The Demand-Support Matrix

Demand Support MatrixRRRI am sharing something that I found very useful when assessing a demanding situation I found myself in.  I continue to use this and hope you find value. Let’s start by looking at degrees of demand.  Of course this is not the classical economics use of the word demand as it relates to supply; here we are talking about the amount of demand that is placed on us in a give situation.  This is then overlaid with the amount of support we are given to manage that demand.   In my Demand-Support Matrix the vertical axis is “demand” with a low demand situation below and high demand above.  Keep in mind that this is a continuum, it is not either/or but a matter of degree.

If we look at jobs like delivering newspapers or flyers, I characterize this as low demand.  There obviously is some level of expectation that the piece will be delivered and in a reasonably timely fashion but this is not extremely demanding.  Often a daily newspaper has a performance standard for delivery, such as delivered by 6:00am.  That is the promise in my community but the fellow that delivers the paper on my street hasn’t met that standard in many years.  I no longer have the paper delivered but I see him while I am out walking my dog.  It’s the same time every day and he’s delivering to my neighbours well past the delivery standard.  My point is that there is a standard in place but not much is done to enforce the standard clearly a low demand situation.

When we think of high demand situations some of the classics are air traffic control, bomb disposal, and hostage negotiation.  First responders are often in demanding situations.  The situations most people find themselves in and the ones I’m addressing, are not situations where lives are in the balance but situations where you face demands placed on you by others.  A supervisor is put in charge of an under performing team and given the task of turning it around.  A sales person is given a territory and an aggressive budget to achieve. An athlete is given a performance goal in order to remain with her team.

Being in a demanding situation by itself is not a problem.  The amount of support you have is what can make a demanding situation more or less stressful.  Let’s look at the matrix when we add the support axis, with low support to the left and high support to the right we have four quadrants.  I maintain if you have high support when you are in a high demand situation you can achieve a great deal.  When you are in a high demand situation with little or no support you have a problem.

What do you do?  You have some options.  You can continuing in the situation with a new understanding.  Sometimes understanding a situation helps you frame it in a way that makes it tolerable.  Perhaps the goal is achievable and the rewards great.  Option two is to try and adjust the situation.  It is a matter of adjusting demand downward or increasing support.  The third option is to look for a different challenge.  Good luck, let me know if this is working for you.