Sometimes reality bites, like really.
Unwritten reports, endless budget requests, unanswered emails, inboxes overflowing with unanswered emails — and that’s before you’ve even started your REAL work. If this sounds familiar to you it means that you know what a bottleneck is, because you’ve been one.
A bottleneck occurs when a critical person or stage in the development process receives more requests than it can handle at maximum capacity. This will happen to you when a delivery is dependent on approval from a single point before it can be released.
You might have seen bottlenecks caused by a scarcity in QA or an overloaded CMO who simply has too much on her plate. Whatever the reason, bottlenecks can be a major headache and are a big reason that PMs aren’t getting the most out of their portfolios.
At Planview AdaptiveWork, we make it our business to make sure that we’re always in tune with the beating pulse of the market. We’re in constant contact with our clients and prospects so that we can feel their pain and find innovative ways to solve them. Our market feedback has given us insights into why bottlenecks are caused, and what can be done to mitigate their impact. Here are 4 key takeaways:
- Create a Culture of Teamwork and Collaboration
Building a motivated team is no easy task, but it’s certainly a way to significantly reduce bottlenecks. Oftentimes, bottlenecks happen because of issues that would have been avoided in a more teamwork-oriented culture.For example, when the pressure builds up there is a tendency to overload the “go to gal”, even when there are newbies on board eager to shine. When the pressure’s on, you want your MVP on the frontline. But this creates bottlenecks because of the overload on that one individual. She simply cannot take care of everything on time, even if she’s in the office at the crack of dawn and eating lunch (and breakfast) at her desk.Behind the scene challenges like internal politics and interpersonal issues also cause bottlenecks. When personal problems between two coworkers get to the point that they trump the best interest of the organization, processes can be delayed simply out of spite and maliciousness.
- Remove Barriers to Communication
There is nothing more frustrating than completing your work only to discover that what you thought was the latest version is no longer relevant. Processes get delayed while the correct version is located and the work updated, creating bottlenecks and even delaying delivery.Misplaced assets and miscommunication between different teams and department — and the bottlenecks they create — can be avoided by reducing inter-departmental silos and building better lines of communication.In some cases, these silos are created because of communication issues between the more experienced team members and those with less experience. Experienced staff naturally gravitate towards likeminded team members who can keep up with them and understand their lingo.
- Reduce Formal Hierarchy
People just don’t know how to say no to requests from authority. Even the most harried member of your team would find it difficult to say no to a direct request from a bigwig above her pay scale. In the best of cases, this makes for a frustrated, burnt-out employee, but in other cases this overwhelms a critical process, building up bottlenecks that negatively impact your portfolio.Cohesive and productive teams can find themselves overwhelmed if formal lines of hierarchy aren’t reduced, or even stamped out completely. Encouraging a bottom-up approach to management and planning doesn’t just build morale and improve productivity, it also stops bottlenecks before they can even form.
- Automate Workflows with Project Management Software
There are plenty of software solutions out there that can help teams reduce bottlenecks by giving them the tools to manage processes better. But sometimes even when you have a solution in place bottlenecks can still be formed, usually because of employee resistance to change. Here are a couple of examples from the Roundtable:
- Process changes take time to learn and adapt to. These steep learning curves can slow down delivery.
- Bottlenecks are created because the solution isn’t fully deployed across the organization, causing miscommunication and misplaced assets.
- Even when the system is in place, the new processes required by the system aren’t always adhered to by everyone.
Clarizen’s collaborative work management solutions help organizations overcome these challenges by letting teams personalize their workspaces. By giving teams the freedom to work the way they want, instead of forcing them to work in a particular way, user adoption is increased. Teams can adapt to the new processes at their own pace, slowly implementing across the organization without reducing delivery times.