Human-Centred Design Vs Continuous Improvement – there’s no going back from here

Nina Muhleisen | 17 July 2020


How are you going to deliver a new experience while having to save costs at the same time? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

Nothing could have prepared us for this.

We’re now living and working in an environment where we need to fundamentally change how we service our customers and to do it at lower costs than ever before. What’s even more difficult is we’re having to work remotely from the rest of our teams, so collaboration is a challenge too. We can no longer jump up and sketch a new idea on a whiteboard or send an invite for a workshop as we did only a few months ago. 

We’ve kept our ears to the ground, we’ve heard just how much complex organisations are struggling and we get it.

How are you going to deliver a new experience while having to save costs at the same time?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!
(Ahhh, I can hear your internal sighs of relief)

Yes, we all need to shift our mindsets into new ways of engagement which is a challenge in itself, but our existing toolkit has helped solved these challenges for clients before and we’ll continue to do so, albeit with a totally new way of delivery.

Human-Centred Design

Let’s start with human-centred design. This is a tool that we know and love and is incredibly important for rethinking the way you engage both our people as well as your customers. It’s a great tool for really understanding how your customers want to engage with you and what you can do to recreate or enhance your experiences to meet their needs. 

Despite many of us now working virtually, the concept remains the same – we want to unpack the customer journey, discover their pain points and understand what they see, what they hear, and what they feel. Once we truly understand their perspective then we can develop the new engagement approach through new channels, methods and approaches.

But complex experience changes cost money and unfortunately, most organisations don’t have the luxury to implement large-scale change. So that’s where you could adopt one of our best friends, continuous improvement. 

Continuous Improvement

The key difference between human-centred design and continuous improvement is when and why you may use them. Human-centred design is a reimagining of your experience altogether, such as migrating to an entirely new Knowledge Management System (KMS) or Content Management System (CMS) while continuous improvement is looking at opportunities for improvement within the realms of your existing systems. The latter can often carry less time and cost but still enhance the experience, reduce wait time, remove unnecessary duplication or help you see what’s truly adding value to your customer and what’s not.

It goes without saying, but the health sector has never relied more heavily on continuous improvement and there’s no better example of this than a recent study of a hospital-based in Toronto, Canada. Harvard Business Review demonstrated a 14% reduction in emergency wait times and a 45% reduction in central line bloodstream infections as a result of creating a continuous improvement culture.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – who has the time and resources for an organisation-wide cultural change? Well, your continuous improvement doesn’t have to extend beyond the productivity within your team. A recent study by McKinsey (2020) showed as much as a 20% increase in productivity in less than two months as a result of a continuous improvement tool implemented with a client. 

So whether your team’s still remote or back in the office, you would have seen and experienced the waste more than ever. We no longer can have the piles of paper hiding the queues, so don’t ignore this but instead think of these as a perfect place to start.

Just Ask

Ask your team members where their key frustrations are with the process? What are the parts that they hate doing and why? Start to draw up the picture – what does it look like? Capture it in any way you can, draw it on a piece of paper or if you have a tool like miro, use that! All you want to do at this point is to understand where you are currently and what are the pain points that you can improve. 

Chances are your people are going to be one of the best sources for understanding your biggest pain points so just ask – where are their complaints in the process? Does the information align with what you’re seeing in your process mapping? You can always use tools like the 5 whys to really get down to the root problems.

Finally, a tool that carries one of the biggest impacts is to look at your organisation from a services perspective – are you simply doing the same thing in multiple locations and is it possible to simplify or consolidate what you do? 

These continuous improvement tools are not new but they’re only powerful when applied in the right context of our new environments. When our organisations are faced with adversity it’s never been more important to go back to basics and enhance your experience while reducing your costs – your people and your customers will be empowered by the positive outcomes that result.