In a perfect world, Suzy would hand off the draft to Tommy the second she finished editing the last post, and everyone would be perfectly in sync, wasting zero time, with no workflow bottleneck. But humans are not cogs, and marketing is not manufacturing. Project process bottlenecks can lead to missed deadlines, upset customers, and lost revenue– all things you want to avoid at all costs. The nature of marketing in the 21st century means that some level of flux is inevitable, but identifying and fixing the bottlenecks that cause major problems will break down the workflow barriers that make you craziest, waste the most time, and cost you your goals by the end of the year.

Here are five ways you can find your workflow bottlenecks and smooth them out:

  1. Model your work

 Make sure you have an updated flowchart showing your processes. It can be hard to fix what you can’t see visually. When you do find a bottleneck, process mapping will help you find ways around it. 

It can be easier to explain to others, as well, when you redraw the chart, why you made the decision you did. Each team member, as well, should maintain their own documentation about how their job is done. Temporary bottlenecks that spring up from sickness or vacations could be avoided if others are able to follow these instructions in the meantime. 

  1. Ask your team

 About once a quarter, get some feedback on bottlenecks from your team. Ask them:

  • What gets in the way of doing your work? 
  • What aspect of your job do you wish took less time?
  • If we could focus on optimizing one aspect of the workflow, which do you think it should be?

One of the most common results of bottlenecks is stress, so where there’s a bottleneck, your team members will be happy to rant about it. You just want that rant to be aimed at the issue rather than each other. 

  1. Change the boundaries of work

 Look at each team member’s scope of work. Is it appropriate? If Troy is always busy but Tina seems to be on her phone all day, you might need to shift around some responsibilities. If you know about how long each task takes, and who’s doing how much of what, you’ll be able to back up these decisions with data. 

  1. Look for the longest line

 In your project management software, check out which status has the longest line, and which has the shortest. The places there are the most assignments waiting to switch over to the next status is the place you might have a marketing process bottleneck. 

Over time, you should also be able to track the cycle times of your work to see if they increase or decrease in certain times of the year to spot any seasonal bottlenecks. 

  1. Increase the capacity of your team

This isn’t about trying to squeeze blood from an (overworked) stone, but understanding whether your team is performing as well as they could be and whether you have the right conditions in place to drive peak performance from team members. It might be that they need more training. Perhaps they’re creating a report that could be automated. Is there busy work and redundant tasks that could be dropped without negative repercussions? If you can clear their way of roadblocks, you’ll be paving the way to having your team work at their full capacity.

The main themes that will help you become the kind of bottleneck-free team you want to be are documentation, team feedback, and continuous improvement. Like the sails of a ship, your process should ideally always be adjusting to changes in the environment.