Recipe for a successful human centred design program

Given the overwhelming amount of food related activity on social media, it is timely to add a different type of recipe to the mix.

Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

I was asked recently what I thought would be required to successfully embed human centred design (HCD) into an established organisation.

This is a great question and one that I have pondered for corporate innovation, foresight and human centred design programs over the past 10 years.

I think in all cases, where you asking successful adults in existing roles to change how they approach doing business as usual, the answer is the same:

1. Have a compelling and authentic answer to the ‘why’ question: Simon Sinek nailed it when he said that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Note: Knowing why you are doing HCD above doing something else is important; people will understand your reasons and align to them (or not). This will become the basis of helping them to adopt the new way of thinking that you want to embed. It will also help identify who may not be coming on the journey with you, or may take a bit longer to convince.

Note: Be truthful about the place the organisation finds itself — why do you have to change? The CEO/Executive level must be aligned and on message about this for any transformation to be successful.

2. Create the ‘what’s in it for me’ or WIIFM. All levels of a hierarchy need to have this answered for them — people are busy in organisations today (for better or worse) and they need to know that their investment in learning a new skill/approach will pay off for them. The WIIFM might be opportunity, it might be pain reduction, it might because the ‘CEO said so’. If you have a WIIFM that is speaking to people’s purpose and motivation for coming to work, asking them to change will be easier. Line managers at all levels have to understand the WIIFM for themselves firstly, and then be able to articulate it to their teams.

Note: Be realistic about the amount of time this will take, people need to be released from their usual jobs to learn the new tools and how to apply them. Changes to processes take time to bed in, and if your goal is ensure they processes stay in the new state then the team will need leadership support to ensure the change is reinforced.

3. Link empathy for customer pain to employee experience — if your people can identify and remove customer pain from their processes, will their jobs get easier? If the answer to this question is no — think very hard about whether you are pursuing the right goal and technology stack. If you build in employee pain points to deliver a customer experience, it won’t be long before work around are in place and the customer is feeling pain again. Aim for service re-design that balances customer ease and employee ease — look for the win/win point, even if it is more expensive or reduces quality — it will be sustainable.

4. Prove the outcomes to both HR and the CFO — both are possible — business benefits and people engagement will be delivered if people do this work for themselves on their service delivery.

5. Don’t be afraid to design a HCD program that aims to solve the big complex organisational issues and smaller quick wins at the same time, the program and the organisation can handle it. Looking to solve some of the big problems gives people, whose teams may be reluctant to get involved, the opportunity to try the new approach out. Empowering teams to solve their own problems helps build skills, momentum and a critical mass of people asking ‘how can we do this better?’

Note: There are supporting activities required, such as change management, internal communications and culture change. Often these will occur in teams away from the area implementing the new program, building close ties and detailed planning with all the support teams at the table will help ensure seamless support for business areas embarking on changing the way they think about how they deliver services.

So what will you create when you cook up your corporate HCD program?

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