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Eye of the needle? Why worry over your bottlenecks.

Think for a minute whether there is any process or person that could be classed as the eye of the needle in your organization.  Is there anything,  process or person, that stalls the flow of work from start to finish?

A CEO once told me that she was ‘the eye of the needle’ in her organization, purposely controlling quality of service and making sure all of her direct reports let her know of each A businessman trapped inside a bottle trying to crawl out through the neck with his partner pulling on the cork from the outside

decision and action they undertook.  Her intentions were pure and admirable. She wanted only the highest quality for her organizational reputation.

But the unintentional effect was that she inserted herself into every process as the bottleneck that actually defeated her goal of making her organization a model of efficiency and quality.  Such behavior removes individual incentive to innovate, and lessens the chance that her direct reports will grow through learning to manage and in turn delegate effectively.

[Email readers, continue here…]  Sure, you should worry over quality and speed of service.  And sure, you should worry over bottlenecks that reduce the speed of completion of the total task.  But the worst way to do that is to micromanage, to become the bottleneck in the process, to discourage individual creative thinking by others.

It is a fine line for young or first time CEOs to walk.   Removing bottlenecks is one of the more important tasks for a senior manager.  But never should that happen at the expense of creating just such a bottleneck in the process by being one.

  • Michael O'Daniel

    I think a two-tiered approach is called for here.

    1. Once processes have been put in place, and they work, and you have people you have faith in executing them, stay out of the way and let them do their jobs. But also set some rules up front as to when they should involve you, get your signoff, whatever, if unusual circumstances present themselves.

    2. When launching a new product or a new process, then the CEO should be more involved — not to the extent of micromanaging, but in agreeing as to what steps, if any, require his/her approval. Anything involved with messaging or branding, whether to customers, the media, or the public, I believe the CEO ought to have final approval, and commit to giving that in a timely manner. My policy always was that even if the CEO said, no, s/he didn’t need to see something in the latter area before it went out, I made sure to run it by him/her anyway. That way there were no surprises.

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