Boost Your Performance by Finding a Bottleneck

When you identify the choke points in your most important deliverables, you can eliminate bottlenecks and boost your productivity.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #354

Boost Your Performance by Finding a BottleneckBottlenecks! I just love bottlenecks... No, I don't. I hate bottlenecks. But they're a fact of life, just like cat pictures and Kim Kardashian, so life gets better when we learn to deal with them.

First, let's get clear on what a bottleneck is. It's not a species of tropical bird. Any system, like a person, or a company, or a computer program, is made up of lots of parts. Those parts all work at different speeds. But at any given moment, there's one part that is maxed out. It's called the bottleneck. It's working as hard as it can, and the rest of the system is oriented around it.

I've never been on the Autobahn, but I've heard stories about this highway in Germany with no speed limit, where even light can go as fast as it wants. On the Autobahn, you don't just put the pedal to the metal, you put the pedal through the metal (being careful not to cut your foot on the torn pieces of metal, of course).


AutobahnWhen you are driving on the Autobahn, the bottleneck is the accelerator. Your car is built so that all that power, all those moving parts, and all that energy funnels down to ... your foot on the accelerator. That makes it the car's bottleneck.

The bottleneck can change depending on circumstances. On the Autobahn, the accelerator is your bottleneck. On a freeway, the posted speed limit is the bottleneck; drive too fast and you'll be stopped by the police. On a dirt road, the road quality is a bottleneck; drive too fast and your wheels will fall off.

Now here's the cool thing about bottlenecks: if you want to change how fast a system operates, starting with the bottlenecks is your highest-leverage place to start.

You Have Bottlenecks Everywhere

Bottlenecks are everywhere in your life. They have to be. Bernice is pulling together the finances for her two Green Growing Things plant stores. She's impatiently waiting for Melvin and Europa to get her the numbers. From Bernice's point of view, assembling the numbers is the bottleneck. She can tweak the bottleneck by finding ways to assemble the numbers that don't involve waiting for Melvin and Europa.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.