Watch The Strong Links Too . . . (June 2009)

Last month, I wrote about “The Weakest Link” and referred to the old adage “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. I made the argument that the same holds true in any organization and that those weak links can become bottlenecks and hold the entire organization back. Within a few hours of publishing that piece, I got an email from one of my readers. It said: “This nails it for me. I get frustrated because I get overloaded and I know others are waiting on me. I used to be able to keep up, but it’s just too much any more.” At first, I laughed. But it immediately donned on me that not only can your weakest links be a bottleneck but so can some of your strongest links!

The person who wrote this is clearly a strong link. But the problem with strong links is that over time, too much pressure can be put on “their section of the chain”. Unlike a real chain where every link must support the same load, we all know that certain parts of an organization carry a bigger burden than others. So, while the answer for weak links is generally to get them out of the organization, the answer for strong links is quite different. Usually, it’s finding a way of restructuring their job so that they can add as much value as possible. In other words, they should be performing tasks that they are uniquely qualified to do, not something that could be delegated to others. This of course, assumes that the strong links are willing to delegate; sometimes they are not which can be the reason they are overloaded in the first place. Still, a solution needs to be found that keeps them from being bottlenecks.

More importantly, these people also need sufficient free time to be able to think about ways to improve both their own function as well as the rest of the organization. Generally they can offer helpful feedback to areas outside of their own. When a strong link is so busy that all he or she can do is to “keep up” with the day-to-day demands placed upon them, then they don’t have the free time to be able to contribute in a more meaningful way. The lack of “thought time” (which has become increasingly pervasive in the business world) both limits their contribution to the organization as well as their ability to grow their own career – this serves neither them nor the company well.

So while weak links can clearly limit an organization’s performance, so can over reliance on strong links. If you see someone in your organization that is generally a strong performer but is starting to become a bottleneck, then it is well worth your time to investigate further and understand both the root cause and what can be done to resolve the situation.

If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you. Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to

your cash is flowing. know where.®

Ken Homza
Copyright @ 2009 Homza Consulting, Inc.

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