Project managers itch whenever they hear the word ‘delay’. It’s a terrible occurrence in business production or project development whenever this word is uttered. Delays usually equate to losses and it is not a good sign for businesses that engage in time-bound processes. One common cause of delay for example is traffic. Many cities that are plagued by terrible traffic jams lose billions upon billions of dollars every day. In the border of Southern California alone, US$7.2 billion is lost in the economy due to delays caused by traffic along the borders of the US and Mexico.
Taking this to the four corners of your company’s office, delays can also cost a lot of money. But instead of traffic, this is manifested through ‘bottlenecks’. Bottlenecks happen when materials don’t get to flow efficiently from the starting point to the end point of a production line. For example, a company is supposed to churn out 12 approvals in a day. But if it only manages to churn out 2 approvals despite receiving 12 applications, then there is the possibility of a bottleneck in the middle.
There are a lot of reasons why bottlenecks occur and the reasons are often simple rather than complex. Nonetheless, bottlenecks can actually be averted even before it becomes a headache. Here are some ways to stop potential bottlenecks from developing.
- Update your technology
This is sometimes overlooked but investing in good technology matters a lot in keeping up with your business. Outdated technology can set back production especially over time when things start to wear out. It can also hamper growth and productivity, more so in fast-changing industries like electronics and software. But in any industry, it is important to invest not only in purchasing new devices and technology but also to allocate enough money for their maintenance.
Also consider to update your office software regularly. Working on a circa 1998 operating system can be quite difficult to deal with right? And if there are areas in your office system that can benefit from a technology upgrade, then make it happen. Modern software for project management, data analytics, and human resources are some examples where productivity can be increased by automating some tasks in those areas.
- Look at the big picture
Bottlenecks usually happen when you don’t have an idea of how your whole office system works. When something goes wrong in the process, the usual response is to zoom in to the area of concern and apply an intervention. However, this is only a “band aid solution” as the intervention may adversely affect other parts of the system. Being aware of the big picture and the interconnections that go with it is the better way to look at a work system.
Fixing one part may solve a bottleneck problem but if it becomes chronic or repetitive, then a system-wide review might be the best thing to do. Before another bottleneck happens, evaluate every step again and unravel the connections.
- Encourage flexibility
Another common cause for bottlenecks is the inability of the office team or staff to be flexible in times when adjustments need to be made. As an effect, resource conflicts arise as some employees refuse to take on other responsibilities in times of need. When an extra hand is needed and some employees decide to just mind their own business, then bottlenecks are most likely to happen. This results to a lack of accountability and fragmentation in the way projects are dealt with.
Building a culture of flexibility in the office is one way to avert a potential bottleneck. When work starts to swell up, employees are all on deck to support each other in completing a task or project. This collaborative effort can sometimes be a more favorable approach when compared to compartmentalized work.
Overall, it is important to remember that bottlenecks can be avoided with proper planning and monitoring. This alone will save you a lot of money and effort in running your business.
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