Efficient businesses are good for everyone. Owners have more time to focus on their long-term vision when the day-to-day operations are running smoothly. Employees encounter fewer obstacles and work happier as a result. Even consumers benefit because their interactions with the business are simple and seamless.

Every business aspires to be efficient. Few actually achieve it, however, because roadblocks and setbacks are inevitable. And when those disruptions occur, many managers opt for Band-Aid solutions that provide a temporary fix but not a permanent solution. As a result, very few enterprises are actually firing on all cylinders.

Bottlenecks may be common, but that doesn't mean they're acceptable. Inefficiency can feel like a minor annoyance when in reality it's a huge liability that leads to a lot of lost opportunities. Instead of accepting inefficiency as a foregone conclusion, companies must confront it and overcome it.

Turning Inefficiency Into Productivity

Becoming more efficient isn't just about removing bottlenecks. It's also about creating plans, policies, and teams that lead to effective collaboration. Instead of just fixing problems, companies should work to implement upgrades. Turning liabilities into assets is never easy, but it's not impossible either. Start with these strategies:

1. Understand where and why bottlenecks exist. 

Obstructions can often be felt but not seen. Finding out where inefficiencies exist is especially hard to do when company data is not integrated and organized. Siloed data gives decision makers a skewed perspective and incomplete insights, hiding the problems that compromise processes.

Rooting those problems out is essential because minor process improvements can lead to huge efficiency gains. Nowhere is this truer than in the auto industry, where manufacturers need to integrate all their data to gain true oversight. As Ali Hassan, CEO and co-founder of ThroughPut Inc., explains, "Tesla invests in data better than anyone else in the field; it has tons of data about drivers but has not integrated it with production data. Completing the loop allows manufacturers to become completely data-driven." Once that happens, inefficiencies become obvious--and can be tackled.

2. Build scalability into project management.

Effective collaboration is a systemic fix to process bottlenecks. But collaboration isn't something that can be mildly encouraged. It must be fostered and facilitated with the help of leadership and effective tools. If you can't scale up your project management capabilities, collaboration can break down exactly when it's needed most.

Imagine trying to take on a massive new project using only shared documents, group emails, and conference calls. Collaboration requires a deeper approach based on true project management, not just teamwork tools; otherwise, breakdowns and bottlenecks are unavoidable. Brendon Nicholas, technical director and co-founder of DotDev, says scalable project management is about having robust processes in place from the get-go: "In an ideal world, you have sound processes set up before your team grows--so it's never too early to start." That's why he spent the early days of his company setting up templates and implementing tools focused on project management.

3. Build teams with the right talent.  

One of the quickest ways to compromise collaboration is by hiring the wrong people. Research from CareerBuilder shows that a bad hire costs companies almost $15,000 on average, yet 74 percent of employers confess to having committed to the wrong person at some point. Why do bad hires cause bottlenecks? Because people who are unsuited to their jobs don't just perform poorly; they also drag down the rest of the team, whose members are forced to pick up the poor performers' slack and clean up their mistakes.

Hiring the right team members is therefore crucial to efficient operations and prolonged success. So instead of simply asking candidates to talk you through their résumé, ask more open-ended questions about how they would handle a specific situation. That will give you better insight into how they solve problems and help you gauge whether they are the best fit for the role and the kinds of projects in which they'll be asked to collaborate. Ultimately, if you get the right people in the right places at your company, you'll be able to prevent people from causing bottlenecks. 

Businesses drift naturally into bottlenecks, meaning passivity is at the root of the problem. Doing something is always the start of the solution. Doing nothing only ever makes things worse.

Published on: Mar 26, 2019
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