Managing Change: How to Move a 110-Year Legacy

Managing an office move has little to do with moving trucks and boxes. That was proved this summer when Lessing-Flynn moved out of the space we had occupied for 40+ years and into a newly-constructed building 3 miles away.

 

Now that the boxes are gone and we are settling into our new space, we’ve come to realize that declaring the move a “success” was never about the stuff left unbroken or the proper way to pack a filing cabinet — it was about helping our employees through the significant change.

 

Here are five tips we “unpacked” when it came to managing change:

 

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

When experiencing significant change, you cannot communicate enough. The fear associated with any change is in-part due to the unknown. The more information you can share with your team the better.

 

To calm the panic, we provided regular updates at our biweekly staff meetings with videos and pictures of the space as it was being constructed. We also created a specific channel for the move on our internal instant messaging app, so employees had an easy way to get questions answered. Make the unknown known!

 

  1. Let them own it.

Combat stress by getting your team involved. Let them make some decisions when possible. Giving ownership of certain aspects of the move to team members resulted in a greater level acceptance (and fun) during the process.

 

We created small teams with individual tasks and responsibilities to give everyone a chance to be involved. We had committees planning the artwork, and groups responsible for setting up certain areas of the office like the kitchen and printing/production areas. Those involved were able to take the lead on what the art would look like and where it will go and others determined smaller tasks like where to put the coffee pot and the microwave in the kitchen and how the office supplies would be organized in the production areas.

 

Never underestimate what a difference some “skin in the game” can make!

 

  1. You can’t please everyone… so don’t try.

When you are leading a team through significant change, you have to recognize that you can’t please everyone. There are only so many desks near a window and no one will ever be able to agree on the perfect office temperature. What you can do is to help team members understand why things are being done a certain way and work to build a consensus when possible.

 

Aim for their understanding and support… not necessarily their approval. If all else fails, put on a sweater!

 

  1. Hold true to your values.

Significant change creates a lot of uncertainty. You and your team will be faced with many decisions while coping with that uncertainty not to mention the fear of the unknown and unfortunately, a fair share of stress.

 

This is when it is important to let your organization’s values guide you — in our case that meant people, ideas and results. We may know nothing about installing phone and internet service but we know what our team needs to perform at their best; we are open to and value the ideas of those more knowledgeable on the topic than us; we know what results we need. With those guideposts, we were able to come up with a temporary solution for problems that arose until the permanent solution could be achieved.

 

When it is time to make the call, answer with your values in mind.

 

  1. The move is not over when the boxes are unpacked.

Finally, remember that the period after a significant change is important. All the boxes may be unpacked and the phones are working but it may take your team time to acclimate to the change. Don’t assume that just because you feel like “we made it” that all your team members feel the same way. Some will take longer to “unpack” and you may have to give them a hand.

 

Bottom line — keep in mind managing change will keep you and your team moving in the right direction. Work through problems together and above all remember that the uncertainty phase is only temporary.

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