Setting a course for cultural change: Implementing human-centred design as an approach to product development in large-scale organizations, case study: ABB Motion

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Master's Programme in Collaborative and Industrial Design
77 + 7
The context in which the organizations are operating, and their relative business dynamics are in constant change. Over the years, employing traditional product development approaches that rely on technological advancements and efficiency has become less sustainable in gaining competitive advantage. As the emphasis on understanding the needs of customers and users increases, human-centred design approach gains more attention as a strategic tool for businesses to respond to the challenge. As an organization focusing predominantly in technology-oriented and expert-driven operations, ABB is starting to acknowledge the importance of practising design at the core of its product development to cultivate an experimentative and iterative way to innovate solutions that can meaningfully answer to people’s demands. This master’s thesis explores the complex and multi-faceted nature of cultural change through reviewing the literature, and it links the learnings as a framework for the case study undertaken in ABB Drives. The case study aims to set out a cultural change course to shift development operations to be more human-centric in the organization. Semi-structured interviews (n=8) with employees from management, R&D and sales functions were conducted to identify the characteristics and challenges of the existing development culture. Further, implications for changemakers were drawn. Also, past efforts in bringing about design in the organization were reviewed to interpret their influence, strength and limitations. The findings of the research highlight the intricacies of embedding a human-centred development culture in organizations and the roles of changemakers to actualize the change. Understanding the existing design approach and practices is found to be a crucial step in successfully planning an organizational-specific change agenda. Envisioning the desired state with a clear set of goals, establishing a roadmap thinking to continuously develop new change initiatives and collaborating with stakeholders throughout the change process are recognized as essential activities for changemakers. Through conducting a co-creation workshop with the in-house design team and having continuous stakeholder engagements, the thesis presents six change initiatives as a result of the case study undertaken in ABB Drives. The thesis aims to build on the knowledge around enhancing and supporting design-driven development practices in large-scale organizations by reflecting on the current discourse and the results of the case study.
Solsona Caba, Núria
Thesis advisor
Savolainen, Kaisa
Ollikainen, Kimmo
human-centred design, organizational culture, organizational change, design management, competency development, product development