When Too Much Low Hanging Fruit is a Warning Sign
You are at the annual strategy retreat, and you have been told that by the end of the 3rd day you need to have an action plan in place that you can take home and implement.
The consultant facilitating the strategy sessions is doing a great job, and by the end of the morning of the 3rd day, the wall in the conference room is filled with yellow stickers sorted into four groups.
Chasing the low hanging fruit
The impact dimension is an assessment of how much improvement this activity will make.
The effort dimension is a mix of time, complexity, money, and other resources.
The NE corner is initiatives that require further analysis and will be left with top management to address later.
The SE corner is dead in the water.
The SW corner is something each person or team can do if they feel like it.
The NW corner is where the full attention is: This is the low hanging fruit. Here we have the bright ideas that will make a dramatic improvement and do not require too much change. This is the low-hanging fruit, and this is where management wants the ideas to flow. Now we just need to assign the WHO and the WHEN and then we are done.
If you have many items in the NW corner, then there is something wrong with your company.
Identifying opportunities for improvement that only requires minimal effort to implement is something your teams should do every day. That is what we pay our people, team leaders, and managers to do. That is their job. If it takes the entire executive team three days to identify improvements that have a huge impact and requires little effort to execute, then you need to ask yourself this question: Why isn’t this done on a daily basis? What is prohibiting our organization from a continuous improvement of performance?
You have a culture problem
There is something wrong with your culture if top management is always postponing opportunities that require effort and only chasing the low hanging fruit. Culture ripples from the top down.
Each person in the organization, each team, each department, each division, etc. should be empowered to frequently take a step back and identify bottlenecks and improvement opportunities and implement them. They will not always be right, so they will make mistakes, but as they are empowered to make changes, they can quickly take corrective action.
There is nothing wrong with running an annual 3-day strategy retreat (maybe a somewhat antiquated approach given the speed of change we are exposed to) if this is where you call the big shots and not just chase the low hanging fruit.
You may want to read or listen to my suggestions for applying the business model framework in your company.
Using the business model framework will keep everyone on the same page and allow the teams in your company to take bold actions to constantly improve operational efficiency.