Could design thinking be the cure for organizational sclerosis?

Most companies that have been around for a while are poorly adapted for the knowledge economy, and even less so for today's "creative economy", where your ability to add value is limited only by your imagination. Perhaps that's why design-led companies are significantly outperforming their peers, according to researchers at McKinsey. Their report points to four strengths these companies have in common, all of which come out of design thinking: analytical leadership, cross-functional talent, continuous improvement, and user-centricity. 

These four company-wide competencies fuel smart experimentation, speed to market, and increased customer satisfaction. But they all require a level of flexibility rarely found in companies weighted down by calcified structures and processes.

The good news is that, even if your company as a whole is suffering from "bureaucrasclerosis", your team doesn't have to.

I huddled up with my colleagues on the Team Playbook team, and we found plays to build muscle in each competency area: 

  • Goals, Signals, and Measures – The key to analytical leadership is measuring the performance of features and campaigns with the same rigor as revenue and costs. In this play, you'll articulate your highest-level goal, identify early signals that'll tell you whether you're on the right track, and set targets for your success measures. 
  • Disrupt  – "T-shaped" employees who can apply their deep expertise across different contexts are the ones managers fight to keep. This brainstorming play forces you to think around constraints, making your neuropathways more flexible and keeping you primed to make that cross-functional impact.
  • Retrospectives – Not just for software teams anymore! Teams in marketing, customer service, finance, etc. hold retrospectives to reflect on their work and make a continuous improvement a habit. Those who don't learn from the past... well, you know the rest.
  • Empathy maps – If you can't walk a mile in your customers' shoes, you can still spend an hour inside their heads. Mapping out what people are seeing, hearing, and feeling bakes user-centricity into any project and leads to stronger results. 

You don't have to wait for your C-suite to get the memo on design-led companies. Try incorporating these design-inspired techniques into your routine and begin quietly chipping away at "bureaucrasclerosis" from the grassroots level. 

What else are teams doing to break free from bureaucratic legacy? Let's hear it!


1 comment

Hi @Sarah Goff-Dupont

Wonderful topic to discuss on. Well portrayed points on how we can escape ourselves and in turn our teams, verticals and organisation from the bureaucratic legacy.

I would actually like to add my 2 pennies on the disruption.

It is indeed the "T-Shaped" employees that managers tend to keep, however it is now changing to be "Comb" shaped. that being deep roots on several technologies.

It does put pressure on us to learn and be masters across domains and not only be a master in 1 domain. But on the hind side, we do have abundance of opportunities to groom ourselves to be "Comb" shaped.

Bottom line -> Its on US!! We can decide on how if we want to come out of monotony and the organizational sclerosis or just become obsolete!

Like 1 person likes this

Love your can-do attitude! 

Fair point about "comb" shaped employees. If you go too far on specialization, you end up being helpless in too many other areas. There's a balance to strike, though, because you also can't go deep on everything

Like 2 people like this


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