Change the way we manage change: TRANSFORMATION DESIGN

Transformation-DesignThe capability to manage organizational change is more and more a key competence of managers and leaders alike – and lesser so a discipline that can be delegated to internal and external experts only. More, larger and faster changes need to be managed in shorter intervals. Companies and organizations have to cope with an environment of continuous transformation, while traditional approaches to change management seem less suitable to tackle the challenge: often too heavy, sophisticated and slow.

There is a need for new lean ways, agile methods and attitudes, while established collaborative and emotional working patterns remain a success factor in organizational change. This is why we use approaches in organizational change that derive from Design Thinking and Gamification. They had a significant impact on strategy and innovation management during the last couple of years, best shown in the strong adoption of the concept of Business Model Design. We call our approach, therefore: TRANSFORMATION DESIGN.

Transformation Design works with playful and positive activation and participation of teams on different hierarchical levels. Equipped with a simple and easy comprehendible concept and stimulating tools managers and employees are in a position to design their own transformation processes. In doing so, they understand change more deeply, share their assumptions, experiences, know-how – objectives and fears. The transformation process is becoming more of their “property” and a joint challenge to tackle. Using the approach we have seen a remarkable “boost” in ownership and commitment, whereas traditional change approaches are often only heralded by lower management levels.

We have been using the approach for almost two years now and implemented it in different organizational types and industries. We believe that Transformation Design offers a new and more contemporary way to implement organizational change more comprehensively, thoroughly and successfully.

Our approach pays tribute and displays contiguity to an impressive history of Organizational Development and its applied behavioral sciences. However, Transformation Design proposes a faster, more pragmatic and less “nervous” way to deal with today’s continuity of change in management.

We define transformation in seven fields that cluster how people can describe change in their organization. At a glance, we call those seven fields TRANSFORMATION CANVAS, referring to the vital debate about the “Business Model Generation” by Alex Osterwalder (Osterwalder/Pigneur, 2010).

Transformation Canvas

Working with the Canvas mostly means working with a group in a workshop environment. Often the process uses several short iterations, and sometimes leadership offers a 1st draft of the canvas and works with his or her team on a more elaborate version. Bringing together different insights, assumptions, visions and ideas to “design” the organizational transformation often itself creates a collaborative transformation journey already. The puzzle converts into a joint picture of the complete transformation challenge. We have experienced large transformation processes using the canvas in over 300 teams, cascading the design-process top-down and bottom-up. The results and dynamics were striking – the change initiative becomes more interesting and challenging for those who are the subject of the process.

We learned that at least five aspects are critical to the success of Transformation Design:

  1. Let those design the change who are in it. No need for groups of consultants or agents. Put trust in those who will have to make the change happen. You might want to give strategic and performance-driven crash barriers before you ask teams to design the change.
  2. Learn and use one common grammar and establish a joint “change language”. Change management often seems intellectually overcharged. A common language and understanding of basic patterns and dynamics helps to get it going. Make it simple but not trivial.
  3. Use inspiring tools. Design Thinking and Gamification inspired methods, sticky notes and creative, rather playful material are excellent instruments to foster a creative and collaborative atmosphere.
  4. Think the full picture. The Transformation Design Canvas gives a good indication of coherency, interdependency and context of the complexity of any transformation process. Understanding this entire picture is essential for finding the appropriate path to execution. All too often, depending on your organizational function, we overly emphasize two or three of the seven key aspects of change. Thus, the canvas helps to “balance” the elements of organizational change.
  5. Make Transformation Design a basic management discipline. Change management used to be the holy grail of experienced consultants. Bring the ability to initiate, design and implement change to managers who need this in their day to day business just like any other management discipline.


Transformation Design is a fascinating approach for a new way of dealing with change. Please find more information and a more detailed description of the transformation canvas and our approach TRANSFORMATION DESIGN.

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