Stewardship: Where design meets change management
It’s summertime! Which, amongst other pursuits, means there is occasionally time for more leisurely long-form reading — at the beach, by the lake, in hammocks, on the patio…
I’ve been digging through the Helsinki Design Lab‘s newest (and final) offering, Legible Practises: Six stories about the craft of stewardship. HDL defines stewardship as the art of getting things done amidst a complex and dynamic context,” especially when there are many people involved in conceptualizing and executing the initiative. From my perspective, what they are calling stewardship is really where design meets traditional organizational change management. It’s not just about making stuff (design), and it’s not just about getting people to embrace new ways of working (change management). It’s about doing both in parallel.
Anyway, it’s a nice little book with case studies and pragmatic approaches (the “legible practices”) pulled from each case. One example that really drew my attention was the case study about IDEO‘s work to set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the US. Like many of us here at Bridgeable, personal finance is a pet interest of mine (so many opportunities for spreadsheets!). And the six practices they pulled from the CFPB case really aligned with how we do our work here at Bridgeable. It was gratifying to see these articulated so effectively:
- Dual timelines is the idea that you are simultaneously working on short-term tactical objectives and longer-term strategic imperatives. This is really fundamental to how we approach our work. For instance, if a client wants us to help them build a marketing capability in gamification, we would first work with them to build an actual game that achieves specific marketing objectives. That gives us a way to demonstrate value (both quantitative and qualitative), which is invaluable in defining “what’s in it for me,” as you move to a broader implementation. It also means that broader strategic work is informed by lived experience, which tends cause fewer hiccups in larger-scale roll-outs.
- High-res provocations gets at this notion that details matter. Even very early on in a design process, when you are choosing between different conceptual directions, it’s important to bring a certain level of fidelity to the drafts. Every touchpoint, even very early on, is a chance to build awareness and desire for change. That’s why, even in our early drafts, we are focused on how the ideas are presented and how to best help people understand our longer-term direction.
- Layered meetings is the practice of having similar meetings with different stakeholders to get to final decisions. This is often an underrated part of project design. It’s important to have far-reaching co-creation sessions, because it generates a wide variety of ideas and builds buy-in. But by the same token, it’s nearly impossible to come to a decision in a room with 40 people. In order to both get things done and support change management objectives, you need to layer your meetings so you are getting the right input from the right people at the right time. Get the balance wrong and you will struggle to get things done or to manage change effectively.
- Heat maps are a technique for distilling a group’s disparate views into a broad consensus. This is an important avenue for people to express their views on an initiative, and feel like they are being heard. But it also serves a very important function of prioritizing so the team can move forward in a focused manner. In the CFPB example, they took a binary like/dislike approach to the heat-mapping. We more often use numbered stickers so people can rank their preferences in order. We’ve also used play money that people deposit into boxes according to their preferences, which is a nice way of preventing groupthink.
- Make it sticky is the idea that you need to create ways for ideas to live effortlessly in an organization. While a PowerPoint deck might be enough to get things done, it is less effective at creating excitement, building awareness, and entrenching knowledge. We use a variety of techniques like live-action plays, research documentaries, animation, and data visualization to make our work stickier, so that people remember why we are doing our work, and become advocates for it.
- Anchoring artifacts is the notion of providing physical items to symbolize the change. Especially in work that focuses on customer centricity, the transformation won’t be visible to everyone working inside an organization. Providing some kind of totem is a tangible way to reinforce that change has happened, and that it is valued. We experiment with many different types of artifacts, from journey map posters that can hang in the office, to 3D models of research insights. Even a simple workbook from a workshop is a way of reinforcing the value of the change and building shared language.
The book is a little light on concrete guidance for implementing stewardship techniques, but it’s a good reference point and provides some nice language for talking about work at the intersection of design and change management. It’s also completely open source and available as a free download. Well worth checking out.