Organisational change lab

Why is (organisational) change so hard — even with great ideas and technology solutions?

Anni Leppanen
4 min readDec 10, 2023

When working with new technology or developing services, you might have encountered organisational change as a challenge in getting your ideas to production or getting support for innovation. You might have also noticed that organisational change is really hard. This article shares a workshop concept and materials that will help you discuss organisational change in your project or team. We developed this guide for the Mydata conference 2023 as a way to help accelerate change.

Resistance to change (image: Anni Leppänen)

Have you these encountered challenges?

  • excuses — We cannot because…
  • doubts — What if it does not work?
  • proof — Where’s the business value?
  • fear — We might get into trouble!
  • not for me — This is too technical, it is not for me.
  • too ambitious— It’s too visionary. It’s too expensive. It’s just not a priority.
  • stalling — Project was delayed. We never got to launch.
  • not important — it’s just a shiny new thing.

You have probably heard at least some of them during a development project or when you had a new idea. This sort of responses reflect that there is an issue of organisational change. It is not just going to be enough for you to make a great presentation and have the best ideas — you need to start working with organisational change.

Scoping change is full of dilemmas

Another challenge for innovation is the scope of change. Often, development teams are stuck in balancing with these dilemmas of scope.

  • Customer experience vs economic productivity
  • Top-management goals vs grassroots needs
  • Visionary and holistic vs realistic and clearly defined
  • Systems change vs daily experiences
  • Renewing old IT vs a new opportunity emerging from data

The best way to tackle these dilemmas and being stuck in scoping, is to have a conversation with your team about how you should balance between these options. Often real change requires you to work in all of these aspects.

Dilemmas in scoping. (Image: Anni Leppänen)

Share you challenge stories

This is the first part of the workshop. You should reserve at least 30 minutes for this part.

Remember these rules:

  • This is a circle of trust.
  • We use the Chatham house rule.
  • Be present and contribute actively.
  • Listen and give space to all — invite others to comment.
  • Value each other’s experiences and points of view.

Materials you need:

  • post-its and pens
  • Organisational change lab canvas (A1)
  • voting stickers

The guide

Individual task — 5 minutes: Write down your own challenge story on a post-it. You can write as many challenges as you want.

In groups of 3–7 people — 10 minutes: Get to know each other and share your story.

  • Pick a character to reflect your change agent mood!
  • Place your agent and post-its on the group board.
  • Introduce yourself and share one story (shortly).

In groups — 8 minutes: Discuss the challenge categories on the board. What are the most difficult challenges in your organisation?

Individual task — 2 minutes: Vote for the challenge(s) you want to solve together. You each have 3 vote stickers.

Change agent characters (visuals by Mari Mur for City of Helsinki)

Remember to have a break!

Wins and ideas

This is the second part of the workshop. You should reserve at least 25 minutes for this part.

Materials you need:

  • A3 papers and pens
  • Organisational change lab -postcard

How might we overcome the challenges? Let’s celebrate wins!

  • What are those small steps and epic moments that take us closer to our vision? How to build a roadmap and turn into learning organisations?
  • How to create those Aha-moments?​
  • How do we connect with the big picture and tell a convincing story?
  • Who are our partners and pioneers? How to create a shared meaning? Who do we need to convince?​
  • How do we make it stick? How to get the courage and energy to be persistent?​
  • How might we use a bit of sparkle to get attention, raise the stakes and go a bit of script?

The guide

Individual task — 8 minutes: Crazy eights! Write down your wins and brainstorm ideas on how to overcome challenge(s) voted for this part. You can google crazy eights method if you are not familiar with it.

In groups of 3–7 people: Share your win and best ideas.

Individual task — 5 minutes: Combine the best ideas to take with you — fill out the post card.

Individual task: Go around the room and get ideas from other groups. You can also collect the best ideas and add them to your post card.

Postcard by Organisational change lab (Anni Leppänen, City of Helsinki)

Hope you found this article and workshop method useful!

Download all materials:

Please remember that these materials are under the Creative Commons BY 4.0 license.

About the author:

Anni Leppänen is a lead service designer at City of Helsinki and the founder of Finnish designers in government community Julkis-muotoilijat.

Workshop co-facilitator:
Kaarin Laaneots is a service designer at City of Helsinki

Anni and Kaarin at Mydata conference 2023



Anni Leppanen

Strategic designer, change agent and specialist in sustainability transitions, digital transformation, government and experiments.