Change Management Fails: How To Avoid Change Management Mistakes

Invite people to learn and engage in multiple ways. Image courtesy of Steelcase.

Invite people to learn and engage in multiple ways. Image courtesy of Steelcase.

You talk with your clients about it all the time—change management is critical to success and it’s an insurance policy of sorts. If you’re investing in a new space or a refreshed design, adjusting can be challenging for people—and change management can help ensure success. These things are true, of course. But there are still a fair amount of change management mistakes. So, what’s going wrong? What are the mistakes we’re making as an industry and how can we support change management more effectively? Here are the common mistakes and how to avoid them:

Assuming the change is about the space

Of course, if you’re doing a restack of a corporate headquarters or constructing a brand-new building, it can feel like the change management effort is all about the building and the space. But in reality, changes like these are always about the organizational outcomes the company wants to accomplish. Whether it’s market growth or increased shareholder value, keep your eye on the bigger picture and how the new space will contribute. The space is important and it’s a significant investment, but its role is to support greater innovation, collaboration, customer focus or the like. No company is changing space just for the sake of space. So be sure your change management efforts reinforce the business reasons for the change.

Focusing only on communication

Communication is admittedly a significant part of effective change management, but it’s just that—only a part of the whole. True change management also demands a focus on people’s emotions and their engagement as well as a focus on leadership and connections with project management processes. An approach in which we tell people what’s coming, explain what to anticipate, and instruct them about their new space can only go so far. Without the opportunity for people to process, participate and shape their future, your efforts will be just a sales job—and not an opportunity to engage both hearts and minds. Focus on behaviors, recognizing place shapes behavior, and behavior over time is culture. Change management must address the overall experience (including, but not limited to the space). It must be part of the culture—both current and desired—and it must consider the social and behavioral elements of change.

Assuming people can read a plan

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When most companies change their space, they share images of the floor plan. They color code it, add call-outs, and delineate zones. Unfortunately, many people can’t read a plan—even though most would never admit this. Based on this limitation, if you’re using a plan to tell the story of spatial changes, you’ll be missing much of your audience. Better to provide multiple ways of visualizing the space from renderings and images of similar spaces to 3D fly-throughs, mockups and pilot spaces. Ask people to imagine how they’ll use the new space and in addition, the new protocols that will support their new ways of working in the space. In addition, share key messages through multiple methodologies as well. From town halls to email boxes for questions and from employee-to-employee luncheons to move-day experiences, be sure you’re covering all avenues for people to be informed and feel invited to learn and participate.