Bottlenecking. A crime against productivity.
That situation where everything seems to flow smoothly until it gets to one part of the workflow process or one person involved in the process and for whatever reason, everything seems to just come to a slow halt. There are many reasons for bottlenecking in the workplace (limited technology, inadequate workflow, too much demand on one person or process, etc.) but none of them are an excuse to allow for inefficiency. The negative effects of inefficiency are far too great to ignore. These negative effects can include disgruntled employees, constant pushing back of deliverables and a negative impression of your company by clients and other stakeholders.
If a company finds out that one particular person or process is slowing down productivity then something should be done about it. To piggyback off of @CarlaYoung, let’s explore the three ways to overcome bottlenecks in the workplace:
Simplify. To put it simply: sometimes we over-complicate things. The answer to solving workflow options may not be to add extra bells and whistles or spreadsheets, but instead focus on getting the task completed as quickly as possible without neglecting the quality of the work. Here’s a great rule of thumb: The more complex the task or step in a task, the greater the chance for a complication, hindrance or failure to complete the task as required each and every time. Simplify and specify. This makes everyone’s life run much smoother.
Automate. Automation and simplification work hand in hand. Automating tasks ensure that the task or portion of the task gets done the same way, as needed, every time. Automation frees you up to focus on other areas of importance and gives you the peace of mind to know you can take your hands off of that task. Automation allows you to scale your business processes so that you can grow much more efficiently and still handle the booming demands of your business. This is why an investment in technology is so important. If you’re still using paper time cards, how much time is your HR or Accounting department spending on a process that computers can do in a split second? And what about invoicing and check writing? If you are still using handwritten checks and sending out invoices that are hand-crafted, you’re spending a lot of time that could be used someplace else.
Delegate. As a business owner, I know this word strikes fear and nervousness in the hearts of all task owners. “Can I trust someone else to do as good a job as I would?” “Will I hand this off to someone who will screw up the work?” Those are some of the questions that all business owners must ask and fears that business owners must face. If you think you can run a business where your hand is everything then your business will only grow to be as big as you are physically capable of allowing it to grow. There are two finite units of measurement in life: 1) your time and 2) your physical ability to contribute to a task or goal. The more you trust others and coach them on how to execute to your level of quality and set quality control measures along the way then you can rest easy knowing that you’ve eliminated one of the most common bottlenecks in business: yourself.
I’ll leave you with a rule of thumb that one of my mentors shared with me and has stuck with me ever since:
Of the 100% of things you are doing right now…
… 85% can be delegated to someone else to do with little to no training
… 10% can be delegated to someone else to do with moderate or specified training
… 5% can only be done by you
So what’s your 5%? What’s in your 85% and 10%? Once you figure it out, simplify, automate and delegate accordingly.