Your Life By Design
Being the Bottleneck
March 6, 2020
You may have heard that comment about a ‘human bottle neck”. I was always concerned about being the limiting factor in my company. I don’t want to be the bottleneck at work (we all want that), I don’t want things stopping with me…gotta keep things moving.
But honestly, it struck me on a personal level. I cannot be the bottleneck in my own life, which is what I have been, at least on some level. I'm not being hard on myself, but I am realistic. My weight loss is my bottleneck from keeping my from being the person I want to be. "I'm tired", "I deserve this treat" "I have to watch (fill in the blank) on TV" are all my bottleneck excuses for some of us. 

This year's goal is to achieve strength, flexibility, and agility. I will no longer bottleneck myself from achieving my goals! What's your bottleneck and what are you going to do about it?

Just what is a human bottleneck? 

It's the person who prevents work from moving forward, who stops the advancement of a project and momentarily pauses the work of others.

It happens to everyone sometimes. But it really sucks as the business owner to become the bottleneck in your growth.

No one wants to be in the way of others. Sometimes you might not even realize that you're causing a problem when you're busy at work, focused on your own project. But if you take special care to communicate clearly, you won't become a human bottleneck.

While process bottlenecks are definitely widespread throughout many organizations, human bottlenecks are pretty common too. It's easier to change human bottlenecks than organizational ones, especially if the organization's processes are clunky. People are in control of their own actions. With a little self-awareness, we can improve how we work and collaborate.

I heard that comment yesterday at work, it wasn't the first time in my life that I heard it but for some reason it stuck with me. It felt like an epiphany. I don't want to be the bottleneck at work (we all want that), I don't want things stopping with me...gotta keep things moving. 

This year's goal is to achieve strength, flexibility, and agility. I will no longer bottleneck myself from achieving my goals! What's your bottleneck and what are you going to do about it?

So when Do We Become Bottlenecks?

There are both internal and external inefficiencies at hand here.

You might become a problem in your team's workflow when you're having a hard time finishing your part of a project, or are swamped with other requests that are clouding your ability to prioritize. 

It may also be the case that because of organizational procedures, we are unable to access the information that we need to move forward. 

Or your team expands or collapses and you run into the murky waters of making sure you can onboard a new person faster.

Should the requests of others take precedence over our own work? 

To some extent. 

While you don't want to drop your work any time someone needs something from you, you also don't want to impede others' ability to do their work. 

You should try to find a balance that works for both you and your team members.

Whatever the case may be, there are certain things that are in our control and that can prevent us from becoming human bottlenecks.

In the meantime, I'm curious, are you a bottleneck in your business and impeding your own growth?

Step 1 is to recognize the problem.


Clarify Expectations

Clarify both what's expected of you and what you expect from others. Clear communication of expectations can help you and your team members to prioritise work in such a way that no one impedes the progress of others.

This way, if you know that one team member has a certain deadline, and they need certain information from you two days before their deadline, you will be able to arrange your work so that they will receive the information on time.

Likewise, if a team member is expecting something from you by a certain time, but you have a deadline that you need to prioritise, that team member will be informed when to expect your part of the work.

Communicate Early and Often

Don't wait until the last minute to communicate what your schedule looks like and when team members can expect.

If something comes up and you're not able to fulfill a request, let it be known as soon as the situation arises. It will save your team members from a lot of frustration and it will help you maintain your reputation.

I would suggest you take some time to think what it is you're not happy with. Continue the job if you still haven't decided what you want to change. A little job security in tough times helps a lot. Once you figure out what it is you want to change then talk it out with your family. Take their inputs, explain to them how you feel and get their support because that kind of support is incomparable.

Share Information

It's easier than ever to share information with team members. With the help of office apps and communication tools, you can make sharing of information a breeze. Chances are that if information is easily accessible, team members won't need to constantly ask each other questions and cause a constant ping-pong of let-me-get-back-to-you.

Review Workflow Processes

Processes usually play a huge part in causing bottlenecks, so they're worth reviewing. Procedural bottlenecks are external factors that are slowing your workflow, and they should be removed when possible. Imagine three freeway lanes suddenly funneling into one—no matter how effective and efficient each driver is, slowing is inevitable.

See how you can work on transforming that one lane into two or even three lanes to break the bottleneck.

Accept Suggestions for Improvement

Sometimes, our team members can see things that we can't because we're immersed in the work. Don't be afraid to accept, and even ask for, suggestions from team members on how you can remove bottlenecks. When you acknowledge that there is a problem and ask your team members to help you solve it, it can strengthen the team.

Lastly, if you're the last person to receive the work in the project, or the last person to see the project before it's finished, it's just as bad to leave it on the back burner for a long time.

Although you are not technically a bottleneck since others aren't depending on you, you have to understand that other team members have worked hard to deliver what you need for the project in a timely manner. Try to see the project through in a timely manner, and if you can't, communicate that as soon as you can.

As for regrets, you have to take a few chances to see where your decision takes you. If you have regrets at least you will know what you was wrong for you and then you'll be able to change your path towards happiness again.

I don’t know how old you are or what your situation is but if you have your family to help and support you then you can take the chances you want to take to make your life a little less of a bottleneck.

A lot depends on your situation. Do you have a spouse, or even kids? Do you have debts? If none, then it’s relatively safe to make such decisions.

Make sure what you’re doing is not completely insane and that you can get back to a safe spot if you fail; you got to live another day to try again. It’s not wise to get far from the edge of the pool until you’re confident in your swimming, but never letting go of it won’t get you anywhere either.

Put yourself in positions of opportunities. For example, meet as many new people as you can: you never know which such meeting will end in a lifelong friendship, new knowledge or deal, or additional connections leading to such things. On the other hand, opportunities like that don’t mean you must pursue them further, which is called “optionality:” unknown and possibly unlimited upside potential with known and limited downside (e.g. the time you spend with the person.)

Stay away from deals that sound too good, and stay honest. As someone once said,  only dishonest people can be scammed.