Good communications are critical to the success of any move. Without them, people won’t know what to do, what to expect, expensive mistakes can be made and opportunities missed. So take the initiative from an early stage and, if necessary, draw up a communications plan.
In days gone by, employees just did what they were told. This approach was never terribly productive. But it is a question of balance. The scope of the move project will determine the extent of departmental or ‘stakeholder’ involvement and consultation that is necessary prior to and during the move process. In some instances where unique specialist input is required – for example in the case of the move of an historic collection or a laboratory facility – it may be advantageous for key departments to have representatives on the move team. But, normally, departments are ‘the customer’; once their needs have been accurately identified, they should not need to be involved in planning implementation. Not only is it immensely inefficient for front-line staff to be too greatly caught up in move projects, because they should have better things to do, but it can also put move objectives at risk. Further, if staff are drawn in to a move project there is a tendency for everyone to be an expert as well as for goal-posts to be constantly shifting.
Anecdote: I was once managing the relocation of a public body. One unit decided that their move was so difficult that they’d need to close for a whole week while it happened. Despite being advised that the task was actually very straightforward and could be handled for them outside normal working hours – thus keeping the unit open for the public it was meant to serve – they closed. What a waste of our money.
Whilst information must reach every member of staff, communication must be managed. To facilitate this in larger organisations, appoint one individual and a deputy in each department or group to be the focal point for any queries and to be the conduit for the flow of information. Thus an information cascade is established from the move team to every single member of staff to ensure that essential messages are communicated (“Start throwing away unwanted material”) – right down to detailed instructions about preparing for the move. One of the main tasks of the Departmental Move Representative is to ensure his or her colleagues are prepared for the move and, without good preparation, your move will be chaos. ‘Departmental Move Representatives’ – ‘Move Coordinators’ – or even ‘Move Champions’ if you prefer that – should not be senior personnel who are too busy to attend meetings and too expensive to get involved in some of the detail, but they do need to carry some authority – and empowered to make decisions.