Identifying flaws in your company’s processes is not an easy exercise, and you can’t accomplish it if you don’t dedicate time and effort to it. Many companies seem to insist on using old, outdated processes, even though they’re no longer as effective as they used to be. This is one of the many reasons why it’s so important to take a step back, really look at your processes, and work to identify bottlenecks and constraints.
Bottlenecks, as we’ve gone over in this post, are bumps on the road of the smooth path that should be your processes—they’re barriers between you and your company’s established goals. Here are a few important general ideas you should consider to identify and manage process bottlenecks.
Identifying (and solving) process bottlenecks:
Map and analyze your processes
We’ve gone over the subject of mapping your processes—and how important it is—more than once before in this blog, so we’ll keep this short. Mapping your processes and looking at them from the outside allows you to analyze their overall performance. It also allows you to identify the existing bottlenecks—they’re the steps that, due to the lack of capacity or even performance, restrict your production capacity.
Thoroughly analyzing your processes may also be just what you need to find those unforeseen improvement opportunities. When in doubt about how to map your processes and overcome the difficulties, look at your competition: what do their processes look like and how do they overcome the bumps on the road? This will not only give you a clear vision but also ensure your competitive edge.
Identify the problems and their causes
Once you’ve mapped your processes and their steps, it’s time to list those critical problems, the ones responsible for diminishing your processes’ effectiveness and create process bottlenecks. It’s important to make this an interactive process, involving all the people encompassed by the processes and allowing them to single out mistakes or flaws that an outside observer wouldn’t realize.
Some examples of problems and causes you might find:
- Delay on final deliveries caused by a slow computer
- An employee is overburdened with tasks while another is vacant
- Information spread in different channels, causing execution mistakes and delays
Work out solutions
Now you’ve already singled out your process bottlenecks, you’re able to look at them objectively and start looking for ways to solve these problems. This is another step in which the participation of all those involved is highly encouraged—the more, the merrier! Working as a team, with different points of view and ideas, may be exactly what you need to find creative and effective solutions.
Stimulating interaction won’t only provide you with a wide range of ideas, but will also keep the team integrated and committed to the changes that may prove to be necessary.
Implement and evaluate the improvement ideas
It goes without saying that the team must be kept on the loop of all steps of the improvement implementation, from mapping the processes to identifying bottlenecks, from the search for solutions to elaborating and implementing an action plan.
It’s important to keep the improvement process dynamic and constantly re-evaluate the results—most likely, the first idea for a solution won’t be the perfect answer to the problem. Constantly checking and evaluating it will give you the necessary information to make any adjustments—or even start developing a plan B.
Always have alternatives
Don’t disregard any alternative presented while looking for solutions to your problems—all options must be considered as plan B (or C or D) if the one you’ve decided to apply don’t go as well as planned.
As we’ve said, it’s essential to know and monitor your processes on a regular basis to keep them updated and effective. Even old, established processes may lose their effectiveness and need an update from time to time. As it happens with people, processes can’t be set in stone; they must be flexible enough to adapt from time to time.
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