Between the dystopian tension of The Handmaid’s Tale, the high stakes drama of Billions, the tragi-comedy that is US politics or the pageantry of a royal wedding, it would be foolish of me to think I could capture your attention with a topic as mundane as capacity management. But here goes…

Q) Why is 30 the least likely answer to the following question? “If a team can process 20 enquiries per person per day and on a typical Wednesday there are 600 enquiries to process, how many people will need to be in the team next Wednesday?”

A) to paraphrase a certain rambunctious former British Prime Minister – capacity management “is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.

And it is precisely this problem that has kept me interested in service centre operations management for so long.

Why is it that questions like the following are so difficult to answer?:

  1. My team do such a variety of things, I’m not sure I know how to measure the team’s capacity?
  2. Finance keep telling me I need to reduce my workforce but I’m sure it will impact service levels if I do – how much capacity do I really need?
  3. I don’t see the point in forecasting, we never seem to get it right. Why should I spend precious time trying to guess something I know won’t be right?
  4. Why is it that some days the team knocks their productivity targets out of the park and other days the game seems to be over almost before the day has started?
  5. I was so sure we had enough hands on deck, I just can’t understand why we still have a backlog?
  6. Why can’t I predict individual performance? Yesterday, Suzie and Karl beat the all-time productivity record and today they were my worst performers.
  7. The team are now more efficient than ever, but for some reason we’ve got more people answering the same number of enquiries. How can that be?


In terms of essential skills and experiences for the aspiring operational Jedi Knight, capacity management may not be as sexy as robotics, AI or delivering a large scale automation program, but it does deliver – consistently, materially and reliably. Unfortunately, as with so many things in the ops manager’s toolkit, it’s simple, but not easy. However, put in the effort to learn the dark arts of capacity management and you will be rewarded.

As I started writing this blog I suddenly realised to do the topic any justice would be way too much for just one post, so I’ve decided to split it over three separate posts:

  1. Catching Smoke – understanding and measuring capacity plus the impact of individual productivity.
  2. Demand Help – some tips and tricks for demand forecasting and resource planning.
  3. Getting Blood Out of a Stone – why the rookie assumption that “I haven’t got enough resources” is nearly always wrong.


I’m assuming that many of you are already familiar with the material (if not you’re in for a treat) so this will serve as a refresher when talking to your teams. As you also know it’s not a perfect science and there are different schools of thought on many of the topics I cover, so I welcome feedback and alternative approaches that you’ve found to bear fruit.

I’ll try and publish the posts over the next three weeks – if I have enough capacity.

But for now to build the suspense further: next time on The Alchemist’s Tale, for the budding capacity managing maestros out there, why variation is the devil incarnate [cue dramatic music].

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