Lean, Service Design and Lean Startup

The next crucial level of organizational effectiveness: Lean Service Design.

I have the pleasure of introducing Sara Coene (@saracoene) through this guest blog post. Sara is a Lean Service and Process Consultant and co-founder of Storites. She helps companies develop creative ideas and concepts to adapt their processes, business models and services to the desires and behaviors of customers through a systematic approach to problem solving and value creation. Sara Coene

Integrating Lean, Service Design and Lean Startup: The next crucial level of organizational effectiveness: Lean Service Design.

Lean and Service Design, it seems like a contradiction in terms for many, but is it really?

Why Lean is often misperceived:
A lot has been written about Lean, a philosophy, method and set of tools grown out of the Toyota company and since then applied in many industries. The criticism that Lean is internally focused, cost driven and not human centered is probably true in those cases where Lean is not applied in the way it was intended. The multidisciplinary approach was not always taken, focusing on mainly one department or one plant, reducing the possibilities for deep improvement largely this way. I’ve seen some cases of big success in increased productivity in the factory, while customer service suffered a double-digit decline.

Another reason why Lean is misperceived is the immense focus on cost as a starting point in many companies. Be Lean, and you can reduce your cost and number of FTE (full time equivalents, a word used to avoid the human factor ‘people’). Lean will of course bring efficiencies, but the starting point should be to deliver customer value at minimum risk and cost, in the fastest way possible, not the other way around.

The link between Lean StartupTM and Lean Innovation
I was not talking about Lean Startup here, which is a younger movement than Lean. Where Lean is applied in established companies, Lean Startup focuses (of course) on Startups and new product/service developments in an uncertain environment. But since the future has become uncertain for everybody and new ideas should be implemented frequently and fast, there’s an opportunity to integrate Lean Startup principles in the total Lean approach for established companies. This is where Lean Innovation comes in: applying the methods of Lean and Lean Startup for new product and service development.

Service Designs begins with the end in mind
Service Design is a relatively new discipline compared to Lean (but older than Lean Startup). Service Design clearly has a few elements in common with Lean, such as the multidisciplinary and co-creative approach, visualization of chains of activities and areas for change, and its holistic approach. Just as much as Lean, Service Design can be used for improvement as well as for innovation. The main difference is that Service Design is fully user-centered, putting the human element central, whereas this is not the case for Lean. Of course, trust in and between people is one of the main pillars of the Lean philosophy, but often overlooked and more taken from an internal human capital perspective, which is also valuable, but not complete. In Service Design, user insights are the crucial base for understanding and designing new services and new experiences. Beginning with the end in mind, an approach also taken by Lean (start with customer value), is the foundation of Service Design.

The weak spot of the three approaches
Lean focuses on the total system and implementing change at all levels, whereas Service Design focuses on the design of a service, mainly (although some might not agree with me and they are probably right, since the whole discipline is still evolving). Same goes for Lean Startup, but that’s probably logical since there are no big internal processes and structures yet in those set-ups, not even a product in most cases.

My intention is not to fully compare Lean, Lean Startup and Service Design, but to bring them together. And the main differences between those disciplines, show the exact week, or better incomplete, spot of the approaches and so the big opportunity of letting them work together in organizations.

Service design and the user-centered approach
The elements of Service Design cannot only emphasize the human element in organizational change, but especially increase the focus on the user. It can help balance the more analytical and process part of Lean with a more intuitive and dreaming approach, although I’m convinced that especially for Lean in commercial environments, this mixture is already more present, since human behavior is more key in that area than at an assembly line, where much of the process is run by machines. The deeper Lean is applied in the internal organization , the more internally focused it often is. Applying Lean in marketing and sales environment automatically makes the Lean approach more customer and user focused.

Lean, big data and processes
Lean can bring the process and data-driven strength of the approach back in the game, especially in this era of big data an important skill and more and more the base for good user-centered design. Furthermore, it’s crucial to make your well-designed service work consistently. Delivering a consistent high service and customer experience cannot be done without strong processes behind it. If you want strong processes, not heavy processes, Lean offers the tools to make and design simple and fast processes.

Continuous innovation is what we need
Where the classical Lean philosophy can be applied to get established companies work Leaner, faster, better in a continuously improving way, and where Service Design can be used to conceive, design, build and test new services, and Lean Startup offers us insights and tools for product and service innovation in uncertain areas, the combination of the three in Lean Service Design can bring us to the next crucial level of organizational effectiveness through continuous innovation.

Where Lean Service Design can be of value
Bridging the three philosophies, methods and tools brings us an approach adapted to the changing needs of a fastly changing, demanding and digitalizing world. For the ones still taking the pure Lean production approach, focusing on internal processes only; it’s really time to switch to the customer and user-centric approach of Service Design. For the ones focusing on Service Design only, not aligning internal processes, it’s time to include process thinking. For the ones using Lean Startup as the way to innovate faster and better, don’t forget you’re not a Startup, but an established company with people and processes, thus an integrated approach is needed. That’s where the Lean Service Design philosophy, methods and tools can help you.

You can contact Sara through her website http://saracoene.com or through her LinkedIn Profile: Sara Coene

1 thought on “Lean, Service Design and Lean Startup”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.