It is common for service organisations to specialise work in call centres and back offices. It is, in effect, a ‘sort’ step; work being ‘sorted’ into the ‘correct’ queues. Managers think this will reduce costs.

The Vanguard Method is to create, as far as is possible, one and only one point of transaction, getting rid of work specialisation. Over twenty years of practice, we have a rule of thumb: When work specialisation (a sort step) is removed, capacity increases by about 20%.

Another way to look at this is that work specialisation drives capacity down.

Lean tool heads often persuade their clients to increase the number of specialisms; oblivious to the fact that no value work gets done in a sort step and, worse, oblivious to the fact that the impact will be to lessen capacity.