Responses to Service Work Pressure

Rich picture CLD of Tradeoffs in Responses to Work Pressure in the Service Industry by Rogelio Oliva California Mgt Review 2001 43(4) 26-43 paper

Rich picture CLD of Tradeoffs in Responses to Work Pressure in the Service Industry by Rogelio Oliva California Mgt Review 2001 43(4) 26-43 paper


Let's start with service workload. This can be thought of as a backlog or a big To Do list.
New tasks add to the service workload. These new tasks are often from new clients but can also be new tasks from current clients
Completion of service work reduces the workload.
In a perfect world changes in workload are balanced by increasing the service capacity (adding more workers) or by reducing the time per service (for example, by using technology).
In the real world, things take time. The workload sets a desired service capacity, and after a considerable delay (often due to training and budget) the actual service capacity adjustment balances the service completion rate to the workload.
In practice, while waiting for additional service capacity, the capacity gap or work pressure causes people to work harder, usually seen as paid or unpaid overtime. 
Another response to work pressure is to cut corners to reduce the time per service, especially in cutting out non-urgent paperwork including reporting (which may be important later)
Another way to reduce time per service is to accept lower service standards gradually over time, and going down this slippery slope results in continual goal erosion, until "anything goes".
The adjustment in service standards results in the perception that the service is coping, particularly when service quality is not being measured (False Learning).
The false coping can result in no change in service capacity in the face of increased workload and result in a death spiral. (Note the opposite can occur when excess capacity results in gold plating work).
If the work harder use of overtime is chronic then fatigue and burnout occur. Then the service must resort to cutting corners and goal adjustment while waiting for the rescue party to arrive (if ever).
In addition to the current workload and service standard, there is an implicit target completion time (eg by end of shift). Is making this time explicit good management or just tampering?

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