that was better prepared for future changes as well.

Next Steps

While his teams have been in this new way of work for some time now, Steve is careful to continue reinforcing this process with his reports by focusing on collaboration between the two specialties and allowing opportunities for his engineers to explore other skill sets. As a result of this effort, he has seen more collaboration between his teams and has improved product quality, but importantly Steve noted Change Management is a two-way street. “Now that my team expects to receive this level of support, it forces me to become more engaged and tuned in with my teams. This dual accountability requires that they are engaged or they get left in the dark, and it requires that I am creating an atmosphere that allows them to be engaged, all while maintaining focus on the goal of the project.”   Steve plans on continuing to use Change Management concepts with his teams, citing a more engaged, more productive, and happier work environment.


Steve compares Change Management to the value of Safety within CDOT- “ Everyone knows you need to be safe at work, but if you don’t talk about it and assume it’s happening rather than intentionally owning it and helping others embody it, safety is just another buzzword, much like those flavor of the month projects. The more we use ADKAR the better prepared our people are going to be for future changes. If we never made changes CDOT would still survey the land like George Washington. We need to take risks, we just need to bring our people along too.” By using Change Management, Steve was able to address his team’s concerns, foster a sense of ownership of the solution, and most importantly help his team embrace and adopt the specialized residencies 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!

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