By Joe Heapy
Our work at Engine over ten years has taught us that great services need great organisations. So it often results that by designing a service, we address an organisational challenge.
Today we apply design thinking and design methods to business challenges at many levels, from touchpoint and experience design, to developing teams and their skills to design collaboratively in response to customer need. The subject for design has extended beyond the service product, to the people, processes, purpose and culture of organisations.
We believe that there are two key areas that must be addressed to support organisational change: modelling and making tangible new ways of working, plus the development of a 'design platform' - a core structure and its components that support teams to work in new ways. The objective is always to allow people to learn through doing and to create the conditions that will allow new tools and ways of working to spread beyond a single team.
These two areas must be developed in tandem so that new practices can be freely modelled and adapted as needs arise. We have put together some key lessons on the implementation of design-led practices within an organisation:
1. New practices are linked to a clear service vision
A service vision has to be supported from the top and relevant at every level. This means the vision is aspirational, but clearly actionable for those looking to implement it. The actionable elements of the vision should describe how the organisation behaves and importantly the role to adopt in the lives of customers. The process of creating a vision is critical, it needs high levels of collaboration and a structure that means it can evolve over time.
2. The reasons for adoption of new practices are advocated from the top
When reasons to adopt new ways of working are advocated from the top and linked directly to commercial objectives, the process of change is more likely to gain traction and succeed. If leaders can articulate the need to change the way people work, others can go on to engage and take ownership of specific working practices. Changes in working practices can be aligned with significant reorganisations, rebrands and changes in legalisation or new policy ideas.
3. New practices are most recognisable alongside existing practice
New design tools and processes should be visibly aligned with current design and development processes. It must be clear how any new service design process augments or informs existing ones. As design practice has a role in the facilitation of multidisciplinary working, design-like processes should borrow aspects of development processes from elsewhere in the organisation. An obvious route would be to create a service design process that marries existing marketing practice (strategy and implementation) with services management.
4. New practices shouldn't add complexity
Due to the cross-organisational nature of services, service design processes, if given the remit, will extend to overlap and encompass many functions and processes within an organisation. Therefore, those who own the existing processes need to be involved and can provide understanding for the purpose of each particular function or process of the organisation.
5. Immediate practical value
New ways of working should be introduced on live projects with real objectives. There are always sceptics. Sceptics are not always a negative force; they simply require evidence where others proceed in good faith. It's important to introduce new ways of working on real projects, as soon as possible, to demonstrate real impact.
6. Prototype and iterate new tools and processes before launching them on the organisation
New design approaches should be prototyped on a small scale and, initially, away from the scrutiny of the wider organisation, so that the generic tools of service design can absorb the language and culture of the organisation. Starting small through 'demonstration projects' will generate evidence of success and allow early teams to gain confidence and act as advocates for others. Once there is greater fidelity and confidence, then the approach can be 'pressure tested' by applying it to more complex problems with new participants.
7. Analyse, but don't rush to adopt best practice from elsewhere
Reference to best practice across sectors is hugely valuable but the core client team needs to go through a design process for themselves and to model new practices in their image. Best practice provides ideas and stimulus, but it's rarely possible to successfully adopt an approach from another organisation in its entirety, or from an aggregation of best practices from elsewhere.
8. Local adaptation
Business units and teams should, within the constraints of shared principles and platform elements, be supported to tailor the common approach to their local requirements, skills and team dynamic. The design of the over-arching process, therefore, needs to have this scalability in mind when it is conceived. It is rare in a dynamic organisation that there is one rigid 'product to market' process. Instead, a skeleton structure can be adapted to accommodate different teams, business requirements and a level of organisational maturity is more effective.
The important achievement is that there is some level of commonality of language and approach to enable multidisciplinary working. Piloting the process against different challenges produces options for how a core design process is adapted. For example, whether a team has three weeks or three months to develop a solution.
9. New ways of working backed-up by new measures of success
Remits for new processes need to be clearly given and clearly supported by changes to performance measurement. These measures need to reflect the changing nature of the internal practice by measuring outputs, but also including a perspective on behaviour change and impact within the organisation; such as the effectiveness of a person's work in building awareness of new techniques among others. In a programme rolling out new ways of working, staggered review points and a roadmap for measurement, which correlates with the evolution and maturity of new practices, can be implemented. This requires having a realistic view of what success looks like in terms of outputs and impact at the service and organisational levels and over time.
10. Make customers' stories into valuable business assets
These serve as insights, key differentiators and provide high value in a service organisation. Bringing them to life can increase the ease with which multidisciplinary teams can be formed around a challenge. By making customer research and customers highly visible in an organisation, a single point of focus is presented. It's much harder to deny what everyone is there to do when customers and their stories are embedded in conversations. Having useful and usable information and rich pictures of customers freely available to teams, and ensuring that its use is routine within processes, increases the likelihood of reaching valuable and sustainable solutions for customers.