Article: "Eliminating Traffic Jams and Bottlenecks in the

You could be so much more efficient if it weren’t for other
people, right? We waste a lot of time waiting for
approvals, return phone calls, opinions, information, or
pieces of a project. But if you’re waiting on the same
people repeatedly, or you routinely use “I’m waiting” as
an excuse for not meeting a deadline, you need to take
steps to minimize bottlenecks. Here are some techniques
to analyze the patterns and minimize common slowdowns:

* Reorganize the workflow. Getting together with all the
players in a particular process (sales, engineering,
manufacturing, customer service, etc.) may quickly reveal
what’s broken. Sometimes a simple change in the flow of
work will boost productivity. Use sticky notes to plot an
entire process, using a wall to diagram the different steps.
Ask, “What would work better?” “How can we eliminate
this step?” “How can we do this more efficiently?”

* Eliminate dependencies. Do you feel excessively
dependant on others to get your work done? Perhaps you
need training or additional experience to help you
function more effectively in your present job. Perhaps
your manager is over-supervising or micromanaging your
work to a point where you feel nervous making simple
decisions anonymously. Make an appointment with your
supervisor and have a candid discussion about ways you
can be more efficient.

* Don’t be a bottleneck yourself. If you hear others saying
things to you such as, “I need you to look at this before I
go on,” or “When will you have time to review this for
me?” are symptoms of other people trying to control your
schedule. On one hand, it’s a compliment to your
expertise; however, their lack of confidence keeps them
from handling things without you. If people truly don’t
have the skills, that’s one thing. But if others are routinely
delegating decisions to you, take a stand. State
specifically, “I’m confident you’ll make the right decision.”
Or “You are responsible for managing this project.” Or
“This task is due September 5. This is how I will measure
your success. This is your budget. If you run into
problems, keep me informed on how you’re handling

* Keep the process moving. When coordinating a project
with a co-worker, get buy-in on the due date. Once
promises have been made, repeat and nail down the
commitment. Say, “Great, you’ll get that to me by close of
business Wednesday.” Then let that person see you write
it down. Say, “Thanks so much for your support. I can
always count on you.” Appealing to someone’s honor in
this way may increase the chances of timely completion.
When people finish a promised task, no matter how small,
thank them. Never take others’ work for granted. They will
want to help you again the next time.

* Accept partial delivery. Some people are perfectionists,
so create the proper expectations from the beginning.
Explain what you need at a minimum to get moving. Let
people know you’ll take incomplete information until the
complete information is available. They can provide things
in formal or final form at a later date. If necessary, escalate
the problem to your supervisor to negotiate the situation
at a higher level.

Bottlenecks at work are like traffic jams: they bring things
to a standstill. The “traffic jam” in your work will continue
to occur until you do something about it. Pinpoint that
recurring “thing” that halts your work and put energy into
eliminating it. You’ll save much time and frustration in the
long run.

(C) Copyright 2003 Laura Stack, MBA, CSP. All rights
reserved. Portions of this newsletter may be reprinted in
your organization or association newsletter, provided the
following credit line is present:

"Laura M. Stack, MBA, CSP, is "The Productivity PRO," (R)
helping people leave the office earlier, with less stress, and
more to show for it. She presents keynotes and seminars
on time management, information overload, and personal
productivity. Contact her at 303-471-7401 or
[email protected]."