Both agile change management and design thinking are iterative, but they're not exactly the same process. Learn more on ChangeAnaltyics' guide to change.

Agile Change Management and Embracing Design Thinking

Agile Change Management and Embracing Design Thinking

Buzz words are fun to say. Those in the change management world are not immune to the sweet nectar of shiny verbal objects like “design thinking.” It’s a sexy term that evokes fancy offices with floor-to-ceiling windows. It might be something a “digital agency” does. You know, one of those companies who most certainly will have someone with an English accent answer the phone if you were to call.

But design thinking is much more than a sporadic firefly glow that's hard to harness. When used effectively by change managers, it can be a useful form of illumination to bottle up and can share when needed during organizational change.

Hold on, isn’t design thinking the same as Agile? What is Agile?

Buzz words abound, huh? Design thinking and Agile are close in that they are both an iterative approach, but they differ on when those iterations take place.

Agile and Agile Change Management are like the dynamic duo of change. Agile, in its essence, is a nimble approach, breaking projects into bite-sized pieces, constantly adjusting based on feedback, and putting the customer at the heart of it all. It's about building, then refining, ensuring you've got the right puzzle pieces. 

On the other hand, Agile Change Management takes this spirit into the realm of organizational shifts. It's a way of navigating change with flexibility and precision, understanding that the road might twist and turn. 

This methodology keeps the spotlight on involving those affected, learning their preferences, and tailoring strategies to fit like a glove. So, Agile is about tackling known challenges, while Agile Change Management is the compass for finding and conquering the most crucial ones. It's like having a dynamic toolkit for change-makers, ensuring they're not just building, but building right.

The Agile methodology puts the emphasis on 'building first', where the team focuses on creating a 'minimum viable product' as their starting point which then receives user feedback to make necessary adjustments. On the other hand, design thinking flips this approach upside down by 'learning first' and then utilizing user feedback to determine which customer needs are not being met before constructing the final product.

Both are incredibly useful in project management, they just ask different questions.

The Agile process asks, did we build the right product based off the problem you had?

Design thinking asks, are we solving the right problem?

A handy way to remember the difference:

  • Agile – Make first, then assess
  • Design thinking – Assess first, then make

Both have their perks, but obviously they work best in tandem.  

Chances are, if change leaders have experience, or familiarity in name, with one and not the other, it’s going to be the Agile approach.

Ok, so how does design thinking help a change manager?

In the spirit of improving our organizational change management and asking ourselves, am I solving the right problem, design thinking can aid a change manager’s life if they learn the tendencies, preferences, and expectations of their impacted groups.

A project manager might not be able to alter what is changing for an impacted group, but they should be able to design a thoughtful strategy and solution for how this group is going to be made aware, get bought in, be capable, and thrive in the future state.

Managing change is a constantly evolving process, so before we go barreling into the same communication plan that we’ve used on two previous projects (with different impacted groups), we should make sure we are seeing the problem from the end user’s point of view.

  • What methods do they respond to best?  
  • What are their fears?
  • How do they learn best?

Any project manager worth their salt can quickly see how designing a solution for a specific group doesn’t start with a snazzy PowerPoint template, but with asking yourself, “What’s in it for them?” This will inevitably lead you to asking members of that group, “What do you need to succeed? How can I help you get there?”

That, my friend, is you “design thinking” solutions.

And you didn’t even need an English accent (but cheers if you already have one!).

Want to see how ChangeAnalytics can help you design change management activity and interactions that will have the biggest impact? Contact us for more information or reach out for a demo.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does design thinking impact our organizational change management?

Design thinking injects a fresh perspective into organizational change management. By delving deep into the preferences and needs of impacted groups, it ensures that change strategies are tailored to fit like a glove. This approach fosters a more inclusive and user-centric change process, ultimately leading to smoother transitions and greater acceptance of change.

Does design thinking help adapt to changing requirements?

Absolutely. Design thinking thrives in dynamic environments. It provides a flexible framework for understanding and responding to evolving requirements. By prioritizing learning and feedback, it enables change managers to pivot and refine strategies as needed, ensuring that the organization remains agile and responsive to shifting demands.

How does Agile project management fit into our organizational development?

Agile project management is like a cornerstone for organizational development. It breaks down initiatives into manageable chunks, constantly refining based on feedback. This approach aligns perfectly with the dynamic nature of organizational growth. It ensures that projects are not only completed efficiently but also in a way that adapts to evolving circumstances, ultimately driving sustainable development.

Can Agile assist with digital transformation?

Absolutely. In fact, Agile is tailor-made for digital transformation. Its iterative approach aligns perfectly with the rapid pace and continuous evolution inherent in digital initiatives. By focusing on creating minimum viable products and incorporating user feedback, Agile ensures that digital transformations are not only efficient but also finely tuned to meet the evolving needs of the organization.

Where does Agile change management differ from traditional change management activity?

The key distinction lies in flexibility and adaptability. Agile change management embraces a dynamic, iterative approach that allows for rapid adjustments based on user feedback. It prioritizes involving those affected and tailoring strategies to fit their needs. Traditional change management, on the other hand, often follows a more linear, predetermined path. While both have their merits, Agile change management excels in navigating the unpredictable nature of change in today's fast-paced business landscape.