Pruning: The proactive activity that causes individuals and organizations to thrive.
By it’s very nature, pruning doesn’t cause people to be motivated or excited. Who likes to look at a rosebush or tree that has just been pruned? Never do you hear after pruning, “Wow, what a beautiful bush!”
Yet pruning has been well understood by fruit farmers and horticulturists for generations. You want healthier fruit trees, more vibrant roses? You must engage in strategic pruning.
Merriam-Webster defines pruning this way:
- To reduce especially by eliminating superfluous matter
- To cut off or cut back parts of for better shape or more fruitful growth
What would happen if we strategically took the pruning shears to our time, money, relationships … our customers, even? You might consider applying the principles of pruning to increase your ability to thrive in each area of your life and business.1. Assess Before You Prune
Before you begin, take thoughtful time to do some assessment. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- How do you spend your time? Your money?
- Do you spend more time with top performers or problem employees?
- Do you know your customers well? Are there some more profitable than others?
- Do you have habits or standard work that prevent or rob growth?
Do your homework. Take time to analyze what is most important to you or your business. Determine what needs to be trimmed, reduced or eliminated.2. Choose the Right Season and Appropriate Tools
Any farmer will tell you there is a proper season and tool for each activity. This is also the case with pruning. Often, pruning is done during the dormant season, late fall through late winter, never during a growth season.
As you begin to assess areas that need to be trimmed or eliminated, ask, is this the right time? For example, if you know there are certain customers you want to discontinue serving, is there a low season or contract period that makes better sense than other times?3. Pruning the Healthy
This can be the most difficult task of pruning: trimming or reducing areas that appear to be quite healthy.
For example, you may have had strong sales results last year. Revenues increased, yet profits didn’t. After analysis, you realize the cost to serve and retain certain customers is eating into the profits from other more suitable customers. What do you do? Strategically prune.
The same could be said for how you invest your time in relationships or activities. Are you involved with too many "good" activities or people? Review your calendar, and begin trimming back with intentionality. Stick to the people and engagements that most align with your core objectives — maximize the fruit in your life.4. Pruning the Diseased
Often we fail to recognize the need to eliminate portions of our business or lives that are simply not healthy. We often have good reasons. “We’ve always done it that way.” “That is part of our corporate culture.” Holding on to tradition or processes that are no longer appropriate can suck the life from an otherwise vibrant business.
This principle is also true with relationships or team members. I often am amazed at how people endure unnecessarily unhealthy relationships or work performances simply for fear of confrontation or disruption.5. Pruning the Dead
Yes, this one should be more obvious. If a branch or bud is dead — it’s got to go. Yet how often do we continue a program, or maintain customers or relationships that have long since been dead or almost dead?
Pruning the dead often takes courage. Typically, we want to give the benefit of the doubt and allow opportunity for a turnaround. However, once the pruning decision is made, often life pours into the remaining branches.
So as the latter part of the winter is upon us — perhaps this is your time to prune. Remember, pruning precedes thriving!
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About the Author
Tim MacDonald joined OneAccord as a Principal in 2018. He brought with him more than 25 years of senior management experience, having served in small, medium and global companies as president, vice president of sales and vice president of operations.
Prior to joining OneAccord, he started his own business, Chrysalis, in China, partnering with multinational corporations in the areas of supply chain, operational excellence and distribution across a variety of sectors including chemical, automotive and fast-moving consumer goods. Their clients include Bosch, Cargill and Coca-Cola.
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