Scrutinise: Constraints

Every business has certain things in the organisation that constrain growth. They may even be processes, systems or people, who have served you well up to this point. In order to grow and equip your business for scalability, you will need to scrutinise constraints.

Jeff Bezos, you could argue, knows a thing or two about growth. He said this, “I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.” So, there are positive constraints, and in fact they can promote innovation. However, the constraints I’m talking about are those limiting factors that constrain growth and limit full expression of potential.

The frustration here can be those things that consistently and continuously stop you doing what you need to do. They limit capacity. What we want here is a smooth road and ability to be able to grow consistently, without constantly having to deal with common recurring issues.

The answer is to scrutinise constraints, look at everything in the business whether it's people, processes, or whatever ceilings you may be facing, and make sure that there is capacity and capability to be able to contain and capture growth.

If you get this right, then your biggest issue will be to bring in the harvest, as you've created the capacity for growth by dealing with constraints. If you don't deal with the constraints, regardless of how valuable they may have been to you in the past, if you don't reinvent yourself and your organisation, then you will be continually battling with constraints that'll hinder and shackle you.

If you are trying to grow a large tree and you put it in a small pot, you will limit its potential. In fact, that's not quite right, the potential will still be there, it just won't be realised. Because if you removed the small pot and replanted the tree in a larger pot, then it would grow to a larger size. It is limited to the constraints you place on it.

It is no different with our organisations; scrutinise your organisation to understand your constraints and liberate its potential by swapping constraints for capacity.

The principle here is to understand what will constrain your growth and future success, and remodel, reinvent or remove those roadblocks.

Amazon was struggling with huge amounts of customer complaints and large resource is in customer service they hired a person who was a professor in mathematics to look at the data and try and come up with a solution to this constraint. It was slowing growth and using up huge resources.

She did look at the data, but she also did something else, she went and answered the phones in the customer service area for a week. So, she scrutinised the constraint. She realised that 80% of the calls she took, were customers wanting to know where their product was, and when would it arrive. Amazon took that constraint and made it a competitive advantage, bringing transparency to where peoples packages were, and when they would arrive, and created transparency in the supply chain. Something they have traded off to great success.

Here's a practical step you can take, imagine if your company sales doubled; what would break first? Is it the capability of your sales manager to manage a larger team, is it your customer service, is it your data management and IT systems, is it your supply chain management or maybe distribution?

Pressure testing your organisation in this imaginary way, may reveal to you constraints that are limiting your ability to grow. Scrutinise your organisation, your people, your processes, your potential and find those constraints. Maybe you can build them into competitive advantage like Amazon.

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