The source of an idea: Front Office – Back Office

Excellent work by the ‘squire to the giants’ about a 1978 piece on ‘service systems thinking’ which is so… unsystemic… it is amazing – and explains so much.

Service designers, using the concept of ‘front-of-house’ and ‘backstage’, take heed!

“…the less direct contact the customer has with the service system, the greater the potential of the system to operate at peak efficiency…”

Squire to the Giants

An officeI’ve read a number of John Seddon’s books over the years and they are ‘sprinkled’ with critiques of a range of conventional management ‘fads and fashions’. One of his key critiques is of a particular 1978 HBR article written by a Richard B. Chase, titled ‘Where does the customer fit in a service operation?’

The article title sounds relatively innocuous, but Seddon puts it forward as having been a catalyst for the splitting up of service systems into ‘front office – back office’ functions…because it will (according to Chase) make them much more efficient.

Now, whilst (I believe that) I’ve understood Seddon’s critique of the splitting up of service systems into a myriad of (supposedly) specialised components…and the hugely damaging sub-optimisation that this has caused1, I was never quite sure as to the level of ‘blame’2 that could be levelled at Chase’s article – mainly because I…

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