Quick Wins are as bad as Low Hanging Fruit


Can we stop using the term Quick Wins?  It’s destructive.  End of blog.

  1. Maybe I need to flesh this fruit out a bit more. I’ve been in consulting for longer than I care to remember and this term plagues me wherever I go. I’m all up for Return On Investment.  I want to be measured on effectiveness but please, for the love of the fellah upstairs, please stop measuring Lean on Quick wins.  I think back and cringe at some of the efforts teams have made to please management with instant results only to see the value destroyed in a matter of weeks because it has not been thought through.

One engagement saw management reviewing a team’s Current State Map on day 4 and asked them to start implementing some of the ideas identified that were sitting in the Boston Matrix.

‘We haven’t done the Future State Map yet.’ said a brave chappie.

‘So what?  Those are good ideas and we have to meet the identified benefits target of ‘X’ million.’ said the manager

‘But what if our Interim Future State nullifies the ideas up there because we come up with a new way of working the process?’ said same brave chappie.  You have to love him.

‘Don’t be daft.’  It won’t. They’re good ideas and we need the quick wins to convince everyone its a good thing’ said the manager.

‘We’ve only got 4 more days before the Interim State is complete.  Can we wait till then?’ said suicidally brave chappie.

Manager looks at chappie.  Chappie understands career predicament.  And so, yes, we divide the team and the quest for quick wins begins.

Now you know where this is going.  You know how this is going to unravel. And unfortunately, predictably, it will happen again and again as long as we fixate on Quick Wins.

3 Days later, the team designed an interim future state and yes, you guessed correctly, it wiped out the need for the ideas on the matrix.  So, in the process of chasing Quick Wins, with no thought to the process, management had managed to achieve the exact opposite of what they wanted.  The staff were miffed with the Lean Team and thought they were a bunch of incompetents and Lean was clearly something for the ‘basket cases’ to use their term. It took another 3 weeks to win them round.

The frustrating thing was the initial ideas had been logged by the benefits team and were being tracked weekly.  It was comedy in action trying to explain that they were bad ideas and had been replaced by the Interim State.

Manager:  What’s an Interim?  I’m confused.  Can’t we just have the Future State and be done with it? We need more quick wins or this isn’t going to work.

End result?  Interim States abandoned.  Quick wins all over the place for a couple of weeks.  ‘Good Ideas Here’ boards populated and left to gather dust. Staff avoiding Lean Team wherever possible.

I suppose there are a couple things I would like to draw out from this particular blog:

  1. Let the value or benefits number be defined by the Value Stream Mapping exercise and if, as a leader, you are unhappy with the lack of aspiration, then spend some time with the team to open their eyes to the opportunity. Sniping from the sidelines will never work.
  2. Beware of the manager asking for Quick Wins. They are rarely quick and hard to win.  Instead, invest in the Interim State in its entirety.  Support its implementation with the stakeholders and the results will come. Tangible Wins instead of Quick Wins is the order of the day
  3. Win credibility quickly (see what I did there?) by investing your time in the process. The wins will come thicker and faster than you imagine.
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