I am a reformed engineer.

You may not know this, but I trained as an electronics engineer, and “did a bit of engineering” a few (ahem!) years ago. The thing about engineering, or any technical discipline perhaps, is that you learn technical things that you want to apply to real life, and they never quite leave you.

I recently re-read The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Jeff Cox, and David Whitford, a novel about love, life and the theory of constraints! I highlighted this fab paragraph:

First, make sure the bottlenecks’ time is not wasted,” he says. “How is the time of a bottleneck wasted? One way is for it to be sitting idle during a lunch break. Another is for it to be processing parts which are already defective—or which will become defective through a careless worker or poor process control. A third way to waste a bottleneck’s time is to make it work on parts you don’t need.

These guys are talking about a manufacturing plant, where physical things are moved around a physical space and “processed” into more valuable things that can be sold. Imagine all the “things” that go into making your Tesla Model 3 – each thing needs to be in the right place, at the right time, moving smoothly through the factory.  People can see the “things”, touch them, move them, transform them, to ultimately sell them. Waste occurs when the “things” don’t move smoothly through the system and cause bottlenecks. Waste causes less profit.

As a consultant, coach, speaker, thought leader-y type person many of the “things” you are “processing” are invisible (until you make them visible). Your processes include plenty of thinking, reading, synthesising, talking, listening, simplifying complexity, and finally creating things that other people can buy (courses, books, speeches, models, frameworks…)

My client, Ann Latham says, If we brought the same attention to cognitive processes as we have to physical processes, we would realize the same kind of gains.

If you find yourself a bit stuck getting to the final bit of your process – creating stuff other people can buy – you might find that you’re the bottleneck in your own process.

So, are you the bottleneck in your business?

1. Sitting idle or thinking? 
There’s a lot to be said for chillaxing and taking time off from “thinking”. Try sitting idle during your lunch break, daydreaming or imagining a covid-free future, instead of reading another business book or report.

My client, Dr Martina Muttke, in her book, Build Better Brains – A Leader’s Journey to the World of Neuroscience says about mind-wandering: Think of it as a mini meditation that you can practice everyday, without adding yet another task. It’s called mind wandering, or as your mother might have called it, daydreaming.

2. Processing parts that are already defective? Deciding when to quit on an idea, course, book, project is always a challenge.  The Concorde Effect (sunk cost fallacy) urges us to charge onwards with ideas that may have had their day, eating up resources and energy.

3. Working on parts you don’t need or YOU don’t need to work on? The problem with us think-y type people is we always have an opinion, especially for other people’s problems. We’re also prone to doing everything ourselves, just because we can. It doesn’t mean we should!

If you want to stop being the bottleneck in your business:
1. Thinking (sometimes).
2. Concording.
3. Doing everything yourself.

1. Mind-wandering – or meditation if you’re up for it!
2. Getting & listening to feedback early on.
3. Outsourcing and trusting experts.

Debs Jenkins

PS: I’ve been working on my business over the last few months, creating better ways to help consultants and thought leaders get stuff out of their heads and into the real world. If you want a sneak peek and to try out The Asset Path Diagnostic, take a look: https://theassetpath.com/

Resources mentioned:
Get Martina’s book here: https://www.martinamuttke.com/Book
Ann’s next book, The Power of Clarity, is published in 2021 by Bloomsbury, read more about cognitive objects: https://www.uncommonclarity.com/whoa-my-mistake/


assets, business detox, consultant, outcome focus, systems thinking

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