Friday, May 23, 2014

Are You the Bottleneck?

We've all experienced it? We are driving down the highway when everything suddenly comes to a standstill. We sit and wait. We creep ever-so-slowly.

Twenty minutes later, we see the problem is a stalled car blocking the entire lane of traffic. Three lanes funnel into two. We have come to the bottleneck!

At work or home, are you the bottleneck? How many of the organization's projects have as a next step something you must do? None of those projects can move forward until you act.

You feel you are working hard, yet the piles continue to grow. You are interrupted constantly by people asking you for a "status report" on those projects.

Moving from "bottleneck" to "done"
  1. Take a look at the physical representations of work to be done. Look at the papers on the desk, credenza, windowsill, or any other flat surface. What does each piece of paper represent? What are the "to-dos" associated with each one? Are those "to-dos" on your list and are they worded clearly? 
  2. Look at your to-do list. What items have been sitting there far too long? What is keeping them from moving? If you need a piece of information in order to move forward, what will it take to get that information?  We do what's easy. Therefore, breaking tasks down and wording them in a way that makes them easy to do spurs people into action.
  3. If the workload is still too much, look at delegation. Who else can do this task almost as well as you can? Select the right person, spend the time to teach the person how to do the task, and give that person the needed authority. Do less of what others could be doing so that you can do more of what only someone with your training, experience, and good looks can do. 
  4. If you still have too much, some things simply have to go. What reports are you doing that nobody reads? What materials are you reading which are doing you no good? If you have handed off all you can, are working hard, and still finding yourself as the bottleneck, you have no choice but to start cutting. Don't be surprised if you stop doing some things and nobody seems to notice, since those tasks didn't matter to anyone anyway.
There is an old saying that goes, "Lead, follow, or get out of the way." If you feel as if that statement is too often directed at you, stop being the bottleneck. Use this article as your first step to get the actions flowing.
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