A toolkit to tackle organisational challenges


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A strong focus on your customer can become the driving force for business improvement. The challenge often lies in tackling the organisational issues that stand in the way of doing things better and being more customer centric. By breaking down the challenge you can eat the elephant – one bite at a time.

Sometimes a solution to a problem seems so obvious that we wonder why a business doesn’t just fix it. However, it is rarely that simple. Issues are caused by multiple factors in an organisation that all have their own logic. By analysing these factors we can identify what can change. Understanding the factors also helps to see when we need to be more creative and find ways around an issue – rather than tackling it head on.

What is preventing a better customer experience?
Start with the customer in mind. What would you like your customers to experience in the future? Developing future customer scenarios and validating them with colleagues helps to establish a common purpose for everyone in the organisation. Future scenarios can also help identify what – a system, process or policy – requires changing to create a better customer experience.

Future scenarios do not have to be futuristic. Often it is all about making services work (better) at a consistent and day to day level. Designing future scenarios are therefore all about letting go of the past..

Can we change it?
Knowing what needs to change is the first step – figuring out if it can change, is the next. Many desirable changes often require big systems implementations. Other changes simply need an easy policy amendment. Yet other changes involve lengthy process transformations. Knowing the size of the challenge is essential.

What are the alternatives?
Some factors that cause problems are too hard or too painful to deal with. But, alternative paths do exist. It is often possible to create new practices or procedures that help to work around the major obstacles and create quicker results. When a system is untouchable look for other ways to achieve the results you need, such as educating staff or customers to avoid pitfalls.

Pilots that look and feel like the actual systems prove or disprove a concept quickly, and prevent expensive mistakes.

Making the case for change
A too-big-to-tackle factor may become a possible-to-tackle factor in the future. Tactical improvements can demonstrate the case for large systems changes. Pilot small improvements in specific locations or create a manual procedure to demonstrate the potential of a new process. Guide the business towards change.

When things cannot change – mitigate the negative impact
In a project with the Norwegian immigration service, we found customer experience issues that were the result of strict national policies. It wasn’t possible to change these policies for a better customer experience and they also caused unnecessary costs and human strife. Therefore, we identified ways to help people navigate the system by supporting them at the right moment or highlighting a challenging process. Resolving a customer issue does not always mean addressing the root cause.

Knowing the limitations and challenges at the beginning. Developing and actively using a set of principles of what should be done, and more importantly what should not be done, enables organisations to move things forward without massive process redesign.

Pick your strategy for tackling the organisation
Identifying the factors that cause an issue and evaluating the size of the changes ahead are the first steps in tackling organisational challenges. Different strategies can then be used. Either build support for a change through pilots and evidence or when the root cause is unlikely to be removed, looking for alternative paths that may even be quicker and less painful to implement.

Ben Reason
Ben Reason is a service design consultant with 20 years experience with a wide range of public, and private sector organisations. As a founder of Livework he leads the London studio and team on projects that bring a customer view to major challenges and opportunities in industries ranging from healthcare and financial services, to public transport.


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