Information architectureUser experience design

our approach to human centered process design

HCPD.0.4Don’t you hate frustrating processes? Do you recognize them in your own organization? Processes that simply miss the point, are overly complex or that keep going wrong?

The root cause for such frustrations is very often the fact that the processes are not human-centered: they are not tuned to providing the client the right information at the right time in the right format; or processes that are not designed around the people that have to perform them, resulting in difficult user adoption and unhappy employees.
In our blog post of July 2015 we therefore call for Human-centered process design: designing processes with both the client in mind, as well as the person who will perform the process.


GriDD approach

Our approach for human-centered process design helps you by defining the stages for such an endeavor, and introduces some tools we use along the way.

Phase 1: Strategic analysis

golden-circle-company-culture-hack-300x262.pngHuman-centered process design starts with a very business-minded question: WHY are we going to have this process in place? What is the vision on the future state of the business and how does this process fit in? What is the purpose of the process and how does it relate to our business objectives? To gain these insights we typically use The Golden Circle by Simon Sinek in a workshop with key stakeholders. The Grove Template “Five bold steps” is another valuable instrument in this stage.


Phase 2: Create insight

The second phase is aimed at creating insight in the process itself, the client it is aimed at and the people who will perform the process. To do so, we borrow methods from lean and user experience design. To gain insight in the process we draw visual maps of the current process and analyse the process in terms of bottlenecks, waste, unneeded complexity, etc. To gain insight in the people involved, we create persona descriptions for both the client as well as the person who will perform the process, visualize client user journeys (illustrating how this person works), and show where the process touches that journey. A nice example of a deliverable of the process of creating insight is the Intranet Collections Map we created for a client.


Phase 3: Plan

ProgrammaModelThis phase is about translating insights into next steps. Our approach here is to think BIG, and start small. Typically, we do two things: we help the customer define the ideal state (indicated as B in the image) as well as small, practical steps (A’) towards that vision. These small steps help the uptake of the new process by providing immediate added value. The ideal state may be a target that keeps evolving based on new insights and changing business contexts. However, making this ideal state more and more clear helps to provide direction to short-term initiatives.


Phase 4: Change

In this phase we support the actual change and coordinate the implementation. We prefer to tackle this working process first: we test and evaluate the process before committing to (usually more rigid) tool support. For a transitional phase that could mean having manual process steps in place, that are later replaced by an automated process. Obviously having the right tools in place is important, but remember that tools should facilitate, not dictate the process. Too often we see that people first select a tool and then shape their processes around the tool. Our human-centered approach places emphasis on both the client as well as the person who will perform the process: the tool should match both groups. As a result of our approach, processes feel natural to the people who have to perform them, which positively influences the uptake of the new way of working. Nevertheless, coordinating implementation is an important step.


Phase 5: Validate

Now that the new process is in place, we measure performance, validate the process and fine-tune it. To do so, we work with visual dashboards: dashboards showing hard and soft Key Performance Indicators of how the new process performs in relation to the goals you defined earlier in the process. The insights this provides helps us to evaluate and adapt: the world of your client is in constant change and your processes should be adapted once in a while as well. To learn more about key indicators for great dashboard performance, we refer you to this blog post written by Marjolijn.


Key in our approach for human-centered process design is that processes ought to be designed with a balanced focus on the client and the person who will perform the process. Only then we can create processes that are effective for todays information challenges. Methods traditionally used in user experience design help in achieving this. With the five phases from our approach you can bring an end to frustration and start designing human-centered processes!


  • Wait, isn’t this called service design?
    Service design uses user centered methods to create services that fully align with the client. Our approach also takes into account the perspective of the person who performs the process.
  • Should this approach not be based on lean?
    Lean is an approach for reducing waste, variation and overload in processes. We do borrow from Lean: our process visualization in phase 2 is similar to the Value Stream Mapping in Lean. However, our approach places a lot more attention on the human side of the process. Where Lean is very well suited for production processes, our approach is better suited for knowledge-intensive processes that inherently have a lot of variety.
  • How can we measure the usability of our processes?
    Unfortunately, there is no single answer to this question. The usability of a process is to a large extent determined by the fit with the people who have to perform the process: what is a well-fitting process to one person may not work for another person. We are working on a checklist that can help you gain insight in this match. Be sure to check our blog for updates on this!