On Monday, I dropped my car off at the dealer to investigate a dummy light.They told me not to expect an update before Wednesday. As I rode my bike home, I thought, “They’re operating off of a queue.”

One of the common challenges in growing the operational side of a business is inconsistent demand. The need for your product or service doesn’t drip in a steady flow, rather it arrives in the spike of peaks and valleys.

This wreaks havoc internally because the effects are delayed and magnified.

If you’ve ever sat in stop and go traffic on the freeway, this effect is what you experienced. Some half wit changed lanes two miles up the road and cut someone off, causing them to slam on their brakes. Now the cars following them begin and reinforce the wave of speed up and stop, speed up and stop.

The solution is slack in the system in the form of a buffer.

  • Patients don’t go right in to see the doctor, they have to queue in a waiting room.
  • Airline passengers don’t show up and get on the plane, they have to wait and then board in groups.
  • My car didn’t go directly to a mechanic, it went into a “ready” queue.

Queues catch the inherent inconsistency of the market and transform it into a steady stream for your operational system to chew through.

Once you have normalized demand, you’re in a good spot to expand operations to increase throughput. The queue provides consistency and consistency is a prerequisite for sustainable growth.

Featured image is S.G. Hughes – T.T. Bury (1833 revised edition), Coloured Views on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Used under public domain.