Hoola Modern Agency

Finding the time to add value

When was the last time you sat down with your team to identify potential bottlenecks in their workflow, or how to make their workdays easier, simpler and more enjoyable?

Process bottlenecks are among the reasons why projects get delayed, budgets burst from the added cost of delays, and the whole process becomes unpredictable. 

While it’s rather obvious that these bottlenecks have a negative impact on your daily business operations, what is often overlooked is the critical role they play in the morale, productivity and well-being of your employees.

What is a bottleneck?

To keep things as simple as possible, for the purpose of this article, we’ll refer to a bottleneck as any work-related process that causes an interruption to the flow of work resulting in delays across the production process and/or day-to-day running of the business.

So, using this broad definition, a bottleneck could be a computer, a person, a department, a whole work stage, or even something as mundane as physical office access and sign-in procedures.

Unfortunately, a bottleneck is often acknowledged only after it has caused a blockage in the workflow, or even worse, goes completely unnoticed until someone points it out. 

There are simple yet effective analysis tools you can take advantage of, but there’s an important one which is often overlooked—your staff. They are directly impacted by bottlenecks on a daily basis! 

How to deal with bottlenecks?

At times, you can easily resolve the bottleneck by allocating more resources or people to that work stage or process. That could mean hiring more employees, upgrading equipment, updating software, etc. 

However, if the bottleneck requires a particularly scarce resource or hard-to-find expertise, in some cases the cost of the solution to the bottleneck can be quite high. But, leaving a bottleneck untreated will always cost you more than resolving it.

There are many resources available for businesses looking to refine and improve on their ways of working. However, when conducting our most recent internal bottleneck analysis, we went directly to the source—the hoolagans, who provided the most valuable insights!

Making time to save it. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of how we worked through the bottleneck analysis process:

  • Planned 30 min sessions per week to meet, identify potential bottlenecks, propose practical solutions and calculate potential time saved by ‘unblocking’ the bottlenecks. 
  • After 6 weeks (3hrs) worth of roundtable discussions, we consolidated our findings, prioritised them according to their potential time saved vs. ease of rolling out the solution.
  • We then escalated the findings to the relevant change-leaders and the executive management team to approve and implement the solutions.

Immediately following the analysis process we engaged with employees across the agency and asked them to suggest some ‘nice-to-haves’, which would make their workdays easier, or their time spent at the office more pleasant.

Once we consolidated all the feedback, we looked at the feasibility of implementing the suggestions, subtracted any ‘time-spent’ (on ‘nice-to-haves’ that would impact production time) from the potential time saved through the bottleneck solutions exercise, and arrived at our overall time-saved figure.     

Total potential time saved over a 12 month period = 150hrs of agency time! 

Assuming an average of 250 workdays per year, that translates to about 36mins saved per day. We consider ourselves to be an agile, efficient and lean agency, so imagine the impact this could have on a business that feels less confident about their workflow process. While these little time savings on a daily basis may not seem like much, they do add up.     

Continuous Bottleneck Analysis.

It goes without saying that bottleneck analysis should also be an ongoing process. But, there’s an important lesson to be learned here. When your employees feel ‘heard’, recognised and valued, bottleneck analysis and the concept of continuous improvement becomes a natural part of the company’s culture. 

As the saying goes, ‘you only get what you give.’ And, when you give your employees the opportunity to share their insights (and recognise/reward them), they, in-turn, will be more likely to ‘buy-in’ to process changes and organically drive a culture of continuous improvement. The more valued you feel, the more value you’re willing to offer.

The efficiency gains we’ve made are beneficial to both internal and external stakeholders, which includes the clients we partner with!     

Ask and you shall receive.

Building a culture of continuous improvement has many added benefits outside of overcoming identified bottlenecks. It also helps you to see potential bottlenecks before they become an issue. With a combination of workflow analysis tools, lean management and regular employee engagement the ability to discover and resolve bottlenecks quickly isn’t as daunting a process as it might seem. 

At this point, you’re probably considering doing a bottleneck analysis exercise internally. So, if you’d like some extra insight or need a partner to work with you in improving the efficiency and efficacy of your marketing efforts – speak to us.