Most leaders look at constraints as things that hold them back. There’s not enough time, or the talent isn’t ready, or you recently lost a team member, or the budget just isn’t there.
It’s easy to view these challenges as excuses – the job can’t get done on time or to the expected level of quality. But in reality, constraints like these are opportunities to improve and do unexpected things.
Leaders and business owners often get comfortable with the way things have always been done. It takes someone five days to finish a report, and that works for us. Until something happens and it no longer does.
Constraints are an opportunity to get off our laurels and raise the bar on our own quality and output. And they’re a way to encourage team members to be more efficient and continue to grow.
After all, if a team member has reached their top potential, how else are they expected to grow? Will quality talent remain happy and engaged in their work if it becomes rote or boring? If they’re not challenged, top talent will begin to look elsewhere for ways to grow personally and professionally.
In businesses that produce a product, constraints come fast and furious at different times of the year or selling cycle. Cost of goods, competition, even acts of nature, can really impact business and output. These types of organizations are no stranger to constraints.
Service businesses, however, can coast much of the time. Sure, we have competition, and yes, time constraints can pop up. But for the most part, it’s up to us to develop our own constraints to set the bar a little higher and move forward faster.
So how do you manufacture constraints to improve efficiency?
First, identify a bottleneck in your business, your team or your process. Then identify how to widen that bottleneck to increase efficiency. Put systems in place to allow the process to flow more freely, whether that’s cutting you out of the workflow, automating a step or reassigning tasks to someone better equipped to handle the work.
In order to do this, you need to understand how the business works. Do you know all the steps that must happen in order to reach the finish line? Many top-level executives and business owners are removed enough from the process that this is no longer in their wheelhouse. And that’s okay. Leverage your team to help you brainstorm ways to use constraints to improve efficiency and performance.
When they see their own improvement and the success of the organization, they’ll thank you for it!