It remains to be seen how long it is before service design is openly talked about as a tool for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our military. The reason I raise this is the recent tribunals of officers deemed to be acting illegally in their treatment of prisoners and civillians in Iraq. Their transgressions have been described by our politicians as soldiers acting improperly and outwith the kind of ‘service’ they are meant to be delivering – as if they hadn’t met their monthly sales targets or not fulfilled their health and safety obligations – without a hint of timidity or guilt about the situation in which these people are placed, and the skills they are equipped with in relation to the tasks they are being asked to undertake. There is no second thought about the disparity of a situation where soldiers are being asked to provide a friendly faced service in an occupied country, the very essence of their training having been how to kill and destroy.
The creep of private funding into public services will undoubtedly hasten the emergence of the military as a service, judged on the same terms as other services we use in our day to day lives. While it might be no bad thing to introduce some good design thinking to our various military functions, we probably need to be less judgemental of the people on the ground making the difficult decisions, and more critical of the people who initiate these situations.