Make the space and hold the space: letting service design happen

Before service design can happen, we need to make the space and hold the space

I was inspired to write this blog post by a quote from Matt Edgar, Head of Design at NHS Digital, at the Service Design in Government conference last month:

“Before service design can happen, we need to make the space and hold the space.”

At dxw, we have seen many examples where suppliers or new team members are brought into an organisation to do transformative work, but the space they are given to operate in is at best messy and vague, and people have not yet been involved or aren’t signed up to change.

Service delivery happens right across the organisation

One of the reasons good service design is so difficult is because service delivery cuts across such a wide range of people in any public sector organisation. End-to end services are delivered by policy, operations, contact, and technology teams.

It’s difficult to create an autonomous and empowered space in the midst of all those teams. All of whom will have been working hard to do their job, often for many years.

Successful service design needs a wide range of skills

The job becomes even harder when you think about the wide range of skills needed for service design to happen. Matt had a great slide on this:

Service design craft skills: communicating complexity, rapid prototyping, multi-channel orchestration, designing with data, service pacing

You need a fully functioning multi-skilled team to implement service design. And along with great technical skills, as a new team you must also be able to quickly form relationships, and navigate an organisation’s internal politics and operating model.

That’s a real challenge.

Everyone needs to work together

That’s why a big part of successful service design is about making sure everyone – internal/existing/external/new – works together, and in a different way to before.  It’s much more than just creating and adding in new roles. It needs everyone to be engaged and involved from the start.

Leaders need to start the conversation with all the teams involved. They need to make sure that their existing experts are part of that autonomous, empowered and multi-disciplinary team. Working alongside the specialists coming into the organisation.

Going forward

We achieve the best outcomes when the team is empowered, knows their domain, and everyone understands and is working towards a shared vision that solves a particular problem.

Make the space, hold the space.