Are you wrestling with high demand?

Is your capacity a match for demand?

Demand arm wrestling capacity, an illustration by Ad Esse Consulting

Flattened by your workload? It’s a challenge when your workload is ever increasing and the people who need you the most are sat in the growing backlog. If this is familiar, it sounds like your demand is greater than your capacity.

Keep reading below to see Ad Esse’s approach on how to balance the demand and capacity equation.  

“It’s not the workload that kills you. It’s the worry.”

Vikay Dhameliya

1. Determine what type of work is demanding your time

What type of work is taking up your time?

Value demand

This is the good kind, where the incoming demand is a request for you to deliver value that fits within the purpose of the team/ role.

Failure demand
This is demand that is the result of a failure within your organisation. This might be a failure to do something, or doing something wrong. Responding to and managing failure demand often consumes a disproportionate amount of your available capacity for work.

Once you’ve determined what the types of demand you are receiving, establish which type of failure demand is consuming your time most and why the failures are happening? What can you do to eliminate the root cause of the failure demand contacts? Eliminating failure demand will significantly reduce the amount of work you have to do.

Take a look at our infographic below for everyday examples of failure demand and value demand. Don’t be surprised if there are only a few demands that you would class as value and many that are failures…this is normal!

Value demand vs failure demand infographic by Ad Esse Consulting

2. Analyse your current capacity

When teams are feeling the strain from heavy workloads, we commonly see managers pulling the trigger to recruit without analysing what is really taking up the team’s time. 

1. Record the top ten activities that you spend your time on in a week. Be careful not to group meetings or emails together in step one – some meetings/ emails will be value adding and many others won’t. You’ll need to find a good balance between what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

2. Record the percentage of time you spend on each activity. Typically, you’ll find 80% of your time is taken up on 20% of tasks.

3. Establish which tasks are value adding, and which are business essential non-value add, or non-value add. Using this information, decide what action you need to take:

Value adding: Activities you do that directly deliver value to your customers. These are activities that your customer would be prepared to pay for (if they were paying for your services) and the activities your customers want you to spend most of your time on.

Business Essential No-Value Add (BENVA): Business activities that don’t offer direct value for your customers, but you are told that you must do. E.g. training, expenses, and measuring performance. What can you do to reduce your time spent on these activities?

Non-Value Add (NVA): Activities that don’t add value for your customers or your business. E.g. fixing something that’s gone wrong, chasing information, dealing with complaints. What can you do to eliminate the need to spend time on these activities?

By reducing BENVA and eliminating NVA activities (collectively known as ‘waste’) you have freed up capacity that you can now use to deal with your incoming value-add demand. 

Stoffer Bruun, Consultant at Ad Esse Consulting with an orange background

Stoffer Bruun, Ad Esse Consultant, recently did a capacity assessment for a client, where the organisation needed to understand if a team had sufficient capacity to meet the work demand for the year ahead. Read more about his work here.

3. Continuously Improve

Whilst you will get some significant improvements from doing this as a one-off activity, the real gains are to be made by treating it as a business as usual metric and piece of analysis.

James Clear pointed out in his book, Atomic Habits, that a 1% improvement every day is a net improvement of 37.8% over the course of a year (1.01^365). 

Typically, a one-off effort to reduce failure demand and increase your capacity will result in a 25-30% improvement in productivity (through reduced failure demand and removed waste). Combine that with your 1% incremental gains and you could increase your productivity by as much as 68.8% a year. 
In order to see these types of benefits, you need to engage your entire team/ organisation in the measurement and analysis. Try using an Information Centre paired with a daily meeting to boost engagement.

“This capacity review of services, as carried out by Ad Esse, of our Planned Delivery team could not have been better timed. I found the whole process brilliant from start to finish.”

Asif Khan, Head of Asset Management at Notting Hill Genesis

We have over a decade’s experience of supporting teams and organisations with every aspect of this demand and capacity analysis and the improvements that follow. From setting up one-off calculations to establishing business-as-usual metrics in your IT systems, engaging teams to understand the root cause of failure demand and waste, to supporting the resulting improvement activity. If this is of interest to you, please get in touch. You can reply to this email or use

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