A step-by-step guide to uncovering the bottleneck of your business’ success

The definition of success is often very different for each organisation. Like personal success and achievement, where the individual determines what it means to them and the actions needed to get there, it is up to the company’s owners, founders, or shareholders to decide what organisational success looks like and build a roadmap to achieve it.

Whatever the vision for success is, every organisation, large or small, public or private, is looking for ways to improve performance. For many, the focus has increased enormously following the dramatic impact the pandemic had on how we operate and collaborate as a team.

As organisational performance specialists, we help identify and eliminate bottlenecks that restrict our clients’ potential. While we are engaged in tackling various performance-related concerns, a crucial observation that our specialists have made is that regardless of the sector or industry, the issue at the top of their list is often low productivity. With employee performance closely linked and critical to the company’s overall success, this often becomes the key priority that our team must tackle.

To sustainably increase productivity and develop a continuous improvement culture, organisations need to embed a system that will drive operational excellence. No matter the size of the organisation we work with, the first step to operational excellence remains the same. Identify the bottlenecks in the workflow that are hampering productivity.

In truth, it’s not hard to find the issues when you know what you are looking for. Typically, organisations make substantial gains once the bottlenecks in their current practices are eliminated.

The real challenge for organisations is the temptation to focus on fixing isolated problems and moving on instead of addressing the root cause of the issue.

What is the true bottleneck of organisational success?


In real estate, they say the critical factor is location, location, location. The essential performance driver in public and private enterprises is culture, culture, culture.

Many sectors are susceptible to low levels of productivity. These are environments where employees feel disconnected from the business’s overall mission. Once someone feels like a cog in a wheel and loses sight of how their contribution impacts the overall business, a bottleneck begins to appear.

It’s easy to blame people for poor productivity, but it would be more accurate to blame the culture that allowed that behaviour to become the norm.

Six Common Drivers of Organisational Bottlenecks

  1. Lack of clear productivity objectives. A common cause of low productivity is
    that goals and the path to improvement are not defined in a strategic plan.
  2. Objectives are not disseminated effectively. Maintaining focus without a
    series of short-term milestones and KPIs to review and work towards is difficult.
  3. Lack of visibility. If teams can’t see their performance against the objectives, they can’t work with you to make suitable adjustments to steer the ship.
  4. Lack of training and support. For the workforce to buy into the improvement process, they must feel they have the tools, time, and training to succeed.
  5. No reward or recognition. What gets rewarded gets repeated. Whether you provide remuneration incentives, career development, or public and private recognition, success starts with celebrating people doing the right thing.
  6. Recruiting the wrong people. It only takes one rotten egg to ruin an omelette. With a shortage of quality candidates available today, you must be careful not to risk hiring or promoting someone who doesn’t fit the culture you want to build.

Identifying Your Bottlenecks

The first step to success is to map how you currently do business. To do this, we recommend two primary tools to help you gain clarity about the issues hindering your performance.

  1. Value Stream Map

    Creating a Value Stream Map allows you to analyse your end-to-end enterprise or a specific product or service line. This map provides a visual picture of the workflow used to design, develop, and deliver your product or service. A lean management principle, a Value Stream Map is a highly effective tool that allows you to see the vital steps involved in delivering value for your customers and creates an accurate picture of how things are currently done. It shines a light on where significant opportunities for improvement lie.

  2. Business Process Map

    Whilst a Value Stream Map will give you a macro-level view of your organisation, a Business Process Map enables you to engage your teams in drilling deeper into improvement opportunities to study them more closely. Here you define the process flow, who does what, what standards are in place and what is happening at the process level. A Business Process Map provides a blank canvas for teams to redesign how things should be done to improve future performance.

The Pathway from Current to Desired State

Every person and, by extension, organisation have two states of being. The first is your current state, where you are right now. The other is your desired state, where you’d like to be.

To begin the journey from where you are to where you want to be, there are several key steps you will need to take.

  1. Clearly define the current state of your performance and the future state of performance you aspire to reach.
  2. Engage the team in reviewing the current and desired states and agree on what can be done to bridge the gap.
  3. Build an improvement roadmap. Include the whole team in this process to ensure their buy-in and agreement on their responsibilities for implementing the change process.
  4. Encourage and reward those who resolve performance issues and engage in continuous improvement activities.
  5. Champion a continuous improvement culture by having leaders actively leading change and improvement – not demanding it from others. “Model the way”.

The Next Step

If you are unhappy with your organisation’s current state and desire more, start by looking at the culture and ensuring alignment between your vision and your people’s actions.

Ross Sterland is a Director and Co-Founder of ORBIZ. Industry leaders, ORBIZ, work globally with organisations seeking to build continuous improvement cultures and create new levels of productivity and performance to achieve operational excellence.

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