capacity planning strategies

3 Capacity Planning Strategies: Lead, Lag & Match

New to capacity planning? Then you might benefit from three common capacity planning strategies project managers use to staff their projects. 

Capacity planning is a crucial component of resource management in businesses, and involves predicting demand for a company’s services and ensuring sufficient resources are available to fulfill that demand. With the goal of maximizing resource utilization, minimizing waste, and avoiding system or employee overload, businesses must carefully evaluate and implement the most effective capacity planning strategy.

There are three main strategies to consider: Lead, Lag, and Match.

The Lead Strategy

The Lead strategy involves proactively acquiring resources before they are necessary, through overprovisioning or early investment. This bold approach ensures capacity is readily available and avoids the risks of resource exhaustion. However, if demand fails to materialize, this strategy can result in increased costs and unused resources.


  • Proactive approach: By increasing capacity ahead of demand, the lead strategy ensures that resources are readily available to meet customer needs, thereby reducing the risk of stockouts or delays.
  • Competitive advantage: Being able to respond quickly to increases in demand can give businesses a competitive edge by ensuring high levels of customer satisfaction and retention.
  • Smooth operations: With capacity already in place, businesses can maintain smoother operations during peak demand periods without experiencing bottlenecks or overburdened resources.


  • Risk of overcapacity: There’s a risk of investing in excess capacity if demand does not materialize as expected, leading to underutilized resources and increased costs.
  • Cost implications: Expanding capacity prematurely can incur additional costs for equipment, infrastructure, and staffing before revenue is generated from increased demand.
  • Uncertainty: Forecasting demand accurately can be challenging, and there’s a possibility of misjudging future demand trends, leading to suboptimal capacity decisions.

The Lag Strategy

The Lag strategy involves waiting until resources are actually needed before acquiring them. This conservative approach minimizes costs, but leaves the business vulnerable to resource exhaustion and potential downtime. It also presents the possibility of being unable to acquire resources quickly enough, resulting in lost business opportunities.


  • Cost savings: By delaying capacity expansion until demand is confirmed, businesses can avoid investing in excess capacity and minimize financial risk.
  • Informed decisions: Waiting to expand capacity allows businesses to gather more accurate data on demand patterns, enabling more informed capacity planning decisions.
  • Flexibility: The lag strategy offers flexibility to scale operations in response to actual demand, reducing the likelihood of overcommitting resources prematurely.


  • Potential for shortages: Delaying capacity increases can lead to shortages during periods of high demand, resulting in lost sales opportunities and customer dissatisfaction.
  • Competitive disadvantage: In industries with intense competition, lagging behind in capacity expansion may result in losing market share to competitors who can meet demand more quickly.
  • Reactive approach: Relying solely on lagging capacity adjustments may hinder a business’s ability to seize opportunities or respond swiftly to sudden spikes in demand.

The Match Strategy

The Match strategy calls for acquiring resources in a just-in-time manner, so that they are ready precisely when needed. This approach strikes a balance between cost savings and resource exhaustion, but requires precise planning and forecasting to be successful.


  • Efficient resource utilization: The match strategy aims to align capacity closely with demand, minimizing the risk of both underutilized resources during low-demand periods and shortages during peak demand.
  • Cost-effective: By maintaining a balanced level of capacity, businesses can optimize resource utilization and reduce unnecessary costs associated with excess capacity or shortages.
  • Adaptability: The match strategy allows businesses to adjust capacity dynamically in response to changing demand patterns, ensuring agility and resilience in the face of market fluctuations.


  • Complexity of implementation: Achieving perfect alignment between capacity and demand requires sophisticated forecasting and planning processes, which can be challenging to implement and maintain.
  • Risk of miscalculation: Even with careful planning, there’s always a risk of inaccuracies in demand forecasting, which could lead to either excess capacity or shortages.
  • Limited scalability: The match strategy may struggle to accommodate sudden or unpredictable spikes in demand, as capacity adjustments may not be able to be made quickly enough to meet surging requirements.

Overall, each capacity planning strategy has its own set of trade-offs. Ultimately, the most suitable strategy for a particular business depends on factors such as industry dynamics, market conditions, and risk tolerance. Finding the right balance between lead, lag, and match approaches is essential for optimizing resource utilization and ensuring competitiveness in the marketplace.

Regardless of the capacity planning strategy you choose, you’ll need the right platform to execute on it. We’ve whittled the list down to 5 best tools for capacity planning. Check it out!

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