Defeating resistance to change in redesign processes

Defeating resistance to change in redesign processes

Any design change, whether it be big or small, can cause rejection among some users.

Unfortunately in some redesign work, you might have to completely overhaul the project itself and some users may find this change hard to accept.
How can you involve users in your redesign projects? Can you offset this ‘rejection to new changes’ from your most critical users? Can users be an active part of the redesign process?

Resistance to change

Niccolò Machiavelli wrote in the XVI century: “It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things”.

Factors that motivate resistance to change do not respond to a simple cause-effect relation. The most common factors are:

  • Fear of the unknown.
  • Lack of information or misinformation.
  • Refusal to experiment.
  • Conflicting feelings.
  • Fear of not being capable to learn something new.

How to redesign to mitigate resistance to change?

In an ideal world, in a gumdrop house on Lollipop Lane you should have no need to redesign. In an ideal world, your strategies must have a consistent logic. Your design plan should take into account a sustainable evolution development. How to grow consistently and how to put in place new features should be perfectly planned.

Sadly, many times, when you participate in projects they lack continuous design development, or have shortages in planning, budget, or resources devoted to keep the project updated.

These projects can be outdated designs, unfit to new user’s needs. Projects that didn’t take into account new channels or device requirements. Projects anchored in old technologies, or most commonly, projects that was developed using a structure and, years later these are just unmanageable.

In these cases, the best approach is to plan different phases to start redesigning:

  • Current project analysis.
  • Stakeholders needs, goals, and objectives.
  • Interviews, focus groups, or surveys with editors, content creators, users, and other relevant interest groups.
  • Concept and testing with stakeholders (both internal and external).
  • Redesign.
  • Testing and adjustments.
  • Implementation.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation.

Collect as much information as you can from the previous version objectives of what you are redesigning.

The better you can analyze the current project status, the better you can figure out what’s the situation.

All stakeholders suffer from fear of change. Internal staff, collaborators, users, media, academia, etc. It is crucial to understand what they are expecting from your new design.

Try to involve these stakeholders in the concept phase of your design. Not just by asking them about what to change, but also by discussing the nuts and bolts of proposed changes.

Testing different approaches to yet established needs is also a community task. You must act as a watchdog looking after consistency when considering what stakeholders demand. What is ideal for internal staff could be an issue for the general public. What is perfect for an external collaborator could be a challenge for another.

Of course, there are as many methodologies as projects and, obviously, you should adapt your workflow to every specific case. Essentially, the focus should be based in a paradigm change of:

  • Public (new needs).
  • Organization (structural).
  • Product, service or program.
  • Context or environment.

Counting on them

Yes, you can involve your stakeholders in concept, development, and rollout of the redesign project. You should, indeed, involve them as active partners during the change process.

You need to make them see that these planned changes are to answer their needs. Start by sensitizing stakeholders about the need of change.

Staff should know these changes will help them work better. Users should realize they will profit from more and better features. Collaborators should be convinced on the advantages of these proposed changes.

Every stakeholder, from their specific perspective, should be sensitized. How?

Communicating stakeholders the need of a paradigm change

Your audience must know what are the current design weaknesses and the benefits of changing.

Involving stakeholders in the concept process and in organizational change

When deciding which organizational system should be chosen, we should empower users by giving them a voice. It is possible to stimulate their support by using rewards, or calling their sense of ownership: this is your community, these are your values, you are a valuable piece in this organization. Speak out!

Every redesign process involves some sort of organizational change. If neither structure nor work flow processes are changed during a redesign project, the redesign will be incomplete. Redesign responds to new challenges, and these challenges are also produced in terms of how the work structure, procedures, protocols, and organization works.

Promoting collaboration among staff and users

Internal stakeholders know what should be improved. Specially those that have been involved in the organization for years. You can act as an interpreter, translating their perceptions into productive collaboration during the redesign process. In order to achieve this, they should be convinced that their voices are highly taken into account.

The user collective is not a set group of people. Some of them have been using the former design for years, others are extremely active, some are highly critical, and others have a respected voice within the community.

Organizing focus and test groups with advanced users may convert them from a loyal force into an influence alliance who can evangelize others about the redesign process.

Conducting internal training

To accurately implement the new design you need to build trustworthy relations between both sides of the coin: internal and external stakeholders.
Give your internal stakeholders the tools to deal with all potential issues related to execution process of your new design.

Invest efforts in training staff in charge of social communication, networks, public relations, community outreach, funding, and volunteering to teach them how to solve questions and issues from users.

Implementing redesign step by step

During the redesign process, you will change things in an evaluative manner, teaching your audience the new paradigm.

Tracking the reaction of all stakeholders to each one of the implementation steps will help you learn how to implement the new ones in a better way.
Sometimes, an evaluative implementation is better than a revolutionary one. The context and the specifics of your project will decide this but try to see this from your stakeholders’ angle.

Respect your stakeholders’ rhythm when learning how to use the new design and help them understand every change before implementing a new one.

In brief

Counting on audience advice implies empowering them to participate from the beginning in the redesign process.

Beating resistance to change is about generating and raising stakeholders’ transparency perception, information, and participation.
What about you? What’s your approach to plan a redesign process? Do you have any tips to improve these ideas?


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