In business processing terms, a bottleneck is a point of congestion in a system that occurs when workloads arrive at a given point more quickly than that point can handle them. The inefficiencies brought about by the bottleneck often create a queue (holding pattern) and what is known as a longer cycle time. The term bottleneck refers to the shape of a bottle and the fact that the bottle's neck is the narrowest point, and thus the most likely place for congestion to occur, slowing down the flow of liquid from the bottle.
It’s likely that each one of us has experienced bottlenecks in the form of traffic congestion, long lines at the grocery store, extended telephone hold times or waiting for a product to arrive from an online shipping service. In the business world, the term is used to describe points of congestion in everything from poorly executed meetings, chaotic calendars, poor communication delivery, digital clutter and jammed email inbox's.
The 5 Whys is a simple problem-solving technique that helps you uncover the root of a problem quickly. Made popular in the 1970s by the Toyota Production System, the 5 Whys strategy involves looking at any problem and asking: "Why?" and "What caused this problem?"
Very often, the answer to the first "why" will prompt another "why" and the answer to the second "why" will prompt another and so on; hence the name the 5 Whys strategy.
The beauty of this approach is that it can assist you to quickly determine the root cause of a problem and it's simple to learn as well as apply. Take note that the more complex things become you may need to use a more sophisticated problem solving approach
Begin with the end result (i.e., the "problem") and work backward (toward the root cause), continually asking: "Why?"
For example, suppose you have a less than satisfied client who expressed frustration with the timely delivery of your services. Using the 5 Why's to target the cause of the problem might look like this:
During a process improvement initiative; after you have targeted a process you would like to improve and have created a current map for that process, it will be time to examine the map for challenges, problems and opportunities for improvement!
Below are 5 Questions that will guide you as you examine each individual component of the current state map; ask yourself (or your team):
Each time you answer "yes" to any of the questions for any step in your process, take a post it note or a highlighter and "flag" that area. Why? Because you have just identified an area a perfect opportunity for improvement!
If you have not yet targeted a potential area for improvement, take 20 minutes and target a process you find yourself involved in on a daily basis; email, (as usual) keeps coming to mind. Create a current map. Then use the 5 questions above to examine the process a bit more closely and begin to look at how you can improve that particular part of the process.