Designing Waits That Work

The MIT Sloan Management Review has published Donald Norman’s paper ‘Designing Waits That Work’ (available for $6.50).

“Designers at restaurants, theme parks and elsewhere have investigated how to make waiting in line more pleasant. What they have learned has profound implications for all managers.”

This fascinates me – I have built up a little collection of images related to waiting in line. I intend to read Norman’s first paper entitled ‘The Psychology of Waiting Lines’ (which is freely available). There are sections on “Variations of basic waiting lines” (including triage, categorization of needs, and self-selection of queues) and “Deliberate Chaos.”



“At some point, every manager has had to tell someone to wait. We all have to wait sometimes. It’s a simple matter of timing and resources. Whenever two systems interact, one is invariably ready before the other. In the factory, this disparity can lead to stockpiles of goods or bottlenecks. When people are involved, it can give rise to inefficiency and anger. This is no good for customers or employees. But the psychological impact of waits can be managed, and studies in design show us how to do it.

My introduction to design started with my studies of fundamental principles of interaction to enhance the use of technology Now, as I teach and consult on the applications of these principles to business, I apply them to many aspects of customer experience.

In places where waits are required, these principles can not only make waiting more pleasant but can also make it feel like not waiting at all. Sometimes inducing a wait can improve the customer experience. When waits are inevitable, the research shows, the goal should be to optimize the experience for both customers and employees, thereby enhancing customer satisfaction and reducing employee stress and turnover. What this research has revealed can help managers in many situations…”

Discovered at Putting People First