Managers of service organisations are wedded to this core paradigm:

How much work is coming in?

How many people do I have?

How long do people take to do stuff?

The core paradigm sits at the heart of conventional service management. Because they are schooled this way, managers try to move demand onto IVRs and robots (as they are thought to be cheaper than people), they create scripts – putting ‘brains’ in computers – in order to hire lower-cost people, they move work to lower-cost countries or providers, they bear down on their people to work faster.

But in working to the core paradigm, managers make three big mistakes:

They assume all demand is ‘work to be done’ whereas a proportion of demand is failure demand.

They assume workers can be held accountable for the work they do, whereas the workers’ performance is governed by the system.

And if managers do anything to prevent the system from absorbing variety (scripts, standardised work, IVRs and so on) then demand will only rise.