Now that I have formal education and experience in service design, I can look back on projects I did before to reflect on what I can learn for the future.
While not all of these are directly related to using service design methods and tools, it is related to how you ‘sell’ and do the process internally. From my knowledge, my organisation (or at least my part of it) had never purchased a service design project and I can pretty much guarantee that nobody I had worked with had heard of or used service design in the past. I say this just to set the scene for my reflections.
Also, the institution that I worked for was a matrix organisation. Working in a matrix organisation can be tricky; you have responsibilities for areas in which you have no authority- well, that was my experience with it. It is possible that it works differently in different organisations or even in the private sector. But I was in the public sector at a University and I had responsibilities where I had no official authority that others recognised- that was a difficult place to be. My KPIs were set to achieve various targets but I was not necessarily given the tools or ability to accomplish them.
My role had shifted over the years but the core of it had stayed quite the same…it amounted to managing the on-campus experience for international students (and in my last year, international staff) and to be involved with international student recruitment. This put me in touch with the whole process from enquiries and marketing to on-campus services straight through to Alumni. I was so determined to make the international student (and staff) experience better and smoother…but I had some lessons to learn first.
1.Trying to do it on my own
Before I really understood what I was creating and taking on, I assumed that I could do this…on my own. But as I was soon to find out once I started my academic studies, service design must be a co-creative process. It is not for one person to do. One person cannot (and should not) do everything. My problem was that I could see my vision in my head but I didn’t have the language to explain it to others. This inability to explain to others is a problem in itself as you will see when you read on. Trying to do a service design project by yourself is like trying to run a 30-seat restaurant by yourself…you cannot seat the people, take the orders, cook the food and deliver it yourself. It will fail and it will not be pretty. Service design, like I said, is a co-creative process and it needs to involve the users and the staff that will provide the service (and others who will not in a best case scenario).
2.Having too big a project
In my project I was trying to create what we called the Student Journey…this was end-to-end (cradle to grave as it is sometimes called) map. Starting with initial enquiries right through to the alumni/donor segment. I was trying to do that by myself. It seemed reasonable at the time and, more specifically, no one else seemed interested in doing it. While I really felt that it needed to be done (and it DID…I was at least right about that). But just like I mentioned above, it is not the job of one person. One of the important things that I learned during my MBA in Service Innovation & Design is that what I was trying to do was a mission impossible. The scope of the project was way too big. It needed to be broken down into much more palatable chunks. It probably would have been easier to “sell” as well. That takes us to the next problem.
3.Too little internal buy-in
There were two issues that were most important affecting the lack of internal buy-in: 1) I couldn’t fully verbalise what I felt needed to happen and 2) the project was too big. These are mistakes 1 and 2 above…and those two together led to this mistake of too little buy-in. No one had signed up for this mammoth project and people couldn’t necessarily see how this work would make their jobs better/easier. I knew it…but again, my ability to explain it well enough was lacking. It was difficult to experience this at the time. It led to some bad feelings and confusion. Not good for working relationships. There needs to be a reason people will go the extra mile or will help you complete your tasks.
4.Not explaining what the goal is
Overall what I saw was that I was unable to really explain what my goal was or what the outcomes would be. This is totally on me. I am far wiser now and I know how much work it would be to get people on side. It would still take time but reflecting on this has allowed me to see where I went wrong in ‘selling’ this process to others. Service design is known for its lack of tangible outcomes at the outset. It literally is called “The Fuzzy Front End”. So this will always be an issue but with better storytelling skills and a better understanding of the process, there can be enough of an explanation to get people on side to at least start the process. Then, if you can chop your overall goal in to more manageable pieces, you can build confidence and buy-in with those. Service design requires a different relationship with colleagues because it has such a fuzzy beginning. It clashes with most organisational cultures and this is why organisational culture is a big issue when pursuing service design or wanting to use it. One of the indicators about the success of service design projects is organisational culture.
This reflection was really good for me. It also helped me to realise that I have a lifetime of programming from the way I was brought up. Underlying my work decisions, I can hear my mother saying “if you want it done right, do it yourself”. I heard that a lot growing up. The reflection has allowed me to dissect and learn from a difficult past situation and to understand where my desire “get things done” comes from. Hopefully this reflection will help someone who is looking into introducing service design to their organisation.