Service Design: 6 Barriers to Service Design and how to overcome them


There’s no denying that service design will improve and innovate your existing Healthcare service or help you design new ones, but there may be barriers along the way. We look at how to approach these barriers with suggested solutions to overcome them.
Here’s what you might encounter:

  1. Barrier: Complicated organisational structure and governance
    More often than not there is multiple decision makers for individual projects and not enough accountability for solving actual problems.

    Solution: Work out who you need to speak to in order to get things done and then work your way up the chain. Ensure there are owners and accountability for your services. Find ways to bridge organisational boundaries and to have more supportive organisation structures and cultures. Introduce general management functions, assigning responsibility for ensuring the process is established and standards are followed.

  2. Barrier: Resistance to change
    When implementing service design the biggest barrier to getting anything done is people. You may come up against individuals who are resistant to change, both structurally and culturally.

    Solution: Service design will probably be a new concept to some staff so make sure you explain exactly how it works, and why it works, so that they understand it and are happy to follow the methodology. Understand what different users seek in change. Increase communication between teams and constantly keep people informed. Include those resistant individuals in your workshops to hopefully overcome any issues and concerns they may have and give them an opportunity to iteratively design the new service or improvement.

  3. Barrier: Siloed mentality
    This can occur when several departments or groups within an organisation do not want to share information or knowledge with other individuals in the same organisation. This blocks collaboration, co-creation and ultimately innovation.

    Solution: Communication within teams, organisations, departments and key stakeholders is essential to a smooth implementation of service design. Use multidisciplinary teams and an organisation-wide approach to implement change. Present project updates to monthly department meetings. Engage all users at all levels. Initiate shared knowledge and collaboration between teams. Find advocates for the project to take information back to their departments.

  4. Barrier: Time and pressure
    The lack of time and the increase of pressure to do more with less can prohibit the availability of resources who may be critical to improvement services.

    Solution: Make sure this is accounted for in the planning stage. These days we are all being asked to do more with less: increasing the quality of services to meet the increasing demand and expectations of our consumers and patients, yet with limited resources. In the long run, by applying service design methodology it will save your organisation time which is currently being spent on complex and sometimes unnecessary processes.

  5. Barrier: Lack of buy in
    This is key. Some organisations still feel like engaging with consumers and patients is a waste of time. They see it as a “nice to have,” but not essential, or they think it’s too expensive and something that just slows down the development process.

    Solution: There needs to be a change in mind set. Everyone from the top down will need to get on board. A broad focus on services, rather than a narrow focus on products or transactions, will also help to bring your organisation success. Engage all those involved in the change management process to get buy-in as well as richer input and ideas.

  6. Barrier: It’s too hard!
    Short term thinking may be the biggest challenge you will come across. People are making short-term decisions as knee-jerk reactions to budget cuts and creating work arounds for problematic processes instead of addressing the real source of the problem.

    Solution: Remember the bigger picture when thinking of service design. Even if we start with small projects and build up to that large change at least we are making a difference. Yes, there might be a lot of complicated bureaucracy to face but nothing that can’t be systematically approached and dealt with.
Communication is paramount. Give people clear insight to remove lack of understanding as it breeds uncertainty and doubt. You need to be willing to ask good questions, encourage people to engage and collaborate whilst keeping them informed every step of the way. Ultimately applying service design to your organisation is extremely rewarding, although you may need to overcome some of these challenges along the way.
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