“[In service design] the only one to see the big picture is the client.” said John Holager, Senior Service Designer, live|work at the Innovation and Service Design conference, 29 Jan 2010, Malmö, Sweden.

This is a wonderfully simple and revelatory observation that made so much immediate sense!

Most businesses are divided into specialised departments and divisions, each focused on their own little specialisation. Service design is an activity done without much (if any) big picture direction and view – each department creates their own procedure to suit their own requirements, leaving the unfortunate client to move from one pipeline to another.

It is little wonder that so many services are clumsy – because one hand doesn’t know what the other hands are up to, and don’t necessarily care either! This is design by isolated committees (note the plural).

Service design done this way uses a value chain mechanism, a production line mechanism, where each department’s “link” is presented in a linear fashion to the client. Unfortunately, service design, refinement and delivery occur in a value net situation, where feedback and corrective actions are immediate. Right down to the level of “the client is starting to look agitated so I as the service delivery person need to change tack now”…

Feedback in the linear model is clumsy at best. By the time the client is ready to give feedback for Step A (regarding an issue which only came to light in Step C), there is no one at Step C who knows or cares about Step A’s design! Haven’t we all experienced this?!

Key basis for designing a great service: