The concepts of Failure Demand/Preventable Work are critical opportunities to free up 20 - 80% of your team's capacity. Sadly, things like time-consuming but preventable calls from clients asking about delays or incorrect information often go unnoticed as a place to start.
It is useful to consider two types of demand:
Failure Demand is a term coined by John Seddon which is, in our own words, demand on our resources that occurs strictly because something:
We think of the first three as types of rework; and the fourth one as preventable work.
Often, the Failure Demand/Preventable Work has been around for a long time, and we have come to accept its existence as “part of life” – never going to change – or even be questioned. We often do not see it as failure demand, we just see it as work!
The sad thing is that we have rarely seen a team that spends less than 20% of its capacity on Failure Demand. In some cases, a team can spend 100% of its time on Failure Demand – such as when the team was actually created to deal exclusively with Failure Demand!
Sadder still, is when we address only the symptoms of Failure Demand, instead of its causes: instead of speeding up our processes, we create a call centre to deal with “where’s my stuff” complaints. Ken Miller’s video, The Fable of Complexity, from his book “Extreme Government Makeover” does a good job showing what happens when we address only the symptoms of the failure demand instead of the causes.
The best thing about solving Failure Demand/Preventable Work is that it is like hiring more members on your team.
Let’s say that 40% of your team’s time is spent on failure demand. If you can eliminate 75% of it, that means that you free up 30% of your team’s capacity. In other words, in a team of 10 people, that is like getting back 3 extra people on your team. And those three extra people are already fully-onboarded, fully-trained, fully integrated into your culture and often have years of experience!
The other challenging impact of Failure Demand is that it slows down the work, the clock ticks longer, and it generates even more progress-chasing calls from frustrated clients who desperately need their stuff and cannot wait any longer.