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Five change management strategies to remember

Monday, June 9, 2014

What are change management strategies that leaders can use to transition an organization to a desired future state?

Change management is a business process that focuses on transitioning people and organizations to a desired future state — for example, moving towards a flexible work arrangement.

Many in the workplace strategy and facility management field are challenged getting projects funded at all, let alone receiving additional support for the necessary associated change management. But business is changing. Companies are recognizing the value and significance of the role of the physical workplace in enhancing corporate strategy.

While change management approaches are easily described and outlined with the help of a simple web search, the challenge lies in determining which methodology best supports the case at hand.

Change management is about improving the success of a project, not patting peoples’ hands and saying, “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.” It’s about enabling organizations to adapt as quickly as possible while accelerating their return on investment.

Here are five practical principles for workplace change:

1. Start at the top 

The most significant contributor to success is active, visible and authentic executive sponsorship.

2. Articulate clearly

Key organizational messages must be authentic to avoid perception of propaganda. The vision of what business in the future looks like must be explained by senior leadership in terms that everyone understands. A common definition of collaboration must be agreed upon. Current research shows more effective collaboration is a desire of many executives. They are looking for better ways to bring talent together to solve problems.

3. No rules

Outline clear principles for the project and eliminate or limit rules for the new workplace. Establishing clear principles and sticking to them when things get tough sends a strong, positive message about the commitment to those principles.

4. Variety wins

Using a variety of tools and activities is the best way to ensure a successful change program.

5. Cascading conversations

People are more likely to trust what they hear from their immediate supervisor who can provide context. Once senior leadership expresses a consistent vision, change is more likely to occur. Then, middle management must send the right messages (rather than an internalized version of its own message) and support it in modelling the new work environment. And focus should be placed on the supporters. Those individuals who embrace a neutral stance will move toward where management is paying attention. Last but not least, managers should communicate early, often, honestly, openly and dynamically, incorporating both “push” and “engage” types of communication.

Meredith Thatcher, CFM, is a dynamic workplace strategist and change management consultant. She is the leader of workplace strategy consulting firm Thatcher Workplace Consulting, based in Ottawa. She can be contacted at

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