How Big is your Move?

I recently spoke at a conference in Singapore on the topic of ‘Surviving the Big Moves’. I had thought that this would be a straightforward presentation to prepare for, given that most of my professional life had been spent trying to do just that. However, it did raise the question of exactly what exactly qualifies a project as a ‘big move’?

My gut response to this question would usually be based upon complexity. Are you looking at the project and thinking that it looks a bit awkward? If the answer is “yes, I’ve not slept for the last three weeks”, then you should trust your gut and consign the project to the Big Move category. Stomach churning projects should definitely be handed to the professionals – mainly because those are the kind of projects we jump out of bed for – we’re a masochistic bunch.


But whilst that’s a good gauge for the non-office move project – the labs, universities, healthcare facilities, airports etc, the traditional office move can be trickier to classify. Every organisation needs to do a bit of navel-gazing when considering a relocation. What kind of relocation culture do you currently have? Do you have one at all? It’s really important to honestly assess the change challenge in advance and understand the scale of magnitude you’re going to be dealing with.

Most corporate teams will have a level of support and expertise in-house, potentially capable of moving hundreds of staff on a regular monthly basis, but others may not have moved anyone since the days of steam. The following factors are usually taken into account when describing a big move:

  1. Headcount – How many staff need to be relocated? Generally anything over your comfortable maximum churn level is allocated as a project, but when does it move into the world of the scarily big?  Double the size of the regular churn? Ten times the size? All change?
  2. Multi-Site Moves – How many buildings, how many geographic locations? Obviously more sites mean more change, means more risk.
  3. Multi-Phase Moves – What level of phases would your current resource teams be able to commit to without experiencing nervous breakdowns? How many consecutive weekends would the programme require?
  4. Prestige – How much scrutiny is this move going to come under? Moves that are high profile both within the business, the industry or the public eye add a new dimension to the management of the project.
  5. Location – Are you going to have to manage the move remotely? Increasingly now, project teams are located in geographically disparate locations, separated by time difference, culture and language. Don’t underestimate the time and energy that will be required to manage projects in this manner.
  6. New Ways of Working – Will you be introducing a new workplace model such as ABW or Agile Working as part of the move i.e. will you be requiring an enhanced change management approach as part of the programme? Has your organisation implemented this before or will all eyes by on your guinea pig project?

When you run through each of the above, there’s no hard and fast rule as to what constitutes a ‘big move’ – it’s all a matter of perspective. It’s about identifying what’s above and beyond the norm for your organisation. Everything depends upon the point at which the project starts to exceed the resource levels or skill sets within your existing team. It’s probably fair to say that any project requiring a major spike in activity or expertise should be classified as a ‘big move’, but if doubts remain, sound out your team and industry experts to put your fears to rest.

About Michelle Morss
Michelle has been managing moves and workplace transition projects for the past twelve years and is still not really sure how that happened. Friends and family generally consider it the result of extreme masochism. Having graduated from the University of Oxford with an MA in Modern History, Michelle has a fire in her belly for feminist issues, independent travel, modern literature and the value of a well-crafted knitting pattern. Currently working in a regional consulting role based out of Hong Kong, but ex London, via Sydney.

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