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Delivering Human Centred Change

13 June 2017
by Lena Ross

As more organisations are introducing agile practices, the pressure is on change leaders and change practitioners to deliver solutions faster, and apply more iterative approaches. Sometimes, in the busy-ness and chaotic nature of our work, we can become so entrenched in looking for new systems, processes and frameworks to help us work through these expectations, that we forget the first principles of change management - the people who are affected. 

We can look to other human-centred disciplines to help us put our people back to the heart of how we deliver change.

A couple of months ago, I published a blog and white paper on the High 5 of Change Mastery, that identified and defined five capabilities we need to lead and manage change in a disruptive business environment. Of these five, two capabilities that can help us design approaches to deliver human-centred change are:

  • Design thinking - a solution focussed and human-centred approach to create the future for customers and employees.
  • Hardwired human behaviour - understanding and consideration of the hardwired drivers for responses to change, how we decide and the cognitive biases that trip us up.

Human-centred approaches can help us uncover the range of emotions from reward and excitement to threat and fear, and the triggers that drive these responses.

1. Design thinking

Design thinking, as a human-centred practice, is used to develop innovative solutions to everyday business challenges.

Just as design thinking develops empathy and solutions for our customers, it can also be used to plan and introduce change. The methods used to gain deep insights into customer pain points and practical solutions are the same approaches we can apply when engaging with our impacted users. For example, by starting with deep empathy for our people early in the change planning, we open the path for a conversation about their needs and frustrations, through multiple perspectives. In turn, this helps us to define the problem before we jump into a solution-based change approach.  

Integrate design thinking practices into your change approach to drive meaningful conversations with your stakeholders and impacted employees. Run workshops to develop employee journey maps that visually represent the current and future state, to uncover what your people are doing, thinking and feeling now, and what they see themselves doing, thinking and feeling after the change is implemented.

We can also identify post-implementation measures through the journey map lens of what we want our people to do, to think and how we want them to feel. Find out a little more on how I’ve used this for change metrics in a previous blog that explores how human-centred design intersects with change management.  

2. Hardwired human behaviour

New insights from the field of neuroscience help us better understand our hardwired behaviour and how we can deliver change with a fresh perspective. Now that we know more about our primal responses to threat and reward, along with our built-in biases, we can lead change and prepare our people with an approach that’s designed to minimise the threat response. We also know that the human response to change is not always resistance, yet our change plans often assume it.

For a long time, organisations have understood the hidden costs of productivity dips and a disengaged workforce. Understanding hardwired human behaviour, through insights from neuroscience, can help us understand how and when discomfort occurs in the brain.

The key here is to run workshops to find out more about what is provoking a threat response, as this has a direct impact on productivity and the bottom line. Consider which stakeholders may perceive loss or gain as a result of the change. We need to uncover the range of responses, along with the emotional triggers that will potentially affect productivity, and eventually adoption. For some tips on how to do this, check out this guest blog I wrote for leanchange.org on how to run a team workshop using the SCARF model.

With human-centred practices, we can create a safe place for people to talk about how they are feeling and what they are thinking.

These two approaches provide human insights about our people that may not be otherwise uncovered, and help us find the ‘sweet spot’ where we deliver human-centred change.

The good news is that they will work in almost any environment, regardless of the framework or methodology you have in place.

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