Your ‘wait-list’ should be getting longer

By | January 14, 2013

Do you have a wait-list?  If you do, then it should be getting longer.

Lets say your organization provides autism assessments, and you can provide 10 assessments a week.  However, you are getting requests for 12 assessments per week.

Therefore, each week, you provide 10 assessments and 2 more people get added to the waitlist.  Every week the waitlist gets longer by +2 people, and every new applicant has to wait longer than the previous one for an assessment.

Your waitlist will keep getting longer to infinity until you:

a) can provide 12 or more assessments per week or
b) the number of people asking for your service reduces to 10 or less.

However, many organizations have wait-lists of 2 weeks, or 2 months, that essentially stay at this level for months and years.  This means that demand = supply  (i.e., 10 new clients requests each week, 10 clients served each week).  These organizations have the capacity to serve each client as they arrive with minimal waiting time, yet still they wait 2 months.  Why?

If your wait list is not getting longer, it is something else – it is a backlog.

The solution is simple – eliminate your backlog by temporarily applying extra resources to clear them out. Then, proceed to serve your clients in a timely manner within existing resources. And, make sure you don’t get a backlog again.  Match the demand that comes in today with staff available to do the work, today.

Also, you will save resources in the long run, because you won’t be wasting time triaging a wait-list.


There are some special exceptions to this case. For example, when wait-lists get long enough, potential new clients will simply not bother applying unless they are in extreme need or are extremely patient (e.g., 15 month wait for knee surgery, long term care homes wait lists).  In these cases, a wait-list acts as a disguise for a high threshold client eligibility criteria.

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