Archive | Strategic Planning

Low Hanging Fruit – Part II


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My spontaneous post on Low Hanging Fruit has spurred all kinds of additional thoughts, and the committee in my head has jumped into the debate. Warning: They have no fear of mixed metaphors or clichés. (Luckily no monsters have shown up. Yet.) So pull up a chair and enjoy some Humble Pie and Resistance Crumble.

Why do I overlook Low Hanging Fruit? Is it because it is almost too easy, and I love a good challenge? After all, that looks so easy, somebody else must have done it already. Or, maybe it looks so easy because it is and no one else will find it interesting?

Or, maybe it only looks easy to you because of your unique superpowers that you take for granted?

Maybe I overlook that Low Hanging Fruit because I can see it up close and I can see the spots and worm holes. But that beautiful shining apple way up at the top of the tree looks perfect from down here.

Yes, and haven’t you learned from experience yet that once you get close to it, That Apple Up There has just as many spots, if not more? The apple is always greener. (Wait, that’s a mixed metaphor.) You know what I mean. Anyway, you can wash off the spots and eat around the worm hole on the apple down here, right now.

Maybe what makes this Low Hanging Fruit hang so low is that it is a little heavier from the weight of needing some resources (as in, help from other people). And being a good Taurus who stubbornly thinks I have to do everything myself, I would rather, well, be stubborn. About Doing. It. Myself.

But wait, this person has already given you some great feedback, and that person has offered to be your proofreader, and that person is really excited about doing the graphic design. What makes you think you’re doing this alone? Or that you have to?

Besides, you’re going to need help building a ladder to get to the top of the tree to reach that supposedly perfect apple way up there. Why not accept the help now?

I’m afraid that what makes that Low Hanging Fruit spotted and wormy is that it is so personal. What if I pick that fruit and hand it to someone and they say, “Eew!”?

Your apples are beautiful and organic and the spots are part of their charm. People want your apples because they are personal. And that’s what makes them different from everyone else’s.

Oh, and one more thing. If you insist on leaving that Low Hanging Fruit, you’re Leaving Money On The Table and someone else is going to Eat Your Lunch! Don’t Throw Out the Baby With The Bath Water! Get picking!

Sigh. I hate it when you’re right.

This slice of Humble Pie was brought to you by the Low Hanging Fruit Pickers Association.

Low Hanging Fruit


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I recently had a very interesting coaching session with a young man who has taken on a new role with a growing organization. He is new to the organization, and the role is new as well.

This is an exciting spot to be in, but it is challenging as well. I once worked for someone who used to say, “There is nothing more challenging than putting a brand new person in a brand new role.” It is challenging because it is difficult to tell whether issues that arise are related to the design of the role or the skills of the person. As any scientist will tell you, a well-constructed experiment only has one variable at a time.

So, he is in a challenging situation. He was telling me about his ideas for initiatives to be undertaken, and he has great ideas! But they are very grand. And all the bright and shiny opportunities are making it difficult to prioritize.

I asked him if he was familiar with the term, “Low Hanging Fruit.” “No,” he replied.

So I explained that an apple tree has fruit all over it, but we don’t have a ladder. We can either build a ladder now, which will take time, or we can pick the Low Hanging Fruit first. We can reach it now, and it is ripe. We’re hungry now, I said. “Yes!” he said, “Hungry and thirsty!”

“Then start with the Low Hanging Fruit,” I suggested. “What are the projects you can start with first and get some momentum, while building a ladder to get to the top of the tree?” And we began talking about the projects he can undertake immediately.

It occurs to me this morning that the same is true for developing products.

I am in a “mastermind” or “success team” group that meets, virtually, every week. Our mission is to support and hold each other accountable while we are building our businesses. As part of that, each of us is working on a Product of some kind. We are having some interesting conversations and some exciting breakthroughs!

And we face some interesting challenges, some of which are of our own making.

I wonder, to what extent are we – am I – forgetting to pick the Low Hanging Fruit, overlooking it because it is almost too easy?

Hmmm.

My late husband used to look at me sometimes and say, “I hate it when you’re right.”

This time I have to say, “Gah, I hate it when I’m right.”

What is the Low Hanging Fruit you are overlooking?

Gardens, Birds, Businesses, and Strategic Planning


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My garden, such as it is, is currently carpeted with fallen leaves from the great Valley Oak that stands at its edge. This rust-colored carpet shines with the night’s rain and calls to me, reminding me of chores to be done. Although part of me sees a comforting blanket that protects my sleeping garden from what cold we experience here, another part of me sees the stalwart heads of a few hardy plants that peek out from beneath their covers and hears them calling, “Don’t forget about us!”

My favorite activity of a Sunday morning is to take my cup of coffee to the rocking chair next to the patio doors in my office and sit and drink my coffee and look at my garden while listening to the Acoustic Sunrise on a local radio station (you can stream it online at KFOG.com). After I finish my coffee I will often move on to a mimosa, my Sunday Morning Indulgence.

I love to sit here and watch morning come to my garden and the neighborhood around it, painting the neighborhood trees and the surrounding hills with gold. Eventually the sun peeks through and over the privacy fence around my secret garden and walks across it like the sun through the peepholes at Stonehenge.

Unless, of course, it is a grey day like today, and clouds paint the hills and kiss the trees.

I sit and observe, and contemplate. I watch the birds – house finches and Anna’s hummingbirds are regular visitors, joined by a circus train whose troupes change with the seasons. Right now we have chickadees and white crowned sparrows, but at other times we will have tufted titmice, goldfinches (they always make me smile), and the occasional ruby crowned kinglet, who does not like seeing his reflection in the mirror hanging on the fence. He puffs up his ruby crown and struts back and forth along the back of the bench before the mirror, trying to impress his rival.

I make notes – the bird feeder needs to be cleaned and refilled, the basket of nesting materials can come down, I need to make more hummingbird nectar.

I sit, and rest, and contemplate, and wonder…and plan.

I sit, and rest, and contemplate, and wonder. And consider, and plan. What task shall I tackle first? Is it time to prune roses and cut back the grasses yet? I must remember to make cuttings from the rose geranium. Should I pull out the skeleton of my beloved hardenbergia that mysteriously dropped its leaves this fall (it is normally evergreen, with glorious purple flower clusters in January, but this January it is bare), or should I wait until Spring and see if it comes back with some fertilizer and pruning? What if it doesn’t come back? With what should I fill the gap it leaves? And so on, with variations with the seasons.

I go through a similar process each week around my business when I prepare my new to-do list for the week. As with any garden, I know I can never get to everything that needs to be done, so I must prioritize. What must be done? What will wither and die if neglected too long? What do I do just for the joy of it, and what do I do because I must? Do I put the Joy items on the to-do list, validating the Joy, or steal time for them?

I think some businesses (and jobs) are like low-maintenance yards, requiring only weekly mowing and semi-annual fertilization and hedge-trimming. Maybe some weed pulling. Others are like gardens with plants that come in and out of season, crops that are planted, harvested and replaced, and projects like container plantings that are freestanding and portable. The workshop I am planning – it will initially be a potted plant, but if it thrives I will be able to propagate it and perhaps move it to a permanent spot in the garden. The e-book is like strawberries that will need the right setup and fertilization and attention to get started but will be ever bearing and low-maintenance once established.

There is a difference between making a to-do list and strategic planning.

Strategic planning is like that. But there is a difference between making a to-do list and strategic planning. I can put “pull weeds” and “transplant begonias” on the to-do list, but if I never stop to look at the big picture of how things fit together and whether these little tasks are helping me achieve my larger goals, then I will just have a pleasant mishmash. What do I want my garden to look like? It’s about having a vision, and then making a plan to make it so, and then monitoring to make sure the tasks on my to-do list – and their results – are in alignment with that plan. Strategic planning requires that I pause to observe, listen and take stock, with a realistic appraisal of resources, and with frequent reassessments. Otherwise all I can see are the trees, not the forest.

Each of us can – must – assess where we are and what we are doing.

It doesn’t matter whether you are even a manager or a business owner: Each of us can – must – assess where we are and what we are doing. There are things we can control, even if we cannot control the weather or the seasons.

Strategic planning is that simple, but it can be bewildering if you’re new to it or feeling stuck. Don’t worry – even the best gardeners consult with someone else at times.

Have a thought on the subject? Please leave a comment!

Need help? Email me at susan@susanTblake.com. I can help.

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