Bottleneck Management – helping the flow

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Bottleneck management, or the theory of constraints, is well understood in the manufacturing context, however in all of my years working with service businesses it is also highly relevant to process improvement.

It is important for service businesses, particularly those small businesses who are balancing growth with cost saving. In these instances the workflow does not flow correctly. There will be a bottleneck of information or process sitting with a particular team or a particular individual.

Improvements can be achieved by monitoring the activity levels within the process and then deciding whether the current resource constraints were really bottlenecks.

First though the process must be fully understood, mapped out and reviewed. Can immediate improvements be made at this stage?

General rules for managing bottlenecks include the following:

  • Ensure that only essential work passes through the bottleneck
  • Be ruthless in taking away non-essential activities from the bottleneck
  • Ensure that no sub-standard work passes through the bottleneck
  • Once you have established where the bottleneck is, devote proportionally more management attention to it to ensure maximum throughput and therefore maximum effectiveness for the process.



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