I facilitated a workshop to co-design the new organisational culture and interventions. We identified opportunities and co-designed service concepts and changes to build a better school together. The overall insights gathered during this workshop formed the nucleus of new service strategies and outputs. The outputs were then prototyped and tested. The workshop unlocked knowledge and activated the creativity that exists within the teachers and caretakers.
“To improve your school culture, you must dig deep into the psyche of your organisation and figure out why certain actions or attitudes are entrenched. Often, such actions or attitudes are actually rewarded by a school’s culture, so any desirable new behaviours will need to be rewarded by the culture as well if they are to be sustained. Indeed, the effect of school culture on teacher behaviours cannot be understated’’
- School Culture Rewired, Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker
So, what does this new organisational culture look like and how do we start transitioning towards it?
Service Design, Strategic Design, Organisation Design
Kidzee Preschool was started in 2012. Over the years established itself as a trustworthy and quality preschool. Although the school has set a firm ground and gained a lot of experience, it still faces some challenges. My brief was to identify these challenges, understand their root causes and design interventions. After a thorough research phase, I reframed the brief to "How can Kidzee get an in-depth understanding of their customers and employees to develop valuable services and shift the organisational culture?
In 14 months, I worked at 2 levels:
1. With the school to co-design tangible and intangible interventions such as service blueprints, teacher’s toolkit, a digital platform, business model, strategic recommendations and future vision. This is the part that is presented here.
2. Kidzee has over 2000 franchises all over India. The outcomes of this work were noticed by the main leadership and office in Mumbai and they wanted to adopt the service design approach as their key component in the new strategic plan. So, we co-designed a service framework as a starting point along with some recommendations. This is confidential and has not been presented here.
As the only in-house designer, I was responsible for the entire project - from conception through design and implementation
Organisation and Service Design to Improve Parent and Employee Experiences and Business Outcomes of India's Best Preschool
1. 100% retention of teachers for two years in a row.
2. During covid, 60% of the schools shut down because of no admissions. Still, Kidzee retained 80% of its students and continued operating because of its quick adaptation to the context and changing its services to suit the needs of teachers and parents during the covid phase. Kidzee continues to grow even today.
3. We not only redesigned the organisation and its services but also experimented and piloted with new education delivery models for early childhood education when covid first hit. 2 of those models are now successfully implemented.
4. The Kidzee, Zee Learn headquarters noticed this and asked me to present my work, process and outputs. They then decided to adopt a service design approach and way of working as a central component of their new strategic plan. So, we co-designed a service framework as a starting point. With my help, Kidzee is now putting together a service design department.
5. The process changed not only the collective behaviours of the stakeholders but also their mindsets and beliefs, which was the most important outcome. Since the stakeholders were closely involved in the design process, it was easy to incorporate the interventions and transition to a new way of working and doing.
Process and Methodology
Designing the design process as I uncovered insights was one of the most exciting parts of the whole project.
The following steps make the process seem linear, but really the timeline was such that research and design all started concurrently after uncovering initial insights and continuously informing each other for the duration of the project.
It was important to create a safe environment for teachers in order to have honest conversations about their experiences. I couldn’t rush the research process. I had to gain their trust. I did this by helping teachers in their classrooms, planning with them and helping them prepare lesson plans. This also gave me an insight into their habits, mindsets and ways of working.
Generative Research and Synthesis
Since most of the barriers were related to teachers and parents and both also being interconnected to each other, I decided to unpack them further. The second phase involved understanding the complexity of the problems that teachers face and the mindsets and expectations of the parents. I did this through co-design workshops and a service mapping approach. I analysed individual experiences of teachers and parents throughout the day and throughout the year. I held one-on-one interviews with teachers and parents to deeply understand their personal experiences. I also conducted provocative group workshops to surface further relationships and tensions. Group workshops were used as a way to stimulate thought amongst the group and to gather both assenting and dissenting views. They also allowed me to validate insights gathered during one-on-one interviews and speak with a larger number of people.
Teacher Current Journey Map
Parent Current Journey Map
I had conversations with various subject matter experts to understand the dynamics and problems I had uncovered. I learned about organisational models, teacher identity, and motivation by talking to them and pausing to do some desk research. After a root cause analysis of emerging insights, I soon realised how deeply toxic the school's culture was. Designing an ecology of service interventions was essential instead of a single point solution. The interventions should complement each other as a whole to form a cohesive system that gradually enables a transition towards a new culture.
Daily Experience Map of Teachers
Diving Deep into Organisational Culture
I researched various organisational culture models. Some of the models shared similar thinking. Such as, individuals and organisations have values and take for granted assumptions, e.g. an organisation can value teamwork yet assume, and sometimes even reward competition. This exercise was more like a design process as I tried out many different models and connections to help make sense of my tacit understanding gained through the insights in my attempts to make it more explicit.
Ecosystem of Interventions
eKidzee - A platform to support the improvement of parent-teacher relationships, family engagement, bridging home-school learning, teacher's development and classroom management.
Future state parent service blueprint
Admin Manual - Consists of rules, regulations, recommendations, actions and rituals to manage and improve the school culture
Teachers Manual - Consists of activities and action plans for personal and professional development and best practices for classroom management.
Future state employee experience map
Calendar - A calendar that gives an example of how all the artefacts unify and can be utilised to change the school culture.
Application to increase parent-teacher trust and strengthen communication
From sketch to validated concept via prototyping and rapid iterative testing.
While working on the future state service blueprint, we realised that it might be risky to introduce the application with the other interventions. The school culture was already fragile, and there was no trust between parents and teachers. Introducing the application would only reinforce this mistrust and make things worst. We realised this because we added a risks/constraints level to the blueprint. When we started mapping the risks or scenarios of what could go wrong with the use of the application, the list was endless. Teachers are not tech-savvy, but the parents are because most of them came from an IT background. Introducing the application would increase expectations and could lead to more problems initially. But we knew that introducing the application would make a good difference in an ideal scenario. So we decided to figure out a way to introduce it in small incremental steps and first work on changing the school culture through the other interventions.
On the left is how I articulated the use of this blueprint in something tangible and easily usable for the school employees.
Exploratory Research and Synthesis
In the first phase, I immersed myself into the school environment, mapped and observed the school's day-to-day working, and identified initial barriers and pain points. The research methods I used were AEIOU, desk research, stakeholder interviews, self ethnography and fly on the wall.
Connections and patterns started emerging as I began zooming out and making sense of the overall school culture. I was constantly asking myself - what is happening here, why is it happening, what are the experiences of the people and how do they affect each other.
Simultaneously, I also had to understand the subject matter of early childhood education to give a larger context to the things I was making sense of.
The key challenges I faced while embarking on this journey led to the most important insights. Initially, teachers and caretakers were scared of talking to me. They behaved differently in my presence. They thought that I was assessing them and would report them to the supervisor.