13 Reasons Causing Project Bottlenecks

What is the likelihood of your project finishing on time?

It depends on likelihood of the critical path tasks finishing on time.

Then I ask,

How you can ensure finishing critical path tasks on time?

It depends on finding and eliminating bottleneck (constraint) for the critical path tasks.

Then I ask,

How can we eliminate bottlenecks?

Here are the common reasons causing bottlenecks in projects:



  • Lack of understanding or Ignorance:  Project stakeholders general assumption is that projects will delay and can be over budget. Project teams and board generally do not consider cost of project delay.
  • No incentives for speed of delivery: As the effects of cost of project delay is not clear. Therefore, there are no incentives for the project team to delivers on/before agreed timeline.
  • No penalty for delayed delivery: Like above point, seldom project board plan to penalize project team/vendor, in case project is delayed beyond the agreed threshold.


  • Lack of good planning: Project executives assume high availability of the vendors and project resources. Project Manager often ignores contingency plans, resource planned leave and resource dependencies. As a result, unavailability of required resources becomes project bottlenecks.
  • Priorities change: Businesses operate in  dynamic environment. As new issue arise, management often deploys existing key project resources to the immediate problem.  Therefore, unavailability of resources becomes project bottleneck.
  • Vendor resourcing:  Generally, there are no strict agreement with vendors to guarantee resources as per agreed plan. Consequently, vendor’s resources may not be available, as needed by the project. Hence, they can become a constraint.


  • 80/20 rule: 80/20 rule applies in projects as well. Often, 20 percent of the project resources (The Experts) delivers 80 percent of value. These experts are known for adding high value. Therefore, they remain in high demand. Projects are dependent on their availability. Hence, they become bottleneck, delaying overall speed of the project.
  • Lack of coordination: Often project teams works in silos. When the task is processed by a project resource, it stays in a waiting queue for further processing. For example, Software Developer develops module X and moves to other work. The module X waits in the waiting queue for further processing. The Tester, then tests Module X and raise defect. The Module X goes back to waiting queue for Developer to fix the defect. Consequently, WIP increases, dependency on resource availability delays the project tasks and often project itself.
  • Uncertainty due to technical issues: Software product quality, performance, infrastructure related issues can take significant time to resolve. They become bottleneck if not handled proactively.
  • Decision making: Consider waiting time involved in contracts, project documentation, change requests approvals. Further, consider time spend on making decisions on process changes, restructures etc. Delays in decision-making often becomes key source of bottleneck.
  • Lack of visibility of the critical chain: Project teams prime focus is on the tasks assigned to them. Team members lack interest and visibility on overall project plan. From management perspective, team members works as silo information processing units. Overall effect is ‘Lack of Coordination’ , as discussed above.
  • Underestimation: We often underestimate tasks like User Acceptance Testing, Data Migration (ETL), customisations development and change management. Due to underestimation, these tasks start late in the project. Further,  we deploy limited resources on these tasks. As these tasks take more than planned time. They become bottleneck to complete the project.

The essential point is that bottlenecks can be anywhere. It is the joint responsibility of the project team to find and eliminate bottlenecks.

Share which bottlenecks you have experienced in your projects.


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