Service Design

Managing Your Products Lifecycles 0

The most difficult thing to do sometimes is to say I am done. How do you know when a product/service is finished? In Lean Thinking, we design (EDCA) for PDCA and only after we standardize do we consider the initial design finished. We are only finished when the product lifecyle is completed.

How are you at managing your Products Lifecycles? Are they being managed from Conception to Disposal or in a Green world, Recycled. I find this quite often an area that can develop rapid growth and additional streams of income very quickly. The organizations that are doing well in this economy are a result of taking a more outside in approach to the product lifecycle. Using a very simple Lifecycle diagram made up of five components, we can demonstrate this approach.

What most companies are doing:

  1. Innovation & Engineering: Using new innovations tactic they are designing products with greater flexibility offer more product choices and flexibility later in the design process, Toyota Scion.
  2. Manufacturing: Lean processes have made tremendous advances in manufacturing the past several decades and has changed the way we view our own products. Learning to See Customer Value from the eyes of the customer has allowed for significant improvements in quality and customer satisfaction.
  3. Sale & Distribution: At the point of sale, customers now experience more choices, more flexibility and better pricing than they have ever had.
  4. Maintenance & Repair: Our expectations due to the advancement in quality accept little if any repair or maintenance during the entire lifecycle. We probably will throw it away before fixing it. However, when we do we will take it to a specialist versus doing it ourselves.
  5. Disposal & Recycling: We expect more of our items to be recyclable. Or is there is value left, saleable and that there is an easy distribution method for that to happen. A few examples are E-bay or Craigslist.

This is the normal lifecycle and expectations of most products and even services. So what makes you better? What differentiates you? It is a difficult chore to do it. It is even more difficult to get someone to notice it. And even more difficult to get someone to pay for it!!

What are the successful companies doing: Some companies make one of these areas a differentiator and target a customer segment that values that component. You can possibly charge more if that value proposition is strong enough for that segment or you can make it a minimal cost by burying it in the total cost of the service, such as a subscription rate. That price difference may seem minimal to that customer segment. Another way is to make one of these propositions an operational advantage that actually is saving you money. This is similar to the Theory of Constraints, Mafia offer. Companies are also partnering with others to create additional income streams and to maintain better customer “control”. For example, these companies may offer the ability to take and/or dispose of trade-ins. Or, additional service contracts, product attachments or aftermarket products may be possible.

What are the really successful companies doing: The really successful companies are not improving but looking at a totally different lifecycle. They realize that the value of product has diminished. There may even be little value place in the cost of ownership. The value is derived from the use of the product not in owning the product. So, they are looking at how to create value throughout the entire lifecycle.

  1. Innovation & Engineering: Using Design Thinking Process, we focus on delivering to the customer Rapid Prototypes or Minimum Viable Products to garner their acceptance.
  2. Manufacturing: These processes are becoming practically secondary in nature. This is not where you make your money but where you continue your journey of development. No longer is software delivered in a box, it is in the cloud. You sell iPads, iPhones and iPods or even cars but the value is in what this enables the customer to do.
  3. Sale & Distribution: It is an entry point through a community and a joint-education process with the customer.
  4. Maintenance & Repair: Maintenance and repair is practically non-existent. This is where we maximize the value for the customer and extend his ability to do business better.
  5. Disposal & Recycling: Since there was little if any original value, there is little if any disposal or it is just a matter of returning it to you.

Think of what Amazon does.

  1. Innovation & Engineering: They have created Kindle and made a unique shopping experience that few match.
  2. Creating Content: They package, publish and inventory books.
  3. Educations and Community: Over 50% of the books sold on Amazon are electronic. This has now created a one-time fee for the Kindle, the cost of an eBook and instant delivery at the point of sale has made the purchase a minimal part of the experience. The price is relatively not an issue in most cases. It is just as often a decision based on the time you have. They educate you about product and though it may be a stretch since they have been around so long, were introduced through a community or eWOM.
  4. Maintenance & Repair: How often do you visit Amazon, just for a book purchase? They make a book purchase an adventure. You are updated, notified, asked for opinions, receive recommendations and watch your package travel to the destination. It is a journey with numerous touch-points that extend to your next purchase.
  5. Disposal & Recycling: Accept used book returns and allows you to loan certain books on Kindle.

As you develop your product lifecycle to an outside–in-approach it creates more touch points and more opportunities to interact with the customer. It also allows you greater opportunity to add value to your customer’s experience. That value will become an integral part of the way they do business. The strongest differentiator you can have.

Extra Material:

Don Reinertsen Books: Managing the Design Factory and The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development

Podcast: Creating Flow with Don Reinertsen (There is not an eBook)

Will Employee Experience Mimic Leadership Experience 0

I have always thought that the Customer Experience will mimic the Employee Experience. After this discussion with Kathy Cuff, I might take that saying one step further. Kathy Cuff

Kathy Cuff is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies and co-author of LEGENDARY SERVICE: The Key is to Care. Kathy seems to have done just about every job at the joined the Blanchard Companies and help create many of the custom products for their clients.

In characteristic Blanchard style, the book is a quick and entertaining read for people at all organizational levels in every industry. When applied, its lessons will have a profound impact on the service experience your customers will receive. Whether a CEO or a part-time employee, every person can make a difference– and customer service is everyone’s job.

Enjoy the podcast as we had a great discussion on “customer service.”

Should Learning Cycles Replace Stage Gates 0

The differences in Design between Lean and Six Sigma are not in the tools that they use but in the paths, they have chosen to take. The initial paths of each into the design fields were driven by the fact that most cost and problems to include quality and variability were designed into a product/service before it went into production or use. The need for early customer feedback became apparent and Voice of Customer (VOC) and Critical to Quality (CTQ) or Critical to Satisfaction (CTS) issues were recognized. However, to a large extent these processes were still internalized and only recently as a result of the Lean Software community has the customer become more and more part of the design process. This will be covered in more detail later this week.

The typical Design Processes of Six Sigma:

  1. DMAIC: Define – Measure – Analyze – Improve – Control (This is basically a 5-step version of PDCA)
  2. DFSS: Design for Six Sigma – A process that drove the statistical thinking aspect of Six Sigma into design.
    1. DMADV: Define – Measure – Analyze – Design – Verify (The most popular form of Six Sigma in Design)
    2. IDOV: Identify – Design – Optimize – Validate – (Another variation of DFSS)

Implementing this type of design resembles a funneling process characterized by a design process flow that is controlled by stage gates or tollgates. The tollgate is used to d measurable objectives that will allow a design to pass through the gate or to the next stage, or be held until the objectives are completed. Tollgate Reviews help determine whether all the goals within each stage have been achieved successfully and whether the design can progress to the next stage.

There are many other variations and one that I particular like for services is

  1. DCDV: Define – Characteristics – Design – Verify
    1. Define: Design the problem statement from the outside in starting with customers and markets and ending with the process. You continue cycling through the statement until it is defined.
    2. Characteristics: Segment customers designing a core set of needs and targets.
    3. Design: Start with a high-level definition of solutions and funneling to a solution through iteratively applying creativity and rigor.
    4. Verify: Prototype and eliminate the non-value, reducing risk and cost till the project is ready to roll-out. Knowing that field testing ultimately provides the results of stability and capabilities.

As you may notice just in the description of this process, it seems a little more iterative and as a result a little more “Leanish”. The world of software development and Agile and Scrum with the umbrella of Lean has exploded to take the design once thought of as a step by step method to one of iterations and collaborations.

One of the Lean leaders of the movement outside of software was Steelcase and several years ago I had the co-authors of Innovative Lean Development: How to Create, Implement and Maintain a Learning Culture Using Fast Learning Cycles on the podcast, Innovative Development. The transcription of the podcast can be found at Innovative Development eBook. Their single-point lessons start depicting the path between the stage gate process (calling them flow interrupters) and the more fluid concepts of Learning Cycles.

lean development

Single Point Lesson PDF


Marketing with PDCA (More Info): Targeting what your Customer Values at each part of the cycle will increase your ability to deliver quicker, more accurately and with better value than your competitor. It is a moving target and the principles of Lean and PDCA facilitates the journey to Customer Value.

Theory of Constraints

Michael Dalton Book: Simplifying Innovation: Doubling speed to market and new product profits – with your existing resources

Podcasts: Theory of Constraints in Innovation Customer Value Lens Alliances and Tools in Innovation

eBook: Utilizing the Theory of Constraints in Product Innovation Ebook

The Most Important Part of Work 0

It is necessary for organizations to standardize and maintain a product development process. It is has been proven over and over again that by doing this will allow for more creative action to take place, not hinder it.

A quote from Plato: “The beginning is the most important part of the work.”

A project needs to be planned, controlled, and monitored from its inception to its completion. In fact, all projects use a methodology of processes, procedures and templates. If you don’t think you have one, it really means that you have a poor and informal one. Do not confuse scheduling software with project planning! If you need a project plan, there are three basic ways to go about it:

  1. Build one yourself. You can build a custom campaign that perfectly reflects the philosophy and best practices of your organization. Many companies try this.
  2. Buy one. You might be surprised to learn that your plan when finished ultimately looks similar to most others that people use. That is why many consultants can help without having the intimate knowledge of your industry. However, you may think that you spend as much time with the consultant as you would have doing it yourself. I know I have, I been on both sides!
  3. The hybrid option of purchasing a methodology and then customizing it to meet the specific needs of your organization. This gives you some of the benefits of option 1, while also taking less time, which is the major benefit of option 2. Many companies are choosing this option as a “Best of Both.” These pre-built methodologies can have many of your organization needs to be successful.

An existing methodology allows you to deliver an effective option practically immediately. I recommend the use of the hybrid option, which enables you to spend your time on the application versus building the plan to achieve the result. The simplicity of a single flexible model will create clarity for your staff and as a result better execution.

Using PDCA:

Starting with PDCA as an outline for your development process, may seem a little cumbersome to many. However, the approach is actually very similar to the The Lean Startup method that is seen as the latest and most current methodology for entrepreneurs. The Lean Startup is based on an approach that is called Build – Measure – Learn. At first glance this looks like like the cycle of PDCA without the planning. However, many have found that the Build – Measure – Learn struggled without a pre-planning stage or in fact started with Learn as the first step.

This is not a new phenomenon. I have 3 books that I have used for many years on Lean Product Development (listed at bottom of page) and one of them, Step-by-Step QFD taught me to use the PDCA process in design but start with the cycle of CAPD. Looking and Thinking correspond to Checking and Acting. This is our first step.

CAPD TreeParaphrased from the book:

The CAPD cycle can be used to identify the first-level tasks needed in design. The critical process for planning the design is contained in the branches of the tree (see below). Within the CAPD cycle, there are several tasks that must be completed. Each celment of CAPD must have at least one task. For instance, the Plan portion should include defining technology and concept requirements.

The CAPD cycle is used to identify the critical tasks for each of the major tasks in the critical process. These first-level tasks in the CAPD cycle require at least one second-level task. For example, there are five tasks for the first major task in the critical process:

  • C – Identify target market
  • C – Identify customer needs and expectations
  • A – Select performance measures
  • P – Design technical benchmarking
  • D – Evaluate competition

Depending upon the steps in the critical process, the critical tasks can be different. For more complex design processes, it may be necessary to use the CAPD cycle again to identify critical subtasks.

A PDF Version of the CAPD Tree.

Responsibilities must be assigned to the appropriate organizational functions. A responsibility matrix is useful for summarizing these responsibilities. The functional group which has the primary responsibility for a task determines when to move on to the next step in the critical process. The functional group which has secondary responsibility provides support to the group shouldering the primary responsibility. Job position or task description identifies who is responsible for which tasks. According to the developed critical process, an organization may need to acquire new responsibilities and to divide these among the functional units.

A product design process chart (project charter) should also be utilized to clearly define the team and the process. During product development, the design team needs many documents, such as market analyses, customer requirements and specifications. These documents arc normally regarded as reports within the design process. This process chart should provide the roadmap for managing your product. The more visual you make the process, the better. There is nothing wrong thinking of your process charter as a storyboard – something I encourage.

Recommended Books:
Step-by-Step QFD: Customer-Driven Product Design, Second Edition
Mastering Lean Product Development: A Practical, Event-Driven Process for Maximizing Speed, Profits, and Quality
Lean Product and Process Development

How Does Xerox use Lean (Six Sigma) for Design: E-Book: Design for Lean Six Sigma, The Xerox Way Podcast: Design for Lean Six Sigma, The Xerox Way

Additional Comment:

Making incremental steps allow you to measure results very easily and actually build a repeatable process that can be used over and over again. Though, we all recognize that no product launch is the same, having a template for your company will allow you to make the minor changes necessary for each launch and build upon what works well over time. An e-myth article discusses incremental release plan.

Strategic Work: One Step At a Time by Susan Weber

Rolling out Product Innovations : Updating, enhancing or otherwise changing your products or services can be scary, but when done correctly, product innovation can truly revolutionize your business. The important thing to remember is that you needn’t tackle everything at once. Strategic product innovation work can be done incrementally.

For example, when I was working for a large financial services company here in the United States, I worked on a key strategic initiative: the implementation of a new bank. This was a huge project and very important to the company. So how did we approach it? We decided that implementation of this bank, including the hefty technology pieces, should be broken down into monthly releases. This turned a seemingly overwhelming and complex project into a manageable and far less daunting assignment. This approach also helped to mitigate risk, because it was easier to assess impacts (and recover if necessary) with smaller changes.

In the end the bank was implemented on time and on budget. Although this approach requires more planning on the front-end, it greatly increases the chances of success. Plus, it’s much easier to measure and quantify the results of smaller changes.

Purchase the Lean Service Design Program!

Or, purchase the 130 page PDF for download, Lean Service Design

Exploration Instead Of Definition 0

The Define Phase is well documented in the Plan of PDCA, Define of DMAIC, Discovery of Appreciative Inquiry or even the Dream of Disney. In the Explore stage of EDCA what makes this phase different?

Paraphrased from Nigel Cross’s book, Engineering Design Methods: Strategies for Product Design:

Designers tend to use conjectures about solution concepts as the means of developing their understanding of the problem. Designers impose a primary generator and generate early solution concepts. This is used to base a tightly restricted set of constraints or solution possibilities. The problem cannot be fully understood in isolation from the solution, so solution conjectures should be used as a means to understand and explore the problem formulation. As the architect, Richard MacCormac has said, “What you need to know about the problem only becomes apparent as you’re trying to solve it.”

Solution-focused strategies are perhaps the best way of tackling service problems which are by nature ill-defined problems. The major hindrance to this type of thinking is found in becoming fixated on a particular early solution concept and an unwillingness to discard the concept. Instead the make minor improvements rather than discard the work and stat with a fresh idea. Another problem is going too much in depth versus staying at a minimum level to continue the process. You should look to having a “reflective conversation with the situation,” so wonderfully said by Schon.

Cross added these steps for the solution focused process:

  • Clarify requirements by asking sets of related questions which focus on problem structure.
  • Actively searched for information and critically check given requirements.
  • Summarize information on the problem formulation into requirement and partially prioritize them.
  • Do not suppress first solution ideas, hold on to them and return to them to clarify the problem rather than pursuing them in depth.
  • Detach themselves during conceptual design stages from fixation on early solution concepts.
  • Produce variants but limited the production and overview periodically assessing and evaluating in order to reduce the number of possible variants.

Another part of the process, especially used by designers and architects is the act of sketching. They have a tendency through sketching to handle different levels of detail shifting from overall concept to detailed aspect practically simultaneously. Sketching permits tentative solutions to be explored and investigated and the typical hierarchy steps of problem-solving analysis are prevented.

Is it all about empathy?

I thought this excerpt summarized a few points that will assist you in developing context outside of just empathy. The context does matter.

Amazon review: Having read many a dry but interesting psychology book, this author had a way to make the subject matter come alive. I can see where this would be required reading in many a (fortunate) psychology class, however better yet, this Situations Matter calls for us to be better people.

* We need to realize people are not always what they seem in one situation.
* We need to realize that even in groups, we have the responsibility to help and not expect the crowd to do so.
* If something seems wrong to us, we should not let the crowd or the authority figures dictate our behavior.
* Women and Men are more similar than different and should not be so categorized, or limited in our expectations.
* Sometimes by acknowledging differences between groups, we find freedom to move on, or at least recognition of our own reactions
* Last but not least, observe and don’t assume and in being more considerate, we can live together more harmoniously.

In service design, think of exploring a customer journey map allowing for multiple paths to be explored. For example think of a user scenario that might help you identify multiple paths. A few ideas on constructing one:

  • Practice being a user. A good exercise is to use de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats and apply that thinking taking different user points of views.
  • Observe users in action. Insure you are watching both novices and experience people.
  • Question users about their experience. You can use a variety of methods that are formal, unstructured and even focused groups.
  • Create user personas and scenarios. A persona is about a well-defined but hypothetical user and a scenario is a storyline about the use of a product or service.

Remember the Bain Study that said: “80% of Companies believe they deliver a Superior Service, only 8% of Customers agree.” Don’t we need a breakthrough strategy to improve our service? The define mode is critical to your success, you must create a specific compelling problem statement. Many people believe that developing a specific problem statement will limit your efforts, your creativity. This has proven to be false and is well documented by the Heath Brothers in the landmark book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.

In a podcast I had with Chad Smith of the Constraints Management Group I asked the question, “Why did McGraw-Hill come to Carol and him to write the new edition of Orlickys Materials Requirements Planning 3/E?” He told a very interesting story which I paraphrase below:

The problem is that the market really doesn’t know how bad the problem is. They don’t really understand why MRP is failing. What the real deficiencies are of MRP. That led us to write a white paper. We wrote a white paper in spring of 2008. We submitted it just on a whim to the APICS organization saying, here’s something that we’ve written. Are you interested?

We got an immediate response back from APICS saying can you condense this a little bit for our magazine? We said sure, we’ll do that. We condensed it and little did we know that it turned out being the cover story for the July/August 2008 edition of the APICS Magazine.

That intrigued us. It told us, wait a minute, there’s something people are resonating with what we’re writing here. APICS sponsored a webinar a couple of weeks later on a topic and 250 companies signed?up. Three weeks later Carol spoke at the APICS conference in Kansas City and there were 350 ? 400 people in the room. There was standing room only.

We got pretty excited because what people told us was the reason why they got so interested in this was because of our depiction of the problem and the fact that the way we described the problem was exactly what they were experiencing. There just didn’t seem to be a fix out there in the industry.

We spent the last couple of years articulating this. We were asked to write a chapter for another book that McGraw-Hill was publishing. Based upon the strength of that chapter, the editors of that book kicked it up to McGraw-Hill and said you really need to take a look at this. This deserves a whole book.

We went round and round with McGraw-Hill a little bit because McGraw-Hill was a little bit worried that people had never really heard of this concept, these new concepts. I agreed the book might not sell well because nobody’s really heard of this new approach to MRP.

They came back and said; “We have this Orlicky book that needs to be updated. Would you like to do that?”

From Carol and my perspective we were like, wow, yes, absolutely. That’s a perfect scenario for us. It allows our message to get into the typical MRP user and even buyer of software so that we can really demonstrate what the problem is and what the direction of the solution is. How we can augment or how we can amend the MRP and ERP for the new century.

What did Carol and Chad do that was different? Their description of the problem was exactly what customers were experiencing. You can spend countless hours on branding, messaging and every other marketing tactic under the sun but do we ever articulate the problem are customers and prospects are having – perfectly?

Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) was an American Architecture and Literary critic, as well as Sociologist and Philosopher. I often attribute a particular quote to Mumford, though I can’t seem to locate the source. When asked where to put a sidewalk, Mumford responds: “See where the people walk and then pave their path.”

How many times have you seen two sidewalks intersecting at 90 degree angles, with worn grass cutting the corners? There’s a fine line between executing on your vision and listening to your customers. Consider Mumford’s quote, thinking of the sidewalk as the “vision” and the path as “customer needs.”

Describe the exact problem the customer is having.

Do not proceed without crafting a problem statement. The work in doing it is generating a problem statement different than the ones we are accustomed too. As Tina Seelig’s stated in the video yestyerday, we have grown up answering questions such as 5 + 5 = ? versus being asked ? + ? = 10. There are several schools of thought on how to accomplish this:

  1. A3 thinking which is the basic Lean Problem Solving Method.
  2. Appreciative Inquiry or a strength based approach.
  3. Shainin Method where you view desired outcomes and work backwards.
  4. Design Thinking type of approach based on empathetic findings.

There is not a right or wrong answer. In fact, you could separate your team and have them attack the problem statement from each direction. I propose that you choose at least one of them fits the culture of your company(Family – Personal Kanban). Take your proposed problem and craft several problem statements. Don’t forget to view these stories from a Service Dominant Logic thinking perspective. You may like to create user stories that have an outlook based on the three values of functional, social and emotional.

The INVEST acronym from the User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development book by Mike Cohn I think serves as a good guideline for defining User Stories. The following is from Doug Seven’s take on INVEST. INVEST stands for Independent, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimatable, Small and Testable.

  • Independent: The story should not carry with it dependencies, which can lead to estimating problems. Instead the story should be completely independent so that it can be worked on without pulling in a set of other stories.
  • Negotiable: Stories should have room to negotiate – they are a starting point, not a contract.
  • Valuable: The story should communicate the value to a user or customer, not to the developer. The story should define not only what a user can do, but what value the user gets from the implemented story. If there is no value, cut the story.
  • Estimateable: You need to be able to estimate the amount of work required to implement the story. If it is too big and too daunting (an epic), break it up into smaller stories.
  • Small: Similar to the previous, stories need to be small. Large stories are too complex to manage, and are typically more than one story compounded together.
  • Testable: The implementation of the story needs to be testable. Define the tests that can be performed to validate the story was correctly implemented.

From a service perspective, you could develop user stories for many of your projects. For an example, consider developing a direct mail piece for a home roofing contractor: Using the standard outline for developing a user story: “As a [end user role], I want [the desire] so that [the rationale]. The user story may go something like this: As a roofing contractor, I would like to develop a 4-part mailing program targeting subdivisions of 20 to 24 year old homes.

  • Using INVEST, I could look at this user story and conclude:
  • Independent: Yes it is very independent.
  • Negotiable: I think it is negotiable from the standpoint that you might be able to yse a 3 or 5 part or make some recommendations after initial testing.
  • Valuable: I think presently it is rather weak in that area.
  • Estimable: Time frames are very easily estimated.
  • Small: The actual story is very small and well-defined.
  • Testable: I think like most direct mail pieces, unless under a time constraint sample pieces could be sent and feedback given as additional pieces are developed and modified from the feedback.

As mentioned before, user stories can be written from other perspectives. Using this example, try writing it from a few of the other perspectives mentioned. Even try writing it from the home owner’s perspective (the end user). What could we create using our standard outline: “As a [end user role], I want [the desire] so that [the rationale]. As a homeowner, I would like information on the telltale signs that my roof needs inspected. With this approach, you can see not only the need for supplying relevant content that is of value to the consumer but this story will strengthen your message. As you develop the piece, you may even find more content and/or a more targeted message.

Explore is where you take your empathy findings and turn them into compelling needs and insights. In service design evolving to an answer though customer interaction is one of the best methods of problem solving. You may have to accept a solution that may not be the best in your mind. But an idea that can be implemented is much better than one that cannot be. However, do not lose sight of your overall goal: To profitable create customer experiences that are so compelling that their loyalty becomes assured.

Create user stories for your service/product (Personal Kanban effort) using either the layouts below or a few that you may create. Write a bunch!

User Storycard examples:


1. As a ______________ (type of user), I want to ____________ (need), so that I can __________ (reason)


2. In order to ____________ (value), as a _______________ (customer), I want _____________ (some feature).


3. In my world ___________ (place), I _______________ (customer), need a way to ________________ (need).


4. While a ___________ (person) is in _________ (place), they need to find/meet with a __________ (person)

because_______ (motivation).


5. A ______________ (person) who is trying ______________ (motivation) at ________ (place) must prepare for

__________ (activity), which they will have to do in _________ (time).


6. ____________________, _________________________________, _______________________________.

The challenge to the user story is that they should be written from different perspectives. Don’t only think from a customer perspective but take a deeper dive. Think of a several different positions (B2B), CEO, CFO, Team Leader, Technical Person. Or, in a consumer field think of the husband, wife, child. This frames the context of the story. What typically becomes apparent is that certain users are more likely to enjoy the experience that your organization can deliver. If you take it a step further and are able to create a story from actual users or potential users, you gain valuable knowledge in your design process before you start.

Recommended Reading/Listening

Using Desired Effects to find Root Cause(Shainin)


Strength–Based Lean and Six Sigma



Service Design via a Design Thinker



Value Proposition:

When most organizations think about their value proposition, they think about the tangible benefits that the organization offers or how much better they are in a certain area versus the competition. It might even include their history, technical expertise, latest technology, commitment to customers, etc.

In the book, Strategy from the Outside In: Profiting from Customer Value the authors describe their variation of a value proposition:

We prefer a third variant that we see in use among customer value leaders. A customer value leader bases its value proposition on a resonating theme – a few elements where the firm is distinctly better than the competition that really to a target market. An effective value proposition offers superior performance, price or relational value and communicates that value in a way that shows that it has a deep appreciation of the customer’s value priorities. The choice of value proposition is also the choice of target customer segment – and vice versa

This variation though more customer centric stops short of describing the experience the customer will have with the company. One of the interesting things about Agile Project Management is that you start with creating a user story. Work is expressed in the backlog as user stories. A team may write its user stories in a number of ways as long as they are written from the perspective of the end user. Put another way, team members are encouraged to think of their work from the perspective of who will use it, hence “user” story.

In building a value proposition, how many times do you start with a customer/prospect telling you how they use or will use the product or service? I know we interview people or perform won/loss analysis, but I want to go an additional step. What if we would paint the picture of how a user experiences your product or service? If we would take the time to determine that reaction, would we not create a better value proposition?

I think it might be interesting to define your entire business and your target business through customer experiences. Actually, cataloging the various experiences a customer will have with an organization is a needed exercise to enhance the value of the total experience for its customers.

Interesting Side Note: Joseph B. Pine II and James H. Gilmore, in their book The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage, put forth a interesting statement that creates an interesting value proposition on how a customer may interpret your organization by how you charge for your product or service:

  • If you charge for Stuff, then you are in the commodity business.
  • If you charge for tangible things, then you are in the goods business.
  • If you charge for the activities you execute, then you are in the service business.
  • If you charge for the time customers spend with you, then you are in the experience business.
  • If you charge for the demonstrated outcome the customer achieves, then and only then are you in the transformation business


Empathy is at the Heart of Design 0

The difference between the thought process embedded in EDCA (Service Design) and the other disciplines of Lean can be summed up in one word: Empathy! It is a major differentiator between the traditional process methodologies of Six Sigma, and I say this tongue–in-cheek, Lean. Many times when you review Design for Six Sigma, Lean Startup, Lean Product Development, and Lean Design (the list goes on), seldom when you search (like never) the index of the book will you find the words Empathy.

In Lean you will find the word Respect for People and it is rigorously applied by most Lean practitioners. However, it is typically applied from an internal viewpoint. I do not want to imply that it does not carry over externally (Customer Experience will mimic the Employee Experience) but seldom do I see it addressed. In healthcare, I believe you will see it addressed more than anywhere else at the moment, but I believe that discipline was built from a compassionate side to begin with. It was not guided by Lean as an enabler of empathy.

Becoming a customer centric requires an organization to understand the emotional needs and difficulties of their prospects and customers. Our sales and marketing efforts should not be centered on getting the message out – it is about bringing the message in. Most organizations struggle in their attempts as they evaluate seas of data and lose the personality of the customer using such terminology as markets or value streams. They have a tendency to view marketing as product centric rather than customer/user centric.

You don’t wake up one day and become customer centric. It is not quite that easy. However, a concentrated effort by sales and marketing with just a few priorities can start your organization on the right path and radically improve your chances of moving from product to customer centric.

  1. Reduce complexity: Few companies can simply market by collecting more demographic data, psychographic or subjective information. Data should not be ignored; however, in the absence of a customer context, data will provide little value and be desperately in need of direction.
  2. Establish the user experience as the basis of collaboration: Framing the marketing effort in the context of the customer allows everyone the opportunity to participate. Everyone can act as the customer and can contribute insight about how the user experience can be improved. Understanding how empowerment varies among roles and evolves over time can help to create priorities and informed decisions.
  3. Use maps to guide the way: Mapping products and personas in terms of needs, desires, and aspirations fuels the marketing process with clarity and empathy from the outset. This is not only a powerful tool for understanding how to appeal to customers, but it can also shape the debate about trade-offs that is an inherent part of implementation. Customer insight can reveal value, and non-value added task. The visual understanding provided by mapping can provide a reality check and a benchmark throughout the sales and marketing process. The direction should he determined by the needs of customers and the particular company’s strategy. Strive for the ability to see where there is a disconnect between your offerings in the market and the desires of the customer to improve the user experience and bridge the gap.
  4. Aim for a compass, not a GPS: Identifying an opportunity zone can increase the chances of success by focusing a team’s attention on a fixed number of priorities. These form the basis for experimentation during the sales and marketing process. The idea is to provide a clear direction but allows freedom to all parties to generate different approaches.

My research for this came from the recent reading of Predictable Magic: Unleash the Power of Design Strategy to Transform Your Business. The authors use these four interactions on How to Create a Design Strategy. I found the same principles applying directly to customer centric marketing. In the book, there is a special tool that the authors call the Psycho-Aesthetics Map. This is a two-dimensional mapping process in which the vertical axis shows the degree of need, from essential through to aspirational, while the horizontal axis shows the degree of interactivity from passive through to immersive. Existing products can be placed in their appropriate locations on the map, as can different groups of consumers, in order to identify gaps, which might be suitable for the design of new products. I created a slideshow of from these principles demonstrating the connection to Maslow’s hierarchy and Pine and Gillmore’s, The Experience Economy.

The area of Empathy is very evident in Service Design and Design Thinking. A few more thoughts about this.

Empathy: Seung Chan Lim, nicknamed SLIM has engrossed himself into a special project that I found rather unique. The project name is Realizing Empathy and below is an excerpt from a podcast.

Slim: What’s really funny is… Basically, I would almost categorize myself as an empirical researcher. Because as much as I love books and if you come to my place you’ll see so many books, I don’t really read them as much as I probably should. I’m much more of an experiential person. So taking classes and acting is like another way of understanding, what does it mean to act instead of reading a book about it. I decided to just do it. Basically, what I learned in acting class is that it broke my preconceived notion of the idea that acting is pretending. To a certain degree, yes; there is a pretend in it. But by and large, what actors do is they try to bring in their own experiences and bring it into the moment when they’re on stage. But they do it under a frame. They do it under the name of some other character that’s inside a play.

They do it in a situation that is not their own. But what they’re really doing is they’re accessing their own personal experience, triggering them in the moment. So when the audience sees it, they may think it’s the character doing it, but they feel that what they’re doing is real because it is real. They’re trying their very best to be true to themselves.

That’s a very different way of thinking about acting. Because what they’re doing is they’re empathizing both in real time with what the character’s going through, and also before, during rehearsals, they’re constantly trying to understand what it is that this character, this writer has written, is really trying to do because the words don’t really tell you enough.

You have to have gestures. You have to have facial expressions. All these other nuances have to be coincided with the words for it to really work as a remarkable piece of artwork that moves the audience and gets them to think about things differently. It wasn’t until I took that acting class that the word empathy entered into my equation.

Slim’s model talks about framing the act of making not as an act of innovation, but as an act of empathizing. The model suggests a new direction for design. It might be quite leap, or is it?

Expectations: Along the same line In a podcast with Marc Stickdorn, co-author of This is Service Design Thinking, I asked my typical “last question” in a podcast and it went like this:

Joe: Is there something that I didn’t ask that you would like to expand on or mention about service design thinking?

Marc: Maybe I would like to add one thing and that’s about expectations. We talked a lot about experiences now and one really; really important thing is the expectations. If you’re thinking about what advertisements do and communications if you go online and read reviews about said product and so forth it’s all affecting expectations. That is something really, really important.

If you’re thinking what satisfaction is, customer satisfaction, it really depends on the expectation. You level your expectations against your experiences. That’s what still many companies don’t really get to level their expectation that right manner. Expectation management is one thing which needs to be included in service design.

Joe: The expectation of what a customer should know and what an organization should do. Having that commonality really is what makes the product experience great. I think that’s a great point.

Marc: Definitely. That’s why low-cost carriers are working so good because they promise you nothing and at the end of the day you get from A to B and that’s all you want and that’s all they promise and that’s all they do. That’s why they work. They can have an awful customer experience but if they don’t promise anything else, fair enough.

If you promise to have an awesome customer experience and you just provide an average experience that’s something negative. That’s what I meant with a shift from advertising to experiences as well.

How many of us spend time on expectations? How many of us over promise and under deliver? We spend time on defining customer needs and how we can deliver on them but do we ever define his expectations? Most sales teachings employ techniques that are manipulative and tied to customer emotions. You try to guide them down a certain path. I have written about this before in Kill the Sales and Marketing Funnel where I said:

The Connection: I find expectations are closely rooted to empathy. You have to take interest in the customer’s well-being in able to assist them in defining the minimum level of performance needed and the amount of effort they are willing to put forth. The key is listening with empathy. Your persona is more important than the customers at this point. Before you begin teaching the customer what they need to know, start thinking of this process a little differently. Think of it as you being the pupil rather than the teacher. Think about you having that “aha” moment or that moment when you “get it” versus when your customer gets it. When that “Aha” moment arrives – delighting the customer may not be all that difficult.

A short excerpt and the table of contents from the book Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy that gives you an excellent overview of empathy (if you think that this is a recommendation for this book, it is):

Part I: The Case for Empathy

  1. Introduction: Companies prosper when they tap into a power that every one of us already has—the ability to reach outside of ourselves and connect with other people.
  2. The Map Is Not the Territory: Empathy is an antidote to a world of abstraction. Faced with a deluge of information, people like to boil things down. This puts them in danger of making poor decisions based on incomplete or distorted information.
  3. The Way Things Used to Be: Empathy isn’t a new phenomenon. There was a time not so long ago when there was a broad and deep connection between producers and consumers that allowed everyone to prosper.

Part II: Creating Widespread Empathy

  1. The Power of Affinity: The quickest way to have empathy for someone else is to be just like them. For companies, the answer is to hire their customers.
  2. Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes: It’s often not possible or not enough to hire your customers. To continue to grow and prosper, you have to step outside of yourself and walk in someone else’s shoes
  3. Empathy That Lasts: Bringing people face to face triggers a caring response. The emotionally charged memories of that experience can be a guiding light to stay true to the vision.
  4. Open All the Windows: While having empathy for other people is a good thing for us to do as individuals, it’s far more powerful when you can create widespread empathy throughout a large organization.

Part III: The Results of Empathy

  1. Reframe How You See the World: When you step outside of yourself, you open up to the possibility of seeing new opportunities for growth.
  2. We Are Them and They Are Us: When companies create an empathic connection to the rest of the world, a funny thing starts to happen. The line between outside and in, between producer and consumer, begins to blur.
  3. The Golden Rule: Consistent ethical behavior demands that you walk in other people’s shoes. Because of this, Widespread Empathy can be an effective way to ensure the morality of a large institution, more so than any rule book or code of conduct.
  4. The Hidden Payoff: Having empathy for others can do more than drive growth. It can also give people the one thing that too many of us lack: a reason to come in to work every day.

We’ve seen how empathy can be a driving force to develop more prosperous, more ethical, and more enduring companies. But it also has the power to help us see how we can change the world for the better. Ultimately, every single one of us is biologically wired to care. Scaling that ability to the level of an organization can transform its mission. When we develop real empathy for the people we serve, our jobs start to become callings. There are no low-interest problems—only problem-solvers who don’t have strong connections to the people they serve. Companies can serve a higher purpose than just making money. They can create wealth by enriching the wider society we all live in. Empathy can awaken us to the power that we have to change the course of everyday life. But only if we’re willing to step outside of our own preconceptions and see the world through other people’s eyes.

So how do you create empathy in your organization? Even though I may have come across a little anti-empathy about Lean above, I believe it is the best methodology, the best business model to achieve this. Design Thinking and Service Design in the short term are not business models. Using Service-Dominant Logic thinking and addressing the three components of value; Social, Emotional and Functional takes you a long way in your journey. But empathy is a personal trait. It is best to look for the quality in the beginning at the time of hire. I have discussed this before with companies like Zappos. From the book, High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service, they recommend hiring your team based on the WETCO psychological traits:

  1. Warmth: Simple human kindness
  2. Empathy: The ability to sense what another person is feeling.
  3. Teamwork: The bias against “I can do it all myself” and toward “Let’s work together to make this happen.
  4. Conscientiousness: Detail orientation, including an ability and willingness to follow through to completion.
  5. Optimism: The ability to bounce back and not internalize challenges.

In the PDCA section, you had attempted to improve a portion of your Personal Kanban. It may have been something as simple as taking out the garbage. You should have thought about some incremental improvement that facilitated the flow by removing waste. Now, we want to dramatically improve or with proper breakthrough thinking alter the way it is done. We want to make it so appealing that everyone in the family wants to do it. In the example of the garbage, you have to be the first one up if you want to do it. So appealing, that a teenage boy will set his alarm for it or even do it before he/she goes to bed. Maybe, a little farfetched but the availability of an iPhone comes close to this example.

Download an Empathy Map and complete one for a task that was listed on your Personal Kanban, Complete one for the group that you expect to use this service.

Personas: Many people at this stage will look at creating personas for the different groupings. For the sake of this program, we will only consider the use of Empathy map as a method of determining the groups’ persona. Personas typically include more research and the use of stakeholder maps, shadowing, interviews, etc. An excellent introduction into personas can be found on this blog post, 7 Core ideas about Personas and the User Experience.

Team Structure:

One of the key considerations in developing a team is to determine the objective of the cycle. Is it primarily problem resolution, creativity, or tactical execution? Team structure needs to be considered as well as the participants. You will find a variety of structures will work for you, but the typical model is one of a business team that has a team leader, and all others are on equal footing. Many times the team leader is really just a participant but has the administrative work as an added responsibility.

Think about the kind of team needed: Tactical execution(SDCA), Problem Resolution (PDCA), and Creativity (EDCA). Separate the sessions so people know which hat they are wearing when. Without this process, you may have creative teams working on tactical execution or on the other hand a problem-solving team working on a creative solution.

Once you’ve identified the team’s broadest objective—problem resolution, creativity, or tactical execution—then you set up a team structure that emphasizes the characteristic that is most important for that kind of team. For a problem-resolution team, you emphasize trust for a creativity team, autonomy, and for a tactical-execution team, clarity. Listed below is an outline identifying the team structures (adapted from Teamwork and the Rapid Development books):

Creativity Team:

  1. Objective: Explore possibilities and alternatives.
  2. Dominant Feature: Autonomy
  3. Sales Process Example: Creating a new advertising program
  4. Process emphasis: Explore possibilities and alternatives
  5. Lifecycle Models: Evolutionary prototyping, evolutionary delivery, staged delivery, spiral, design-to-schedule
  6. Team Members: Cerebral, independent thinkers, self-starters, tenacious
  7. Team Models: Business team, feature team, skunk-works team, theater team


Is the Word Innovation Over Used 0

In the 1970s, Aaron Marcus programmed a prototype desktop publishing page layout application for the Picturephone ™ at AT&T Bell Labs. He became the first designer to program virtual reality art-spaces while a faculty member at Princeton University, and directed an international team of visual communicators as a Research Fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu. A storied career in User Design.

Related Podcast and Transcription: Experiences in User Design

Joe: Are the concepts of Design Thinking and Innovation new?

Aaron: Well these are buzzwords. They are popular. There’s no doubt about it. But in my own humble opinion the kind of introduction to design thinking that I had as a graduate student is not too much different from what people are being introduced in the business world today. It’s just being given the latest version of clothes to look stylish and to help a lot of consultants and design firms market their services to people who may feel a little insecure about design or about being an “artist” or not, and not understanding a lot of the iterative processes, the various stages of development of products or services. I’ve seen it – I’ve got to admit that’s it’s an effective marketing technique for services of design consultants and design firms.

Joe: Well I kind of smile a little bit because I’ve never seen so many innovation consultants and startup consultants. I didn’t know that there were that many people that actually started up companies before.

Aaron: The other term that’s used and overused is innovation. I mean people want to not only innovate but disruptively innovate. And it’s kind of interesting to compare a lot of what I’ve read and seen with two recent projects of ours for Siemens Corporation. We spent a good part of the year trying to visualize their disruptive innovation process which they’ve been perfecting for years within one particular advanced R&D group. We studied video tapes; we studied many documents. We tried to encapsulate that process that takes place over specific activities and specific segments of time to involve technology companies, technology explorers within Siemens, and the business units that need to absorb new technologies into the processes, into their product and service offerings. So we’ve ourselves actually done a very detailed study of this innovation process, and it’s quite complex, it’s quite specific.

Siemens doesn’t want to talk a lot about that outside of Siemens. We did do another project called The Innovation Machine in which my associates and I did a study of innovation theory and tried to present a series of conceptual functions for a mobile device that would assist people within an organization or a corporation to be more creative and to be more innovative.

In fact everyone in general is somewhat innovative and creative but very often people within a large organization may not actually know how to turn their latest brilliant idea into something more to combine that with other people’s critiques and assistance to get it into a kind of internal marketplace for new ideas and to be in the process of assembling teams of people who might be able to implement something. So what our project – and we published a paper about this in the proceedings of the Design, User Experience and Usability Conference in 2013 – we explained this conceptual design which is also part of a series of projects we’ve developed called the machine projects, like The Green Machine to persuade people to save energy, or The Story Machine to persuade families to tell more stories.

In the case of The Innovation Machine we were trying to persuade people to be more effective and efficient in their innovative activities and their ideas and to turn a quick notion or an initial concept into something more concrete to put it into an internal marketplace where people could decide to contribute time to it and so on, to see it all the way through to completion. So yes I do agree that we see more and more people labeling themselves Chief Corporate Innovator, but I think those are somewhat hyperbolic in some cases, and again a technique for marketing services to business clients.

Related Podcast and Transcription: Experiences in User Design

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