What's Your Limiting Factor?

Your consulting business has one bottleneck. Can you find it?

I've been thinking a lot about limiting factors (or bottlenecks) lately.

This is the main concept behind the Theory of Constraints (TOC), created by Eli Goldratt. I've mentioned it before here. It's one of the best methodologies to think about complex systems such as a consulting business.

TOC states that any system with a goal has one limit and worrying about anything other than that limit is a waste of resources. Here's an example.

A factory has an assembly line with three sections, with each section feeding the next. Two of those can produce 100 units per hour, while the third can only produce 50 units per hour. How many units does the line produce per hour?

If you said 50, you're right. As you might have heard before, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” The third section is the limit (or bottleneck) of the system.

While this might sound obvious, the consequences are often overlooked. Any investment outside of improving the third section won’t improve the outcome. Tripling the first two sections to produce 300 units per hour will not lead to any growth in the production of the system as a whole, and should be avoided.

See any resemblance to your consulting practice? If you don't have a clear plan to get in front of your potential clients, documenting your sales process or training your team to deliver a new offering will not lead to more business. You're ignoring the limit.

Invest in solving or unblocking that one limit, and you'll get outsized results. This is how you increase your work effectiveness in 2, 5, or even 10x. Focusing on your bottleneck is the best way to boost revenue and client impact.

Business development is a complicated process. So there's usually one limiting factor slowing you down. After you solve the first limit, go for the next. Then the next.

Here's a quick question for you: What are the most common limiting factors in business development for consultants? What have you personally experienced?

Drop me a line if you have identified your current limit. I'll present a comprehensive list (in progress) of those I identified among consulting firms tomorrow.

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