Picked off the low hanging fruit? What next?

When times get tough, it is easy for businesses to focus on survival. In most cases, this begins with a frantic endeavour to cut costs by way of a number of quick win initiatives. The best quick wins provide an immediate, visible benefit to the company, are easily discoverable and cheap to implement. It is vital, however, that each quick win is taken on its own merit – review the impact of each one and if they have any negative influences or a high price tag, it is almost certainly not worth pursuing.

The ripe, low hanging fruit is compelling and can provide momentum moving forward. However, too often these internal initiatives do not lead to tangible performance improvement. Instead, it is often the case that internal teams lose sight of the overall organisational goals. This occurs when the choice is made to continue picking the never ending stream of low hanging fruit, rather than tackle the root causes of underlying issues.

A quick glance at the diagram above highlights the dangers of solely pursuing low hanging fruit. If efforts are concentrated on the easy stuff, resources can be wasted trailing concerns of little significance. The more important, fundamental issues are more difficult to tackle, not least because they are usually less obvious. Most will require disruption to people, processes and systems but it is here where sustainable performance improvement opportunities will bear the juiciest fruit.

A better approach is to create a plan encompassing both quick wins as well as more deep rooted projects, all elements working simultaneously towards a set of clearly defined targets. Quick wins generate the immediate results craved by management, whilst creating momentum and helping to fund the more difficult, longer term, high value improvements to operational performance.

Many businesses do not have the spare capacity internally to appropriately address the more crucial issues that are more difficult to tackle, with small internal performance improvement teams kept busy with low hanging fruit, losing sight of and leaving strategic goals to languish. Without a clear vision, strong leadership and the right resource, sustainable performance improvements are difficult to ascertain. Get closer to achieving tangible, sustainable performance improvement by pursuing the targets from which operations have the most to gain, rather than focusing on the easiest.