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Harry Hertz

Quality Insider

The Simple Bottle

Who or what’s corked your flow?

Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 10:53

I always take away gems of wisdom from the Baldrige Program’s annual Quest for Excellence conference. This year was no exception. The gem I will share today comes from Choe Peng Sum, the CEO of Frasers Hospitality Pte. Ltd. in Singapore. He spoke at the international plenary session that we hosted on Monday afternoon of the conference featuring speakers whose organizations had received their national quality awards.

Sum’s point that “Bottlenecks are always at the top of the bottle” has stuck with me because of its clear imagery and its frequent truth when it comes to organizations.

Although organizational bottlenecks are not always at the top, I can think of many examples that illustrate the point. I have found the statement to be particularly true in cases where the founder of a small organization also serves as the CEO, especially as the organization grows beyond being defined as small. But the syndrome is not limited to small organizations: Consider some school systems, or corporations with a particularly powerful board, or some corporations where individual or family stockholders hold a controlling interest.

What consequences could those responsible for bottlenecks consciously or subconsciously inflict on an organization? These might include an inability to commit resources; lack of employee empowerment so they can engage and satisfy customers or manage their complaints; unilateral strategic planning and ignoring valuable input from employees and customers; inadequate consideration of outside contributors such as key suppliers and partners; and stifling innovation other than the senior leader’s ideas.

Do you see signs of any of these circumstances or other bottlenecks in your organization? How do you avoid them?

Consider implementing a systems framework like the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, and start by studying the questions in Leadership (Category 1).

This column first appeared May 21, 2013, on Blogrige. Reprinted with permission from the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, Gaithersburg, MD.

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About The Author

Harry Hertz’s picture

Harry Hertz

Harry Hertz retired in June 2013 from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), where he had served as director of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program since 1995. For more than 15 years he was the primary architect of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, responsible for expansion of the Baldrige Program and Award to healthcare, education, and nonprofits, including government. Hertz serves on the advisory group for VHA’s Center for Applied Healthcare Studies, and on the adjunct faculty of American University. He has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, and a Ph.D. from M.I.T.