Three Reasons Homegrown Service Design Might Be the Best Start

Service design in the United States is heading in one direction: inside. Many organizations are interested in using service design to understand their system, reduce friction in their service, or drive the innovations they need to compete differently. How do organizations new to this way of working get started? The first step (often the hardest) is accessing the talent and capabilities needed to build a movement within the organization. But in most cases, the best people to start service design within your organization are actually already there!

Service design, as both a toolbox and a mindset, a discipline and an extension, is most effective when it is applied from the tacit knowledge and experience of internal teams. How could this happen? In my experience, a mix of customized service design training and new processes can allow a new core team to take shape in a few weeks while saving the exorbitant costs of a potential acquisition or extended consulting engagement. Designing for service systems is a complex proposition, but provides simplicity that avoids the classic pitfalls of innovation. By forming your service practice from existing employees, trust and credibility within your organization start from day one, rather than building it from scratch. Start by finding a “Tribe of the Willing” — people that have been in your organization with an understanding of how to best evolve process and policies, and a passion for positive change.

Know the lay of the land

Anyone who has worked on bringing service design into an organization will tell you that making friends and finding the lay of the land are critical barriers to overcome. Most people are naturally skeptical of outsiders they don’t know. It takes time to retain the names and faces of people you will need to connect with, and then, even more, time to build a rapport with them to earn their trust and engagement. Converting your existing employees to service design team members will allow a “new” team to start with the more credibility and trust internally then hiring a new group of outsiders. Of course, there will likely need to be a few new hires to fill core skills within the group if your organization has some talent gaps, but team leadership and the majority of team members should come from within the organization. From knowing workarounds to having a bank of personal favors, existing employees allow service design to quickly gain traction.

Faster and more affordable to start

Identifying internal employees that have the right personality to collaborate is faster because they have already gone through your HR processes, background checks, and organizational onboarding. Additionally, re-location and salary negotiation process do not hold up the team’s momentum. Instead of hiring in pieces it is better to start from an informed base of existing employees and build from that nucleus. As your team starts to get their head around service design as a new capability you can then either hire new employees to fill talent gaps or bring in consultants to as needed. Working from the inside out and growing service design for yourself will enable the consultants your organization might bring in to have a greater impact.

Get more from consulting

Imagine how hard it would be to do accounting if every accounting audit required the repeated explanation of accounting, the importance of keeping a ledger, measuring efficiencies, and establishing regular reconciliations. This is what has to happen every time consultants come into service design at companies that are not prepared to grow service design. Of course, this is a natural occurrence for something as new as service design, but imagine if you had a team that was already warmed up and ready to run? Bringing in consultants could make service design engagements much more fruitful for all sides of the project. Often consultants come in and do work with the best intentions, but without internal adoption and evangelism the best-intended work ends up like a concept car: nice to look at, but hardly actionable. Living off of long term consulting just to get started with service design is unsustainable and leaves the organization in the unenviable position of spending so much preparing to build a service concept that they can not afford to build the concept or lacking the skills needed to execute. In contrast, building your own core team and service network will enable you to bring in consultants when the company needs a boost or an outside opinion.

Starting a service design team with internal team members is the most sustainable way to change the way an organization competes on service. With the right mix of embedded training and a range of internal perspectives, an organization can empower existing employees to shape the future of an organization while providing the innovative sustenance needed to compete on better services.