In business administration, a bottleneck is a weak point in the organisation which, according to Wikipedia, “has the highest capacity utilisation in the entire process chain in a considered period of time and thus inhibits the workflow.

Imagine a real bottle, from which we pour water into a glass. The outflow speed of the bottle is determined by the narrowest point, i.e. the bottle neck. The narrower the bottle neck, the less water gets into our glass. This metaphor has also become established in business administration.

A bottleneck can often be recognised by the waiting queue, which is limited by it, e.g. the water in the bottle. In business administration, different work processes often converge in a bottleneck and are checked or wait for decisions, for example. If the bottleneck is too slow, the processes jam and waiting times occur.

But what does a bottleneck have to do with the management of a company? Surely you too already have an idea and your own experience.

Lack of time in management – central control becomes a bottle neck

The pressure on executive boards is increasing and more and more explosive and important decisions have to be made. Some managers seem to deliberately make themselves into a bottleneck, either out of their own perception or under pressure from the organisation.

We recognise it in the overflowing diaries of managers rushing from one meeting to the next. If you want a meeting with such a manager, you often have to ask a secretary for an appointment weeks in advance or spend months preparing several hundred Powerpoints for a management meeting. These managers never have the time and therefore usually do not make any decisions. Especially for complex problems they don’t have time to listen and make a decision only under pressure. But then it is always a hasty decision.

Unfortunately this is not fun and it makes organisations unproductive and slow. So managers in a classic organisation often and quickly become a bottleneck. I also think that after 3-5 middle decisions a day you are simply too full in your head. First the decision has to be understood and then the possibilities have to be weighed up. If you as a manager claim to want to decide a lot, you postpone such decisions or do not make them with the reason: “I don’t understand – you have to explain it to me better. The decisions are never made afterwards.

But one possibility can be to transfer part of the “power” to the employee, especially with the many small decisions, and to make the organisation fast and agile.

Distribution of responsibility – management becomes decentralised and agile

One idea is to use agile methods to delegate decisions to the team and get the right experts together depending on the degree of complexity. For example, we make a decision for an important customer account with the sales department and the IT architect.

I myself have noticed that I can only really think my way into 5 decisions per day (good day). I rather look to see if the argumentation for the decision sounds conclusive and then quickly say yes ok or I ask: Ok: Which experts do you need to discuss and make the decision.

Despite being in charge of the department, I myself tend to act as a moderator. I make sure that speed and agility are maintained but that we do not take any risks, which is why I question decisions with specific questions.


As a manager, you quickly become a bottle neck. This has two disadvantages: On the one hand, you make the organisation less productive and on the other hand, you overload yourself with many decisions. You also lose a lot of time, during which you should deal with the essential things of organisational development.

One possibility may be to take a back seat as a manager and use agile methods to make decisions in a decentralised way. I also believe that with the current complexity and speed it is hardly possible to make every decision in management in the classic way.


Gender note: I have used the male form for easier reading. If no explicit distinction is made, women, miscellaneous and men as well as people of any origin and nation are always meant. Read more.

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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