It is common now for those promoting justice reform to urge a “client-centred” or “user-centred” approach. But what does it really mean to take a “user-centred” approach? Is it enough for justice insiders to take their own understanding of the client experience into account or to invite one or more ‘users’ of the system to participate in reform discussions? Just how do we truly obtain the perspective of those using (or wanting to use) the justice system?
Once again, we can look outside our own sector for clues.
Example #1 – Business
The business world has been focusing for hundreds of years on meeting the needs of their customers for goods and services. A relatively recent innovation identified the need to focus on “customer-centricity”. The idea is that whatever the organization offers must be designed from the perspective of the customer and engage with the entire customer experience.
Colin Shaw says: “The experience you provide to your customers is a direct reflection of your organization. If your organization is ‘product-centric’ or ‘internally-focused,’ you will provide an internally-focused product or experience. If your organization is ‘customer-centric,’ you will provide a customer-centric experience.”
The key questions are: “Is the process designed for the good of the Customer or was it designed for the good of the company?” Is the process “inside out” or “outside in”? “Inside-Out orientation refers to a process that is reviewed through the eyes of the company, looking out at customers as they go through, resulting in a process that is oriented on the needs of the organization. Outside-in orientation involves walking the process as if you were a customer looking in at the organization through a Customer’s eyes, enabling a process focused on the needs of the Customer.”
Let’s face it – the current justice system was designed primarily by and for the professional users (Judges, Lawyers and court services). How can we redesign it to be “consumer-centric”?
Shaw suggests that you don’t just focus on the rational “what’s” of the system. Since 50% of a customer’s experience involves their emotions, it is not just the process but how they felt about the process that is key. As an example, the National Self-Represented Litigants Project findings document how important it is to SRL’s to be treated with dignity and respect and to be cared for as individuals, not as case numbers.
Shaw identifies five requirements to move to customer-centricity:
- Definite ownership by an individual or cross-functional team of the Customer Process.
- Belief that all the parts of the system affect the Customer Experience.
- Creation of a detailed Customer Journey Map that includes the emotions of the Customer at each moment.
- Incorporation of the Customer into the design process. The most Customer-centric companies include the Customer in the design of the process to get their view of the changes.
- Commitment to exceeding the Customer’s Expectations at every interaction.
Telus implemented a Customer First policy in 2011. Senior leaders in all departments across Telus spend time on the front lines in the field, in retail stores, in call centres and with service technicians to really understand customer experience first-hand.
This approach is challenging in a complex system where there is no “CEO” and there are many moving parts. However, doesn’t that make it even more important to walk in the shoes of a variety of members of the public, for example, who are trying solve their legal problems? A “journey map” would be very helpful to help identify the weak points.
Example #2: Systems Change Theory
I’m enrolled in a MOOC through MIT called U.Lab – Transforming Business, Society and Self. It is led by Otto Scharmer, the guru of the ULab, a fascinating process to encourage truly innovative change in complex systems of all kinds. In the first week of the MOOC we watched a video about the Apollo 8 mission – the first manned mission to fly to the moon. All preparations and attention was on the goal of getting to the moon, the stars, the universe. However, when the astronauts in orbit began to send back pictures of the Earth, the scientists were awestruck. It was the first time anyone had seen what our home Earth looked like from space. This was an unexpected discovery of beauty and profound mystery. They called it “a grand oasis in the vastness of space”. This was the first opportunity for humans in the “human system” to see that system, from a new perspective. Otto suggests that this is how we need to view any system we seek to influence and change. The ULab approach advocates resisting the strong temptation to move immediately to solutions based on surface level observations but to take time instead to go deeper, to explore the underlying root causes and to gain understanding and empathy for the experience of human beings who participate in the system. How to do that? He recommends “empathy walks” (real conversations between people from very different parts of the system) and “learning journeys” (visits to the edges of the system that are unfamiliar). It is empathy that will open new doors of opportunity.
Closer to home, the most profound learning I gained from the CBA Envisioning Equal Justice Summit April 2013 was the poverty simulation. While it involved role-playing it gave participants a glimpse into the actual experience in the social welfare system of human beings struggling to make ends meet for their families.
Example #3 – Design Thinking
David Kelley (founder of IDEO) has worked for years on ways to bring real human experience into design (of products, services and organizations). David insists that design must be done through collaboration across disciplines AND that it is essential to have real empathy for the consumer to uncover real human needs. You figure out what people want and value in their products and services through careful observation of their experience. At IDEO, David worked closely with Apple for many years to design the Apple mouse. He watched people’s reactions when they used the products and when he saw a grimace he knew a change was needed. He recently started the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford which focuses on “human centred design” to bring students from a wide variety of disciplines (including law) together to learn how to solve problems collaboratively.
What can we learn?
- The justice system is both an organization and a system (a big, hairy, complex system)
- Those who engage with the justice system can be called its “customers”
- We need to focus more on the end to end “customer experience” (head and heart) of the justice system
- The focus should be on “customer centricity”
- That means trying to turn the camera around so we can look at the entire system (including ourselves) from the customer’s perspective. It is a good start but not enough to invite a few members of the public to join our discussion tables (after all, they are “our” tables, “our” language, “our” agenda). We need to map their journeys and to foster empathy for their entire experience with the system
- We also need collaboration across disciplines (not just the legal fraternity).
Experience in other sectors shows that these approaches will result in more effective and lasting change. Worth considering.