Blindingly Obvious Demand Management, Part 1: We can’t do it all.

Does your development organisation have huge backlogs? Are some of your current projects overdue, under stress or just irrelevant now? Or do you spend hours in back-to-back meetings defending your teams because they’re overloaded and the other GMs expect miracles from them?

Many of the organisations I talk to struggle with these sort of problems and they sap your energy… energy that should be put into doing great work (as Michael Bungay-Stanier would say).

To me the evidence points to a failure of demand management. Poorly managed demand can force you down the path of taking on too much work, or the incorrect type of work, or just  losing control. I was discussing this very issue with one of my wise clients, Wilson Lorimer, some years ago, and he grabbed the pen and in an epiphany drew the diagram below:

The wonderfully clear insight here is that most organisations just take everything that comes down the “chute” from the business (the demand) and try to supply the services to build it. Despite talk of governance and Program Funding Boards etc, saying “no” to project requests is often politically difficult… so we don’t.

To address this and gain control back from the smothering project backlog, the first step is to educate the business about “The Funnel” as Wilson puts it. The funnel by definition reduces the volume of tasks that get through to the next step. The criteria for what gets through and what doesn’t, is the “control” process we call governance.

Dave Aron in his time at Gartner called this process “Demand/Control/Supply” and I acknowledge this insight here. Dave said simply that governance is the process of defining and executing the criteria for controlling what demand will be addressed by our limited supply capabilities.

I hope this looks blindingly obvious to you… because it is. But it’s diabolically difficult to execute in the modern high-pressure environment of competing requirements of large enterprises.

As Wilson did above, I’ll try to simplify the project selection process – governance – in the next post on this topic.


1 thought on “Blindingly Obvious Demand Management, Part 1: We can’t do it all.

  1. Excellent Rob and thanks for the acknowledgement. This subject is highly topical again, and needless to say – won’t go away in a hurry. Any form of triaging at the governance/control point will be of advantage. Looking forward to the next post please.

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