How to Tackle Inefficiency with a Big Picture View

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A bottleneck is a juncture where things could not move through due to constraints. These constraints include inadequate resource to handle the volume, errors that result in rework, delays caused by problems with specific tasks. A bottleneck is the result of an inefficient practice. Persistent inefficiency slows down the workflow and dampens productivity significantly.

While the root cause of an inefficient practice could be attributable to a single factor, it is beneficial to take a big picture view. You get a better appreciation of the problem and more importantly, you put things in perspective.

For example, a financial service company needs to have two persons involved in updating the client information in the systems. These two people work in two different functional areas. It is inefficient as it doubles the effort. The root cause is that client information resides in two systems. The two systems are not integrated; hence, the need to do the data entry twice.

In tackling the above inefficiency, taking a big picture view means three things:

  1. Note the purpose of the work—the purpose of the data entry is to save the most up-to-date client information for future use. Use includes mailing the client an investment report, validating her risk tolerance for investment, and identifying the beneficiary in the event of a claim.
  2. Determine the effects of a quick fix—a quick fix for the problem is to designate one person to do all the data entry in the two systems. The time needed for the task won’t change a lot but you reduce the number of people involved by one. As the volume increases, the demand on the effort increases.
  3. Identify a pragmatic ideal solution—for the company, the client information needs to be stored centrally, all in one place. Having two systems is not optimal. There are different ways to reach the ideal solution. You could integrate the two systems, or to export data from the two systems into a database, or to replace the two systems with one. In the long run, replacing the two systems with one makes most sense. With respect to practicality, the cost might be a factor.

Thinking through the above three things helps to put perspective in how you would tackle the issue. You still need to weigh the pros and cons of the options. For the immediate need, you know what could be done. In the long run, the big picture view allows you establish a framework which you could refer to when the timing is right for the pragmatic ideal solution.

When you consolidate the pragmatic ideal solutions for different business issues, it is like putting a big puzzle together. You see the overlaps and opportunities where you could integrate the ideal solutions to reach a holistic model that is effective for the business. You gain incremental improvement from tackling the issue as a standalone, but you make a big leap when you incorporate a big picture view.


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