I’m still seeing service design in many brownfield organisations being compromised by current organisational policies, dogma, assumptions, culture, silos, processes, egos and structures.

However much effort they put into service design, and however competent and insightful their design teams, I can’t see many of these organisations meeting the needs of citizens/consumers, employees and other users until they refocus on the design of the organisations themselves. 

Focusing solely on service redesign is what the management of Blockbuster were doing – “better booking systems!”, “better display units!”, “popcorn and other snacks in-store!”, “better weekend offers!” – while Netflix completely redesigned the business model. That turned out well.

Good service design in dysfunctional organisations (and most are) can mask more fundamental issues. It can perpetuate rather than fixing the real issues, further concreting them in place. The current focus simply on service design sometimes seems to me to be a convenient displacement activity for managements keen to be seen to be “doing something” without ever focusing on what really matters.

This challenge – of fixing organisational design – is something we explore in (shameless plug) “Digitizing Government: Understanding and implementing new digital business models”.

I don’t claim it has all the answers – redesigning organisations is a complex process – but it offers some practical ideas for those trying to improve the way organisations and their services can be improved.