I repeatedly hear the expression ‘start with the low hanging fruit’, assess the easy wins and start there. I think there are benefits in this approach. For example, if something is new within a business, maybe this allows people to ‘get it’, see something play out as a precursor to taking on something more substantial. Furthermore, it may allow that something to be achieved sooner rather than later, ie demonstrate back to the business that things are happening.
Might I counter these positives? Experience shows that most businesses are savvy enough to address the obvious, in other words, if it’s easy it’s generally been done. Also that low hanging fruit is not what typically separates best practise in the markets leaders in any sector, i.e. you and your competitors. Now I see some exceptions, often brought about through the introduction of a new technology. For example, we often facilitate change within a business and because we bring something new to the table suddenly something is simple – the out of reach before, suddenly low hanging today.
Putting this aside, generally low hanging, easy stuff doesn’t turn heads, I hear ‘so what’. This is not a comment on making stuff ‘sexy’ so people pay attention, it’s that it doesn’t change lives. So if you achieve a low hanging fruit item sooner than tackling the big issue have you simply misdirected your limited resources?
For me, every business has headline issues to tackle and board level performance criteria that are indicators to where resources should be targeted.
As an example, one organisation’s key concern was that “staff retention is a critical issue” and “presents a catastrophic level risk”. A highly transient and mobile workforce led to repercussions in staff retention and corporate knowledge that was a factor in providing regional services. We tackled the processes that streamlined staff requisition, reducing the time to hire and delivered a solution that allowed the business to configure its business rules and processes, ultimately delivering a high integrity single source of truth. That business now has the ability to run its key operational processes and business across generations of staff confident in the knowledge each new staff member knows what to do and that the commercial and operational data is correct.
Now for some recommendations when tackling these big ticket items:
Firstly, tackle the issue not the elephant; if the issue is visibility and tracking, why focus on business systems integration? Leave that for future assessment.
Secondly, big business issue does not always mean big delivery timelines or investment. We have created some remarkable progress in businesses in relatively short time frames.
Thirdly, using techniques to deliver a solution that show demonstrable progress early on allows your business to see tangible evidence of what coming, sets expectations, excites and accelerates the change management.
Lastly, complement the big ticket win with the ‘low hanging fruit,’ ie don’t neglect these as they support your push for larger change, but just don’t do the low fruit alone.