Back to Design Basics

I recently watched Peter Skillman (VP Designof HERE) discuss an experiment he conducted and the discoveries he made while doing it – listen below:

The kindergartners outperformed all the “smart” people in the experiment!  The lowest performing group . . . business students.

Telling.  Organizations have over-thought and over-designed just about everything – leading to complexity and waste by designing in  their own problems.

Over and over again I have found that the approach from management in service organizations is to get an idea, plan and roll-out to the organization via project management the implementation of the idea.  Long projects (Over 6 months) have requirements change because of the dynamic nature of service.  The project is typically obsolete before the implementation is finished.

Information technology companies selling software perpetuate and lock in the waste by “nailing down” requirements and writing contracts that impede or dismiss an iterative approach.  In fact, the whole software development process has created a barrier to changing requirements.

Those software companies that do iterative type of software development are still missing the work design issues that need to be dealt with before starting to code.  The business requirements are born from a poor work design and can only be seen when developers actually understand the work – not through written requirements, but through observation and iteratively improving the work.  This is a programmer-user activity with no intermediaries.

Few software companies address the work design itself and when they do it is usually a retrofitting activity.  Slam the software in and then make process improvements.  The operating assumption is that the design ONLY needs process improvement rather than redesign BEFORE any software is provisioned.  Monthly sales targets in a software organization wouldn’t allow such diligence and even if this didn’t exist most software organizations don’t have the knowledge to do a redesign (one of the reasons I offer a workshop and consulting in this area).

Service organizations would be better off to design/redesign services before pulling in IT companies.  When you have iteratively discovered a better design, then software may make sense.  Service organizations just like to do things backwards . . . an operating reality.

Regardless, there are better ways to go about improving service organizations than the large single-focused project.  We are better off being armed with knowledge and an “iterative” discovery process than the business school definition being used today.

Take a look at your organization as your customers see it –  our 4-day workshop has been called “an awakening experience.”  You will understand the customer view of your organization and take inventory of the assumptions, beliefs and perspectives that drive performance.  Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect and organizational futurist.  His company helps service organizations understand future trends, culture and customer.  The 95 Method designs organizations to improve the comprehensive customer experience while improving culture and management effectiveness.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CallCenterIQ. Reach him on Twitter at or LinkedIn at


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