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The Bottleneck Rules: How To Get More Done at Work, Without Working Harder.

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As featured in The Spectator magazine and The Guardian newspaper.

- 'It’s a great read' - Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking
- '[Part of] a series of wonderful short books' - Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy UK
- 'Fantastic book, relevant no matter what sector you work in' - Maria Macnamara, MBE, Founder and CEO of the international charity Smalls For All
- 'A very good book with a practical approach to Goldratt's 5 steps' - Prof Witold Łojkowski, Head of Nanostructures Laboratory, Institute of High Pressure Physics, PAS

This tiny book shares one little-known concept: there's a bottleneck hiding inside your organisation, but because you don't know where it is, it's in charge. What's it doing? It's slowing your entire team, or organisation, down.

The Bottleneck Rules shows you how to find your bottleneck, then manage it, no matter where you work.

You'll learn how to do this using real examples from a broad range of workplaces and occupations, including accountancy, retail, airports, hospitals, software development, and hotels.

It contains one Dad Joke.

It's not as funny as the author thinks, but you'll find it surprisingly useful.

- - -

If you don't know where your bottleneck is, scroll up, BUY the book, and READ it this evening.

Within a week, your workplace will have sped up, and calmed down. You will be in charge of your bottleneck, not the other way around.

77 pages, Kindle Edition

Published June 5, 2018

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About the author

Clarke Ching

6 books23 followers

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5 stars
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139 (39%)
3 stars
53 (14%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 60 reviews
Profile Image for Martin.
22 reviews16 followers
June 2, 2018
Old school deep Lean/Agile geeks will be tempted to brush over this. There’s no new concepts in it and really it’s just Goldratt’s 5 focusing steps boiled down with less than a handful of anecdotes to illustrate. You can read it over a single meal or short hop flight.

But that’s its genius. It’s JUST ENOUGH anecdote to strongly convey the ToC heart in an actionable way to its actual target audience: wildly over stretched business leaders with demand far over their capacity.

And deep dyed Lean Agile folks? You can learn something important too: how to focus your message on the wildly important for leaders so that it is understood and used.
Profile Image for Victor.
41 reviews8 followers
January 25, 2019
Great little book on identifying and removing bottlenecks. It's a good introduction into Eliyahu M. Goldratt's Theory of Constraints (TOC) and the 5 focusing steps. The goal of the book is to present the 5 focusing steps (rebranded as FOCCCUS in this book) so that anyone can understand them. I think the book achieves this goal through a handful of examples and anecdotes.
March 17, 2019
สั้น กระชับ เหมาะสำหรับผู้บริหารระดับกลางมือใหม่ที่ยังไม่ค่อยเข้าใจแนวคิดเรื่องปัญหาคอขวด

เล่มนี้ถือว่าทำได้ดีเลย เพราะนอกจากจะมีตัวอย่างที่เห็นภาพชัดแล้ว เนื้อหายังค่อนข้างกระชับเหมาะสำหรับคนที่ไม่ค่อยมีเวลา ส่วนใครสนใจรายละเอียดก็ค่อยไปหาอ่านเพิ่ม เป็นเล่ม 101 ว่าด้วยการเพิ่มประสิทธิภาพของการทำงานในองค์กร
Profile Image for Mahmoud Ghoz.
350 reviews21 followers
December 13, 2021
The book is amazing and simple. To the point and you will understand theory of constraints in a simple way with stories and examples.
Profile Image for Bjoern Rochel.
365 reviews66 followers
December 24, 2019
A fairly quick read explaining basic Theory of Constraints concepts such as bottlenecks and the 5FS but in a much more accessible way using anecdotes from the non manufacturing world. If you haven’t read anything from Goldratt yet, you should give this one a shot.
Profile Image for Denis Vasilev.
616 reviews87 followers
February 2, 2020
Короткая и понятная книга по применению Теории ограничений в реальной работе, в том числе разработке ПО. Можно рекомендовать для ознакомления с темой интересующимся менеджерам
78 reviews
October 7, 2022
An interesting analysis of bottlenecks at work.
Profile Image for Jack Vinson.
707 reviews34 followers
June 15, 2018
From my blog: https://www.jackvinson.com/blog/2018/...

Clarke Ching has created a new book to try to help people understand what is blocking their work (or life?). The Bottleneck Rules: How to Get More Done (When Working Harder isn't Working) is a quick read and got me thinking more about how I talk about this topic with people. [Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book. And I consider Clarke a friend.]

The book is intended to be a fast read to introduce people to the concept, share a number of examples, and get them thinking. It certainly got me going. And for people who know Theory of Constraints (and The Goal in particular), Clarke pays homage while trying to simplify the language for people who aren't managing factories or big companies. He uses un-complicated examples, drawn from his experience and that of others to drive his points home.

In short, bottlenecks are anything (people, machines, rooms, computers, services) that slows down your work. Or any step in a sequence where the demand is greater than the ability to finish the work in the desired time. When there is a (growing) queue, it's a sure sign of a bottleneck. On the other hand, just being always "busy" doesn't mean that is where the bottleneck is. In fact, a bottleneck may only be temporary, like a (popular) restaurant's tables during the lunch rush.

Whether we think there is a bottleneck or not, they MUST exist in any situation where there are multiple steps involved. If we don't know where the bottleneck is (it's one of Clarke's "hidden" bottlenecks), then we often take actions that appear to be the right thing to do but don't ever seem to create the desired effect: getting more of what we want out the other end. When the bottlenecks are exposed ("tamed"), then we can get to make choices about the best ways to operate with that knowledge. Clarke identifies several types of bottlenecks that might cause us to think about the bottleneck in different ways, but it is still the limiting factor.

The book's title is intentionally punny (as is Clarke in general). A bottleneck rules the ability of the system to create its output (widgets, reports, airport landings, etc). And if we don't know where it is, it will rule us anyway. When we know where it is, we can create simple, powerful rules so that we can rule our destiny.

Clarke also re-phrases the classic Theory of Constraints "Five Focusing Steps" into an acronym that might be slightly easier to remember: FOCCCUS:
* Find the bottleneck. This can be powerful all by itself, particularly when people are "always busy" but nothing ever seems to improve.
* Optimize it. Once you know where the bottleneck sits, you can check to make sure it is operating as best it can. But even if it is "optimized" the next steps can really make it sing.
* Coordinate, Collaborate, Curate everywhere else. There is a lot packed into these three words, but the general idea is that all the other steps in the operation MUST work to the pace of the bottleneck - or they must work to find ways to enable that bottleneck to work more effectively: don't waste time at the bottleneck. There is a lot of power in really thinking through how everyone else can support - finding ways to open up the bottleneck is the only way to generate more in the entire system.
* Upgrade the bottleneck. Once the work is flowing the way it should and you STILL need more capacity, then consider buying another or hiring. This is a reminder that it does not make sense to spend a lot of money on automation or new equipment or new hires before ensuring that the work flow makes sense first. ("Automating bad processes, just gives you faster bad results.")
* Start over (Strategically). The bottleneck might move - you might open up one step in a flow that and the bottleneck moves elsewhere. In that case, find the new location and have at it again. I love the addition of Strategically here, because it offers the opportunity to think differently about how we want the system to behave. Is the current bottleneck where we think it should be? (Should a hotel's breakfast room capacity prevent it from selling more beds?)
Profile Image for Vitor Kneipp.
22 reviews2 followers
December 19, 2019
An operations improvement book for laymen.

Insights included:

1. Every sequence of tasks forms a process which can be improved.
2. The bottleneck is the resource that can’t keep up with the demand, so a queue (build up) forms in front of it.
3. The system throughput is limited by the bottleneck throughput. Thus, to improve a system you must act on the bottleneck.
4. Use the FOCCCUS framework to do that. Essentially, work both directly on the bottleneck (Find, Optimise and Upgrade), and on how non-bottlenecks can help the bottleneck (CCC)
1. Find. You can spot the bottleneck by the pile of things piling up right before it (the ‘waiting room’). The step which waiting room has the most items waiting to be processed, that’s where the bottleneck is.
2. Optimise. “Squeeze more work out of it” Analyse the bottleneck in isolation. Ask what is the ‘bottleneck inside the bottleneck’? Can you make anything different to save time?
3. Coordinate. How can the non-bottlenecks help the bottleneck? You may want to introduce some rules, or adjust non-bottlenecks so that a queue (build up) doesn’t form on the bottleneck.
4. Collaborate. Reallocate work. It works better with people. How can non-bottleneck people do some of the work of the bottleneck people?
5. Curate. “Prioritise work that is relevant”. Reduce demand on the bottleneck by filtering out less important stuff to work on. Only work on stuff that are relatively more important.
6. Upgrade. Once you reduced the impact of the bottleneck by re-thinking your system around it, consider upgrading the bottleneck resource. A new machine, perhaps? If you did all the above, you collected improvements. The steps above “cleared the way” for you to extract the most benefit from upgrading.
7. Start again (strategically). Repeat the process. Improvement is continuous. This is management!
5. Your most valuable resource in the system should be the bottleneck. You want a hotel’s bottleneck to be guest rooms, not toasters; a surgeon’s bottleneck to be her own availability, not room for prep.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Toni Tassani.
165 reviews11 followers
January 25, 2020
Very short book explaining Theory of Constraint from a very practical view, with a strong focus on knowledge work (software in particular), even though the content can be applied in all kind of scenarios.
Suggests the FOCCCUS formula as the way to overcome the bottlenecks, instead of the original 5 focusing steps described in the Goal: Find, Optimise, Coordinate, Collaborate, Curate, Upgrade, and Start again (strategically).
The author suggests that his book, being short, is more likely to be read and used than the original The Goal, and will help spreading the use of Theory of Constraints. He's probably right.
908 reviews36 followers
March 28, 2021
This is the "Cliff's Notes" for a book called "The Goal" by Eli Goldratt introducing his Theory of Constraints, and specifically about identifying and fixing bottlenecks in a work process. I've never read the source material but I suspect this did a good enough job of compressing the insights into a small space, with just enough anecdote to keep things interesting. The processes were broken down into what sound like small, actionable steps - haven't tried to apply any of them yet myself - and described well.
2 reviews
September 3, 2018
This is a great book – easy to read, easy to understand and therefore easy to apply. We are encouraging all members of our team to read this book to help them better understand how to apply Theory of Constraints within our workplace.

The author promised “To help every-day, ordinary people, find then manage their bottleneck quickly, no matter what industry they happen to work”….and I think this book achieves that.

BTW, I also highly recommend reading Rolling Rocks Downhill.
Profile Image for Cory.
16 reviews1 follower
September 13, 2018
Great short read and practical application of the Theory of Constraints. Love the real story's and examples Clarke gives and its true, once you start seeing flow problems, you really can see them everywhere. Honestly I wanted more. More examples, stories, and problems where this has been applied. Reading "The Goal" and his "Rocks rolling downhill" are very good, I really like seeing how other people have used these simple steps to solve real world problems.
Profile Image for Miguel Manzano García.
31 reviews3 followers
January 14, 2020
Escrito en un lenguaje sencillo y explicado con casos supuestamente reales. Te deja en buena posición para mejorar procesos usando la identificación de cuellos de botella. También cuenta que a veces es más importante actuar sobre lo que rodea al cuello de botella que sobre el cuello de botella. Es rápido de leer. No sé si está en castellano. No lo he puesto en práctica así que no sé lo real que será.
4 reviews1 follower
February 13, 2020
Lean for Dummies. This is a short, simple and easy to read book that explains the basic elements of lean thinking for people who know nothing about it. In summary, your work is slow and wasteful because you have bottlenecks in your system. You can find bottlenecks by looking for queues of work piling up in front of a particular person or team. You can remove bottlenecks by increasing their capacity. If you improve things that are not a bottleneck it won't make any difference to the end result.
April 1, 2022
An outstanding and ACTIONABLE introduction to Theory of Constraints and how to apply it. The author does a great job of making the central ideas and methods clear, using examples that are easy to understand and help illustrate the concepts.

I was immediately able to apply what I learned from this book to solve a longstanding problem that had defied my every effort to even find it for years. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Bruno.
13 reviews4 followers
November 19, 2018
A nice collection of narratives around TOC and what can be done one you identify a bottleneck. Yet from my point of view, it's not going into the details enought: the FOCCCUS Model (Find, Optimize, Coordinate, Collaborate, Curate, Upgrade, Start-over) looked like being too "obvious" when I read it. While many things seem obvious in hindsight, I expected a bit more depth on the 3C's.
Profile Image for Ryan Dash.
412 reviews18 followers
April 30, 2019
2.5 stars. I fall outside the target audience (office workers), but it was still a mildly interesting read. Everything made sense, and I can see it possibly being useful in the future. However, for such a short book, there was quite a bit of fluff, mostly in poor theoretical examples. It also could have benefitted from a concise summary.
April 4, 2021
Simple, to the point, fun

I enjoyed reading this book and it’s direct applicability to delivery teams.

Unlike The Goal, it only focuses on dealing with bottlenecks and provides a clear way to tackle them.

I would say this is a good introduction to Theory of Constraints and should probably be read before The Goal.
Profile Image for Patrik Gustafsson.
141 reviews5 followers
October 16, 2022
This is a short and easy to read book on Bottleneck. Ching him self pitches it as a alternative/complement to "the game". I think this is a good sized and on point book to get people starting to thing about theory of constraint. Comparing to "The game" this has no Story framing, and not the assumption of "Gaining money" being the only thinkable goal for a business.
Profile Image for Craig Nicol.
56 reviews
June 8, 2018
An easily accessible introduction to theory of constraints, and finding out what's limiting your team's ability to do more, delivered as a set of example stories, so no jargon, just a relatable idea.

I still think Rolling Rocks Downhill is my go-to guide for large projects, but there's some stuff here for smaller projects, and other industries. Lots of great information packed into one short book.
1 review
February 26, 2019
A gentle introduction to Theory of Constraints

I recommend reading this book before reading "The Goal." Like the author, I think Dr. Goldratt's use of the terms " exploit" and "elevate" can be confusing.
March 22, 2019
Very good and practical guidelines to implement TOC

This is relatively small book hence possible to read and implement some of the ideas in practice right away. Very good thought process, although obvious.
Some insight on addressing variations in processes would be even better.
Profile Image for Gustav Bertram.
34 reviews9 followers
November 1, 2019
Great distillation of lessons from The Goal

This is a great little book that distills many of the lessons about bottlenecks from The Goal. It even clarifies and expands the steps around using a bottleneck effectively! I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Hardiansjah Kristanto.
1 review1 follower
May 7, 2020
Simply well written with simple example of what seems to be ordinary life events to convey the key principles.

I have read many ToC books. This is one of the effective ones as it isn't that long and quick to convey the points across
4 reviews
May 31, 2020
Short and informative. Read it in a couple of hours. I appreciate that it gives some interesting perspectives on how to tackle (and leverage) bottlenecks in your processes. Makes you think are they where they should be and provides some real-world examples and stories.
Profile Image for Anbu.
9 reviews
August 16, 2020
Bang for the buck

Quick introduction to bottlenecks. Clearly written
. If you are interested in Theory of constraints and The Goal book, this is a short and neat book to help you understand it.
65 reviews
December 29, 2020
Short and obvious

Easy read, full of simple anecdotes. I don't disagree with the author, but I didn't learn much, either. At least the book is short and can be skimmed very rapidly.
Profile Image for Rob.
3 reviews
January 13, 2021
Really good intro to theory of constraints. Kind of like the Cliff's Notes version suitable for execs, new-to-TOC, and those just curious how subtle changes to process can increase throughput by 20-100%. Worth the couple hours (it's an easy read that flows well).
2 reviews
January 5, 2023
A book for today's problems

This book is great for anyone who works on a multi step process.

It is a less than two hour read and gives enough info to be used today.

It is a need to read if you have too much work in your to do most.
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