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The Secret Sauce to Successful Change-Management: Human-centered design

By Adrian Francis Heraclitus, the Greek Philosopher once quoted – “Change is the only constant in life.” Yet only 34% make the mark when it comes down to statistics as reported by Gartner.

It is commonplace by now that Technology has been making strides and pretty much knee-deep in every crevice of a gazillion industries fathomable; and the burgeoning role AI and Machine Learning have been playing in changing the game and shape-shifting every niche -from Healthcare to Automotive, to Legal and everything in between.

This couldn’t hold more true for the current state of affairs in the Legal Diaspora, grappling and coming to terms with Technology now dominating pretty much every role and at the helm of things.

However, with Change come new opportunities and its own set of challenges which is even more pronounced in the Legal Industry where new processes, systems, and technologies can often be met with resistance and push-back from lawyers and staff. The Legal Industry has long known to be tech- antagonistic with folks preferring to stick to old-school practices and antiquated beliefs.

To address Change, one needs to think differently in their shoes. Global Keynote Speaker and Change Agent – Brenda Bence in one of her LinkedIn post calls out the need to let go of “What Is”? To quote – “ So, for leaders who truly want to create a different future, that means not only letting go of “what WAS,” but also letting go of what we know about our current reality – our “what IS.”

But what is holding Legal back?

Arguably one of the foremost pioneering brains and evangelist – NY Times bestseller and Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Harvard Business School - John Kotter’s name is synonymous with Change Management and transforming countless organizations, identified a very disconcerting issue.

In 1979, Kotter and peer Schlesinger identified principal sources of resistance: Parochial self-interest.

Given that a huge part of a lawyer’s role and training is to identify and mitigate risks for their clients, it's understandable that they may be risk averse. So, whilst you may be eager to embrace any transformation for your team and unlock increased efficiencies with new ways of working, it is important to approach this process with a clear focus on people and strategy, ensuring that any new tech and process is ultimately both desired and adopted.

Therefore, it becomes all the more imperative to figure out a way to channelize and usher in change by facilitating User Adoption. In order to ensure a smooth rollout and that processes are met with minimal friction, it becomes necessary to understand the nuances and attributes that lead to a successful on-boarding and consequently better engagement rate. The key is to build a roadmap to channelize and usher in change by facilitating User Adoption, which is achieved by ensuring User Fit.

So what is User-Fit anyway?

Thematically speaking, when your proposition or offering is in alignment with your audience or users, that’s when you have nailed User-Fit. There is a method to the madness when it comes to establishing whether you’re really moving the needle as opposed to dumping a barrage of information at your prospect’s doorstep.

If you can't connect the dots in a genuine way with your users, you can kiss User- Fit and ultimately User Adoption goodbye. A misplaced user-fit can adversely affect adoption and overall strategy and end up dwindling efforts despite going down the rabbit hole.

But how do we even get there?

It all starts with Empathy – the cornerstone or bedrock of any foundation or simply put -the building blocks for true Organizational Change Management.

By definition Empathy refers to the ability to understand and connect with the needs, experiences, and emotions of the people involved in the (legal) process , including clients, stakeholders, and legal professionals. It involves taking the time to truly understand the perspectives and experiences of those involved in the legal process.

Right from the get-go - prioritizing empathy and understanding the needs of both your clients and team members plays a key role in developing a human-centered business strategy that is tailored to their needs. This approach will help ensure that the digital tools and processes you implement are effective in improving client satisfaction and optimizing business processes for the longer haul.

However, it is important to remember that true transformation is not just about adopting new technologies or processes. It is also about creating a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. This means empowering team members to experiment, take risks, and learn from their mistakes. It means creating a culture that values learning and growth and that is open to new ideas and ways of working and finding recourse even if there are a few jolts along the way.

To overcome the resistance to change, legal teams can take a human-centered approach to get the wheels turning. This involves engaging team members in the process, listening to their concerns and feedback, and providing them with the resources they need to adapt to new ways of working. It also means creating a clear and compelling vision for the future that inspires team members to embrace the change.

This is further augmented by leveraging a phased-framework. Rather than going the whole nine yards or trying to implement significant changes all at once, legal teams can break the process down into smaller, more manageable pieces and nuggets. A rudimentary and systematic manual allows team members to adjust to each change before moving on to the next one, reducing the sense of overwhelm and uncertainty and other egregious conundrums that could affect the intake process.

Ultimately, for all the talk of change and culture – if there is a lack of strong leadership driving that vision, it can all seem mere eyewash. Leaders must be able to articulate the vision for the future effectively and inspire team members to embrace the change. They must be willing to lead by example and model the behavior they expect from their teams. Feedback is a two-way street and goes both ways. Not just Top to Bottom but Bottom to Top as well. They must be forthcoming to feedback, even if that calls for “reverse mentorship” and pivot as needed to ensure that the success of the bigger picture is worth every nickel and dime.

When everyone has a seat at the table, it speaks volumes of not just leadership as a clichéd term but lies in the heart of serving your people in the form of servant leadership

After all, if you don’t pay heed to the end-user of the process, you will just end up hitting a wall that would serve no one any good and defeat the entire purpose.

Turning a blind eye to your key drivers – your People, is nothing but taking a shot in the dark and a recipe for disaster only for your efforts to fizzle out later with a “shiny tech syndrome”.

Now that we have addressed the Biggest Elephant in the Room – Change Management, it’s only fair to highlight the thought-process behind a successful campaign and one that gets you to the finish line.

Let’s talk – Design Thinking.

There are many bits and bolts to this approach and mindset – a Design Thinking Mindset. It calls for putting people at the forefront of the chain; since the former is the driver of any business, we take a more holistic and conducive stance at operational success and not stifling innovation thereby ensuring that any new tool or software is not sitting on the shelf but one that every stakeholder embraces.

Human-centered design (HCD) - A Primer

Human-centered design (HCD) - works on the premise that focusing on understanding the needs, behaviors, and desires of the people who will be using the product, service or system being designed is a better and more scientific approach to problem-solving. If we can resolve or alleviate to an extent these drivers - we could potentially have a long shot at getting Organizational Change Management dialed in.

So what helps in crossing that bridge as well as Stakeholder buy-in?

Time to explore and take a deep-dive into the nitty-gritties:

1. Recognizing user needs: HCD can help identify the needs of attorneys and staff in the legal sector. The development of solutions that address these needs using this knowledge might aid in boosting acceptance and adoption of novel procedures or technological advancements.

2. Iterative design: Using user feedback as an iterative process is an essential ingredient to continuous testing and improving solutions. As a result, the likelihood of higher engagement and adoption increases incrementally.

3. Co-creation: HCD involves collaborating with users at every juncture, throughout the design process. This can spur confidence and involvement in the change management process, which ultimately can help spike adoption rates.

4. Prototyping: Conceptualizing and designing prototypes of solutions can be a game-changer for freeing up time and resources in the longer run. By taking your demo for a test drive, potential issues and bottlenecks can be addressed early on.

This is not a cradle to grave framework but one that leverages the major pillars to securing a foundation or cornerstone for Change Management. Without a user centric approach, change is bound to hit a few road bumps that can slow down progress and even lead to other pitfalls including a complete dysfunctional process and even sterile work environment – invariably torpedoing and bringing the entire vision to a grinding halt.

Whether these are tools for project management, collaboration and communication, a steady feedback loop can bridge the gap by leveraging and gleaning data insights keeps you in the driver’s seat, ensuring you fast-track any changes and hit the gas pedal from day one.

As a catalyst of a proactive approach and creating a culture of continuous improvement: HCD can help regularly evaluate processes, systems, and technologies to identify areas for improvement, which can subsequently have a ripple effect on every team and user using those systems. Only if they are aligned is when new technology and processes are embraced as opposed to finding a needle in a haystack. In short, Humanizing the process by fostering a holistic culture can open the floodgates to true change.

Admittedly, change can be hard but with a Human-centered design modus operandi at play – it can trigger an inflection point and pave the way change management efforts in Legal are pivoted by keeping it user-centered and galvanizing human capital and workflow. Conquering change shouldn’t be a gamble and with a Humans-in-the-loop process, one can avoid playing Russian roulette when it comes to bolstering or skyrocketing adoption rates and augmenting overall outcomes that set you up for success.


About the Author

Legal Raconteur by day, Design Thinker by night. A penchant for the written word, appetite for re-shaping and Humanizing the practice of law fuelled by numerous brain-dates with General Counsels and Law firms alike - Adrian Francis is a purveyor of all things design thinking to break down legal conundrums and subsequently usher in change by exhibiting emotional intelligence and investing in human capital.

With over a decade in Client Relationship at the intersection of Legal consulting, he takes on a more holistic and organic stance at operational excellence by driving change with a human-first approach.

Armed with the forward-thinking aim as Strategic Partner at - the endgame is to disrupt the legal landscape and push the envelope when it comes to the future of law. #AdrianFrancis #changemanagement #designthinking #humancapital #futureoflaw #innovation #humancentered

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