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How to use journey maps to see your organisation in a new light

By November 24, 2021May 25th, 2023All, Design5 min read

Published on November 24, 2021 | Reading Time: 3 mins

A human-centred design approach to public services is crucial if you want to get to the heart of your problem

“I have been working here for 30 years now, this is the first time I see our service like this”.

The words came from a director general in a major cosmopolitan city. In one of the public service transformation projects I was engaged in, my team had just concluded a meeting where we, in collaboration with the director general’s team, had sketched out a journey map for investors.

A journey map is a visualisation of all the touch-points a customer goes through to accomplish a service goal. Journey maps also include what customers feel and experience during those touch-points and identify their pain-points. It is a methodology associated with human-centred design, which is becoming more and more popular in the public sector as a great problem-solving approach.

An investor journey map

The advantage of a journey map is that it allows you to see someone’s journey — in our case, investors — holistically. Doing so, you will have the chance to see problems from new angles that desk-research and talking to your employees is unlikely to provide.

As we were sketching out every step of the existing journey, we asked ourselves how we could cost-effectively innovate and turn the ordinary experience into something extraordinary.

We also plotted fees and payments alongside each encounter; an eye-opening exercise that facilitated a lot of learning. We added some information to the map about the cost of similar activities in neighbouring cities. This information was extremely useful for problem-framing, and the X-Qual tool we used was powerful enough to enable that.

This case reaffirmed that bureaucracy and red tape can have a significant impact on investors. Sometimes a few extra steps and a slight difference in set-up costs can be deal-breakers.

  • Journey maps are a powerful tool to frame the problem accurately and help you identify where there is room for new ideas and opportunities for improvement. In our case, we found that the online information provided for investors was unclear, which is of course key in the investor’s decision-making process. We worked on structuring the information in a way that is more intuitive and requires less effort to decipher.

” After facilitating for hundreds of hours on more than 60 complex government services, I think I can say with confidence that in the public sector, neither problem framing nor ideation can be completed without a rigorous and religiously detailed journey mapping exercise “

We also found that the question “What is next?” was equally important, as investors hate uncertainty and appreciate clear and holistic information up front.

A lesson learned the hard way is a lesson learned for a lifetime journey

If this article reinforces your belief in journey mapping, or has maybe convinced you to try it out, which I hope it does, here are a few final remarks that could be helpful:

  • While journey mapping is generally important, it is extremely important in complex services and services that cut across different agencies. I can’t recall a time where an end-to-end journey map was created and didn’t immediately lead to several “aha moments” for everyone involved
  • The team will always be tempted to ignore some details, or to use what we call the “black box” to indicate “out of jurisdiction” touchpoints. If you are aiming for a drastic positive change and a transformation that is worth it, don’t give in. Keep digging, and it will be your best inspiration for ideas
  • Drawing on best-case scenarios is not very revealing. It usually does not give you any new insights and you’ll learn so little from those well-rehearsed cases. We have to map for service failure too and watch how the recovery happens. They say the devil is in the details; with journey mapping, all the juice is in the details. In other words, a good journey map is an end-to-end journey map — a map that explores all possible scenarios with few, if any, black boxes left unopened

Don’t rush

After facilitating for hundreds of hours on more than 60 complex government services, I think I can say with confidence that in the public sector, neither problem framing nor ideation can be completed without a rigorous and religiously detailed journey mapping exercise. If you conclude any of those tasks without it, your job is incomplete.

Journey maps are excellent tools because they allow you to see things visually, spotting things you are otherwise bound to overlook. By identifying every step a citizen goes through to obtain a government service and every encounter they have with a government agency, you are starting to build a systematic mindset of empathy by gradually uncovering layers of insights about the touchpoints, motivations, expectations and, above all, their emotions and sentiments. There is no better tool to help us deal with the inner voice that might say, “Of course I know how the citizen thinks and feels,” than a well-drawn end-to-end journey map.

Finally, one of the reasons why journey maps are one of my personal favorite HDC tools, is that they enable you to get a helicopter-view of any given service. I have learnt throughout the years that the broader your outlook is, the more opportunities for improvement you are likely to receive and the more meaningful your solutions become.

As I see many public servants and senior decision-makers rush to launch new initiatives to cope with Covid-19, my advice would be to hold your horses, take a brief moment to understand the new needs of your customers and employees and to tailor the journey for them. Trust me, It’ll pay off.

This article was originally published on Apolitical


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