The original marbles

blue_marble_closeup_sjpg1676For those of you who have attended a particular course that I run, I hope you remember the marbles!

For those of you who haven’t (yet) attended, then this post should cover the point nicely.

I try to be mindful of the source of everything that I use (no, really, I’m not making it all up…I am trying to stand on the shoulders of giants) and, with this in mind, I wanted to share with you the link from which the marbles presentation comes from…it is well worth a quick read!

Now, before you go there, it’s worth bearing in mind that the blogger (ThinkPurpose) has a particular ‘mess with your head’ style of writing (which I really like…you’ll see what I mean the more posts you read!).

…so, here it is: post.

If you look at each marble that is being listened to, you can see that they can easily be converted to the same/ similar types of demand we receive in our organisation.

Now, ThinkPurpose is him/herself (?) standing on the shoulders of John Seddon and his original definition of:

Failure demand is demand caused by a failure to do something or do something right for the customer…which is created by the organisation not working properly…which is under the organisation’s control.”

“…in service organisations, failure demand is often the greatest source of waste.”

Going forward I’d love to hear about people seeing, studying, and talking about their marbles!!!

Finally, it was recently put to me that ‘isn’t failure demand just another way of explaining the waste of re-work?’. My response is ‘no, but there may very well be a relationship between the two’. My explanation to show they are different is as follows:

On the one hand: You might spot an error, perform some re-work to correct it and do this without the customer’s knowledge/ attention…and thus avoid failure demand (the customer contacting you).

On the other: You might receive failure demand (FD) without this requiring re-work of what’s already been done:

FD Archetype 1. ‘where is my claim?’: doesn’t mean that there is necessarily anything wrong with the work that has been done so far…it just might be ‘stuck’. To handle this failure demand requires new yet avoidable work to:

  • handle the customer’s request (e.g. the phone call), look up the claim details, make enquiries, work out what is happening;
  • expedite the claim so as to be seen to be ‘doing something’ for the customer
    • get back to the customer with well thought through and carefully crafted explanations and ‘platitudes’

FD Archetype 2. ‘why haven’t you done this to my claim?’: doesn’t necessarily mean that previous work has to be re-worked. It requires new yet avoidable work to:

  • handle the customer’s request as per the above; and
  • perform further actions that:
    • should have been done, but weren’t; or worse
    • are now required but wouldn’t have been if it had been done right in the first place.

Either of these examples of failure demand might prompt an element of re-work, but they will always require new work.

8 thoughts on “The original marbles

  1. “it’s worth bearing in mind that the blogger (ThinkPurpose) has a particular ‘mess with your head’ style of writing ” haha, love that. hearing what other people think of blog always tickles me.
    As Oscar Wilde said, theres only one thing worse than being talked about.
    im going to have a look around your blog now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I run a 3 day education course intended to create curiosity about their current reality, whilst recognising that change is normative and they need to go back and apply.

      I created a short PowerPoint around your post (correctly credited of course!) and we walk through this in the course segment where we are talking about specifying value/ listening to demand. I have always loved Seddon’s explanation of failure demand, which I came across many years ago and your marbles are a superb way to bring the idea to life. It’s amazing to see the light bulb moment in people’s heads!!

      The only comedy thing is that I also use the red bead experiment within my course (to explain the effect of the system on people, and how flawed is the idea of rating and ranking)…and I usually get someone talking about the blue beads or the red marbles!


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