There are plenty of ideas for digitization – what’s missing are always the resources. What if the resources were already there, but you just didn’t see them? The trick is the bottleneck. The article shows how to get to these capacities to finally give momentum to digitization activities!
There are plenty of ideas for digitization – what’s missing are always the resources. But what if the resources were already there, you just didn’t see them? The trick is the bottleneck …
Today, no one needs to be convinced of the necessity and advantages of digitization. The mere fact of Moore’s Law, that the performance of digital technologies doubles every two years, is quite enough. Nevertheless, to state it clearly once again: We are practically given productivity increases in the digital realm as a gift! Even ideas for digitization are usually sufficiently available in companies – digitize all processes, build a digital twin, put everything in the cloud and make the customer a player, sure. The next step – holding a workshop and planning the implementation – also works quite well for the most part. What comes after that, the implementation in the company practice during ongoing day-to-day business, then turns out to be tough or comes to a complete standstill. Who is supposed to do that? The companies are working at their limits, the employees are busy keeping the business running with a lot of energy and strength. Things are jammed at all corners and ends. Yet the breakthrough is within reach – if companies learn to recognize and deal with their bottlenecks.
Lack of resources? The trick with the bottleneck – the resources are there!
The first thought when it comes to change: We need capacities to achieve something. But no one will be willing to hire new employees for digitization, which is ultimately intended to increase efficiency. Apart from the fact that the market is empty, new employees would need extensive training and would simply increase operating costs for the time being. But where do you find the resources for digitization projects? The trick is in the system! If you take a closer look at complex systems, you can see something interesting.
All complex systems have exactly one bottleneck – and not many!
One example: an airport. Thousands of employees, countless different professions, many people with different goals, all working together – highly complex. But everything revolves around the runway. Only one aircraft can fit on it at a time. So everyone is always working to ensure that the runway never runs empty, but that there are also never two planes on it at the same time. Another example: the production of an automobile. Highly complex supply chains with millions of employees worldwide. And one bottleneck: the marriage when chassis and body come together in final assembly.
The same applies to IT, processes, departments and entire companies – there is always one bottleneck. But how can that be? Do you also have the feeling that things are jammed at several corners and ends in your company – bottlenecks everywhere? Everything takes longer than it has to, and you often get in your own way?
The basic problem: We all think that if you start earlier, you’ll finish faster. Or, if you have more time, you can meet deadlines better. Above all, if everyone is busy, then the most comes out the back. The opposite is true! If you start everything right away, you have a lot of open work. If you give yourself a lot of time, you always have work on your mind. And if you try to keep everyone busy? Then you overload the one bottleneck, the bottleneck stumbles, he multitasks and makes mistakes, is frustrated and in the end less comes out than is possible – resources are wasted!
The solution: The recipe for the bottleneck
In order to achieve more more quickly and not get lost in the mere doing, it only takes three simple steps, similar to a good, because understandable, cooking recipe:
- Find the one (usually hidden) bottleneck.
- Relieve the bottleneck by taking away all the tasks that someone else could do.
- Make sure the bottleneck never runs empty – but also never has too much work. Adjust the start of projects, assignments or initiatives so that the bottleneck is never overloaded.
If the bottleneck is no longer overloaded, it can work optimally again, projects are completed, the completion rate increases – the bottom line is that you have more capacity!
More capacity in the bottleneck – more time for digitization
From the study “Multitasking in Project Management – Status Quo and Potential” (Prof. Dr. Ayelt Komus, Koblenz University of Applied Sciences, 2016), we know that 60 percent of companies assume that they are giving away around 25 percent of their capacity because they allow multitasking in bottlenecks. Huge potential.
But the mode of action needs to be considered even further: If the bottleneck is no longer overloaded, automatically – remember: there is always a bottleneck – no other team, employee or resources can be overloaded either. You suddenly see where great trained, experienced employees are “free” everywhere. Employees who have also done excellent work before, but often on things that could never make it through the bottleneck.
We know from several publications and from practical experience in customer projects that often 30-50 percent of employees are idle for a certain period of time when the bottleneck is no longer overloaded. If companies or departments enable only a very small part – often 1-2 people are enough – to support the bottleneck, the capacity in the bottleneck quickly increases by 50-100 percent. That means twice as many projects in the same time with the same resources. So where is the problem now? There is no problem! Just a simple cooking recipe for the bottleneck (see above) that frees up capacity, making room for all those lovely digitization projects.
But beware: The bottleneck is “a shy deer” – it’s never where you think it is. Otherwise, you would surely have eliminated it already?!
Here are just a few clues:
- most often the bottleneck is not a person or a team,
- most often it is a combination of their most experienced people and the decision makers,
- most often it is a critical phase in the project – in conception or just before delivery,
- sometimes it is simply an outdated rule that creates the bottleneck in the first place,
- everyone knows about it and nobody dares to say it.
If it’s so supposedly easy, why doesn’t everyone do it? Really? What about Amazon, Skype, Bosch, McDonalds or Mazda, just to name a few? Just Google “Theory of Constraints” or “Critical Chain Project Management” – you’ll be amazed at how many, especially large, companies in the tech environment are successfully using these very ideas.
Go for it!
In order to create capacity for the urgently needed digitization, it is necessary to look for one’s own bottleneck and start projects in such a way that the bottleneck is never overloaded. The first performance boost is then only a short time in coming. The second performance boost follows if they manage to support the bottleneck with additional manpower.
The result: happier, more creative employees and, at the same time, the necessary capacity to really step on the gas when it comes to digitization.
- „Multitasking im Projektmanagement – Status Quo und Potentiale“ (Prof. Dr. Ayelt Komus, Hochschule Koblenz, 2016)
- Excel-Tools um direkt mit Engpassmanagement zu starten – egal ob agil oder klassisch
- Eliyahu Goldratt – „Das Ziel“, Campus Verlag 2013 oder „The Goal“, North River Press 2012
- Uwe Techt – “Goldratt und die Theory of Constraints” oder „Goldratt and the Theory of Constraints”, ibidem 2015