Managing Change


He who rejects change is the architect of decay,” Harold Wilson

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Change is a natural part of today’s work world. Expansion, a new location or a shift in the office environment can be a positive experience for a company, provided the management helps its employees understand what’s about to occur.
Most people are hard wired to resist change, so even the best transition can be stressful to all involved. That’s why we have made change management support a part of what we offer to the clients we design offices for. After all, good architecture is not simply about creating a beautiful space, but about making it work well for the people who inhabit it.

An example is the office we recently designed for NASDAQ OMX Stock Exchange. We assisted the Exchange in relocating to a new two-floor office building in Maryland. The transition included a shift from a previous all private office environment to an open layout. Collaborative booths were scattered throughout the work areas so that different departments could come together to discuss projects, while still having designated areas for private phone calls and small meetings.

It was a big change, but one that was made better for all involved through the workplace strategy and analysis process. In particular, we were able to perform a “means of discovery” study, in which we observed and facilitated focus groups that encouraged the client to actively contribute to the new design standards and offer feedback based on quantitative and qualitative data. This process made it easier to justify and implement change within the client’s environment, both locally and globally. Open communication and honesty helped everyone understand the reasons for the shift in their workplace, the benefits to them personally and how the changes fit into the company’s overall business strategy. Even more importantly, working through the process built adaptation skills, critical should the need for future changes arise.

In summary, there are several things a company should consider before it makes a big change to its offices: getting everyone on board so they can “buy in” to the process; establishing a core team to lead everyone through it; explaining the reasons for the changes; clearly spelling out the benefits to each employee; and setting up a timeline so everyone knows what to expect and when it will happen by. Then, a method of communication should be established. Ideally, that begins with a face-to-face interaction and followed by periodic updates, whether by email, staff meetings, social media or informal lunch sessions.

One more pointer: the change management process should not come to a screeching halt come move-in time. The focus on team building and communication should continue even after the change has taken place so that adjustments can be made as needed and any issues can be promptly addressed. Like any other skill, learning how to adjust to change can be learned and practiced — and should be for the best results.