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



Process Triaging Moves the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Needle

The now famous Gallup® Q12 Employee Engagement Survey (here) has been a benchmark for a number of years.  Gallup® asserts:

“The findings consistently show that the relationship between each element of engagement and performance at the workgroup level is sustainable and highly generalizable across organizations. That means no matter how you look at it, when your Q12 scores improve, and the result is consistently better outcomes.”

The ProcessTriage® Immersion Workshop (summary here) supports all of Gallup’s engagement dimensions to some degree, the strength of support indicated by a maximum of 4 stars ****.  PDF version of this mapping here.

Gallup® Q12  Engagement Question


ProcessTriage® Immersion Workshop

1I know what is expected of me at work.****Every workshop deliverable reinforces work expectations, from mapping the triaged process to prioritizing the process capability improvements.
2I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.***The Points-of-Pain identify missing resources and their resolution proposals will provide what is needed.
3At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.****Triagers leverage their expertise and insights throughout the triage.
4In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.****Invitation to be a triager is recognition and praise.
5My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.***Like Q4, the triager would not be invited unless a leader cared about them.
6There is someone at work who encourages my development.***The immersion workshop is a professional development experience.
7At work, my opinions seem to count.****All the results of the triage are participant-driven.
8The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.****The host’s Process Capability Goal binds the company’s mission to the triager’s job.
9My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.***The workshop exhibits team member commitment to quality work.
10I have a best friend at work” is really a proxy for trust. We are interested only in whether there is a person at work whom you would consider a best friend “at work”.**Friendships are built during the immersion workshop.  While team building is not the primary objective, a full day of problem identification and solution nomination cements friendships.
11In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress*This is true if the participation in the workshop was part of a professional development narrative.
12This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.****This will certainly be true after the triage, looking forward to the next year.


ProcessTriage® surveys participants after each immersion workshop.  A summary of recent results support improved team collaboration and a respectful use of their time (Rosey’s blog post here).

Contact us at or call Joseph (Rosey) Rosenberger @ 913.269.3410 to move your needle.

Let There Be… A Process Map

I’ve been asked several times to write a post in the popular Top “#” List format of what I’ve learned from triaging these many years and businesses.  It’s a long list as one can imagine, and what happens in what order depends upon the situation.  But one thing always comes first, when we’re talking about actually improving a business into a self-healing, continuously learning enterprise. We need some light.

By analogy, in the Jewish Bible’s Creation account in Genesis,  the text anthropomorphically presents the process as declarations of ‘And God said…’, and whatever God said came into existence.  The first openly spoken ‘And God said…’ is in Chapter 1, verse 3:

“‘And God said let there be light’,  and there was light.”

This light was not solor or photon-based light, as that kind of light is not added until three steps later, on the fourth day.  So what kind of light was this primordial stuff?

The Sages say this first light was like the light we turn on in a dark room so we interact with the room; to walk around in it and not stumble, or see its dimensions to decorate it.  The first thing we need is to create is that which enables us to have a relationship with what we’re creating. We cannot improve what we cannot see.

When it comes to creating and growing and fixing and improving businesses, we need to turn on this kind of  light.  We must create something that allows us to have a relationship with the management team we need, as well as those who will do the work or handle the technologies that will do the work.

This first creation is The Process Map —  an illustration of how work flows between the enterprise and her customers. The map also exposes how people and technologies interact with each other, such as who provides what to whom. The process map captures the idea of the enterprise and gives us a way to relate to it, and everything in it to us — a two way proposition.

At ProcessTriage®, the first thing we do in our flagship immersion workshop is build this map. It typically takes most of the morning and uses an very fast Action>Result format, examples here, here, and here (different industries).  The style comes from a very fast way to design information systems databases that accelerate business processes (primer here)

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Do you feel like you’re in the dark while your trying to fix or improve how things are running?

Turn on the process map.

P.S.  I read an ultra-orthodox Jewish commentary on Genesis 1:3 written during WWII, while the Manhattan Project was underway (the first atomic bomb) that asserted there had to be a layer of energy smaller than the atom, as the atom was the stuff of visible light — fourth day light. The commentary asserted the Big Bang theory was very likely correct and we should expect to find stuff smaller than atoms — the world of particle physics. Who knew!

Why Startups Succeed – Bill Gross’s TED Talk – Reason #2 is Process Triage’s Sweet Spot

Every now and then a TED talk zaps me.  My first blog was inspired by one.

Bill Gross presented The Single Biggest Reason Why Startups Succeed  (link here).

Spoiler alert — the #2 reason was The Team.  And nothing syncs up a team for better execution and process capability improving than Process Triaging (on a napkin here).

And, the proof includes our post-triage participant survey question asking, “Did or will the Process Triage workshop improve team member collaboration?” scores an average 8.0 out of a possible 10.0 (more details here).

And, we’ve actually triaged the Startup Accelerator Process (blog post here), with permission to share the Action>Result Triage Map (downloadable PDF here), hat tip to Kevin Fryer at the SparkLabKC.  (Note, the map is typical of the work an expert triage team creates during the morning of  our flagship workshop .  The team-coordination map lasts about two years typically and can be detailed further for systems automation, organization design, and business case analysis quite easily.).

I love it when I sync up with folks smarter than me – who are masters at adding value to their customers.  Makes me want to throw more gas on my little fire.


The Rosey-isms List

Here it is — my list of rules, laws, axioms, truisms, and blinding flashes of the obvious, in no particular order — thoughts that have stuck to my cranium wall after leading hundreds of process triages (on a napkin here).

I hope this list is be good enough to bookmark and I promise to keep it fresh.

  • Usually, it is unwise to fix the most squeaky wheel first.

    Almost every process triage workshop (overview here) illustrates why the most painful points on a process are not necessarily the first improvement investment.  Every point-of-pain, where the process is not behaving right, requires an investment to remove, either an action item-size Small Now or a project-size Big Now.  The triage team ranks remedies, not the amount of pain.  Quite often, a single quite point of pain, usually near the start of a process delivers the most capability improvement compared to where all hell breaks loose downstream.  These less obvious fixes often pay for the workshop’s opportunity costs.

  • If you don’t fix the quality of your work first, you’ll just create crap faster.

    You’d be surprised how often this is overlooked.  Of course, we’re not talking about designed speed where we intend to re-cycle and improve immediately, such as in Agile software development.When we look at a list of triage results — the Small Now’s action item-size  and Big Now’s project-size list, we recommend the process delay volume increases until most of the remaining items are “Enforce –‘x'”, as opposed to Analyze, Design, or Train.

  • Task complexity increases with volume.

    What works at ‘x’ volume blows up at ‘2x’ or ’10x’ volume, especially if it involved human labor.  Processing 25 paychecks every other week is QuickBooks® simple. Cutting 20,000 3rd Party commission sales force pay checks, where each SKU has a different compensation rate, off a base of 1 million point-of-sale transactions per month, is astonishingly difficult.  One of PT’s early successes was triaging such a process, hat tip Wendy Cogan, the host.

    This is why Google can’t update software very fast anymore.  Or why anything attempted by the federal government that involves transacting with hundreds of millions of citizens is incapable of being created quickly (Obamacare exchanges), which is why the smartphone mobile app world is so compelling — it forces simplicity.

  • Individual experts cannot fix what only teams can find.

    All of us are smarter than any one of usI cannot count the number of times one member of a triage team identified a process’s point of pain in which the solution was obvious to another team member who specialized in an upstream or downstream activity or silo.  And very often, the solution is not the obvious one, nor is it the one the executive would have pointed out.

  • You can free up cash to use elsewhere by (1) borrowing it at interest, (2) trading equity for it, (3) outsourcing necessary  work cheaper, or (4) improving insufficiently capable, cash leaking  processes you should own and lead.  Continuous Process Improvement (#4) demands you actually lead an organization.

    There are a number of tactics the CEO can apply to raise cash without involving more than a few staff members, like borrowing money, trading equity for some, or deciding not to do work others do as well or better less expensively.  But freeing up or generating cash through on-going operations requires business process improvement, which is a TEAM activity.  Improving team performance requires leadership.

  •  A Process Capability Goal is to process performance what Strategic Objectives are to enterprise performance.

    If  there is one behavioral indicator — one thing to look for, to determine if a business process is well-managed, it is the presence or absence of a Process Capability Goal (PCG – template here).   If the managers of a process do not know how well it must behave, in a manner that, if sustained, will deliver its share of the firms financial goals, it will be chaos and ill-conceived and  unfocused improvements.

  • Only managed processes are scalable.

    A process is not scalable that is not measure for speed, quality at essential points, and unit cost consumption.  Period. Full Stop.

  • You don’t understand your process completely until you can see it as a flow of cash.

    Seeing a process as a flow of cash separates candidate executives from impostors, for financial acumen and managerial accounting is lingua franca  of executive management.  As I’ve said, while stomping my feet for emphasis, “Money isn’t everything but it pays the bills for everything ultimately.  Every improvement that improves a process’s capability should make sense financially, and that story cannot be told unless one is aware of how and where a process consumes cash.  So teach your front-line experts, those who see the most capability-inhibiting issues, how their process eats or generates cash.

  • If you will not delegate a task, when it can be delegated, you are the bottleneck that inhibits your growth.

    As an enterprise grows, the time demands on the CEO are more outward facing, with investors and strategic customers and constituencies, leaving less time for inward, operational attentions. The roles of CEO and COO must split into different people.  COO responsibilities cannot be delegated if the business operating model does not push continuous process improvement tactics down into production spaces — delegated to them.  Process triaging is all about teaching and establishing operational improvements.

  • Don’t necessarily fix what you have not counted.

    Do not change your business model unless the one-time problem was obviously catastrophic.  Just count it instead and determine if it will repeat.  After counting it and establishing a trend, then fix it.

Watch a Bi-lingual Management Team Pick What to Improve First

For readers unfamiliar with Process Triaging (on a napkin here), one of the last steps of the triage has the triagers (the executives’ and manager’s front-line experts in the process we’re triaging), rank the two dozen or so improvements the team has proposed.  Each improvement is captured on triage card. The cards are lined up on a long table for the team to sort by highest value to customers, use of cash, and finally, what most delivers the process’s capability goal (sample here).

I’ve facilitated triage workshops in Hong Kong, Paris, and Zurich for example, noting everyone spoke English.  So it was a delight to triage a bi-lingual team of farm managers at Schwope Brothers Farms north of Independence, Missouri. They have well over a half a million trees under cultivation and grade about a 100+ thousand  trees for  sale a year.  It’s a world of liners, balls, burlap and attention to detial, plus a devotion to growing beautiful trees.

Tory Schwope, the CEO has a fabulous staff of farm managers that, given labor force realities, involve a bi-lingual — English and Spanish workforce.  So it was a delight to watch a triage cross this language barrier.

Here is clip of his triage team ranking their improvement proposals.  Enjoy


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Hat tip to Fernando Marrufo, handling the triage cards and host, Jeff King.