Bottleneck busters

During a client meeting, I suggested that a web application might solve their bottleneck. The Director of Operations leaned forward with interest. He hadn’t thought of that option. Then he slowly leaned back and replied, “If it means our IT department has to create or do something new we can’t do it.”

The IT department was that company’s bottleneck. In other organizations its unbending support staff, fearful managers, or lazy supervisors.

Bottlenecks stagnate processes, drain resources, and strangle potential.

The Exception.

Innovation is the exception. Stagnating status quo is the norm.

Organizations persistently create bottlenecks; choke-points in processes, procedures, structures, or people.

Additionally, fixing a bottleneck in one department may only push it down stream. Solving a support staff bottleneck pushes it to Accounting. From Accounting it goes to HR.

Who’s responsible?

Leaders may try blaming others. However, leaders are always responsible for creating, enabling, or tolerating bottlenecks. Therefore, unclogging bottlenecks always begins and ends with organizational leaders.

Leaders suffocate their organizations by:

  1. Talking too much.
  2. Acting too little.
  3. Hoarding decision making authority.
  4. Delegating too slowly.
  5. Excusing incompetence.
  6. Rejecting dissent.

On Rejecting Dissent

Agreement establishes the status quo. Dissent, disagreement, and contradiction are the tools of innovation. It’s most challenging in top-down organizations where agreement is reward and dissent is punished. In my opinion, many top-down organizations create cultures where people waddle around like ducks getting in a row. It’s an art form. This activity is called leadership?

Leaders bust bottlenecks by:

  1. Calling for decisions more quickly. Complex problems have more than one solution. Pick one and make it work.
  2. Leveraging the power of deadlines to create urgency.
  3. Authorizing others.
  4. Identifying new individuals as first-delegates.
  5. Leadership development. Remember, people learn to lead by leading.
  6. Exploring dissent. “What if” is better than no-way.


What organizational bottlenecks have you seen?

What strategizes can you suggest for overcoming organizational bottlenecks?


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