A conversation about establishing trust and meaningful connections inside a client organization with Mark Jones, Founder of SD Lab. He is also presenting at the upcoming SDN Midwest conference
Interview by Thomas Brandenburg and Twisha Shah-Brandenburg
“Trust and momentum starts with the combination of designing exceptional service experiences and working with organizations to successfully get them to market without getting too compromised during the implementation process. Being aware of how success will be measured allows you to make sure the design will deliver on that metric.” —Mark Jones
What are ways in which you establish trust with your client organizations so that you can create meaningful outcomes that go beyond your engagement?
Trust begins with genuine concern about the issues that an organization faces. Clients can tell when you are as committed to the success of the organization as they are, and the rapport that it builds allows the relationship to go beyond the scope of a project. They really do see you as an extension of their organization. I have had several occasions when the work we had designed ran into some implementation translation issues, and we came back to help reset the design to adjust to the implementation environment. That only happens when the client feels that you are truly committed to making things right.
What are the barriers or biases that stakeholders have that you have seen show up across different organizations?
The biggest barriers to change are closely held orthodoxies that cause people to dismiss good ideas without serious consideration. Sometimes it is a belief that their product or service is the best in the business, which holds them back from rethinking it. Or they believe that they possess incredibly valuable data that is more valuable than what others have, shortchanging potential partnerships. Or they believe that current market structures will be in place indefinitely. Sometimes barriers can be internal, such as the belief that they are a highly innovative organization, which creates resistance to new design processes. There are many more. Any of these beliefs can become barriers when successful new services require a shift in how an organization serves customers.
Can you share with us your perspective on the dynamics of trust and decision making, (power) in the design process when working with stakeholders?
I wish I could say that there is a single pathway to influencing decision making within client organizations, but in my experience, every organization is quite different in its politics. But there are two general scenarios: one is when you are working directly with all of the key decision makers and you can depend that once an agreement is made it will stick. The second situation is when there are key decision makers that are not a part of the design process or are even hidden from you, but their opinions weigh heavily in approving a direction. This scenario can be very destructive and cause a reset at any time. The key thing is to understand if you do indeed have all of the key decision makers involved in the design process, and if not, then have a plan to change the dynamic.
In order to be effective what are signals that you pay attention to before accepting a new client/project?
In ideal situations, you get a chance to do at least one working session with the client as a part of the project planning process. This gives you the opportunity to have informal, but important, conversations that allow you to gauge if:
—the decision makers are clearly identified and there is a plan to involve them in the design process.
—There is clear agreement about the final deliverable and outcome for a project.
—There is clear agreement on a budget, timeline, process, and staffing level that will lead to a great outcome.
As you think about the future of service design as a profession, what are norms that need to be established so that we can gain trust and momentum within the business community?
Ultimately, success is measured by outcomes, which means successfully designing and launching great services that deliver business value. That value can be measured on a number of levels such as increased revenue, customer acquisition, better throughput, or raising NPS. But trust and momentum start with the combination of designing exceptional service experiences and working with organizations to successfully get them to market without getting too compromised during the implementation process. Being aware of how success will be measured allows you to make sure the design will deliver on that metric.
For designers starting their service design journeys what advice would you have?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I have seen too many situations where service designers are in over their heads, they wait too long to say that they need some help, and the effort ultimately fails.
Learn more about Mark Jones and his presentation at the conference.