Thursday, 15 February 2018

Low Hanging Fruit

Yesterday, over on my Purchasing Coach Blog, I launched a letter. 

It was a letter that started

Dear Organisation

and concluded

With Love From Procurement xx 

It was a plea for organisations not to underestimate procurement's worth, nor make assumptions and judgements about who we are.

Whilst not directly related to the work I do here on Landscaping Your Life the letter did include a metaphor. It's a metaphor that many in organisations associate with procurement/purchasing activities, and so I share it today as another example of how we can get great insight from exploring the metaphors hidden within our language.

In this instance the words were low hanging fruit.

Here's what the letter had to say on the matter.

"Look, it’s easy to say. And we often get told to focus on low hanging fruit.

But low hanging fruit is picked quickly, and only once.

So, if you’ll let me expand the metaphor - to keep doing well together, we need to: 
  • look for the harder-to-reach fruit;
  • find ways to increase the yield;
  • reduce waste;
  • get more revenue for the fruit we pick;
  • reduce costs, and risks;
  • expand the amount of fruit we grow;
  • change the variety we plant;
  • buy fruit from others;
  • elongate the harvest season;
  • plan next year’s harvest better;
  • move to better soil, or less climate-affected areas; or
  • use fruit from other areas.
Growing and harvesting the fruit is a lot of work, and planning. And there are two ways of doing it: with, or without a full time gardener. That is, with or without a full time ‘me.’

If we think about the fruit, doing it yourself risks an overgrown garden, dead or dying plants, weeds that throttle the useful plants or trees that block the light, leaves everywhere, tree roots damaging neighbouring property, smelly compost, and invasions by plant-eating insects.

Having a full time gardener means the plants are laid out as you need them, you think carefully about growing your own plants from seed, plants that need it get time in the greenhouse, everything is weeded and trimmed in time, there aren’t any weeds or insects, the technology is current, and the tool shed has everything you need when you need it.

A gardener is useful when you’re growing and picking fruit. And I’m useful for you."

I've used gardening as a metaphor for supplier management in organisations for over 20 years. There's even a Pinterest board with lots of ideas of how to apply this metaphor.

I use the metaphor because managers and leaders in these organisations often know more about gardening than they do procurement (in the UK anyway). Which means it's much easier to talk about weeding, feeding, and pruning suppliers than it is contract, performance or relationship managing them!

As ever always happy to discuss how I may support you or your team to break out of their comfort zones, and really amaze themselves and the organisation about what's possible when we do that.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life 
Using unconventional tools to support others to break out of their comfort zones

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