OpEx Solutions

'There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently
that which should not be done at all'.

—Peter F. Drucker.




Bottleneck Strangulation
Moving the Needle Backwards

by Martin Nazareth, OpEx Solutions
and Rex Draman, Ph.D., OpEx Solutions


When you are on the brink of bankruptcy, the launch of a grandiose program to overcome the predicament only delays the inevitable. 

We have seen several organizations launch Lean, Six Sigma, and other programs when they are struggling to survive. While the success in sustaining these types of programs has been low, what is even worse, is that they tend to overburden the already overburdened part of the organization — the bottleneck or constraint.

An actual example we have encountered is the launch of a 5S program in operations struggling for survival. They were told that 5S is fundamental to Lean implementation and would help improve their situation. Many areas of the organization began conducting workshops, kaizens, etc. … and getting more organized while a few areas did not. The audit scores were posted and those with the lowest scores were chastised. What they failed to realize was that the non-bottleneck areas had time to get engaged in the program and improve, while the bottleneck areas did not. This pressure choked the bottleneck further. People in the bottleneck areas either left due to the high pressure or were let go. Change in personnel in the bottleneck areas further choked the bottleneck and, in turn, the organization to the point of strangulation and bankruptcy.

We also noticed a similar situation in program management. A 24-month program was at the final stages of validation and verification to launch hi-volume production. The team was working extremely hard to be on time and within budget with no quality hiccups. The plant manager, who had recently come from another organization, indicated that his previous organization had about a hundred-point checklist tied to several standard forms that enabled them to achieve flawless launches. The operations manager jumped on the opportunity to start copying the same program as the plant manager’s previous organization. Again, the engineers, struggling to complete the scheduled tasks, were asked to implement the new forms — further burdening the overburdened.

These types of actions have led several organizations to bankruptcy despite their winning several prestigious operational excellence awards.

What, then, is the answer to an organization that is already struggling? Our experience indicates solving problems at the bottleneck areas – reduce the burden rather than to strangle them. A well suited, commonly used approach is to apply the principles of Theory of Constraints (TOC) to identify and alleviate bottlenecks continuously. This approach helps organizations move from a vicious downward spiral to a success cycle. Compared to launching new programs that strangle the bottleneck, TOC focuses on leveraging the bottlenecks. Unfortunately, most organizations have neither the skills nor mindset to apply TOC and will need to work under the guidance of a coach. According to TOC expert, Dr. Rex Draman, all it takes is an introductory training and a couple of days a month of coaching to start moving the needle forward.

Leader Training Week

Time for Strategic Reflection

Finding time to think about your organization and its problems and opportunities, current state and future growth, and what it is that makes your company different from others is difficult at best and non-existent at the worst.


Sixteen leaders from 8 organizations came together in Austin, Texas, April 13-16 for Leader Training Week, a 3-session seminar over 4 days to help organizations find and define their management system, metrics and then transform their organizations from within. The main point that was hammered home was that every organization must be doing something right if they are remaining in business and that throwing out everything they do and adopting a totally new system that works for someone else is not the most prudent thing to do.

As the leaders studied their management system history and put to paper what they actually use and what works, the gaps quickly became apparent. One thing that most leaders were surprised to learn was how many good processes and systems they already had in place and how many were in place that did not add value to their organization.

The leaders then worked on how to bridge or narrow the gaps and which processes, metrics, or tools they thought might be useful in this endeavor. They then strategized on how to make the changes in their organizations and how to get buy-in from the members of the organization who will be the doers and sustain the good changes.

Many of the leaders made comments to the effect that it was well worth the time and effort expended to attend Leader Training Week and actually have the opportunity to examine their operations and reflect on the changes that need to be made and the great things their companies are already doing.​



OpEx Solutions is an organization that helps identify strategic areas for improvement and provides effective high-value, low-cost solutions, training, and project management to drive significant productivity improvement through the use of operational excellence tools and systems in most manufacturing and service industries.

With a variety of offerings to choose from, we're confident of working with your organization to find and define your own way through:

  • Executive Coaching
  • World-class Training
  • Dedicated Workshops
  • Knowledge Network
  • Project Management

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us.

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For free email business advice, send your questions, comments or ideas to mnazareth@opexsolutions.org. For issues that are of particular interest to the the community, we may publish (with your permission) your questions along with our answers on this web site.

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