Blog:Overcoming the Bottleneck

I read an article recently stating that the McKinsey and Company consulting firm reported that, in 2022, 70% of digital transformation efforts fail. Another article stated that the same firm reported in the 1990s that 70% of all change management efforts fail. I then struggled with understanding the difference between “digital transformation” and “application modernization.” I was more confused when I read an article that stated the terms “digital transformation” and “application modernization” were interchangeable. One article stated that “digital transformation” had to include “effective change management” and a “digital-first culture.” Since 70% of all change management efforts have failed since the 90s, and I could not figure out exactly what a “digital-first culture” was, I ignored that article.


Each article I read had one thing in common: a focus on some type of technology implementation. All the articles used the terms interchangeably, so they appeared to be different terms for the same basic objectives or goals. Streamlined processes, enhanced efficiencies, and automation which result in better customer and employee experience. During my time in manufacturing, we utilized a methodology to achieve the same goals called the “Theory of Constraints,” achieving a very high success rate. This was more commonly referred to on the plant floor as a “bottleneck.”


BottleNeck

It is very simple in its approach where you look at the entire system as a whole and find the weakest link (the “bottleneck”) in the front-to-end process. My focus was not on automation or technology as much as identifying the most limiting factor and improving that constraint. Then I’d move onto the new highest limiting factor so that we could get more throughput to the dock and loaded onto the waiting trucks.


The process had Five Focusing Steps and was very effective:

  1. Identify the Constraint (bottleneck)
  2. Exploit the Constraint (improvement)
  3. Subordinate the Constraint (review all other systems in the process workflow)
  4. Eliminate the Constraint (process change and/or technology)
  5. Repeat (Once resolved, look for the next in line)

As with many of my blogs, the topics are usually a result of some recent experience, and this one is no different.


My wife and I just got back from a cruise. We were able to do all our pre-boarding activities online, including printing our luggage tags, entering our credit card numbers for payment for the cruise and every item we purchased on the ship, entering our passport information, and even uploading a picture of ourselves for an RFID (radio frequency identification technology) fob. They stated that the picture and a unique code was the only thing stored on the fob. I hope that is correct, as my security anxiety levels were high enough as is. So putting that aside, I entered all my data to streamline my boarding experience.


LuggagePeople

The luggage part worked well. We simply dropped our bags on a cart as we departed our taxi and then went directly to the security screening in a fairly short time. I was feeling good as I had completed the “streamlined” process with my digital information, so the next step shouldn’t have been a problem. An hour later, we were still waiting in the boarding line to get to the check-in counter. I asked if there was only one line or if there was a separate line for people who entered their information online for the “streamlined boarding” experience. To my dismay, there was only one line—unless you booked a full-suite stateroom. Then you received priority booking, which was a very short line whether you completed your online entry or not.


Why did I enter our information online if they put us in the same line as people who did not pre-enter their information? Technology certainly did not improve my customer experience, as the “bottleneck” was not addressed with a simple process change in the form of a separate line for those who completed the online application.


Clearly, with the 70% failure for rate of change and digital transformation since the 90s, we need to look at the actual underlying problem and not simply focus on the technology. Could it be that we instinctively resist change of any type and continue to protect the status quo? Or have we become a society that instinctively goes for the elusive “easy button” answer: “We need new technology.” The cruise focus was certainly not on the boarding process, but rather on the ease of purchasing additional products and services while aboard the ship. Maybe a look at the process from the boarding of the ship to the eventual disembarkation should have been the focus.


As we move into the future, I appreciate your efforts to provide quality services to the State and the Citizens of Nebraska!

Ed