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Home » The Intersection of Change Management and Human-Centered Design: Exploring the Overlap

The Intersection of Change Management and Human-Centered Design: Exploring the Overlap

By Peter Cully

Human Centred Design (HCD) is about designing a solution or product with the user in mind. It puts the ‘human’ firmly at the centre of the problem-solving process when designing products or services and focuses on increasing value for customers by ensuring products better meet their needs, constraints, contexts and behaviours. HCD involves applying a continuous, iterative cycle of learning, unlearning and experimentation to achieve this.

The key concepts of HCD include:

  • Using structured methods of gathering observations, reviewing cognitive perspectives, and generating creative ideas for solutions.
  • Applying behaviour-change analysis to innovating developments.
  • Developing a strategic innovation toolkit to apply design thinking and innovative problem-solving tools and exercises.
  • Applying a human-centered approach to design techniques such as user research, user experience, prototyping, personas and journey mapping.
  • Enhancing collaboration and iteration in developments.
  • Drawing from a wide range of professional experiences and backgrounds to create a stronger collaborative approach to innovation.

Launched in 2004 the Design Council’s design methodology, the Double Diamond is a comprehensive and visual description of the design process. As well as highlighting the design process, this framework for innovation also includes the key principles and design methods that should be adopted and the ideal working culture needed to achieve significant and long-lasting positive change.

Double Diamond framework

The two diamonds set out 4 steps with which to explore an issue and take focused action:

  • Discover – Understand the problem by spending time with stakeholders impacted by the issues.
  • Define – Define the challenge.
  • Develop – Encouragement to give different responses to clearly defined issues and to co-design solutions with a range of different stakeholders.
  • Deliver – Iterative testing of different solutions to achieve the final design customer required requirement.

Today change management is being conducted in an increasing VUCA world of complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity. Business transformation is increasing in intensity and the pressure is on for organisations to be more responsive to customer needs, innovative and flexible.

There are distinct areas of overlap between HCD and change management as illustrated in the diagram. Design Thinking brings people into the development of what will be implemented, and Change Management enables something that has been designed to be adopted.

Overlap of HCD and OCM


HCD supports OCM by:

  • Understanding stakeholder needs through user research and stakeholder interviews, helping gather insights into the needs, concerns, and expectations of stakeholders who will be affected by the change, thus increasing engagement
  • Focusing on collaborative problem-solving and co-creation, empowering stakeholders to contribute ideas, suggest improvements, and actively participate in shaping the change initiative
  • Helping tailor communications to the needs and preferences of different stakeholder groups
  • Iterative prototyping and feedback – applying these principles to piloting and testing change initiatives on a smaller scale before implementing them organisation-wide
  • Journey mapping – by understanding the end-to-end experience of stakeholders, organisations can design more effective change strategies that address their needs, reduce resistance, and improve overall satisfaction
  • Continuous feedback and adaptation – gathering feedback throughout the process, monitor the impact of the change, and make necessary adjustments

Design Thinking develops the solution of ‘What’ to implement. Often missing from the Design Thinking are the processes of implementation and adoption.

Change Management is a human-centered activity that promotes engagement and considers people’s experience in planning an implementation. Change Management is used to implement new processes, systems, products, and services with a focus on ‘How’ to implement the solution. Often missing from Change Management is engaging people in the design of the item to be implemented. Usually Change Managers are introduced to a project once a product design has already been decided on.

By combining both OCM and HCD there is an opportunity to both bring people into the development of what will be implemented and to enable them to adopt the item that been designed. Change Management can become even more human-centered (listening to the impacted stakeholder or customer) and innovative by adopting ‘Design Thinking’ principles. Design Thinking can learn how to design products and the end to end process flow with the adoption by impacted stakeholders in mind.

The next step is to ensure that there is a fit between a product and its market. The Value Proposition canvas developed by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur achieves a fit between a customer’s value map (what does value mean to the customer, how it alleviates their pain points) and customer profile. It makes the creation of a value proposition easier and is a transformative approach to understanding value and designing the products and services that customers want.

Areas where HCD and OCM activities could be combined:

  • OCM involvement in design workshops – bringing stakeholders needs, concerns, issues, risks and drivers to the HCD workshops.
  • Cross functional agile squads established to embed awareness and management of new initiatives, ideation, innovation, risk management, mental health & well-being, and culture.
  • Aligning Executive Leadership with program/project teams on vision, approach, and guiding principles, expected outcomes and the ‘change story’. Leverage point 2 above in this approach.
  • The core component of the human-centric change management requires solutions for concise, visually compelling, and tailored multi-channel communications and digital programme applications.
  • Personalised training curriculum which allows every user to be assisted at their current personal level of expertise, whether low or high. This achieves maximum upskilling by putting people first.
  • SAP S/4HANA enables knowledge and tips to be made available to users wherever and whenever they need. This ensures an on-going two-way communication which is important as new users tend to have a lot of user questions and feedback.
  • Another accelerator is to transfer knowledge to employees is gamified ‘just in time’ microlearning sessions.
  • SAP S/4HANA has ‘just-in-time’ data analytics on the usage and adoption of its system. This can be visualised in interactive dashboards (or by leveraging the dashboards that come with SAP S/4HANA) which assist change managers, the leadership team, and users know where they stand and where to prioritise their efforts to improve HCD amongst other elements.