Design Criteria

I'm working with a client who currently has a hiring process that takes 198 days. Using a six sigma approach she has reduced it to 80 and is about to launch it on that basis. However, an internal client has come with the request for a 'bulk hiring' of 200 people to be done within 30 days. The question is, can the hiring process be accelerated to that level. What are the risks, and what would be compromised?

This is where people need to agree on the design criteria. Essentially design criteria

  • Clarify what the new organization design must do well
  • Identify 'problems' that must be solved in the new design
  • Develop the 'benchmark profile' to guide the design and use in evaluating the design alternatives
  • Take the emotion out of organization design and provides tangible data with which to assess options
  • Provide focus for design or redesign that improves performance
  • Lay the foundation for trade-off decisions – they articulate priorities that guide the design through conflicting needs.
  • Keep members focused on the same outcomes of designing
  • Enable differences to be surfaced and discussed
  • Can be used to evaluate different design solutions

The organization design criteria are developed from the assessment of things that will have to change to implement the new strategy, purpose, vision, and achieve the new performance requirements, together with an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of organization

They comprise 5 or 6 statements of what the design should accomplish in terms of observable/measurable operating features/outcomes. e.g.

  • Move decision making out to those interfacing with customers
  • Enable effective information exchange between ABC and 123
  • Maintain strategic global/regional presence with capacity to capture greater global market share and future business growth

The criteria are not:

A description of how to organize, such as "Centralize Support Services" or "Create an architecture group".
A directive goal statement, such as "Implement BPO."

In his book, Change by Design, Tim Brown talks about innovation in relation to design constraints, and boundaries – essentially synonymous with innovative organization designs and design criteria. With this in mind organization designers would do well to follow Brown's guidance

"A second way to think about the overlapping spaces of innovation is in terms of boundaries. To an artist in pursuit of beauty or a scientist in search of truth, the bounds of a project may appear as unwelcome constraints. But the mark of a designer, as the legendary Charles Eames said often, is a willing embrace of constraints."

"Without constraints design cannot happen, and the best design – a precision medical device or emergency shelter for disaster victims – is often carried out within quite severe constraints. For less extreme cases we need only look at Target's success in bringing design within the reach of a broader population for significantly less cost than had previously been achieved. It is actually much more difficult for an accomplished designer such as Michael Graves to create a collection of low-cost kitchen implements or Isaac Mizrahi a line of ready-to-wear clothing than it is to design a teakettle that will sell in a museum store for hundreds of dollars or a dress that will sell in a boutique for thousands."

"The willing and even enthusiastic acceptance of competing constraints is the foundation of design thinking. The first stage of the design process is often about discovering which constraints are important and establishing a framework for evaluating them."

"Constraints can be visualized in terms of three overlapping criteria for successful ideas: feasibility (what is functionally possible within the foreseeable future); viability (what is likely to become part of a sustainable business model); and desirability (what makes sense to people and for people)."

"A competent designer will resolve each of these three constraints, but a design thinker will bring them into a harmonious balance…. (This is not to say) that all constraints are created equal; a given project may be driven disproportionately by technology, budget, or a volatile mix of human factors. Different types of organizations may push one or another of them to the fore. Nor is it a simple linear process. Design teams will cycle back throughout the life of a project, but the emphasis on fundamental human needs — as distinct from fleeting or artificially manipulated desires — is what drives design thinking to depart from the status quo."

"Designers, then, have learned to excel at resolving one or another or even all three of these constraints. Design thinkers, by contrast, are learning to navigate between and among them in creative ways. They do so because they have shifted their thinking from problem to project."

Thinking in this way may well result in a 30 day hiring process that is better than the 80 day one, and far exceeds the 198 day one in terms successful outcomes.