How to use ‘back to the floor’ for effective service design

Decision-makers must be equipped to make informed decisions so that their services meet users’ needs. Managers, especially those who control budgets and strategic directions, can do this via various methods. The most often used are user research playbacks and reports. The’ Back to the Floor’ method is another hard-hitting and impactful method that helps decision-makers build empathy based on a deep understanding of their service’s daily realities.

What is ‘back to the floor’? 

‘Back to the Floor’ is a practice where leaders temporarily leave their offices to participate in the day-to-day tasks of their service. Whether it’s answering customer calls, working on the shop floor, or handling routine administrative tasks, the aim is to immerse themselves fully in the roles and perspectives of their employees. This hands-on experience is designed to give senior managers an authentic understanding of the operational aspects of the service they manage and to bridge the gap between high-level strategy and the practical realities employees face every day.

Benefits of ‘back to the floor’

  1. Enhanced Empathy and Decision-Making. Experiencing service delivery firsthand not only deepens leaders’ empathy for their staff but also enhances their understanding of customer needs, leading to more informed and effective decision-making.
  2. Identification of Improvement Areas. Being directly involved allows leaders to see inefficiencies and areas for improvement that may not be apparent from afar or through reports.
  3. Boost in Staff Morale and Team Cohesion. When staff see their leaders actively engaging with their daily tasks, it boosts morale and fosters a culture of mutual respect and collaboration.
  4. Real-Time Feedback and Innovation. Direct engagement with processes and customers can spark innovative ideas for service improvement and provide real-time feedback on current practices.

How ‘back to the floor’ builds real understanding for effective service design 

‘Back to the Floor’ is more than just a leadership exercise; it’s a critical tool for any organisation aiming to refine and enhance its services. The insights gained from these immersive experiences are invaluable for aligning strategic initiatives with the actual needs and conditions of delivering the service. By adopting ‘Back to the Floor’, organisations improve their service design and show a commitment to truly understanding and addressing the real challenges faced by their employees and customers.

Integrating ‘Back to the Floor’ into regular management practices ensures that services are designed with a user-centred approach and are continually adapted to meet changing needs and enhance overall service quality.

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