Image credit: American Heritage Chocolate
Reflecting on service design in the workplace.
I had a pretty involved conversation with a close friend this week. It started casually enough; he asked how my studies were going, and what I had been reading about. I said I was looking into service design. As I summarised what I had learned from the weekly content, I noticed that his brow had furrowed.
This friend has worked in a run of big, corporate organisations. What I was describing was, to him, reminiscent of the management consultancy agencies he had seen in the workplace. His experience of those agencies was mostly negative. I’ve taken some time to think about why the service design offered by an independant agency might not receive positive reception. Or perhaps, why it might be more difficult to deliver effective service design as a third party.
My friend recalled being encouraged to collaborate with different departments over new communication channels that didn’t feel bespoke. Communications were disjointed and appeared across both new and old channels. It made it difficult to collaborate affably with other departments.
Bill Cushard, 2017, recognises that implementing a communication platform alone doesn’t resolve interdepartmental communication barriers, and many of those barriers can be categorised as either ‘physical’ or ‘systems’ separation. If the departments work across multiple timezones, for example, then a solution that allows asynchronous collaboration should be considered. If one team handles specific data in their work, then it might be worth making that data visible to other teams, to streamline conversation.
One department’s work can always inform another’s and, as such, departments shouldn’t be siloed. With that being said, open communication channels without constraints could also hamper business development. If every department can muck in with reckless abandon, it’s natural for people to want to input on work, even when it doesn’t align with their skillset.
Turk, 2017, p.70, recgonises the allure of ‘bikeshedding’, where a group tends to disproportionately focus on the more insignificant and commonly understandable points of a large, complex problem. Though it seems productive to each team member sharing their perspective, “the vast disproportionality of the cost of this type of discussion in fatigue, negative energy, and loss of productivity typically outweighs the resultant consensus.”
If the service designer implements a new system for communication between departments, it is their responsibility to ensure that the collaborations they enable are to the benefit of the organisation. If the communications between departments slow a process instead of streamlining it, then the new system is counterproductive to business development.
Good service design is difficult, but an external management consultant would have a particularly tough job. They would likely work from quantitative data supplied by business analysts and reported company culture from upper management or HR.
In reality, a lot of company culture can’t be reported. Boris Groysberg, Jeremiah Lee, Jesse Price, and J. Yo-Jud Cheng, 2018, reviewed literature on company culture, and found eight distinct culture styles, that were commonly grounded in the teams’ behaviours, mindsets and social patterns. These eight styles were as follows:
- caring: relationships and mutual trust
- purpose: idealism and altruism
- learning: exploration, expansiveness, and creativity
- enjoyment: fun and excitement
- results: achievement and winning
- authority: strength, decisiveness, and boldness
- safety: planning, caution, and preparedness
- order: respect, structure, and shared norms.
Without first-hand internal experience of a company’s— or a department’s— culture, or continuous exploritative, qualitative research, it’s difficult to produce solutions that feel tailored and refined for each department. I believe that might be why my friend felt the solutions he saw weren’t bespoke.
Lancaster, 2004, p.45, proposes four consultational styles:
- acceptive approach: helping the client to confront their own problems, by encouraging them to resolve what is blocking them from solving them. This approach focuses on empathy, emotional support, and careful listening skills.
- Catalytic approach: Gathering data and clarifying existing data around the business and its problems, and presenting them to the client. This is based on the notion that the business owners will be able to find their own solution once they have the necessary data.
- Confrontational approach: Where the consultant believes that the client is part of problem, typically when there is a discrepancy between what the clients say or think they do, and what they actually do. This approach requires strong interpersonal and communication skills and is to be used with caution, as the client could feel alienated.
- Perscriptive approach: Could be regarded as the ‘typical’ consulation approach. The consultant listens to the client, gathers and processes data, then delivers an appropriate solution or recommendation to the client.
When the content for this week was revealed, I thought that service design would be somewhat tangental to my current focus of the prototype. I’ve since unified product and service design in my mind.
The consultative approach can be acceptive, catalytic, perscriptive, or even confrontational, but to design a product or a service well, it should be grounded compassionate user research.
CUSHARD, B. 2017. ‘3 Strategies For Better Interdepartmental Communication’. Forbes [online]. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/adp/2017/12/05/3-strategies-for-better-interdepartmental-communication/?sh=690f45b26695 [accessed 17/05/2021].
GROYSBERG, B., LEE, J., PRICE, J. & CHENG, J. Y. 2018. ‘The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture’. Harvard Business Review [online]. Available at: https://hbr.org/2018/01/the-leaders-guide-to-corporate-culture [accessed 17/05/2021].
LANCASTER, G. 2004. Research Methods in Management : A Concise Introduction to Research in Management and Business Consultancy. Oxfordshire: Taylor & Francis Group, 45.
TURK, M. 2014. ‘Fostering Collaborative Computational Science’. Computing in Science & Engineering, 16(2), 68 – 71.