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Bottlenecks

What is a bottleneck?

Monitoring vital signs of continuous improvement such as engagement, activity, and impact, gives leaders insight into the health of their improvement culture. Effective leaders keep an eye out for developing bottlenecks that harm those metrics in order to sustain the growth and momentum of improvement. There is nothing more toxic to the momentum, emotion, and ultimately the effectiveness of improvement work than out-of-control bottlenecks.

A bottleneck is a constraint on workflow that reduces the efficiency and capacity of that workflow. Bottlenecks in the improvement process occur when there is a delay at one step that causes a slowdown in the progression of the improvement cycle. Identifying these bottlenecks is critical at every stage of the improvement journey in order to sustain engagement, drive impact, and accelerate change.

Common bottlenecks in improvement process occur at three main points.

  1. New: When there is more than a few days delay between when opportunities for improvement are first captured and when leaders assign them for implementation, it is considered a bottleneck. 

    There is no more of an effective way for a leader to say they do not value their employees’ input than to let an Improvement sit in the New status for extended periods of time. It’s like sitting a suggestion box out on your desk, letting employees fill it up, and then putting it in a storage closet.

  2. Overdue: Whenever an Improvement is overdue by more than a few days, it is considered a bottleneck. Letting Improvements sit in the Overdue status for extended periods of time signals that improvement is not a priority, and that people are not expected to complete their improvements on time.

    In addition, as this bottleneck triggers smart notifications, the longer it is overdue the more escalations of that notification typically take place. Leaving Improvements in Overdue status, therefore, makes people numb to those notices and makes KaiNexus a less effective continuous improvement platform as a whole. 

  3. Resolution Submitted: When employees have submitted their Resolution for approval, the Improvement changes to the Resolution Submitted status. Failing to respond to submitted Resolutions  for extended periods of time signals that the Improvement work was not that important in the first place, and decreases future engagement.
     

KaiNexus makes it easy to identify when and where these bottlenecks occur so that you can catch and remedy them right away before they reduce engagement and impact. KaiNexus hones the right leadership and coaching habits to promote a culture of continuous improvement.

There are a number of ways KaiNexus helps do this by its default behavior, but there are numerous reports and other configurations that can be used to make the system even more powerful when identifying and addressing bottlenecks.

 

Types of bottlenecks defined

How can New Improvements become a bottleneck?

When someone submits an Improvement in KaiNexus, it retains the New status until a leader reviews and assigns it to someone. A bottleneck occurs when leaders fail to promptly assign new Improvements.

If Improvements are getting hung up in the New status, you risk slowing down your improvement work, decreasing engagement, and ultimately damaging your improvement culture by sending the message that leaders are not listening to the voice of the people within the organization.

Best Practice: Improvements should not go unresponded to for more than 24-48 hours.

The lag here may be the result of many things, including:

  1. Leaders are not engaged in improvement.

  2. Leaders do not prioritize improvement.

  3. Leaders are uninformed regarding the importance of assigning improvements.

  4. Leaders need additional training in how to assign improvements.

  5. Leaders are not assigning improvements as they come in - rather, they wait until scheduled times to assign them all at once.

 

How do I respond to this bottleneck?

Coach leaders to promptly assign new Improvements so that nothing gets delayed longer than absolutely necessary. That first 24-48 hour period is critical to maintaining momentum and enthusiasm for each improvement. By quickly getting the ball rolling on an Improvement, you ensure that your employees remain engaged.

 

Why are Overdue Improvements a problem?

After a leader assigns an Improvement, it is considered Active. If the due date passes and the improvement has not been resolved, it becomes Overdue. At that point, leaders need to assess why progress is not being made. Has the Responsible person forgotten about this Improvement? Was the due date unreasonable? Are external circumstances preventing implementation?

If your Improvements are consistently overdue, you risk sending the message that people are not accountable for their work, which might make people think that their improvements are not considered important. By insisting that all improvements are completed on time, people will understand that improvement is a priority, that they are accountable for making improvements, and that you value their contributions.

 

How do I fix this bottleneck?

Depending on the underlying cause, there are several approaches to treating this bottleneck that we’d recommend.

  • If there’s a pattern of the Responsible people not implementing Improvements, despite having plenty of time, resources, and support, they may need coaching on the importance and goals of continuous improvement. If they understand the purpose of this kind of work, they’ll be more motivated to see their assignments through to their completion.

  • If instead, the cause seems to be unreasonable or unrealistic expectations for how quickly Improvements should be completed, your coaching should be targeted towards leaders in the organization. You’ll want to make sure they understand how to accurately approximate the amount of team needed for their employees to implement Improvements

  • Another issue could be that leaders aren’t supporting people with resources or giving them the time and opportunity to work on improvement.

 

Improvements that haven’t been updated lately can be considered a bottleneck

A "Last Updated" date is displayed on every Improvement in KaiNexus. This date lets you know when work was last done on the Improvement. A bottleneck occurs when too much time passes without the Improvement being updated. If the Last Updated date was too long ago, leaders might want to check that work is still continuing on the Improvement outside of KaiNexus.

If Improvements are going too long without updates, you may have a problem of disengagement - your employees may be losing interest in their Improvement work. You’ll want to get people re-engaged so that your improvement culture can continue to thrive.

Best Practice: An Improvement should not go more than 30 days without an update. An Improvement that has gone more than a month without an update may need to be moved to the deferred status.

 

How do I respond to this bottleneck?

Depending on the underlying cause, there are two approaches to treating this bottleneck:

  • As with overdue items, Improvements may not have been updated lately because the Responsible Person has stopped working on it. If that’s the case, the Responsible Person needs some extra coaching to get the ball rolling again.

  • If Improvements are not being updated despite work continuing on them in the workplace, you should consider coaching your employees on the importance of logging their work in KaiNexus. By recording each step in the process in a central location, you can ensure that information is not lost and that everyone is kept informed. You’ll also be creating a knowledge repository where people throughout the organization can look to see what was done, when, and why.

 

The easiest bottleneck to address is the Resolution Submitted Status.

After an Improvement’s Resolution has been submitted, but before it has been approved by the Assigned By, its status is Resolution Submitted. At that point, work is no longer being done on the Improvement, but the changes made have not been accepted and the impact of those changes not recorded.

If your Improvements are getting caught in the Resolution Submitted status, you aren’t capturing the value of those Improvements, which could demoralize your staff.

 

How do I respond to this bottleneck?

Coach leaders to promptly respond to submitted Resolutions - either by accepting or declining them - so that nothing gets lost in the system. Make sure they understand that by completing Improvements, they’re ensuring that a record is kept of which changes were made and how those changes affected the organization.

 

How do I know if there’s an Improvement bottleneck?

There are three main ways KaiNexus tells you if there is bottleneck - Reports, the Status Bar, and filters - but there are numerous reports and other configurations that can be used to make the system even more powerful to identify and address bottlenecks.

 

Reports:

The Statuses Report - Displays the statuses of all Improvements created each month.

 

improvement_statuses.jpg

 

Look for outstanding New, Overdue, and Resolution Submitted Improvements from previous months.

Click any of the colored blocks to open a list of all Improvements from that month that currently have that status.

 

Status Bar

The Snapshot status bar - Displays the statuses of all Improvements submitted in the selected time period


Snapshot.jpg

Look for a large number of New, Overdue, and Resolution Submitted Improvements.

Click any of the colored blocks to open a list of all Improvements submitted in that time period that currently have that status.

 

Bottlenecks Filter

Develop a custom list - Filter a list of Improvements to include only Improvements which are caught in a bottleneck.

Bottlenecks_filter.jpg

Open the "Specialized" filter options and open the “Bottleneck” drop-down menu. Choose any combination of bottlenecks; Improvements that meet any of those requirements will be returned.

You’ll be asked to specify a time frame. For example, if you choose “New” and “More than 3 days,” you’ll see only new Improvements that were created more than three days ago.

Develop a Card - Create a new Improvement list Card on one of your Boards so that you can quickly check for Improvements caught in a bottleneck whenever you log in. You can follow the same steps as just described to add a bottleneck filter to your Card.

 

Types of Project Bottlenecks Defined

New Projects

When someone submits a Project in KaiNexus, it retains the “New” status until its Facilitator(s) gives it a start date and the start date is reached. A bottleneck occurs when leaders fail to promptly begin planning new Projects.

If Projects are getting hung up in the New status, you risk slowing down your improvement work, decreasing engagement, and ultimately damaging your improvement culture.

 

How do I respond to this bottleneck?

We recommend coaching leaders to promptly give new Projects a start date so that nothing falls through the cracks. You don’t want the idea for a Project to be entered into the system, but to never come to fruition. By setting a start date, you ensure that work will begin on it at a set date to keep the ball rolling.

 

Overdue Projects

After a Project reaches its start date, it becomes Active; if the end date passes and it is not closed, it becomes Overdue.

By allowing a Project to become overdue, leaders are setting a poor example for their employees. They’re sending the message that they don’t prioritize improvement work enough to keep the end date updated or report that the Project is, in fact, completed. If employees think their leaders don’t care, why would they?

 

How do I respond to this bottleneck?

Coach leaders to close Projects as soon as they reach their end date to demonstrate their involvement in improvement work for their employees.

 

Not Updated Projects

A "Last Updated" date is displayed on every Project in KaiNexus. This date lets you know when changes were last made to the Project. If the Last Updated date was too long ago, you might want to check that work is still continuing on the Project.

It’s important that you check on the Project’s progress before assuming that a distant Last Updated date is a sign of a bottleneck because this date does not necessarily reflect the work done on a nested Improvement. Only changes to the Project itself will update the Last Updated date on a Project.

 

How do I respond to this bottleneck?

If Projects are not being updated because work has stopped on them, you might consider educating the Facilitator(s) and Leader(s) on the importance and goals of continuous improvement. If they understand the motivation behind this kind of work, they’ll be more motivated to participate and to encourage others to submit and work on Improvements.

If Projects are not being updated in KaiNexus but work has not stopped on them, you might consider re-educating the Facilitator(s) and Leader(s) on the importance of using KaiNexus:

  • KaiNexus is the system of record for improvement work.

  • It helps with visual management.

  • It promotes transparency and visibility.

  • It fosters collaboration.

  • It helps the organization create a knowledge repository.

 

How do I know if there’s a Project bottleneck?

Bottleneck Filters

Develop a custom list - Filter a list of Projects to include only Projects which are caught in a bottleneck.

Bottlenecks_filter_2.jpg

Open the "Specialized" filter options and open the “Bottleneck” drop-down menu. Choose any combination of bottlenecks; Projects that meet any of those requirements will be returned.

You’ll be asked to specify a time frame. For example, if you choose “New” and “More than 3 days,” you’ll see only new Projects that were created more than three days ago.

 

Develop a Card - Create a new Project list Card on one of your Boards so that you can quickly check for Projects caught in a bottleneck whenever you log in. You can follow the same steps as just described to add a bottleneck filter to your Card.

 

 

Bottleneck Boards

A bottleneck Board is useful for understanding if there are problems or barriers in the continuous improvement cycle. It also gives insight into how engaged the leaders are across the entire organization. Mostly meant for continuous improvement leaders, this Board is set up so that you have a process to see that organizational leaders are engaged with their Improvements and Projects, as well as updating and completing projects and improvements in a timely manner.

This board has 8 cards and will use no location filters so that the improvement leader can see everything that in the organization.



How to set up the Bottleneck Board

 board_3.jpg

On the first row:

Improvements Requiring Assignment

Before work can truly begin on an Improvement, it must be assigned to a Responsible Person. This Card returns a list of all Improvements which have been sitting in the New status and waiting to be assigned for more than a week.

 

  1. Click and select “Improvement List.”

  2. Open the “Specialized” options and find the “Bottleneck” filter.

  3. Select “New” from the “Bottleneck” drop-down menu, then select “More than 7 days.” 

 

Improvements Severely Overdue
This Card returns a list of Improvements which are overdue by more than a month. The people responsible for these Improvements may need to be encouraged to continue working on them.

  1. Click and select “Improvement List.”

  2. Open the “Specialized” options and find the “Bottleneck” filter.

  3. Select “Overdue” from the “Bottleneck” drop-down menu, then select “More than 30 days.”

 

Improvements Requiring Approval
Many Improvements require the Assigner to approve the Resolution before they can be officially closed. This Card returns a list of Improvements which have been waiting for a response from the Assigner for more than a week.

 

  1. Click and select “Improvement List.”

  2. Open the “Specialized” options and find the “Bottleneck” filter.

  3. Select “Resolution Submitted” from the “Bottleneck” drop-down menu, then select “More than 7 days.”

 

Stagnant Improvements
This Card returns a list of Improvements which have not been updated in more than a month. You should make sure that work is still being done on these Improvements and remind its Team of the importance of keeping Improvement information up to date in KaiNexus.

 

  1. Click and select “Improvement List.”

  2. Open the “Specialized” options and find the “Bottleneck” filter.

  3. Select “Not Updated” from the “Bottleneck” drop-down menu, then select “More than 30 days.”

 

On the second row:

Projects Requiring Activation

This Card returns a list of Projects which have sat in the New status for more than a week. Such Projects need to be activated so that work on them can begin.

 

  1. Click and select “Project List.”

  2. Open the “Specialized” options and find the “Bottleneck” filter.

  3. Select “New” from the “Bottleneck” drop-down menu, then select “More than 7 days.”

 

Projects Severely Overdue
This Card returns a list of Projects which are overdue by more than a month. These Projects need to be closed.

 

  1. Click and select “Project List.”

  2. Open the “Specialized” options and find the “Bottleneck” filter.

  3. Select “Overdue” from the “Bottleneck” drop-down menu, then select “More than 30 days.”

 

Stagnant Projects
This Card returns a list of Projects which have not been updated in more than a month. You should make sure that work is still being done on these Projects and remind its Team of the importance of keeping Project information up to date in KaiNexus.

 

  1. Click and select “Project List.”

  2. Open the “Specialized” options and find the “Bottleneck” filter.

  3. Select “Not Updated” from the “Bottleneck” drop-down menu, then select “More than 30 days.”

 

Overdue Tasks

This Card returns a list of Tasks which are overdue. Their Assignee may need to be nudged into action so that work can continue.

 

  1. Click and select “Task List.”

  2. Find the “Status” filter and select “Overdue.”

 

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