Not All Bottlenecks Are Created Equal

All bottlenecks slow processes down.  These slow-downs are a problem when they’re on the critical path, the fastest way through a process network. 

However, not a bottlenecks are the same.  It depends upon their cause.

Here are three root causes to look for. Each has very different solutions.

  • Rework bottlenecks:  When work backs up because of errors, the good news is your quality control is working. Fix the inputs, work procedures or technology that introducing the error.
  • Resource or queuing bottlenecks: When work stalls out because you’re waiting on inputs or resources, the remedy is straight forward — fix the supply chain.
  • Waiting for permission bottlenecks: When work stalls out because you’re waiting for approval, such as an inspection or executive’s signature, determine if authority can be delegated. There are obviously proper, reasonable, and necessary checks to make in processes that make high risk decisions, but — remove bureaucratic, non-value added approvals,

What’s important about these three types of bottlenecks is their solutions are not interchangeable.  For example, adding resources to a rework-caused bottleneck will just exacerbate the delay.

Hat tip to Dr. Bradley T. Gayle and the Boston Consulting Group for these insights, from Managing Customer Value.  While a bit dated, these three types of delays have held up very well.

Here’s a helpful chart: Bottleneck Causes & Solutions