The end of the harvest season presents a ripe opportunity to evaluate what was and plan for what is to come. As we reflect on the fruit of our efforts, measuring relative successes or failures of our endeavors, we often have more questions than answers.

What were the specific factors, events, issues and actions that contributed to the current status of the growing operation? How were unexpected problems handled? Was the response adequate and proportionate? Can these problems be prevented in the future? What aspect of the organization could be improved? Ultimately, was this season a success?

Defining success

Success is generally defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. So what constitutes a successful harvest or season? It is relative and largely dependent on achieving the goals that you find most important.

Goals should be measurable, quantifiable, challenging, yet achievable. For example, the goal of growing more and better tasting blueberries isn’t quantifiable, while a goal of increasing production by 15 percent per square meter and increasing sugar content by 5 percent is measurable and verifiable.

BPT = behavior, pattern, trend

A useful method for determining your reaction to an event, opportunity or set of circumstances is to employ the BPT technique, originally crafted by George Hruby. This thought process categorizes events based on probability of recurrence, and allows an organization to analyze if or when to address an issue or concern, as well as serve as a guide to the amount of attention and resources to divert to a problem.

A behavior is an event that occurred once and is unlikely to repeat itself; it is isolated and considered an aberration or an anomaly. If an event has occurred a couple or a few times, a pattern is developing, and it may make strategic sense to address the issue. If events or patterns continue to present themselves, or if a pattern maintains itself over a long period of time, even if it is historically “rare,” a trend has formed. Once that happens, it tends to gain momentum and will likely take a lot of time, forces or actions to break it. It is usually in the best interest of enterprise to capitalize on a trend, and to do so as soon as feasible.

An example of an isolated event (behavior) that occurred was a supply chain disruption involving Coco-Coir in 2005. In December 2004, a tsunami hit Sri Lanka, devastating the island and temporarily halting all exports. There was no coco-coir available at any store in my state or the ones that surround it. The solution was to temporarily switch to another substrate, which resulted in a relatively successful harvest. Anticipating an outlier is impossible. Making any change in strategy of acquiring and maintaining a higher inventory of coco was not a viable long-term solution due to storage constraints. When dealing with isolated events, your operation must roll with the punches.

An example of a pattern is the occasional appearance of a few mites or aphids in your plants. Assuming they were detected early, and no real damage was done, a greenhouse operator may think they dodged a bullet. However, if just a couple variables were slightly different, the few bugs that were successfully defended against could have been an infestation. In this instance, it makes strategic sense to have a larger arsenal of control products on hand, increase the amount of monitoring or to add a preventive measure of spraying them early in their development.

An example of a trend is consumer preferences for organic or natural foods, which have been increasing over the last decade. This higher demand led to higher selling prices for organic produce. Because the consumer is willing to pay a premium for organic and natural produce, many growers are willing to invest in higher cost production methods.

Finally, consider the magnitude of the consequences of the event. Events that are low in probability but have an extremely high level of consequences should always be addressed. Insurance exists for this reason. Some assets are too valuable to be risked, even if the chance of losing them is extremely small.

Strategic review

Although each season will present unique opportunities and problems (challenges) to overcome, and anticipating future challenges is a difficult endeavor, a strategic (or annual) review of your operations is essential to ensure the long-term viability of your enterprise. A strategic review involves reviewing all aspects of your operation (marketing, operations, finance and forecasting) from a bird’s eye view.

Regardless of the size of the operation, or the role you are playing within it, as a decision-maker, the most important quality you can have is the ability to have a vision and determine what steps need to be taken to turn the concept into reality.

When performing a strategic review, consider multiple time frames. It is necessary to consider the short-term ramifications of anything you do, but try to think of how the daily work of your operation contributes to your vision.

A strategic review can pay large dividends to you, your organization, employees, customers, suppliers, distributors and even the community. The following questions should be answered when performing a strategic review:

  • What do you (as an organization) want to be? This is your vision.
  • What are your core competencies? This is what you do and how you do it.
  • What is your organizational capacity? This is how much can be done.
  • What is your structural position within the industry? Are you a market leader, a disruptor or the proverbial new guy on the block?
  • How are things functioning on an operational level? Consider the day-to-day activities. Are they being performed effectively and efficiently?
  • Do you have and did you realize your competitive advantage? What are you better at than the competition and did you exploit this?
  • Finally, evaluate your financial performance. Were profit goals realized? Was growth achieved? What is the level of financial risk?

The overall goal is to improve your systems and processes, which will ensure the short- and long-term health of your operation.

Conclusion

Analysis often leads to more questions than answers. Thinking in terms of BPT can help you decipher what issues in your organization require attention and what opportunities should be capitalized upon. A strategic review is a useful method to help a decision-maker stay on course in the short term while envisioning the enterprise in the future. Success can be measured in many ways.

I wish you continued success. Happy holidays.