Earlier this week, a client contacted us about a bottlenecking problem within their company. Weekly and bi-weekly meetings seem to go well, but when it is time for the team to produce outcomes on projects, something just isn't clicking in gear for them, and deadlines are being consistently missed. After talking further, we explained that it has everything to do with the company structure, and it's critical to make sure it is developed and honored.
Managers of companies that are in growth-mode are very often caught just trying to keep their head above water, and there comes a time that it's critical to step back to review what is going right and wrong in order to develop strategies that solidify foundations that are to be developed on. Bottlenecked process flows are a direct indicator that there's a problem with the company structure. Here are some tips to deal with the problem:
1. Address Job Titles to Create Clarity
Job titles aren't just for an employee to understand their identity as it relates to being a team member of a company and have a sense of pride in what they do, but they also act as a roadmap for who works with whom. If someone has the job title of "Project Administrator," it is easy to know that they will be responsible to report to a person with the title with "Project Manger" who reports to the "Senior Project Manager" who reports to the "Director of Operations." There is a clear chain of communication, and everyone knows who needs to be working with whom.
2. Be Clear Regarding Project Responsibilities
It is critical for team members to know who is on their team. Have you ever played pickup basketball? It's very confusing to be on a new team of people that don't have a common identifying factor such as shirts versus skins or a particular shirt color. The same factor is in play in a company. On new projects, consider printing out a road map of who is in charge and who reports to whom. This gives employees a guide to streamline communication.
3. Take Time to Plan Process
Taking a few hours at the beginning of a project to develop the process flow saves hours upon hours of confusion from other team members down the line and helps them meet deadlines. Every employee should know where they are going and where they are in the project. There should be a designated person in charge of communicating that information as well.
The same goes for everyday, repetitive tasks. Those in charge of developing the process should work with the people who are in the positions responsible for everyday tasks to come up with the most effective, efficient way to accomplish the ultimate goal. Managers may find that staff is frustrated over complicated processes that could be better-organized or less of a hassle, and increase output by adjusting some requirements.
4. Have Less Meetings
Less meetings? How is having less meeting time going to help communication?
Believe it or not, the less meetings there are, the less information there is to confuse staff. Having shorter or lesser meetings requires those responsible developing and sticking to an agenda to follow-through effectively. If a manager knows they'll have 2 hours to discuss something with the staff that could effectively take 30 minutes, hours and hours of payroll can be accomplishing the tasks. Be intentional about meetings, and create the proper spaces with the proper staff to have think-tank sessions.
5. Write Processes Down
Imagine you have an employee who knows how to do everything, and they get killed on the way home from work in a car crash. What are you going to do, then? A project could be put months behind schedule. Help your staff out by having a clearly written process flow for their required tasks. If someone has to take over someone else's position or a new hire is added to a team, slow-downs and problems can be reduced by simply keeping everything written down and in order.
6. Integrate Technologies for Stronger Communication & Clear Process Flow
There are many technologies (and free ones) available for task management, streamlining processes, company-wide communication and file-sharing. Change is always difficult to integrate into everyone's way of handling work flow and may be slow at first, but technologies keep staff working in an outcome-based work environment which minimizes bottlenecking.