My team is approaching the end of an alpha phase currently. We’ve been looking at two areas of an end-to-end service and have prototyped potential solutions for improving the service at those stages.

We’ve got two weeks of testing left before we wrap up the alpha and go to assessment, handing over our findings. In last week’s retro, there were worried feelings about how our good work would continue. It’s not clear that we will be the stewards of the work, or that anyone will be. And when people feel like their good work might not lead to anything, they (understandably) start to feel unenthused and demotivated.

The existential malaise we’re feeling is due to the organisation’s structure and operating principles. It funds projects, not teams. It makes change hard to do, which can be a downer.

But when you zoom out, the organisation is going through change. It’s moving towards a service model and funding teams, not projects. Which is good!

In this context, as part of an organisation going through change, our alpha can be a trojan horse. Though we can’t go deep enough to test interfaces and back-office processes down the stack, we can collect feedback that this is a good direction to go in. We can state what we’d need to do next, to test the viability and feasibility of the solutions.

“Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context — a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.” Eliel Saarinen

By showing a route forward and placing ourselves as the stewards of these designs, we can help the organisation deliver those. It should (hopefully) be a success story to show how user-centred service design and multidisciplinary teams work to deliver, maintain, and increase value – for users and our organisation.

I didn’t always know how to describe this. When you can’t see a way through, it’s hard to get past hard times. Adding to my strategic vocabulary has really helped. Now I can see the dark matter of the organisation changing, and I can spot how a trojan horse might help carry that change through.