The Internal Customer Journey

Turn those design tools inward

It’s always rewarding to help organizations change their way of working to be more customer centric using design thinking. Like any change or transformation initiative, it has its ups and downs. One thing we notice is that employees feel jazzed up to use the design mindset and tools for creating better client solutions. One thing we sometimes forget is that they can use the same tools internally, with co-workers, staff and leadership, often to great effect.

In a typical capacity building engagement, we need to make sure that people have room to reflect and anchor their learnings. One way we do this is to have them create an internal customer journey of their experience. Turning this design tool inwards gives people valuable time for reflection and discussion. We’ve found that this simple, engaging and interactive step increases the value of the learning and change within organizations.

Here’s a picture from a recent internal customer journey, describing about 10 weeks of learning and doing. Employees go through a learning-by-doing experience where we train them on the design process and tools and they use this learning on current, customer focused projects. It’s not a full-time process; they balance this project/learning work with their normal work.

The internal customer journey maps of a change/learning process

Since they use customer journey mapping as part of their training, we chose to use it for internal reflection. We mapped out all of the “activities” beforehand and asked each group to map out the plusses and minuses of their personal experiences. They could react to anything they wanted: the project, the training, or the intersection of their normal work with the transformation/innovation work.

What ensues is an engaged and deep discussion. People often have different pictures and experiences within the same group of the same occurrences. Creating the journey map forces each person to reflect on the question “what just happened to me?” and “why did I react the way that I did?”

What we get out of this is three-fold:

  1. Participants have time and space to reflect on what they’ve learned which typically leads to a greater anchoring of the learnings. It means that they will have an easier time in using the new way of working in future work.
  2. It gives leadership a picture, sometimes stark and emotional, of what it feels like to go through a change process. This is one of the key indicators of how this change approach differs from “innovation theater”: it evokes strong feelings, just as all significant change does. It helps leadership to lead in new ways.
  3. It gives us as trainers/teachers/facilitators direct feedback on how we can continually improve what we do. I’ve never run a training where I didn’t learn something. When we give people time to give thoughtful feedback, we can create greater value. We should always be in “design” mode in our own work.

Of course, design tools work well in all sorts of internal engagements and processes. It’s one of the reasons that Deloitte predicted that HR would be the next great field for design thinking (a bet that hasn’t quite payed off yet). Next time you need to engage your employees or teams internally, try turning those design tools inward.

Design Director and co-founder of Savvy Design Collaborative, design-driven entrepreneurship at YALI Dartmouth, VPR commentator, now playing in Sweden.

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