Infotech Infocenter

When I was 10 years old, my parents sat my sister and me down and informed us that we would be moving from our beloved home in Silver Spring, Maryland to the uncharted, alligator-laden waters of Florida’s Gulf coast. I was resistant, to say the least. But over the next few weeks, promises and potential unfolded; I would get to pick my room. I’d be allowed to adopt a cat. We’d have a pool. Gradually, moving to Florida became less of something that was being done to me, and more something that I was a part of. Though they didn’t know it, my parents were doing an excellent job of instituting change management philosophies. 

At a time when technology adoption is occurring at a rapid pace and organizations are simultaneously struggling to maintain a well-staffed and experienced workforce, successful change management can be a panacea to all that ails the infrastructure industry. And as the rate of change increases, the importance of instituting a positive culture of change management grows alongside it. When an organization pursues a change in technology or process, change management helps ensure: 

  • Disruptions caused by transitions are reduced in favor of focus on building together
  • Employees and leaders alike are bought into the same mission and vision
  • Investments in technology are actually providing value instead of creating disparate processes


What exactly is change management? 

Before we get too far down the road of exploring change management philosophies, let’s take a minute to define it - while acknowledging, of course, that it’s a fairly autological concept. But I was fortunate enough to chat with several change management experts recently, and I’ll borrow from their wisdom for this definition: 

“We live in an age of constant change. Individuals go through change at a different rate. Change management addresses specific changes that happen to individuals on a large scale, so we can predict who will adapt quickly to change and who will be more resistant to change, and we can adjust our change management to meet those individual needs across the board,” said John Oberdiek, a Project Manager and change management specialist at Infotech.  

Essentially, it’s thinking about the ramifications of change within an organization down to the person-to-person level. And as Mike Bousliman, the former CIO for the Montana Department of Transportation, pointed out during our conversation, it doesn’t necessarily apply to just new technology, but to any shift in process or philosophy that impacts an organization. Really, the majority of organizations worldwide got a crash course in change management during the pandemic as they coped with shifting workforce requirements and the increased usage of remote technology like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. 


The role of change management in transportation agencies 

With both federal funding and construction technology increasing in availability and accessibility, transportation agencies have placed a strong emphasis on change management. Many understand that much of their organizational knowledge is in the hands of people who have been doing things a certain way for a long, long time - and if those folks aren’t bought into change, there’s a risk of losing that knowledge and having to replace it with inexperience.  

Even for organizations that holistically embrace change, there are risks that the change won’t be sustainable if it isn’t implemented properly. Anyone familiar with the phrase “it is what I asked for, but it’s not what I wanted” can attest to that. The change management experts who provided insights for this article all highlighted the importance of communication as the crucial element of effective change management for the advancement of digital project delivery initiatives.   

“Inclusiveness and communication. Informing people of the impact of what’s happening and making them part of the process are important facets of a good, disciplined change management strategy,” said Bousliman. Take my example of moving to Florida - the simple act of informing me that I’d be allowed to choose my room gave me a sense of control and input over the process. 

Pat Lane, Digital Delivery Project Manager at the Montana DOT, echoed this with a specific example of how communication needs to happen across different departments to make the change effective: 

“The way that we design and deliver roundabouts - the 2D planset is delivered, and there’s a tremendous amount of information in that design deliverable. As we moved into how we model that roundabout in 3D, capturing all of the attributes and intelligence, we started asking ourselves if we needed all this data. We reached out to several senior Project Managers and began to ask them - what do you need to successfully build a roundabout from a design perspective? What does the contractor need? Design became aware that the level of detail with 3D modeling has changed and therefore allowed the roundabout design to become more efficient and remove a lot of that noise of data that’s no longer required.” 

The simple act of involving a different department’s perspective in the change gave everyone a sense of shared investment while also informing a better end deliverable.  

Oberdiek emphasized the importance of communication, to the point of over-communicating. Since many transportation agencies are dealing with relatively siloed departments, information can travel through an agency like the old game of telephone, where the meaning and intent is slightly distorted every time it spreads from one person to another. “Constant communication to clarify and make sure everyone’s on the same page,” is something that Oberdiek considers a best practice for effective change management.  

Read full article here. 

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