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Don't let bottlenecks bog you down on the job

Columnist Kristen Asleson says technology and lack of human communication can lead to delays in productivity.

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Managing multiple clients can be a challenge, but with good organizational skills and a generous amount of patience, it can be done. Occasionally there are communication gaps and deadlines missed due to the lack in communication.

For anyone who works in manufacturing, assembly, or even computer networks, there are bottlenecks now and again. What is a bottleneck? It is a point of congestion in a production system (such as an assembly line) that stops or severely slows the system. These inefficiencies created by the bottleneck often creates delays and higher production costs.

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But what happens or what should you do when the bottlenecks are actually coworkers or supervisors or clients?

As an example, the story of an administrative assistant and her supervisor will suffice. As most people who work on a computer know, when one logs into software that requires passwords from a different device or location, a code is generally sent to the account owner.

Unfortunately, one never knows if two-factor authentication will come into play until it is attempted once.

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Of course, the owner of the account is never in front of their device this first time, so it requires a certain amount of coordination to make that happen. Even worse, the code usually expires within a ridiculously short amount of time. In the first place, the person needing the code often feels like a pest just to get into the account and get the work done that is required of them.

Secondly, it seems like a waste of time to ask your manager to sit around and wait for the code.

But, security, yes, understood.

Finally, since access is needed, the ask has to be made and access needs to be granted. For the woman sharing this story, getting her boss to sit in front of her device to share the code has been ongoing for nearly a week, and getting a few minutes of time together has been either avoided, ignored, or not considered important.

Most people do not want to be in the way of others trying to get their work done, so chances are they are innocently oblivious that they are the human bottleneck in a process. On a positive note, it is much easier to fix a human bottleneck than a mechanical one. After all, people are in control of their own actions, and if that means more communication is needed to widen the bottleneck, then it is worth it to start the work moving forward again.

There are a few helpful tips in preventing and avoiding human bottlenecks, according to Alina Vrabie:

  • Clarify expectations: Be sure it is understood what is expected of you and what you expect from others. Clear communications of expectations can help prioritize work in a way that no one will impede the progress of others. If there are deadlines that must be met, that must be shared.
  • Communicate early and often: Do not wait for the last minute to request the assistance you need from the other person. As mentioned above, the other person is rarely available and ready when you are.
  • Share information: Nowadays, sharing information with one another is incredibly easy. There is no excuse for not sharing – “lost in the mail” is no longer a valid excuse. Granted, some items do end up in the worldwide web to be lost forever, or someone did not hit send – take your pick.

Lastly, review workflow processes often, and if there are suggestions for improvement, talk about them. Talking about and improving is the only way of alleviating bottlenecks within teams.

Kristen Asleson is owner of Midwest Virtual Assistants. Send comments and ideas to news@postbulletin.com .

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