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How to start prototyping in your organization [updated]

It’s not always easy to start a change in an organization. Especially in a huge organization with lots of hierarchical layers. How do we get all the employees to embrace the change? How can we handle the communications? Just 2 (of a lot of) questions that need to be answered. But change can be easy(/easier) if you stick on to the quote “dream big, act small”.

The age of long term organizational change plans is over. Documents full of ‘assumptions’ and recommendations based on theory and not the proven practice. It’s time to turn it around. Only really change things that are proven successful in your organization. Meet: prototyping, or in this case organizational prototyping.

What is organizational prototyping?

According to Wikipedia a prototype is an early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from. In the context of organizational change, it is an early sample of improvement within the organization. An idea, a hunch, or just an improvement. Without fully document and plan this change, first prototype it. And learn if this really an improvement or just a nice idea without any engagement with the employees. But how do you start?

Start prototyping by following the tension

You don’t just start with a creative session to design prototypes. You first have to know why you want to change and what theme you need to focus on first. And for that you ‘just’ have to follow the tension. What is something that bothers you every day? What does hurt in the way you work? What is not in line with the mission of the company? Find the one thing that hurts but is safe enough to take as a first step. 

Reframe the challenge

Once you have the theme you want to focus on. Find the context of the tension and define the challenge. Why is it a challenge (5-times why? It’s really key to understand what is going on and why the improvement is necessary. Look through the lens of your employees and learn from it. And ask your colleagues to describe their vision on the challenge. Now reframe the challenge in a very clear way.

Generate ideas

Now it’s time to dive into idea generation. In workshop or brainstorm kind of settings you are able to generate a lot of ideas, on post-its. Big or small, Crazy or dull. It doesn’t matter, as long as you create possible solutions for your challenge. 

It can be very helpful to get inspired! Here are the latest practices on our platform. But make sure to explore through our complete listing.

Latest practices 

Design your prototype

When you have enough ideas, it’s time to prioritize and start designing the actual prototypes. Now turn one (or a couple) idea and hypothesis into a prototype using the canvas. Try to create a radical change in a not so radical scope. Make sure to keep the prototypes small and tangible. To help you out a little bit, here are some ingredients we use for a good prototype:

  • A clear purpose
  • Small scope
  • Set the testperiod
  • Target group (demographics)
  • KPI (Key Performance Indicators)
  • When is it a success?
Make sure to download the Canvas to help you guide in the process of designing your ultimate organizational prototype.

Validate and adjust

Learn by doing. Validate the prototype in a small scope. If needed, adjust along the way based on the learnings. Evaluate and scale the prototype for a bigger scope.

Keep the prototyping movement going

Great! You have designed the first bunch of prototypes. Now it’s time to get the ball rolling. The prototypes need to be tested, improved. And when successful, the need to be scaled to the rest of the organization. A couple of tips to keep the movement going.

  • Make it part of your routine (for example update in every meeting)
  • With prioritizing, keep in mind that it’s not for the next year. Don’t make it to big of a deal. It’s about starting. And, like Mark Zuckerberg said: ‘better done than perfect’.
  • Make the progress visible to all the employees, use for example Trello (digital tool) or find a nice way to visualize in the office.
  • Celebrate the small steps/victories!

Role as a leader

In an organizational change or transformation, the role of the leader(s) is a crucial one. As a leader, you have to set the example. Lead the way in the process. Start (and finish) a couple of prototypes. But not only, you have to lead. You have to follow as wel. Be open and humble as leaders, learn from your employees.

Now it’s your turn to start prototyping

In this article we handed you a guide to start prototyping in your organization. Now it’s you turn to start prototyping, start a movement and learn from every step. Make sure to share it with the community. If you can use some extra inspiration or motivation to start prototyping, sign in for one of our Sessions.

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