Think HBR

Design thinking - Solutions aligned with strategy

Caitlin McMahon
Businesses face unique challenges on a variety of issues every day – people, products, systems, competitors – the list is endless. But do you ever find that when discussing these issues, your colleagues want to jump straight to how to fix the problem, rather than taking the time to understand why it occurred in the first place?
We are all time-poor and sometimes it seems easier to just try something, rather than really understanding the root cause of the problem and testing different theories on how the problem could be solved most effectively.
Unfortunately, when we approach problem solving in an unstructured way, we often end up with a lot of well-intentioned systems, processes and solutions that are merely masking symptoms or are not sustainable. People don’t use them the way they should, work arounds form, and avoidance occurs. Sound familiar? So, what’s the alternative?
Design thinking is usually described as human centric design, which means understanding the problems people are experiencing, and considering what people want and need out of a solution, before designing it. As business leaders, we often think we hold all the answers and are the right people to solve the organisation’s problems. The design thinking process encourages the engagement of people from all levels of the business to effectively resolve issues. It is important to hear from the users of the systems and really understand what their frustrations are about the current state, and what it would ideally look like for them in the future.
At performHR we are helping organisations to apply design thinking principles to HR strategy and planning, as well as broader business decision making and problem solving. Using a structured process ensures the solution we implement is well considered, is fit for purpose, and will take us forward to a place that aligns with our business strategy.
The Current Reality. What happens if we do nothing about this issue? What works well that we don’t want to lose, what needs to change, and why? Involve people who know the issue best. This will really help to define the problem.
Our Future Vision. If we could start over, what would we want it to look like? What do we need to achieve? What are the boundaries we are working within? How will it align to our business strategy? This will give us clear direction for what the solution needs to look like. Involve people that will be using the solution – engaging them in the process will help to gain their buy-in for implementation.
Generating Ideas. Research and think outside the square. Who else might have solved this problem?
Action & Review. Make it happen, and ensure everyone knows who needs to do what and by when. Your future vision will help you define what success looks like, and you can measure against it.
For more information contact performHR on 1300 406 005, email or visit
Caitlin McMahon Caitlin McMahon
As a Human Resources generalist with a special interest in Organisational Development, Caitlin McMahon is passionate about people, employee engagement, and continuous improvement. Connecting people to their purpose to find meaning in their work, and exploring leadership capability to promote high performing teams is something she has a keen interest in. Caitlin brings considerable experience working in blue collar industry, particularly mining and resources to the team at performHR.