Designing Urgency

02/10/2017 01:55 pm ET
Image by Samuel Zeller - Basel, Switzerland

Post written by Eric Ellis, Principal at Kotter International.

In our transformation practice, we have found Design Thinking concepts useful for creating and maintaining the momentum needed to motivate and sustain a major organizational change effort.

Design Thinking is known by many in the product and services world as a problem solving methodology used to ensure a greater customer focus, often resulting in creative solutions. It is both a cohesive method and a set of active learning tools. Founded on empathy, Design Thinking uses consumer observation and immersive subject matter study to produce insights that lead to more optimal solutions, more quickly. The tools become powerful catalysts, engaging individuals in a “maker mentality,” or a tactical, immersive learning process resulting in quicker solutions and a higher level of engagement. Using Design Thinking when creating a movement for change is parallel to the methods used by designers to fashion products and solutions for the marketplace.

The power of Design Thinking is in how it harnesses visual clarity to create insights into opportunities for action. Used in a transformation effort, it supports the see-feel-change concept Dr. John Kotter first described in his book, The Heart of Change. For example, in that book, Dr. Kotter describes an executive who “designed urgency” and created customer connectedness through use of video. He successfully connected employees to the customer in a new and unique way which served to create intimacy with the customer and to build urgency to sustain the change movement. In this context Dr. Kotter highlighted the usefulness of see-feel-change: its ability to emotionally engage people around an opportunity through a visual experience. The more intimate that relationship, the more sustained efforts will be to realize the opportunity standing before people.

The first step in Dr. John Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change, and arguably the most critical for launching a successful movement, is to create a sense of urgency. Urgency motivates people toward action to make the transformation come true by connecting with the subject matter in a way that builds energy and drives change through momentum. Designing urgency is about using Design Thinking tools for this pursuit, creating a very real, resonant, and emotional connection.

In a recent client engagement with an international organization, the Kotter team was brought in to “make things happen.” The client had been working toward a goal for more than a year with little to no forward movement. They intimately understood their problems, but were stuck. Our team began by designing urgency around the need for change using a Design Thinking tool called the Experience Waveline. Traditionally used by product designers to ensure they were creating products and solutions which more closely meet their customer’s needs, this tool, in the urgency context, served to connect the client to the work and highlight areas where emotions were stalling or stifling movement. Use of this simple tool enabled the client to track their experiences along the waveline, identify specific low points, and create solutions and strategies to define the path forward. Simply put - we were able to help the client visually connect with their change journey, creating a movement and energy.

Your turn. How have you designed urgency for change?

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