5 Pitfalls When Managing Change with Design Transformation

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Many organizations are amidst a huge transformation driven by a human-centered approach to innovation across the business. Where design-led transformation can be difficult for small- to medium-sized businesses, it can feel almost insurmountable for the large-scale enterprises. We’ve seen this best delivered and easiest to apply through an organization-wide understanding of the design thinking mindset. The following represents the top 5 pitfalls we’ve seen organizations fall victim to when managing through a human-centered transformation:

  1. Lack of a design leader
    C-level commitment to design is an absolute must. Where the true “change” will happen first on the front-lines with different approaches and experiences tactically, a figurehead to champion design throughout the organization must start in the C-suite. This doesn’t necessarily need to be owned by a Chief Design Officer either. Many organizations lack C-suite representation for design, and in this case, it is even more important that another C-level leader in the organization be the advocate and establish the mandate for a human-centered innovation approach.

  2. No formal design thinking training for all
    Beyond the VPs, directors and line managers, every employee in the organization needs to understand the design thinking mindset and have clear guidance on how it can be tactically applied in their day-to-day. This does not mean that specific, unique training shouldn’t be offered to management, but the mindset itself must be added to the toolkit of every employee. There are tons of different resources and approaches to how this can be actioned across your organization, from formal training to a certificate program. LUMA Institute, a longstanding partner of Design & Innovation Global and our Design Thinking events, is one of the leaders in this space.

  3. Organization-wide design language wasn’t formalized
    Beyond formal training, employees need to norm and action a common language around design and innovation. This is particularly useful for the communication and collaboration that will be required inter-departmentally for the optimization of end-to-end experience. In our experience, these departments have typically worked together before, so a common language is a critical component for effective shared progress. This common language further underscores the fact that the design thinking mindset isn’t just for “leaders” in the organization but is truly meant for every single employee.

  4. Frozen middle momentum dwindled first
    Your organization has a fantastic design advocate at the top. You’ve trained the design thinking mindset organization-wide, and it has been further solidified with an understanding of a common design language. You see some good things happening in terms of human-centric approaches and innovation on the front lines, but change is happening at the pace that was expected. It is likely that mid-level managers aren’t prioritizing the design thinking mindset as planned. Mid-level folks are oftentimes the busiest and most heavily taxed workers in your organization, with intense pressure both above and below them. Even with human-centered design as a clear priority across the organization, it is easy for this to be lost amidst a staggering number of other “top priorities” across managers. Strong accountability systems must be built across every level of the organization to ensure design remains top of mind.

  5. No ongoing measurement and accountability
    Where the importance of design can get frozen with middle management, this can continue to creep through the entire organization to stall design transformation. Measuring change indicators will help you organization identify and measure progress that can be tied back to design as a priority in your organization. Tenants identified by the Design Management Institute’s Design Value Index can be helpful for your organization to quantify transformations design returns. This measurement will help to maintain excitement across teams and attribute value to the investments made in avoiding the aforementioned pitfalls.