Systems thinking in Benefits-listening to demand (part 2)

Arguing is a good sign.

Arguing is a good sign that people are engaging with listening to demand and are having to think through what they are there for. As described in the previous post, after each intial demand listening exercise, they would convene back in the classroom, and take it in turns to read out what customers had said on the phone, in the customer service centre etc. Generally people don’t need encouraging, when it goes well people easily slip into reading out the customers words as if in an acting class, casually, with an accent, use of slang etc. The customer is in the room!

As each demand is read out, people debate, is it value or is it failure?

Value demand= created by the customer, when they need something, what we are here for.

Failure demand=created by the organisation, caused by a failure to do something, or do something right for the customer.

The act of reading it out, and people debating, is important. There is a lot of pointing at the definition of value and failure demand which is pinned on the wall, and repeatedly asking, “is this caused by something we have done?”.  People feel comfortable if a demand is something that fits in with a designed policy or routine, for example someone asking for the phone number to make a complaint is often seen as a value demand, as there are processes to follow and forms to fill in when someone wants to make a complaint, so it seems as if “Normal” and therefore not a “failure”. Perhaps at this stage a failure demand is looked at as if chaotic in nature?

People often become stuck on the particular details of a call, and theorizing over the ins and outs, what is known and not known. For some reason this often leads them to err on the side of deciding that a demand is a value demand. Perhaps at this stage they are still naturally reticent to recognise a failure demand as existing at all, or are still stuck on treating all units of demand as to be welcomed, as they are used to seeing their job as where being able to deal successfully with all sorts of requests is a sign of an experienced and skilful worker.

I have found two tactics to deal with this.  Firstly, say they imagine that demand isn’t just the one they are looking at in their hand, but is a predictable and major demand, tens of thousands of them a year. Now consider whether that demand is value, or failure. Scaling it up seems to help them think through whether this is what the customer wants, and is what the organisation is for. The second tactic I have found that works is asking that they err on the side of non-caution. If in doubt, it is a failure demand. The reasoning is that if there are only one or two of that type, it doesn’t matter. No action is going to to be mis-directed by an inaccurately defined demand, not at this stage. On the other hand , if it turns out there is a substantial number of this type of demand, get it categorised now and it allows it to be captured at an early stage, and a larger scope for improvement is better than narrowing it.

There are as many demands as there are people, demand is people shaped, but also it is predictable. If it wasn’t, then how could you do business each day? Not knowing whether there is someone coming through the door asking for a benefits claim, or to buy an ice-cream? Demand is always predictable to some degree. Using the 80/20 principle we decided to concentrate on the categories that make up 80% of the demand, both value and failure. But what to DO with these, now you have them? Next post!

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2 Responses to Systems thinking in Benefits-listening to demand (part 2)

  1. jason says:

    where is the next post??

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