Beyond bottlenecks: Discovering some answers

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planning meeting
One of our previous annual planning meetings. We gathered in person. Yesterday, we gathered on the phone.

bottleneckDay two of our companies’ annual planning meeting focused on bottlenecks. Each employee had the opportunity to raise his or her own bottleneck issues for group discussion. The exercise proved to be fascinating and rewarding, as we discussed individual issues and then determined possible action plan solutions to them.

Topics relating to production, administrative efficiency, internal communications, and time-wasting (or delaying) actions each received a hearing, and while not all the bottlenecks  were resolved to each employee’s individual satisfaction, all received a respectful hearing and suggestions for some modifications.

For example, one employee suggested our regular scheduled meeting program was turning into a waste of time, and asked if the meetings could be curtailed or cut back. We decided that wasn’t the answer, but also concluded that some of the regular weekly content could be moved to other processes — cutting down unnecessary or irrelevant discussions. (As it is, we have a one-hour maximum rule for our regular meetings, and rarely go above that number.)

I raised my bottleneck in hiring and retain salespeople. We didn’t solve the problem (which is a big one for virtually every sales-related business) but suggestions came up including the consultation of all existing employees before hiring someone new, and reviewing the prospective sales representatives’ need for immediate money. The concept of explaining the company’s employee-ownership vision and ultimate opportunity for a share in the pie came up, but “ownership” can be seen in a broader sense of control and autonomy.

This exercise suggests that asking about bottlenecks may be one of the wisest questions/topics for your business planning meetings, and that you should involve virtually everyone in the business or work group (to a maximum effective meeting size of about eight to 10 people.)

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