Service Design: A Twitter discussion with Dave Gray & friends

The following conversation took place via Twitter on Tuesday 29th November (late Monday 28th November in north america) between myself, Dave Gray, and a variety of other people. The topic was Service Design, with two main sub-topics: the main challenge for organisations contemplating service design/delivery; and the role of the service designer.

The conversation has been edited slightly for clarity – some comments have been reordered to better reflect the conceptual flow of the discussion; and some extraneous remarks have been removed.

Dave Gray: @docbaty do you agree w @breasy that the biggest challenge is not service design so much as getting companies to adapt so they can deliver?

Steve Baty: @davegray I suspect @breasy’s perspective is skewed based on the clients walking through their doors….

Steve Baty: @davegray so I agree that org change to enable service delivery is a major challenge, …

Steve Baty: @davegray but I also think many, many orgs still do not engage in the intentional activity of designing the services they deliver.

Steve Baty: @davegray In other words, my quibble with @breasy would be around the choice of the word ‘biggest’.

Dave Gray: @docbaty it seems to me that in many cases fundamental & difficult redesign of the org will be required b4 services can be delivered well.

[Dave Malouf (@daveixd): @docbaty I’m Sorry we won’t be hearing you say any of that. :(] (Referring to a conference presentation that was cancelled at the last minute.)

Steve Baty: @davegray This is very true, and org change needed is both structural and cultural in many cases. SD would provide a vision for that change.

Dave Gray: @docbaty well I am paraphrasing @breasy and probably not well.

Steve Baty: @davegray I think some industries more so than others; some markets/countries too. Not in violent disagreement, however.

Steve Baty: @davegray The folks at Live|Work certainly speak from a position of credibility in the SD space. I respect the perspective.

(Dave picks up on a separate conversation thread regarding the role of Service Designers…) Dave Gray: @docbaty and the role of the service designer? I do think facilitation is a huge part of it. Not only frontstage/backstage but customers too.

Elliot Felix (@elliotfelix): @docbaty @davegray @daveixd @enemel What about the argument that to facilitate well you have to know the content (design, in this case)?

Steve Baty: @davegray I agree that facilitation is important, but if a professional designer brings no more *design* capability to the table…?

(Commenting on designer-as-facilitator) Steve Baty: @elliotfelix @davegray @daveixd @enemel These felt more like process experts rather than content experts, if that makes sense.

Dave Gray: @docbaty design is critical. But is it possible that a service designer’s role is more as design educator than design practitioner?

Dave Gray: @docbaty @elliotfelix @daveixd @enemel I just saw a great article about service design facilitation challenges… Will look for the link.
(From UC Berkeley School of Information: Bridging the “Front Stage” and “Back Stage” in Service System Design by Glushko and Tabas, June 2007. http://escholarship.org/uc/item/999373q6)

Steve Baty: @davegray I’ve seen SD practiced that way – often by non-designers with a knowledge of design processes & methods.

Steve Baty: @davegray And they’re successful at it. I would hope, though, either as educator or practitioner, a Designer would be *better at it*

Dave Gray: @docbaty I’ve seen great designers who suck at teaching it, and great teachers who suck at doing it. The best of course are good at both.

Steve Baty: @davegray I guess that’s part of what I’m saying: that last part is implicitly lost if we focus only on the facilitation part.

Matt Ridings (@techguerilla) : @davegray @docbaty not to dive off the deep end here, but doesn’t the line between SD & org design eventually gray ?

Dave Gray: @docbaty @elliotfelix @daveixd @enemel article made some great points about frontstage language eg personas and backstage eg process maps

Steve Baty: @techguerilla @davegray Short answer is Yes. Longer answer goes something like: “How dare you!? Step outside.”

Dave Gray: @techguerilla I believe it does. Design never met a boundary it didn’t want to cross 🙂 @docbaty

Steve Baty: @davegray We produce fairly detailed service maps showing front & backstage interactions, underlying processes, systems etc…

Elliot Felix: @davegray @docbaty @daveixd @enemel Thanks Dave. Design educator vs. practitioner is a good pt (I have a design with – not for – bias tho)

Steve Baty: @davegray … and then as a discussion point with the broad project team.

Steve Baty: @davegray Yes, those too. Revenue & cost modelling; profitability forecasts and sensitivity analysis to changes in R & C.

Elliot Felix: @davegray @docbaty @daveixd @enemel there were a few talks at #sdnc11 on “toolkits don’t turn people into designers” too (my paraphrase).

Steve Baty: @davegray My last design project brief read: “We’d like you to help us design a new business.”

Dave Gray: @docbaty so I’m imagining a lot of facilitation & negotiation then. The role sounds a lot like a broker.

Dave Gray: @docbaty well that definitely crosses the line @techguerilla was drawing there.

Steve Baty: @davegray @techguerilla I try not to let definitions stop me 🙂

Steve Baty: @davegray There is (the role of Broker), but there’s also deconstruction and critical analysis. Identifying & questioning constraints. Asking “What if”…

Steve Baty: @davegray We operate essentially as a design-led business/management consultancy

Matt Ridings: @docbaty @davegray Wondering if there’s a distinction between ‘design’ and ‘structure’ in there somewhere.

Dave Gray: @docbaty a new business is by definition a design problem. All entrepreneurs are designers in that sense.

Dave Gray: @techguerilla well there is a difference between design and engineering. Although many engineers fancy themselves designers @docbaty

Steve Baty: @davegray I agree with the first part; disagree with the second (re: new businesses). There’s an intentionality & thoughtfulness needed.

Dave Gray: @techguerilla … And the best architects have a deep understanding of materials and construction techniques @docbaty

Dave Gray: @docbaty I’ve never met a [successful] entrepreneur who lacked thoughtfulness and intent.

Matt Ridings: @docbaty @davegray Biz Design in isolation of impetus = Startup, Design inclusive of evolutionary needs = Enterprise 🙂

Dave Gray: @techguerilla sentence with equal signs = me confused @docbaty

Dave Gray: @elliotfelix @docbaty I think g+ is better for this kind of convo. Not very mobile-friendly. But better and easier to include more people.

Matt Ridings: @davegray @docbaty i.e. it’s a hell of a lot harder to design something that has to get from point A than to just build point A from scratch

Steve Baty: @davegray True, but you slipped an important qualifier in there. Successful

Steve Baty: @davegray But the graveyard of businesses is also littered with many well-designed concepts. No guarantees there either.

Matt Ridings: @davegray @docbaty Same reason best consultants are polymaths.

Steve Baty: @davegray Coming back a little – SD projects tend to cut across silos, so facilitation & negotiation are important…

Matt Ridings: @docbaty now *that* would be interesting exercise. great biz designs from the annals of failed corps. Plenty of them I would think.

Dave Gray: @docbaty hahaha lol. Yes I assume success. Apologies. But unsuccessful entrepreneurs to me are just so many buzzing flies, easily ignored 🙂

Steve Baty: @davegray … and making the case for the org change needed to execute is a change management issue of some magnitude (as discussed).

Dave Gray: @docbaty that’s exactly what I mean. True service design necessarily affects the whole business in one way or another. It’s business design.

Steve Baty: @davegray I’d just like to think that years of design education and practice are worth something when it comes to, well, design projects.

(At this point the conversation split off into several different threads – an article of Dave’s published recently: http://www.dachisgroup.com/2011/11/everything-is-a-service/ well worth a read; and the upcoming IA Summit in New Orleans in March.)

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