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How to Transform Your Strategic Planning with Design Thinking

We’ve talked before on this blog about signs that your company should rethink its strategy. Today’s post is about how to build a strategic plan more suited to your company’s priorities. That’s where Design Thinking comes in.

In our previous post, we showed 3 signs that your company needs to rethink its strategic planning. Among other factors, we discussed leadership training, collaboration and focus on people as fundamental to make planning more aligned with your organization’s reality. That’s where Design Thinking comes in.

The design thinker perceives everything around them as an opportunity to create solutions to users’ problems, whether they are senior executives or residents of a fishing community. So, they initially adopt an observant and impartial position, which enables them to deeply understand the bottlenecks, acquire a greater understanding of the problem, and seek solutions.

Why plan with Design Thinking?

In the article Five Steps to a Strategic Plan, Forbes makes it clear that it is essential to have strategic planning before applying any changes within a company. It is necessary to consider the use of time, money and human resources. In order to do so, you need to first determine where you are, what is your focus, what you want to achieve and what is the strategy to get there.

Considering that planning guides the company’s actions, allowing it to achieve its goals in an organized way, the key leaders must help strengthen ideas and intentions. However, it is well-known that the actions related in this plan will directly impact the daily activities of the organization as a whole, which in turn would affect employees.

Thus, instead of creating a strategic plan that is distant from the reality of employees, Design Thinking’s provocative and collaborative approach allows you to bring together multidisciplinary teams with different points of view to build “feasible solutions” for possible challenges, engaging diverse elements of the team.

This is the edge that Design Thinking has over other methodologies: it allows you to open up ways for business strategies to be implemented or modified by understanding the systems in a complex and co-creative way.

→ Content you may like: Design System: creating design patterns for decision making

The Stages of Design Thinking Applied to Strategic Planning

By applying Immersion, Analysis, Ideation, Prototyping and Implementation, it is possible to understand the context, analyze it, generate ideas and test them, observing their impact before implementing them.

With DT, we can study the web that composes the effectiveness of planning, aligning the company’s major goals with the wishes of its employees and existing knowledge. This allows you to motivate and stimulate commitment of all parties involved in the execution of the strategy, as well as generate interactions between sectors. So, it is possible to achieve a structured result that has a higher chance of being effective.

When implementing strategic innovation planning, for example, it is possible to delineate a secure and goal-oriented way to achieve your company’s real objectives, as well as contemplate the various aspects of the complexity surrounding the organizational ecosystem.

Here is how the Design Thinking stages can be helpful in this context.

Immersion: identifying the problems that need to be solved

Do you remember the questions we asked in the last post? Let’s do a quick recap:

  • What is my company’s current situation?
  • Where do we want to go?
  • How can we get there?
  • Who is involved in this process?
  • How is the market in which my company is inserted?
  • How can we measure results in the middle of the process?

The Immersion stage is dedicated to collecting information to answer these and other questions. It serves to investigate the context through a research plan, which includes protocols of primary research that help map the scenarios to be studied. The information collected during the Immersion is raised through semi-structured interviews, which help survey the profiles of employees, their divisions and areas of support, as well as other stakeholders involved in the process.

Analysis and Ideation with DT tools

After the Immersion, the problems are exposed and it is necessary to organize the results from gathering this information as clearly as possible to analyze them.

In order to do so, the project team uses visual tools, such as frameworks on the areas’ field of action (objective, mindset and strategic vision), visualization of the current workflow of the department(s) and the maps of interaction between the areas that subdivide it. These visualizations are treated as inputs for ideas and as guiding criteria for the elaboration of the Ideation phase.

From this framed view of the problem, ideas are generated creatively rather than restrictively. At this moment, collaboration is one of the most important aspects to be stimulated and can occur through co-creation workshops with multidisciplinary groups.

Prototyping: tests and feedback of ideas

The initial prototyping is a low-cost materialization that will illustrate the idea generated so that it can be presented to other people. It can be done at any stage of the project and serves to iterate solutions, allowing you to adjust them as needed. By doing this, managers can filter the projects that best fit the strategic objectives defined in the planning stage, selecting a winner or combining relevant parts of the projects.

The implementation is a consequence of this cycle:

Research and analysis → Generation of ideas in co-creative workshops → Prototyping and testing

This nonlinear cycle can be repeated as many times as necessary to gain an understanding of the context. With this well-structured process, it is possible to generate a broad engagement among everyone involved. In addition, sometimes simple and cheap ideas improve structural problems and the full productivity of one or more teams.

Notice that this continuous improvement cycle converges to empower prototyping and validation, two essencial roles of Design Thinking. However, the implementation needs to be monitored and change management should be considered.

In the next planning cycle, those involved will be able to evaluate and generate incremental improvements to their projects, gradually internalizing a proactive attitude and an innovation culture for each activity performed.

Next Step: Planning Execution

As for the results of the final version of planning, it is necessary to create means to constantly maintain and check the micro and macro objectives, and the assertiveness of the tools used. It is necessary for the management system to take moments to periodically carry out evaluations.

After each cycle of strategic planning and checking, teams increasingly understand their key role in the delivery of business results: this is an intangible gain which is very relevant and often not valued.

Discover what is the most relevant to your company right now, and use Design Thinking features to rearrange your priorities. Download our free e-book Strategic Repositioning and learn how to better respond to emerging business challenges.