Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Building a business for resilience 3 – building management for better identifying and resolving bottlenecks 2

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 14, 2015

This is my third posting to a series on building flexibility and resiliency into a business in its routine day-to-day decisions and follow-through, so it can more adaptively anticipate and respond to an ongoing low-level but with time, significant flow of ongoing change and its cumulative consequences, that every business faces in its normal course of operation (see Part 1 and Part 2.)

Part 2, and this installment in this series address the issues and challenges of bottlenecks as they arise in businesses. And in anticipation of this posting, I offered in Part 2 a briefly detailed discussion of how these events can and do arise under normal circumstances and normal operations in retail business contexts. My goal for this series installment is to step back from the specifics of that to consider more general principles, and more general processes for identifying and resolving these day-to-day normative operating challenges. And I begin that by clarifying what I mean by “bottleneck” in this context.

I find it helpful for purposes of addressing business bottlenecks, to characterize them in two ways: process-defined bottlenecks and outcomes-defined bottlenecks.

Outcomes-defined bottlenecks are bottlenecks that are characterized in terms of adverse consequences realized. In my Part 2 retail store examples, they are the long customer lines at one or two checkout stations, with all of those customers waiting to complete their purchases and where all are looking at their watches. Or, to cite that same source of examples it is when those customers are blocked at an earlier step in their intended purchasing transactions where the shelves that the items they are looking for, are not being filled rapidly enough when running low, and from inventory already on-hand in the back – or where both of these challenges are taking place at once. Outcomes-defined bottlenecks are reactively identified and addressed problems.
Process-defined bottlenecks are bottlenecks that are identified and characterized at the business process and employee and other resource allocation level. They are identified as sources of current or likely conflicts of priority and need. And while they can be reactive responses, they are by their very nature more proactive and anticipatory.

Outcomes-defined bottlenecks are virtually always immediate-needs challenges, and initial responses to them are more likely to be ad hoc, of the two categorical types. When these immediate emergent realized problems resolve and the smoke clears from them – and a process-defined approach is attempted retrospectively, then more systematic, strategically defined approaches enter this process. And the goal of effective management in this is to proactively identify potential bottleneck challenges before they can arise, so as to limit the likelihood of their happening, or their severity or duration if they do. That, to return to my retail store examples of Part 2, is why most retail businesses that would expect to see big holiday season boosts in the numbers of customers coming in through their bricks and mortar storefront doors, bring in temporary holiday season employees to help meet their sudden if expected short term needs. Outcomes-defined bottlenecks call for immediate operational responses and tend to be handled as they arise. Process-driven bottlenecks are strategically defined and addressed, and with a goal of creating operational processes for moving forward to prevent their recurrence if possible.

• Too many hands-on managers treat too many potential bottleneck vulnerabilities primarily after the fact and on an ad hoc basis, and as outcomes-defined events that are never conceptually revisited as process-defined opportunities to make the business more effective and more competitive.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will focus on the process-defined and business strategy and planning side of this, and on making ongoing normative business operations and strategy implementation more effective. And as a part of that, I will discuss bottlenecks in terms of where they arise: inside of or outside of an impacted-upon business or both. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: