Leaders can miss growth opportunities because they are so far removed from the many day-to-day processes carried out in their organisations they lead, observe Jeremy Eden and Terri Long, writing for ChiefExecutive.net.
However, they insist that these opportunities can be uncovered using five key capabilities: problem-solving skills, cross-unit collaboration, fast decision making, strong implementation skills and real accountability.
Eden and Long comment: “Cost-cutting has been a top priority for CEOs in recent years, so much so that easy growth opportunities – or the ‘low hanging fruit’ – have gone unnoticed.”
The authors quote Lew Platt, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, who said, “If only HP knew what HP knows, we’d be three times more productive.”
Eden and Long offer advice on finding “low-hanging fruit growth opportunities”:
• Problem solving. The authors observe there’s a danger of becoming so accustomed to the way things are done that you can lose sight of inherent problems.
They give the example of a frozen food company that asked a third-party distributor to suggest ways to improve its packing and repacking process which resulted in a lot of waste.
Eden and Long report: “With just a short walkthrough, the distributor pointed out ways to eliminate much of the repacking while still meeting safety guidelines. In the end, the company saved $500,000.”
• Cross-unit collaboration. Most divisional units focus entirely on their own groups. The frozen food supplier again provides an example – when they brought together representatives from factories across every division, they discovered that one factory was buying pasta from an outside vendor while one of the company’s own factories was able to make the same pasta much more cheaply.
• Fast decision making. The authors comment: “Nothing kills idea generation faster than slow decision making. Low-hanging ideas, however, are inherently easy to approve. Ask division leaders to present proposals in a simple one-page format. Then create a fast-track approval process for great ideas.”
• Ability to implement quickly. Many projects fail because of a lack of follow-through. Encourage communication across the team and eliminate any bottlenecks.
• Real accountability. Most companies recognise the importance of accountability but fail to implement it. Real accountability means consistently recognising success with promotions, public recognition and bonuses – but only when they’re truly deserved.