Many organisations have realised that we are heading towards a future where the need for innovation through digital transformation is critical. This type of transformation will enable the creation of solutions for problems that are growing in complexity. Coupled with this need for innovation is the iterative delivery that enables organisations to be sustainable and adaptable. In steps Design Thinking!
Design Thinking is a mindset that is supported by a methodology, where human-centred solutions are applied to business challenges. It provides a creative approach to problem-solving, where human needs and desires, together with business viability and technological feasibility meet. That sweet spot where these three key elements meet is innovation! The process that underpins Design Thinking is the non-linear practice of “fail fast and learn”, where continuous development, prototyping and testing with the users makes them part of creating their desired solution. In doing so, user adoption or the take up of products or services is organically achieved.
So, why change Change Management? Well, after many years of practicing Change Management for systems transformation projects, being thrown into the product world where linear does not work, was eye-opening. The traditional approach to Change Management has always followed a linear and fixed process, in a mostly stable environment. That is, Step “B” must follow after step “A”, and if not, how will we know what to do next?! When I moved onto a project where a “Change Manager” was required to manage the people-impact of iterative product delivery, the challenge of merging these two conflicting approaches was evident from the start.
Below are a few of my learnings that lend to the fact that how we manage change should evolve fundamentally:
“When I moved onto a project where a “Change Manager” was required to manage the people impact of iterative product delivery – the challenge of merging these two conflicting approaches was evident from the start.”
Adopt through experience – Using the many change models, like Kotters or Prosci, takes the user on a step-by-step journey to adoption. This often takes months of engagements where users are convinced that the change coming their way will make their lives easier. The road to adoption and buy-in is a long one because these users have had no input into the solution – their real needs have not been heard. By dropping the face-to-face engagements to talk loosely about the solution using a few screenshots, and rather testing the prototypes with the users so that they can test and experience the solution themselves and provide really valuable feedback, was key. They continued to test and experience, and in doing so saw that their needs were being catered for. This created continuous buy-in and easier adoption.
Choose our words wisely – The word “change” and “manage” in itself already has a bad reputation. When people hear the word “change”, it immediately creates either a state of panic that their world is about to be completely altered, or simply that the pink and fluffy girl is here to distribute a few handouts and chocolates. The term “manage” seems very top-down and controlled, doesn’t it? As a result, the notion of “design”, “user experience” or “user needs” sits somewhat easier with our intended audience. It does create a sense of collaboration and creativeness, rather than top-down people management.
Plans will change – The nature of the design transformation beast is being able to adapt and be flexible constantly. My change plan, comms plan, stakeholder engagement plan, this plan and that other plan, changed nearly every day, so much so, that those plans become obsolete to a large degree. The application of learnings through the design iterations became more valuable over time to the users. Being able to continuously review what needs to be done quickly and with purpose, proved effective.
Given this quick view of practical learnings, I do believe that we should take something from the inherent thought process of designers and instead of following the linear, step-by-step process that has been ingrained into us to “manage change”, rather step into the creative. Both Change Management and Design Thinking have the user as its key focus, and this bodes well for the merging of methods. The importance of engaging with individuals, and understanding their frustrations and motivations to build an effective organisation, can certainly be met with creating a new type of organisation that is designed around continuous change. Let’s learn to explore, be collaborative, creative, disruptive and innovative.