change managment

A change manager becomes the change managed

A contract furniture company shares lessons from its recent relocation to the downtown core
Thursday, August 18, 2016
By Michelle Ervin

Normally, Teknion works with clients who are undergoing change management. Recently, the contract furniture company underwent change management itself.

For its 20-member Canadian sales team, the opening of a new Toronto showroom, called the Collaboration Hub, meant relocating from a head office on the outskirts of the city to a downtown address in the emerging south core district.

Teknion’s leaders readily recognized that the exercise could be instructive for both the company and the companies it works with.

“We knew that this was something our clients did every day and that if we were going through this ourselves that we had an opportunity to educate ourselves, to deploy what we hope to be best practices and to learn a lot through the process,” recalls David Patterson, president of Canadian sales at Teknion.

The project also launched at a fortuitous time. Early on in the planning process, Greg Dekker, who is certified in change management, joined the team as director of workplace strategy.

Dekker recalls walking away from his change management training with cumbersome jargon such as “post-transitory planning periods.” Really, he says, the process boils down to three phases: before, during and after.

“Organizations end up at a crossroads, where change is about to happen and they go to everybody who’s affected by the change, and you start to tell them, sell them or engage them,” as Dekker puts it.


The director of workplace strategy was pleased to find that Teknion was committed to engaging its leaders, employees, clients and vendors. When he entered the conversation, the company had already assembled a cross-functional team to tackle steps such as site selection.

Dekker first interviewed the leaders to understand the project’s key deliverables, then he showed the videotaped interviews to the affected employees during an all-day workshop.

Affected employees also participated in a survey designed to capture the current culture and the desired culture as well as a game dubbed trash/treasure with the goal of identifying what they could and couldn’t live without in their new space.

And the employees shared their hopes and fears, which were ultimately conveyed to the leaders.


Preliminary feedback from both employees and clients would inform changes to the project.

Although the employee survey found that the current culture was similar to the desired culture, employees expressed that they would like to see less competition and more connectivity, says Dekker. Meanwhile, through conversations, interior designer Michael Vanderbyl, whose company created the Collaboration Hub, found that major clients wanted to be able to walk into the showroom and observe how the most progressive organizations are working.

“If you think of contract furniture showrooms around the world, they usually have a guard tower in front, then you have a museum showcase — gorgeous, perfectly presented, pristine — and you have what I would describe as a rabbit warren — it’s usually behind a door, and that’s where all the real work gets done,” explains Dekker.

What was originally intended to be a conference room in the Collaboration Hub’s entryway became a welcoming communal table with nearby lounge furniture and hospitality-inspired amenities, such as an espresso machine and a wine bar.

In the trash/treasure game, employees had put DEB under the “treasure” column. In the alphabet soup of industry acronyms, Dekker says he didn’t know what DEB stood for. In fact, Deb is a person and she is responsible for managing the company’s RFP responses.

Deb would remain at head office; however, additional A/V technology was integrated into the design to maintain connectivity between her and the sales team.


“At the end of almost any change management project, the number one complaint — even if you do everything as well as you can — is still going to be there wasn’t enough information,” says Dekker.

The director of workplace strategy advocates the seven-by-seven rule, which is to communicate information seven times in seven ways. That way, if an employee misses an email or meeting, he or she receives must-know news by another means.

For Patterson, this was a lesson learned through the course of the change management process.

“I was a little surprised that I felt I had communicated something pretty effectively and the feedback I got was that I needed to either reaffirm that or reconnect and share a similar message,” he says.

One of the big fears for employees that Patterson had to assuage was that there would be adequate parking at the new location and that the company would compensate employees for the cost of parking. It’s a fear that melted away as soon as the employees started working from the Collaboration Hub, he says. In fact, most of the employees now prefer to take the GO Train or subway, because they find it more convenient and it gives them time to decompress.

While the post-move-in feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, the change management process is not over. Teknion continues to evaluate what’s working and what’s not in the Collaboration Hub, with a view to making adjustments as needed.

This ongoing engagement is a critical but often overlooked step, according to Dekker. But, having undergone a change management process internally, Teknion is now able to illustrate this and other best practices using specific examples from its own experiences.

Michelle Ervin is the editor of Canadian Facility Management & Design.

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