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Part 2 - Re-designing Change Management Models for Humans

Re-designing change to stop the fear and inspire hope.

Yesterday, in the first blog, I discussed the eight primary models for change management. In summary, existing change models are like companies smashing the emotional emergency brake of fear, while shifting the car into drive, and expecting to race across the finish line. (Yesterday's post lays the foundation for this post) It is evident the models, unintentionally centered around the human emotion of fear, need re-designing. Their 70% failure rate is proof. The following is my proposed theory for re-designing existing models and infusing them with critical aspects of design thinking to provide a new model. A model that I hope will significantly serve companies in their next change project.

Opposite to fear is hope. While fear represents what could go wrong - hope is fear's antithesis. In contrast to fear, hope is about the reality we wish to see in the future. According to an article published online by Psychology Today:

Hope fuels the drive to succeed. When people have hope, they look forward for things to come. Goals, especially significant ones, give people reason to hop out of bed in the morning. Hope energizes and motivates despite seemingly insurmountable odds.

It was my hopes that got me out of bed this morning to write this post. My belief that this new model will bring

  • renewed inspiration to companies seeking innovative solutions to their challenges

  • energy and excitement to everyone in an organization facing change

  • innovation in every area (product, services, processes, and people structures)

  • collaboration, and creative problem solving to every level within a company

  • unity among teams for a common cause versus the internal competition

  • financial success to companies and their employees alike

  • joy back to work environments.

First, start with hope.

To bring energy, excitement, and enthusiasm to change, it has to start with hope. It's obvious; we need more than a session of wishing for the future we want to see. Undoubtedly, we need intentional, strategic questions and parameters from leadership. Such that allow employees outside the c-suite to move from dreading the unknown to dreaming of the possibilities. Vital prompts shift the collective from fear of the unknown to find the undiscovered opportunities that advance the organization's mission. In effect, a subtle shift from the fear of change to the excitement of innovation.

Unlike the negative emotions conjured up when people think of change, positive feelings are the secret sauce of innovation. Thoughts of innovation bring up the excitement of possibility, the joy of creativity, and an air of adventure. Indeed, there is inherent fear (excitement really) involved. Excitement and inner courage to move forward in spite of the unknown. An act of courage because innovation embraces failure and sees it as learning or experimentation. The design thinking method of testing has a proven track record of success. This shift from change to innovation allows us to start with hope instead of fear. Innovation enables companies to release the emotional emergency break of fear and proceed to the success they envision.

Hope is a starting point, not a strategy.

Consequently, hope is a starting point, not a strategy. Utilizing the word innovation is more than a mind trick to shift emotions from fear to excitement. Innovation is the bedrock of success in business in today's marketplace. In the background of today's successful innovation runs the engine that makes it possible - Design Thinking. Up until this point, design thinking has been responsible for much of the product and service innovations we see in the marketplace. However, its usefulness to change management has been mere lip service for blog posts and not packaged in a tangible model that organizations can take action on.

Thus, it's time to introduce the human-centered organizational innovation model. The human-centered organizational innovation model to bring useful sections of existing models and the process of design thinking together.

Human-Centered Organizational Innovation Model

In the following paragraphs, I provide a brief outline of each of the steps pictured in the model. If you have valuable feedback or quick questions, please share them in the comments below. For lengthier discussions or questions, please request a complimentary consultation.

1 - Strategic Vision

First, begin with a vision question. This vision is not the general vision statement for the company. Although, it should support it. It is a vision question. The vision question launches the dreaming process for your innovative teams. A question that will expand their awareness beyond solving existing problems to creative possibilities. Specifically, design thinking proposes questions as "how might we...?" For example, depending on the project scope here are a few "how might we" questions:

  • ... streamline internal communication to expand the time spent connecting with clients?

  • ... create a hiring process that feels more human and unbiased?

  • ... expand our market and what we offer affiliated with X existing service?

  • ... reduce our waste in the manufacture of product X?

Also, this section includes developing an established list of constraints. Discovering restrictions after the work has started is frustrating for team members. Much like fear, avoidable frustration is a negative emotion that is not conducive to innovation. And removing as many frustrations upfront paves the way for a smoother innovation process. There are at least five constraints to address before launching your teams. These include organization strategy, technology, market factors, resources (time, money, people), and regulations. Outlining constraints not only avoids frustration but is proven to enhance creativity.

Lastly, the vision step should include setting the criteria that your innovation teams will be evaluated on. Measures could include ROI, within budget, creativity, customer impact, simplicity, or whatever leadership determines as a priority. Deciding ahead of time the project criteria, the judges, and the timeline for approval sets a clear vision for teams to move forward. It also prevents any bias towards specific personalities or pet projects. All provide a means for removing avoidable frustrations in the process.

2 - Establish Multiple Diverse Teams

To clarify, diversity for design thinking groups goes beyond the usual categories of race, sex, and age. While those are important, attention to the skills required for the project is critical. It's important to ask, "In light of my vision question" what skills are necessary for the team to complete its project. Technology, marketing, customer experience, HR, are a few. In addition, external expertise is recruited when required. As essential, are the soft skills of design thinking - people with excellent abilities to ask questions, listen and be creative. Design Thinking skills are learnable skills and part of our services.

Lastly, create parameters for selecting and rewarding the innovative teams. In the event your company doesn't have a group devoted to innovation, teams will be taking on extra responsibilities. Selection and incentive are excellent means to create excitement for the project. Part of this team step is a decision regarding their organization. How many teams will you engage? Will multiple teams be tackling a single problem to provide a diversity of options? Or perhaps numerous groups will address different aspects of a significant problem then come together to create a comprehensive solution.

3 - Gap Discovery

A gap is an issue (usually a list of them) that stands between where you are and where you want to be (the vision your question prompts). A gap is something that truly matters to your user audience but is currently missing. The discovery of the differences is crucial in that it prevents project drift. Admittedly, when looking for problems, you are sure to find more problems. However, limiting your focus to the vision gaps will keep you on track with the vision you want to create. Effective methods for gap discovery include internal and external research, user interviews, customer journey mapping, etc. There is a myriad of design thinking tools that allow teams to hone in on the core issue(s).

Similarly intentional and methodical gap discovery not only prevents project drift but also prevents a common human flaw known as ego.

The ego is the single biggest obstruction to the achievement of anything. -Richard Rose

Given the vision, the ego will promptly begin to fill in the blanks from its frame of reference. At its core ego:

  • serves itself over others

  • sees everything as a competition instead of a collaboration

  • jumps to conclusions (generally wrong ones)

Most importantly, gap discovery willing sets egos aside to create a human-centered approach to discovering the opportunities for innovation.

4 - Win-Win-Win Test

Unlike the other steps, step 4, is a benchmark rather than an actual action. It arms innovative teams with a fixed baseline to evaluate every solution they will bring to the table in step five. Known by various names in the design thinking world, it is a hallmark that makes the process a success. It allows for the quick elimination of seemingly great solutions that won't win in the long run. In short, the win-win-win tests ask "will it win with...":

  1. People - Is it desirable? Do users want it? Users could be customers, employees, suppliers, etc.

  2. Technology - Is it feasible? Does the existing technology support it? Or does the technology exist within our constraints that can achieve it?

  3. Business - Is it viable? Is it worth it to the company? This test is where explicit constraints are helpful. What's viable for one company may not be for another.

5 - Creative Collaboration

With a vision, limitations, a list of gaps, and the win-win-win test in hand, teams are ready to collaborate. During the team's creative collaboration period they will:

  1. Brainstorm and develop innovative solutions

  2. Build a simple prototype of one or more ideas (this may be a product, process flow, service journey map, etc.)

  3. Gain feedback from the original user group

  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until a winning solution is achieved

6 - Consistency Checks

A couple of final checks before presenting innovative solutions to management. First, review the vision step - does your solution answers the vision question, abide by the constraints, and meet the criteria set forth by company leaders? Secondly, and equally important does the solution align with the company mission. Utilize the McKinsey model to analyze the 7-S's from (Strategy, Structure, Systems, Shared Values, Style, Staff, and Skills) against the company mission.

Innovation provides opportunities instead of fear

In conclusion, design thinking provides the process to allow teams to see the abundance of opportunities before them when embarking on change. The human-centered innovation model greatly reduces the fears inherent in the existing change management models. Fears that threaten both employee and company success. Ultimately, it replaces the fear of change mindset with an empowered innovation mindset.

Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity - instead of a threat. -Steve Jobs

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