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Removing Constraints in Your Business

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Perhaps the most important job of a business owner and leader is to develop their peoples’ strengths. But, our Business Machine shows us we need to have full functionality in seven areas, and we can’t have weak or missing functions or the whole machine slows or stops.

First, a story –
A Scoutmaster needed to get his troop of boys to the winter camp before dark. It was a long hike and the sun was settling lower in the sky. The line of boys was stretched far out along the trail. Some boys were fast hikers, and some slower. The slowest was Archie. He straggled back a mile from the leader. The group waited for him to catch up, and got started again, but Archie soon fell back farther and farther. At this rate, the troop was in danger of getting caught in the dark.

What could the Scoutmaster do to speed up the whole group? He put Archie in front and the faster boys in the back. In this way, the whole group stayed together. But how could he speed Archie up? He lightened Archie’s pack, distributing the weight to the rest of the boys. Then he took everything out of Archie’s pack. Finally, he gave Archie extra water and food. Archie walked faster and the whole group moved faster – and stayed together. The Scoutmaster had reduced the constraint, and improved the performance of the whole troop.

What are the constraining factors in your business or team?

In another example, a baseball coach who had great hitting and fielding players but no pitching, will need a few great pitchers to make a winning team. No matter how much better the hitters and fielders get, the pitching will be his constraint.

Non-human constraints

As the owner, you need to be looking at the functional constraints in each of the gears of your business. Ask yourself, is one of the key functions performing below expectations and slowing or gumming up the entire business machine? Review the key performance indicators (KPI’s) shared in the earlier “Business as a Machine” article for each gear.

For example, is the marketing department generating enough leads? How is the Average Dollar per Lead (ADL) of your sales team? Do you have enough sales people on the team to run appointments?

Look at structural constraints as well. Do you have enough parking at your facility? Are your trucks and production equipment holding back productivity of your install crews? How about your computer system and software? Does your team have the information readily available to make good decisions?

Human constraints

You may have people on your team who are constraints. They fall into three categories:


People who are untrained and unprepared are good people, they just have not been lead well. In the absence of leadership, they may have just copied what other employees are doing to get along, or they created a survival strategy for themselves at work. Managers are not necessarily leaders, and need to be lead properly. With proper communication, expectations, training and by equipping them with what they really need, they can do much better than they are now.


Bad apples poison the well for everyone. Some are overtly bad. Some are really good at hiding their mischief and camouflaging themselves as a team player. Either way, bad apples are against their employer – for good reason, bad reason, or no reason. They must be removed.


Ring leaders are seen as leaders by groups of others in your company. If they are bitter, they can pollute the attitudes of their followers. But if they are on your side, they can be a valuable asset as natural leaders. Bring them into your leadership circle, recognize them and train them. Use their leadership ability to help you accomplish your company goals.

Do you have any of these constraints?

My company’s constraints are:
1) __________________________________________________________________________
2) __________________________________________________________________________
3) __________________________________________________________________________
4) __________________________________________________________________________
5) __________________________________________________________________________
6) __________________________________________________________________________
7) __________________________________________________________________________
8) __________________________________________________________________________

Of these, my TOP two constraints are:
1) _________________________________________________________________________
2) __________________________________________________________________________

Why are these constraints there?

Understanding why these constraints exist is part of understanding what needs to be done to remove or improve them. Check those that apply to you and your business:

____ One part of my business grew and another part needs to catch up.
____ I have allowed this to go on, and I didn’t deal with it.
____ I’m not good at this area, I don’t know what to do myself, so I let it happen.
____ I didn’t want to fire my friends, family members, or people with lots of experience.
____ We did not reinvest in the business.



Working to improve your strengths is important, but removing key constraints is like taking your foot off the brake of your business.

Now that you’ve identified what is constraining your business from achieving its goals, you must take specific, time bound action to begin to remove these limits on your business.

What do you need to do to remove constraints now? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Marc Tannenbaum

Posted In: Building Performance

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