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Go to the Bottleneck to: Watch, Learn, Improve

Go to the Bottleneck to: Watch, Learn, Improve

author: Lee Buttolph

More explanation from the Process Improvement Loop process.

3. Go to the Bottleneck to: WATCHLEARNIMPROVE

- Spend most of your time watching instead of talking

Learn from each job:

a. When the employee is doing too much


b. When the employee is doing too little


c. What questions/issues arise over and over again

- Use standardized process flows as the basis for improvement

I love this step in the Process Improvement Loop.  I worked for a manufacturer that had a bunch of ladders in their manufacturing space (for cleaning high spaces).  I used to spend a couple hours a week just sitting up high watching the manufacturing floor.

I learned this from reading The Toyota Way (1) where they talked about the chalk circle (example).  It is amazingly effective tool to improve a process.

I would be looking to answer three main questions. 

1) When is an employee doing too much?

2) When is an employee doing too little?

3) What questions or issues arise over and over again?

If you can answer these questions and make the necessary adjustments your process efficiency will be greatly enhanced.

1) Why is it important to know if an employee is doing too much?

Many managers believe that employees must be engaged 100% of the time.  This is a false.  There are times when it is beneficial for employees to standby and wait.  They must be ready to perform an activity that is VITAL to be performed the moment it become available.  If an employee is doing too much they won't be ready to perform that vital task and precious time that you can never get back will be wasted.

2) Why is it important to know if an employee is doing too little?

This is a little simpler to understand.  Ever see an employee sitting around doing nothing when they could be helping out someone that is overburdened?  This is doing too little (if they aren't waiting to perform a vital task as discussed above).  It is important to educate employees when they could be picking up the slack for someone that is overburdened.

The goal of finding out if employees are doing too much or too little is to find the sweet spot where they are doing the right amount of work.  Build out your processes and educate your employees about how to achieve this.

3) How do you use issues/problems to make a process better?

You may think that in a process Murphy's Law takes effect and all kinds of crazy issues arise that employees have to contend with.  This is actually rarely the case.  The issues employees face are normally the same ones over and over again.  If you can spot the pattern you can now plan for them.  Build out a checklist or a process to deal with the issues and watch the problems evaporate overnight.

(1) Liker, Jeffrey K. The toyota way. Esensi, 2005.