Embrace the Bottlenecks!

by Productivity

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No one wants to be the bottleneck, yet, how often do we celebrate those who admit they are? I have transformed my mindset around the word in the last year and now embrace the bottlenecks.

 I see it as an opportunity rather than an embarrassment or a means to reprimand someone. 

In 2020 and 2021, I went through the Run Like Clockwork* program, and we looked for bottlenecks in our company. I became fixated on finding them, whether a system, a person, or a process. 

On Fridays, we had our Weekly Stand-Up where we stated our Lessons Earned, Big Wins, recognition for someone who went above and beyond, and our priorities for the next week. Each person completed this in our project management system, ClickUp*. It is an assigned task every Friday, so no one forgot it. On Mondays, we all had a recurring task to review everyone else's entries. The first question on that list is “Bottleneck or Challenge.”

wanted people to find them, and we celebrated when they did! 

If we don't name it, it can't be fixed. We practiced blameless problem-solving to determine how to remove the bottleneck. When someone said I was the bottleneck, I verbally high-fived them and thanked them for pointing it out. Instead of bottleneck being a dirty word or fears of repercussion, it was a celebration, especially when they called out themselves or me.

Board Meeting

Are you regularly asking what bottlenecks are occurring in your team meetings? 

We removed so many jams in 2021 that the question rarely has an answer now unless we've had a change in a process or team member. It helped tremendously when we had a shift in personnel and cut our staff by half. We could do this because of our written processes and ability to think upstream and remove the barriers.

The next time you have a meeting with your team, challenge them to find a bottleneck and report to you with a solution. Give bonus points if they call YOU out as the bottleneck. Do what Adam Grant recommends and have a brainwriting session if it's systemic. People are more likely to resort to the status quo or what a person in hierarchy suggests in a typical brainstorming session. Instead, have people write their ideas, submit them, and then talk about them. You'll end up with more creative solutions. You can even make them anonymous so that if they are far out or ‘crazy,' the person won't be embarrassed. Still, often, those are the ones that are going to solve your challenge.

Make bottleneck a fun word. Give a bottle of wine (or, in my case, root beer kombucha) to the person who finds the most bottlenecks and solves them each quarter.

If you're interested in learning how to work with your team to reduce bottlenecks, reach out for a Discovery Call

Embrace the bottlenecks!

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Your Weekender Snapshot and Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday are my favorite emails I receive.
jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects