A bottleneck can sometimes be referred to as a blockage, limitation or constraint. It can be anything that is constantly limiting, slowing or causing confusion, rework or errors to occur with a business.
A great book on this is the Theory of Constraints which explores this from a manufacturing perspective. The principles outlined in the book though are transferable to any industry.
The key to resolving any business bottleneck is to have a quick investigation into the cause before investing too much time and involving the whole team. What appears to be a bottleneck may just be a one-off or be something that is only short-term.
It could be as simple as a supplier temporarily running out of the usual product that they supply. Rather than causing a major disruption to your business, the supplier has supplied temporarily a replacement product that is causing a bottleneck in your business.
As soon as the supplier has the original product back in stock, they will continue supplying you with the original product. You also find out from the supplier, that they have also put in place measures that will reduce the risk of them not being able to supply the original product in the future.
By spending a little time upfront to do a preliminary investigation you have avoided needing to involve the team and create what would have turned out to be an unnecessary distraction.
Sometimes you just need to keep things moving within your business and that’s when you may need to put a band-aid in place. A band-aid though should be seen as just a short-term fix, it does not seek to resolve the cause of the problem.
The sole objective of a band-aid is to keep things moving temporarily until time can be made to investigate the cause, look at possible solutions and put a long-term solution in place.
Too often though when the dust has settled and there is time to investigate the bottleneck it’s not done. Then a fire in the business starts and the focus has moved to putting out the fire to keep the client happy. Everyone has now totally forgotten about the bottleneck as it is no longer visible.
This can develop into a major problem over time if it becomes a regular pattern within the business of not solving problems after they surface.
It can be a bit like having a hose that has aged and become fragile and is now prone to blockages that result in the hose springing leaks. It’s temporarily fixed with a band-aid. It’s not long before another leak appears and a band-aid is again applied. It can lead to a situation where more time and energy is being spent applying band-aids and fixing the leaking band-aids than would have been spent solving the bottleneck.
If the band-aid does seem to hold and it becomes forgotten over time. What can happen, if another issue comes up elsewhere, it can make it difficult to diagnose the true cause of the issue. Because the band-aid is not taken into account and can be masking a much bigger underlying problem.
So it’s wise to make it a habit that if band-aids are applied they are always replaced with a long-term solution.
If you’re interested in transforming your business and are not quite sure where to start?
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