Using Design Principles to Describe What Transformation Means


Digital transformation to me is about the transformation of organisations from silos, outsourced capability and murky strategic goals, to being an organisation that understands the vision, that knows where it delivers the most value and how to focus on it – Michael Brunton-Spall

Right now – if my backchannel Twitter conversations are to be believed – there are more people working on transformation programmes than doing any actual work.

Transformation is a nebulous term that no normal person would ever use in conversation.

I have a mistrust of anything claiming to be transformational for a few reasons:

Simply put – are we clear what the drivers of transformation are and what it is we are trying to transform into?

I’ve found it useful to create design principles for us to adopt as we think about or implement change.

There are eight principles in all and they underpin how we intend to exist – a demarcation between managing the present and inventing the future.

Having a clearly articulated and understood set of principles should help us do the following:

  • Get us all on the same page – or surface principles that we are unclear on and need further debate.
  • Avoid silos – as everyone is working to the same set of overarching principles.
  • Help us evaluate proposed work – as deviating from the principles is not acceptable, although they might develop over time.
  • Establish the use of the principles as “business as usual” for the way we deliver change.

Here they are:


By embedding design principles we hope to better articulate what transformation could and should feel like.  Turning it from organisational junk language into something that people can apply to their everyday work.

We’ll let you know how we get on and how the principles develop.


Credit where it’s due: The principles are not original and have been heavily influenced and in part directly lifted from GDS team, Carl Haggarty, Vijay Govindarajan and many others. If I’ve failed to credit you and you spot a phrase I swiped, let me know!


11 responses to “Using Design Principles to Describe What Transformation Means”

  1. Love this Paul, and once agin our approaches are very similar. Ive just done a very similar principle centred approach to transformation in an organisation I’m working with 🙂

  2. […] that replace, control or overwhelm the power of community will become obsolete. The second of our organisational design principles is that we should think community first, services […]

  3. […] original draft of our design principles stated “Automate everything that can be automated”. People flinched — it was seen as too […]

  4. […] design principles were implemented partly to counter this view that we are somehow different from everyone […]

  5. I do not believe it is a case of either standardised or bespoke. The art lies in the integration of both, which is actually beautifully captured in the design principles above. Design requires experimentation which is about testing something bespoke, once found working then requires standardisation.

    Both are part of the innovation process cycle and actually also apply to any product or service. The world needs both differentiation and standardisation equally in the provision of choice & quality, and though opposing values/ energies they are highly complementary of one another.

    1. Thanks Heidi – you’re right of course. And just because something is standardised doesn’t mean it can’t be beautifully designed and intuitive

  6. […] part of the work we’ve been doing on Bromford 2.0 we recognise that slaying zombies is just part of good governance. Innovation is all about […]

  7. […] have that replace, control or overwhelm unity and co-operation will become obsolete. One of our organisational design principles is that we should think community first, services […]

  8. […] the right set of organisational design principles that ensures your company is joined up and consistent. However this needs to be capable of […]

  9. […] started by defining nine overall design principles, which leaders all signed up to before developing their own principles for each of their service […]

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