Part 3 of 4 from the “Service Design requires an attitude shift!” series

Be bold, be open for collaboration and be willing to change the organizational structure. This is the attitude shift I proposed in my first blog. Now I will elaborate on the second part of my statement: be willing to collaborate.

It feels like open door, “be willing to collaborate”. There is much literature and courses on collaboration with the coming of Agile and Scrum. I would think we would all be collaboration champions by now. But I have noticed that pleasant teamwork is still not a given. Some people are not willing to collaborate on service innovations. This can have many valid causes; being insecure (read about this in my previous blog), only caring about checking off personal work or being in a time squeeze. On that time squeeze I want to zoom in.

A Service Design touches upon many different expertises which makes the trend of having multidisciplinary teams very fitting. These diverse team-members have different functions and competences for a reason; to be able to cross-pollinate quickly and create a well working service. But if you look at a team as a machine it is logical to make all the parts (team-members) align to work well. Everyone takes good care and time in designing all parts of that machine to work together as efficiently as possible. When these parts are people the attitude suddenly changes. “Team-members are responsible to make sure they work together well.” Without allowing them to take time for this. Also this notion would mean all of them need to be experts in teamwork. These attitudes are just not realistic. Just like aligning the parts of the machine you need to align your team-members as well. This will lead to get the best results. Aligning inevitably takes time. But fixing a problem later on, especially a social issue, can be a larger hassle than doing it right from the start. From the start of a project a team needs to learn about each-others’ strengths, weaknesses and goals. Sharing this knowledge and acting upon it will make everyone thrive and therefore benefits the output of the team.

Taking time out of your busy go-live schedule seems inefficient to many. Everyone likes to think of work as producing constantly. But we humans are no robots, we simply can’t produce at peak efficiency all the time. Think about the time you need to get some coffee, walk around and dare I say it: check the news. People who do not take these actions will burn out faster which is detrimental to the team’s results. Team building exercises will give the much needed change in the daily routine to keep everyone focused and efficient. Taking care of your team is an initial investment of time but will smooth out the road ahead.

To make this work you need a person with the skills to monitor the social cohesion and attitude of the team. He or she needs to set up the initial collaboration. This ,to my opinion , is the role of the Scrum master or management. Though I see them often focusing primarily on planning the work instead of aligning the team. Take time out of the schedule to make people talk and get to know each other. This way you create the attitude where the implementation of Service Design will thrive in.

I ran into the importance of taking time for collaboration whilst working on an internal application. The team was multidisciplinary and comprised of members from both IT and Business divisions. Which is a step in the right direction for the third part of the attitude shift (be willing to change the organisational structure). But more on this in my next blog. At the moment I want to zoom in on the collaboration.

As goes for many companies: the IT and business division mistrusted each other. The culture that had been in place gave people from IT the preconceived notion that “The Business wants everything but the kitchen sink”. The people from the Business complained “IT never delivers their work on time, they are insufficient and slow”. The team had been slaving away on the application. Completely focused on creation of this new service but inefficient. When joining the team, I noticed this had taken a toll on the team’s communication and joy of working together. Disagreements were rather shoved under the rug instead of talked about out in the open. Therefore I instigated a workshop revolving around everyone’s competences and goals. Being allowed to take this time needed some persuasion, and this persuasion did take unnecessary time. Yet the workshop itself boosted the team spirit and improved the team’s attitude. This aided the team in creating good services and applications more quickly. From a broken team of 24 people where many wanted to leave it transformed to a successful team counting 60 people.

This workshop I held is of course not solely responsible for the turn around. In daily life the team needed to work hard to restore their bond as well. But well thought out workshops can be great catalysts of collaboration. (See, there is a very serious reason that underlines the love of Service Designers for workshops!) An example of a exercise that worked well for me and my team was the “league of extraordinary shortsighted agile superheroes”. This is an exercise to playfully open up the discussion about each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Next week I will write about the third and last part of the attitude shift: be willing to change the organisational structure. In the meantime: Share your tips on great team-building or attitude-changing workshops/exercises.

Service Designer @IdeanNL. Firm believer in the interconnectedness of everything. Passionate in understanding and improving the world around me.