The DNA of Change:
Eight Design Principles for Organizational Transformation

Ever wonder how some organizations adapt gracefully – or even thrive – in a changing environment while most others crack and buckle under the same conditions? We did too. And since so many of our clients come to us in times of change, we decided the topic needed some XPLANEing.

Over the last six months we have combed through our client experience for successes and failures, synthesized the best research from change gurus, and found patterns among organizations that navigate change successfully. Here's the result: Change DNA - eight design principles for organizational transformation.

Tweet: Organizations that thrive in changing circumstances behave more like organisms than machines. that thrive in changing circumstances behave more like organisms than machines. They adapt and evolve rather than reprogram and retool. They share a common DNA that helps them bend without breaking. We found eight specific traits that support a healthy, robust approach to change: clarity, inspiration, visual alignment, action, co-creation, transparency, harmony and resilience. 

Over the past few months, we launched a series of discussions about these eight Change DNA traits. We want to hear your feedback - what are your experiences, success stories, lessons learned, and case studies? Do you agree with the patterns we are seeing? Our goal is to evolve this picture and collaboratively design a resource for organizations in transition all around the globe. Here is to being the change we want to see in the world!  


Practice, Don't Preach.

Below are eight worksheets that correlate to each change principle designed to jump start change within your organization.


clarity_worksheet_thumbnailClarity Worksheet: The Change Lever

The ChangeLever is a simple way to map any organizational change. The Change Lever works like a real mechanical lever: there is a load that can be lifted if the right amount of force is applied to the lever. The amount of force depends on where the fulcrum is positioned. 


Inspiration Worksheet - Inspiration Landscape

Change is often sparked by an urgent need to fix a problem. Successful companies don't forget that buried in this problem is an opportunity to do more than patch it up, but to transform a weakness into a strength. How to open ourselves to this positive potential of the change process? Seek inspiration inside and outside. Success and failure leave clues all around us. 



Visual Alignment Worksheet - Empathy Map

Empathy Mapping for organizational insight is a valuable tool to ensure change is designed in a people-centered way. Call it user-centered design or human-centered design, the principle is to start with the people who will directly experience change and design with their needs in mind. 


Co-Creation Worksheet  - Co-Creation Planning

People support what they help build. Fully engaging stakeholders in a co-creative process brings diverse perspectives, increases the quality of ideas and instills ownership. The effect is an army of evangelists ready to create change instead of a mob of victims fighting it. 

ActAction_Worksheetion Worksheet - Anthropology Study

Actions speak louder than words. There is nothing so powerful as a leader substantively and symbolically embodying the future state they sponsor. Finding these opportunities is not so much about beingclever as being authentic and understanding what carries power in your organization. The Anthropology Study is a great tool for uncovering ideas for symbolic action. 



Transparency Worksheet  - The Trust Pyramid

Ambiguity and uncertainty are natural byproducts of change. The antidote to ambiguity is not certainty, it is trust. Trust is the result of two-way communications, shared goals, and a history of promises kept. This Trust Pyramid is a helpful tool to reflect on the trust levels within your organization.



Resilience Worksheet  - Anticipating Obstacles

A core skill of resilient organizations is the ability to anticipate and design for obstacles.




Harmony Worksheet - 8 Dimensions

Change does not happen in a vacuum. It has a ripple effect, and where it encounters friction it will slow and eventually stop. Consider the organization as a system in balance. When changing one part of the system, understand how other parts will need to shift to reinforce the change and maintain congruence and harmony in the system.