The Key to Growth

By February 26, 2008blog

About 18 months ago we cut the number of fields on our Open Account page in half. It almost doubled the number of free accounts that opened. Hooray for us! Right? Wrong. Turns out that it didn’t increase our revenue growth. We were still growing at the same rate as before. Making it easier for people to get into our system didn’t “sell” more of our system. But why?

About 8 months ago we hired our first full-time Usability Tester to observe how people flowed through our marketing website, opened an account, and started using the system. What we discovered in the process was that RegOnline was hard for the first-time user to figure out how to use. So what would happen is an event organizer would come to RegOnline to find an easier way to register, like the site, found it easy enough to open an account, and then wouldn’t make the leap into creating and going live with their registration form.

We are now on our third iteration of eliminating the not-so-easy-to-get-started bottleneck. Including testing-out having “Connie”, our video spokesperson, orient people who are new to the system.
Which brings me to the point of this post…

Riddle: If you are hiking with a group of people, how fast can the group hike?

Answer: Only as fast as the slowest hiker.

This may seem like an elementary school riddle… but it is much more profound than it looks. In my experience, it touches on the KEY element to making systems and organizations thrive. Every system ALWAYS has a bottleneck that is the equivalent to the slowest hiker in the pack that sets the speed for the rest of the system.

One of the most important roles I play as a leader of an organization (RegOnline), department (marketing), or system (website)… is to:
1. Identify the biggest bottle neck to growth
2. Focus as many resources as possible on getting rid of that bottle neck
3. Repeat the process on the next biggest bottleneck

Eli Goldratt is the godfather of this process called “Theory of Constraints (TOC)“. He wrote three easy-to-read business novels that apply to manufacturing (The Goal), software development (Critical Chain), and marketing (It’s Not Luck). A big hello and thanks goes out to my old friend, Michael Clingan, who helped me learn about and implement Goldratt’s theories in my last company.

What is the single greatest bottleneck for your organization’s growth? How are you shifting resources to eliminate that bottleneck?

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