Having researched and explored the Service Design recruitment market for a while now, it seems that there is often a disconnect between strategy and execution, therefore, I read Dan Letts’ recent blog on how to get beyond the blueprint with great interest.

If you have not read it yet, then I highly recommend sparing five minutes to read it before continuing on with my thoughts below.

Service Design challenges vary based on the different contexts in which it is practised. However, the feedback we have had across the industry resonates with Dan’s main point – Service Design should not finish at the blueprint and, in several examples we’ve heard of, the discipline’s credibility is damaged if it does stop short.

I’ve outlined some examples below, which I hope add a broad market view to go with Dan’s deeper perspective. To maintain a positive debate, I’ve kept the company names private.

Financial services company

  • The digital product design team convinced stakeholders to implement service design processes across multiple business units and hire a new service design team. The aim was to conceive and deliver new on and offline services.
  • This approach failed to take into account the practical realities of how to rigorously deliver new services in a complex regulatory environment and initial projects badly underperformed.
  • Overall, the approach failed, and the digital product design team’s stock fell in the business below where they started the process and undermined their ability to influence the strategic direction in the foreseeable future.

Publisher

  • A national publisher hired an external service design team to deliver a vision and strategy for a new global publishing service to meet the question of how content would be consumed in future.
  • The design team left the project shortly after the strategy was presented and within a few months the vision was torn up and the internal teams were left without clear direction.
  • What followed was an expensive overall reorganisation to try to repair the damage.

Global retail brand

  • A global retail brand wanted to introduce service design to deliver innovative new in-store experiences.
  • On building their team, they maintained strict criteria that service designers they hired needed to have experience delivering or overseeing the delivery of the services they had imagined. It took them 12 months to find two service designers with the right mix of skills.
  • Their patience has been rewarded – the service design team has developed an awesome reputation in-house by delivering projects that have a clear business benefit and has plans to grow further.

Charity

  • A global charity hired a highly-experienced service design director to help them innovate new services and lead internal cultural change.
  • The Director intentionally only hired service designers who had multiple examples of delivering services that had been successfully implemented. This has taken a long time though they are unique in our network of a client that has grown and truly benefitted long term from introducing service design.
  • There’s more progress to be made, however, three years in, the team is going strong, is scaling and has tangible evidence of cultural change and successful projects delivered to lean on.

One of the main differences between the (admittedly) brief examples above is whether the service design team had implementation experience and an accompanying attitude that service design isn’t finished until it’s been implemented. I’m definitely not a service designer though we are in a fortunate position at Futureheads to hear our fair share of stories and I hope the above provide some anecdotal evidence of trends, which we have heard, to balance Dan’s thoughts.

The topic of where strategy meets execution is a much debated one in design in general so all thoughts and opinions are welcome, drop me a line.

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