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Part 5 of a series of articles on the 10 standards for Performance Improvement.

Digital is everything. We need to stay close to the future as the rate of change is so fast. It seems nearly impossible to keep up. In a recent report from Accenture titled, “Thriving on Disruption,” researchers found that only 20 percent of chief strategic officers believed that they were highly prepared for digital disruption.

If digital is everything, we need to take a closer look. In his article titled “Becoming a Future-surfing Enterprise,” Terry White says digital disruption “…is about changed customer expectations and your digital response.”

In this changing future world, our customers have changed. And this has relevance to design and solutions’ conformity of design. Today’s customers are expecting bespoke solutions to performance issues and challenges. The standard off-the-shelf approach is no longer valid.

In a series of articles, I will focus on the 10 Standards for Performance Improvement. You can find a full explanation of these standards at

As a recap of what was discussed in previous articles, the first four standards are known as principles, as they are the lenses through which we apply systematic methodology of consulting and managing. Our methodology guides us to how we do it. In part 3 of our series, we started the consulting process by determining “where is the gap?” In part 4, we uncovered the importance of data and cause analysis.

In this article, I will focus on the seventh standard.


Standard 7 of the International Standards for Performance Improvement deals with design. Design in the Future of Work (FOW) is changing rapidly and this standard should be seen against evolving performance landscapes and disruptive industries and economies.

These principles are still valid as per the 10 International Standards. Competent practitioners design solutions and plan to implement them. Their designs describe the following for each of these solutions:

  • Features, attributes, and elements
  • Feasibility
  • Alignment to the identified factors.
  • Expected improvements to performance

Their plans should also include:

  • Timing and schedules
  • Resources required
  • Recommendations on how to sustain the improvements
  • Methods to monitor improvements

However, the above elements will encompass the changing world of digital disruption where those type of designs are required

The impact for clients are:

  • Comprehend the implication of implementing the solutions
  • Make the appropriate resource commitments for the next steps
  • Commit to what is required to sustain the expected improvements

It is important in this fast-moving and fast-paced disruptive landscape that we consider the profile of a new performance design disruptor.

Performance design disruptors’ profile

  • Understand that customers’ profiles have changed
  • Expect constant change
  • Exhibit a future-thinking mindset that includes future performance landscapes
  • Understand the anatomy of this future performance disruptor landscape
  • Continuously question to refine the customer experience
  • Continually learn outside their comfort knowledge
  • Know who their new customers are in a changing world of work
  • Identify and analyse customer transformational needs systemically and systematically
  • Understand that customers want a changed customized experience
  • Understand the customer’s disruptive performance landscape
  • Understand that technology is the game changer – not digital
  • Utilize technology as the vehicle for a digital experience
  • Know how they continuously need to disrupt their competitors
  • Design disruptors understand working with partners and complementary suppliers and organizations will provide the edge
  • Network with people in other disciplines
  • Future-proof their role by contributing to a changing business model
  • Contribute daily to their organisation’s unique expertise to stay ahead of the pack
  • Read outside their field of expertise
  • Understand the design disruptor value chain
  • Design disruptors are not product focused – they are performance driven
  • Understand the importance of relationships as a personal connection that AI cannot fulfill
  • Design and deliver on the customer expectation now and in the future
  • Have access to change platforms that are future ready
  • Understand a seamless integration of many disciplines, (e.g. internally a performance management system could be in the customer engagement and/or marketing space)
  • Understand that design offerings will completely change as industries evolve

Practical guidelines and tips (what design disruptors do)

  • Work in the space of the total performance canvas
  • Recommend an entire suite of digital solutions to address the entire performance system of the customer
  • Understand what the interconnectedness of the deliverables are
  • Create the desired customer experience against the total performance system
  • Design solutions that meet the changing disruptive performance landscape of the customer
  • Utilize products and services outside their usual domain for bespoke solutions
  • Design and deliver a transformational solution, which delivers beyond the transformation expectations of the customer
  • Remain solution-neutral vs solution-focused – because technology is the game changer
  • Design and track metrics most critical to the entire performance landscape where the solution is provided
  • Know that core strengths may become irrelevant as customers demand new experiences
  • Involve other experts in other product or service industries
  • Are agile in their design offerings

Is design thinking the answer?

Does “Design Thinking” have a place? This article will not analyse the value and benefits. It merely asks the question “Is Design Thinking enough?” Is it the only answer?

Let’s explore briefly what Design Thinking is. Design Thinking is a process that is structured to guide ideas to successful execution. It combines customer insight with experimentation and business sense.

In “Design Thinking Comes of Age,” Jon Kolko from Harvard Business Review indicates, “There’s a shift underway in large organisations; one that puts design much closer to the center of the enterprise.

But the shift isn’t about aesthetics. It’s about applying the principles of design to the way people work.” Furthermore, it:

  • Creates models to examine complex problems. Design Thinkers use physical models to explore, define, and communicate.
  • Exhibits thoughtful restraint. By removing features, a company offers customers a clear, simple experience.
  • Uses prototypes to explore potential solutions. They may be digital, physical, or diagrammatic, but in all cases, they are a way to communicate ideas.
  • Tolerates failure. The iterative nature of the design process recognises that it’s rare to get things right the first time.


Terry White indicates in this article that, “There seems to be a wilfull blindness to disruption. The Accenture report revealed a dichotomy where 80 percent of CSOs admit that new technologies have already rapidly changed their industry over the past five years. However, out of the more than 500 CSOs polled, not a single strategy executive mentioned any attempt at disrupting their own industries first.

I am not sure whether Design Thinking is of value in isolation anymore. It necessitates a new way of thinking and doing to avoid being disrupted by competitors or others in seemingly unrelated fields and industries.

Useful websites, video and links

Over the next 12 months, I will be publishing a series of articles that will focus in-depth on the 10 International Standards of ISPI.  Each article will focus specifically on tips, tools, and links to articles, websites, and more. Stay posted!

If you would like to know more about what we do, please visit our website or connect with Belia Nel on LinkedIn.

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