The bottleneck strategy is a strategy used to maximize your success potential in achieving goals and in completing projects. It is a strategy for identifying where you should place your maximum focus and concentration in order to gain the best results.
Whether or not you achieve your goal, or complete your project, within the desired time frame will depend largely on how well you allocate your resources, including time. If you focus on the right tasks in the right order then, provided your time target is realistic, you can ensure that you will achieve your target on time.
The first step in the bottleneck strategy is to break your goal or project down into a complete list of elements.
Let’s say, for example, that you are starting a new retail business. We will assume that we have already done our market research and determined a strong market need for our target product. The elements of establishing the business may be; establish your product supply chain, find a suitable premises, furnish the premises, hire staff, generate a flow of potential customers, make sales, deliver the product, and provide an after sales support system.
The second step in the bottleneck strategy is to look at that list of elements and ask if there is one element that is crucial for success. This is an element upon which success most depends. It is the bottleneck because if this element is not functioning correctly then your business grinds to a halt.
To find that bottleneck start with two questions. Question 1 is; which elements are only required or possible after another element is completed?
In the example above delivery and after sales support are only required or possible after sales are made and making sales is only possible after you have potential customers. This implies that the only candidate for the bottleneck amongst this group of elements is generating a flow of potential customers.
Question 2 is; what elements could I replace with another strategy if really necessary?
In the example it may be possible, even if not desirable, to replace the staff element by starting as a one person show. It may be possible to replace the two premises elements by selling door to door or on the internet or from your garage (some of the world’s most successful companies started from a garage). That leaves us with establishing a product supply chain as a candidate for the bottleneck element.
In our example we now have two possible bottlenecks; a flow of potential customers, and a product supply chain. Now we have to decide which of these is the most crucial. This will vary depending on what our product is and how difficult it will be to find suppliers and potential customers.
Let’s assume we decide that product supply is the most important, then that becomes the bottleneck. Once it is achieved then flow of potential customers will become the bottleneck.
Now it is time for the third step in the bottleneck strategy; focusing our resources and energy on solving the bottleneck.
If we make solving the bottleneck our number one priority then we will maximize our success potential. We should allocate 80% of our time, resources and energy to this task and pursue the other tasks with the other 20%.
In our example we focus on establishing that supply chain and then once that is achieved we focus on establishing a flow of potential customers. Without these two elements being achieved everything else is pointless.
If we had not applied the bottleneck strategy we may well have done what the majority of new businesses do and concentrated on establishing and furnishing an appropriate premises. We may then find ourselves with an expensive premises to cash flow but no products to sell or customers to sell to.
Whenever you set a new goal, or a new project, apply the bottleneck strategy and you will get the best value for your time and resources and maximize the probability of your success.